Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLIII.: DEVELOPING THE PSYCHOLOGY. 1867—70. Æt. 47—50. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XLIII.: DEVELOPING THE PSYCHOLOGY. 1867—70. Æt. 47—50. - 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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DEVELOPING THE PSYCHOLOGY.
My daily efforts for some four months before the Italian tour just narrated, had been expended on the “Data of Psychology”—the first division of the treatise in its developed form. With this I struggled to make some progress notwithstanding my nervous relapse; and to that end, as already described, took Mr. Duncan with me to the racquet court, and alternated between dictation and games.
Some of my friends have expressed surprise that I should be able to carry on my work by dictation; and others have expressed surprise that I should be able to interrupt a course of thought, for the purpose of taking exercise, and then resume it. “I do not think properly until I take pen in hand,” said one of them; “and I am at a loss to understand how you can reel off your ideas to an amanuensis.” Another described himself as unable to bear interruption when once he got his thoughts bent to a subject.
The solution is much simpler than at first appears. In an early chapter of this volume I described the way in which my conceptions on this or that subject developed themselves. I said that my method was not that of sitting down to a problem, and puzzling over it till I came to some conclusion, but was that of letting my ideas about it slowly take shape. This process usually went on for years. As the time approached when the conception had to be set forth, it was of course more frequently dwelt upon. The divisions of it gradually made themselves clear; and presently a scheme of chapters was arranged. Then each chapter, as I came near to it, fell more or less completely into sections; and eventually, before writing a section, the ideas to be set down in it assumed tolerable distinctness. Thus the essential part of the work—the thinking—was done before-hand; and the process of writing or dictating became simply that of putting into words the thoughts already elaborated. It was therefore easy to take up the thread when broken, and to any idea that had been set down, join the idea already internally arranged to follow it. I felt no such difficulty as is doubtless felt by those who evolve their ideas while writing; and who, if interrupted, lose their hold on thoughts which are just rising into consciousness.
And here, while comparing these two modes of composition, I see that the contrast explains some traits of style respectively accompanying them. Setting forth ideas already reached is accompanied by but little emotion; whereas evolving ideas from moment to moment, while writing, inevitably causes exaltation of feeling. In the one case there is calmness; in the other there is fervour. But calmness is not favourable to strong and vivid forms of expression; whereas fervour prompts picturesque phrases, and vigorous metaphors. The telling expressions used by my friend who says he does not think to purpose until he gets pen in hand, have often raised my envy. It is doubtless true that for purposes of philosophy, clearness rather than strength is the desideratum. But for writing of a not strictly philosophical or scientific kind, one may fitly desire to use those modes of embodying thoughts which result from emotion and are calculated to excite emotion.
Resuming the thread of my narrative, I have to add that when, after partially recovering from the effects of my Italian tour, I recommenced work, I reverted to the alternation of exercise and dictation—substituting rowing for racquets. The part of the Serpentine above the bridge is within 10 minutes walk of Queen’s Gardens; and here, on fine mornings in May and June, and again in the Autumn, I passed two or three hours: the shrubbery overhanging the water on the west bank, affording convenient shelters under which to moor the boat while dictating.
My journey to the furthest point South I had hitherto reached, was followed, three months later, by a journey which carried me to the northernmost point of my various excursions. In July I went as far as Sutherlandshire in search of fishing, and stayed for a week at Inverann at the mouth of the Shin. But the long drought of that summer continued, and I came away disappointed.
On my way back I bethought me of Inveroran, a place between Tyndrum and Glencoe, where there was salmon fishing free to all staying at the hotel. Common sense had told me that free salmon fishing must be bad salmon fishing; but common sense had misled me. Common sense, which would reject as monstrously absurd the statement that a whale is more nearly akin to a man than to a shark, always proceeds upon the assumption that the insides of things are just what the outsides might lead you to expect; whereas, not uncommonly, realities are unlike appearances. So it proved at Inveroran; owing to circumstance which no longer exist. A letter to Lott, written thence on Aug. 13, must here be quoted—
“You were quite right in your opinion, given to G. Holme, about my standing for Derby. If they would pay my expenses and give me a salary into the bargain, I would not go into parliament. I could not do my present work and parliamentary work too; and my present work I hold to be by far the most important. Some day, if a constituency should ask me to become a candidate, I mean to give them (and the public) “a bit of my mind,” as to the relative values of those who represent public opinion in the House of Commons, and those who mould public opinion by books.
How about our excursion? What do you say to a fortnight in North Yorkshire? It would be new to both of us, and they say there is very fine scenery there. We could meet there conveniently on my way south, and might diverge into the Lake district if we did not like it. . .
As you did not come up to be my guest in London at Xmas or Easter, I propose that you make amends by coming to be my guest in Yorkshire, or wherever else we go.
