Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLIX.: VOL. I. OF THE SOCIOLOGY. 1874—77. Æt. 54—57. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XLIX.: VOL. I. OF THE SOCIOLOGY. 1874—77. Æt. 54—57. - 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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VOL. I. OF THE SOCIOLOGY.
With the entry on this new division of my work, the marshalling of evidence became a much more extensive and complicated business than it had hitherto been. The facts, so multitudinous in their numbers, so different in their kinds, so varied in their sources, formed a heterogeneous aggregate difficult to bring into the clear and effective order required for carrying on an argument; so that I felt much as might a general of division who had become commander-in-chief; or rather, as one who had to undertake this highest function in addition to the lower functions of all his subordinates of the first, second and third grades. Only by deliberate method persistently followed, was it possible to avoid confusion. A few words may fitly be said here concerning my materials, and the ways in which I dealt with them.
During the five and twenty preceding years there had been in course of accumulation, extracts and memoranda from time to time made. My reading, though not extensive, and though chiefly devoted to the subjects which occupied me during this long interval, frequently brought under my eyes noteworthy facts bearing on this or that division of Sociology. These, along with the suggested ideas, were jotted down and put away. The resulting mass of manuscript materials remained for years unclassified; but every now and then I took out the contents of the drawer which received these miscellaneous contributions and put them in some degree of order—grouping together the ecclesiastical, the political, the industrial &c.; so that, by the time I began to build, there had been formed several considerable heaps of undressed stones and bricks.
But now I had to utilize the relatively large masses of materials gathered together in the Descriptive Sociology. For economization of labour, it was needful still further to classify these; and to save time, as well as to avoid errors in re-transcription, my habit was, with such parts of the work as were printed, to cut up two copies. Suppose the general topic to be dealt with was “Primitive Ideas.” Then the process was that of reading through all the groups of extracts concerning the uncivilized and semi-civilized races under the head of “Superstitions,” as well as those under other heads that were likely to contain allied evidence—“Knowledge”, “Ecclesiastical” &c. As I read I marked each statement that had any significant bearing; and these marked statements were cut out by my secretary after he had supplied any references which excision would destroy. The large heap resulting was joined with the kindred heap of materials previously accumulated; and there now came the business of re-classifying them all in preparation for writing. During a considerable preceding period the subdivisions of the topic of “Primitive Ideas” had been thought about; and various heads of chapters had been settled—“Ideas of Sleep and Dreams,” “Ideas of Death and Resurrection,” “Ideas of Another Life,” “Ideas of Another World” &c. &c. Taking a number of sheets of double foolscap, severally fitted to contain between their two leaves numerous memoranda, I placed these in a semi-circle on the floor round my chair: having indorsed each with the title of a chapter, and having arranged them in something like proper sequence. Then, putting before me the heap of extracts and memoranda, I assigned each as I read it to its appropriate chapter. Occasionally I came upon a fact which indicated to me the need for a chapter I had not thought of. An additional sheet for this was introduced, and other kindred facts were from time to time placed with this initial one. Several sittings were usually required to thus sort the entire heap. Mostly, too, as this process was gone through some time in advance of need, there came a repetition, or several repetitions, before the series of chapters had assumed its final order, and the materials had all been distributed.
When about to begin a chapter, I made a further rough classification. On a small table before me I had a large rude desk—a hinged board, covered with green baize, which was capable of being inclined at different angles by a moveable prop behind. Here I grouped the collected materials appropriated to the successive sections of the chapter; and those which were to be contained in each section were put into the most convenient sequence. Then, as I dictated, I from time to time handed to my secretary an extract to be incorporated.
Concerning the start made with this division of my work, the only information I have is contained in the following extract dated 5 March 1874:—
“But for various minor bothers, and chiefly these replies to criticisms, I should have been by this time pretty far advanced with the first number of the Principles of Sociology. As it is, about 50 pp. of MS. are ready; and I shall give the first two chapters to the printer immediately. . .
I received this morning from the Prof. of Philosophy at Messina, a proposal to translate my books into Italian in conjunction with his brother. He seems a fit translator, and I have assented. . .
I suppose I shall hear of the Appletons soon after their arrival. I must ask them to meet Huxley, Tyndall and King at dinner. To night I expect to meet President Eliot of Harvard, who is coming to dine at the X.”
