A SYSTEM OF PHILOSOPHY PROJECTED.
1857—8. Æt. 37—38.
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.
- Vol. I.
- Part I.The Unknowable.
- Chap. 1. Truth generally lies in the co-ordination of antagonistic opinions.
- — 2. Failure of Theological Hypotheses.
- — 3. Limitations and Insufficiency of Science.
- — 4. Reconciliation of Theology and Science lies in the recognition of an Omnipresent Activity.
- Part II.The Laws of the Unknowable.
- Chap. 1. Though the Omnipresent Activity is unknowable, experience proves its laws to be uniform and ascertainable (illustrated by the law of all Progress).
- — 2. The first law—Instability of the homogeneous.
- — 3. The second law—All force follows the line of least resistance.
- Chap. 4. The third law—Every cause produces more than one effect.
- — 5. The fourth law—The correlation of forces.
- — 6. The fifth law—The conservation of forces (force indestructible).
- — 7. The sixth law—The Equilibration of Forces (tendency to ultimate equilibrium).
- — 8. These, being the laws of all force whatever, underlie all phenomena whatever.
- Part III.Astronomic Evolution.
- Chap. 1. The Nebular Hypothesis.
- — 2. The Nebular Hypothesis as applying to the Universe.
- — 3. The Equilibration of Light and Heat as well as Mechanical force.
- Part IV.Geologic Evolution.
- Physical Genesis of the Earth.
- Chemical Genesis of the Earth.
- Vol. II. THE PRINCIPLES OF BIOLOGY.
- Part I.Life in General.
- Part II.Evolution of Life in General (the Development Hypothesis).
- Part III.Evolution of Individual Organisms.
- Part IV.Morphology (Law of Organic Symmetry).
- Part V.Law of Multiplication (Theory of Population).
- Vol. III. THE PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY (objective).
- Part I.Mental Dynamics } The unwritten part, in which is to be shown how the genesis of Intelligence conforms to the laws of force, and more particularly the law that force follows the line of least resistance.
- Part II.General Synthesis (as written).
- Part III.Special Synthesis (as written).
- Vol. IV. THE PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY (subjective).
- Part IV.Special Analysis (as written).
- Part V.General Analysis (as written).
- Vol. V. THE PRINCIPLES OF SOCIOLOGY. (Divided into several parts, showing how the growth, structure, and actions of societies are determined by the laws of force laid down—how the general force is sensation or desire which is an actual force expending itself in an equivalent of muscular contractions or labour—how it follows the line of least resistance—how all phenomena of production and exchange result from this force following the line of least resistance—how all the differentiations proceed in conformity with this and the other laws of force—how social progress is an approximation to a state of ultimate equilibrium in virtue of the equilibrium of forces—and how finally this state of equilibrium is the perfect or moral state.)
- Vol. VI. THE PRINCIPLES OF RECTITUDE (personal). (Developing in detail the ultimate state of adaptation of constitution to conditions—the equilibration of desires and duties, wants and satisfactions, which civilization is producing.)
- Vol. VII. THE PRINCIPLES OF RECTITUDE (social).
- Part I.Social Statics. }
- Part II.Negative Beneficence. } Developing in detail the moral equilibration of the social state.
- Part III.Positive Beneficence. }
- Vol. VIII. ESSAYS.
- Vol. IX. ESSAYS.
- Vol. X. ESSAYS.
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
9 Jany ’58.
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,
Derby, 29 July, ’58.
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.
Very truly yours,
Mill’s reply to this letter, though sympathetic, was disappointing. It held out no encouragement; and I dropped all thought of any such help as an office of the kind described might have given.
Though born in Derby, I had up to this time seen but little of Derbyshire. Matlock I had been to; but had reached no point further north. Mainly I fancy from lack of funds, I decided to limit my summer excursion to a ramble in the Derbyshire dales; hoping to find some fishing as a pastime. Going as far as Buxton, and being disappointed in respect of sport, I turned south again, and settled myself at a picturesque little place, the Briars, Matlock Bank, where I spent about a fortnight: returning thence to Derby.