I have had some capital fishing since the wet weather set in—far better than I looked for.”
Many years elapsed before there occurred an opportunity for carrying into effect the intention expressed in the first of the foregoing paragraphs. It did eventually occur, however, and I then fulfilled the intention. My apprehension was that general reprobation would fall on me in consequence; but, to my surprise, there came general approbation. I suspect that a chief cause for this was that the tone of the House of Commons was already undergoing that degradation which has since become so conspicuous.
The proposal made in the second paragraph was presently carried out. My friend and I met at Harrogate, and, taking rail to Ilkley, walked the first day thence to Bolton Abbey, where we lingered till the bats were flying about in the evening. Something more than a week was spent in our subsequent ramble: ascending the valley of the Wharfe to Kettlewell; from there over to Middleham; up Wensleydale to Hawes; down the valley of the Eden to Appleby; over the moors or fells to High Force on the Tees; down the course of that river to Darlington; and thence to York, where we parted for our respective homes.
I have not yet mentioned the fact that, for some years, the Leweses had been residing at The Priory, North Bank. The distance from Queen’s Gardens is but a mile; and this proximity conduced to more frequent intercourse. There arose a standing engagement to go and lunch with them whenever I found it convenient. The motive for the arrangement was in part that we might have opportunities for conversations, enjoyed on both sides, which were impracticable during their Sunday-afternoon assemblies.
I am led to name here this established usage because my return from Scotland this year must have been the occasion for one of those witticisms which George Eliot sometimes uttered. I had, as commonly happened after an interval of absence, been giving an account of my doings; and, among other things, had laughingly described the dismay caused in two fishermen at Inveroran by the success of my heterodox flies. This led to an inquiry concerning the nature of my heterodoxy. I explained that I did not believe in the supposed critical powers of salmon and sea-trout, but held that if one of them, being hungry, saw something it took for a fly, it would rise; and that consequently my aim was to make the best average representation of an insect buzzing on the surface of the water. “Yes,” she said, “you have such a passion for generalizing, you even fish with a generalization.”
This reference to her good things reminds me of one which Lewes told me she had uttered at the expense of Dr. A———, a friend of theirs who was remarkable for his tendency to dissent from whatever opinion another uttered. After a conversation in which he had repeatedly displayed this tendency, she said to him “Dr. A——— how is it that you always take your colour from your company?” “I take my colour from my company?” he exclaimed—“What do you mean?” “Yes,” she replied, “the opposite colour.”
Our talk, if not very often enlivened by witticisms, always contained a mixture of the gay with the grave: good stories and a little badinage breaking our discussions, which were generally quite harmonious; for there were but few points on which we disagreed. Then after luncheon came a walk, usually in Regent’s Park, in which I joined: another hour of interesting conversation being the accompaniment.
Though they were partial adherents of M. Comte my friends did not display much respect for the object which he would have us worship. Reverence for humanity in the abstract seemed, in them, to go along with irreverence for it in the concrete. Few of these occasions I have described, passed without comment from them on the unintelligence daily displayed by men—now in maintaining so absurd a curriculum of education (which they reprobated just as much as I did), now in the follies of legislation, which continually repeat, with but small differences, the follies of the past, now in the irrationalities of social habits.
I have myself often startled people by the paradox that mankind go right only when they have tried all possible ways of going wrong—intending it, of course, to be taken not quite literally. Of late, however, I have observed sundry cases in which, instead of going beyond the fact, it falls short of it—cases in which, having found the right, people deliberately desert it for the wrong. They do this even in simple household usages, where a small modicum of sense might have been expected to prevent them. A generation ago salt-cellars were made of convenient shapes—either ellipses or elongated parallelograms: the advantage being that the salt-spoon, placed lengthwise, remained in its place. But, for some time past, fashion has dictated circular salt-cellars, on the edges of which the salt-spoon will not remain without skilful balancing: it falls on the cloth. Table-implements afford another example. In my boyhood a jug was made of a form at once convenient and graceful. The body of the jug had a shape deviating but little from a sphere, and therefore had the advantage that however the jug was inclined the surface of the contained liquid had, for a considerable time, nearly the same area; so that, with increasing inclination, pouring out went on at a tolerably uniform rate. The spout, too, was sufficiently large; and of such shape that it would deliver either a small or a large quantity without waste. And then, within the limits of convenience, the outline of jug and handle admitted of numerous elegant combinations of curves. Now, however, the prevailing—indeed almost universal—form of jug in use, is a frustum of a cone, with a miniature spout. It combines all possible defects. When anything like full, it is impossible to pour out a small quantity without part of the liquid trickling down beneath the spout; and a larger quantity cannot be poured out without exceeding the limits of the spout and running over on each side of it. If the jug is half empty, the tilting must be continued for a long time before any liquid comes; and then, when it does come, it comes with a rush; because its surface has now become so large that a small inclination delivers a great deal. To all which add that the shape is as ugly a one as can well be hit upon. Still more extraordinary is the folly of a change made in another utensil of daily use. Till within these few years, an extinguisher had universally the form of a hollow cone. Nothing could be better. It would fit any candle; it went down upon it until it was arrested by the melted edge of the candle; and it then formed a chamber in which the smoke was shut up and the wick preserved from damage. Now, however, we meet with extinguishers made in the form of a hollow cylinder with a hemispherical end. When one is put on a candle (if it will go over it at all) it descends until the hemispherical end squashes the wick into the melted composition: the result being that when, next day, the extinguisher is taken off, the wick, imbedded in the solidified composition, cannot be lighted without difficulty. Here, then, are three of the commonest household appliances, good forms of which have been deliberately abandoned and bad forms adopted.
