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PART VIII.: 1860—1867. - 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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WRITING FIRST PRINCIPLES.
Up to this date my life might fitly have been characterized as miscellaneous. Here it may not be amiss to pause a moment and ask whether there was any relation between this trait of it and the course subsequently pursued.
From the education ordinarily passed through, mine differed by its comparative variety; and while lacking most of the usual linguistic elements, it included a good deal of physical, chemical, and biological knowledge not commonly gained.
Throughout the years passed in civil engineering many phases of the profession occupied me. Beyond plan-drawing and making designs of various kinds, there came surveying and levelling, secretarial business, drafting of contracts, and over-seeing execution of them, testing of locomotives, preparations of plans and sections for Parliament, joined with superintendence of the required staff and followed by attendance on Parliamentary Committees. And along with these sundry forms of engineering activity, there went the occasional invention of appliances and devising of methods.
During a long unengaged interval, inventing and experimenting in many directions filled a large space. Some time was given to drawing and modelling. Geology and Botany had shares of attention. Several speculative scientific papers were published. The province of Government was thought about and written about. And a period of active political life was passed through.
After entrance upon a literary career there came, if not variety of occupations, yet variety of subjects treated. With journalism was joined the writing on Political Ethics; and political ethics presently led the way to Psychology. Essays at that time and afterwards written, ranged so widely that they look extremely incongruous when bracketed; as instance—“Over Legislation” and “Gracefulness”; “Population” and “Style”; “Manners” and “Development of Species”; “Geology” and “Laughter”; “Banking” and “Personal Beauty”; “Trade Morals” and “The Nebular Hypothesis”; “The Genesis of Science” and “Railway Policy”; “The Shapes of Organisms” and “Parliamentary Reform”; “The Law of Progress” and “Types of Architecture”; “The Test of Truth” and “The Origin of Music”; “Prison Discipline” and “The Use of Anthropomorphism,” &c., &c.
But now this miscellaneousness came to a close, and there commenced something like unity of occupation. I say something like; for though the topics to be successively dealt with in developing the Synthetic Philosophy were many in kind—showing perhaps in this way the influence of the preceding life—yet they derived coherence from the unity of conception and method pursued throughout; and to this extent the life became constant instead of changeable.
In one respect, indeed, the unsettledness continued; for, as before, so for some years after, my abode was variable. As I usually spent from two to three months of the autumn away from London, regard for economy made me give up whatever place I occupied, and on my return to town there was generally some reason why it seemed well to advertise afresh for accommodation: a course which sometimes, though not always, led to change of residence. After a short absence from town in the spring, one of these changes took me to 18 Torrington Square, Bloomsbury.
Here it was that on the 7th of May 1860, I began my undertaking; and here it was that I quickly furnished justification to any who exclaimed against my folly in attempting so great a task with my deranged health.
Already in April the extra work which, during the preceding months, had been entailed by the floating of my project, had brought on a relapse, and I had to leave town; first for a ramble in Surrey, whence, being companionless, I returned in two days, and then for a sojourn in Derby. And now having, as I hoped, got again into working order, and made a satisfactory commencement, I broke down before I had got through the first chapter. A letter home of the 21st of May is dated Brighton, where I had manifestly gone to recruit. “I am very much better,” says a note written from London on the 26th, and which continues—“I go to the Potters in about a week, and shall doubtless progress there still further. I do not think, however, that it will be prudent to work hard enough to get out my first part in July.” Letters written from Standish show that I spent about ten days there. On the 13th I departed for Llandudno, to join my friends the Lotts; and I continued with them up to the end of June. Meanwhile my father and mother, in company with a Derby friend, had betaken themselves to my father’s favourite spot, Tréport; and pressure, to which I eventually yielded, was put upon me to follow.
At Tréport I resumed work to a small extent. One sunny afternoon, on the grassy slope which runs up from the town to the cliffs, might have been seen two figures, one writing and the other reclining or lounging. They were my father and myself; and the explanation was that he had undertaken to play the part of amanuensis. Indoors and outdoors, some little progress was made in this way during the first week in July. But the place did not on this occasion suit me; for the reason, I believe, that whereas before I was high up above the sea, I was now close down upon it. The result was that on the 11th of July I returned to London.
Something like my ordinary state having been at last regained, I wrote, or rather dictated, at my usual rate; that is, for three hours daily. The MS. of No. 1 of my serial was completed, partly in London and partly in Derby, before the middle of September.
A letter of the 19th of September is from Achranich, where I had at that date been for a few days, and where I had now another delightful sojourn of nearly a month.
There were two other guests—Mr. Arthur Hugh Clough, the poet, and his wife, who was a niece of Mr. Octavius Smith. The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich had been lying about the house at Achranich during my previous visits. I had already seen a little of its author in London, and now I saw a good deal of him. Not, indeed, that our intercourse was to much purpose in the way of establishing an intimacy. He was a very reserved, undemonstrative man, who usually took little share in general conversation. His face had a weary expression which seemed to imply either chronic physical discomfort or chronic mental depression—an apparent depression which suggested the thought that he was oppressed by consciousness of the mystery of things. Of the ideas or sentiments he uttered no trace remains with me. One thing only which he said do I remember; and this was a story concerning an ancestor of his. While rambling in North Derbyshire, his father or grandfather—I forget which,—was struck by the picturesqueness of a gorge down which tumbled a small stream. Turning to a man who was at hand, he inquired its name. “Go it Clough” was the startling reply. The explanation of the apparent insult was that the stream was named “the Goit,” and that “clough” is the North Derbyshire word for a ravine.
A two days’ excursion of the whole party, family and guests, was the only incident which broke the usual routine of out-door sports and in-door pleasures. Some dozen miles or so of mountain road, traversed by vehicles and horses, brought us to Strontian on Loch Sunart. After a night spent there, a drive along the beautiful shores of the loch, and then over the intervening country till we came in sight of Loch Shiel, was followed by a return to the shore of Loch Sunart at Salen. A boat down the remainder of Loch Sunart and up Loch Teachus, brought us back nearly to the boundary of the estate: a scramble in the dusk over the intervening moor, a moonlight row along Loch Arienas, and a drive from Acharn, taking us home. The excursion was not so delightful as that of the preceding year, but it has left vivid memories.
Reference to this excursion reminds me that on my return I found waiting for me a packet of proofs; and this recalls a typographical error contained in one of them. Most authors occasionally have droll blunders made by printers, and one such occurred in these early proofs of First Principles. Where I had written—“the daily verification of scientific predictions,” the compositor had put—“the daily versification of scientific predictions.”
After some ten days spent at Derby on my way, I reached London again on the 22nd of October. Number 1 of my serial, greatly delayed by printing and postal delinquencies, was on the eve of issue—nearly three months after the date I had originally hoped.
Little work was done before I again left town. My uncle William, the youngest of the brotherhood, whom I had found unwell on my return from Scotland in October, became seriously ill in November. I was in consequence called down to Derby and remained there till his death, which occurred before the close of the month. We had always been on amicable terms from the early days when, to his prompt action, I owed the appointment with which my engineering life commenced; and though at issue on religious questions, there had been a good deal of sympathy between us in our conversations on general topics. But I was quite unprepared for the distribution he made of his property. Appointing me sole executor, his will, making small bequests to other relatives, left to me the remainder of what he possessed, subject to annuities to my father and to an old servant. I believe there were two motives for this course. An eminently friendly man—so much so that he was habitually appealed to by sundry of his intimates for advice and help in their affairs—he was by implication always solicitous for the welfare of relatives, and ever ready to aid. But in proportion to the warmth of this feeling appeared to be the warmth of his resentment when offended; and his resentment was persistent. Some year or two before his death there had arisen a family difference which had, I believe, much to do with the provisions made in his will. My father, however, was of opinion that another motive was dominant. He told me that his brother was solicitous for the credit of the family, and probably thought that the arrangement he made would be most conducive to it.
But whatever may have caused this distribution of his property, not many months elapsed before I became aware that it would have important effects on my career; for experience soon proved that I had miscalculated my resources. While my scheme was still only in contemplation, I was told by a competent judge that there would be great difficulty in getting in the subscriptions; and I quite counted upon suffering some loss from non-payment. I was not, and never had been, among those who labour under the delusion that intellectual culture produces moral elevation; and did not expect to find that those who took in my serial were more honest than uneducated people. The defaulters were, however, more numerous than I expected. I found that which I was told others had found:—a moiety pay promptly; others after the publishers send them reminders; not a few, being several subscriptions in arrear, require repeated notices from the publishers before they discharge their obligations; and a considerable class, deaf to all representations, never pay at all for the parts sent to them year after year, and have at last to be struck off the list. Having started with a number of subscribers which I concluded would suffice to pay costs of printing &c. and leave a moderate return (a number which, not counting Americans, eventually rose to 430), I was unprepared for the amount of loss suffered.
The extent of these defalcations was such that in the absence of other resources I should have had to stop before the completion of my first volume.
The end of 1860 and the beginning of 1861, passed without any incident calling for mention beyond an illness of my father. Being a nervous subject, he regarded this with greater alarm than it called for. I took him to Brighton, and stayed with him there a good deal during parts of February and March; and he afterwards passed some time with me in London, where he recovered.
Notwithstanding consequent hindrances to my work, it progressed satisfactorily; and, escaping nervous relapses, I managed to issue Parts II and III at the appointed times—intervals of three months. At the end of March, however, my head gave way again and I had to desist. Early in April ten days were spent at Standish, with pleasure and doubtless with benefit, after which I went home for a time. I was not wholly idle during these visits. I had decided to re-publish, in the form of a volume, the four articles on Education which had originally been contributed to the Westminster, the North British, and the British Quarterly Reviews. The revision of these articles, commenced before leaving town and finished while at Derby, was in considerable measure carried on out of doors. I rambled into the country; looked out every now and then for a sheltered or sunny bank on which to recline while correcting a few pages; eventually reached some village where a country inn furnished me with a meal; and then, after a rest, returned home.
In this way I got through a little easy work which otherwise would have been impracticable; and after I completed it, returned to London.
More than a month was passed there before I was able to resume the writing of First Principles; and then the resumption was under difficulties, as is shown by the following paragraph from a letter to my father dated London, 14 June, 1861.
“I am much better this week and am doing some work. I am doing it in a very odd way—uniting dictating and rowing. I take my amanuensis on the Regent’s Park water, row vigorously for 5 minutes and dictate for a quarter of an hour; then more rowing and more dictating alternately. It answers capitally.”
Soon afterwards I was led into another way of keeping off cerebral congestion. Mr. J. F. McLennan, at that time little known, but afterwards well known as the author of Primitive Marriage, &c., was a candidate for (I think) a professorship at Edinburgh, and wrote to me for a testimonial: directing my attention to a certain article of his in the Encyclopædia Britannica as affording me a means of estimating his competence. Remembering the disaster which had resulted when I read up with the view of writing a testimonial for Professor Fraser, I declined, after giving my reasons. Mr. McLennan took my refusal in good part; and, having himself suffered somewhat from an overworked brain, recommended to me racquets as an exercise. Accepting the suggestion, and discovering an open racquet-court at The Belvidere, Pentonville, I betook myself thither with my amanuensis every morning, and after a game or two adjourned to an adjacent room where I dictated awhile, and then, before head-symptoms set in, returned to the court for another game or two; and so on all the morning.
Though in this way I got through two or three paragraphs daily without making myself worse, I failed to get better; and it became manifest that I should be unable to issue my next part at the appointed date. It became manifest, too, that working against time would never do: the endeavour to keep to fixed intervals must be abandoned. Accordingly I issued a notice to the subscribers stating that the next number would not appear at the end of the three months; and stating, further, that for the future the successive numbers would be severally issued as soon as completed, without regard to dates.
A few lines to my mother, dated Oban, July 9, show that I was unexpectedly detained there by the delay in the arrival of my friends, who had again kindly invited me to visit them. Still below my ordinary state of health, and yet wishing not to let my time pass wholly without result, I sought out a youth of some eighteen or so, sufficiently educated to serve as amanuensis, and when the time came took him over with me to lodge at Loch Aline, whence he came to me daily. A letter dated 28 July, written to my father, then in France, says:—
“I have been at Ardtornish now rather more than a week. In consequence of the Smiths not having arrived, to my great dismay, I had to spend a fortnight in Oban and the neighbourhood. This did me harm, as solitude always does; and I have in consequence not been well. However I am better now than I have been; and the delightful life here will doubtless soon set me right. I have got a decent amanuensis (this being Sunday he is not available) and have done a little work. . . . The writing and boating answers very well, and is very pleasant.
Our weather here is very agreeable—above the average of Scotch weather; and the scenery is charming. All day long there is some beautiful effect on mountains or sea to look at; and the sun-sets are magnificent.
I have set up three aquaria, which give great interest; and the microscope [one which I had bought just before leaving town] also is a source of amusement. The dredge is now made, but we have not used it. The coast is very rich, and I expect to get many novelties. . . .
I went out fishing the evening I arrived, and caught a salmon the first thing. Since then the river has been too low.”
I give these extracts at length because they conveniently serve to introduce some explanations and comments. The first concerns the apparent change of name from Achranich to Ardtornish. At the time when Mr. Smith bought the estate of Achranich, the two estates, Acharn and Ardtornish, lying on either side of it, were owned by Mr. Sellar (father of the present Professor Sellar of Edinburgh, Mr. Alexander Craig Sellar, m.p., and other sons), who was desirous of purchasing Achranich and uniting the three estates. He hesitated too long, hoping to get a reduction of price, and Achranich was unawares bought over his head, to his great disgust. Some years afterwards his death brought the estates of Acharn and Ardtornish into the market; and after considerable delay they were, at the close of 1860, purchased by Mr. Smith: the three united estates being thereafter known as Ardtornish. As the Ardtornish house (part of which, as before described, is visible some distance behind the ruins of the castle) was more convenient than the old house at Achranich; and as the new house was still in course of erection; it was decided to occupy the Ardtornish house till the new house was complete.