Already, from an illustration given a few pages back, joined with preceding ones, some will have inferred that I had adopted Danton’s motto,—De l’audace! encore de l’audace! toujours de l’audace!; and while at Matlock Bank I furnished another illustration. I have named the fact that in 1851, I attended a series of Prof. Owen’s lectures on Comparative Osteology; and that in the course of them my scepticism respecting his theory of the archetypal skeleton and archetypal vertebra grew gradually stronger, until at the close of the course it ended in complete disbelief. No occasion had thus far arisen for setting forth this disbelief; nor, in the absence of encouragement derived from finding doubt in others, should I have thoght myself warranted in expressing it. Distinguished biologists had shown their adherence to Prof. Owen’s doctrine. It was set forth and adopted in Carpenter’s Principles of Physiology; and the Archetype and Homologics of the Vertebrate Skeleton was in use as a text book at University College. Though this endorsement did not cause me to believe; yet even my independence would not have prompted public utterance of dissent had nothing happened. But during the spring, Prof. Huxley, in his Croonian Lecture before the Royal Society on “The Vertebrate Structure of the Skull,” attacked Prof. Owen’s interpretation of it. Hearing this amount of disagreement expressed, I was encouraged to take up the general theory; and in June arranged with the Editor of the Medico-Chirurgical Review to write a criticism on the several works in which Prof. Owen has embodied it. Had the question been one of knowledge, I should not have been absurd enough to criticize a naturalist so profoundly acquainted with the facts; but it was a question of reasoning. Setting out with the remark that “judging whether another proves his position is a widely different thing from proving your own;” the first paragraph of my article ended with the further remark that “if the data put before him do not bear out the inference, it is competent for every logical reader to say so.” Thus taking Prof. Owen’s various statements and explanations as they stood, the purpose was to show that they involved incongruities so numerous as to make his hypothesis untenable. Though the doctrine of evolution made no overt appearance in the earlier part of the article, it came out at the close; for in the last few pages an endeavour was made to show how the genesis of the vertebrate skeleton is interpretable from the evolution point of view.
Six weeks of Derby proved anything but beneficial. The popular notion about native air was then, as on many other occasions, disproved in my own case. At the end of August, being much below par, I joined the Lotts at Llandudno, and there rapidly improved. The salubrity of the place and the many pleasant excursions were as causes of improvement, aided by the enlivening society of old friends—the only society I much care about. And here I am prompted to remark concerning health, that not by people at large only, but by medical men, the effects of mental influences are under-estimated. The exhilaration produced by novelty; the breaking away from the monotonous routine of daily life at home; the absence of worrying anxieties and the presence of positive gratifications, are usually more potent causes of improvement than are differences in physical circumstances. Even where change of scene with its accompanying increase of enjoyments and decrease of annoyances, is excluded, the effects of agreeable emotions are often surprising. I have had many experiences of the fact that dyspepsia, so far from being necessarily exacerbated by dining out, may even be cured, notwithstanding many dietetic imprudences, if the social surroundings are such as to yield great pleasure.
After three weeks at Llandudno, and an interval at Derby, I returned to town in October; and again took up my abode at 13, Loudoun Road.
PLANS FOR EXECUTING IT.
1858—59. Æt. 38—39.
I had left London before the end of June; and it was not until the first of July that the two papers by Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace on the operation of Natural Selection in causing divergence of species, were read before the Linnæan Society. I have but a vague impression of the way in which this event became known to me; but my belief is that I remained in ignorance of it until my return to town in October.
A reason confirming me in this belief is furnished by a paragraph contained in a letter to my mother dated 29 November, which runs as follows:—“I have been distributing a few volumes of my Essays. Enclosed are some of the acknowledgments, from Dr. Latham, Dr. Hooker, and Mr. Charles Darwin.” As the volume had been published in December, 1857, I was, when I came upon this passage, at a loss to understand why this distribution had not been made until November, 1858. But the probable explanation is that, when I learnt the nature of Mr. Darwin’s paper and learnt that Dr. Hooker accepted his interpretation, I sent copies of the volume to them and to a few others, because of the essay on the Development Hypothesis contained in it. The following is Mr. Darwin’s acknowledgment:—
No, it is not as follows; for on consideration I decide to omit it. Notwithstanding the compliments it contains, which seemed to negative publication, I was about to quote it, because it dispels, more effectually than anything else can, a current error respecting the relation between Mr. Darwin’s views and my own. But the reproduction of it would be out of taste, and I leave the error to be otherwise corrected.
Here I may fitly comment on certain difficulties which I foresee will from time to time present themselves—difficulties in choosing between two alternatives, each of which is objectionable. If, after long periods of non-success, there came to an autobiographer incidents implying success, and the increased appreciation indicated, mention of these cannot be omitted without partially falsifying the narrative. On the other hand, as they reflect some kind of honour on him, the mention of them appears indicative of vanity; though it may result from a desire to give a complete presentation, or from the feeling that against the debit items of the account it is but fair that the credit items should be placed. What, then, is to be done? At first sight it seems possible for one who narrates his own life and draws his own portrait to be quite truthful; but it proves to be impossible.
There are various media which distort the things seen through them, and an autobiography is a medium which produces some irremediable distortions.
Immediately on my return to town I proposed to the editor of the Medico-Chirurgical Review to write an essay on “The Laws of Organic Form” for publication in January, 1859. The title shows that the essay contained a further extension of evolutionary views. The germinal idea had occurred to me in the course of a country ramble with Mr. G. H. Lewes in the autumn of 1851.
