Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLV.: AN EXTRA BOOK. 1872—73. Æt. 52—53. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XLV.: AN EXTRA BOOK. 1872—73. Æt. 52—53. - 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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AN EXTRA BOOK.
Another overlap in the narrative, like two already made, has to be made here. Without causing some confusion, I could not, until now, give any account of work which was undertaken before the second volume of the Psychology was finished; and which, as lately implied, was one cause of its long-postponed publication. Going back some six months, I must here say something about an extra book then commenced.
“Why an extra book?” thinks the reader. “Surely the remaining volumes of the Synthetic Philosophy formed a sufficiently large task, and to attempt more was unwise, if not, indeed, absurd.” This reflection is perfectly just, and I have nothing to say in mitigation of censure save that, though very reluctant, I was in a manner forced to commit myself to this extra book.
I have already described the scheme of Prof. Youmans which resulted in “The International Scientific Series”; and I have noted some efforts I made in aid of it. In the course of his negotiations with one or other author, he urged me to contribute a volume to the series. I felt, as the reader above imagined feels, that I had quite enough on my hands, and for some time resisted the suggestion. But my friend was pressing; and, being under great obligations to him for all that he had done on my behalf in America, I could not utter that decided “No” which I should have uttered to any one else. Eventually I yielded; not, however, without making such modification of the engagement as would, I thought, enable me to do what was asked without seriously retarding more important work. It occurred to me that I might obtain a fit collaborateur, who should give literary form to the ideas with which I furnished him. It was a wild notion, to be excused only by the pressure and hurry which prevented deliberation. Had I reflected, I should have seen that no one could be found who would prove adequately subordinate at the same time that he had sufficient vigour of thought and style to satisfy me. During the time in which this idea was entertained, Mr. C. E. Appleton, founder and editor of The Academy, came to me proposing himself as joint author; and it was his proposal more than anything else which opened my eyes to the impracticability of the scheme. I foresaw that we should disagree and part over the first chapter; and it became clear that neither anyone else’s version of my thoughts nor anyone else’s expression of them would satisfy me.
Very shortly, therefore, the notion of collaboration was abandoned, and I undertook to do the entire work myself.
Before he left England my American friend volunteered to arrange for the carrying out of a suggestion which had arisen, I do not remember how, that the successive chapters of The Study of Sociology—the extra book in question—should be first published serially, in England and America at the same time. Here the ContemporaryReview, then owned by Mr. Strahan and edited by Mr. Knowles, was the contemplated medium; and a fit medium in the United States, Prof. Youmans proposed to negotiate with as soon as possible after his return. With this explanation the meanings of the following extracts from correspondence will be clear. The first is dated 8th Jany. 1872.
“I have, as I proposed before you left, arranged with Knowles for publication of the Study of Sociology in the Contemporary, in successive instalments. He, and the publisher, Strahan, express themselves as rejoicing to make the arrangement. No difficulty appears to arise respecting the simultaneous publication in America. . . . I was the better for my excursion to the Isle of Wight, but am not well, and am obliged to be careful as to work.”
I may remark in passing, that the last sentence gives me the date of an excursion which otherwise I should have been puzzled to fix—an excursion made, partly driving partly walking, in company with Huxley, Tyndall, and Hooker, round the south of the Island and then from Freshwater across the hills to Newport. The next letter which I extract from is dated 16 February, 1872.
“I have just completed No. 32 of my Serial, and am about to commence the first chapter for the Contemporary. It will appear on the 1st April. . . .
The successive chapters will be in great measure independent, and will be popular both in manner and matter. I find that I have got a large amount of interesting and piquant illustration that can be worked up in them.”
And now there arose an unlooked-for result from the understanding that had been made for simultaneous publication in America. Negotiations which Youmans had carried on with one or other periodical in the United States had all failed; and at the time when the first chapter had been put in type, neither he nor I saw how our plan was to be carried out. When the proof of this first chapter reached him it caused prompt and surprising action, as witness the following extract from a letter of his dated April 3, 1872:—
“A thousand thanks for your favour of March 13th, with article on Study of Sociology enclosed. I was beginning to be worried about it, and was on the point of telegraphing you to telegraph me as to what you would do. You did wisely in sending it, and I decided upon our course in ten minutes after getting it. I determined to have a monthly at once, and in time to open with this article . . . I received your article less than a week ago. We have started a monthly of 128 pages. The first part of it is now printing; the last pages will be closed up tomorrow, and we will have it out in a few days more. Of course we had to go in on selected articles here. With yours for original, and a translation by my sister from the French, a short article by myself, and fragments by my brother, we shall make a very fair show. . . . Nothing happens as expected, but often the unexpected is best. I am utterly glad that things have taken the course they have. I have wanted a medium of speech that I can control, and now I shall have it.”