It was to the views from the Ardtornish house that the expression “charming scenery,” used above, referred. Probably I was thinking of a certain bright morning in August. From the smoothly shorn lawn with its flower beds, I was looking over the carefully trimmed hedge, to the mountains on the other side of the Sound, and marking how the cultivated beauty of the one served as a foil to the wild beauty of the other, when there came to me through the open window the first movement from one of Beethoven’s finest sonatas: a favourite movement which has since never failed to recall the scene. But there is a still more vivid recollection dating back to one of the evenings of that year. The western part of the Sound of Mull trends a good deal towards the north; so that during the summer months the Sun sets over the hills at its further end. On the evening in question the gorgeous colours of clouds and sky, splendid enough even by themselves to be long remembered, were reflected from the surface of the Sound, at the same time that both of its sides, along with the mountains of Mull, were lighted up by the setting Sun; and, while I was leaning out of the window gazing at this scene, music from the piano behind me served as a commentary. The exaltation of feeling produced was unparalleled in my experience; and never since has pleasurable emotion risen in me to the same intensity.
Other words in the foregoing extract recall the fact that during my stay, what little writing I did was broken by exercise, now on the land and now on the water: sometimes rambling along the shore of Loch Aline and sitting down occasionally to dictate a few sentences, or along the Ardtornish cliffs, where the waterfalls suggested one of the illustrations used in the chapter I was writing on the “Direction of Motion”; and at other times boating—either paddling about in Ardtornish Bay or rowing from Achranich to the ferry, and dictating while I rowed.
Filled with many pleasures and with little work, the time thus passed till the end of August.
The dates of letters imply that, after spending something like a fortnight at home on my way south, I went to London. A letter written from 18 Torrington Square, on September 21, 1861, says:—
“I reached town safely on Wednesday, and you will be surprised to hear left it again next day. Happening to call on Lewes, I was induced by him to join him in a country ramble. We started forthwith for Reigate, and spent Friday and Saturday in walking through a charming country; both of us returning much the better for the excursion.
I had eighty-eight replies to my advertisement for an amanuensis. You see I have found one; and I shall commence work in earnest tomorrow.”
The country ramble in question was from Reigate to Dorking, where we slept; thence next day to Ockley, where we slept; and then back over Leith Hill. Though not the last of the excursions we made together, this was, I think, the last but two.
I had evidently not yet got back to the normal level of my abnormal state. In a letter of the 26th I read:—“I am much better, and doing my work (on the water) with comfort”: the result being that my next number was issued in November, after having been delayed some four or five months.
Mention of its issue recalls an incident affecting my finances, which should be named. In a preceding chapter I have stated that Chapman, with whom I had published Social Statics, had, after sinking a good deal of money, been finally compelled to give up his publishing business. It was eventually taken by a Mr. Manwaring—a young man quite inadequately prepared, as it turned out. The Principles of Psychology and a volume of Essays, &c., had been published for me by Messrs. Longman; but my business transactions with the firm had been such as rendered me undesirous of continuing them, and still more undesirous of extending them. Consequently I put the issue of my serial into the hands of Mr. Manwaring. It proved an unfortunate step, for there soon came a crash. A letter to my father written on 22nd January, 1862, says:—
“You will see by the enclosed that I have succeeded (though after some difficulty) in coming to an arrangement with Williams & Norgate. Everyone agrees that they are the best people I could have. I shall be very glad to get out of Manwaring’s hands; but I expect to lose by him considerably.”
This expectation was fulfilled. By Mr. Manwaring were of course received the amounts paid by subscribers, and of the sum accruing from them which was in his hands at the time of his failure (between forty and fifty pounds) I believe no part ever reached me. As I was already suffering loss from defaulting subscribers, it was hard that I should lose also a portion of the amount derived from those who paid. In the absence of other resources the result might have been serious.
The winter months and those of the early spring brought no events worthy of record. In a letter of 23rd January I speak of myself as “still improving” and “pretty nearly up to my average”: the effect being that now, after this relapse so long in being recovered from, my work was progressing with but little hindrance.
Certain additions to my social circle must here be named. For some years Mr. and Mrs. George Busk had been among my acquaintances, and before 1862 I had come to count them among my friends—friends with whom the intimacy grew gradually closer. Retiring in nature, and consequently much less known to the world at large than to the scientific world, Mr. Busk, not long afterwards elected President of the College of Surgeons, was one who devoted his leisure (for he had given up practice) to science and to the business of various scientific societies in which he took an active part. And Mrs. Busk, scientifically cultivated in a degree rare among ladies, united with her culture other mental attractions, which gave a never failing interest to her conversation. In after years many pleasant times, short and long, were spent with them and their four daughters.
On several occasions, at their house and elsewhere, I had met at dinner one whose name has since become familiar to most; and the result was the commencement of an intimacy, as witness the following passage in a letter to my father:—
“As you see by this note, I have made some new friends. The writer, well known in the world of science, is the eldest son of Sir John Lubbock, whose name you know very well as an astronomer. I spent a very pleasant two days with them and met Sir John Lubbock there at dinner. . . Last night I had a note from Mrs. Lubbock asking me to go down to them again on the 13th of April.”
At that time Mr. and Mrs. Lubbock lived at Lammas, Chislehurst. Many Saturday afternoons and Sundays were afterwards agreeably spent there; and when, a few years later, High Elms, the family seat, descended along with the title to Mr. Lubbock, visits of this kind were continued. Other guests, coming from the worlds of science, literature, and politics, while they made these occasions interesting, made them also somewhat too exciting: especially as all present were habitually drawn out by Lady Lubbock’s vivacity and Sir John’s versatility. Two unusually bad nights were commonly entailed on me; and consequently, as time went on, I had more and more to avoid these and other such Sunday visits into the country: a further reason for doing this being that on each occasion the Monday morning’s work was in large measure sacrificed.
Here the mention of Sir John Lubbock’s versatility, conspicuous enough even to readers of newspapers and still more conspicuous to those who know all his many activities, recalls an incident which illustrates his remarkable facility in carrying on many occupations. The incident occurred some four years or so later, at a time when I had been investigating the circulation in plants, and had made a number of preparations for the microscope. These I took with me one Saturday to High Elms, thinking they would prove of interest. On the Monday morning early, Sir John was out cub-hunting with his brothers (a frequent practice with them); on his return he made a diagram for a lecture he was about to give; then he examined under the microscope the preparations I had brought; and finally he came to breakfast. After breakfast there was the drive to the station; a rapid glance through the Times on the way up to town; some pages of a book which he had brought with him; and at length came the business of the day, itself sufficiently varied—banking, probably a board-meeting of some kind, political business, attendance at a scientific society: perhaps after a dinner party. And the remarkable peculiarity was that with all these many and varied occupations he never seemed in a hurry; but, by his habitual calm, gave the impression that he was quite at leisure.
On looking back to my social life at this time, I see that its excitements were becoming occasionally too much for me, as witness some sentences in a letter home dated 15th of April:—
“Dining out three days running is always more than I can stand with impunity; and I am hence somewhat below par this morning, but not so much so as I expected. In consequence of this accumulation of excitements I had to excuse myself from the Coopers’ invitation, which was for Friday. As I told Mrs. Cooper, I dare not accept. I shall call on them in the course of this week.”
Let me add, however, that I have often found dining out in moderation, beneficial rather than injurious—especially in a lively circle, as I think I have before remarked. My experiences to a considerable extent justify the advice which Sir Henry Holland told me he gave to his dyspeptic patients. He recommended them to go out to dinner and eat made dishes.
A few words about the Leweses should be added here. Charles, his father’s eldest son, had recently obtained—a post in the Post Office I was about to say, but the cacophony stopped me; and then I was about to say, an office in the Post Office, which is nearly as bad; let me say—a place in the Post Office. Chiefly, I believe, for his benefit, they removed from Wandsworth into town, and took a house in Blandford Square. From time to time I spent an evening with them there—always pleasantly, of course. Occasionally Lewes and I and another friend of theirs, amused ourselves by singing glees. George Eliot, however, never joined us: why, I do not know, for her voice would greatly have improved the harmony.
A change of residence was made towards the end of February. I removed to 29 Bloomsbury Square. The house was a good one, having large rooms and being in other ways desirable. Here I remained for the rest of the season; and here, before the end of June, I completed First Principles.
Am I about to write an imaginary review of the work, as of two preceding works? No: like reasons do not exist. The motive for giving, in the manner adopted, an account of Social Statics, was that the connexion between its ideas and the ideas which preceded and succeeded them, might be exhibited; and it seemed the more needful thus to exhibit them because, as I have for many years been deterred by consciousness of its defects from issuing new editions of the work, it is difficult of access. Similarly with The Principles of Psychology. Save in a few public libraries, no one can now find a copy of the first edition; and only, therefore, by the help of the outline I have given, can any one judge of its relation to antecedent and subsequent phases of thought, as well as of its divergence from contemporary opinion. But in First Principles, which from its date of publication has continued in successive editions to be readily accessible, there is exhibited, not a stage in the development of the doctrine, but the developed doctrine itself. Though an unlooked for evolution of considerable importance subsequently took place, as will hereafter be shown, yet the system had now so far approached its final shape that description of it as one of the stages passed through would be superfluous.
But, though I do not intend either to outline the contents of the book or to pass any criticisms upon it, I find occasion to make some comments: partly concerning the reception it met with and partly concerning my entirely erroneous anticipations.
Unlike a book of travels, or a gossiping biography, or a volume of Court scandal, or a fresh translation of some classical author, or the account of some bloody campaign, or a new speculation concerning the authorship of Junius, or a discussion of Queen Mary’s amours, it offered no temptation to the writer of reviews in literary journals; and hence, as might have been expected, it was comparatively little noticed. Passed over altogether by some critical organs, it got in some others the briefest recognition; as, for instance, in the Spectator, which gave to it one of those paragraphs of a score of lines in small type, in which it dismisses ephemeral books. While I was not much surprised at this, my surprise was considerable on finding that in most cases the important part of the book was ignored, and that such notice as was taken, was taken of the part which I regarded as relatively unimportant.
Years before, when there took possession of me the project of developing into a System of Philosophy the conception briefly and crudely set forth in the essay on “Progress: its Law and Cause,” I saw that it would be needful to preface the exposition by some chapters setting forth my beliefs on ultimate questions, metaphysical and theological; since, otherwise, I should be charged with propounding a purely materialistic interpretation of things. Hence resulted the first division—“The Unknowable.” My expectation was that having duly recognized this repudiation of materialism, joined with the assertion that any explanation which may be reached of the order of phenomena as manifested to us throughout the Universe, must leave the Ultimate Mystery unsolved, readers, and by implication critics, would go on to consider the explanation proposed. To me it seemed manifest that the essential part of the book—the doctrine of Evolution—may be held without affirming any metaphysical or theological beliefs; and though, to avoid the ascription of certain beliefs of these classes which I do not hold, I thought it prudent to exclude them, I presumed that others, after noting the exclusion of them by the first division of the work, would turn their thoughts chiefly to the second division. Nothing of the kind happened. Such attention as was given was in nearly all cases given to the agnostic view which I set forth as a preliminary. The general theory which the body of the book elaborates was passed over or but vaguely indicated. And during the five and twenty years which have since elapsed, I have nowhere seen a brief exposition of this general theory.
It might have been not unreasonably supposed that an alleged law of transformation, everywhere unceasingly displayed by existences of all orders, would have received the amount of consideration required for deciding on its probable truth or probable falsehood; seeing that if false its falsity ought to be shown, and if true it should enter as an important factor in men’s conceptions of the world around them. But it did not seem so to those who undertake to guide public opinion.
AN AUTUMN’S RELAXATIONS.
“Well, it is a great satisfaction to think that the doctrine is now safely set forth, whatever happens to me,” I remarked to a friend after First Principles was published; and I doubt not that this satisfaction, partly personal but largely impersonal, added to the zest with which I entered upon the relaxations of the summer and autumn.
I say advisedly the summer and autumn. The year 1862 was the year of the second International Exhibition; and of course, as soon as I was at leisure, I devoted a good deal of attention to it. My father, and afterwards my mother, came up to town; and days were spent there in showing them the things of chief interest. Then there arrived the Lotts and other country friends, to whom also I occasionally played the part of guide. Naturally the pleasures given were not so keen as those given by the first Exhibition; but still they were great.
On the 10th of July I was at Llandudno with the Lotts. We made a fortnight’s stay there, during which we one day picnic’d at the Aber Falls. On the left hand, the falls are flanked by a spur of Carned David (or is it Carned Llewellyn?); and this, in the course of the afternoon, Lott and I climbed. The climb had a sequence, as witness the following passage of a letter of 16th July.
“We made a mountain ramble two days ago, and I found it did me more good than anything since I have been here. So I propose to have a course of mountain rambles. I am moderately well but not brilliant in condition.”
The result was that, on our return to Derby, I shortly started on a pedestrian fishing tour in Scotland.
As far as Oban and the lower part of the Caledonian Canal, I kept to familiar routes; but at Invergarry I left the steam-boat, having decided to explore the west and north of Ross.
The remainder of my first day, during which I stopped here and there to make a few casts for trout in the Garry, brought me to Tomdoun Inn; and on the next day, Sunday, walking up the rest of Glengarry and down Glen Quoich, I reached Loch Hourn-head. Loch Hourn is the grandest of the Scotch lochs; and though the part seen in this descent to it is not the best, it delighted me so much that my pleasure became vocal. Perhaps it would not have done so had I known what awaited me. To the name Loch Hourn-head was joined on my map one of the little circles which usually implies at least a village having an inn, if not a larger place. I found, however, that besides some tumble-down fishermen’s cottages the only house was a keeper’s lodge. Here I was taken in by favour, and had to put up with meagre fare and rude accommodation: a damp bed being part of it. Fortunately I had provided myself with a pocket-waterproof, and here, as at various places stopped at in my tour, this befriended me: on some occasions keeping off the rain by day, it, on other occasions, served, when used as a sheet, to keep off the damp by night.