The thesis was that organic forms in general, vegetal and animal, are determined by the relations of the parts to incident forces. Radial symmetry, bilateral symmetry, and asymmetry, alike in stationary and moving organisms, were shown, one or other of them, to become established, according as the parts are similarly disposed towards the environment all round an axis, or similarly disposed on two sides of an axis, or not similarly disposed on any side. The explanation given was that here the necessities entailed by position and there the necessities entailed by locomotion, entailed likenesses between parts which were conditioned in like ways. This general interpretation of external forms was congruous with the more special interpretation of internal forms in the case of the vertebrate skeleton—an interpretation appended to the critique on Prof. Owen’s theory.
A systematized and elaborated statement of the hypothesis set forth in this essay, was in later years incorporated in Part iv. of the Principles of Biology.
What induced me to take up the subject, I cannot remember; but while at Derby in October, I collected some materials for an article on “The Morals of Trade,” and, continuing my inquiries in London, began writing it as soon as the article above named was completed.
This was one of the few exceptions to the general rule. Many examples have made it clear that nearly everything I wrote had a bearing, direct or indirect, on the doctrine of evolution. Here, however, there appears no trace of any such bearing; unless, indeed, it be in the tacit recognition of the moral modifiability of human nature and the moral adaptation of men to the passing social state. The article took for its especial topic, not those multitudinous small dishonesties which characterize retail trade, but those larger and less familiar ones which vitiate the transactions of manufacturers, merchants, and wholesale dealers. A further object of the essay was to show that the dishonesty of the classes not engaged in trade is proved by numerous illustrations to be as great in degree though different in kind. And yet another object was to suggest that a remote cause for such dishonesties, alike of traders and others, is the indiscriminate admiration given to whatever implies wealth.
Originally written for the Quarterly Review but not accepted by the editor, the article was published in the Westminster Review for April, 1859. I may add, as a curious incident, that many years afterwards the Rev. Canon Lyttelton applied to me for permission to republish it in a pamphlet along with a sermon of his own on the same subject—a permission which I cheerfully gave. That an ecclesiastic should take a step which coupled his name with mine, curiously exemplified the spread of liberality in religious opinion.
In a letter to my father dated 16 November, 1858, there occurs the remark:—“The arrangements at Malvern House are not so good as they were. The number is much smaller—Mr. Parry and myself being the only inmates not of the family:” inconvenient changes of hours being also named. And then a letter of 15 December says of my hosts that:—“They are going to make some arrangements which will make it no longer convenient to have me. They express great regret at the necessity of separation. I, too, am sorry; for I doubt whether I shall find a place altogether as suitable.”
Had it not been that Mr. Parry—the old gentleman I have referred to as being eighty and a wit—had also to take his departure, I should have concluded that my host had been prompted by the wish to prevent any further influence exercised by me over his son: a youth of some nineteen or twenty. Not, indeed, that I had knowingly exercised such influence; but the son had got hold of my books, and imbibed from them ideas of a kind his father did not approve. Naturally enough, he desired to prevent what he regarded as a perversion; and his desire, though clearly not the sole cause, may have been a part cause for making the domestic change which took place.
My removal was long postponed, however; for my letters continue to be dated from 13, Loudoun Road up to the beginning of February; at which date, having failed to find a desirable habitat, I went down home for a few weeks.
During the latter part of 1858, as during its earlier part, there had been constantly before me the question—How to carry out my undertaking? The general conception had of course been enlarging, and gaining in definiteness while it gained in fulness; and I was growing eager to find some way of setting it forth after the manner sketched out at the beginning of the year. The difficulties in the way were very great. What little property had come to me from my uncle Thomas, had been nearly all frittered away. Partly it had been spent in the publication of books which were not simply unremunerative, but entailed positive losses. And of what had not thus been sunk, most had gone in costs of living and travelling about during the eighteen months in which my nervous breakdown had prevented me altogether from working. As may be inferred, when these drafts upon it had been met not very much remained of the legacy of £500 left to me in 1853. During the period described in the last two chapters, I was able to work at the best only three hours a day, and often not that; and there occasionally came relapses which forced me to leave off for a time entirely. To these facts must be added the further one, that my essays, not usually of a kind to be written off-hand, but involving much thought and inquiry, brought me but small returns. The articles for the Medico-Chirurgical Review were paid for at the rate of either six pounds or six guineas per sheet (sixteen pages); and the others at the rate of ten pounds per sheet. Clearly such being my limited capacity for work, and such being the remuneration for what I did, it was not easy for me, though practising every economy, to meet my expenses.
