By Ira Bruce Nadel (auth.)
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Even humour has a place in Smiles's account ofwhat eventually succeeds at Chat Moss. The 'copius stream of bog-water' flowing out from Chat Moss, he explains, resembled in colour 'Barclay's double stout; and when completed, the bank looked like a long ridge of tightly pressed tobacco-leaf (p. 156). But consistently, it is Stephenson's moral conduct that permits him to tame nature and generate immense benefits for England. Smiles, however, does not let the contribution of Stephenson or the context of his success overshadow a sense of the individual man.
In a sense Smiles has constructed each life until the final chapter when the completed object (bridge, tunnel or canal) can be viewed in its entirety. Smiles seems to have adapted this method from engineering, initially surveying, then mapping or designing with detailed drawings, then overseeing the building and finally evaluating its function and accomplishment. But within the plan, he often varies the structure. Anecdote, such as Brindley's unexpected demonstration in the midst of parliamentary testimony of how he would construct a bridge by using a large cheese (p.
Entitled The Pursuit rif Knowledge Under Difficulties illustrated by Anecdotes (note the prominent Plutarchian mode), the book contained biographical sketches in dictionary form of English and foreign scholars, artists, scientists, engineers and inventors who succeeded against great difficulties. This work of inspiration and guidance gradually became a popular success reappearing in 1844. A year later a three-volume edition was published, followed by a two-volume version in 1858, revised and enlarged in a new one-volume version in 1865, finally reprinted in 1881 and 1906.