The Immortal Coil
- BuyThe Correspondence of Michael Faraday Vol. VI, 1860-67 by Frank James
IET, 919 pp, £85.00, December 2011, ISBN 978 0 86341 957 7
In the summer of 1831, James Woods, master of St John’s College, Cambridge, and Wordsworth’s former tutor, decided that his college should have a portrait of its most celebrated living alumnus. He commissioned Henry William Pickersgill – an apprentice Spitalfields silk-weaver turned Royal Academician – to produce a full-length oil painting of Wordsworth in an appropriately sublime setting, and in the early autumn of 1832 Pickersgill made the journey to Rydal Mount. During the day the poet would sit for the painter beneath an open skylight in the high garret of the house. When the light failed the two men turned to talking and walking in the garden. One evening, just after the sun had set, something flashed across the sky and fell into Rydal Water.