One reason why good things thus fail to hold their ground against bad ones, recently came to my knowledge. For twenty years I had used with great satisfaction a kind of inkstand which possesses every desirable trait. It is capacious, stable, checks evaporation, keeps out the dust, and allows the depth of the dip to be adjusted to a nicety. I recommended it to some friends, and tried to buy samples to send them. None of the stationers of whom I inquired knew anything about it. At length I went to the wholesale producer, Perry; and it was only because his people had some old stock remaining that I obtained it even there, for they had ceased to make it. I asked the manager why things which, when they came in, were recognized as eminently good, disappeared again—why the stationers did not keep them. “Oh! Sir,” he replied, “when our travellers go round, the stationers, after a short time, will not take them. ‘We had some of these last year,’ they say: ‘show us your novelties.’ Always the cry for something fresh.” If we go behind this, it is clear that the stationer wants the last new things, because his customers want them; and that they buy them without thinking whether they are better or worse than the old things. Thus articles in every way admirable are actually expelled from the market! And then the insane love of change shown in such cases, we find accompanied by an insane resistance to change in other cases! Where cogent reasons for giving up established usages are manifest to every one, people persist in them; and where there is every reason for adhering to what they have got, they are eager for something else!
But I am getting too discursive. Let me return to an account of my doings in the days which were now passing.
On preparing to do this I suddenly find that I am promising more than I can perform. Of incidents during the remaining part of this year and the early part of the next, my memory contains no traces; and on referring to letters I find scarcely anything to help me. One solitary fact of significance is named in a letter to Youmans dated 19 Sept.; and this is of more interest to me than to the reader—the fact, namely, that another of my books had been taken in hand by a French translator: making three that were simultaneously in progress. Nothing more worth mention occurs before the 15th of March 1869. Then comes a letter containing the following passage:—
“Certainly, the falling off in the American sales of my books last year is somewhat unexpected. The Biology, and the second edition of First Principles, cannot yet have returned to me the cost of the stereotype plates; so that thus far I am rather out of pocket by the American editions than a gainer by them. It seems odd, too, that with an increased number of volumes on sale, the return should be much less instead of much more. I suppose it must all be taken as proof that the public attention flags when, as you say, nothing has been done to excite it.
“It is, however, a consolatory fact for me that I have no longer any reason to complain that public appreciation here is so much less than it is in America. The relation between the two is now very decisively reversed. Last year my net profit from the sale of books (leaving out the subscriptions for the serial) was considerably more than double that which the account shows to have resulted from the American sales. So you must not in future make any comparisons between the American and English publics to the disadvantage of the latter.”
I should have said, however, that the two sums compared did not measure the numbers of books sold; since my profit per copy from sales in England is double that yielded by sales in America. Bearing in mind, too, that the retail price per copy in America is somewhat lower, it would seem that the numbers sold in the two countries respectively did not differ much.
Doubtless the increased sales in England were largely due to the energetic action taken by my friends Mill, Huxley, Tyndall, Lubbock, and Busk, in 1866; and to the consequent attention drawn to my books—an attention which was doubtless increased when statements about the American testimonial were made public here. Let me add that from this time forth I had no adverse circumstances to contend with. The remainder of my life-voyage was through smooth waters.
No memories were raised by coming upon the following sentence in a letter written on 14 April 1869:—“Though better, I am still not well, and am leaving town to-day for a short ramble in the country.” But for a letter written on June 25, I should have failed to identify the occasion as one on which I went first to Oxford (whence, before twenty-four hours had passed, I fled to escape invitations); then walked to Blenheim, where I rambled about the park, and slept at Woodstock; and on subsequent days went through Evesham to Tewkesbury, and into the country beyond. The passage which recalled these incidents was the following:—
“The most striking fact, perhaps, is that which came to my knowledge when at Oxford lately. To my amazement I found that First Principles and the Principles of Biology are being used as text-books there, and questions for examination papers taken from them. Dr. Rolleston stopped a student and asked him, in my presence, whether he had entered on my books yet. He replied that he was just about to commence them.”
