Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXVI.: WRITING FOR QUARTERLY REVIEWS. 1853—54. Æt. 33—34. - An Autobiography, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER XXVI.: WRITING FOR QUARTERLY REVIEWS. 1853—54. Æt. 33—34. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 1 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
WRITING FOR QUARTERLY REVIEWS.
That part of a biography which consists of printed gossip, having little or no significance, bears a variable ratio to that part which has significance more or less considerable. Commonly, the trivialities of incident and action, which might have been this way or that way without appreciably affecting the general result, occupy the larger space, and to many readers prove the most attractive; while relatively small interest is felt by them in those passages, occupying relatively subordinate places, which throw light on the genesis of character and belief and conduct.
Of course detailed personalities in considerable amount are indispensable; since, without them, the narrative of a life cannot have the continuity and cohesion required to give it the concreteness of reality. Of such details I have myself found it needful to set down many. But I have sought to give more prominence than usual to the delineations of ideas and the manifestations of sentiments; and I have aimed to show, directly or by implication, the relations of these to innate traits, to education, and to circumstances.
In the life of the man of action an account of external events naturally occupies the first place; but in the life of the man of thought the first place should, I think, be occupied by an account of internal events. Not the origin and description of deeds is now the thing of chief import, but the origin and description of doctrines. Hence I have not scrupled to devote from time to time considerable space to digests of essays, and to such comments on them as seemed requisite to explain their antecedents.
I make these remarks here because, during the period of some eight months to be covered by this chapter, there occurred scarcely anything of moment in the shape of incident. Only those who are interested in tracing the growth of theories will find in it matter to detain them.
“Method in Education” was commenced while I was at Earl Soham, but the inertness of brain consequent on bodily exertion in Switzerland had not been overcome, and little progress was made. Save the first few pages, the essay was written at Derby during November.
Its subject had a triple interest for me. Relating to it there were certain results of observation, and to some extent of experiment, which seemed worth setting forth, considered intrinsically. Then it had direct connexions with psychology, which was at that time dominant in my thoughts. Moreover, mental development had its place in the theory of development at large: serving at once to illustrate this and to be elucidated by it. If not consciously, still unconsciously, the desire to treat of it from the psychological and developmental points of view decided me to make “method in education” the topic for a review-article.
Under its biological aspect, education may be considered as a process of perfecting the structure of the organism, and making it fit for the business of life. Inferior creatures exemplify this truth to a small extent. The behaviour of adult birds to their newly-fledged offspring, and the play of a cat with her kitten, show us ways in which the young are induced so to exercise their limbs and perceptions and instincts as daily to strengthen them and give finish to the various parts called into action. In children the physical education naturally effected by spontaneous play, as well as that artificially effected in a much less desirable way by gymnastics, visibly develops the muscles; and, as every physiologist will infer, develops also the nerves and ganglia which co-ordinate their movements, as well as the nerves and ganglia which are used in perception. A like development accompanies the activities classed as intellectual: there is a finishing of the employed cerebral plexuses. Nay, more than this is true. Every lesson learnt, every fact picked up, every observation made, implies some molecular re-arrangement in certain nervous centres. So that not only that effect of exercise by which the faculties are fitted for their functions in life, but also the acquirement of knowledge serving for guidance, is, from the biological point of view, an adjustment of structure to function.
What is the implication? Evidently that method in education must correspond with method in organization—must be a kind of objective counterpart to it. Organization does not go on at random, but everywhere conforms to recognizable principles; and unless these principles are recognized and conformed to in education, the organizing process must be impeded. It needs but to remember that in its rudimentary state every organism is simple, while it ends in being relatively complex, and often highly complex—it needs but to remember that in its first stage the forms and divisions of an unfolding germ are vague while in the adult they are quite distinct—it needs but to remember that these truths, holding of the transformation in its entirety, hold of it in all its details; to see that they yield guidance to the teacher in framing his system, and that if he disregards them he will commit grave errors; as when he insists on putting into undeveloped minds perfectly exact ideas: exactness being not only unappreciated by, but even repugnant to, minds in low stages.