How then was it possible to execute my project—a project sufficiently extensive and onerous even for one in full health and having income enough to maintain him while devoting himself to non-paying work. What to do, was a question frequently occupying my not very hopeful thoughts, and was a question sometimes discussed with friends. One of the schemes I entertained, not in a sanguine way it is true, shows how hardly pressed I was to find some plan. Chapman, when the Westminster Review came into his hands, had established what he called an “Independent Section”—an appended portion in which was published, now and again, a paper of which he thought well, though he did not wish to commit the Review to its conclusions. My proposal was that I should write instalments of the System of Philosophy, or at any rate of the first volume, to be published in this independent section—some two or three sheets per quarter: being paid for them at the ordinary rate. Naturally enough Chapman did not think favourably of this proposal, and it dropped through. Wild as it was, however, it was not so wild as one made by my friend Lewes. Knowing that I was not without mechanical ingenuity, and that I had years before profited by an appliance I had registered, he suggested that I should get my income by small inventions, and devote my leisure time to the work! I remember that George Eliot joined me in laughter at this amusing proposal. It was made by one who little knew how precarious are the proceeds of inventions, and how frequently inventors reap losses rather than gains.
Thus the year ended without disclosing any way of doing that which I now felt to be my work in life.
Before leaving town as above indicated, several small matters of interest occurred, as shown in the following extracts from a letter home, written on January 10.
“I have agreed with Chapman to do an article for him on the relative values of different kinds of knowledge. I have not fixed the title yet. But its chief aim is to go in for more science.
I am pretty well—as well as Xmas excitements allow. But I should be all the better for less going out.
The matter of Chapman’s business has dropped through. It would not have done unless I had devoted all my time to it. So it is to be carried on by Chapman’s late assistants—Birt & Fergusson.
I shall probably leave this house in about a week. I am going to take an advertisement to the Times to-day.
I will send you the new number of the Medico-Chi. containing my article on the “Laws of Organic Form,” shortly. At present Lewes has it.
I did not after all go down to Hastings. Sir J. Trelawney and his family returned to town sooner than was expected.
The Potters are in town, and I spent Saturday evening with them. I am to go and see them in the spring.”
The third of the foregoing paragraphs recalls a fact which I had completely forgotten. Chapman, a sanguine speculative man, who, during his career as a publisher, lasting some fourteen or fifteen years, had been losing money, was at this date forced to retire: deciding, at the same time, to resume those studies in preparation for the practice of medicine, which had been interrupted when he became a publisher. Among those who had assisted him with loans was Mr. Octavius Smith; and, judging from what occurred, he had, I presume, become the chief creditor. Now-a-days but few publishers are alarmed by so-called heterodox opinions in the books offered to them; but at that time Chapman was the only respectable publisher through whom could be issued books which were tacitly or avowedly rationalistic. Hence, being broad-minded and anxious that the spread of liberal opinion should not be hindered, Mr. Smith wished the business to be carried on. Having, as it seemed, some confidence in my judgment, he suggested that I should undertake to superintend it: perhaps thinking that after giving it due attention, I should have sufficient leisure to carry out the undertaking which he knew I had at heart. But probably I saw that, difficult as it is even for one fully disciplined to make an enterprise of such a kind answer by devoting to it all energies, it would be impossible to make it answer if neither of those conditions was fulfilled.
The article above named as having been agreed upon, which was eventually entitled “What Knowledge is of most worth?” and now forms the first chapter in the little work Education, &c., was commenced either just before my departure for Derby or shortly afterwards. I recall the date because of an important incident connected with it. Before the essay was half done, I suffered one of my not infrequent relapses, and had to suspend work. My father was at the time much troubled by the interference of the Local Sanitary Board with property of his in Derby—some thirteen small houses which, instead of being improved by alterations on which the authorities insisted, had been so much damaged that some of his tenants left. Hence he contemplated a memorial to the Town Council, complaining of the treatment he had received. He was, however, peculiar in the respect that while energetic about small things, he was almost paralyzed by things of moment. Anxious that the proposed memorial should be written, knowing that if left to himself my father would not write it, and yet feeling that my own state of brain would not allow me to write it for him, I said that if he would be amanuensis I would try to do the work for him by dictating. He agreed; and the experiment, being tried, proved successful. It did more—it initiated a practice which I thereafter adopted. I made the satisfactory discovery that my head would bear dictating much more easily than it would bear writing; and I at once foresaw that this discovery would considerably affect my future course.
On my return to town in March I settled myself at 24, Oakley Square. A letter dated 23rd April contains the paragraph:—“I have got an amanuensis, and find the dictation answers. I do fully half as much again or more, and with greater ease.”
