The present is a revised edition of the Life
of George Stephenson and of his son Robert Stephenson, to which is
prefixed a history of the Railway and the Locomotive in its earlier
stages, uniform with the early history of the Steam-engine given in vol.
iv. of "Lives of the Engineers" containing the memoirs of Boulton and
Watt. A memoir of Richard Trevithick has also been included in this
introductory portion of the book, which will probably be found more
complete than any notice which has yet appeared of that distinguished
TO THE EIGHTH EDITION, 1864
The following is a revised and improved
edition of "The Life of George Stephenson," with which is incorporated a
Memoir of his son Robert, late President of the Institute of Civil
Engineers. Since its original appearance in 1857, much additional
information has been communicated to the author relative to the early
history of Railways and the men principally concerned in establishing
them, of which he has availed himself in the present edition.
In preparing the original work for
publication, the author enjoyed the advantage of the cordial
co-operation and assistance of Robert Stephenson, on whom he mainly
relied for information as to the various stages through which the
Locomotive passed, and especially as to his father's share in its
improvement. Through Mr. Stephenson's instrumentality also, the author
was enabled to obtain much valuable information from gentlemen who had
been intimately connected -with, his father and himself in their early
undertakings—among others, from Mr. Edward Pease, of Darlington; Mr.
Dixon, C.E.; Mr. Sopwith, F.R.S., Mr. Charles Parker; and Sir Joshua
Most of the facts relating to the early
period of George Stephenson's career were collected from colliers,
brakesmen, enginemen, and others, who had known him intimately, or been
fellow workmen with him, and were proud to communicate what they
remembered of his early life. The information obtained from these old
men—most of them illiterate, and some broken down by hard work—^though
valuable in many respects, was confused, and sometimes contradictory;
but, to insure as much accuracy and consistency of narrative as
possible, the author submitted the MS. to Mr. Stephenson, and had the
benefit of his revision of it previous to publication.
Mr. Stephenson took a lively interest in the
-improvement of the "Life" of his father, and continued to furnish
corrections and additions for insertion in the successive editions of
the book which were called for by the public. After the first two
editions had appeared, he induced several gentlemen, well qualified to
supply additional authentic information, to communicate their
recollections of his father, among whom may be mentioned Mr. T. L.
Gooch, C.E.; Mr.Vaughan, of Snibston; Mr. F. Swanwick, C.E.; and Mr.
Binns, of Clayross, who had officiated as private secretaries to George
Stephenson at different periods of his life, and afterward held
responsible offices either under him or in conjunction with him.
The author states these facts to show that
the information contained in this book is of an authentic character, and
has been obtained from the most trustworthy sources. Whether he has used
it to the best purpose or not, he leaves others to judge. This much,
however, he may himself say—that he has endeavored, to the best of his
ability, to set forth the facts communicated to him in a simple,
faithful, and straightforward manner; and, even if he has not wholly
succeeded in doing this, he has, at all events, been the means of
collecting information on a subject originally unattractive to
professional literary men, and thereby rendered its farther prosecution
comparatively easy to those who may feel called upon to undertake it.
The author does not pretend to have steered
clear of errors in treating a subject so extensive, and, before he
undertook the labor, comparatively uninvestigated; but, wherever errors
have been pointed out, he has taken the earliest opportunity of
correcting them. With respect to objections taken to the book because of
the undue share of merit alleged to be therein attributed to the
Stephensons in respect of the Railway and the Locomotive, there will
necessarily be various opinions. There is scarcely an invention or
improvement in mechanics but has been the subject of dispute, and it was
to be expected that those who had counter claims would put them forward
in the present case nor has the author any reason to complain of the
manner in which this has been done. While George Stephenson is the
principal subject in the following book, his son Robert also forms an
essential part of it.
Father and son were so intimately associated
in the early period of their career, that it is difficult, if not
impossible, to describe the one apart from the other. The life and
achievements of the son were in a great measure the complement of the
life and achievements of the father. The care, also, with which the
elder Stephenson, while occupying the position of an obscure engine
wright, devoted himself to his son's education, and the gratitude with
which the latter repaid the affectionate self-denial of his father,
furnish some of the most interesting illustrations of the personal
character of both.
These views were early adopted by the author
and carried out by him in the preparation of the original work, with the
concurrence of Robert Stephenson, who supplied the necessary particulars
relating to himself. Such portions of these were accordingly embodied in
the narrative as could with propriety be published during his life-time,
and the remaining portions are now added with the object of rendering
more complete the record of the son's life, as well as the early history
of the Railway System.
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