I need not specify all the conclusions drawn from this general conception, which the essay set forth. I will add only that from it were derived reasons “for making education a process of self-instruction, and by consequence a process of pleasurable instruction.” And I name these two derivative principles only to gain the opportunity of saying that, in the enunciation and advocacy of them, I recognize, more than anywhere else, the direct influence of my father. It was by strengthening certain habits of thought that his chief influence over me had been exercised, and it thus was general only; but in this case it was special. If not by precept yet unmistakably by example, he produced in me an early acceptance of these principles; and there remained but to justify them by affiliating them on the Method of Nature.
That which is chiefly to be noted here, however, is the relation borne by the ideas in this essay to preceding and succeeding ideas. That its pervading doctrine was evolutionary goes without saying. But it yields proof that certain specific evolutionary doctrines were growing. It is said of mind that “like all things that develop, it progresses from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous”; and it is also said that “the development of the mind, as all other development, is an advance from the indefinite to the definite.” Thus are shown the presence, and the incipient spreading, of conceptions which were afterwards to take a far wider range.
The title of this essay when published in The North British Review for May, 1854, was changed to “The Art of Education.” It now forms the second chapter of Education: Intellectual, Moral and Physical.
Some reflections may fitly introduce the next essay. An American—or to speak strictly an Americanized Scotchman,—who maintained the unlimited right of the majority to rule, said to me that if the majority were to pass a law directing what food he should eat, he would obey. He was an enthusiastic upholder of free institutions, or rather, of what he supposed to be free institutions. He would have been greatly astonished had I told him, as I might properly have done, that his conception of freedom was but rudimentary.
There has grown up quite naturally, and indeed almost inevitably, among civilized peoples, an identification of freedom with the political appliances established to maintain freedom. The two are confused together in thought; or, to express the fact more correctly, they have not yet been separated in thought. In most countries during past times, and in many countries at the present time, experience has associated in men’s minds the unchecked power of a ruler with extreme coercion of the ruled. Contrariwise, in countries where the people have acquired some power, the restraints on the liberties of individuals have been relaxed; and with advance towards government by the majority, there has, on the average, been a progressing abolition of laws and removal of burdens which unduly interfered with such liberties. Hence, by contrast, popularly-governed nations have come to be regarded as free nations; and possession of political power by all is supposed to be the same thing as freedom. But the assumed identity of the two is a delusion—a delusion which, like many other delusions, results from confounding means with ends. Freedom in its absolute form is the absence of all external checks to whatever actions the will prompts; and freedom in its socially restricted form is the absence of any other external checks than those arising from the presence of other men who have like claims to do what their wills prompt. The mutual checks hence resulting are the only checks which freedom, in the true sense of the word, permits. The sphere within which each may act without trespassing on the like spheres of others, cannot be intruded upon by any agency, private or public, without an equivalent loss of freedom; and it matters not whether the public agency is autocratic or democratic: the intrusion is essentially the same. My American friend would, I suppose, have admitted that had he been a negro; and had a planter who bought him and set him to work, happened to have his plantation confiscated by the Government; and if the Government, carrying on the planter’s business, made him, the negro, work under the lash as before; his slavery would be not much mitigated by the thought that instead of being coerced by an individual he was now coerced by the nation. Similarly, if he is forced to wear clothes of specified material or pattern, or if he is forbidden to take this or that kind of drink, the effect on him is the same whether the commands come from a despot or from a popular assembly. Had he a more developed conception of freedom, he would in all such matters of personal concern resent dictation by the million, as in past ages he would have resented dictation by the unit, and as he even now resents dictation by the million in respect of his religious beliefs and practices.
The power of the society over the individual is greatest among the lowest peoples. The private doings of each person are far more tyrannically regulated by the community among savages, than they are among civilized men; and one aspect of advancing civilization is the emancipation of the individual from the despotism of the aggregate of individuals. Though in an uncivilized tribe the control of each by all is not effected through formulated law, it is effected through established custom, often far more rigid. The young man cannot escape the tattooing, or the knocking out of teeth, or the circumcision, prescribed by usage and enforced by public opinion. When he marries, stringent regulations limit his choice to women of certain groups, or, as in many cases, he is not allowed to have a wife until he succeeds in stealing one. All through life he must conform to certain interdicts on social intercourse with connexions formed by marriage. So is it throughout. Inherited rules which the living combine to maintain, and the authority of which no one dreams of questioning, control all actions. Similarly during the early stages of civilized societies, when the political and ecclesiastical institutions have become well organized, the despotism they exercise is associated with the despotism exercised by the whole community over every member through its irresistible usages. But on turning from the East, where this connexion has been in all times exemplified, to the West of modern times, we see that along with a decrease of political restraints and ecclesiastical restraints there goes a decrease of ceremonial restraints; so that now these dictates of the majority may, many of them, be broken with impunity or without serious penalty.
