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PART VII.: 1856—1860. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 2 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. 2 (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
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A SYSTEM OF PHILOSOPHY PROJECTED.
My search for a fit place of abode when I returned to town, ended satisfactorily. Malvern House, otherwise 13, Loudoun Road, St. John’s Wood, in which I settled myself, is a good house seated in the midst of a garden walled round. The occupier, who carried on a wholesale business in the city, and who, as I afterward learnt, feared to fall into a state of chronic melancholy, as his father had done before him, had hit on a prophylactic—surrounding himself with a lively circle. In addition to the family, consisting of host and hostess, three daughters and a son, ranging from seven up to about twenty, and a governess, there were as boarders an old retired government official (a commissioner of some kind I think he had been) lively notwithstanding his years—eighty and a wit; a “grass-widow,” pleasant to look upon but without an idea in her head, whose husband was in India; and her friend, a vain old lady who played the part of duenna.
Beyond the fitness of the circle and the salubrity of the locality, which is on the backbone of St. John’s Wood, the place had the advantage that it was within two minutes’ walk of No. 1, Waverley Place, then occupied by Huxley. We had a standing engagement for Sunday afternoons: a walk of a few miles into the country along the Finchley Road, or up to Hampstead, being the usual routine. Many pleasant talks and useful discussions there were between us on those occasions during the succeeding year. I remember that once when, as it would seem, society and human life as at present existing had been topics of somewhat pessimistic comment, I said (not however doing justice to my thought)—“Yes, one cannot hope for much more than to make one’s mark and die.” Whereupon Huxley, with greater self-abnegation, responded—“Never mind about the mark: it is enough if one can give a push.”
Reference to these walks and talks reminds me of an incident connected with one of them. Shortly after I had established myself in Loudoun Road, Buckle called. It was on a Sunday afternoon. Our conversation had not gone far when I intimated that the hour had come for the usual excursion; and, on my answering his inquiry who Huxley was (for then he was not widely known), Buckle agreed to go with me to be introduced. He went with us a short distance up the Finchley Road; but, saying that he had an engagement, presently turned back. We looked after him as he walked away; and Huxley, struck by his feeble, undecided gait, remarked—“Ah, I see the kind of man. He is top-heavy.” I have never done more than dip into The History of Civilization in England; but I suspect that the analogy suggested was not without truth. Buckle had taken in a much larger quantity of matter than he could organize; and he staggered under the mass of it.
November was occupied chiefly in seeing through the press the volume of Essays: Scientific, Political, and Speculative; but its last days, joined with the first part of December, found me busy with a review-article. A letter to my father dated 28th November, contains the paragraph—
“I have undertaken to write a short article on this Banking crisis—perhaps under the title of the bunglings of State-banking—in which I propose showing the evils of meddling and the superiorities of an unrestricted system. It is for the next Westminster.”
This essay, which appeared under the title of “State Tamperings with Money and Banks,” displayed once more my antagonism to over-legislation. It is significant, too, as showing in another direction, an abiding faith in the self-regulation of internal social activities.
An essay on such a subject seems a very unlikely place in which to meet with a biological doctrine; and yet one cropped up. Among reasons given for reprobating the policy of guarding imprudent people against the dangers of reckless banking, one was that such a policy interferes with that normal process which brings benefit to the sagacious and disaster to the stupid. “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools,” was a belief expressed. This was a tacit assertion, recalling like assertions previously made, that the survival of the fittest operates beneficially in society. It appears that in the treatment of every topic, however seemingly remote from philosophy, I found occasion for falling back on some ultimate principle in the natural order.
But now I come to an event of much moment—an event which initiated a long series of changes and determined my subsequent career.
Already I have, when speaking of each essay or book from time to time written, indicated the way in which it stood related to the general doctrine elaborated in after years. Here, to exhibit more clearly the attitude of mind and stage of thought which had been reached, it will be well briefly to recapitulate in immediate succession the implied steps of mental development.