The magazine thus suddenly started was The Popular Science Monthly; which, under the editorship of my friend, has had a prosperous career and done very good work. His brother, Dr. W. J. Youmans, for many years his assistant, is now the Editor. The next extract is from a letter of mine dated 29th April:—
“Thanks for the cheque, which is ample. I had intended, before receiving it, to write and ask whether this magazine is pecuniarily a speculation of your own; or whether the Appletons run the risk. If it is your own, then I propose that you shall have these articles of mine gratis.”
It turned out, however, that the magazine was to be the property of the Appletons. I consequently accepted the cheque, and continued to receive payments from America equal to those which publication here brought me.
A digression, within the digression constituted by the Study of Sociology, occurred after the issue of some chapters. I then wrote, and published in the Contemporary, an article entitled “Mr. Martineau on Evolution,” which was called forth by some strictures of his made in a lecture uttered and printed not long before. A reference to it had, I see, been made in a letter to Youmans on 8th April 1872.
“Martineau has published in the Contemporary that essay of which you sent me a report. Its concessions are large, and its criticisms feeble. It illustrates what continually happens with all parties who stand by the old. If they do nothing, things go against them; if they stir, things go against them still more.”
As is implied by this extract, the attack did not seem to me to call for any notice. Afterwards, however, I was prompted to reply. Mr. Knowles is well known for his editorial tact, and it did not in this case fail him. In the course of an after-dinner conversation at Prof. Huxley’s, Mr. Martineau’s criticisms were referred to, and a remark made by Mr. Knowles:—“The general opinion is that you gentlemen are getting the worst of it,”—served its purpose effectually. I forthwith took up Mr. Martineau’s gauntlet and suspended other work for an interval.
The refutation of his arguments was an easy task. Within the limits of the abstract and higher sciences—logic, metaphysics, and psychology,—his competence was undoubted; but his knowledge of molecular physics, chemistry, and biology, was not such as fitted him for dealing with the general question of Evolution, and he had consequently laid himself open in fatal ways.
The absence of a rejoinder from him was, I believe, caused by an illness from which he did not recover till the matter had drifted by. Otherwise I dare say he would have attempted a defence. A capable man can always find something to say; and the majority of readers, never referring back to see whether the main points have been dealt with, accept what he says as adequate. “Oh, that has been answered,” is the subsequent remark; and the answer is assumed to be, as a matter of course, a sufficient answer.
Such small incidents as the remainder of 1872 brought, have been already narrated in the last chapter, which this chapter in part overlaps. There do not occur in letters any passages worth quoting until the beginning of 1873. The first of them, dated 8th February, runs thus:—
“It turns out to have been in all respects a lucky thing that I yielded to your pressure, and undertook to write this Study of Sociology. The successive chapters in the Contemporary are having a great effect on the sale of my books. Strange to say, I am getting quite popular with women.”
The second of them bears date the 7th March, and is as follows:—
“Tyndall was saying last night at the X that religious liberality is now greater here than with you. And many facts imply it. While, as you tell me, your papers are shrinking from saying anything about the chapter on the Educational Bias, here it has met with more open approval than any. An extremely astonishing illustration of the rapid theological thaw, you will find in the copy of the Nonconformist I send by this post, or the next. In a review of a late metaphysical book—Graham’s Idealism—you will find a passage expressing sympathy with the doctrine of the Unknowable, as probably the theology of the future. Think of that for the leading organ of the Dissenters!”
Doubtless the theological liberalization was then, and is still, progressing at an unexpected rate; but it is accompanied by great energy and activity in upholding and propagating the old beliefs. Though in many circles it is now possible to say, without producing great astonishment, all that one thinks, I hear of other circles in which the reactionary feeling is carried so far that even ordinary liberality is inadmissible. I do not regret this. The change is quite as rapid as is desirable—perhaps even more rapid than is safe.
