chapter  14
4 Pages

Tales of a Great Man

I have mentioned that Ramsden, the celebrated optician, was of our society. Besides his great mechanical genius, he had a species of invention not so creditable, the invention of excuses. He never kept an engagement of any sort, never finished any work punctually, or ever failed to promise what he always failed to perform. The King [George III] had bespoke an instrument, which he was particularly desirous to obtain; he had allowed Ramsden to name his own time, but as usual the work was scarcely begun at the period appointed for delivery; however, when at last it was finished, he took it down to Kew in a postchaise, in a prodigious hurry; and, driving up to the palace gate, he asked if His Majesty was at home. The pages and attendants in waiting expressed their surprise at such a visit; he however pertinaceously insisted on being admitted, assuring the page, that, if he told the King that Ramsden was at the gate, His Majesty would soon shew that he would be glad to see him. He was right,

he was let in, and graciously received. His Majesty, after examining the instrument carefully, of which he was really a judge, expressed his satisfaction, and turning gravely to Ramsden, paid him some compliment upon his punctuality. ‘I have been told, Mr Ramsden,’ said the King, ‘that you are considered to be the least punctual of any man in England; you have brought home this instrument on the very day that was appointed. You have only mistaken the year!2