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Sir William And Caroline Herschel

In Hanover, Germany, in the year 1732, Isaac Herschel and a plain,

industrious girl, Anna Ilse Moritzen, began their home life together.

The young man did not like the calling of his father, the cultivating of

the royal gardens, and learned to play the oboe in the royal band.

He became skilled in music, and, as, one after another, ten children

were born into the little home, he taught them to play on the violin and
oboe, and such other branches of knowledge as he possessed. After a time

his health became impaired with exposure in the Seven Years' War, and

then he earned his living by lessons in music, given to scholars at his


The children attended the garrison school in Hanover, and learned the

ordinary rudiments, besides French and German. Though the father

sometimes copied music half the night to eke out his scanty living, he

spared no pains to teach them all he could of his favorite art.

The fourth son, William, born November 15, 1738, not only learned French

and English rapidly, but studied Latin and arithmetic with the teacher,

after hours. He became passionately fond of books, reading their own

little store with avidity. The mother, who could not even write, viewed

with alarm this intellectual development, feeling that her children, if

they became learned, would go away from home--possibly from Germany.

Poor, ignorant heart! She cooked and sewed, and prevented her daughters

from learning French or drawing; but her weak hand could not stay the

power of a mind like William's, bent on acquiring knowledge.

Caroline, the eighth child, born in 1750, twelve years younger than

William, looked upon this brother as a marvel; and shy, plain, and

silent herself, watched the boy with pride, who, perchance, would be

somebody by and by. Alexander, a little older than Caroline, was skilled

on the violoncello, and both the boys became members of the Hanover foot


Years later, Caroline gave this picture of that early life: "My brothers

were often introduced as solo performers and assistants in the orchestra

of the court, and I remember that I was frequently prevented from going

to sleep by the lively criticism on music, on coming from a concert; or

by conversations on philosophical subjects, which lasted frequently till

morning, in which my father was a lively partaker and assistant of my

brother William, by contriving self-made instruments....

"Often I would keep myself awake that I might listen to their animating

remarks, for it made me so happy to see them so happy. But generally

their conversation would branch out on philosophical subjects, when my

brother William and my father often argued with such warmth that my

mother's interference became necessary; when the names Leibnitz, Newton,

and Euler sounded rather too loud for the repose of her little ones, who

ought to be in school by seven in the morning. But it seems that on the

brothers retiring to their own room, where they shared the same bed, my

brother William had still a great deal to say; and frequently it

happened that when he stopped for an assent or reply, he found his

hearer was gone to sleep, and I suppose it was not till then that he

bethought himself to do the same.

"The recollection of these happy scenes confirms me in the belief, that

had my brother William not then been interrupted in his philosophical

pursuits, we should have had much earlier proofs of his inventive

genius. My father was a great admirer of astronomy, and had some

knowledge of that science; for I remember his taking me, on a clear

frosty night, into the street, to make me acquainted with several of the

most beautiful constellations, after we had been gazing at a comet which

was then visible. And I well remember with what delight he used to

assist my brother William in his various contrivances in the pursuit of

his philosophical studies, among which was a neatly turned four-inch

globe, upon which the equator and ecliptic were engraved by my


When William was seventeen, the guards went to England for a year, and

on their return home he brought one precious memento of the country,

Locke "On the Human Understanding." Such a boy would not remain in the

foot guards forever. He was delicate in health, so that his parents

removed him from the army.

At nineteen, he determined to try his fortune in England. He said

good-by to the culture-loving and warm-hearted father, to the poor

mother who knew "no other wants than good linen and clothing," and

started out to make his way in the world. For three years nothing is

known of him, save that he passed through many hardships. He played in

military bands whenever and wherever he could find a situation, or at

concerts, and led probably a cramped and obscure life.

There was little prospect then that he would become, as Prof. Edward S.

Holden says in his admirable life, "the greatest of practical

astronomers, and one of the world's most profound philosophers." What

the poor German youth thought and felt in those years of trial, we do

not know. He had one resource in his loneliness, the reading of useful


After about three years, a fortuitous circumstance occurred. It proved

"fortuitous" only because young Herschel had studied music faithfully,

and had made himself ready to fill a fine position, if, poor and without

influence, such a position could be obtained.

