« PrécédentContinuer »
COSMO DE MEDICIS.
that your ladyship hath the king's favour to carry on these designs.” *
The great machine appears at this time to have been in existence; but it were idle to multiply instances from the marquess's personal history, or from that of his family. The first has been thought to savour of enthusiasm, and the latter might be ascribed, however unjustly, to the praiseworthy, but probably mistaken, gratitude of those whose affection might urge it as a duty to be tender of the reputation of an amiable relation or friend, even in matters which might be considered as those of his wanderings.
No such objection can, however, apply to the testimony of an eye-witness, and one who cannot be accused as speaking from either interest or friendship. The inspection was made two years after the death of the noble inventor; the account of it, written in a foreign tongue, lay hidden in a manuscript, deposited in a foreign library, for one hundred and fifty years after the machine itself, probably, ceased to be in existence; and we feel no small gratification in being the first to give it a place in the history of the steam-engine.
About the year 1656, Cosmo de Medicis, grand duke of Tuscany, sought respite and solace from unhappy family dissensions, by visiting the courts of foreign countries. Cosmo was accompanied by a retinue of men of letters and artists, for the purpose of recording those circumstances and scenes which during his journey might appear worthy of remembrance. A minute and circumstantial account of each day's occurrences was regularly entered into a journal by the grand duke's secretary. At Cosmo's return to Italy,
* The marchioness died in 1681.
MACHINE AT VAUXHALL.
this Diary was carefully deposited in the ducal library at Florence.
From its containing a variety of particulars respecting persons and places in England, it had become an object of considerable interest to those Englishmen who were aware of its existence. But it was not until 1818 that any part of its contents was disseminated by the press, when that portion of the manuscript volume which related to England was translated from the Italian, and published in a quarto volume.
In that translation, under the date of the 28th May, 1699, we have the following account of one of Lord Worcester's machines :-“ His highness, that he might not lose the day uselessly, went again, after dinner, to the other side of the city, extending his excursion as far as Vauxhall, beyond the palace of the archbishop of Canterbury, to see an hydraulic machine, invented by my Lord Somerset, Marquess of Worcester. It raises water more than forty geometrical feet, by the power of one man only ; and in a very short space of time will draw up four vessels of water, through a tube or channel not more than a span in width ; on which account it is considered to be of greater service to the public, than the other machine near Somerset-house."
This therefore is superior in its operation to another machine by a different mechanic, and applied to the same purpose.
Now, in another part of the same Diary, it is stated, that “ his , highness went to see an hydraulic machine, raised upon a wooden tower, in the neighbo nood of Somerset-house, which is used for conveying the water of the river to the greatest part of the city. It is put in motion by two horses, which are continually going round; it not
MACHINE AT VAUXHALL,
being possible that it should receive its movement from the current of the river, as in many other places where the rivers never vary in their course. But this is not the case with the Thames, owing to the tide, consequently the wheels which serve at the ebb, would not do their duty when the tide returns.”
Nothing can be more satisfactory than this last notice; the water in the hydraulic machine at Vauxhall, by the most easy inference, was not elevated by a water-wheel, otherwise the grand duke would not have omitted to mention so striking a deviation from that at Somerset-house. The effect was equal to that of another worked by two horses; and a tyro in mechanics would, at first sight, say, that no combination of machinery could accomplish that work by one man, which it required the power of twelve men to do in another. From all the circumstances, therefore, it appears to us clear, that this great effect was produced by some sort of a steam-engine; the very identical
most stupenduous water-commanding engine;" the “ semi-omnipotent engine;" the admirable and most forcible way to drive up water by fire; “ the most stupenduous water-work in the whole world," which he humbly beseeched God to make him humble, as being its discoverer; and which, when he had gone to that « bourne from whence no traveller returns," his widow incurred the imputation of insanity for persisting to carry forwards. And well may we add, in his own language, that in our times it appears indeed “ to have been produced by hea. venly inspiration,” and in its power, boundless in height and quantity.”.
From the brevity of the notice in the grand duke's manuscript, it is probable he was ignorant
of its principle. It was too novel to be forgotten, had it been imparted to his highness. But this sort of concealment was the fashion of that time, as it is in some instances that of our own. Other coincidences between the descriptions of Cosmo's journal, and those in the “Century of Inventions," are truly remarkable. In both, the height of forty feet is stated to be the elevation to which the water is to be raised; in both the attendance of one man is mentioned ; and four vessels of water through a tube or channel of not more than a span in width, being drawn up, is almost the same choice of words used in his celebrated sixty-eighth proposition. In fact, had the marquess been describing the engine himself, from a view of it in operation, without wishing to describe the principle of its operation, he could scarcely have used other terms, than those used in the journal of Cosmo of Medici.
Jean Hautefeuille, the son of a baker at Orleans, during his boyhood, gave indications of great mechanical genius; but the narrow circumstances of his family compelled him to follow the humble and laborious occupation of his father, until by an unexpected circumstance he was drawn from obscurity, and placed in a situation better fitted to his talents. The elder Hautefeuille supplied the household of the governor of the city with bread, at the time when the Duchess de Bouillon, being exiled to Orleans, resided in his family. The fattering terms in which the benevolent De Sourdis mentioned the ingenuity of the younger Hautefeuille, was followed by his introduction to the duchess. The pleasing manners of the youth attracted her regard; she took him into her family, which he never afterwards quitted, enabled him to study, on his entering the church
presented him with several benefices, and having contributed during her life every thing in her power to his advancement, at her death she testified the sincerity of her esteem by leaving the abbé a liberal pension. The patronage of the noble lady in this instance was meritoriously bestowed; and Hautefeuille became one of the most celebrated mechanics of the age ; among other ingenious projects, in 1678, he propounded several curious and novel applications of heat, as a moving power. In one, he suggested that the vapour of alchohol, instead of water, should be used in such a manner that the liquid should evaporate and be condensed,“ tour à tour," without being wasted; he also proposed small charges of gunpowder, instead of vapour from boiling water, and gave descriptions of three machines for this purpose. The first condensing the vapour and forming a vacuum, raised water by the pressure of the atmosphere ; the second effected the same object, by the pressure of the vapour upon the water to be raised ; and, in the third modification, the gunpowder vapour impressed an alternate motion on a piston, which he described as being adapted to execute a number of very varied operations.* Huyghens, in a mémoir which he presented to the Academy of Sciences in 1680, mentions having long entertained the idea that the expansive force of gunpowder could be applied with advantage to other uses than firearms, or blasting rocks, to a portable and convenient mechanical power ; but his modification is less perfect than the third one by Hautefeuille,
* Pendule Perpétuelle, avec la manière d'éléver d'eau par le moyen de la poudre à canon. p. 16. Paris, 1678. Réflexions sur quelques machines à éléver les eaux. p. 9. Paris, 1682.