Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXVII.: ANOTHER VOLUME OF THE BIOLOGY. 1864—67. Æt. 44—47. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XXXVII.: ANOTHER VOLUME OF THE BIOLOGY. 1864—67. Æt. 44—47. - 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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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.
[* ]One and twenty years have elapsed since the paper above described was published. To my surprise I have nowhere seen mentioned any attempt to either verify or disprove the conclusions it contains. Some passing references to the paper have, I believe, been made; but the text books continue to repeat substantially the same story as before. I have lately referred to the most recent authoritative work—the translation of Sachs On the Physiology of Plants; and in it I find it still stated that the circulation is through the wood: the statement being stretched so as cover the facts by saying that it is always through lignified tissue, and including under that name vascular bundles as well as wood-cells—a proceeding which seems to me about as reasonable as it would be to group a man’s ears with his bones because both have a basis of cartilage. Twice during the interval I have myself verified the leading proposition of the paper in a simple and conclusive way. The way is this:—Choose a young plant some three or four inches high, in a greenhouse where it has been grown in soft, prepared soil. Insert a trowel at such distance from it as not to touch its rootlets, and take it up bodily along with the mass of soil imbedding its roots. Immerse the mass in a vessel of water; so that the loose soil may fall away and leave the roots bare. Fill a wide-mouthed bottle with a strong decoction of logwood; insert in it the roots of the young plant; and there leave it, for, say, twelve hours. Then cut through obliquely the stem or a leaf stalk, and apply to the cut surface a little chloride of tin in solution. Immediately the characteristic purple will be seen in the vascular bundles; and microscopic examination will show that the coloured liquid is confined to the vessels.