Respecting the second of the foregoing paragraphs, I may remark that the proposal to translate into Italian did not then take effect, because the translators were unable to find a publisher who would run the risk.
On turning over my papers I find that in 1874 I made an abortive attempt to keep a diary. I say abortive, because the entries, irregular while they continued, ceased altogether in March. The diary sets out with mention of the usual New Year’s Day dinner at Huxley’s: the joining in which, commenced in 1856, still continued. On Jan. 24 occurs the entry:—
“Went to the Burrs at Aldermaston. Met there Reeve of the Edinburgh Rev., Lord Aberdare, Lord A. Russell, Miss Thackeray &c.”
This was not the first, but the second or third, of my visits to Aldermaston Court, the seat of Mr. Higford Burr—or rather, one might almost say, of Mrs. Higford Burr; who took the lead and who habitually gathered together on such occasions circles of agreeable people. The place has attractive surroundings: notably the “Chase,” which is said to date back to the time of Doomsday Book. On two occasions when I was there, visits were paid to Silchester, an adjacent old Roman town of which the remains are very striking. It must have been nearly as large as Pompeii: the surrounding walls, which are still almost if not quite complete, showing its dimensions. After contemplating the uncovered basements of public buildings, baths &c., and seeing the entrance-steps deeply worn by passing feet, and noting, too, the remains of an amphitheatre, I conceived far more vividly than before the hold which Roman civilization had obtained in England.
While mentioning these visits into the country, I am reminded that Spottiswoode (one of our X Club) had, before this time, purchased Coombe Bank near Sevenoaks. Here I occasionally spent the time from Saturday to Monday: usually in company with others of our common friends. After his mathematics, Spottiswoode especially devoted himself to researches in electricity; and, as a natural consequence, he early made domestic use of electric lighting. I believe he was the first to have his dinner table lighted by the Swan-lamps.
I may here add the fact, recalled by letters of this date, that I avoided social gatherings of a public kind. The last public dinner I attended was in 1865; and several motives then prompted a resolution never to attend another. In pursuance of this resolve I invariably declined not only such dinners as those given in the City but more select dinners; even including those of the Royal Academy, which are, with good reason I believe, regarded as particularly enjoyable. Though not from deliberate resolution, I also fell into the habit of neglecting invitations to public soirées. Those of the Royal Academy were the only ones which I went to a few times during more than twenty years. Even when I decided to go, which occasionally happened, my intention melted away when the hour for dressing came.
In May of this year I was elected a member of the Committee of the Athenæum, and for a long subsequent period continued to take an active part in the administration of the Club. I say an active part, because I attended the committee-meetings with regularity. Save when I was away from town, I believe I missed only one, and then forgetfulness was the cause.
Certain traits of nature, made manifest to me by experiences of myself as a committee-man, I may here set down. The most conspicuous is want of tact. This is an inherited deficiency. The Spencers of the preceding generation were all characterized by lack of reticence. Things thought were habitually said; and there was little prudence in the expression of them. My mother was distinguished by extreme simple-mindedness: so much so that, unlike women in general, she was without the thought of policy in her dealings with other persons. In me these traits were united. I tended habitually to undisguised utterance of ideas and feelings: the results being that while I often excited opposition from not remembering what others were likely to feel, I, at the same time, disclosed my own intentions in cases where concealment of them was needful as a means to success.
On one occasion my attention was irresistibly drawn to this trait and its effects. Some proposal—I do not remember what—which I had made in committee, I had urged with my usual bluntness; with the result that those whose prejudices I had not duly respected, voted against me and the proposal was lost. A week or so afterwards, the late Sir Frederick Elliot, a man whose official life had disciplined him in cautiousness of expression, and who, judged by his manner, was also diplomatic by nature, brought forward substantially the same proposal; and, taking care not to tread upon anybody’s toes, he carried it without difficulty. But though I recognized the lesson, it wrought, I fancy, little or no alteration. We say that experience teaches; but experience is practically powerless to change by its teaching any marked organic tendencies. Let me add that, though I sometimes failed in my aims from want of tact, I frequently succeeded by persistence.