As Dr. Miller, a noted organist, "was dining at Pontefract with the

officers of the Durham militia, one of them, knowing his love of music,

told him they had a young German in their band, as a performer on the

oboe, who was also an excellent performer on the violin. The officer

added that if Miller would come into another room, this German should

entertain him with a solo. The invitation was gladly accepted, and

Miller heard a solo of Giardini's executed in a manner that surprised


"He afterwards took an opportunity of having some private conversation

with the young musician, and asked him whether he had engaged himself

for any long period to the Durham militia. The answer was, 'Only from

month to month.'

"'Leave them, then,' said the organist, 'and come and live with me. I am

a single man, and think we shall be happy together; and doubtless your

merit will soon entitle you to a more eligible situation.'

"The offer was accepted as frankly as it was made, and the reader may

imagine with what satisfaction Dr. Miller must have remembered this act

of generous feeling, when he heard that this young German was Herschel,

the astronomer. 'My humble mansion,' says Miller, 'consisted at that

time but of two rooms. However, poor as I was, my cottage contained a

library of well chosen books.'

"He took an early opportunity of introducing his new friend at Mr.

Cropley's concerts. The first violin was resigned to him, 'and never,'

says the organist, 'had I heard the concertos of Corelli, Geminiani, and

Avison, or the overtures of Handel, performed more chastely, or more

according to the original intention of the composers, than by Mr.


"'I soon lost my companion; his fame was presently spread abroad; he had

the offer of pupils, and was solicited to lead the public concerts both

at Wakefield and Halifax. A new organ for the parish church of Halifax

was built about this time, and Herschel was one of the seven candidates

for the organist's place. They drew lots how they were to perform in

succession. Herschel drew the third; the second fell to Dr. Wainwright,

of Manchester, whose finger was so rapid that old Snetzler, the

organ-builder, ran about the church exclaiming, "He run over te keys

like one cat; he will not give my piphes room for to shpeak."

"'During Mr. Wainwright's performance,' says Miller, 'I was standing in

the middle aisle with Herschel. "What chance have you," said I, "to

follow this man?" He replied, "I don't know, I am sure fingers will not

do." On which he ascended the organ loft, and produced from the organ so

uncommon a fulness, such a volume of slow, solemn harmony, that I could

by no means account for the effect. After this short extempore

effusion, he finished with the Old Hundredth psalm-tune, which he played

better than his opponent.

"'"Ay, ay," cried old Snetzler, "tish is very goot, very goot inteet.

I will hef tish man, for he gives my piphes room for to shpeak." Having

afterwards asked Mr. Herschel by what means, in the beginning of his

performance, he produced so uncommon an effect, he replied, "I told you

fingers would not do!" and, producing two pieces of lead from his

waistcoat pocket, "One of these," said he, "I placed on the lowest

key of the organ, and the other upon the octave above; thus, by

accommodating the harmony, I produced the effect of four hands, instead

of two."'"

Herschel was the successful candidate among the seven. He was now

twenty-seven years old. Only once do we learn of his going home to

Germany, and that in the year previous. Of this visit, Caroline, now

grown to fourteen, says, "Of the joys and pleasures which all felt at

this long-wished-for meeting with my, let me say my dearest brother,

but a small portion could fall to my share; for with my constant

attendance at church and school, besides the time I was employed in

doing the drudgery of the scullery, it was but seldom I could make one

in the group when the family were assembled together.

"In the first week, some of the orchestra were invited to a concert, at

which some of my brother William's compositions--overtures, etc.--and

some of my eldest brother, Jacob's, were performed, to the great delight

of my dear father, who hoped and expected that they would be turned to

some profit by publishing them, but there was no printer who bid high


After a year at Halifax, Herschel obtained a position as organist at the

Octagon Chapel in Bath, a fashionable city of England. This was another

and higher step on the road to fame. He now gave nearly forty lessons a

week to pupils. He composed music, and wrote anthems, chants, and

psalm-tunes for the cathedral choir where he played. He became so

popular from his real ability, coupled with pleasing manners, that he

was occupied in teaching from fourteen to sixteen hours daily.

But he did more than this. As his hopes brightened, he determined to

devote every minute to the pursuit of knowledge, in which he found his

greatest happiness. He studied Greek and Italian. He would unbend his

mind, after he retired, with Maclaurin's "Fluxions," or Robert Smith's

"Complete System of Optics," and Lalande's Astronomy.