In the course of the evening I said that on the morrow I intended to cross over into Glen Shiel. My host expressed his fear that he would be unable to give me a guide, as they were busy with the hay. I slighted the notion that I needed a guide: saying that I was accustomed to Scotch mountains. Next morning proved fine; and the keeper, admitting that I should perhaps be able to find my way, directed me where to ford the stream which drains Glen Quoich. In an hour or so, I reached the top of the mountain-ridge whence I expected to look down on Glen Shiel and the high road running through it. To my astonishment I found below me a bare valley with no trace of road or human habitation. The map, which showed a single range of mountains between Glen Quoich and Glen Shiel, had deceived me: there were two ranges. Had the summits of the hills become clouded I should not have known where I was, on descending. Fortunately the day continued fine. Keeping my bearings pretty accurately, I ascended the second ridge, and then, as I expected, saw Glen Shiel. During my scramble down a steep hill side covered with heather so deep that I could not see my footing, I twice slipped one of my legs into a crevice between rocks and might readily have broken it. Had I done so, I should most likely have died there. When I got safely on to the high road I became conscious of the risk that is run by one who, leaving a place to which he will not return, traverses alone a wild tract of country on the way to a place where no one expects him. In case of accident he is not missed, and no search is made. Another thing struck me. Joining my experiences in Switzerland with the experience I had just had, I was impressed with the heavy responsibility which rests on the makers and publishers of guide-books. I suspect that from time to time lives are lost, and every year many illnesses caused, in consequence of their misdirections.
A night passed at Shiel Inn was followed by a day passed in fishing the river which runs down the Glen. Half a dozen or more sea-trout rewarded my efforts; but the water was far too low for good fishing and the inn was uncomfortable, so that I was not tempted to stay. A delightful sunny walk along the picturesque shore of Loch Duich carried me the following morning as far as Loch Alsh Ferry, and thence to Balmacarra. A fishing ramble filled the next day. On the morrow a pleasant walk over the intervening hills brought me to Loch Carron ferry, and a further walk to Jeantown. The morning after found me on the other side of the ridge dividing Loch Carron from the valley which skirts the Applecross mountains—strange looking, and one of them especially remarkable: a mountain situated in the centre of an amphitheatre of precipices, from which it has evidently been cut out by glacier-action. That evening I reached Shieldag, a dreary little fishing hamlet on the shore of Loch Torridon. The western side of Ross is not much frequented by tourists, and probably I was the first that season who had stopped at the miserable little inn. They gave me a bedroom so damp that the paper hung from the walls in festoons. “A sabbath day’s journey” to Kinloch Ewe was instructive, as well as picturesque in scenery. The doctrine of denudation receives in these regions striking confirmations. On all sides the mountains, consisting the greater part of the way up of, I think, dull red sandstone, are capped with quartz rock. Evidently quartz rock once extended over the whole district; and these islands of quartz on the mountain tops, have been left there by the eroding agencies which cut out the wide and deep valleys between. Then, among further objects of geological interest is “the valley of a thousand hills”: such being, it is said, the literal meaning of the Gaelic name. It contains a vast moraine. An ancient glacier, bearing on its surface many separate lines of débris, must have paused from time to time in the course of its slow retreat, so as to deliver each line of débris for a long interval on the same spot: thus forming a heap.
A day at Kinlochewe was passed in trying to take some sea-trout out of Loch Maree; but as I lacked a boat, the attempt failed entirely. Next day left behind it two memories. The road to Gairloch runs along the shore of Loch Maree; and, keeping in view the imposing Ben Sleoch on the right, passes on the left, after two or three miles, the mouth of a valley which runs away inland. Some miles down this valley stands a mountain of subconical shape, the sides of which are channeled by water-courses. If, imagining these water-courses, deeply cut into the rock, to have originally run straight down, it be supposed that some power adequately great gave the whole mountain a twist round its vertical axis, so as to change these straight water-courses into spiral ones, an idea will be gained of its structure. A sketch of this mountain still exists among my papers. Some miles further on, where there lies between the road and the side of the loch a low bit of rough land, some adjacent cottagers, while digging out peat, had brought into view a large surface of granite, not simply rounded, but retaining the polish given to it by the glacier that once filled the basin of Loch Maree—a polish which had been preserved by the overlying peat for—how long shall we say? perhaps 50,000 years.
At the end of one of those days, common in mountainous countries, during which one is frequently tempted by a gleam of sunshine to take off one’s waterproof, and then, ten minutes after, by a sudden shower compelled to put it on again, I reached the Gairloch Hotel; and thence, the morning after, departed for Poolewe, there to await, in a dreary little inn, the expedition of the next day—the most serious in the course of my tour. Ullapool on Loch Broom was the nearest stopping place on the northern coast of Ross. Between it and Poolewe was a wild country traversed by a bad road, with no place where rest or refreshment could be had. But I had either to go on to Ullapool or to return the way I came, which I was reluctant to do.
Hiring a boat down Loch Ewe as far as the point at which my route diverged from its shore, and bidding good morning to the boatmen, I commenced my solitary walk of, I suppose, over thirty miles: stopping after some hours to take my meagre mid-day meal of boiled herrings and bread which I had brought with me. The monotony of the day was beguiled somewhat by the scenery, or perhaps I should say rather by the striking geological traits it presented: especially those of immense glacier-action. I passed over a ridge of hills, probably some four or five hundred feet high, on the top of which all the rocks were rounded; showing that in ancient times the glaciers which had filled the adjacent valleys had also covered this ridge, to a depth, probably, of some hundreds of feet. Late in the afternoon I reached the shore of Little Loch Broom. Here, to cut off a portion of the road, I paid one of the fishermen to row me across: first, however, having an experience of Celtic indolence. The boat was lying on the beach half full of water. The man took out the plug, and he and his daughter stood idly by, waiting until, by a stream the thickness of one’s finger, the water should escape. He seemed quite unconcerned when I, in a fit of exasperation, seized the baler and began to empty the boat myself. Shortly after came what might have ended in disaster. By the people of some dilapidated cottages on the opposite shore, I was directed into a path which went over the high moor to Loch Broom. This path continued fairly visible for a time; but, as I got on to the flat top of the moor or mountain bog (for it was entirely formed of deep peat), I found it traversed in all directions by large fissures which the water had made in draining away—fissures three or four feet wide and as deep or deeper, over which I had continually to leap. It was in short a bog full of crevasses, with bottoms of soft-peat mud, out of which I should not easily have got had I fallen in. As the evening was coming down rapidly and the path was no longer discernible, I became somewhat fearful of the result; but fortunately I got across before it became dark, and descended to Loch Broom and to Ullapool.
Letters show that I had intended to go as far north as Loch Assynt in Sutherlandshire; but my companionless excursion, though enjoyable at the beginning, was getting wearisome, and I doubt whether I should have fulfilled my intention even had nothing occurred to prevent me. But something did occur. A letter which I found waiting for me at Ullapool made me turn my face south, and travel as fast as coach, railway, and steamboat would carry me.
The contents of the letter which so precipitately changed my course, may be inferred from the following few lines written home, dated Glasgow, August 17th:—
“Mr. and Mrs. Youmans are come. I am just starting off with them for a few days. You will probably see me early next week.”
Professor Youmans, who from the outset became so ardent an adherent of mine, and then, as always, was prepared for any amount of labour on my behalf, had come over to England with his wife (being then recently married), partly as he told me to see the Great Exhibition of 1862, and partly to consult with me concerning the management of my affairs in the United States.
Our conversations were carried on in the course of three days spent in taking these new friends round to the chief places of interest that were easily accessible. Edinburgh, of course, came in for immediate attention: the chief streets, Calton Hill, The Castle, and Holyrood being visited. I was but a poor ciccrone for them, however, as measured by ordinary standards; for I could tell them nothing about the historical associations. I have a vague recollection of amusing Professor Youmans by my response to some remark or question coming from our guide at Holyrood—“I am happy to say I don’t know.” Probably the remark or question referred to Queen Mary. On this, as on kindred occasions, I thus implied my satisfaction, partly in having used time and brain-space for knowledge better worth having, and partly in expressing my small respect for gossip about people of no intrinsic worth, whether dead or living.
Of course something of Scottish scenery had to be shown; and as my friends could not spare time for anything more distant, I carried them over the ordinary tourists’ round—by Callander to Loch Katrine; thence to Inversnaid; across Loch Lomond to Tarbet; and from that place to Arrochar on Loch Long. The night being passed there, we went by steamboat next morning to Greenock, where we parted; they for London on their way to the continent and I, in the course of the day, for Derby.
After a fortnight at home and a few days spent with the Brays at Coventry, I returned to London—not indeed to my previous abode; for I found there no fit accommodation. A letter dated 15 Sept. shows that I was settled in Gloucester Square, Hyde Park. A few weeks’ experience, however, so dissatisfied me with the management of the house that I decided upon migrating. Before I had found another suitable place Mr. Silsbee, an American gentleman named in a preceding chapter, who was about to spend the winter in the south of France, pressed me to go as far as Paris with him. Being under obligation to him, and having work enough to occupy me in revising while away, I consented, and we departed on the 17 Oct.
Of incidents during this visit to Paris I recall but one. This was a discussion with Mr. Silsbee in the Louvre before a landscape by Rubens (I think), rendered partly by time, and partly by the artist, unlike anything ever seen—especially in atmospheric effect; while it was also extremely unpicturesque in composition. To me it seemed a picture to be glanced at and passed by; but from Mr. Silsbee it called forth much admiration. Even more than ourselves the Americans are affected by the appearance of antiquity: so much so, in some cases, that I heard an American lady declare that a country without ruins of old castles and abbeys is not worth living in. And in still greater degrees than ourselves, they are thus led to confound those extrinsic traits of objects which show antiquity with those intrinsic traits which characterize them as works of art.
Little given to mental analysis, most people fail to discriminate among the causes of their pleasures—or rather, never try to distinguish; and hence ascribe to an ancient work of art itself, the reverential sentiments which its age and its traditional repute arouse in them. But judgments swayed by these sentiments are anything but trustworthy. The one case in which something like measure is possible—that of relative strength—shows clearly how untrue are men’s estimates of the past compared with the present. And doubtless the bias which has so conspicuously perverted current opinion in a matter concerning which there ought to have been the least liability to mistake, has perverted it in other matters, and among them in matters of art.
One may say with some approach to truth that on art questions men’s judgments have been paralyzed by authority and tradition as they have been on religious questions. There is reason for hoping, however, that as the paralysis is diminishing in respect of the last it will presently diminish in respect of the first.
A VOLUME OF THE BIOLOGY.
On my return from Paris, some time in the first week of November, I took up my abode at 6 Hinde Street, Manchester Square,—a house which has since been destroyed in the formation of a new street. Here I remained during the winter and early spring.
Is it really a fact that women have better intuitions into character than men have? That they are quicker to divine other’s moods of mind, there is, I think, good reason for believing, as I have pointed out in the Study of Sociology; and it seems almost an implication that if they perceive more truly the passing mental states in those they observe, they also perceive more truly their permanent mental states or established natures. Yet when we remember how multitudinous are the cases in which women are deceived by smooth manners and pretty speeches, we cannot but hesitate about admitting this implication. May not the truth rather be that men and women differ, not so much in these intuitions as in the readiness with which they accept and act upon them? The lines—“I do not like you Dr. Fell,” etc., point to a distinction between the two. Speaking generally, women do not question the worth of the impressions made on them; while men, receiving the like impressions, are apt to doubt—often think the feelings produced in them are merely prejudices, and consequently decide to wait for evidence. Now as impressions of these kinds are usually not meaningless, but vaguely represent organized and inherited experiences (as we see in an infant which cries on seeing an ugly face or hearing a gruff voice), it results that women, forthwith guided by such impressions, may not unfrequently escape injuries which men, waiting for evidence, suffer before they have satisfied themselves that their impressions are right.
I am led to make these remarks by an experience in Hinde Street. The first impressions I received from my hostess were of an unfavourable kind. She gave me the idea of a nature anything but attractive, although she put on a manner of great civility. I ignored this natural verdict of my feelings, but I had afterwards reason to regret that I did not yield to it. Though no positive evil resulted, the relation was an unpleasant one.
Not as being illustrative of anything repugnant in her, I may here name for its drollery an incident that occurred during my few months of stay in the house. Vain as well as vulgar-minded, she professed to have a high admiration of Shakspeare: was partial to reading his plays aloud, and considered that she declaimed the speeches extremely well. On one occasion, after enlarging upon her reverence for him, she ended by saying—“Ah, I often wish that he were alive, and I had him here. How we should enjoy one another’s conversation!”
I had commenced the Principles of Biology immediately on arriving in town in the autumn; and during my brief stay in Gloucester Square had made moderate progress with it. My visit to Paris, though it did not put a stop to revision, stopped dictation. Of course I resumed this as soon as possible after my return. Another interruption, however, though too brief to be mentioned save for its cause, shortly occurred.
Mr. J. S. Mill had just published his book on Utilitarianism. In it, to my surprise, I found myself classed as an Anti-utilitarian. Not liking to let pass a characterization which I regarded as erroneous, I wrote to him explaining my position—showing in what I agreed with the existing school of Utilitarians, and in what I differed from them. The essential part of this letter was published by Professor Bain in one of the closing chapters of his Mental and Moral Science; but it is not to be found anywhere in my own works. As it seems unfit that this anomalous distribution should be permanent, I decide to reprint it here; omitting the opening and closing paragraphs:—
‘The note in question greatly startled me by implicitly classing me with the Anti-utilitarians. I have never regarded myself as an Anti-utilitarian. My dissent from the doctrine of Utility as commonly understood, concerns not the object to be reached by men, but the method of reaching it. While I admit that happiness is the ultimate end to be contemplated, I do not admit that it should be the proximate end. The Expediency-Philosophy having concluded that happiness is the thing to be achieved, assumes that morality has no other business than empirically to generalize the results of conduct, and to supply for the guidance of conduct nothing more than its empirical generalizations.