Doubtless the current conception of freedom is congruous with existing social life; and a higher conception would be dangerously incongruous with it. Primitive men, having natures in most respects unfitted for social co-operation, were held in the social state only by coercion of one or other kind: those varieties of them which would not submit, having failed to become social. Progress occurred where there existed such obedience to despotic rulers, political and ecclesiastical, as made possible the control of ill-governed and aggressive natures. At that stage the assertion of personal liberties, wherever it occurred, was a fatal impediment to national growth and organization. Only along with the gradual moulding of men to the social state, has it become possible without social disruption for those ideas and feelings which cause resistance to unlimited authority, to assert themselves and to restrict the authority. At present the need for the authority and for the sentiment which causes submission to it, continues to be great. While the most advanced nations vie with one another in committing political burglaries all over the world, it is manifest that their members are far too aggressive to permit much weakening of the restraining agencies by which order is maintained among them. The unlimited right of the majority to rule, is probably as advanced a conception of freedom as can safely be entertained at present; if, indeed, even that can safely be entertained.
Ideas like some of these but less definite, or rather the sentiments appropriate to such ideas, prompted the article on “Manners and Fashion”; named at the close of the last chapter as having been agreed upon for publication in The Westminster Review, and which appeared in April. It was, I suppose, written at Derby before the middle of January.
As just implied, and as may be inferred from the latter part of the article, its original purpose was that of protesting against sundry of the social conventions to which most people submit uncomplainingly. Inherited nature and paternal example had united to produce in me repugnance of these, and especially to such of them as are expressive of class-subordination. But though, when planning the article, evolutionary views were not present to me, they came to the front when executing it. How things have come to be what they are—how they have naturally grown into their present forms, seems to have become a question which in every case presented itself; with the result that some fragment of the general theory of evolution was more or less definitely sketched out.
The truth that Law, Religion and Manners are related as severally being systems of restraints, having been illustrated, their bond of relationship was found in the fact that “originally Deity, Chief, and Master of the ceremonies were identical.” When, out of the primitive group, there arose some man whose remarkable powers, displayed chiefly in war, gave him predominance, the various kinds of control over the rest were simultaneously initiated. And out of this unity of control there was shown to arise that diversity of control exercised by political, ecclesiastical and ceremonial institutions. Restricted to the development of one of these forms of control, the essay proceeded to show that in the genesis of Manners itself, may be traced this same divergence and re-divergence. As with obeisances, which are variously abridged and modified forms of the original prostration, so with titles, modes of address, and ceremonies of all kinds, the uniform has become the multiform.
Though between these conceptions and the developmental conceptions set forth in preceding essays, there is a manifest harmony, yet the phrases previously employed do not recur. The differentiation of the political, ecclesiastical, and ceremonial institutions, is said to be “in conformity with the law of evolution of all organized bodies, that general functions are gradually separated into the special functions constituting them”; but there is no reference to the implied transformation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous. Similarly, while various of the facts given illustrate the transition from the indefinite to the definite, no mention is made of this trait of development. The substance of the conception had grown in advance of the form—had itself not yet become definite.
It should be added that there here makes its first appearance a doctrine which was, many years afterwards, elaborately developed—the doctrine that propitiation of the ruling man, becoming after his death propitiation of his double expected presently to return, gave origin to ideas and observances which became eventually those we class as religious.
What took me to London in the middle of January? Possibly in part my constitutional impatience of monotony; for life in Derby was always dull, and the change to London life with its exhilarations often served to raise my health up to par when it had been below par. Probably, however, the obtaining of additional information required for articles in hand, and the making of engagements for further articles, were the predominant motives.
Letters written from my old haunt, 20, Clifton Road, St. John’s Wood, contain passages which show what I was doing and intending to do. Here is an extract from one to my father, dated January 20.
“I am in negotiation with Chapman to write a short article on ‘Railway Morals’ à propos of the guarantee system of extensions and preference shares.