In the narrative of my boyhood I pointed out that I early became possessed by the idea of causation. My father’s frequent questions—“Can you tell me the cause of this?” or—“I wonder what is the cause of that,” presented to me now one thing and now another, as due to some identifiable agency, usually physical. Though his religious views prevented him from denying the miraculous, yet so frequently did there recur the interpretation of things as natural, and so little reference did he make to the supernatural, that there grew up in me a tacit belief that whatever occurred had its assignable cause of a comprehensible kind. Such notions as uniformity of law and an established order, were of course not then entertained; but the kind of thinking into which I had been led, and which was in part natural to me, prepared the way for acceptance of such notions in due time. How deep-seated had become the implied kind of consciousness, was shown a little later by the incident I narrated as occurring at Hinton when Arnott’s Physics was being read aloud; and when I called in question the conception of vis inertiæ there set forth, which, as I dimly perceived, was irreconcilable with that conception of causation I had come to entertain. The same mental proclivity displayed itself during the later years of my youth in the discussions continually entered upon. Very rarely if ever did I cite an authority for any opinion expressed; but always the course taken was that of seeking to justify an opinion by reference to natural necessities or probabilities. Doubtless my intellectual leaning towards belief in natural causation everywhere operating, and my consequent tendency to disbelieve alleged miracles, had much to do with my gradual relinquishment of the current creed and its associated story of creation—a relinquishment which went on insensibly during early manhood. Doubtless, too, a belief in evolution at large was then latent; since, little as the fact is recognized, anyone who, abandoning the supernaturalism of theology, accepts in full the naturalism of science, tacitly asserts that all things as they now exist have been evolved. The doctrine of the universality of natural causation, has for its inevitable corollary the doctrine that the Universe and all things in it have reached their present forms through successive stages physically necessitated. No such corollary, however, had at that time made itself manifest to me; and I cannot recall any definite belief then entertained about the origin of the Universe or the origin of living things. The first pronounced convictions on these matters were, as I have said, due to the reading of Lyell’s Principles of Geology when I was twenty: his arguments against Lamarck producing in me a partial acceptance of Lamarck’s view.
Two years after, in The Proper Sphere of Government, there was shown an unhesitating belief that the phenomena of both individual life and social life, conform to law; and there was insistence on the progressive adaptation of constitution to conditions: implying the influence of the development hypothesis previously accepted. Eight years later increased consistency and definiteness were given to these views in Social Statics. Though, as shown in the chapter on “The Divine Idea,” positive theism was implied; and though teleological conceptions were involved; yet, practically, the supernaturalism was almost hidden behind the naturalism. Everything was was referred to the unvarying course of causation, no less uniform in the spheres of life and mind than in the sphere of inanimate existence. Continuous adaptation was insisted on as holding of all organisms, and of mental faculties as well as bodily. For this adaptation, the first cause assigned was the increase or decrease of structure consequent on increase or decrease of function; and the second cause assigned was the killing off, or dying out, of individuals least adapted to the requirements of their lives. The ideally moral state was identified with complete adjustment of constitution to conditions; and the fundamental requirement, alike ethical and political, was represented as being the rigorous maintenance of the conditions to harmonious social co-operation; with the certainty that human nature will gradually be moulded to fit them. The dependence of institutions upon individual character was dwelt on; the reciprocal influences of the two emphasized; and the adjustment of moral ideas to the social state illustrated. A physiological view of social actions was taken; on sundry occasions the expression “social organism” was used; the aggregation of citizens forming a nation was compared with the aggregation of cells forming a living body; the progress from a whole made up of like parts which have but little mutual dependence, to a whole made up of unlike parts which are mutually dependent in a high degree, was shown to be a progress common to individual organisms and social organisms. So that the conception of progress subsequently to be presented in a more generalized form, was evidently foreshadowed.
Thus far, acceptance of the developmental idea had been tacit only; but soon after the publication of Social Statics it was avowed: the essay on the “Development Hypothesis,” published in March, 1852, being a profession of faith. Immediately after, in “A Theory of Population,” &c., came an argument which, dealing with only one aspect of evolution—the decrease of fertility that accompanies increase of development—nevertheless practically assumed the rest. Assigning for this inverse relation necessary physical causes, it also assigned to necessary physical causes, the anticipated increase of mental development and decrease of fertility pointed out as likely to occur in the human race under that growing competition entailed by pressure of population. Treating though it did of a political question, the essay on “Over-legislation,” not long afterwards published, betrayed the same general mode of thinking. It assumed that social arrangements and institutions are products of natural causes, and that they have a normal order of growth.