‘But the view for which I contend is, that Morality properly so-called—the science of right conduct—has for its object to determine how and why certain modes of conduct are detrimental, and certain other modes beneficial. These good and bad results cannot be accidental, but must be necessary consequences of the constitution of things; and I conceive it to be the business of moral science to deduce, from the laws of life and the conditions of existence, what kinds of action necessarily tend to produce happiness, and what kinds to produce unhappiness. Having done this, its deductions are to be recognized as laws of conduct; and are to be conformed to irrespective of a direct estimation of happiness or misery.
‘Perhaps an analogy will most clearly show my meaning. During its early stages, planetary Astronomy consisted of nothing more than accumulated observations respecting the positions and motions of the sun and planets; from which accumulated observations it came by and by to be empirically predicted, with an approach to truth, that certain of the heavenly bodies would have certain positions at certain times. But the modern science of planetary Astronomy consists of deductions from the law of gravitation—deductions showing why the celestial bodies necessarily occupy certain places at certain times. Now, the kind of relation which thus exists between ancient and modern Astronomy is analogous to the kind of relation which, I conceive, exists between the Expediency-Morality and Moral Science properly so-called. And the objection which I have to the current Utilitarianism, is, that it recognizes no more developed form of morality—does not see that it has reached but the initial stage of Moral Science.
‘To make my position fully understood, it seems needful to add that, corresponding to the fundamental propositions of a developed Moral Science, there have been, and still are, developing in the race, certain fundamental moral intuitions; and that, though these moral intuitions are the results of accumulated experiences of utility, gradually organized and inherited, they have come to be quite independent of conscious experience. Just in the same way that I believe the intuition of space, possessed by any living individual, to have arisen from organized and consolidated experiences of all antecedent individuals who bequeathed to him their slowly-developed nervous organizations—just as I believe that this intuition, requiring only to be made definite and complete by personal experiences, has practically become a form of thought, apparently quite independent of experience; so do I believe that the experiences of utility, organized and consolidated through all past generations of the human race, have been producing corresponding nervous modifications, which, by continued transmission and accumulation, have become in us certain faculties of moral intuition—certain emotions responding to right and wrong conduct, which have no apparent basis in the individual experiences of utility. I also hold that just as the space-intuition responds to the exact demonstrations of Geometry, and has its rough conclusions interpreted and verified by them; so will moral intuitions respond to the demonstrations of Moral Science, and will have their rough conclusions interpreted and verified by them.’
Before leaving the subject I may remark that this difference of view has, I believe, arisen in part from difference of culture. In Bentham’s day the knowledge of physical science was confined to a small number; and, as a result, thoughts about causation were, in nearly all men, vague and undeveloped. Education, if not wholly linguistic, included such other subjects only as gave scarcely any material for generating definite ideas of causal relations. That every expended force must work, somehow and somewhere, an equivalent of change, and conversely, was in idea rendered familiar to scarcely any. The like may, I think, be said of Bentham’s followers in general. Though, doubtless, causes have been theoretically recognized by all of them; and though in Mr. Mill’s System of Logic, the doctrine of causation receives full and critical exposition; yet by him, as by the Utilitarians generally, there has not been that study of physical science at large which conduces to an ever-present and vivid consciousness of cause. In the absence of discipline and physical science the search for causes does not become a mental habit. Hence the contented resting in empirical utilitarianism. It was thought that the results of this kind or that kind of action are to be ascertained by induction; and it was tacitly assumed that nothing more remains to be done. That the connexions between conduct and consequence in every case are causal, and that ethical theory remains but rudimentary until the causal relations are generalized, was a truth not recognized by them.
Christmas of this year, as of the preceding year, was spent by my father with me in London. Though now over seventy he remained in fair vigour; having, indeed, in a considerable degree recovered from the nervous disorder of his middle life. I find by letters that the dread of a cold journey was the chief difficulty to be got over in persuading him to come to town.
Concerning my social life at this time, which this visit of my father fitly introduces, there seems nothing to record save some accessions to my circle of friends. One of these is recalled by the following passage in a letter home, dated 25th February, 1863.
“I dined on Saturday with some new friends named Huth, who were great friends of Mr. Buckle’s. They are very nice, intelligent people. Dr. Carpenter was one of the guests; and also Mr. Hare, the author of the scheme of representation that has excited so much attention.”
All members of the family were worshippers of Mr. Buckle. Two of the sons were with him in the East when he caught the fever which caused his untimely death. Mr. Henry Huth, the father, an amiable man whose lack of animal energy led to a retiring manner and preference for a quiet life, was noted for his magnificent collection of rare books. This is now in the possession of his son, Mr. Alfred Huth, who has become known as the biographer of Buckle, and also by his work on the results of marriages between relations.
The other addition to my social circle was a gentleman with a remarkable name—Mr. Osmond De Beauvoir Priaulx; the author of a work entitled Questiones Mosaicæ. He was famed for giving sumptuous dinners to somewhat select parties. Buckle had been a frequent guest. On the occasion of my first dinner at his house, there were, among others less known, Mr. Higgins, at that time distinguished as a writer of slashing letters in The Times signed “Jacob Omnium;” Mr. G. S. Venables, a Parliamentary barrister, and a writer of leaders in The Saturday Review and in The Times, who, I have been told, had somewhat disappointed his friends: his University career having raised great expectations. Then there was Erasmus Darwin, a brother of Charles Darwin, too feeble in health to display his powers. Thackeray, too, was one of the party. Neither then nor on other occasions when I met him, did he display his powers in any way. The share he took in conversation was not large; and in what he did say, so far as I can remember, no sign of wit or humour was given. I have heard that he could be a lively companion; but it seems possible that usually when in company he was occupied in observing traits of character and manner. A painter of human nature as variously manifested must ordinarily be more a listener than a talker.
Mr. Priaulx was called by his friends an intellectual sybarite; and while one of these words was justified by the character of his parties, the other was justified by the quality of his dinners, which differed from other dinners, even of an elaborate kind, in that they had always a good deal of the unexpected: there were unusual dishes. Various choice wines, too, eight or ten in kind, came round in the course of dinner and dessert; of which the Chateau Yquem was always looked forward to by the guests as yielding the culminating pleasure of the feast.
Before the end of March, letters show a change of address: I was in my old quarters in Bloomsbury Square, where I suppose I was tempted back by an offer of the accommodation I needed. Later on in April there is a reference to another of my visits to Standish, where it appears that I enjoyed myself as usual and derived benefit.
This season seems to have had no relapse from my ordinary abnormal state of health. Sleeping, now as ever a chief difficulty, had been improved by a course recommended; as witness the following paragraph.
“I have recently been profiting considerably by the advice of a French physician—a Dr. de Mussy to whom Huxley sent me. He has prescribed frequent warm baths—three or more times in the week, with the view of improving my sleeping. I have decidedly slept the better for them.”
Here let me add, for the instruction of the sleepless, that some years later Dr. de Mussy told me he had modified his opinion respecting the efficacy of warm baths as soporifics; for he had met with cases in which, though taken at a temperature below blood heat (as they should always be), they produced wakefulness instead of sleepiness. That under some conditions they do this, I can myself testify; for, many years after, owing I suppose to some change in my constitutional state, this reverse effect was produced upon me, so that I dare not take a warm bath late in the day. Unexpected as this experience was, it was congruous with a statement once made to me by the late Dr. Bence Jones respecting other medicinal agents. Speaking of drugs, he said that there is scarcely one which may not under different conditions produce opposite effects. Certainly we have familiar proof that this is the case with alcohol, tea, coffee, tobacco and opium.
This mention of opium reminds me that I had for some time previously made occasional use of it—commonly under the form of morphia. With me sleep brought sleep and wakefulness was habitually followed by more wakefulness; so that after a series of specially bad nights it had been my practice to break the morbid habit, and reestablish the periodicity of sleep by artificial means. Sometimes it was weeks, sometimes months, before I again had recourse to one or other preparation of opium. That the average result was beneficial is an opinion which I here express, because there is, I think, an undue fear of opium; both in the minds of medical men and in those of men at large. Every medicinal agent is liable to abuse; and when it has been greatly abused there arises a reaction, which goes almost to the extent of forbidding its use. In respect of opium a re-reaction is needed.
Health not much disturbed, and work but little interrupted, enabled me to issue three numbers of my serial during the winter and subsequent season: the last of them, however, number IX, retaining me until after the middle of July. I then left London for my holiday. It was not a complete holiday; for, as usual, I took with me work for revision. In this case it was the revision of the various essays published during 1858, 1859 and 1860, which I had decided to collect in a volume.
My first resting place was Scarborough, to which place I went to spend some time with my mother, who was staying there in the hope of recovering from that debility which had been for years coming on. She exemplified the evils resulting from carelessness of self, accompanying undue care of others. Writers on morals do not recognize the fact that excess of self-sacrifice is not only a cause of suffering to the individual making it, but often becomes a cause of suffering to relatives; and if this fact is unrecognized by those who undertake to set forth the principles of right conduct, still less is it recognized by the world at large—or, if recognized, it is not in such way as overtly to influence conduct. A strong sense of duty, partly natural and partly traceable to religious convictions, had, for years, been leading my mother gradually to undermine her system by taxing it too much; and now there was beginning that constitutional prostration which presently made her a confirmed invalid. Many of my letters contain expostulations, but they were useless. She was one of those who exemplify the truth that women’s natures, and by implication their beliefs, become fixed at an earlier period of life than do those of men; and her amiable errors were continued in spite of all reasoning.
After ten days at Scarborough I turned my face northwards, and the first indication of my whereabouts is given in a letter which says:—“We have just arrived safely and well at Oban after a fine day’s voyage.” At first I was puzzled by the “we”; for I had forgotten a tour in the North West Highlands with Lott and one of his Derby friends, well known to me also. Starting next day by fast steamer (the Mountaineer I think it was in those days), and taking our course down the Sound of Mull and up the Sleat Sound, we skirted the north east shore of Skye in the afternoon; and, abandoning our original project of exploring Skye, went on to Gairloch. The following morning we took our course by the side of Loch Maree to Kinlochewe: reversing my walk of the previous year. A dog-cart took us next day as far as Loch Torridon, whence, finding a fit guide, we took our way through the mountains to the shore of Loch Carron—a wild and interesting climb—and put up at Jeantown. Balmacarra was our next stopping place; and the day being Sunday we, conforming to the custom of the house, in common with all other guests, whether in private rooms or not, dined at the table d’hote. There were present on this occasion Mr. and Mrs. Cardwell (as they then were) and Mr. Robert Lowe (as he then was): they and ourselves forming the party. Nothing in the conversation was remarkable enough to be remembered. A steam-boat carried us to Glenelg the next morning. There my friends left me, and, prompted by my recommendation, explored Loch Hourne and Glengarry on the way home; while I remained till the 20th, when I became due at Ardtornish.
Thereupon commenced a month more pleasant to me in recollection than the details of its doings would be to the reader in narration. Two extracts from letters written at the time, may, however, be fitly given. One dated early in September says:—
“Some guests have lately arrived—Mr. Charles Buxton, m.p., his wife and two sons, and Mr. Godfrey Lushington. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Buxton I knew, but have not seen them of late, and am glad to renew the acquaintance. . . .
I have found some treasures in the shape of plants which illustrate my views of morphology. This is the more fortunate because I had lost the specimens I before possessed.”
The Mr. Charles Buxton, m.p., mentioned above, an amiable and intelligent man, was one of the sons of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, of anti-slavery fame. He did not survive for many years: not having, I think, the strength needed for bearing the stress of public life joined with that of business and social excitements. His face bore the expression of chronic fatigue. One of the sons, who were at that time boys, now sits in Parliament for Poplar. A letter of the 17th September says:—
“I am proposing to take my leave of the Smiths this day week: they have sundry visitors coming in a few days after and will be quite full. . . .
I am quite well—better than I have been for years. My sleeping is getting more normal and I hope I am now beyond the liability to relapses. I have caught four more salmon since I wrote—three in one day.”
Before the end of the month I was at home, and remained there through a good part of October: no doubt partially occupied in seeing through the press the Essays to be presently re-published.
I had but just settled myself in Bloomsbury Square, and had scarecly got into full work, when I left town again for a short time. The occasion was a visit to Lord Houghton at Fryston Hall, his country place near Pontefract—a town for which he sat in Parliament while he was known as Richard Monckton Milnes. I found a circle of a dozen agreeable people, belonging to the political and literary worlds, only two of whom I knew personally. The surroundings of Fryston have greatly injured it as a residence; nor is the country around picturesque. But the few days spent there on this occasion, and on subsequent occasions, were made pleasant by the social indoor life.
I had known our host as Mr. Milnes since 1851, and had more recently, in London, attended some of his dinners and literary breakfasts—widely known as gatherings of notabilities of all kinds holding all opinions. While partly his catholicity, it was perhaps partly his constitutional love of excitement which prompted him to extend his hospitality to every one who had made a name, and thus to collect these incongruous assemblies; for he seemed unable to lead a quiet life. Even in his later years, when increasing age might have been expected to have a sedative influence, he was ever moving hither and thither, to be present at gatherings, grave and gay, of various natures. About his views one gained but an undecided impression. Whether it was the effect of mental restlessness or whether it was the effect of readiness to listen to ideas of all kinds, however extreme, there seemed in him an unsettled state of opinion upon most things.
There were exceptions, however, to his restlessness. I heard of one at least. A few years later than the time of which I am speaking the English disciples of M. Comte decided to commence Sunday services appropriate to their creed: Dr. Congreve, who was the leader of the body, being priest. Some curiosity was excited for a time among those who were willing to listen to new opinions. One of such, on being asked what he had seen, replied that there was a regular service, having orderly forms. “In fact,” said he, “it was just like a church: there was Lord Houghton fast asleep.”
