Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXV.: A VOLUME OF THE BIOLOGY. 1862—64. Æt. 42—44. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XXXV.: A VOLUME OF THE BIOLOGY. 1862—64. Æt. 42—44. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 2 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. 2 (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
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A 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.
[* ]The first book by Mr. Spencer which the Messrs. Appleton published was “Education,” in November, 1860. Since then twenty-five separate works have been printed by this house, including the “Autobiography.” From the start a royalty payment has been made to Mr. Spencer, although he had no legal protection for his writings in the United States. From the records of the house, it appears that, in the early years, plates were imported from England, but in many cases before and in all cases since the International Copyright Act went into effect, the composition and electrotyping have been done at the expense of the American publishers. It may be added here that from the beginning until December 31st, 1903, the Messrs. Appleton have sold 368,-755 volumes of Mr. Spencer’s writings, but these figures, of course, take no account of the sale of unauthorized editions during the years previous to the adoption of International Copyright.—Publishers’ Note.