I may here remark that from the beginning I never experienced any difficulty. Friends to whom I afterwards recommended dictation, asserted either that they should not be able, or that they had not been able, to collect their thoughts under such conditions. One of them who, yielding to my repeated exhortations, tried the experiment, told me on inquiry that it had failed. On asking why, he said that his landlady, not having succeeded in finding, as he requested, a youth to play the part of scribe, suggested that perhaps her daughter might serve. He accepted the proposal; but, on making a trial, confessed that he found himself thinking much more about the girl than about his work. This, it seemed to me, was a very inadequate experience on which to found a generalization. Avoiding a distraction of this kind, I was but little impeded. The disturbance to thought produced by the consciousness that another was waiting for me, though I think I felt it a little at first, soon became inappreciable. Did not the change of method affect my style? is a question which will be asked. Not very greatly I think. After this article, of which the first half had been written and the second half dictated, was published, I put to a competent judge of composition the question whether he could decide where the transition was made. He was unable to do this; and remarked only that he thought the latter part of the essay was more declamatory—I think that was the word—than the earlier part. Nevertheless I believe the practice of dictating, thereafter followed, did injure my style. The general experience is that diffuseness results when the pen is held by another. One who, when writing by proxy, makes it a point to keep his amanuensis going, is obviously more likely to use a defective expression than when, holding the pen himself, he has no external incentive to abridge any pause he makes for thinking. Only where, as in my own case, there is acquired the habit of so far ignoring the amanuensis as to take whatever time may be needed for choosing the best form of words, is the effect on the quality of the product likely to be small. Still, an effect is, I think, traceable. It has been remarked to me more than once that Social Statics is better written than my later books. Though doubtless a good deal is due to the nature of subject—though The Study of Sociology, akin in matter, approaches more nearly in manner to Social Statics than any other work of mine; yet there remains a difference. Social Statics was, I remember, characterized as epigrammatic; but none of my later books could be rightly thus characterized.
The essay “What Knowledge is of most worth?” reference to which has called forth these parenthetic remarks, was published in the Westminster Review for July, 1859. Since then, the claims of science have received increasing recognition; but when this essay was written, its leading thesis, that the teaching of the classics should give place to the teaching of science, was regarded by nine out of ten cultivated people as simply monstrous. Even now, changed though the general feeling is, more space for science is but reluctantly yielded; and in such places as public schools the space is still very small. To one who never received the bias given by the established course of culture, and on whom the authority of traditions and customs weighs but little, the state of opinion about the matter appears astounding. To think that after these thousands of years of civilization, the prevailing belief should still be that while knowledge of his own nature, bodily and mental, and of the world physical and social in which he has to live, is of no moment to a man, it is of great moment that he should master the languages of two extinct peoples and become familiar with their legends, battles, and superstitions, as well as the achievements, mostly sanguinary, of their men, and the crimes of their gods! Two local groups of facts and fictions, filling a relatively minute space in the genesis of a World which is itself but an infinitesimal part of the Universe, so occupy students that they leave the World and the Universe unstudied! Had Greece and Rome never existed, human life, and the right conduct of it, would have been in their essentials exactly what they now are: survival or death, health or disease, prosperity or adversity, happiness or misery, would have been just in the same ways determined by the adjustment or non-adjustment of actions to requirements. And yet knowledge subserving the adjustment which so profoundly concerns men from hour to hour, is contemptuously neglected; while the best preparation for complete living is supposed to be familiarity with the words and thoughts, successes and disasters, follies, vices, and atrocities, of two peoples whose intelligence was certainly not above ours, whose moral standard was unquestionably lower, and whose acquaintance with the nature of things, internal and external, was relatively small. Still more when from the value of knowledge for guidance we pass to the value it has for general illumination, may we continue to marvel at the perversity with which, generation after generation, students spend their years over the errors of ancient speculators who had no adequate data for their reasonings, while all that modern science, having for materials the accumulated and generalized observations of centuries, can tell respecting ourselves and our surroundings, they ignore; or if they glance at it, do so at leisure hours as at something relatively unimportant. In times to come this condition of opinion will be instanced as one of the strange aberrations through which Humanity has passed.
Concerning this article I may add that, while it had no direct bearing on the doctrine of evolution, its insistence on comprehensive scientific culture, was an insistence on the acquisition of that knowledge from which the doctrine of evolution is an eventual outcome.
Sometime during this spring occurred an incident which I may name partly for its intrinsic interest, and partly as a lesson.