“I am busy reading Comte, and am getting up a very formidable case against him. I have nearly finished a sketch of one article, which I have proposed to send to Fraser [then editor of The North British Review] but have not yet had a reply.”
From another dated Jan. 28, I take the following:—
“As you will see by the last of the two enclosed notes from Cornewall Lewis, I am going to write the article on ‘Railway Morals’ for the Edinburgh Review. I do not wish it known that I am going to do it for the Edinburgh; fearing that should the fact get to the ears of the adverse party, some countervailing influence may be used.”
In a letter of 17 Feb. occur the paragraphs:—
“I have agreed to write for the British Quarterly. I took this step in consequence of finding (as you will see from the two enclosed notes from Fraser) that there is so much liability to delays that it is needful to have a good many strings to one’s bow. Should Fraser not insert the Education article in the next number, it will put me somewhat about. However, now that I have arranged to write for the Edinburgh and the British Quarterly in addition, the inconvenience can be but temporary. It would be strange indeed if, when contributing to four Quarterlies, I should not have demand for five articles in the year; seeing that hitherto I have written two a year for the Westminster alone. . . .
“I do not involve myself in the re-publication of ‘Over-Legislation.’ It will be wholly an affair between Chapman and Mr. Morley. I have been making important additions. Chapman could not afford space for the ‘Railway Morals’ in the next number of the Westminster. Hence I thought best to try the Edinburgh, and although its publication will be delayed there, it is a much more influential medium.
“I have just proposed the review of Comte to Dr. Vaughan [then editor of The British Quarterly Review] but fear that I am too late.
“My chief vexation just now is that I have sketches of two important articles on this topic and doubt whether I shall get a place for either.”
Here are passages from a letter written to my mother on 27 Feb.
“I enclose two notes from Dr. Vaughan, for whom I have agreed to write one of the reviews of Comte. . . . I feel somewhat inclined, if it will be convenient, to come down to Derby in April and stay with you into midsummer, on the usual terms [i.e. contributing my share to the household expenses, which I made a sine quâ non]. I propose this partly because I wish to save up a considerable sum for my projected stay in Paris in the autumn, and partly from the wish to put myself under regimen in the way of exercise in boating, &c.
“I have commenced to-day the paper for the Edinburgh on Railway Morals. It will be a terrific exposure.”
I wrote to my father on March 14—
“I am getting very anxious to begin the Psychology, which is constantly growing. . . As soon as I have completed the two articles I have in hand, I shall devote myself wholly to it.”
It seems that I returned to Derby a few days after the last-named letter was written, and there remained until towards the end of June.
Instead of the words “I am busy reading Comte,” used in one of the foregoing extracts, the words used should have been—I am busy reading Miss Martineau’s abridged translation of Comte. This had then been recently issued; and as two of my friends, Mr. Lewes and Miss Evans, were in large measure adherents of Comte’s views, I was curious to learn more definitely what these were. Already, as said in a preceding chapter, I had got through the “Exposition” in the original; and while remaining neutral respecting the doctrine of the three stages, had forthwith rejected the classification of the sciences. I had also read Mr. Lewes’s outlines of the Comtean system, serially published in The Leader. Whether, when I began to read Miss Martineau’s abridged translation, I had any intention of reviewing it, I cannot remember; but evidently, if not present at the outset, the intention was soon formed.
The disciples of M. Comte think that I am much indebted to him; and so I am, but in a way widely unlike that which they mean. Save in the adoption of his word “altruism,” which I have defended, and in the adoption of his word “sociology,” because there was no other available word (for both which adoptions I have been blamed), the only indebtedness I recognize is the indebtedness of antagonism. My pronounced opposition to his views led me to develop some of my own views. What to think, is a question in part answered when it has been decided what not to think. Shutting out any large group of conclusions from the field of speculation, narrows the field; and by so doing brings one nearer to the conclusions which should be drawn. In this way the Positive Philosophy (or rather the earlier part of it, for I did not read the biological or sociological divisions, and I think not the chemical) proved of service to me. It is probable that but for my dissent from Comte’s classification of the sciences, my attention would never have been drawn to the subject. Had not the subject been entertained, I should not have entered upon that inquiry which ended in writing “The Genesis of Science.” And in the absence of ideas reached when I was tracing the genesis of science, one large division of the Principles of Psychology would possibly have lacked its organizing principle, or, indeed, would possibly not have been written at all. In this way, then, I trace an important influence on my thoughts exercised by the thoughts of M. Comte; but it was an influence opposite in nature to that which the Comtists suppose.