What if he had devoted this time to ease or amusement! Would he have

become learned or distinguished? Every young man and woman is obliged to

decide the matter for himself and herself. We cannot idle away life and

be great.

In 1767, the fond father, Isaac, died of paralysis. Caroline, who loved

him tenderly, was desolate. He had taught her the violin when the

prosaic mother "was either in good humor, or out of the way." It is

quite possible that music, like inventions, did not bring an adequate

support for ten children, and that the practical mother wished her

daughter to learn something whereby she could earn a living. She

thereupon sent her two or three months to a seamstress to be taught to

make household linen. After a time a delightful proposition came from

the organist at Bath. He would take her to England, and see if she

"could not become a useful singer for his winter concerts and

oratorios." If she did not succeed, after two years, he would carry her

back to Germany.

In 1772, William came to Hanover and took his sister to Bath, at 7 New

Kings Street. She was now twenty-two; an untutored girl, with a bright,

eager mind, and a heart that went out to her brother in the most rapt

devotion. History does not show a more complete, single-hearted,

subservient affection, nor a sadder picture of a woman's sorrow in later

years, in consequence of it.

At once Caroline began her work of voice culture, lessons in arithmetic,

English, and in keeping accounts, from her brother, and in managing the

house. Alexander, now in England, boarded with William, and he and

Caroline occupied the attic. The first three winter months were lonely,

as she saw little of William.

"The time," she says, "when I could hope to receive a little more of my

brother's instruction and attention was now drawing near; for after

Easter, Bath becomes very empty, only a few of his scholars, whose

families were residents in the neighborhood, remaining. But I was

greatly disappointed, for, in consequence of the harassing and

fatiguing life he had led during the winter months, he used to retire to

bed with a basin of milk or glass of water, and Smith's Harmonics and

Optics, Ferguson's Astronomy, etc., and so went to sleep buried under

his favorite authors; and his first thoughts on rising were how to

obtain the instruments for viewing those objects himself of which he had

been reading.

"There being in one of the shops a two-and-a-half-foot Gregorian

telescope to be let, it was for some time taken in requisition, and

served not only for viewing the heavens, but for making experiments on

its construction.... It soon appeared that my brother was not contented

with knowing what former observers had seen, for he began to contrive a

telescope eighteen or twenty feet long.... I was much hindered in my

musical practice by my help being continually wanted in the execution of

the various contrivances, and I had to amuse myself with making the tube

of pasteboard for the glasses, which were to arrive from London, for at

that time no optician had settled at Bath. But when all was finished, no

one besides my brother could get a glimpse of Jupiter or Saturn, for the

great length of the tube would not allow it to be kept in a straight

line. This difficulty, however, was soon removed by substituting tin


Herschel had attempted to buy a telescope, but found the price far

beyond his means. But he was not discouraged. Caroline soon saw "almost

every room turned into a work-shop. A cabinet-maker making a tube and

stands of all descriptions in a handsomely furnished drawing-room;" this

could be so occupied when the music scholars had left Bath in their

vacation; "Alex putting up a huge turning machine in a bedroom, for

turning patterns, grinding glasses, and turning eye-pieces, etc."

The longed-for time to see more of her brother never came to Caroline,

except as she finally grew into his life-work, and became his second


He had one unalterable purpose, the study of the construction of the

heavens. Nothing ever drew him from it. Nothing ever could draw him. And

herein lay one of the elements of his great power. As an English writer

has well said: "So gentle and patient a follower of science under

difficulties scarcely occurs in the whole circle of biography." Yes, he

was "gentle and patient," but with an untiring and never ending

perseverance. Too poor to buy telescopes, he made them. With no time to

read books during the day, he took the hours from sleep. With little

opportunity for education, he educated himself.

In 1774, the music teacher made for himself a five-and-one-half-foot

Gregorian telescope; and a year later, a Newtonian, with a

four-and-a-half-inch aperture, which magnified two hundred and

twenty-two times. The making of these instruments showed great

mechanical skill and accurate knowledge. He began now to study the

heavens in earnest, but the teaching must go on to provide daily bread.

He directed an orchestra of nearly one hundred pieces, and Caroline

copied the scores and vocal parts. So absorbed was he in his

astronomical work, however, that at the theatre, between the acts, he

would run from the harpsichord to look at the stars. This boyish

eagerness and naturalness he kept through life.