Already I have mentioned the fact that, while yet the first of the Scenes of Clerical Life was but partly written, I was told by George Eliot, on whom I had frequently urged the writing of fiction, that she had commenced; and, as I think I have said, I was for some time the sole possessor of the secret. Of course curiosity concerning the authorship of these stories accompanied the interest in them; and amusement was afforded me by the speculations I heard ventured—in some cases by her friends. After the publication of Adam Bede the curiosity became greater and the speculation more rife; and it was by-and-by guessed that she was the anonymous author. Chapman, knowing that if anyone knew I did, one day suddenly addressed me—“By the way, Mrs. Dunn told me the other night that Miss Evans is the author of Adam Bede: is it true?” “Mrs. Dunn!” I replied; “who told Mrs. Dunn any such thing?” “Oh, that she didn’t say.” “I do not see how Mrs. Dunn should know anything about it; she can have no means of learning.” Thus I fenced as well as I could, but all to no purpose. Chapman soon returned to the question—“Is it true?” To this question I made no answer; and of course my silence amounted to an admission.
When next I went over to Wandsworth, I told them what had occurred, and was blamed for not giving a denial: the case of Scott being named as justifying such a course. Leaving aside the ethical question, however, a denial from me would have been futile. The truth would have been betrayed by my manner, if not otherwise. I have so little control over my features that a vocal “No” would have been inevitably accompanied by a facial “Yes.”
The lesson which the incident teaches is that a secret cannot safely be committed even to one in whom perfect confidence may be reposed. For, as we see, scrupulous faith will not always prevent unintended disclosure. I may add that fortunately no harm was done. The secret was leaking out; and, moreover, the reason for keeping the secret had no longer much weight.
When thinking about ways of prosecuting my scheme, there sometimes arose the question—Is there any post under Government which I might consistently accept, and which would give me the needful leisure? Of course most of the offices which might else have served were unavailable by one holding the views I did, and still do, concerning the limitations of State-functions. An inspectorship of prisons occurred to me as a position which might be filled without any dereliction of principle; since maintenance of order is a State-function which I have ever insisted upon as essential. It was, however, a foolish hope that such an office would, after I had discharged its duties, leave me any time for writing. But my mood was that of the drowning man who catches at a straw.
There is proof that the thought of obtaining some post of this kind had been entertained towards the close of the preceding year. Then, and during subsequent months, I obtained testimonials from sundry leading men. Among them were Mill, Huxley, Tyndall, Grote, Hooker, Fraser, Sir Henry Holland, and Sir G. C. Lewis. Several were strongly expressed; and especially those of Mill, Huxley, and Tyndall.
Of all posts likely to answer my purpose, that of stamp-distributor was the most promising. It is one of which the duties are in large measure mechanical and can be to a considerable extent performed by a subordinate. Either at the close of 1858 or in the spring of 1859, the stamp-distributorship for Derby fell vacant, and I made an effort to obtain it. Lord Derby was then Prime Minister; and Lord Stanley (the present Lord Derby) was Secretary of State for India. He had read some of my books; and, as I knew from the editor of the Westminster, had expressed approval of some of my articles. Hence I hoped something from his friendly intervention: the appointment of an impecunious author to such a place being not without precedent. The claims of party proved too strong, however. The place was given to the editor of a provincial Conservative paper who had been useful in his locality.
A letter from Hooker written at the time proves to me a fact which I had absolutely forgotten—namely, that I had thought of a foreign consulship as a post which might possibly give me adequate leisure. This was a very erroneous supposition, Hooker told me.
What was my daily life during this period? The question is one I cannot answer more definitely than by saying that, after a walk of half-an-hour or so, the morning was devoted to work—or as much of the morning as the state of my head would allow; and that during the rest of the day I had to kill time as best I might. I suppose I walked a good deal in the afternoon; and did much of my thinking while walking—a habit which was, and has since been, physically injurious, however much otherwise beneficial. A story I have told of myself as a boy, shows how apt I was to become mentally absorbed at an early age; and in later life, states of absorption, different as were the subjects of thought, were scarcely less marked. I once discovered to my dismay that I sometimes passed those living in the same house with me, and, though I looked them in the face, remained unconscious that I had seen them.
It is clear, however, from letters, that my social circle was extending. Beyond mention of engagements to friends already named there are occasionally such passages as:—
“I dined yesterday in company with Mr. Roebuck, his wife and daughter, and some other notabilities.” [One of the said notabilities was, I remember, the late Mr. Charles Austen]. “Sir J. Trelawney has invited me to go yachting with him for a few days.” “I dined in company with Tyndall on Wednesday. He gave us an account of his night on the top of M. Blanc.” . . . “Dr. Arnott called on me yesterday and stayed an hour.” [Dr. Arnott, at that time well known by his Elements of Physics, liked the article “What Knowledge is of most worth,” and had obtained my address from the editor of the Westminster.] . . . “I am going to Dr. Carpenter’s to-night, to meet Mr. Morell.”