He was extremely pleasant and amusing as a companion. His information about people and things, was copious; and he abounded in anecdotes, which he narrated with an enjoyment that was infectious. Full of kindly feeling, too, he was. From many sides I have heard references to his benevolent help quietly given. He was genuinely desirous of aiding whatever he thought good.
Since the publication of First Principles, Professor Youmans had been, as before, active in looking after my affairs in the United States: among other things having, as I heard (not from himself but from Mr. Silsbee), written over a hundred letters to negligent and defaulting subscribers.
He was anxious that my already-published works should be circulated in the United States. The Messrs. Appleton had, I believe, undertaken the risk of reprinting the Education; but, I presume, did not think that the reprinting of the two volumes of Essays and of Social Statics would pay. Under these circumstances he proposed a scheme, the nature of which may be gathered from the response I made to it, dated December 17, 1863, which ran as follows:—
“I must really protest against the amount of sacrifice so generously proposed to be made by my American friends. The obligations under which you have placed me, and to which you have been lately adding so greatly, it has been beyond my power to avoid, had I wished to avoid them; but the obligations foreshadowed in your last letter, are, in part, such as I can, and must, avoid. If my American friends, moved by your active efforts, agree to take upon themselves the risk of re-publishing some of my writings—a risk which I dare not run myself—I cannot help it; and while I feel somewhat uneasy at seeing such responsibilities undertaken, I cannot but feel a considerable pleasure in finding so much interest manifested in the success of my aims. But when it is proposed that my friends should supply Messrs. Appleton with the stereotype plates, and that I should begin to reap the profits of the reprint from the outset, as seems to be implied by your statement of the arrangement, I must decline to agree. It is, I think, a quite sufficient generosity on their part, if they save me from a contingent risk, and give me the contingent profit after their expenses have been paid.”
This was, I believe, the course eventually adopted. Funds were raised to pay the cost of reprinting the several volumes named, and after those who furnished them had been recouped, I began to receive a royalty on all copies sold.
The topic of arrangements for the publication of my books in America having been here incidentally raised, I may fitly add what has further to be said about it. During subsequent years the course followed was this. A duplicate set of stereotype plates having been, in each case, cast for me by my printers, was sent to New York. From these Messrs. Appleton printed the American edition, under an agreement to pay me a royalty of 15 per cent. of the retail price on all copies sold from the outset: their only risk being the cost of paper and press-work. Of course a considerable sale had to be achieved before the returns repaid me the outlay for the stereotype plates. But after this there resulted a fair profit. To this arrangement, negotiated for me by my friend Youmans, the Messrs. Appleton have loyally adhered.*
Of occurrences during the winter and subsequent season, the first in strict chronological order should have been named before those of the last section, which, by implication, refer to it; namely, the publication of the second series of Essays, &c. This occurred at the end of November. There is little to be said about it; for so far as I remember scarcely any notice was taken of the book, and none of my letters mention reviews of it. Republished essays are generally looked coldly upon by critics, and mine were of a kind to excite, in nine out of ten among them, even less warmth of reception than usual.
The year ended without anything more worthy of remark than that my father came to town to visit me at Christmas, and that some time in January I returned with him to Derby, remaining there till the beginning of February. Incidents of succeeding months may be most conveniently indicated by extracts from letters home. One written on March 26 says:—
Bain has sent me a copy of the second edition of his “Senses and the Intellect,” in which he shows much generosity of feeling.
This passage refers to the great candour and good temper with which he received the criticisms I had passed upon the first edition of his work, and the readiness shown by him to modify the expression of his views. The following paragraphs are from a letter dated April 25:—
“The Potters have taken a house in town for the season, and I have seen something of them. I dine with them again next Saturday.
I seem to have been really benefited by the fit of excitement I had a while ago. [The cause of which will be indicated presently]. I bear my work very conveniently, and can do more reading without feeling it.”
About this time Mr. Potter had become Chairman of the Great Western Railway Company; and Parliamentary business made it needful for him to be much in town. The taking of a London house for the season, thus initiated, was continued during many subsequent years, with the effect of adding to my social pleasures, and to those far preferable pleasures yielded by a family circle of intimate friends. The next extract, which is from a letter to my mother dated May 18, refers to some kindred gratifications.
“I have been visiting the Lubbocks a good deal lately. . . . I have postponed going to spend a week with them because I am unable at present to spare the time.”
On May 27 I wrote to my father respecting anticipated arrangements as follows:—
“I shall in all probability go to Scotland. Mr. Smith asked me to do so some two months ago; and though the invitation will need renewal when the time comes, I do not see any reason to doubt that it will be renewed. As to your own movements at Midsummer, I do not see why you should not do as before. At any rate, you can join me here in town during the latter end of June and the beginning of July, and we can discuss further steps.”
I may also fitly quote some paragraphs from a letter dated June 9.
“I got the American papers this morning, and was much amused with some of the statements in the biographical notice. Did you recognize all the statements you are credited with?
Enclosed I send a notice of the “Classification,” and some other things that may interest you. You will be struck by the continued and thoughtful kindness of my friends the Lubbocks.
I am quite well and getting on satisfactorily with my next number. Only yesterday I arrived at a point of view from which Darwin’s doctrine of “Natural Selection” is seen to be absorbed into the general theory of Evolution as I am interpreting it.”
Some explanation is called for by the last paragraph. Organic evolution being a part of Evolution at large, evidently had to be interpreted after the same general manner—had to be explained in physical terms: the changes produced by functional adaptation (which I held to be one of the factors) and the changes produced by “natural selection,” had both to be exhibited as resulting from the redistribution of matter and motion everywhere and always going on. Natural selection as ordinarily described, is not comprehended in this universal redistribution. It seems to stand apart as an unrelated process. The search for congruity led first of all to perception of the fact that what Mr. Darwin called “natural selection,” might more literally be called survival of the fittest. But what is survival of the fittest, considered as an outcome of physical actions? The answer presently reached was this:—The changes constituting evolution tend ever towards a state of equilibrium. On the way to absolute equilibrium or rest, there is in many cases established for a time, a moving equilibrium—a system of mutually-dependent parts severally performing actions subserving maintenance of the combination. Every living organism exhibits such a moving equilibrium—a balanced set of functions constituting its life; and the overthrow of this balanced set of functions or moving equilibrium is what we call death. Some individuals in a species are so constituted that their moving equilibria are less easily overthrown than those of other individuals; and these are the fittest which survive, or, in Mr. Darwin’s language, they are the select which nature preserves. And now mark that in thus recognizing the continuance of life as the continuance of a moving equilibrium, early overthrown in some individuals by incident forces and not overthrown in others until after they have reproduced the species, we see that this survival and multiplication of the select, becomes conceivable in purely physical terms, as an indirect outcome of a complex form of the universal redistribution of matter and motion.
Though I had kept up well during the season there came a relapse at Midsummer, caused partly by extra effort in completing, before leaving town, the number of my serial then issued and partly, as a letter confesses, by too many social excitements. I should have forgotten this relapse had not a letter shown that my father and I went early in July to Margate; and this would not have recalled the fact that I was much out of order had there not resulted the memory of an incident there. Mr. T. S. Baynes, then candidate for the professorship at St. Andrews which he afterwards held, wished for a testimonial from me. I had read nothing of his, and dared not undertake the required amount of reading. The difficulty was solved by my father, who read aloud to me several mornings as we sat in a nook under the cliff. After a week’s stay he went to France, and I turned my face northwards.
Why narrate in detail my doings during the autumn? Accounts of this kind are occupying too much space. Condensation must be carried as far as consists with due indication of the ways in which my leisure times were spent.
Derby, of course, was my first stopping place. After fetching my mother home from Matlock (she could not now make long journeys) and after spending a few days with her, I joined the Lotts at Penmaenmaur and remained till the end of July. Among the excursions we made was an ascent of Snowdon. When they returned home I went on to Scotland, stopped two days at Corran Ferry, seated myself for a time at Fort William, and from that place took rambles: one of them being up Glen Nevis as far as the amphitheatre into which it widens, another being by Glen Spean to the Brig of Roy and back. Returning as far as Oban, I found that the looked for missive from Ardtornish had not arrived, and I decided to spend the time in a local tour: my route being across the hills to Port Sonachan on Loch Awe; thence to Inverary; thence through Glen Croe to Arrochar on Loch Long; thence to Tarbet, Inverarnon and Tyndrum; from there to Dalmally; and from Dalmally back to Oban: six days being thus occupied. My vexation was great on finding that the invitation for me had been lying in the Post Office since the day after I left. Had I not been so impatient I might have had Highland enjoyments along with charming friends instead of being a lone wanderer among mountains. However, the prospect of a month’s pleasures before me soon banished the thought of some pleasures lost. I remained at Ardtornish until the middle of September and then left for Derby. After some three weeks there I departed for London early in October.
A letter saying that I was about to fix myself at 88 Kensington Gardens Square, gives a hopeful account of this new abode; which, internally not unsatisfactory, was externally much more salubrious than my abodes of several previous years. Here I revised the last proofs of my twelfth number, which was sent to subscribers before the close of the month: the issue to the public of the Principles of Biology, Vol. I, taking place shortly after.
What am I to say about this second instalment of “The System of Philosophy,” as it was at that time named? It seems absurd to pass over without remark the volume which gives the title to the chapter; even though the title merely serves to indicate my special occupation while there passed those two years of my life which the chapter narrates. On the other hand it appears needless to give any account of the contents of a book which is accessible to any one who wishes to learn them; and it would be out of taste to signalize those ideas in it which seem to me of chief value. General comments, however, may not be inappropriate.
Something by way of apology for venturing to deal with so vast and so difficult a subject seems called for—a subject too vast for any man fully to acquaint himself with as a whole—so vast that even one of its two great divisions is more than a diligent student can master—so vast that even a subdivision furnishes matter for investigation sufficient to occupy a life. Though in boyhood I had been interested in Natural History at large, and more especially in Entomology; and though at that time and in later years I was a constant reader of medical periodicals and books, from which some knowledge of anatomy and physiology was gathered—though I had for some time studied Biology with a purpose; and though a certain natural aptitude for laying hold of cardinal facts enabled me gradually to acquire from what I read, better general conceptions of biological truths than most might have acquired; yet it is manifest that I was inadequately equipped for the task. But I had undertaken to set forth a general theory of Evolution as exhibited throughout all orders of existences. Whoever carries out such an undertaking must either have a knowledge of all the concrete sciences greater than any man has ever had, or he must deal with some sciences of which his knowledge is but partial, if not very imperfect. Either the thing must not be done at all or it must be thus done.
In my own case the presumption was diminished by the consciousness that friends who sympathized with my aims, and whose competence in their respective departments was beyond question, were prepared to aid me by their criticisms. Professor Huxley kindly agreed to read through my proofs for the purpose of checking statements of zoological facts; while Dr. (now Sir Joseph) Hooker did the like for botanical statements. On the whole the result seems to have shown that the attempt was not unwarranted.
In one respect, indeed, I had, as an outsider, studying the phenomena of organic life as phenomena of Evolution at large, a certain kind of advantage over specialists, dealing after the ordinary manner with their respective separate subjects—plant-life and animal-life. The man of science who limits himself to a department, is apt to overlook, or else not sufficiently to appreciate, those most general truths which the phenomena he studies display in common with other groups of phenomena. The truths exhibited by plant-life and animal-life in common, which neither the pure botanist nor the pure zoologist is called upon to recognize at all, are really truths of the profoundest meaning; and though in most cases there is, on the part of each, such acquaintance with the sister science as discloses some, at any rate, of these most general truths, yet while the attention of each is almost wholly absorbed by his specialty, these most general truths are relegated to the background of thought instead of occupying its foreground. Still more does inattention to orders of phenomena remote in kind, result in either unconsciousness or inadequate consciousness of the truths common to all these orders of phenomena and the phenomena of life—truths of wider significance than those which the phenomena of life themselves display. Of course the study of biological facts, not from the point of view of Organic Evolution only, but from the point of view of Evolution at large, inorganic, organic, and super-organic, entailed the placing of these widest truths in conspicuous positions: thus conducing to a more philosophical conception of biological facts.
One further remark to be made is that this treatment of the subject led incidentally to a method which proved of much service. While the ultimate purpose was to interpret the general facts of structure and function as results of Evolution, it was manifest that, as a preliminary step, it was needful to specify and illustrate these general facts; and needful also to set forth those physical and chemical properties of organic matter which are implied in the interpretation. That is to say, there had to be exhibited the Data of Biology and the Inductions of Biology. Some one has remarked that in philosophizing much depends upon rightly putting a question to Nature; and in this case the deliberate inquiry what are antecedent truths taken for granted in Biology, and what are the biological truths which, apart from theory, may be regarded as established by observation, proved of great advantage. Subsequently, when dealing with Psychology, with Sociology, and with Ethics, a like course of procedure yielded like advantages.
Concerning the reception of the work there is little to be said: the reason being that little notice was taken of it. In 1864, not one educated person in ten or more knew the meaning of the word Biology; and among those who knew it, whether critics or general readers, few cared to know anything about the subject. Probably in many cases the volume received hardly as much attention as is implied by that reviewing humorously described as cutting the leaves and smelling the paper knife. One notice I may refer to, partly as being typical and partly because of its unconscious drollery. In The Athenæum of 5 November, 1864, a paragraph concerning the book commenced thus:—“This is but one of two volumes, and the two but part of a larger work: we can therefore but announce it.” If we imagine the critic, many years after, to have had before him the “System of Philosophy” as finished, he might with much greater cogency have said:—“Here are ten volumes on five different subjects, which it is manifestly impossible for us to review. We can therefore but announce them.” The argument is neat and conclusive:—This is but a part and cannot be noticed. This complete work is too big and varied for notice. Consequently it must all pass unnoticed.