I need not here say anything about my strictures on the schemes of Oken and Hegel, each of whom preceded Comte in the attempt to organize a system of philosophy out of the sciences arranged in serial order; nor need I say anything about the proofs given that Comte’s classification of the sciences is neither logically nor historically justifiable; nor about the assigned reasons for holding that the relations of the sciences cannot be expressed by any serial arrangement whatever. This critical part of the article, though originally intended to be the chief part, eventually became merely preliminary to the constructive part; which alone calls for comment in this place as being connected with subsequent developments of thought.
First pointing out how erroneous is the common notion that the knowledge called science is somehow sharply distinguished from common knowledge; and then tacitly affirming the self-evident truth that science must have gradually emerged from common knowledge; the essay proceeds to set forth the process of emergence. Even crude knowledge of things around exhibits prevision of one kind or other. Scientific prevision, acquiring definiteness as the knowledge of a relation between phenomena grows into knowledge of the relation, acquires still greater definiteness as qualitative prevision grows into quantitative prevision—as the ability to predict the kind of foreseen result grows into the ability to predict both the kind and the amount. This advance implies the conception of measure. Ideas of like and unlike, underlying the discriminations which even animals make, are suggested to the primitive man by various things, and especially by organic bodies: like shapes, colours, weights, are shown him by fish from a shoal, birds from a flock, beasts from a herd. Occasionally the objects are so nearly alike as to be scarcely distinguishable; and there emerges the idea of absolute likeness or equality. Of equalities, the most exactly ascertainable are those of lengths. Two fish side by side, showing equality of length, simultaneously imply the ideas of duality and of measurement by apposition. Such experiences, while thus yielding the ideas of equal lengths and equal units of length, which are the root-ideas of geometry, also yield the idea of equal units in the abstract, which is the root-idea of number and of the calculus in general. At the same time, since these organic bodies habitually present like relations among their attributes—size, form, colour, odour, taste, motions—in such wise that two or more of them being given others can be inferred, a concomitant consciousness of likeness of relations results; whence arises ordinary reasoning. Eventually out of this comes the conception of equality of relations, on which scientific reasoning proceeds. Those subsequent steps in the genesis of science thus initiated which are presented by the several sciences as they arise and diverge, cannot here be named. It must suffice to say that along with the process of divergence and re-divergence sketched out, there is sketched out the increasing inter-dependence of the sciences. It is curious, however, that though there are clearly portrayed in the article the increasing heterogeneity in the general body of the sciences, the increasing definiteness shown by all its components, and the increasing integration implied by their mutual influence and aid, there is no specific reference to this advance from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous and from the indefinite to the definite; though these formulæ had been used in a preceding essay. Again the substance of the conception had grown faster than the shape, which had not yet acquired definiteness.
During the spring and early summer there continued those signs of cardiac enfeeblement which set in after my return from Switzerland. They had diminished, indeed, but were still perceptible enough. Towards the end of June I decided to try hydropathy: not, I believe, because I had much faith in the nominal remedy; for it seemed to me then, as now, that the actual remedy is the change from an unhealthy, indoor, hard-worked and often anxious life, to a life of ease, novelty, and amusement, spent largely in the open air, while keeping regular and early hours and eating wholesome food. But whether the causes of improvement to health were essential to the system or concomitant only, it seemed worth while to give them a trial. I went to the establishment in which my uncle had, more than once, derived much benefit. An account of my experiences there is contained in the following paragraphs from a letter to my mother, dated Umberslade Hall, Hockley Heath, Birmingham, 30 June, 1854.
“I would have written earlier but that I waited until I had something definite to report; and I should certainly have written yesterday had not Dr. Johnson taken me out for a drive in his gig, and remained out till after post time.
“I have nothing very definite to tell you, further than that on the whole the palpitations seem to be gradually diminishing and do not generally attract my attention even at night; although still more or less perceptible then, when I purposely direct my attention to them. In other respects I am much as I was. No great effect either one way or other seems to be produced by the treatment, so far as I can judge by my feelings. But being on the whole very well, I don’t know that I have any right to expect any very marked results.