An additional element of thought of great importance now came into play. When looking through the edition of Carpenter’s Principles of Physiology published in 1851, for the purpose of writing a notice of it in the Westminster Review, I became acquainted with von Baer’s statement that the development of every organism is a change from homogeneity to heterogeneity. The substance of the thought was not new to me, though its form was. As above shown, in Social Statics, citing facts in illustration from Professors Owen and Rymer Jones, I had emphasized the truth that in ascending grades of organization, “we find a gradual diminution in the number of like parts, and a multiplication of unlike ones. In the one extreme there are but few functions, and many similar agents to each function: in the other, there are many functions, and few similar agents to each function.” And there is also emphasized the truth that “just this same increasing subdivision of functions takes place in the development of society”—that “the earliest social organizations consist almost wholly of repetitions of one element;” while, with social progress there goes multiplication of “distinct classes” and “special occupations.” But in the first place, the conception thus reached had not a sufficiently consolidated form to make it an efficient factor in further thought; and in the second place, involving as it did the idea of function along with the idea of structure, it was limited to organic phenomena. It was otherwise with the more generalized expression of von Baer. Besides being brief it was not necessarily limited to the organic world; though it was by him recognized only as the law of evolution of each individual organism. Added to my stock of general ideas, this idea did not long lie dormant. It was soon extended to certain phenomena of the super-organic class. At the close of the essay on “The Philosophy of Style,” published in October, 1852, it made an unobtrusive first appearance as supplying a measure of superiority in style. Change from homogeneity to heterogeneity, began to be recognized as that change in which progress other than organic, consists. But this mode of expressing the idea did not at once replace the one used in Social Statics. The doctrine set forth in the essay on “Manners and Fashion,” published in April, 1854, that the ceremonial, political, and ecclesiastical controls, are divergent forms of one original control, again exhibits in its original shape the conception that advance from lower to higher is characterized by increasing multiformity.
How dominant the hypothesis of development had now become with me, is curiously shown in an essay on “The Universal Postulate,” published in the Westminster Review for October, 1853. Irrelevant though the hypothesis seems to a discussion concerning the test of truth; yet it came out in the expressed belief that fundamental intuitions of which the negations are inconceivable, are products of organized and inherited effects of experiences: evidently the germ of an evolutionary psychology.
Further extensions in the same fields, accompanied by increased definiteness and the sudden appearance of certain other cardinal ideas of like generality, occurred in the two essays published at midsummer, 1854, on “The Genesis of Science” and “The Art of Education.” A leading conception set forth in the first of these essays, was that the sciences neither arise in serial order nor can be arranged in serial order, but that their relations are those of divergence and re-divergence: increasing heterogeneity in the body of science being an implication. Moreover it was shown that as the diverging branches of science inosculate more and more, there is an advancing integration keeping pace with the advancing differentiation. And it was also pointed out that along with growing heterogeneity there is growing definiteness. There were kindred ideas in “The Art of Education.” It was contended that as the course of mental development is from the simple to the complex, and from the indefinite to the definite, educational methods must be adjusted to this course of development.
A large step was next made. The belief set forth in the early essay on “The Development Hypothesis,” implied that not only had bodily organization been naturally evolved, but mental organization too. In the article on “The Genesis of Science” I had been led to trace the growth of definite reasoning, and the gradual formation of cardinal scientific ideas, as resulting from the accumulating experiences of mankind. Hence arose the thought of writing a Principles of Psychology, tracing out the genesis of mind in all its forms, sub-human and human, as produced by the organized and inherited effects of mental actions. In the survey of so relatively wide a field of phenomena, there of course occurred opportunities for further development of the conceptions already entertained; and further development took place. An early-impressed belief in the increase of faculty by exercise in the individual, and the subsequently accepted idea of adaptation as a universal principle of bodily life, now took, when contemplating the phenomena of mind, an appropriately modified form. Progressive adaptation became increasing adjustment of inner subjective relations to outer objective relations—increasing correspondence between the two. Successive chapters treat of the correspondence as “direct and homogeneous,” as “direct but heterogeneous,” as “increasing in speciality,” as “increasing in complexity,” and also of “the integration of correspondences.”