The term of service on the committee is three years, and a rule provides that one who has served is not again eligible until after the lapse of a year. During the year which intervened between my two terms of service, I was one of a special committee appointed at the annual general meeting to investigate a matter respecting which the committee and the Club at large differed. Hence resulted the anomaly that I was concerned with Club-business for seven consecutive years.
While speaking of committees I may name the fact that I had been, for some time before this date, and for long afterwards continued to be, a member of the London Library committee. At this my attendances were far less regular: I suppose, in part, because the administrative business, neither so extensive nor so complex, attracted me less.
This autumn I made an observation that interested me much, as demonstrating a physical truth which is difficult to believe.
While I was at the Dell of Abernethy we had a picnic on the shore of Loch Garten, some four or five miles off. This loch is from half a mile to a mile long, and perhaps a quarter of a mile broad. A breeze of moderate strength was blowing; so that, on the sandy beach next to us, there broke small waves, say of eighteen inches wide and three inches high. After our picnic we rowed towards the other end of the loch. As we approached it the waves diminished in size, gradually becoming ripples; and finally we came to still water. On arriving at this glassy surface I saw, to my great surprise, feeble undulations, discernible only by the aid of reflections, moving in a direction opposite to the wind. No other origin for these could be assigned than the recoil-waves from the sandy beach at the opposite end, which had persisted through all the intervening rough water, and finally made their reappearance in this remote smooth water. Many must have occasionally observed how, when a breaker bursts against a sea-wall, the recoil-wave rushes out seawards; and some have learned that this wave continues its progress out to sea, invisibly modifying the forms of the incoming waves, until at a great distance it is dissipated by fluid friction. Though theoretically accepted by me, this truth had been but vaguely conceived. Now it was brought home very clearly.
My stay at Ardtornish this year was abridged to little more than a fortnight; for I was due at Belfast on the 19th of August. The British Association met there. Tyndall was president; and I felt bound to be present. As on the occasion of the meeting at Liverpool, the members of the X Club, with their wives, made a family party at the chief hotel; and this of course gave an enjoyable character to our sojourn. Many will remember that Prof. Tyndall’s address, dealing with those aspects of Science which bring it into relation with Theology, was a very bold one, and produced a strong sensation followed by a good deal of controversy. My remembrance of the address is further strengthened by a personal interest it had for me. Some passages in it referred to the evolutionary character of the Principles of Psychology, and aimed at correcting current misapprehensions respecting the origin of the evolutionary doctrine, in so far as it applies to Mind. I have before exemplified Prof. Tyndall’s chivalrous desire to see justice done where he thinks it is not done, and it was here manifested on my behalf. Not much effect was produced, however. The public mind, difficult to impress, having once taken an impression, retains it right or wrong, and resents any effort to change it.
The pleasures of my stay at Belfast were increased by the presence of my friend Lott. At its close he and I had a further week or ten days of companionship at Llandudno on our way south. Departing thence, I sojourned for a while at Standish before returning to London.
Neither correspondence nor memory furnishes me with anything to set down until the close of the year. A letter of 8. December says:—
“I am dreadfully bothered with an increasing business-correspondence, and with increasing private correspondence, and with presentation copies of books. I am now deciding to do the replying and acknowledging by deputy, whenever it can possibly be done. One-third to one-half of my morning has been of late cut off by these distractions.
Otherwise things are going on remarkably well. The second volume of the French translation of the Psychology is out; and I have also recently got the German translation of the Education, and am expecting shortly to have their translation of First Principles.”
Winter passed and the early spring passed without incident. Here is a passage written to Youmans on April 10, 1875:—
“Thanks for your untiring advocacy, and for your defence in the last number of the Monthly. It is droll to find myself described by some as not being inductive, while by others I am blamed for overburdening my arguments with illustrative facts.”
And here is another from a letter dated April 14:—
“Though I wrote to you a few days ago, I write again on receiving your letter of the 3rd, to say how glad I shall be to see you. Irrespective of other ends, I doubt not you will derive physical and mental benefits from the change of scene and from the enforced rest of the voyage. I shall be in town till towards the end of July; after which date I shall probably be away for some six weeks, so that if you come in May there will be some six weeks during which we may be together (for of course I shall expect you to come and stay at Queen’s Gardens as my guest) and there will be a further interval after my return to town.”