This passage I quote not so much for its intrinsic interest as because it introduces the statement of an anomalous fact. University College, London, was founded for the purpose of giving an unsectarian education, free from the ecclesiastical influences which pervade Oxford and Cambridge; and, by implication, it was to be the home of a liberal theology: tinged even with rationalism, if the opinions of its leading spirits indicated anything. Hence there might have been expected a sympathetic reception to books of an advanced kind, embodying what may be called a naturalistic philosophy as distinguished from a super-naturalistic philosophy. But while, in the head-quarters of orthodoxy, my books were being used as textbooks, they were not used at the place which, by contrast, might almost be called the head-quarters of heterodoxy. More than this. While at Oxford the authorities put them before the students, at University College they were not even included in the Library. Nay more than this even. Requests made by the students that one of them might be put in the Library received no attention. Two years after the foregoing extract was written, Dr. Bastian shewed me, in the book kept for the purpose, two requisitions for First Principles; one of them dated December 1869 and signed by ten students, and the other dated March 1870, also signed by ten students, and marked “third time”: all three, as it seems, having been ignored by the Council; for the book was not in the Library in September 1871.
How many things there are contrary to common sense! I have already named one in this chapter, and here is another.
A letter received during this absence from London recalls an incident which must be here mentioned—the formation of the Metaphysical Society. The letter was from Sir John Lubbock, asking whether I would become a member.
The Society was to have, he said, a somewhat remarkable character; for its members were to be men of the most diverse opinions, from Roman Catholics like Cardinal Manning at the one extreme, to agnostics like Huxley and Tyndall at the other extreme, and everything was to be an open question, even to the existence of a deity: original intentions which were, I believe, fairly well carried out. I declined to join for the reason that too much nervous expenditure would have resulted. Every attendance would have entailed a sleepless night; and I did not think that any benefit to be derived would have been worth purchase by this penalty: involving loss of my small working power next day. After the body was constituted I was again requested to join, and to attend the first meeting; but though Mr. Knowles, the secretary, through whom the request came, named, as a special reason for assenting, the fact that the first paper to be read was one by Mr. Richard Hutton, attacking my theory of the genesis of the moral sentiments, I persisted in my resolution.
Beyond those named above, various distinguished men joined the Society—Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Tennyson (who, with Mr. Knowles, I believe, had started the idea), the Rev. James Martineau, Sir J. F. Stephen, Dean Stanley &c. &c. At each meeting a paper by some member, which had been printed and circulated, was discussed. Several years subsequently, during an after-dinner conversation in which the proceedings were described as remarkably harmonious, a renewed suggestion was made by Mr. Knowles that I should join. After referring to the statement made that many of the members had so little thought in common that they slid by one another without grappling, I remarked that Mr. Knowles had better not press me, since most likely were I one of them I should insist on grappling, and that possibly the proceedings would cease to be so harmonious. A dozen years or so brought the Society to an end. Most of the topics of chief interest had been discussed, and no results produced, save perhaps a certain liberalization in the estimates formed by the members of one another’s views. No further results being promised, and the excitement of novelty having ceased, the attendance flagged and the Society dissolved.
I now come upon an incident of which the interest is more than personal—an incident, indeed, of which the impersonal interest is great; since it concerns the correction of a grave error in recent History, and the rectification of international feeling. It may be most conveniently introduced by an extract from a letter three years earlier in date, which I have reserved for quotation here, as being relevant to the transaction which now took place. Writing to Youmans on March 2d 1866, I said:—
“I recently met Mr. [Moncure] Conway, whose papers in the Fortnightly have been doing good service here, and have impressed me in his favour much more than when I first saw him. I took the opportunity of suggesting to him to do what I have very much wanted to see done, towards correcting the impressions of Americans respecting the original feeling of the English when the war broke out, and which, as you have heard me say, was quite different from what is supposed in the United States. Mr. Conway’s residence in England had, I found, enlightened him on the matter. He was quite aware that the original feeling here was that which I have described to you; and that it was changed as I told you. He said that he had been thinking of publishing something in America, giving the result of his experience here, towards rectifying American impressions. But he agreed that instead of giving his own impressions, it would be best to take the course I named, namely to give, in the order of their dates, extracts from the leading English periodicals, showing what the feeling originally was and how it gradually changed, and what were the adverse influences that changed it. I hope he will persevere in the intention which he expressed, of issuing in America a pamphlet containing this evidence.”