Quite naturally then, on thus recognizing throughout a further vast field of phenomena the increase of heterogeneity, of speciality, of integration, previously recognized as traits of progress in various minor groups of phenomena, there was suggested the question—Are not these the traits of progress of all kinds? And it needed but to ask the question to find an affirmative answer. Brief inspection made it manifest that the law held in the inorganic world, as in the organic and super-organic. There resulted forthwith the conception of an essay which should set forth the universal presence of these traits—or rather, the first of them; for my mind was at the time so pre-occupied with the thought of increasing heterogeneity as a universal trait, that no space seems to have been left for recognition of the truth that increasing integration and increasing definiteness were also universal traits. There immediately occurred a further significant advance. After recognition of the truth that increasing heterogeneity is universal, there arose the question—Why is it universal? And a transition from the inductive stage to the deductive stage was shown in the answer—the transformation results from the unceasing multiplication of effects. When, shortly after, there came the perception that the condition of homogeneity is an unstable condition, yet another step towards the completely deductive stage was made. And here it may be remarked that with this change from the empirical to the rational, the theorem passed into the region of physical science. It became now a question of causes and effects reduced to their simple forms—a question of molar and molecular forces and energies—a question of the never-ending re-distribution of matter and motion considered under its most general aspects. Thus it is clear that something like a consolidated system of thought was nearly reached.
On glancing over these stages it is, indeed, observable that the advance towards a complete conception of evolution was itself a process of evolution. At first there was simply an unshaped belief in the development of living things; including, in a vague way, social development. The extension of von Baer’s formula expressing the development of each organism, first to one and then to another group of phenomena, until all were taken in as parts of a whole, exemplified the process of integration. With advancing integration there went that advancing heterogeneity implied by inclusion of the several classes of inorganic phenomena and the several classes of super-organic phenomena in the same category with organic phenomena. And then the indefinite idea of progress passed into the definite idea of evolution, when there was recognized the essential nature of the change, as a physically-determined transformation conforming to ultimate laws of force. Not until setting down as above the successive stages of thought, was I myself aware how naturally each stage had prepared the way for the next, and how each additional conclusion increased the mental proclivity towards further conclusions lying in the same direction. It now seems that there was an almost inevitable transition to that coherent body of beliefs which soon took place.
What initiated the unification? No positive answer is furnished by my memory; but there is an answer which, on reviewing the circumstances, may be considered as almost certainly the true one.
As above narrated, I had recently been collecting together, revising, and publishing, a number of essays. The transaction had entailed two readings. There was the preparation of them for the press; and there was the correction of the proofs as they passed through the press. Hitherto the various evolutionary ideas which, during the preceding six years had been from time to time expressed in these essays, had been lying apart in my thoughts; but now they were brought together and twice over contemplated in immediate succession. Obviously this process was one fitted to disclose kinships and connexions before unobserved, and fitted, therefore, to produce consolidation.