He soon made a seven-foot reflector, then a ten-foot reflector. The

mirrors for these telescopes were all made by hand, machines for the

purpose not being invented till ten or more years later. Alexander, with

his mechanical skill, assisted, and Caroline was always busy at the

work. She says, "My time was taken up with copying music and practising,

besides attendance on my brother when polishing; since, by way of

keeping him alive, I was constantly obliged to feed him, by putting his

victuals by bits into his mouth. This was once the case, when, in order

to finish a seven-foot mirror, he had not taken his hands from it for

sixteen hours together. In general he was never unemployed at meals, but

was always at those times contriving or making drawings of whatever came

in his mind. Generally I was obliged to read to him while he was at the

turning-lathe, or polishing mirrors, 'Don Quixote,' 'Arabian Nights'

Entertainment,' the novels of Sterne, Fielding, etc.; serving tea and

supper without interrupting the work with which he was engaged."...

So busy that he could not find time to eat or sleep! Rare devotion of a

rare mind! He now began to study every star of the first, second, third,

and fourth magnitudes in the sky. He carefully observed the moon, and

measured the height of about one hundred of her mountains. Her extinct

volcanoes, and her unpeopled solitudes, without clouds or air, were an

impressive study.

He was now forty years old,--not young to begin the study of a new and

illimitable science, but not too old, for one is never too old to begin

a great or a noble work.

Through Dr. William Watson, Fellow of the Royal Society, who

happened--if anything ever happens in this world--to see Herschel at

his telescope, he became a member of the Philosophical Society of Bath,

and soon in 1780 sent two papers to the Royal Society, the one on the

periodical star in Collo Ceti, and the other on the mountains of the

moon, which were read by Dr. William Watson, Jr.

When he was forty-three, he says, "I began to construct a thirty-foot

aerial reflector, and, having made a stand for it, I cast the mirror

thirty-six inches in diameter. This was cracked in cooling. I cast it a

second time, and the furnace I had built in my house broke." But he

persevered. This same year, 1781, after he had lived in Bath nine years,

on the night of Tuesday, March 13, having removed to a larger house, 19

New King Street, he says, "In examining the small stars in the

neighborhood of H. Geminorum I perceived one that appeared visibly

larger than the rest; being struck with its uncommon appearance, I

compared it to H. Geminorum and the small star in the quarter between

Auriga and Gemini, and, finding it so much larger than either of them, I

suspected it to be a comet."

The orbit of this "comet" was computed and its distance from the sun

found to be eighteen hundred million miles! The world soon awoke to the

fact that a new planet had been found, the greatest astronomical

discovery since Galileo invented the telescope, and the unknown musician

at Bath had become famous! So little was Herschel known at this time,

that one journal called him Mersthel, another Herthel, and still another


In December of the same year, 1781, Herschel was elected a Fellow of the

Royal Society and received the Copley gold medal. He was no longer the

poor German youth playing the oboe among the guards; he was the renowned

discoverer. He called the planet Georgium Sidus, in honor of his

sovereign, George III., but it was decided later to call it Uranus, from

Urania the muse of astronomy.

Herschel went eagerly on with his work. Fame did not change his simple

nature. The truly great are never ostentatious. He erected in his garden

a stand for his twenty-foot telescope, and perfected his mirrors.

"Though at times," says Caroline, "much harassed with business, the

mirror for the thirty-foot reflector was never out of his mind, and if

a minute could but be spared in going from one scholar to another, or

giving one the slip, he called at home to see how the men went on with

the furnace, which was built in a room below, even with the garden."

The next year, 1782, Herschel went to London, and met with a gracious

reception from George III. He wrote back to his devoted sister: "Dear

Lina: All my papers are printing, with the postscript and all, and are

allowed to be very valuable. You see, Lina, I tell you all these things.

You know vanity is not my foible, therefore I need not fear your

censure. Farewell.

"I am your affectionate brother,


Again he wrote,--

"I pass my time between Greenwich and London, agreeably enough, but am

rather at a loss for work that I like. Company is not always pleasing,

and I would much rather be polishing a speculum.... I am introduced to

the best company. To-morrow I dine at Lord Palmerston's, next day with

Sir Joseph Banks, etc., etc. Among opticians and astronomers nothing now

is talked of but what they call my great discoveries. Alas! this shows

how far they are behind, when such trifles as I have seen and done are

called great. Let me but get at it again! I will make such telescopes,

and see such things--that is, I will endeavor to do so."