Chronologically placed, the incidents to be narrated in this chapter should have been narrated some distance back in the preceding chapter; for instead of belonging to the close of 1864, they belong to its opening. But the narrative would have been confused had I adhered strictly to the order of occurrence. I have thought it better to make of these detached incidents the matter for a detached chapter.
Ten years had elapsed since, in the essay on the “Genesis of Science,” I had discussed and rejected the classification of the sciences proposed by M. Comte. In the course of the criticism to which the first part of the essay was devoted, I expressed the opinion that the sciences do not admit of serial arrangement, whether considered logically in their natures or historically in their developments; and I expressed the further opinion that they stand in relations of divergence and re-divergence, which may be symbolized by the branches of a tree. More than once during these ten years, I had made attempts to represent on paper their ramifying relations, but without success: none of the diagrams I made came anywhere near satisfying me. But now, my attention having been again drawn to the subject by seeing these diagrams, my thoughts took, it seems, a new direction, and led me to recognize those fundamental distinctions which divide the great groups of sciences, and determine the classification of them.
There is a family of sciences which severally undertake to give accounts of individualized objects—not objects which, like fragments of stone, are in some or many respects indefinite, but objects which are definable, and are known either as solitary individuals or as individual members of a species. Be it nebula, star, the sun, a planet or a satellite, each of the things Astronomy concerns itself with is an identifiable individual. So is the Earth with which Geology deals; and so are all plants and animals. So in a sense are minds; for though not visible entities, they are coherent and organized groups of functions exhibited by certain entities; and each of them is individualized as belonging to one or other kind of creature, and, in a minor degree, to one or other sample of it. And so it is with societies. Each of them is a more or less distinctly incorporated whole, individualized by its structural traits as well as by its name and locality. Moreover, every science of this class is like the others in the respect that it aims to give an exhaustive account of the object or objects forming its subject-matter. Nor is this all. It aims also to give an account of the ways in which each of them became what it is—to give a history of the transformations through which it has passed. Astronomy, Geology, Biology, Psychology, and Sociology, may in fact all of them be properly called Natural Histories; though in current speech a sub-division of one monopolizes the name.
Devoid of these traits, the sciences forming another family have in common certain other traits. Mechanics, Physics, and Chemistry, none of them treat of definitely individualized objects. The forces with which Mechanics is concerned are not tangible or visible entities at all; nor, in formulating their laws, is absolute quantity of any moment: relative quantity only enters into the inquiry. Similarly, the phenomena of Heat, Light, and Electricity are generalized without reference to specialized portions or particular amounts: the characters which give individuality are absent. The like holds with Chemistry. In their gaseous forms the matters it deals with can scarcely be said to have tangibility or visibility; in their liquid forms they cannot be said to be individualized; and though, in their solid forms, fragments of them have shapes and sizes by which they can be recognized, these are irrelevant to those truths respecting molecular constitutions, combining proportions, and modes of action, which Chemistry sets forth. Moreover these sciences have the peculiarity that they respectively treat of matters and forces, not as they exist in actual objects and actual motions, but as separated, so far as may be, from one another—from impurities and from perturbing actions. And once more, they have, by consequence, the peculiarity that the truths they express are partially ideal: the atomic weights and combining equivalents of the chemist are not verified absolutely by experiments, for impurities cannot be entirely got rid of; and no law of motion or action formulated by the physicist is ever fulfilled completely, because interferences can never be wholly escaped.
Yet more sharply marked off from both of these groups of sciences than they are from one another, is a third group of sciences. This third group is not concerned at all with the real, but with the purely ideal. Though Logic and Mathematics habitually affirm truths respecting existences, yet they are in no case concerned with the existences themselves, but only with certain of their aspects considered as dissociated from them. Logic has to do with the exclusions, inclusions and over-lappings of classes of existences, considered as distinguishable from one another by marks; and it cares neither what the existences are nor what the marks are. The units with which arithmetic and the calculus at large deal, often stand for real objects, but the reality of the objects is quite irrelevant to the numerical truths reached: in any ordinary calculation when one number is multiplied or divided by another, there is no thought of the things which the numbers represent. So it is with geometrical truths. These are concerned with the phenomena of pure space. Though in the expression of these phenomena visible lines are habitually used, yet that which gives the lines visibility is intentionally ignored.
That the conception originally presented itself to me in this shape, I do not say; but this was the outcome of it. It became manifest that, as above shown, the sciences fall into three groups—Concrete, Abstract-Concrete, and Abstract. And it became further manifest that the sciences within each group are to be arranged in the order of decreasing generality.
This view appeared to me important enough to merit prompt publication; and I decided to suspend my ordinary work that I might write an essay setting it forth.
Whether this resolve was made in December 1863, while my father was with me in town, or whether it was made while I was in Derby in January 1864, I cannot decide. But it was evidently in one or the other; for the first letter in which reference is made to it, implies that my father had already been told about it. It is dated February 19, and runs as follows:—
“I am still busy with the Essay on Classification, which I have fully written out, and have nearly done revising. It works out far more completely than I imagined it would. After sundry consultations I have decided not to publish it in a periodical but to publish it separately as a pamphlet.”
This decision was, I fancy, in large measure a forced one. Inquiry made it manifest that an essay so purely philosophical would be unreadable by nearly all who take in periodicals, and that editorial acceptance was scarcely to be expected. There was no alternative but to undertake the cost of printing it as an independent publication.
As it happened, this decision was fortunate; for just as the pamphlet, or rather brochure, was on the eve of issue, there occurred an incident which made needful an emphatic repudiation of certain doctrines ascribed to me; and while the issue of the pamphlet afforded a fit opportunity for the repudiation, a postscript to it afforded a fit place.
The incident in question was the appearance of a review of First Principles, by M. Auguste Laugel, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, for 15 February 1864. Highly satisfactory to me as the review was in many respects, there was one respect in which it was unsatisfactory. M. Laugel tacitly implied that I belonged to a school of thought from the doctrines of which I dissent: having, indeed, to sundry of the leading doctrines, a profound aversion.
That body of scientific truths and methods which M. Comte named “Positive Philosophy,” he remarked, was analogous to that which had been in England called “Natural Philosophy”; and, by implication, the men of science who had been natural philosophers were regarded by him as positive philosophers. This naming, or re-naming, led to an unfortunate confusion. The philosophy which M. Comte named “Positive Philosophy,” came not unnaturally to be spoken of by his disciples as his philosophy; and gradually among them, and afterwards among the undiscriminating public, there grew up the notion that those who held the doctrines called by M. Comte “Positive Philosophy” were adherents of M. Comte. M. Laugel, if he did not fall into this error, at any rate used language which seemed to countenance it. He spoke of me as imbued with certain ideas (naming especially the relativity of knowledge) characterizing the Philosophy called Positive; and though these ideas were manifestly not ideas originated by M. Comte, nor claimed by him, yet by calling them ideas of the Positive Philosophy which I accepted, he produced the impression that I was an adherent of M. Comte.
This impression, utterly untrue as it was, I thought it needful to dissipate; and the greater part of March I occupied in setting forth my antagonism to all those doctrines which are distinctive of the Comtean Philosophy. On the 26 March I wrote to my father as follows:—
“I have just got rid of the last revises of my pamphlet, the corrections and modifications of which have caused me a great deal of bother and delay. I expect it will be out towards the end of next week.
You ask about my health. I am happy to say that I am well, in spite of unfavourable circumstances. The writing the Appendix about Comte brought on a fit of excitement, moral and intellectual, which I could not subdue. I could not stop thinking day or night, and was in a great fright lest I should have a serious relapse. However I escaped it; and now seem to be all the better. It seems to me that this fit of excitement has done something towards restoring my cerebral circulation, which, ever since my break-down, has been deficient.”
The fit of excitement here referred to was not produced wholly by the writing of this postscript setting forth “Reasons for dissenting from the philosophy of M. Comte.” A private controversy which resulted had much to do with it. Wishing to be quite fair to Comte, I thought it desirable that the proof of what I had written should be looked through by one who was in sympathy with him. Lewes, if not a disciple in the full sense of the word, was a partial adherent, and was also his expositor. I asked him to oblige me by his criticisms, which he willingly did. Some of the minor ones I accepted and profited by, but against the major ones I protested; and this led to a correspondence between us over which I excited myself in the way indicated. My letter of chief importance, which might fitly have formed a postscript to the postscript, will be found in Appendix B.
The inquiry which led to the digression described in this chapter had a sequence. More important than the theory of the Classification of the Sciences set forth, and much more important than the definite rejection of the Comtean philosophy, for which the opportunity was afforded, was a certain incidental result.
When arranging the divisions and sub-divisions of the Concrete Sciences, and setting out with recognition of the fact that under their most general aspects they all give accounts of the re-distributions of matter and motion, there arose the need for stating the universal trait of all such re-distributions. This trait is that increasing integration of matter necessitates a concomitant dissipation of motion, and that increasing amount of motion implies a concomitant disintegration of matter. Perception of this truth threw a new light on the phenomena of Evolution at large. Here were seen the processes which constitute respectively Evolution and Dissolution under their primordial aspects. It became obvious that the differentiations, with resulting increase of heterogeneity, which I had supposed to be primary traits of Evolution, were but secondary traits. Clearly the first law must be the law in conformity with which aggregates are formed and destroyed; and not the law in conformity with which their complexities of structure arise.
The necessity for re-arranging First Principles became manifest. It had been wrongly organized and must be re-organized. This task I decided to undertake as soon as a new edition seemed likely to be called for.
ANOTHER VOLUME OF THE BIOLOGY.
Letters show that before the number which closed the first volume of the Biology was issued, I had commenced the second volume; for I was eager to get completely worked out on paper, ideas which had been long waiting for expression. A letter to my father of October 14, complaining of delays, continues:—
“Meanwhile I am getting ready my materials, and arranging my ideas for commencing the next No. which I shall do to-morrow or on Monday. The subject of Morphological Development grows upon me so much as I examine into it, that I feel somewhat perplexed how to say all that I have got to say within the available space.”
I am reminded by this passage of the way in which with me, and I suppose with many others, plans that have been once formed exercise an almost irresistible coercion. Habitually, before I have yet finished rejoicing over my emancipation from a work which has long played the tyrant over me, I make myself the slave of another. The truth is, I suppose, that in the absence of wife and children to care for, the carrying out of my undertakings is the one thing which makes life worth living—even though, by it, life is continually perturbed. I have often said jestingly, that if I could but get over the bad habit of writing books, I might maintain good health. It seems that I declined to have good health on such terms.
Not, indeed, that at the time of which I now speak I had more than usual reason to complain. After having been a week at my new habitat there went a report home speaking of its favourable effects; and a letter written on the 7th November says—
“I am in very tolerable condition now that the weather has become fine again. I felt this time, as I always do, a marked difference between my state during a low atmospheric pressure and my state during a high atmospheric pressure.”
This passage I quote mainly to show my sensitiveness to atmospheric changes, which has been a constant trait with me ever since. During subsequent months further improvement in health seems to have resulted from my migration to the suburbs; as witness the following paragraph from a letter dated 7 April 1865:—
“I am tolerably well; having returned on Monday from the Lubbocks with whom I had been spending five days. Last night our Blastodermic Club entertained Colenso at dinner. To-night I dine with Huxley, and to-morrow with the Huths. On the whole I think I am improving in my power of bearing work and excitements.”
Reverting to the account of my work, a paragraph in a letter dated November 23, 1864, indicates a new phase upon which it was now entering:—
“I question whether it will be practicable for me to come down before Christmas. I have to get a number of wood-engravings done for my next number, and this involves continual interviews and arrangements with the engraver; which, together with getting up all the facts &c. occupies me very fully just now, and makes it difficult for me to get away. In fact to do so I must suspend my work.”
Since the days when I was in the habit of making portraits of friends, more than twenty years previously, I had never taken up my pencil. But now such small skill as I have in delineating objects, became again serviceable. The greater part of the illustrations I required were of a kind which it was needful to make directly from Nature; and the ability to make them myself, instead of employing an artist, saved me not only money but the trouble which would have been required to explain all that I wanted.
These brief extracts and comments may be taken as sufficiently indicating the course of my life during the winter of 1864 and the London season of 1865.
Of more interest to the reader than these details, is an event referred to in the first of the above-quoted letters, dated November 7, 1864. It concerns the earliest meeting of a body much more important by its quality than by its size.
“In pursuance of a long-suspended intention, a few of the most advanced men of science have united to form a small club to dine together occasionally. It consists of Huxley, Tyndall, Hooker, Lubbock, Frankland, Busk, Hirst, and myself. Two more will possibly be admitted. But the number will be limited to ten. Our first dinner was on last Thursday; and the first Thursday of every month will be the day for subsequent meetings.”
The increase of the number to ten never took place. One addition was shortly afterwards made—Mr. W. Spottiswoode; but no decision was come to respecting the tenth. From time to time for some years the question was raised and discussed; but no one was found who fulfilled the two requirements—that he should be of adequate mental calibre and that he should be on terms of intimacy with the existing members. For the Club was intended to be, first of all, an assemblage of friends desirous of meeting one another more frequently than their daily avocations and many engagements allowed them to do in the absence of pre-arrangement. Eventually, the subject of a tenth member was tacitly dropped.
Some time elapsed before we named ourselves. “The Thorough Club” was one title suggested; but the historical associations negatived it. In a letter to my father quoted above, I have used the name “Blastodermic”—a figure of speech alluding to the truth that the blastoderm is that part of an ovum in which the rudiments of future organization first appear. Who proposed this I do not remember, but it was not adopted. So long did our anonymous character continue, that at length it was remarked (I believe by the wife of one of the members, Mrs. Busk) that we might as well name ourselves after the unknown quantity. The suggestion was approved, and we became the X Club. Beyond the advantage that it committed us to nothing, this name had the further advantage that it made possible a brief, and, to a stranger, an enigmatical, notice of our meetings. A few days before the first Thursday in the month, the secretary for the time being sent to each member a post-card on which was written x = 5; or whatever other day of the month the first Thursday fell upon. Doubtless many speculations and many absurd conclusions were caused in the minds of servants who took in these post-cards.