With this special cause there probably co-operated a more general cause. The time was one at which certain all-embracing scientific truths of a simple order, were being revealed. Years before had been published the work of Sir William Grove on The Correlation of Physical Forces; and now the scientific world was becoming everywhere possessed by the general doctrine of the “Conservation of Force,” as it was then called. When writing the Principles of Psychology three years previously, and proposing (in the division referred to in the preface as then withheld, but which was added in the second edition) to interpret nervous phenomena as resulting from discharges along lines of least resistance, my tendency to seek for ultimate physical principles as keys to complex phenomena, had shown itself. Apt thus to look at things, and prepared therefore to be especially receptive of such truths as that the various kinds of force are but different forms of one force, and that this one force can in no case be either increased or decreased, but only transformed; it is manifest that I was ready to have the several general conceptions above described, still further unified by affiliation on these ultimate physical principles. There naturally arose the perception that the instability of the homogeneous and the multiplication of effects, must be derivative laws; and that the laws from which they are derived must be those ultimate laws of force similarly traceable throughout all orders of existences. There came the thought that the concrete sciences at large should have their various classes of facts presented in subordination to these universal principles, proximate and ultimate. Clearly the astronomic, geologic, biologic, psychologic, and sociologic groups of phenomena, form a connected aggregate of phenomena: the successive parts having arisen one out of another by insensible gradations, and admitting only of conventional separations. Clearly, too, they are unified by exhibiting in common the law of transformation and the causes of transformation. And clearly, therefore, they should be arranged into a coherent body of doctrine, held together by the fundamental kinships.
Though naturally I cannot say that these were the ideas which actually occurred, and that this was their order; yet that some such ideas occurred in some such order, is proved by the fact that I shortly sketched out a scheme of the kind indicated. Evidently I felt at the time that I had made an important step; for this rough draft, then drawn up as follows, is dated.
6 January, 1858.
This is reproduced verbatim from the original draft, which had been left without any corrections. Evidently there is much crudity in the portions which are detailed; and the other portions, merely indicated, are not thought out. But it is remarkable that the scheme as at first thus suddenly conceived, should have resembled as much as it does the scheme eventually executed. Three days after the date of this sketch I wrote home as follows:—
“13 Loudoun Road
My dear Father
I sent the Westminster yesterday. When done with circulate it in the usual order.
Within the last ten days my ideas on various matters have suddenly crystallized into a complete whole. Many things which were before lying separate have fallen into their places as harmonious parts of a system that admits of logical development from the simplest general principles. I send you a brief sketch which will give you some idea of it. In process of time I hope gradually to develop the system here sketched out.
I am very well. After having had a rest I am just beginning the article for the British Quarterly.
I wish you had some good news to give me about the Bridgegate property. My mother’s cold is by this time I hope quite well.
A verification of date is yielded by a subsequent letter from my father. Finding me but a poor correspondent and apt to overlook the questions he asked, he had fallen into the habit of writing out these questions as they occurred to him from time to time on separate half-sheets of note-paper: each question having beneath it a space to contain my answer. Two such separate half-sheets, both dated January 31, 1858, contain these questions and answers.
How do you reconcile your omnipresent activity with the future equilibrium you speak of?
An equilibrium like that of the solar system consists with activity.
Shall you be able to prove that perfect homogeneity is unstable?
Absolute homogeneity extending throughout infinity would be stable.
Can you tell me whether the future work alluded to in your Social Statics embraces the Principles of Sociology together with the Principles of Rectitude?
I am puzzled to know how your vol. 7 will be able to take in with Social Statics Negative Beneficence and Positive Beneficence and retain a moderate size. Shall you take part of the matter of Social Statics from it and put to other chapters?
Did you wish me to keep these crystallized ideas of yours to myself or do you wish me to divulge them?
Keep them to yourself.
Thus then it is clear that the first days of 1858 saw the inception of the undertaking to which the rest of my life was to be devoted.
An engagement had been made in November, 1857, to write an article for the April number of the British Quarterly on the moral discipline of children; and the writing of this essay (which forms one of the chapters in the little volume on Education) occupied me during the early part of 1858.
Concerned with the process of mental unfolding, the subject was certain to be treated by me from the point of view now reached. Consciously or unconsciously the theory of evolution furnished guidance. One of the initial conceptions is that since inherited constitution must ever be the chief factor in determining character, it is absurd to suppose that any system of moral discipline can produce an ideal character, or anything more than some moderate advance towards it. “The guiding principle of moral education” especially insisted on, is that there shall habitually be experienced the natural reaction consequent on each action. As the ascent through lower forms of life has been effected by the discipline of enjoying the pleasures and suffering the pains which followed this or that kind of conduct; so further ascent above the form of life now reached must be thus effected. One of the corollaries drawn is that as throughout our converse with surrounding Nature, most of our activities are unrestrained, but those which bring penalties continue to bring penalties whenever they are repeated—Nature accepting no excuses; so, with educational discipline, while there should be no needless restraints, the needful restraints should be unvarying and irresistible.