And this great ambition nerved him for action, continued and laborious,

as long as he lived. He was never satisfied; always achieving. Little

can be expected from those who are easily satisfied.

George III. wisely appointed Herschel Royal Astronomer, though with the

too small salary of one thousand dollars yearly. He came back to Bath

only to perform the last musical duty on Whit Sunday, 1782, the anthem

for the day being his own composition, and to say good-by to his pupils.

He moved to Datchet in 1782, and set up his twenty-foot telescope. In

1783 he had made three reviews of the heavens. In 1784 he made a fourth

review with his twenty-foot telescope. Caroline says: "My brother began

his sweeps when the instrument was yet in a very unfinished state, and

my feelings were not very comfortable when every moment I was alarmed by

a crash or a fall, knowing him to be elevated fifteen feet or more on a

temporary crossbeam, instead of a safe gallery. The ladders had not even

their braces at the bottom; and one night, in a very high wind, he had

hardly touched the ground before the whole apparatus came down.... I

could give a pretty long list of accidents which were near proving fatal

to my brother as well as myself."

A gentleman who visited him at Datchet wrote: "The thermometer in the

garden stood at 13 deg. Fahrenheit; but in spite of this, Herschel observes

the whole night through, except that he stops every three or four hours

and goes in the room for a few moments. For some years Herschel has

observed the heavens every hour when the weather is clear, and this

always in the open air, because he says that the telescope only performs

well when it is at the same temperature as the air. He protects himself

against the weather by putting on more clothing. He has an excellent

constitution, and thinks about nothing else in the world but the

celestial bodies."

But, occupied as Herschel was about "celestial bodies," he yet found

time to think about earthly things, for we find him at forty-five, May

8, 1783, marrying Mary, the wealthy widow of John Pitt, Esq., a lady of

much intelligence and amiability.

The sad feature of the new relationship was the misery it brought to

Caroline. Her whole life had centred in William. For eleven years she

had devoted every moment, every wish, every thought to him. She had

watched all night among the stars with him, month after month, and year

after year, in cold and in heat, and superintended his home by day. His

every desire was her law. She loved no other, and he was her all.

Perhaps she ought to have known that another might come into his life,

but she trusted blindly, and did not question the future.

When the wife came into the home, Caroline went out of it forever. For

more than twenty years she lived in lodgings, always "cheerless and

solitary," her only happiness found in coming day by day to help her

brother in his great work. Sometimes, when the wife was absent, Caroline

came back for a few days and lived over the old unalloyed life, and then

went back to her lonely lodgings.

For ten years following this marriage, she probably told her heart-aches

in her journal; but before her death she destroyed the record of these

years, that the feelings of those who were alive might not be pained. In

later days she became more reconciled to Lady Herschel, as "a dear

sister, for as such I now know you," and idolized their only son, the

renowned Sir John Herschel, born nine years after their marriage.

In 1785, Herschel began to construct his great forty-foot telescope, and

the next year removed to Slough, not far from Windsor. "In the whole of

the apparatus," he said, "none but common workmen were employed, for I

made drawings of every part of it, by which it was easy to execute the

work, as I constantly inspected and directed every person's labor;

though sometimes there were not less than forty different workmen

employed at the same time. While the stand of the telescope was

preparing, I also began the construction of the great mirror, of which I

inspected the casting, grinding, and polishing; and the work was in this

manner carried on with no other interruption than that occasioned by the

removal of all the apparatus and materials from where I then lived, to

my present situation at Slough." He had his first view through the

telescope February 19, 1787. George III. gave twenty thousand dollars

for the building of this instrument, and one thousand dollars yearly for

its maintenance.

A half-century afterwards, the woodwork having become decayed, it was

taken down, the great tube laid horizontally, and, after Sir John

Herschel and his family had passed through it, a poem written by Sir

John having been read, it was sealed January 1, 1840, and placed on


With this great telescope, Herschel discovered two satellites of Saturn,

Mimas and Enceladus; one on August 27, 1789, and the other on September

17 of the same year. Two years before this, January 11, 1787, he

discovered two satellites of Uranus, Oberon and Titania. Sixty years

afterwards, Mr. Lassell, of England, discovered the remaining two

satellites of Uranus, called Ariel and Umbriel.