Either Mr. Conway did not carry out his expressed intention, or he did it with but little success; for the ill feeling in the United States not only continued, but became exacerbated. During the early part of 1869, the utterances of the American press against England were violent; and I feared that something more than a war of words might ensue. Knowing that the belief current in America was entirely untrue, I thought it very desirable that some attempt should be made to rectify it; and after talking the matter over with the Leweses, who encouraged me to take the step I contemplated, I drew up a letter for publication in one of the New York papers, giving the indisputable facts. With it I sent the following private letters to Youmans, dated May 22.
“The accompanying long letter, though addressed to you personally, is of course intended for publication. When you have read it, I think you will agree with me that the facts it contains should not any longer remain unknown to your countrymen.
I must leave you to communicate it to such of the New York daily papers as may be the fittest medium. I find the Tribune referred to as the bitterest of them all against England; and I suppose that some difficulty might hence arise if you took it there. Or else, in other respects, the Tribune would seem the most desirable. I suppose simultaneous publication in more than one, would not be practicable.
I do not know what may be the result of the publication of this letter on my personal relations with the American public. But, if it should be injurious, I am content to bear the injury.”
In due time there came a reply explaining that the publication had been delayed until he had laid before me the reasons for withdrawing my letter. Among other things he said:—
“I read your letter intended for publication with some surprise and with an unhesitating conviction that it would be unwise to print it. But, as you seemed to think the case both clear and urgent, I at once complied with your request and took it to the Tribune. You were quite in error in anticipating difficulty there; when I named to them its subject and author they ordered it to be set up at once. By a singular coincidence, both Fiske and Roberts happened to be in town, and I met them in the evening at the Century Club with Vaux, Holt, and Prompelly—all friends and co-workers. I handed the proof to Fiske, who looked over it and exclaimed ‘What does this mean? Surely Mr. Spencer isn’t going to publish this!’ All the others read it and they were all of the same mind. As for the subject of the letter, they were indifferent and agreed, first, that if you had been here at any time when the question was agitating the American mind and had been disposed to enter into the subject, you would not have taken it up in that way; and second, if you were here now, you would not dream of touching it at all, as it is a dead subject with us. But their decided expressions of the unwisdom of the publication had reference to your position and influence, which would be damaged by it seriously; and, granting that you had a perfect right to sacrifice them if you thought it best, they were of opinion that you ought not to embarrass your friends in the way that the publication would embarrass them.”
Eventually, and with a good deal of reluctance, I assented to the withdrawal; as witness the following extract from a letter dated June 25.
“Taking into consideration all that you tell me, I conclude that it will be best not to publish the letter. It is somewhat vexing to have bestowed so much trouble to no purpose; and I cannot but regret that the facts which the letter contains should continue unknown to the American public. As, however, the occasion which prompted me to write the letter has passed by, and as, indeed, the expressions of your press seem to have misled us here respecting the state of American opinion, I yield to the representations you make. Of course I have no wish to damage my position with the American public, and I should be very sorry to embarrass my American friends. If you have no use for the proof of the letter, you may as well send it to me, as I should like to preserve it.”
Though not published at that time, the letter was published some years after, when more pacific sentiments prevailed. Even then, however, the statements contained in it, conclusive though they were, and impossible as it was to invalidate them, were treated with but small respect. How constantly one is misled by the assumption that incontestable proofs will change men’s opinions! Where there exists strong prepossessions, no amount of evidence produces any effect.
This letter, as eventually published in the New York Tribune, I reproduce in Appendix E; feeling that unless it obtains somewhere a permanent place, the history of our relations with America will be vitiated by a permanent error of a serious kind.
Shortly before the close of the London season, I wrote to John Mill on some matter which I forget, and, referring to my approaching departure for Scotland, suggested, more in jest than in earnest, that if he would join me, I would initiate him in salmon-fishing. The following passage from his reply refers to this offer.
“My murderous propensities are confined to the vegetable world. I take as great a delight in the pursuit of plants as you do in that of salmon, and find it an excellent incentive to exercise. Indeed I attribute the good health I am fortunate enough to have, very much to my great love for exercise, and for what I think the most healthy form of it, walking.”
Having in boyhood had little or no experience of the ordinary boyish sports, Mill had a somewhat erroneous conception of them. Hence the inappropriate use of the word “murderous”; as though the gratification were exclusively in killing. But I quite agree in the implied objection he makes to pursuits that inflict pain. Though so fond of fishing as a boy, my dislike to witnessing the struggles of dying fish, becoming stronger as I grew older, had the result that between 21 and 35 I never fished at all. It was only because, on being prompted to try the experiment at the latter age, I found fishing so admirable a sedative, serving so completely to prevent thinking that I took to it again, and afterwards deliberately pursued it with a view to health. Nothing else served so well to rest my brain and fit it for resumption of work.