These leading ideas sufficiently indicate the way in which moral education was conceived as simply a final part of the process by which the emotional nature has been evolved—a process which in the future is to follow the same lines as in the past.
Life in those days was passing not unpleasantly. Some incidents of the time I give in extracts from letters. The first is from one to my mother dated February 19.
“I am going on very well—sleeping better for the last ten days, and writing all morning without thinking about my head. Indeed I have rarely any sensation now. The good living and the lively society here evidently suit me well.
I dined lately at Sir John Trelawney’s, in company with Mr. Grote the historian of Greece, and Mr. Buckle, the new historian, whom I knew previously. Mr. Grote I wanted to know. He was very civil and hoped we should meet again.
I saw John Mill lately. He was complimentary about the essays; telling me he had read all those he had not before seen and had re-read the others.”
Here is part of a letter to my father dated March 1:—
“The enclosed note is from the Editor of the Quarterly Review. The article which I am to write is on ‘Physical Training,’ in which I am proposing to expose the bad results of under-feeding, under-clothing, and over-education. I have not written for the Quarterly before, and as their pay is the same as the Edinburgh (£16 per sheet) I am glad to make the connexion.”
In a letter to him dated March 22nd occurs the passage:—
“I am day by day developing further the scheme of which I gave you a sketch. Another general law of force has occurred to me since I saw you, viz.—the universality of rhythm; which is a necessary consequence of the antagonism of opposing forces. This holds equally in the undulations of the etherial medium, and the actions and reactions of social life.”
A later note runs:—“I dined with Buckle the other day. Among other guests were Mr. Grote, Sir Henry Holland, Monckton Milnes, m.p.” [afterwards Lord Houghton].
The essay on physical training above referred to as having been written for the Quarterly Review was not accepted by the editor: at that time the Rev. Mr. Elwin. Possibly its conceptions, anti-ascetic as they were, did not harmonize either with his theological system or with the ideas which public school-life had fostered in him. It was not until April, 1859, that this essay, now forming the fourth chapter of the little book on Education, was published in the British Quarterly Review.
Though it makes no reference to the doctrine of evolution, its ideas are congruous with the doctrine in so far that the method of nature is emphasized as that which should be kept in view when deciding on methods of physical training. There is an implied recognition of the principle conformed to in the rearing of offspring throughout the animal-world at large; namely that in proportion as growth and organization are incomplete, much must be given and little demanded. It is argued that as with inferior creatures, early life is distinguished by the continual receipt of benefits and absence of labours; so with ourselves, early life, instead of being made often as laborious as adult life, should be so carried on as to favour more the development of the body, and to postpone later such development of the mind as requires any great and continuous effort.* In harmony with this view, it is contended that for bodily welfare the sensations are the most trustworthy guides; and that the mischiefs of bad physical management result from disregard of them. Though it is not so alleged in the essay, this guiding principle, too, is a corollary from a general biological truth—the truth that among all lower forms of life, uncontrolled by commands, traditions, or creeds, there has been no other prompter to right physical actions than obedience to the sensations: the continual killing off of those in which the two were not rightly adjusted to the needs, having maintained and improved the adjustment. Whence it follows that, inheriting as we do adjustments established during the progress through lower forms of life, our sensations are on the whole trustworthy guides to bodily welfare.†
So that though this essay was not conspicuously evolutionary in its doctrines, yet its doctrines were evolutionary in their unavowed origin.
A few years before this time, the great telescope of Lord Rosse had resolved into stars, sundry nebulæ which were previously regarded as irresolvable. There was drawn the inference that all nebulæ, so called, consist of stars; and that their nebulous appearance is solely the result of extreme remoteness. This inference was at that time generally accepted among astronomers.