From this time his work went forward grandly. He had already completed

more than two hundred seven-foot, one hundred and fifty ten-foot, and

eighty twenty-foot mirrors. For many of the telescopes sent abroad he

made no stands, but provided the drawings. He wrote much about Saturn

and its rings, and showed that its most distant satellite, Japetus,

turns once on its axis in each revolution about its primary, as our moon

does about the earth.

He studied carefully the nature of the sun, its probable gaseous

surface, and its spots, and was the first to suspect their periodic

character. What would Herschel have said to the wonderful photographic

representations of these spots given by Professor Langley, in his New

Astronomy; spots which are one billion square miles in size; more than

five times the surface of the land and water on the earth? He saw, as

astronomers to-day see, that heat cannot be produced without expenditure

of force; and that the sun is probably cooling, even though scarcely

perceptibly for ages to come. He saw what science now generally

concedes, the rise and fall of the solar system; its gradual fitness for

the coming of man, through almost countless centuries; and its final

unfitness, when his generations shall have gone forever.

He wrote much about the Milky Way, believing at first that it could be

completely resolved into stars, about eighteen millions of them; but

later he changed his theory, having found so much nebulous matter--in a

state of condensation as though new worlds were forming, possibly to be

the homes of some new race, or of man in the ages to come.

His study of the variable stars attracted wide attention. He found that

the star Mira Ceti was for several months invisible to the naked eye;

then it grew brighter and brighter, and finally disappeared for months,

as before. He saw that other stars are periodic, and came to the

conclusion that this is occasioned by the rotation of the star upon its

axis, by which different parts of its surface are presented to us


He made a catalogue of double stars, and found by laborious calculations

that such stars have a common centre of gravity; that one sun revolves

about another. He found that our solar system has a motion of its own; a

grand orbit round some as yet unknown centre, and that other systems

have a like motion.

What this centre may be, whether a great sun like Sirius, one hundred

times larger than ours, with unknown powers and unknown uses, is of

course only conjecture.

Herschel gave much attention to nebulae, discovering and describing

twenty-five hundred new nebulae and clusters. He gave his life to the

study of the construction of the heavens. Concerning his statement of

the general construction, Professor Holden, himself a brilliant

astronomer, says: "It is the groundwork upon which we have still to

build.... As a scientific conception it is perhaps the grandest that has

ever entered into the human mind. As a study of the height to which the

efforts of one man may go, it is almost without a parallel.... As a

practical astronomer he remains without an equal. In profound philosophy

he has few superiors. By a kindly chance he can be claimed as the

citizen of no one country. In very truth his is one of the few names

which belong to the whole world."

The distinguished man, though unassuming and gentle in manner, must have

had a realizing sense of the greatness of his work, for he said, "I

have looked further into space than ever human being did before me. I

have observed stars of which the light takes two millions of years to

travel to this globe."

He gave much study to light and heat. So boundless was his knowledge

believed to be, that a farmer called one day to ask the proper time for

cutting his grass.

"Look at that field," said the scientist, "and when I tell you it is

mine, I think you will not need another proof to convince you that I am

no more weatherwise than yourself or the rest of my neighbors."

He worked earnestly till he was seventy-six, always depending upon his

faithful and inseparable Caroline for aid in his labors. He made a

telescope for her, with which she swept the heavens for comets, finding

eight, five of which she discovered for the first time.

At seventy-six his health began to fail. He had worked incessantly from

his struggling boyhood, but brain work does not wear us out; care and

anxiety bring the marks of age upon us. He now took little journeys away

from Slough for change of scene and air, while Caroline stayed at home

to copy his papers for the Royal Society, and to arrange his

manuscripts. In 1816, he was made a knight of the Royal Hanoverian

Guelphic Order, by the Prince Regent, and in 1821 was the first

president of the Royal Astronomical Society, his son being its first

foreign secretary.

In February, 1818, Caroline spent twelve precious days with her brother,

"not in idleness," she says, "but in sorrow and sadness. He is not only

unwell, but low in spirits." Later he went to Bath with Lady Herschel.