Another two months brought me a serious deprivation. An intimacy which had, within a few preceding years, become well established, and from which I expected pleasure and profit during years to come, was suddenly brought to an end. On May 10, 1873, there came from Avignon the news of the death of John Stuart Mill the day before. Erysipelas, consequent apparently upon a little over-exertion and exposure, carried him off quite suddenly, while yet he was still active in body and mind.
During a considerable period his had been the one conspicuous figure in the higher regions of thought. So great, indeed, was his influence that during the interval between, say 1840 and 1860, few dared to call his views in question. Beyond the intrinsic causes for this predominance there were two extrinsic causes. The time was one in which the deductive method had fallen into such disrepute, that in the concrete sciences nothing beyond the accumulation and colligation of facts was tolerated. Hence the System of Logic, which, though it did not ignore deductive reasoning, was mainly occupied with the methods of inductive reasoning, served as an authoritative embodiment and justification of the beliefs and practices of most cultivated men. The time was also one in which the Free-trade agitation had imparted to politico-economical discussions an interest much greater than they ever had before. This, of course, gave to his work on Political Economy, which furnished weapons to the Free-traders, an unusual currency. A yet further cause possibly was that the Experiential Philosophy, of which he was the leading exponent, did not, at that time, meet with much criticism from the Transcendentalists, who have since become active antagonists.
To the extent of attending some meetings, I had taken a small part in his election as Member of Parliament for Westminster: being desirous that his views should find expression in the House of Commons. There was, I suspect, on my part and on the part of others, too high an expectation of the results. One who has produced by his books a strong impersonal impression rarely produces a personal impression to correspond. The faculties which have caused his superiority as a writer are not, in all cases, accompanied by the faculties which give superiority in personal intercourse or in debate; and this is especially the case when he has to address those with whom he is so little in sympathy as Mill was with the humdrum rank and file of our legislators. When, on a subsequent election, he lost his seat, I happened, while writing to him on some other matter, to express my belief that on the whole he was better out of the House of Commons than in it; and he replied that he was inclined to think so himself.
Had he lived longer there would doubtless have been, beyond further writings of importance, further efforts to advance social welfare; for Mill was not content to do this by word only: he sought to do it by deed also. I wish some one would compare him as a typical utilitarian with Carlyle as a typical anti-utilitarian. As measured, alike by his domestic relations and his public activities, the utilitarian would have much the best of the comparison; and his conduct as husband and citizen would constitute a sarcastic comment on his competitor’s denunciations of his ethical creed.
In a letter to Youmans, dated 16th May, I find the passage:—“In a day or two I shall send you a copy of the Examiner, in which, along with other accounts of John Mill’s life and works, you will see something from me.” In Appendix G, I have resuscitated this long-buried sketch.
If not about this time, then a year or two earlier, I was compelled to restrict the hindrances to work caused by correspondence. To do this I drew up a circular which I had lithographed, and copies of which I used in as many cases as possible. It ran as follows:—
“Mr. Herbert Spencer regrets that he must take measures for diminishing the amount of his correspondence.
Being prevented by his state of health from writing more than a short time daily, he progresses but slowly with the work he has undertaken, and his progress is made slower by absorption of his time in answering those who write to him. Letters inviting him to join Committees, to attend Meetings, or otherwise to further some public object; letters requesting interviews and autographs; letters asking opinions and explanations—these, together with acknowledgments of presentation copies of books, entail hindrances which, though trivial individually, are collectively serious—serious, at least, to one whose hours of work are so narrowly limited.
As these hindrances increase Mr. Spencer is compelled to do something to prevent them. After long hesitation he has decided to cut himself off from every engagement that is likely to occupy attention, however slight, and to decline all correspondence not involved by his immediate work.
To explain the absence of a special reply to each communication, he sends this lithographed general reply, and he hopes that the reasons given will sufficiently excuse him for not answering in a more direct way the letter of Mr. ———.”
The mention of correspondence which had to be thus abridged, reminds me that from time to time I received letters of startling kinds—now vituperating me for my opinions and now going to extremes of laudation. A few have been astonishing, and even amusing, as exhibitions of vanity. One of these seems worth reproducing here. I suppress not the name only, but the place and date, lest the writer should be identified.
“Dear Sir,—As the head of my own school of thought and effort, I take the liberty of forwarding you for publication or any other use you think desirable, three copies of a paper read by myself before the Philosophical Society here on the 11th inst. You will see its nature by its title: “The Theory of Gravitation”, “The Neb. Hypothesis”, the “Tidal theory of Evolution and the Dynamics of Elliptic motion,” all stand disproved.