This programme was partially carried out: he arrived on July 14, and joined me as proposed.
Very little more has to be said concerning the incidents of the season. There were the usual perturbations of health, and short absences of a week or so to obtain, partly by fresh air and partly by quiet, better nights and restored power of working. Letters show that during two such absences in February and May I was at Brighton; and at Easter I was at Clifton, where I was joined by Lott.
But the fact perhaps most worth mentioning is that in May I commenced dictating the rough draft of this autobiography. How came I to take such a step at so relatively early a period? may be asked. The cause was this. Not long before, a friend referred to a not unimportant scheme I had several years previously suggested to him, for furthering a public movement then in progress. By the help of his reminder I recalled the incident; but it was clear to me that, had it not been for his reminder, it would have disappeared absolutely from my memory. There afterwards resulted the reflection that if a biography was to be written, either by myself or any one else, the materials for it should be collected at once; otherwise there would probably be serious omissions.
“But why a biography at all?” will perhaps be asked. The question is reasonable enough, considering how often I have uttered unfavourable opinions concerning biography at large. The reply is that in these days of active book-manufacture, when there are so many men each of whom, having completed and sold one work, forthwith casts about for the subject-matter of another, no one whose name has been much before the public can escape having his life written: if he does not do it himself some one else will do it for him. This induction from current experience brought with it the conclusion that in either case it was desirble that a connected narrative of events, such as I alone could furnish with anything like completeness, should be written; and that the verifying and illustrative materials should be put in order along with it.
How to execute this task remained for some time a problem. I could not think of suspending my ordinary work for the purpose—sacrificing the important for the relatively unimportant. And yet, if I postponed setting down these biographical memoranda until after the completion of the Synthetic Philosophy, it was pretty clear that they would never be set down at all. At length I hit upon a compromise. Each successive week I prepared myself by looking through the correspondence and documents referring to the period to be dealt with, and then, for an hour on Saturday afternoon, I dictated to a shorthand writer: narrating in brief form the chief events, with my comments upon them, without regard to literary form or even correctness of expression. The transcribed notes, which the shorthand writer handed to me the next week in the shape of a large-sized copy book of twenty or thirty pages, I took from him, and inserted between the leaves in their respective places all the relevant letters and other papers. How long this process continued I cannot remember: for something like a year I think. Eventually the narrative was brought up to date and the process ceased.
This rough draft, with its incorporated materials, remained for many years in the same state; changed only by an occasional addition, and in a few places by redictating portions in somewhat more complete forms. It would have remained in this state to the present time had it not been for the utter breakdown of health which made it impossible to do any but the lightest work, and limited me to extremely little even of that.
In the middle of July, as already indicated, arrived my friend Youmans with his sister and nephew; and a week afterwards, leaving them in possession, I departed for the North.
Little needs be said concerning my month at Ardtornish. I may set down, however, an interesting elucidation of a truth in optics I noted while there.
Along the shore of Loch Aline, between the new house and the ferry, there is a tract of shelving beach on which grows a zone of bladder-weed, covered at high tide, dry at low tide, and at mid-tide partially floating, in such wise that the upper fronds of each plant lie on the surface. As we drove by one day, when a fresh breeze was blowing from the other side of the loch, producing waves of moderate size, the surfaces of which were of course covered by wavelets and ripples, my attention was drawn to the fact that all the wavelets and ripples were stopped by this belt formed of the patches of partially-floating bladder-weed, while the larger undulations passed through this belt, and, traversing the smooth water inside of it, reached the beach. This struck me as illustrating that which is said to happen with luminiferous undulations. Passing through air containing impurities—dust, smoke or thick vapour—the shorter among these are stopped, while the longer pass through. The result is that under such circumstances the Sun appears red: the red rays being those formed of the longer undulations. Doubtless the waves are of utterly different natures, so that nothing more than analogy may be alleged; but it is an interesting analogy.