Dr. Morell, known at that time by his book on The Recent Philosophy of Europe, has long resided in Capri, and has dropped out of public thought. During dinner a story was told about some eccentric member of the Carpenter family, who had adopted a boy with a view to carrying out his own ideas of a good education. He shortly found that the undertaking was more onerous than he expected, and thereupon cast about for a wife: giving one whom he found to understand that the rearing of the boy was to be considered the primary purpose of the marriage. Dr. Morell’s comment was—“Ah, I see: Rule of Three inverse.”
Of amusements in those days there is but little to say. Now that operas were no longer free to me. I never went—the cost was too great; and I but rarely saw a play. Occasionally some music was heard during the seasons when there were going on the promenade concerts, which were at that time conducted by their promoter, Jullien. Especially on what were announced as classical nights did I go. Even then there was often a good deal which I rather tolerated than enjoyed—much that seemed to me manufacture rather than inspiration. A friend of mine, Pigott, said of orchestral music, that when from any one instrument there came something worth listening to, all the other instruments forthwith entered into a conspiracy to put it down; and though his remark ignored too much the larger effects of orchestral combinations, it pointed to the fact that most orchestral combinations are not sufficiently coherent. Ballads had ceased to give me the pleasure which they did in the early days; but above all I was, and am still, intolerant of such solos as were performed by Sivori and other celebrities of the kind—mere displays of executive skill. When I go to a concert, I do not go to hear gymnastics on the violin.
I may remark in passing that the applause given to such performances well illustrates the vitiation of opinion. Usually after a display of wonderful mechanical dexterity by an instrumentalist, the members of the orchestra applaud. Observing this, many of the audience, thinking these cultivated musicians must be the best judges, applaud loudly; and the rest of the audience join in the applause, lest they should be thought persons of no taste: the truth being that the brother instrumentalists applaud, not the music produced, but the triumph over difficulties. And thus the mass of hearers, following authority as they suppose, are led to accept as music what is in fact the murder of music. In this case, as in multitudinous other cases, every one says and does what every one else says and does—lacking courage to do otherwise; and so helps to generate or to maintain a sham opinion. Considering that the ordinary citizen has no excess of individuality to boast of, it seems strange that he should be so anxious to hide what little he has.
Early in May, 1859, I left town for Gloucestershire to spend ten days at Standish. It must, I think, have been on this occasion that I initiated my little friends there—a troop of children, all girls, whom I had severally seen grow up from infancy—in Natural History, by establishing an aquarium and giving them lessons in the use of the microscope. Hitherto our afternoon walks had been walks simply; but now they became expeditions in search of interesting objects. My visits being the occasions for rambles further afield and less restrained than those taken in charge of a governess, were, I believe, looked forward to as bringing extended liberties and more varied amusements. The pleasurable associations thus established in early days affected our relations throughout our after lives.
Returning to town for a few days only, I left for Derby some time before the end of the month, and there recommenced work. The lives and deaths of periodicals would form a good topic for an essayist. Annually a considerable number are born, and annually a considerable number die,—now scarcely surviving infancy, now killed by starvation in middle life, and now coming to an end in old age in consequence of that increasing rigidity which will not allow of adaptation to new conditions. Out of the periodicals to which I have contributed, I can count up ten newspapers, magazines and quarterlies, which have thus disappeared. One of them was the Universal Review, a then recently established organ of opinion for which I had been asked to write an article. It was one of those which die early; but it survived long enough to publish the essay on “Illogical Geology” which I had undertaken for it. This was written, or rather dictated, during a six weeks’ sojourn at Derby.
The topic was one which gave occasion for expressing evolutionary ideas in a new direction; and I presume that the consciousness of this was dominant with me when I undertook the subject. There were the changes of the Earth’s crust itself to be considered from a developmental point of view, as well as the changes of the past life on its surface. As originally proposed, the article was to have been a review of the works of Hugh Miller; but these eventually became simply the text for a discussion of what seemed to me the errors of orthodox geology, as exemplified in them as well as in the works of Murchison and Lyell. The title “Illogical Geology” sufficiently shows that the article called in question the legitimacy of current conclusions, considered as following from the evidence assigned. No more in this case than in the case of Prof. Owen’s theory, should I have ventured to express dissent concerning matters of fact; but, accepting the facts as stated, an outsider was not unwarranted in considering whether the inferences were legitimately drawn from them.
The assumption made by some that strata in different parts of the Earth, called by the same name, were contemporaneous, and the more defensible assumption made by others, that if not single strata yet systems of strata were everywhere contemporaneous, were shown to be inconsistent with various of the admissions and assertions elsewhere made. The dogma then accepted by geologists, that certain great breaks in the succession of organic remains imply almost complete destructions of living things and creations of new floras and faunas, was contested; and it was argued that the acknowledged course of geological changes would, along with small breaks, necessitate these great breaks. Naturally a chief aim was that of showing that the arguments against the hypothesis of evolution which Hugh Miller and others drew from palæontology, were fallacious. But I was candid enough to admit that while geological evidence did not disprove the development hypothesis, neither did it prove it: contending that the most we can expect is to find congruity between the hypothesis and the evidence yielded by comparatively recent fossil forms. This congruity has since been shown to exist.