As the doctrine of evolution in its widest sense sets out with that state of matter and motion implied by the nebular hypothesis, it naturally happened that this tacit denial of the nebular hypothesis did not leave me unmoved. I saw reasons for questioning the legitimacy of the inferences above described, and was prompted to look more nearly into the matter. Finding abundant grounds for dissent, I set them forth in an article for the Westminster, entitled “Recent Astronomy and the Nebular Hypothesis.”
The first part of the article, having for its purpose to show that the conclusion which had been drawn from the assigned evidence was logically untenable, was not an inappropriate undertaking for an outsider; but the undertaking grew into an exposition and defence of the nebular hypothesis considered in detail. With a daring which I look back upon with surprise, I set forth sundry suggestions, interpretations, and speculations, in aid of it. There was an attempt to show how nebular rotation would be set up in masses of diffused nebulous matter. Arguments were drawn from the distribution of comets; from the inclinations of the orbit-planes of the planets; from the inclinations of the planetary axes to their respective orbit-planes; from the velocities of rotation of the planets; and from the distribution of satellites. An endeavour was made to show that for the various specific gravities of the planets the hypothesis yields an explanation; and that the differences in temperature among them, which there is reason to infer, as well as their general differences from the Sun in respect of temperature, are also such as the hypothesis implies: to which last argument there was added an inference respecting the composition of the solar atmosphere.
An astronomer would have been chary about committing himself to so many speculative views. To propound them needed one who had not an established scientific reputation at stake. Naturally there were errors in the article. Two, however, of the conclusions drawn have since been verified. Mr. Proctor has given abundant further proof that the nebulæ are not remote sidereal systems; and within some three years after the publication of the article, the researches of Kirchhoff and Bunsen proved, by the help of the spectroscope, the truth of the speculation I had ventured concerning the photosphere of the sun. The article was published in the Westminster Review for July. Some correspondence ensued with Sir John Herschel and Sir G. B. Airy, then Astronomer Royal, who were good enough to favour me with criticisms. On two points I had the satisfaction of finding the disagreement of the first met by the agreement of the last.
I left town towards the end of June, and before going elsewhere spent a few days at home.
The scheme which had in January taken definite shape in my mind, and indeed on paper, had of course during the spring been the subject of thought in respect of the means for carrying it into effect. I finally decided to consult John Mill on the matter, and wrote to him the following letter.
“17, Wilmot Street,
My dear Sir,—
May I ask your opinion on a point partly of personal interest, partly of more general interest?
In the essays on “Progress: its Law and Cause” and on “Transcendental Physiology,” which I believe you have read, are the rudiments of certain general principles, which, at the time they were first enunciated, I had no intention of developing further. But more recently, these general principles, uniting with certain others whose connexion with them I did not before recognize, have evolved into a form far higher than I had ever anticipated; and I now find that the various special ideas which I had designed hereafter to publish on certain divisions of Biology, Psychology and Sociology, have fallen into their places as parts of the general body of doctrine thus originating. Having intended to continue occupying myself, as hitherto, in writing essays and books embodying these various special ideas, I have become still more anxious to devote my energies to the exposition of these larger views which include them, and, as I think, reduce all the higher sciences to a rational form.
But, unhappily, my books have at present no adequate sale. Not only have they entailed upon me the negative loss of years spent without remuneration, but also a heavy positive loss in unrepaid expenses of publication. What little property I had has been thus nearly all dissipated. And now that I am more anxious than ever to persevere, it seems likely that I shall be unable to do so. My health does not permit me to spend leisure hours in these higher pursuits, after a day spent in remunerative occupation. And thus there appears no alternative but to desist.
Under these circumstances my question is—Do you think that in the reorganized staff of the Indian Administration I might find some post, rather of trust than of much active duty, which would give me an income sufficing for my modest bachelor needs, while it would allow adequate leisure for the prosecution of these aims? I fear that few if any such posts are likely to exist; and that my political views might render some, even of these few, unavailable; but it appears worth while to inquire. I need hardly say that my object is so exclusively that which I have explained, that a post which did not conduce to it would have no temptation for me, however otherwise desirable.
I ask your advice under the belief that you sympathize in the general views I wish to develop, and may therefore feel some interest in the matter.