The transition from the scientific to the comic is a violent one; but I am led to make it here by remembering that during my stay I verified a rather amusing story which dated back some dozen years or more. The head gamekeeper’s son, a young man of twenty, was quizzed by me one day when we were out fishing, concerning this story of his boyhood; and, as he looked sheepish and did not deny it, I presume it was true. At the time in question Lord Kirkcaldy—a very unimposing sample of humanity, which added somewhat to the point of the incident—was staying at Ardtornish for a little salmon-fishing. One day during his stay this gamekeeper’s son, then perhaps some six or seven years of age, ran in to his mother exclaiming—“O mither, mither, I’ve seen the Lord, and he’s just like a man!”
Leaving Ardtornish towards the close of August I broke my journey south by a week at Llandudno and reached London early in September. When I add that the latter part of October and beginning of November were spent at Standish, I have sufficiently indicated my autumn doings.
Late in the autumn my friend Youmans, after returning to America, sent me a discouraging account of himself. Already extracts from my letters have from time to time shown that I expostulated with him for his disregard alike of health and of personal interests while pursuing his aims—aims largely directed to the propagation of Evolution-doctrines and diffusion of my works. He had now illustrated afresh this tendency to undue self-sacrifice, and I wrote to him strongly on the subject. My letter, dated 18. Dec., while it may serve as a general lesson, I quote here partly because it illustrates this trait of his nature, and partly because it illustrates a trait of my nature—a somewhat too candid expression of opinions.
“Turning to your letter, let me say first that I have regretted greatly to have an account of your state that is so unsatisfactory, alike by what it says and by what it implies. To think that you should have come over here mainly to recruit, and now that you should be apparently no better than when you left; and all because you would go on working and worrying instead of resting! Your intention to be careful now amounts to nothing—you have all along been intending that and doing the contrary. That you will either cut short your life, or incapacitate yourself, is an inference one cannot avoid drawing; seeing that in your case, as in a host of other cases, experience seems to have not the slightest effect. It is a kind of work-drunkenness; and you seem to be no more able to resist the temptation than the dypsomaniac resists alcohol. Excuse my strong expressions. I use them in the hope that they may do some good, though it is a very faint hope. The only course which could give me any confidence that you will not bring your career of usefulness to a premature close, would be to learn that you had put yourself under the despotic control of your sister; and even if you did this, I suspect you would quickly break the agreement under the pressure of some fancied necessity. As though fulfilment of some passing purpose was necessary and maintenance of life unnecessary! What is the use of all this propagation of knowledge, if it is to end in such results?”
Unhappily the opinion above expressed that he would bring his life to a premature close was verified. Though he reached the age of sixty-six, yet that his death at that age was premature is shown by the fact that both his parents were then alive.
In a letter to him written ten days later, I find the following passage about another matter:—
“Since I wrote I received some news from Russia which will interest you. A professor at Kiev proposes, in conjunction with his colleagues and pupils, to translate the Descriptive Sociology. He tells me, to my surprise, that all my books have now been translated into Russian with the exception of the Descriptive Sociology, which will thus soon be added to the list. Further, he tells me that he has proposed to the Historical Society of Kiev to make a like classification and tabulation of Russian history. The name of this Russian is Soutchitzici (?)”.
Whether this project was carried out I could not at first remember, but I have since found proof that it was.
While I am quoting from letters I may as well add a passage from one to my friend Lott dated a week after, namely Jan. 5, 1876. This I give chiefly for the sake of its second paragraph:—
“I am sorry to hear your plans are interfered with. However, next week will suit me just as well. If Mr. Earp is sufficiently recovered you might come on Saturday. You would not, indeed, find me at home in the evening; for we shall be celebrating our hundredth meeting of the X club; but Miss Shickle will take care of you until my return.
I am glad you like No. 40. It is surprising what an effect is produced on one by this tracing out the natural history of beliefs. I feel, even myself, more completely out of the wood now that the whole thing is accounted for: not having been conscious that I remained at all in the shade of the wood, until now that I have got into broad daylight.”
The process here described as at length ended had been a long one, for it commenced when I was in my teens.