Of my doings in Scotland during the Autumn, the following letter to Lott, dated Oban, Aug. 11th, says nearly as much as is needful:—
“If you had been at liberty a week or a fortnight ago it would have been all right, but as it happens it is all wrong—along with everything else since I left town.
I have been in Scotland a month last Saturday—chiefly at Inveroran, waiting for fishing which the dry weather would not let me have. I got only two salmon. Last Friday I left in disgust before I had intended; for I meant to stay there till I joined the Smiths, who had left me to fix my own time. They were to leave town at the beginning of this month; and I wrote from Inveroran saying I would be with them on the 11th (to-day). But since my arrival here I learn that they have not reached Ardtornish yet! So here I have to kick my heels again. However they will probably arrive to-day, and I may possibly join them before the end of the week.
After I leave them, sometime early in September, I have promised to join the Busks, who have taken a house at Taynuilt; so you see I am fixed. I am very sorry your holiday was not earlier.”
My fishing this year derived a special interest from the trial of a new fishing rod, or rather, a fishing rod with a new kind of joint. Of course it was not in my nature to rest content with that which I found in use, if it had any manifest defects; and both the forms of joint in use were seriously defective: the simple splice-joint entailed much trouble, and the socket-joint was heavy, and had sundry inconveniences. The form of joint which I devised in place of them proved satisfactory; and having borne the tests to which it was submitted, I eventually published an account of it in the Field some time in January 1871. The letter is reproduced in Appendix F.
Aird’s Bay House, taken by the Busks for the autumn, is on the shore of Loch Etive about a mile from Taynuilt and, leaving Ardtornish towards the middle of September, I there joined them.
Those who have seen Loch Etive only from the railway, or from the high road which skirts it, know little of its beauties. These lie in the part beyond Ben Cruachan, and with the exception of Loch Hourn, Scotland has nothing at once so grand and beautiful. Boating excursions on this secluded portion, with rambles and picnics on its shores, filled a pleasant ten days. An island beyond the ferry was at that time frequented by seals, which it was interesting to watch through an opera glass. Then on the sheltered and smooth water there were sometimes reflections more splendid than I ever saw elsewhere—whole sides of Ben Cruachan and his neighbours being vividly mirrored. An excursion made to Loch Awe is linked to my other memories by a natural-history observation made there. The waters were swarming with the Volvox globator, which I had never seen before and have never seen since.
After September 22, when I got back home, the first trace of any break in my daily routine occurs in a letter dated February 25, 1870; and this is but an insignificant trace. Describing myself as “a martyr to indigestion and consequent very bad sleeping,” I speak of a forthcoming remedial excursion for a few days with Lewes. We went round the south of the Isle of Wight. How often it happens that extremely small things dwell in one’s memory, when great ones disappear. Nothing remains with me of this excursion save two trivialities—the one that we played billiards at Ventnor, the other that, when sitting down to dinner at Freshwater, I made Lewes laugh by exclaiming—“Dear me these are very large chops for such a small island.” And here, with this remark about the survival of trivialities in one’s memory, I may join the remark that with me any tendency towards facetiousness is the result of temporary elation: either, as in this case, caused by pleasurable health-giving change, or, more commonly by meeting old friends. Habitually I observed that, on seeing the Lotts after a long interval, I was apt to give vent to some witticisms during the first hour or two, and then they became rare.
To Youmans, on March 9, I wrote a letter of which some paragraphs must be quoted:—
“Very unfortunately for me, though perhaps fortunately for himself, Mr. Duncan has been appointed Professor of Logic &c. at Madras; and leaves me for India some six weeks hence. It will be a very difficult thing for me to find anyone to undertake and carry on efficiently the work he has been doing in preparing classified and tabulated materials for the Principles of Sociology.
I remember you telling me that in America, there are plenty who would gladly undertake the post which Mr. Duncan fills; and that so far from having to pay a secretary, I might, if I pleased, put up the post to auction, and accept the highest bidder. Without entertaining any such droll notion, I am led to infer from this statement of yours, that I might perhaps be more likely to find with you, than over here, some competent man who would render me the required services in return for the very moderate salary I can afford. . . .
I had a pleasant surprise this morning. It came in the shape of an Essay on Longevity by E. Ray Lankester, one of the rising young biologists. It turned out to be an avowed corollary from the Principles of Biology, to which, as the author says, it might form an additional chapter. But the pleasant surprise is this, that the prize was offered, and adjudged to this essay of Mr. Lankester, by the University of Oxford. Fancy the Oxford authorities giving a public endorsement to the doctrine of Evolution!”