The Club had no rules, save the interdict upon non-attendance for any other reason than illness or absence from town. Nor had it any avowed purpose beyond the periodic assembling of friends. True, we had originally intended to discuss scientific and philosophical questions; and one of our members continued, for some time, to press us to carry out our intention. But though scientific questions often cropped up, and led to conversations, they were never formally introduced. Time was spent chiefly in lively talk, of which badinage formed a considerable element.
There did, however, grow up something like a function. It became the custom to discuss, after dinner, the affairs of the scientific societies: sometimes those of the British Association, but more frequently those of the Royal Society. These consultations had their effects, though in what exact way I do not know. In course of time the existence of the Club became known in the scientific world, and it was, we heard, spoken of with bated breath—was indeed, I believe, supposed to exercise more power than it did.
It is not surprising that its influence was felt. Among its members were three who became Presidents of the Royal Society, and five who became Presidents of the British Association. Of the others one was for a time President of the College of Surgeons; another President of the Chemical Society; and a third of the Mathematical Society. To enumerate all their titles, and honours, and the offices they filled, would occupy too much space. Of the nine, I was the only one who was fellow of no society, and had presided over nothing.
As is implied by an instance referred to above, we occasionally invited men of mark, home or foreign, as guests. Of the one class I may name, Prof. Clifford, Prof. Masson, and Mr. Robert Lowe (afterwards Lord Sherbrooke); and of the other class M. Auguste Laugel, Prof. Helmholtz, and Professor Asa Gray. In the course of many years there were various others whose names I do not recall.
Our monthly meetings extended from October to June, and towards the close of June we had, for many years, a supplementary meeting which was something more than a dinner. On each of these occasions the married members brought their wives; and thus sometimes raised the number of the party to fifteen. We left town early on the Saturday afternoon for some promising place, and boated or rambled before our dinner; drove on Sunday to a pleasant spot where we picnic’d; dined together again on the Sunday evening; and then some returned to town while others remained over Sunday night. On the first occasion we took up our quarters at Skindle’s Hotel, on the banks of the Thames at Taplow, and had our picnic-luncheon on the Sunday under Burnham Beeches; and once, if not twice, afterwards, we went to the same place. Another year saw us at Windsor; on which occasion we picnic’d in a distant part of the forest. And when the Oatlands Park Hotel was utilized, St. George’s Hill was the place for our Sunday’s luncheon. Though most of us at that time were not young, we were in tolerable vigour; and these meetings, enlivened by the presence of ladies, were very enjoyable. Sometimes at our picnics a volume of poems was produced. Either in Windsor Forest or at St. George’s Hill, Huxley, I remember, read aloud to us Tennyson’s “Œnone.” After some ten years, several motives caused the cessation of these meetings in the country.
The Club has now (September 1887) nearly completed its twenty-third year. Time has of late been diminishing our number. Spottiswoode was the first to leave us—dying prematurely: I think, before he was sixty. Last year we lost Busk, but at a good age,—seventy-six I believe. Of the remaining seven there are but three in good health. But our ranks have never been thinned by desertions or by differences. During these twenty-three years nothing has occurred to disturb the harmony of our meetings.
The following is an extract from a letter to Youmans dated 17 December 1864. The last paragraph is the one of chief interest; but, while I am quoting, I may as well quote some preceding ones, which are not without their significance.
“Again let me express my obligations for your unwearied exertions on behalf, both of my books and my pecuniary interests. . . .
There are two things that strike me respecting the accounts. . . . One is that there seems to have been forgotten my protest against being credited with the proceeds of the sale of the re-printed Essays, at this early period of the transaction. Let me remind you that I declined receiving the profits of the reprints, until after those gentlemen who had guaranteed the cost of the stereotype plates had been reimbursed. . . . The amount of 242 dollars 81 cents, credited to me should be credited to them. . . .
“The prospects of The Reader about which I told you, are highly encouraging. Huxley, Tyndall, Cairns, Galton and Pollock are the editors. And among other proprietors of weight, in addition to those I before named, are Darwin and Lubbock and Mill, whose consent to become a proprietor I obtained a few days ago.”
The Reader, here referred to, was a weekly paper (of The Spectator form) predominantly literary, and in a smaller degree scientific, which had been founded a year or two before by Mr. T. Hughes, q.c., Mr. Ludlow, and others who, dissatisfied with existing papers of the class, were desirous of having one which should be candid and impartial in its criticisms, and liberal in its views of affairs—not political affairs so much as social affairs. As habitually happens with new journals, it inflicted considerable loss upon its founders; and, weary of what I suppose at length seemed to them no longer a hopeful undertaking, they were anxious to get out of it—if possible by sale. Mr. J. N. Lockyer, who edited the scientific department, giving reports of societies &c., was anxious that the paper should not drop, and was energetic in getting together a new proprietary. Among others he came to me, and, entering into his scheme sympathetically, I canvassed sundry of my friends with success. I took a share myself and induced Tyndall to take one. At my instigation Mr. Octavius Smith took several, I forget how many; Mr. Huth took five; a friend at Hendon, Mr. James Campbell took two; and I succeeded in inducing Mr. Mill also to become a proprietor. The following letter to him contains some details concerning our plan.
“The annexed circular briefly indicates an undertaking into which a number of those who have at heart the advance of liberal opinion are entering with much zeal. It is felt that if this opportunity of establishing on a safe footing an organ of scientific thought and of conscientious literary criticism is lost, it may be long before this very desirable object can be achieved.
The editorial organization is highly satisfactory. Professor Huxley will edit the department of Science aided by Prof. Tyndall. Mr. Francis Galton takes the department of Travels and Ethnology. Professor Cairns that of Political Economy and Political Philosophy. And Mr. Frederick Pollock [now Sir Frederick] that of Belles Lettres.
The paper is not yet quite paying its expenses; but it is scarcely to be doubted that with the concentration of faculty now about to be engaged upon it, it will soon do so; and may not improbably become a good investment. The paper has been purchased for £2250, and it has been resolved to issue 40 shares of £100: calling up £80 on each; so as to leave about £1000 working capital. Thirty-four are already taken up.
It is proposed at the beginning of the year to commence a new series of the paper; and it is suggested that at that time, along with the prospectus of the paper as re-organized and re-officered, there should be published the names of the proprietors, as an indication of the course which the paper is likely to take. Your name would add greatly to our prestige.”
I regretted afterwards that I took so active a part in the business; for it ended in disappointment and loss. Just as the new staff was starting, when there was no longer time for consideration, it was found needful to appoint a general editor. Partly because he was an amateur, and partly because he was not fully in sympathy with us, the general editor did not conduct matters as intended; and our own aims, as well as the expectations of our subscribers, were balked. After a period of decline a professional editor was appointed and things improved somewhat; but it was too late. Eventually we made over the paper to a Mr. Bendyshe, I think, in whose hands it died.
It seems that we were not daunted, however, as witness the following extract from a letter to Youmans written on January 14, 1867:—
“An attempt is being made here to establish a scientific journal, to do what The Reader was intended to do. My friend Mr. Campbell came to me the other day, proposing to give £1000 towards the capital, if such a thing were attempted. I mentioned it at the X, and the notion was well received. I propose that we shall take a year or so to organize matters, before making a start; and get our scientific friends throughout the kingdom to canvass their localities, so as to get a constituency to start with.”
I had utterly forgotten this scheme, and, by implication, do not remember what resulted. Possibly the movement was that which ended in the establishment of Nature.
Concerning The Reader I have omitted to say that, though I took no part in the management, I gave a little aid in the way of contributions. While it was in our hands I wrote for it four articles—two political and two scientific.
Save the articles just named, which were of course short, no writings for periodicals had been undertaken by me since 1860. A desire to make as rapid progress as my health would permit with my life-work, led me to negative all solicitations. But now, besides the above-named exceptions, there came a more important exception.
The Fortnightly Review had recently been established. Lewes, who was its first editor, had for some time wished me to write for it. I demurred for the reason just assigned; and probably should have continued to demur, had it not been for a cause described thus in a letter home dated 15 May, 1865:—
“Lewes has induced me to reply to Mill’s misrepresentation of me in his book on Hamilton. My reply will appear in the Fortnightly Review some two months hence.”
Not long afterwards, having occasion to write to Mill on some other matter, I named the fact that I was about to answer him. He made this response:—
“Nothing can be more agreeable to me than to hear that you are going to answer me in the Fortnightly Review. I hope you will not spare me. If you make out so strong a case (and no one is more likely to do so if it can be done) as to make it absolutely necessary for me to defend myself, I shall perhaps do so through the same Review; but not without a positive necessity. I have had enough for the present, of writing against a friend and ally.”
The following paragraph from a letter to my father, written on July 10, says, in connexion with the matter:—
“I dined with Mill yesterday, along with Bain and some others, and spent a very pleasant evening. As I remarked to him, it is rather curious that the day on which I first paid a visit to him should be the day on which I had just revised the proof of my article against him.”
I may here add that on sundry later occasions during Mr. Mill’s residence at Blackheath, and subsequently when he took a flat in Victoria Street, Westminster, I had the pleasure of dining with him. Among those whom I met there at intervals were Mr. and Mrs. Grote, Professor Cliffe Leslie, Lord and Lady Amberley, and, several times, Prof. Bain and his wife. These gatherings had not been long commenced or recommenced. Previously, I had seen Mr. Mill only at the India House; for after their marriage he and Mrs. Mill led a recluse life. It was, I believe, some years after her death before he began to receive friends. In manner he was quiet and unassuming. His face gave constant evidence of the extent to which in later life, as in his earlier life, his nervous system had been overtaxed; for he had frequent twitchings of some facial muscles. Another trait of expression I can recall: there was a certain habitual setting of the lips, implying, as it seemed to me, a conscious self-restraint. Too stern a discipline in his boyhood, and perhaps too serious a view of things in his later years, put, I think, an undue check on the display of pleasurable feelings. I do not remember his laugh; and my impression is that though he appreciated good things he did not laugh heartily. In fact his mental attitude as expressed in manner and conversation, was much the same as that shown by his address as Lord Rector at St. Andrews, which seemed to imply that life is for learning and working. Though, being a Utilitarian, knowledge and action must have been regarded by him as subordinate to the gaining of happiness, immediate or remote; yet, practically, this ultimate purpose seemed to be ignored. But though in him the means to happiness had come to occupy the foreground of consciousness almost to the extent of thrusting out the end, just as it does in the man of business who thinks only of making money, and almost forgets the uses of the money; yet he differed widely in the respect that this absorption in learning and working was not for self-benefit, but for the benefit of mankind.
Reverting to the matter from which this sketch of Mill has led me to digress, I have to add that the article in question was published on the 15th of July. Thereupon he sent me the copy of a note which he proposed to add to a new edition of his work on Hamilton, then in the press, correcting the mis-statement of my view, on which his argument against me in his Logic was based. As this note did not rightly recognize the nature of the mis-statement, I wrote to him pointing out more clearly what this was. There presently came a reply acknowledging the error. I quote a sentence for the purpose of exhibiting his candour.
“It is evident that I have again a misapprehension of your opinion to confess and correct, since you do not acknowledge it as yours in the mode in which it is stated by me.”
Though it is three months later in date, I may fitly add here a relevant passage from a letter to my father written on October 3:—
“John Mill has just sent me the sixth edition of his Logic, containing, among other changes, considerable modification in the chapter which he devotes to the question at issue between us. He seeks to meet some of the arguments of my article in the Fortnightly. . . . I am quite satisfied with the present aspect of the controversy.”
And thus ended a discussion which had been commenced by my essay on “The Universal Postulate,” published in The Westminister Review in 1853.
Soon after the article was issued, I became aware that there existed good reason for writing it. I am reminded of this discovery by the following extract which I find in a letter home dated 15 May:—
“I gave a dinner to Youmans last Friday, and asked, to meet him, Huxley, Tyndall, Hooker, Bain, Lewes, and Masson. It went off very well.”
Why this extract serves as a reminder is not very manifest. But it recalls to me the satisfaction which Prof. Youmans expressed that I had made this rejoinder to Mill’s reply; and his satisfaction was due to the fact that the rejoinder would dissipate a misapprehension current in America. That I had said nothing, was there understood to imply that I had nothing to say. Probably here, too, my silence was construed in this way.
One of the punishments of authorship, or, at any rate, authorship of certain kinds, is the almost inevitable subjection to alternative evils—those inflicted by declining controversy, and those inflicted by engaging in it. That which one constantly sees in oral disputes (that he who has the last word leaves on auditors the impression of having had the best of the argument) holds, too, of disputes carried on in print—holds even where the last word is also the first word; that is, where no notice is taken. The tendency to interpret absence of reply into inability to reply, is very general and almost irresistible. Even I have found myself on more than one occasion supposing that when no answer came no sufficient answer could be given; though I well know that there are commonly other causes. One is pre-occupation. Another is the belief that time spent in controversy is usually wasted. Opponents as candid and conscientious as Mill, in whom the love of truth predominates over the love of victory, are rarely met with. Hence the probabilities always are that in defence of the original misrepresentations (and most controversies arise out of misrepresentations), fresh misrepresentations will be made, and new issues raised, time after time; until the original question is lost sight of and the thing ends in unsettled side-issues.
And yet, strong as are the reasons for avoiding controversy, the reasons for entering into it are sometimes even stronger; for an unanswered objection or unrectified mis-statement is often extremely mischievous. For example, I am well aware that criticisms made upon the theory concerning our space-consciousness set forth in the Principles of Psychology, which might be effectually disposed of, have for years had a damaging effect on the estimate of the book.
My summer and autumn movements this year will be sufficiently indicated by the following extracts from letters to my father, of which the first, dated July 4, gives a key to the rest.