The apparatus was too cumbersome to forward, but I think there will be no difficulty in constructing another: should you consider that I should be at the expense myself, I am willing to be so. For my trustworthiness I can refer you to . . . . . . . . but I do not think you will consider references necessary.
I am not by any means monied; a few hundreds, (some six or so) recently inherited, being the sum of my possessions. Between an inebriate father, and dyspepsia, and neglect, and want of opportunities at home, plus hard work, poverty, religious and sexual troubles out here, my life has not been altogether sunshine.
I am now an atheist of a fairly contented mind, but resolved, (for no selfish reasons) that for every inch I have been thrust down, I will go up a mile.
I am only fairly read, but have a good grasp of the Universe that is daily improving. I have also a pretty good knowledge of the world; and having seen some vicissitudes and mixed with some variety of men, and foreigners, and travellers, though comparatively untravelled myself, I have few prejudices and an enlarged understanding. I must ask your pardon for thus introducing myself, but I know you will grant it when I tell you that I have labored most diligently these last four or five years entirely with the object of benefiting my fellow-man—though the practical turns one sometimes takes, make one feel as if laboring for an undeserving and unworthy being. . . . . .
In my endeavours to win for myself a name, I have made sallies into military, political (have written a little) and other matters where I thought my powers of origination would serve me. I believe if I had means and appliances I could bring aerial navigation and one or two useful inventions to useful issue. I have been a hard thinker for seven or eight years, and have not been young since 16 years of age,—when I became dyspeptic.
I suppose if the Theory of Gravitation falls, some theologians will again plead for direct divine interference: their day is drawing to a close.
One object I had in view in making the investigation, was to silence the argument I have often heard and that has been used against myself in religious controversy, that the greatest scientist that ever was or ever would be, was a Christian! The hammer of the Iconoclast has fallen, and behold their fetish! I was once told that Newton “ought to be worshipped as a fetish”!
I will trespass on you no longer, but hoping you will derive pleasure and our cause will benefit by my work, and that I am not but asking an agreeable favor of you in entrusting my paper to your hands and pilotage,—Believe me, a worker for truth, and yours sincerely, ——— ———.”
Perhaps it will be thought that the writer was insane; but the photograph which he inclosed betrayed no mark of insanity, technically so called. He was insane only as being swayed by an enormously disproportionate self-esteem.
There needs a local meteorology which shall take account not only of the modifying effects which the surface of each considerable area produces on the weather, but also of the modifying effects produced by adjacent surfaces. The climate of a region is in no small degree determined by its position in relation to regions around, unlike in character. A striking illustration occurs in Strath Spey. Between it and the western seas lies a mountainous tract some 50 miles wide; and, coming over its chilly high lands, which form good condensers, the westerly winds deposit much of their contained water. Hence, when they reach Strath Spey, which is a broad open space, they have comparatively little water to deposit, and cease to send down rain. It results that there the westerly winds are not rainy winds, and the climate is comparatively dry.
Why do I make this remark here? Well, the reason is that this year, at the end of July, I made acquaintance with Strath Spey, and heard of its peculiarity. The daughters of my friend Potter, all of whom I had seen grow up from infancy, were now, several of them, mothers of families. The eldest had married Mr. Robert Holt of Liverpool, who rented the Dell of Abernethy and the extensive moor appended to it, which includes Cairn Gorm, one of the four peaks of the Grampians. Here I had been invited to visit them: one of the offered temptations being that the Spey, which borders part of the estate, affords good salmon-fishing. To fix the dates of my several visits, respecting which I was uncertain, Mrs. Holt has furnished me with some entries from their record; of which here is one dated 2nd August:—
“Mr. Spencer, Mr. Potter, and Robert, went to Advie by early train and after a pleasant, cloudy but fine day, returned with seven salmon and grilse.”
Another entry, dated the 6th, has a little more interest. Some 8 or 10 miles from the Dell there is a loch containing an island on which exist the ruins of a castle, said to have been one of the strongholds of “The Wolf of Badenoch”—a name with which my acquaintance, now made, served me in future years as illustrating the genesis of certain superstitions. The entry referred to runs:—
“Drove over in two carriages to Loch an Eilan. Mr. Spencer, Kate, and Robert went by train to Aviemore and walked thence. The Martineaus joined us at lunch.”