The loss of Mr. Duncan created great inconvenience. When he joined me, the understanding was that he would continue until the work undertaken by him was finished. But I could not, under the circumstances above indicated, hold him to his bargain. He was engaged; and some little time before this date, had intimated to me his intention of marrying, narrow as his means were. To have let him do so foolish a thing, while also giving up a promising career, was out of the question; and therefore, though he expressed his willingness to abide by our agreement, I released him. He promised to go on with the work in India as fast as his professional duties allowed; and he loyally fulfilled this promise—finishing the division he was engaged upon without further remuneration.
The next passage in the correspondence which seems worth quoting, is dated 26 April:—
“I regretted very much to hear of your having been so unwell. I have long feared that, like many others who are anxious to diffuse a knowledge of the laws of health, you would yourself have to suffer from continuously disregarding them. As I sometimes say jokingly to Huxley, a propos of his transgressions, we ought to erase the proverb—“Experience makes fools wise,” and write in place of it—“Experience does not even make wise men wise.” I hope, at any rate, that henceforth you will not so lavishly expend your energies for the benefit of others, taking no care of yourself. . . .
In the forthcoming number of The Fortnightly you will find an article of mine on “The Origin of Animal Worship.” You will at first perhaps wonder why I suspended my ordinary work to write it. I did so because it lies in the line of my future work, and because I saw that the matters with which it deals are now being so much studied, that if I waited until I got to the Sociology I should probably be forestalled by some one who had meanwhile reached the same conclusion. The article will interest you both as a further illustration of Evolution, and also as, by implication, another heavy blow to current beliefs.”
This article was dictated while I was boating on the Regent’s Park water; and my amanuensis was a youth whose name I cannot recall, but who, a few years ago, wrote me a letter from the East with the signature Baron ———; telling me how he had prospered, even to the attainment of a title (in what way he did not say), and then reminding me that he had written the above-named essay to my dictation.
Of my life between September 1869 and July 1870, there is nothing more to record than is contained in the above quotations and comments.
An old manor house called The Argoed, about four miles below Monmouth on the banks of the Wye, but high above the stream, had been for some years in the possession of my friend Potter; who had bought it, with the surrounding lands, as a sanatorium for his children: the climate of Standish being relaxing. Here, in July, 1870, I went with him and two of his daughters. During a pleasant ten days there occurred a droll incident. Tintern had to be seen; and one fine day boatmen from Monmouth took the young ladies and myself down the river. The moonlight effects on the ruins of the Abbey are said to be very fine; and, filling the intervening time by going on to the Wyndcliffe, we went to the Abbey in the evening. There we waited and waited, wondering how it was that the moon made no sign, and frequently glancing with impatience towards the grove through which we expected to see its light. Presently the mystery was explained. It rose above the trees in a state of eclipse! There was a laugh at my expense; for it was supposed that I, interested in all science, should of course have known that an eclipse was about to take place. I am reminded of a kindred supposition on the part of the head-waiter at the Athenæum, who sometimes, when the addition of the dinner bill was called in question, smiled at an error made by a mathematical friend of mine: being surprised that a distinguished mathematician should err in his figures. The truth is that wide grasp of the general is not necessarily connected with great aptitude for the special.
After a day at Monmouth, pleasantly varied by a visit to Raglan Castle, a Sunday at Hereford, some of which was passed in the enjoyment of Cathedral music, and days and parts of days at Ludlow, and Shrewsbury, I joined the Lotts at Llanfairfechan, on the north coast of Wales. A fortnight spent there has among its remembrances the rush down to the station every morning to get papers with the last news of the Franco-German war, which had just commenced—a war of which the issues were so immense that one could not but watch its stages with breathless interest. Sir William Gull and Sir James Paget (not at that time bearing the titles they now have) were staying at Penmaenmawr, near at hand; and one of my pleasant recollections is of a drive to the Penrhyn slate quarries, in which they kindly invited me to join them: a good deal of scientific talk being the accompaniment.
I had never seen Ireland; and when my friends left for Derby, I was prompted, partly by this consciousness and partly by the desire for the good salmon-fishing which I heard was to be had at Ballina, to take my departure for Holyhead and Dublin. But as a drought, which then persisted, extended over Ireland; and as the style of living, not very satisfactory even in Dublin, threatened to be unsatisfactory at Ballina; my resolution was abandoned. Taking train to Belfast and steamer to Glasgow, I presently found myself at Inveroran. Thence after a time I returned to London.