“There are about 24 patients here at present. They are on the whole not a particularly interesting class of persons. My chief companion is Dr. Johnson himself, with whom I have a good deal of talk from time to time. The time however passes pleasantly enough. The Hall stands in the midst of extensive grounds, with plantations and drives, two lakes with boats on them, and plenty of country lanes in the surrounding districts; so that by the aid of walks and games and boating and driving, with the frequently recurring baths, the days slip quietly by.”
There had then but just commenced that transformation which hydropathic establishments have undergone. It has been amusing to watch the process by which classes of English people with ascetic or semi-ascetic ideas, have been betrayed into a mode of enjoyment which they would have looked askance at had it been proposed to them without disguise. If, forty years ago, anyone had advertised a country house in which the guests, living as a family, were to be provided with facilities for passing the time pleasantly, he would have had small chance of success. But the average Englishman has great belief in the benefits of any regime which treats his body severely, and makes him do things that are not agreeable to his sensations. The water-cure consequently fell in with his humour; and he took to it kindly. For companionship, patients brought with them relatives, often much younger, who needed no treatment. Those who took baths presently came to be out-numbered by those who merely utilized the opportunities for amusement; until at length, the hydropathic element becoming comparatively unobtrusive, there have grown up all over the kingdom places in which people assemble to have games and drives and picnics and balls, to flirt and to make matches.
Leaving Umberslade for London before the middle of July, I there occupied myself in bringing to a close some literary engagements. Though, as implied above, the article on “Railway Morals and Railway Policy” had been commenced early in the spring and had been completed at Derby, it was requisite, considering the seriousness of the allegations it made, to submit it, when in proof, to sundry of those who were familiar with the doings of the railway world. After these allegations had received their indorsement there came the need for dissipating the qualms of the editor of The Edinburgh Review—at that time Sir George Cornewall Lewis. I have pleasant recollections of my interview with him, and retain a clear picture of his remarkable face, though I never saw it again.
In a letter to my father dated 5 September 1853, occurs the passage:—“If you will get hold of Tuesday’s Times you will see a report of a meeting of South-Western Railway shareholders in which I took part—moved a resolution and made a speech.” It was from the impression made on me by the doings of the Board at this meeting, that the article in question originated. The experiences of my earlier engineering days had not revealed to me much; partly because I was not behind the scenes and partly because at that time corrupting influences were but beginning. During the railway-mania, however, when I resumed engineering, the motives and actions of those concerned became partially known to me. The conspiring together of lawyers, engineers, and others seeking for professional work, with promoters greedy of premiums, all utterly regardless of those who were betrayed by their hollow schemes, repelled me so effectually that I never applied for a single share, though I might have had many. Having at that time seen something of railway morals from the inside, I now, as proprietor, saw something of them from the outside: knowledge of motives gained in the first case serving to interpret actions in the second. I was indignant at the way in which proprietors were deluded by schemes projected and executed for the benefit of those who governed and those in league with them; and determined to expose the state of things.
As the developmental course of thought which it has been my purpose to trace in preceding brief analysis of articles, is not illustrated by this article, I need not here say anything about its contents further than to note the sole philosophical, or in this case ethical, principle enunciated. This principle was the undeniable one, that by a contract no person can be committed to more than he contracts to do. It was argued that this applies to the proprietary contract as to all other contracts; and that therefore the railway-shareholder cannot in equity be committed by any act, either of a board of directors or of his brother shareholders, to schemes not named in the deed of incorporation. And it was contended that the wide-spread ruin of individuals, and immense loss of capital by the nation in making unremunerative lines, would never have occurred had not the proprietary contract for making a specified railway, been habitually interpreted as though it were also a contract for making unspecified railways.
Concerning, as it did, the interests of multitudinous people, and containing many startling statements, this article attracted much attention—much more attention than anything else I ever wrote. It was eventually, with my assent, republished by Messrs. Longman in their “Traveller’s Library.” Some of the contained revelations brought upon them the threat of an action for libel.
