It is not my intention to lay before you a life of Faraday in the ordinary acceptation of the term. The duty I have to perform is to give you some notion of what he has done in the world; dwelling incidentally on the spirit in which his work was executed, and introducing such personal traits as may be necessary to the completion of your picture of the philosopher, though by no means adequate to give you a complete idea of the man.
The newspapers have already informed you that Michael Faraday was born at Newington Butts, on September 22, 1791, and that he died at Hampton Court, on August 25, 1867. Believing, as I do, in the general truth of the doctrine of hereditary transmission—sharing the opinion of Mr. Carlyle, that 'a really able man never proceeded from entirely stupid parents'—I once used the privilege of my intimacy with Mr. Faraday to ask him whether his parents showed any signs of unusual ability. He could remember none. His father, I believe, was a great sufferer during the latter years of his life, and this might have masked whatever intellectual power he possessed. When thirteen years old, that is to say in 1804, Faraday was apprenticed to a bookseller and bookbinder in Blandford Street, Manchester Square: here he spent eight years of his life, after which he worked as a journeyman elsewhere.