This did not end my Autumn holiday however; or rather, there followed it something which was half holiday and half a kind of excitement which tells on me as much as work. The British Association met at Liverpool in September, and Huxley was President. Of course I went there to do what little towards the success of the meeting, might be done by adding one to the assembly. On this, as on other occasions when a member of the X Club presided, the gathering had a concomitant pleasure resulting from the quasi-domestic arrangements made. All members of the X who came, usually bringing their wives, took a suite of rooms at the chief hotel and united their forces: the liveliness of the party being increased by extending hospitalities to distinguished members of the Association not belonging to the group.
Deviating from the ordinary course, which was to give a summary of scientific progress, the presidential address dealt with the subject of spontaneous generation, just then much discussed, and gave an account of the dissipation of the once-universal belief in it. There resulted a controversy which gave special animation to the Biological Section. Strangely enough there were some biologists who thought that their experiments verified the old belief; and further thought that the general doctrine of Evolution received support from them. But, had the alleged facts been established, evolutionists would have been perplexd by them. That microscopic forms as much differentiated in structure as those described, should have been spontaneously generated, would have been at variance with their doctrine; which implies that the earliest living things must have been, if not absolutely structureless, yet with no more structure than is implied by some scarcely appreciable difference between outside and inside. Moreover, it has all along been manifest to the philosophic biologist, that no experiments which, in the materials used, pre-suppose the existence of organic matter, can throw any light on the genesis of organic forms. While believing that such genesis originally took place naturally, under conditions which no longer exist, they find no evidence that it takes place now; and do not believe that it is likely to take place now. And here, let me add, we have an illustration of the truth that the veritably scientific man will not accept evidence which, though plausible, is open to doubt; even when it supports an hypothesis he accepts.
Before the meeting was over, Professor Tyndall and I departed for the lakes. Sunday morning found us rambling along the shore of Windermere on the way to Rydal Mount. Thence we proceeded to Grasmere; and then, after dining, took a boat to the base of Loughrigg. A climb took us to the top and we descended to Ambleside. But a day’s walking and talking with Tyndall, who gets me into discussion, proved too much. A wretched night, followed by the fear of more such days, prompted a flight black to Town.
And now the close of the year brought the completion of the first volume of the developed Psychology. Commenced at the end of 1867, this volume was published in December 1870. Ill health must, I suppose, be debited with a large part of the delay. Certainly the long time taken over the work could not have arisen from any distaste for it. Contrariwise, several feelings united in making me enjoy the resumption of this topic which I had dealt with in 1854-5.
At that date, as already pointed out, an evolutionary view of Mind was foreign to the ideas of the time, and voted absurd: the result of setting it forth being pecuniary loss and a good deal of reprobation. Naturally, therefore, after the publication of The Origin of Species had caused the current of public opinion to set the other way, a more sympathetic reception was to be counted upon for the doctrine of mental evolution in its elaborated form.
Chief, however, was the pleasure of elaborating it—giving completeness to the theory by building its outworks and filling up lacunæ. Here, as before, recognition of the fact that the Data and the Inductions had to be set forth before proceeding to the work of construction, led to interesting results. The general views contained in these first and second divisions would never have been reached had it not been for the inquiry—What are the main facts of structure and function which Biology hands on to Psychology; and what are the general truths which mental phenomena present, considered apart from any theory respecting their origin? Then at the close of the volume, in the division entitled “Physical Synthesis,” there had to be set forth the theory named in the preface to the first edition as being for several reasons withheld. This was an interesting piece of work; and though it has since been shown me that, under both its physical and its physiological aspects, the theory, in the form there given to it, cannot be sustained, yet, as I hope sometime to prove, the needful qualifications may be made without invalidating the cardinal principle.
I was about to say that the reception of the volume must have been tepid, since it has left no recollection whatever; but on looking through correspondence I find a still better cause for the absence of all recollection. A letter to my publisher, dated 19 December, says:—
“The policy of not issuing copies for review, which we adopted in the case of the second volume of the Biology, and the second edition of First Principles, answers so well that we will continue it. I find, on examining the accounts, that since the adoption of this policy the sale of my books has about doubled. I do not suppose that the absence of misleading criticisms has had much to do with this; though, as I have learnt from their own lips, some readers have been deterred for years from looking at my books by the erroneous impressions of them they had gathered from reviews. But this large increase of sale may, at any rate, be taken as evidence that the course adopted is not detrimental.
We will therefore establish it as a permanent rule. Do not send out copies of this first volume of the Principles of Psychology now published, to any of the periodicals—daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly. And let whatever works I publish hereafter be similarly withheld.
Now, or in time to come, copies for review may occasionally be applied for. To meet such applications, please keep this letter; and let a copy of it be sent by way of answer. This will show that the refusal is not exceptional but general.”
Subsequent resumption of the ordinary habit was not due to any change of belief respecting the policy of this course, but was due to a cause which I cannot here indicate without forestalling matters. It will become apparent hereafter.