For the recovery of his health Mr. Martineau had taken a house near Aviemore, where he has since spent his summers. The recent passage of arms between us did not interfere with friendly intercourse during our picnic.
I had never seen anything of the East coast, and decided to return south by that route. A day was spent with Bain, who played the guide to Aberdeen and its surroundings. Thence I journeyed to Inveroran, where I followed my usual occupation for a short time only, as the dates imply; for I was in London again early in September.
Before I had got two-thirds through The Study of Sociology, I became conscious that, for more reasons than the one above named, it was well that I had undertaken to write it.
One reason of undeniable validity was that the accumulation of materials for the Principles of Sociology, which I was carrying on by proxy, though it had been progressing for four years, was not yet advanced far enough to meet with my requirements; and it became clear that a delay of a year and a half or so, before entering on this larger undertaking, would give me a better equipment.
Another reason disclosed itself. Sundry general considerations touching Sociology which I had seen would be needful as preliminaries to a scientific discussion, and which yet could not be included in the Principles of Sociology, or if prefixed would make it too voluminous, could now be treated of with advantage. There was furnished for them a fit place in the Study of Sociology, which stood in some sort as an introduction.
A further reason was that but few persons had any conception of a Social Science; and that the diffusion of such a conception would usefully precede the publication of the Principles. The possibility of Sociology was not only not conceived by historians, but when alleged was denied. Occupied as they had all along been in narrating the events in the lives of societies, they had paid little or no attention to the evolution of their organizations. If a biographer, seeing that the incidents of his hero’s life did not admit of scientific prevision, therefore said that there is no science of Man, ignoring all the phenomena of bodily formation and function; he would parallel the ordinary historian who, thinking of little else but the doings of kings, court-intrigues, international quarrels, victories and defeats, concerning all which no definite forecasts are possible, asserts that there is no social science: overlooking the mutually-dependent structures which have been quietly unfolding while the transactions he writes about have been taking place. The mere fact that during all these centuries he, in common with his readers, has been in nearly every case unconscious of that increasing division of labour which characterizes social evolution everywhere, shows how much need there was to explain the scope and nature of the social science.
A still more cogent reason presently became manifest to me. While describing and illustrating the various forms of bias which a student of Sociology must guard against, I became conscious that I myself needed the warnings I was giving. The result was that, while retaining my social ideals, I gained a greater readiness to recognize the relative goodness of forms which have passed away, and a greater preparedness for looking at the various factors of social development in an unprejudiced manner. Without losing my aversion to certain barbaric institutions, sentiments, and beliefs, considered in the abstract, I became more impressed with the necessity of contemplating them calmly, as having been in their times and places the best that were possible, and as unavoidably to be passed through in the course of social evolution.
The last chapter of The Study of Sociology was published in the Contemporary on the 1st October, and the volume was issued on the 1st November. Respecting its reception I remember nothing; and all I find in correspondence about it is the second paragraph of the following extract from a letter dated 2nd December, 1873:—
“Mr. Gladstone, a little nettled, I suppose, by my criticism upon him as a type of the anti-scientific public, has published an explanatory letter in this month’s Contemporary. I am appending his letter to the end of the volume, with some comments. I will send you a proof in a few days.
Inclosed is a notice of the Study from this week’s Saturday Review, quite sympathetic in tone. If the reviewer is right, you will see that you have a good deal to answer for in tempting me to misemploy my time! However, I think the book is desirable, as preparing the way for what is to come. Moreover, had it not been for the large returns it has brought me, I should have been unable to go on with the Descriptive Sociology.”
The closing sentence of this extract prompts me to remark that The Study of Sociology has been, pecuniarily considered, unusually successful for a book of its kind. When, to the sums received from England and America for the separate chapters as they appeared serially, there are added the sums since received as royalties on the successive editions of the volume, the amount reaches between £1300 and £1400; and, as editions are still called for with tolerable regularity, I suppose the total will eventually be £1500 or more. For a five-shilling book on a grave subject, such a result was hardly to be expected. A further amount, indirectly accruing, has to be named. As already intimated, the publication of the chapters in the Contemporary Review greatly increased the demand for my books; and the increased demand proved to be a permanent one.
Referring back to the first paragraph of the above extract, I may say here that this brief controversy between Mr. Gladstone and myself led to a private correspondence which ended quite amicably, and established between us social relations of a pleasant kind.