My detention in London during the greater part of July was not without its compensations. Among these were several visits to the Crystal Palace, then recently opened, and then having a beauty which those who have seen it only of late years can hardly imagine. A letter to my friend Lott, expressing the wish that he would join me in visits to it, says:—“but I suppose that nothing can neutralize your yearning for the hills (joined with that of your wife) for this summer at least.” Succeeding paragraphs in the letter I give, because of the sundry things which they indicate.
“I mean to get away from town as soon as I can—perhaps in little more than a fortnight. Not feeling that Umberslade has been beneficial, I am desirous of getting away to the seaside as soon as may be; holding, as I do, that it is the best policy to take prompt measures to get rid of even minor bodily evils, lest they should entail greater ones, as they always tend to do.
“Will the dividends on the American shares be forthcoming before I go? My reason for inquiring is not that I am likely to have any need of them for some months to come, but that there would, I suppose, be some inconvenience in sending the amount to me whilst at Paris.
“I quite sympathize in your wish for the renewal of our pleasant excursions, than which there are few things I have enjoyed more. Next time I hope that Mary Roe [his sister-in-law] will be one of our party. I have great faith in the laughter cure; and her nonsense makes a good ingredient in it. Tell your wife that she should be ashamed of herself to be unwell at Quorn; and that unless she forthwith reports herself well, I shall accuse her of plotting to get to the lakes.”
Above, I have spoken of the attractiveness of the Crystal Palace in its early days. Here from a letter to my mother dated 15 July, let me quote a passage referring to it.
“I have been once at Sydenham. It surpasses even my expectations though I had seen it in progress. It is a fairy land; and a wonder surpassing all others.”
The degradation which it has since undergone, illustrates the way in which too strenuous an effort to make a thing good may end in making it bad. Had there not been so vast an expenditure on the great terraces, the immense flights of steps, the basins, fountains, and water-towers, the dividend on the capital invested in the Palace and its contents, would probably have been sufficient to satisfy shareholders; and there would not have been those frantic efforts to increase returns, which have ended in making the place a compound of bazaar, theatre, fancy fair, refreshment room, and tea-garden.
My matters of business having been transacted, I was now free to commence my long contemplated work on Psychology. Foregoing extracts from letters contain two indications that during the spring there had arisen the question—Why remain in England while writing the book? Why not write it abroad? Easy access to other books was not requisite; for its lines of thought had scarcely anything in common with lines of thought previously pursued; and of such material as was needed for illustration, my memory contained a sufficient stock. Why not then go to France, spend the remainder of the summer on the coast, and winter in Paris? Arrangements in pursuance of this scheme had been gradually made.
At the close of Chapter XIX, where my experience of a remarkable coincidence was noted, I said that a still more remarkable one would have presently to be described. It occurred just before I departed for France. While in London in the spring, I had been attended during indisposition by Mr. Robert Dunn, a medical man then residing in Norfolk Street, Strand. The small claim he had against me I wished to settle before leaving. What happened is told in the following extract from a letter to my father, dated 28 July.
“I met with a most extraordinary coincidence since you left. Calling on Mr. Dunn, the surgeon, I was told by the young man in his surgery that he was out. I said I would leave a card for him. I took one out and gave it to this assistant. I noticed that when he read the name he raised his eyebrows and gave a start. Judge my astonishment on finding that his surprise arose from the fact that his name too was Herbert Spencer. I would almost have taken an oath that there was no other person with the same name. That there should not only be one, but that I should meet with him and hand my card to him, is one of those strange events which we should call absurd in a romance.”
At that time its strangeness seemed much greater than it seems now; for in the days when my double and I were baptized, the name Herbert, though now not uncommon, was extremely rare. Up to the age of 30 I never met any one bearing it.
The incident had a sequel. On my return from France some time afterwards, I again called to pay Mr. Dunn’s account, and again Mr. Dunn was from home. Not wishing to have any further trouble, I said I would pay to this namesake of mine the amount due. The result of course was that I obtained a bill made out to Herbert Spencer and receipted by Herbert Spencer. I still have it among my papers.
Some years afterwards this second Mr. Herbert Spencer was house surgeon to the London Hospital. Eventually he settled at Bradford, in Yorkshire, where he still resided in 1886.
[Afterwards there appeared on the scene a Dr. Herbert Spencer, who now practices in London. From 1888 to 1899 the two names occurred together in The Medical Register. Later came still another Herbert Spencer—a pickpocket! (See daily papers for July 6, 1893.)]