Son of the Scalpel
TOM NOW LOOKED THE part, a serious study in shabbiness, his cast-off clothes tailored to his cut-price school: 'a very pale, thin, lanky, ugly body with dreadfully long hair which no persuasion would induce me to cut, and a generally neglected style of attire'. 1
But still Lizzie saw in her Bohemian brother the family's deliverance. 'My highest hopes are centred in that boy', she always said. 2 In April 1842 she was vindicated: Tom took his first certificates of merit at the Sydenham College awards.
Fortified, he pushed on after Easter, registering for the spring botany course. Or perhaps he was egged on by Cooke, an expert on medicinal plants. His new teacher, like so many in these parlous private schools, was an idiosyncratic outsider - or rather an insider turned out, an Oxford-trained clergyman who had lost his vocation and was looking to a new salvation. This was Richard Hoblyn. A kindly soul with a friendly face, Hoblyn was now eking out a living by writing chemistry manuals and books on steam engines, and teaching botany to top up. 3 (When all else failed he went into business with Cooke, cramming London University applicants for their entrance exams.)
Unable to afford the 3d bus fare, Tom strode the four miles from Euston to Chelsea to hear the nurseryman's son and University College lecturer John Lindley at the Physic Garden. 4 He hiked over two or three times a week, always finding Lindley ruddy‐ faced and hearty, in stark contrast to his students. Occasionally Tom was defeated in his trek. On z May 1842, two days before his 17th birthday, demonstrators taking the 30-foot Chartist petition to Parliament brought the capital to a standstill. Flyers went up