"The last moments before he stepped into the carriage," says the loving

Caroline, "were spent in walking with me through his library and

workrooms, pointing with anxious looks to every shelf and drawer,

desiring me to examine all and to make memorandums of them as well as I

could. He was hardly able to support himself, and his spirits were so

low, that I found difficulty in commanding my voice so far as to give

him the assurance he should find on his return that my time had not been


"When I was left alone I found that I had no easy task to perform, for

there were packets of writings to be examined which had not been looked

at for the last forty years. But I did not pass a single day without

working in the library as long as I could read a letter without

candle-light, and taking with me papers to copy, etc., which employed me

for the best part of the night, and thus I was enabled to give my

brother a clear account of what had been done at his return."

On the 4th of July, 1819, Herschel sent a note to his dear co-worker.

"Lina,--There is a great comet. I want you to assist me. Come to dine

and spend the day here. If you can come soon after one o'clock we shall

have time to prepare maps and telescopes. I saw its situation last

night,--it has a long tail."

Caroline wrote on this small slip of yellow paper: "I keep this as a

relic! Every line now traced by the hand of my dear brother becomes a

treasure to me."

Every day hereafter she spent the forenoon with Sir William. On the 15th

of August she went as usual and found that he was confined to his room.

"I flew there immediately," she says. "As soon as he saw me, I was sent

to the library to fetch one of his last papers and a plate of the

forty-foot telescope. But for the universe I could not have looked twice

at what I had snatched from the shelf, and when he faintly asked if the

breaking up of the Milky Way was in it, I said 'Yes!' and he looked

content. I cannot help remembering this circumstance, it was the last

time I was sent to the library on such an occasion. That the anxious

care for his papers and workroom never ended but with his life was

proved by his frequent whispered inquiries if they were locked and the

key safe, of which I took care to assure him that they were, and the key

in Lady Herschel's hands.

"After half an hour's vain attempt to support himself, my brother was

obliged to consent to be put to bed, leaving no hope ever to see him

rise again. For ten days and nights we remained in the most

heart-rending situation till the 25th of August, when not one comfort

was left to me but that of retiring to the chamber of death, there to

ruminate without interruption on my isolated situation. Of this last

solace I was robbed on the 7th of September, when the dear remains were

consigned to the grave."

Faithful and devoted watcher over his dead body, to the last! When he

had been buried in the little church at Upton, Windsor, at the age of

eighty-four, honored by all Europe and America, Caroline could live no

longer where remembrance of him made it intolerable.

She went back to Hanover, "a person," she said, sadly, "that has nothing

more to do in this world," to live with her brother Dietrich. She had

come to England, a girl of twenty-two; she went back an elderly woman,

seventy-two. The home in Germany did not prove a happy one, but how

could it without William? She lived simply, not spending half of the

five hundred dollars a year left her by her dead brother.

She had already published "A Catalogue of eight hundred and sixty Stars,

observed by Flamsteed, but not included in the British Catalogue," and

"A General Index of Reference to every Observation of every star in the

above mentioned British Catalogue." She also prepared "The Reduction and

Arrangement, in the form of a Catalogue in Zones, of all the Star

Clusters and Nebulae observed by Sir William Herschel in his Sweeps," "a

work," said Sir David Brewster, "of immense labor; an extraordinary

monument of the unextinguished ardor of a lady of seventy-five in the

cause of abstract science."

For this the Royal Astronomical Society voted her the gold medal, and

gave her the unusual distinction of honorary membership.

Sixteen years after her return to Hanover, Sir John Herschel, her

nephew, who had made his wonderful review of the southern heavens,

discovering as many new nebulae as his father, took his only boy, Willie,

to see her.

She was now eighty-eight. The visit was overwhelming to her affectionate

heart. She watched the child with the most intense delight. Fearing the

results if she knew the time of their departure for England, Sir John,

with mistaken kindness, went away at four o'clock in the morning,

without saying good-by. But the anguish of separation was thereby

rendered greater.

The years went by slowly. On her ninety-sixth birthday the King of

Prussia sent her a gold medal, Alexander von Humboldt writing her a

letter from Berlin to accompany it.

January 14, 1848, at the age of almost ninety-eight, Caroline Herschel

died, and was buried from the same garrison church where nearly a

century before she had been christened. In her coffin was placed, by her

desire, a lock of her brother's hair. Beautiful affection! great

co-workers in their immortal study of unnumbered worlds!