In those years and after, a craving for the mountains recurred annually; and when, along with satisfaction of it I could satisfy a craving for the sea, I rejoiced in doing so. Leaving home early in July, I took the coast of Cumberland on my way north; settling myself for a week or so at Drigg, close to the since-established watering-place known as Sea-scales. My artist-friend Deacon joined me there with his two boys. A walk over to Wast-water was one of our excursions; and there was a subsequent migration to St. Bees.
A change of ministry had occurred in June; and Sir G. C. Lewis had become Home Secretary. He was editor of the Edinburgh Review at the time I wrote for it the article on “Railway Morals and Railway Policy:” an interview and some correspondence having been thereby occasioned. Moreover he had written me some friendly criticisms on the doctrine set forth in the essay on “Progress: its Law and Cause.” So that I was not without hope that, having stamp-distributorships in his gift, I might through him obtain one, and thereby be enabled to live while carrying out my scheme. Before leaving Derby I had forwarded to him the testimonials above named, and while at Drigg received his reply. I cannot now find it; but I remember distinctly enough that it was not encouraging—so little encouraging in fact that I thereafter gave up all hope.
The 19th of July found me at Achranich, the highland paradise of my kind friends with whom I had before spent a delightful two months, and with whom I was now to spend another like interval. As said in a letter home on the 21st—“Fishing, riding, driving, walking, talking and laughing, are capital stimuli, and have given me two good nights:” a sentence I quote partly to indicate the enjoyable life, and partly to show that the question of more or less sleep still remained dominant. I must add that the expression “good nights” is relative only in meaning; for my best night would, by any one in health, be called a bad one.
“The day was one I shall never forget,” is the closing sentence of a letter written during the last week of my stay. It describes “the most charming excursion I ever had.” This was an excursion by boat “down the Sound of Mull, up Loch Sunart and Loch Teachus; and home by land,” which I name not so much for its own sake, though “the scenery was splendid and the colouring marvellous;” as because in our party of twelve there were several of known names. One was Professor Sellar, whose works on Roman literature are of high repute; another was Miss Cross, who some years later published a volume of graceful poems, but, marrying and dying soon afterwards, did not fulfil the promise then made; and a third was Mr. John Cross, who, long afterwards, married George Eliot and wrote her life. Young and vivacious as were nearly all members of the party, and elated as all were by sailing over a sunny sea amid islands and mountains made gorgeous by the autumn colouring of trees, bracken and decaying lichens, the occasion united a variety of pleasures which but rarely come together; so that I remember saying after our return that the day must be marked not by one white stone but by many.
Reaching home about the 20th September, I occupied myself in fulfilling an engagement made before I left town in the spring. A letter to my father dated 29th April contains the paragraph:—“Dr. Sieveking has asked me to review Bain’s new book ‘The Emotions and the Will’ for the Medico-Chirurgical; and I have consented.”
This review I undertook mainly because of the connexion which the subject had with the general question of evolution. Its aim was to show that the phenomena presented by the emotions can be truly understood only from the evolution point of view. Bain and I were on terms, if not exactly of friendship, yet of friendly acquaintanceship; but I said in the article all that I thought: giving credit at the same time that I expressed dissent. Some of my criticisms touched fundamentally his method and his general conceptions; but he, in a way unusual with authors, accepted them in good part. Indeed I cannot remember anyone, known to me either directly or indirectly, who has maintained an attitude so purely philosophical; and in whom the interests of truth have so greatly predominated over all personal interests. In after years we became more intimate and eventually established cordial relations.
Towards the end of October I returned to town and again took up my abode in Oakley Square. Though my letters at the time do not betray discouragement, yet I can scarcely have failed to feel it; for now, after the lapse of nearly two years, I seemed no nearer to the execution of my project than on the day when it first took possession of me.
For elucidations see Principles of Sociology, 322.
The reader will find explanations in the Principles of Psychology, § 124, and in the Data of Ethics, 33—6. Study of the passages there found will prevent him from identifying sensations and emotions. Careless use of words, and consequent careless thinking, leads nine people out of ten to confuse together all the feelings in such wise that one who says that sensations are trustworthy guides to bodily welfare, is habitually represented as saying that we ought in all cases to follow the promptings of our feelings: the truth being that we have often other ends than bodily welfare to be pursued; and further, that though the sensations are fairly well adjusted to the requirements, the emotions are by no means thus adjusted.