“I met Mr. Smith last night at an election meeting of J. S. Mill’s supporters. [Mill was just then a candidate for Westminster, which he afterwards represented in Parliament]. He asked me to go to Scotland. They are to leave in about a fortnight, and I am to join them early. I shall therefore probably come down to Derby about the close of next week, and spend a week or so with you before going North.”
The next was written on the 10th.
“I had given notice to Mrs. Sharpe to leave at the end of this week. But if you will come up here, I will stay for a few days longer, so that you may have a week in town. The Youmanses will probably leave for Switzerland in a week or ten days. You could, after being a week here, go on to Brighton or elsewhere, if you felt so disposed.”
He came, and I, after a time, went to Derby. In a letter to him written thence, giving an account of my mother’s health, I find the passage:—
“I voted for Evans and Colville on Saturday. You have probably seen before now that they were returned by small majorities.”
This was the only vote for a Member of Parliament I ever gave. Certain property which had come to me from my uncle William, gave me a qualification; and when I shortly afterwards sold this property, I was disqualified. Though since that time I have had a qualification in London, and might have registered, I have never done so. Not that the election of Liberal or Conservative has been a matter of indifference to me; for, speaking generally, my sympathies have been with the Liberal candidate. But in most cases my dissent from the beliefs tacitly held by both political parties on the question of the functions of the State, which I regard as the question of most importance, has been such that I have had little motive to support one candidate rather than another. In fact as, of late years, Liberals have vied with Conservatives in extending legislative regulations in all directions, there has been nothing to choose between them, and therefore, to me, no temptation to vote.
Returning from this parenthetic explanation, I may quote next from a letter dated 6 August.
“I arrived at Ardtornish last night and was cordially received. The Earps and I [Mr. Earp was my friend Lott’s senior partner] arrived at Oban on the Wednesday evening as intended, and spent Thursday and Friday very pleasantly, partly in showing them the neighbourhood and partly in sea-fishing. The weather was very fine, while with you we hear it was raining. On Saturday they started with me by the steamer that goes to Staffa, which was to drop me at Ardtornish in going, but in consequence of the tides it went round Mull the other way and I had to go to Staffa with them. As I had never before seen it, I was not sorry—it is worth seeing.”
Written on the 31st, saying that I was about to leave Ardtornish next day, a letter also said that I thought of going South by the East coast, which I had never seen. This intention was fulfilled; as witness the following lines sent from Durham on the 4th September:—
“I stopped on my way at Dunbar, Berwick, Newcastle, Tynemouth. From this picturesque old place I think of going to-morrow to Barnard Castle and thence to Richmond. I shall probably be home on Thursday or Friday.”
After spending a little time at Derby, I reached town on the 18th of September, and was settled in Kensington Gardens Square on the 22nd.
The first quotable passage from home correspondence after that date, is one written on October 3, as follows:—
“Inclosed I send you a letter from Ernest Renan, the French Professor who has recently obtained so much celebrity by his Vie de Jesus. If you can make it all out, you will see that it is very satisfactory—especially the intimation that First Principles is likely to be translated into French.”
This was the first intimation of the kind which came to me from abroad; but the French did not after all take the initiative. This was taken by the Russians. In the following March I received from St. Petersburg information that translations were in progress, or had been published, I forget which; and several Russian translations had made their appearance during the five years which elapsed before there appeared the first French translation.
Nothing further worthy of record is mentioned in correspondence until December 18, when, in a letter home, there occurs a passage describing something new in the course of my work:—
“I have been very busy lately with the microscope studying the circulating system in plants, and have arrived at some interesting results. I shall probably devote myself to it a good deal while I am at Derby.”
This I did. I obtained from the hothouses and greenhouses at Kew, a large number of cuttings, chiefly of aberrant types of plants, and passed much of my time at home in experimenting upon them. After my return to town the investigations continued. A letter of January 30, 1866, says:—
“I am still busy with my microscope: usually working with it at the same time that I am dictating; but, as a result which you may imagine, dictating slowly, and not very well. As I write this, I have under the microscope a very beautiful preparation, serving very admirably as evidence of my hypothesis.”
To Professor Youmans on March 2, I described a further phase of the matter:—
“I should have written to you again before this time, but that I have been of late so very busy with certain investigations in Vegetal Physiology, of which your sister [she had remained in England] has possibly by this time told you something; and during the last month more especially I have been compelled to devote myself wholly to them, in consequence of having committed myself to a paper for the Linnæan Society on the subject. This I read last night. It passed off very satisfactorily. I shall of course send you a copy of the paper when it is printed; but as there will be a plate of illustrations it will probably be a long while before you receive it.”
The inquiry which came to issue in this manner, had arisen in the course of my work. When treating of physiological development, something had to be said about circulation in plants. Botanical books gave no accounts from which I could frame an intelligible conception; and I found it needful to look into the facts for myself. There was a manifest inadequacy in the accepted statement that the movement of liquid is through the wood; for there arose the question,—What course does it take in young plants which are still succulent, and in those parts of adult plants which have not yet formed wood? Is circulation in these cases carried on by diffusion from cell to cell, or is it carried on through definite canals? If in young tissues definite canals exist, as they do, it would be strange did the moving liquids neglect these and pass through the general substance, which is comparatively difficult to permeate. But I did not argue thus; though a certain friend of mine, who regards me as prone to a priori reasoning, would doubtless suppose that I did. My argument was wholly inductive and unguided by hypothesis; for, until observations and experiments had suggested one, no view at all was entertained by me. The result, however, was to show that the inference which might have been drawn a priori was true. In young plants; in the leaves and soft shoots of old ones; throughout all parts of adult plants that remain succulent, like the balsams; and in such aberrant plants as cactuses, which, between their joints, are long before they develop wood; the vessels are the channels which the sap follows. But whatever wood is formed or forming, it becomes the channel followed by the sap: the adjacent vessels, deserted by liquid, become filled with air—not, as was supposed, because they are air-carriers, but simply as dead or disused organs.
This inquiry developed into further ones respecting the mechanics of the circulation and the forces which cause and aid it. Incidentally some traits of structure, too, were observed. Details will be found in the Appendix to Principles of Biology, Vol. II.*
Conforming to its title, this chapter ought, I suppose, to include an account of all that occurred while the second volume of the Biology was being written. But, besides entailing undue length, entire conformity to its title would make it include sundry events momentous enough to occupy places by themselves. I therefore pass over a period intervening between the reading of the paper just described, and the completion of the book: thinking it best to say here what little has to be said about the book as eventually published.
Few parts of my work give me more pleasure in the execution. In the first division, “Morphological Development,” certain views which had long been waiting for full expression found a place. There came the opportunity for, and indeed almost the necessity for, a speculation concerning the modes in which the two higher types of plants, endogens and exogens, have been evolved out of a lower type of plant. That there has been such an evolution is an inevitable implication; and a probable mode in which it has taken place had to be shown. Originally standing quite apart from this, but eventually becoming united to it, was a conclusion towards which I had for some years been gravitating respecting the relations between the foliar and axial parts of plants, and in support of which I had collected many specimens: the conclusion being that the two are not primordially distinct, as was alleged, but that the foliar organ is the primitive unit, and the axial organ the derivative. Then, too, there had to be worked out under the general head of “Morphological Differentiation” that hypothesis respecting the shapes of organisms and their parts, which, first reached in 1851, was sketched out in the “Law of Organic Symmetry” in 1858; and beyond the developing of this in relation to the external shapes of organisms and their parts, there came the extension of it to the shapes of certain internal parts.
Scarcely less interesting to me was the subject of “Physiological Development,” forming the next division. The point of view from which the phenomena were contemplated, was, of course, the same as that from which the preceding group of phenomena were contemplated. How are physiological differentiations to be interpreted in terms of the re-distribution of matter and motion—as consequent, that is, upon the relations of parts to incident forces? For clearly, if the survival of the fittest among organisms as wholes, is to be regarded as a process of equilibration between actions in the environment and actions in the organism; so must the local modifications of their parts, external and internal, be regarded as survivals of structures the reactions of which are in equilibrium with the actions they are subject to. This general view had to be carried out in the interpretation of such contrasts as those between outer and inner tissues, and those between parts of outer tissues exposed to one set of forces and parts exposed to another. And then, in animals, it had to be similarly carried out in its application to internal organs: especially those of the alimentary canal and its appendages. Throughout all the interpretations there ran the general thesis that, while the majority of these differentiations are indirectly caused by survival of the fittest, there is part of them, and that, too, the primordial part, due to the direct action of incident forces.
Lastly, under the head of “Laws of Multiplication” came a division in which there had to be set forth in detail the idea originally sketched out some fifteen years before, in the “Theory of Population deduced from the General Law of Animal Fertility.” Separated from crudities and superfluities, the idea withstood a wider comparison with the facts; and while apparently applicable to the organic world as a whole, seemed also in harmony with the evidence presented by races of men differently conditioned. Here, on recalling the matter, I am struck by the fact, which I have never before observed, that long before reaching the general conception of Evolution as set forth in terms of the re-distribution of matter and motion, there was a manifest tendency to contemplate organic phenomena from this same physical point of view. For the various conclusions reached were so many corollaries from the doctrine that in proportion as the matter and motion expended in maintaining individual life are great in their amounts, the amounts available for the maintenance of the species are small, and vice versâ: the implication being that fertility is inversely oroportionate to the size and heterogeneity of the species and the activity and complexity of its life.
Am I going to say something about the reception of the volume? No: for a very sufficient reason—it had no reception. In other words it was not sent round to the press. My decision not to send it was made after receiving definite proof that readers had been deterred from looking at my books by the totally wrong conceptions of them they had gained from reviews. This proof was given by Professor Bain. He told me that during a conversation with John Mill, in which the Principles of Psychology was referred to, he, Bain, confessed that he had not read it. Mill expressed great surprise; whereupon Bain explained that the impression gained from notices of it had deterred him. He went on to say that when, subsequently, he read the book, he found to his astonishment that the reviews had not given him the remotest conception of its contents. Receiving as I thus did a verification of a belief towards which I was tending, I directed my publishers not to issue any copies of the second volume of the Biology to the critical journals.
Of the various occurrences occupying the hiatus indicated towards the close of the last chapter, the first in order of time was a crisis in my career which happened at the beginning of 1866.
During the preceding year, my attention was decisively drawn to the fact that my expenditure, though modest in amount, continually outran my income, and forced me to draw upon capital more frequently or more seriously. A letter recalls the fact that early in 1863, the subscribers to my serial, originally 430 in number, had fallen to 350: the ending of First Principles having, I presume, been an occasion for the withdrawals of many, and persual of the early part of the Biology, uninteresting to the majority, having caused further withdrawals. Moreover, among the remaining names not a few had to be crossed out after futile efforts made by the publishers to obtain payments of subscriptions in arrear.
The difficulty was becoming otherwise complicated. My father was now 75; and though he maintained his erect carriage and preserved tolerable health, his energies, bodily and mental, were of course flagging. As a consequence, while his professional engagements fell off, those which remained occasionally proved too much for him: so much so, indeed, that in more than one letter I advised him to retire altogether, rather than make himself ill. My mother, too, had now become a confirmed invalid; and illness is always expensive. Thus their requirements were increasing at the same time that the means of meeting them were decreasing; and in the absence of returns from teaching, my father’s other sources of income were obviously insufficient. Of course the result was that I had to aid; and the required aid was certain to become greater year by year.
During his then recent stay in England, I had talked the matter over with my friend Prof. Youmans—probably in the course of the week he spent with me in Kensington Gardens Square. Such, at least, is the implication of the following passage from a letter written to him on October 28, 1865.
“Since you left I have obtained from the share-broker at Derby, through whose hands most of my money transactions have gone, the data I needed; and, joining them with my bank account and other memoranda, I have been able to make a tolerably definite calculation of my losses. I found that my guess was not far from the mark. It turns out that since 1850 I have sunk nearly £1,100 in writing and publishing books; and the amount will considerably exceed £1,100 by the time I have finished the volume now in progress. . . .
Not finding the result any more encouraging than I supposed, I have not, as you may expect, found any reason to modify my intention of issuing, along with No. 15, the notice of cessation at the close of the volume.”
This intention was carried out. Before the notice was issued, much anxious thought and no little painful feeling were passed through. It was grievous thus to give up my life-work when already a considerable part of it had been satisfactorily executed. But I had either to go on wasting away what little I possessed and neglecting my responsibilities, or else to abandon the undertaking; and I sorrowfully decided upon the last.
It shortly appeared, however, that the undertaking was not to be abandoned without an effort being made to prevent the abandonment. The first indication of such an effort came to me in the shape of a remarkable proposal from Mr. J. S. Mill. Usually I find it desirable to omit unimportant parts of letters quoted; but here it seems as well to give in full Mr. Mill’s letter and my reply to it.
On arriving here last week, I found the December livraison of your Biology, and I need hardly say how much I regretted the announcement in the paper annexed to it. What the case calls for, however, is not only regret, but remedy; and I think it is right that you should be indemnified by the readers and purchasers of the series for the loss you have incurred by it. I should be glad to contribute my part, and should like to know at how much you estimate the loss, and whether you will allow me to speak to friends and obtain subscriptions for the remainder. My own impression is that the sum ought to be raised among the original subscribers.
In the next place, I cannot doubt that the publication in numbers though it may have been the best means which presented itself at the time, has had an unfavourable effect on the sale, and that a complete treatise with your name to it would attract more attention, obtain more buyers, and would be pretty sure to sell an edition in a few years. What I propose is that you should write the next of your treatises, and that I should guarantee the publisher against loss, i.e. should engage, after such length of time as may be agreed on, to make good any deficiency that may occur, not exceeding a given sum, that sum being such as the publisher may think sufficient to secure him. With this guarantee you could have your choice of publishers, and I do not think it likely that there would be any loss, while I am sure that it could in no case be considerable. I beg that you will not consider this proposal in the light of a personal favour, though even if it were I should still hope to be permitted to offer it. But it is nothing of the kind,—it is a simple proposal of co-operation for an important public purpose, for which you give your labour and have given your health.