The fruits of Richard Lovell Edgeworth’s erratic career were four marriages, twenty-two children, many ingenious but useless inventions, and an important book on education. Josiah Wedgwood and his friends. They were the most brilliant group in England, and quite possibly the most eccentric. Some are forgotten today….
…Thomas Day’s closest friend, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, was outstanding in a more conventional manner. An excess of wives was his problem- he married four times and produced twenty-two children. With his landed estates in Ireland, he could afford to indulge himself and he never tired of doing so. As he wrote of himself: “How I baffle human woes, Woman, lovely woman knows.”
Edgeworth, however, had a natural facility for friendship, as well as for courtship. His keen interest in mechanics and his inventive gifts, his literary abilities, and above all his spontaneous gaiety won him the esteem and affection of first Keir and Small and then the rest of this circle. His major projects were invariably ingenious and invariably failures. His mechanical wooden horse, his sailing carriage, and his huge hollow wheel in which by walking, like a mouse in a treadmill, a man could travel far faster than he could walk were typically extravagant ideas.
When Edgeworth’s ideas did prove workable, it was usually in a hair-raising manner: the sailing carriage broke its moorings and threatened to disrupt the more conventional traffic before it was dramatically halted; and the walking wheel proved its speed by careering through Reading with a small boy inside it, only to smash itself to pieces in a chalk pit- happily discarding its passenger on the way. Undismayed by such setbacks, Edgeworth would transfer his interest elsewhere and by his enthusiasm captivate his friends into considering his latest scheme.
Some of Edgeworth’s more prosaic ideas were accepted: for his machine for cutting turnips he won the gold medal from the Society of Arts and for his perambulator, a silver medal. But he too, like Thomas Day and Erasmus Darwin, was a bigger man than his achievements suggest, and he played an important part in the life of the group- his ideas acted like a scientific yeast and his presence like a social catalyst.
(see link at end)…He made his first visit to Lichfield in 1770 where his friends Erasmus Darwin and Thomas Day had settled, and met Anna Seward. Edgeworth and Day spent time in France in 1771, where they met Rousseau. After the death of his first wife in 1773, he married Honora Sneyd in Lichfield and when she died in 1780, he married her sister, Elizabeth. Her death led to a fourth marriage in 1798. Altogether, Edgeworth had nineteen legitimate children.
Edgeworth returned to his estates in Ireland in 1782, but he frequently spent time in England. In Ireland he engaged in agricultural and road improvement, work to improve the condition of his tenants, educational reform and politics. Most of Edgeworth’s publications on education, transport, and mechanics were produced after his move to Ireland. In 1798 Edgeworth collaborated with his daughter, Maria on Practical Education, which served as a manual for raising children into the nineteenth century. They stressed the importance of learning through play and what later g
ations would call discovery methods. By the time of his death in 1817, Edgeworth had left a reputation as an inventor, economic innovator and educator. Read More:http://www.search.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/engine/resource/default.asp?resource=12