The first volume of the Principles of Sociology might have been issued before Midsummer 1876, had it not been for the discovery of a serious lacuna in my original scheme. Up to this time the programme of the Synthetic Philosophy, issued in 1860, had been in all respects adhered to; but now it became clear that an addition must be made. I had, as most do, approached the subject of Sociology on its political side; and though, when its divisions were set down, there was a clear recognition of sundry other sides—the Ecclesiastical, the Industrial, and so forth,—yet all of these were what may be distinguished as the public sides of the subject. Sociology in fact, as we ordinarily conceive it, is concerned exclusively with the phenomena resulting from the co-operation of citizens. But now, when about to deal with institutions of this or that kind, I suddenly became aware that domestic institutions had to be dealt with. It was not that I accepted in full the views of Sir Henry Maine; for my studies of primitive societies had familiarized me with the truths that the patriarchal form of family is not the earliest, and that the relations of parents to one another and to children have sundry more archaic forms. But I became conscious that these more archaic forms, as well as the more developed form supposed by him to be universal, influence deeply the type of social organization assumed. Further, reflection made it clear that intrinsically as well as extrinsically, the traits of its family-life form an important group in the traits presented by each society; and that a great omission had been made in ignoring them.
The result was that in the spring of 1876 I began to prepare myself for treating this topic; and a further result was that I delayed the publication of Vol. 1 of the Sociology for the purpose of adding to it the new division required: a course which I have since regretted; for it is now manifest to me that the first volume ought to have included the Data and the Inductions only.
Neither letters nor documents recall anything worthy of record during the season of 1876; and I pass at once to the latter part of July, when I left for the North.
I had been told of good fishing in the Morar, and while staying with my friends at the Dell of Abernethy this information had its effect. I opened negotiations with the factor of Lord Lovat, to whom the north bank of the river belonged, and eventually agreed to take the fishing. Ten days later I started for the west. The drive from Banavie to Arisaig was new to me; and though I internally grumbled at having to post all the way (more than forty miles I think), yet I felt before the day was over that I was amply repaid by the scenery. A letter describes the drive as “the most beautiful drive in the kingdom so far as I have seen.” As I approached Arisaig I heard that Lord Lovat was in advance of me; and, on my arrival, found the hotel occupied by him and his suite. The factor, coming afterwards, explained that Lord Lovat, somewhat taken aback that his fishing had been let, suggested that I might like to try the river for a few days before finally agreeing to rent it, and that meanwhile he would take a cast himself. Of course I assented; and next day, not wishing to interfere with the owner’s amusement, I postponed going over to the Morar, which is some miles off, till the evening after his return. Here I found myself a good deal deceived—not by the untruth of statements made but by the omission of something equally true. Success quickly proved the presence of numerous sea-trout; and then, just below the falls, which could not be leapt by fish for want of water, I had remarkable ocular proof of the presence of salmon. There, in a smooth back water, were lying, unconcealed and unalarmed, half a dozen salmon and a score of sea-trout. While sitting on an overhanging rock with feet dangling above the water, one could see these large and small fish quietly sailing about so close that even the opening and shutting of their gills was visible. The place was a kind of natural aquarium, the like of which I have neither seen nor heard of elsewhere. But now the per contra facts were that the fishable part of the river, extending from the falls to the sea, was less than two hundred yards in length, and that out of some four salmon-casts in that distance there was but one at which there seemed a fair chance of landing a fish when hooked. Joining these facts with the fact that after three days’ stay there came no rain, nor at the end of that time any sign of rain, I decided to relinquish the agreement and leave Lord Lovat uninterfered with.
But how to get away? I discovered that next day a steamer coming south would touch at Armadale in Skye—a place on the other side of the Sleat Sound about a dozen miles higher up. Here was an escape. Next morning a fishing boat which I hired took me, partly sailing and partly rowing, to Armadale bay in good time. Here occurred an instructive incident which must be my excuse for the foregoing details. “Shall we land, sir?” asked the boatmen. “No,” I replied. “See, there is the steamer coming; she will be here in less than half an hour.” So the men rested on their oars in the midst of the bay. As the steamer approached they rowed me out to meet her, and my ascent up her side was watched by two friends who saluted me as I stepped on deck—a daughter of Prof. Sellar and an uncle of hers.
Suppose there had arisen some question the decision of which turned on my presence in or absence from Skye that year. My oath or affirmation that I had not been in Skye might have been met by two witnesses who swore that they saw me come out of Armadale bay in Skye and get on board the steamer: the visible fact testified to by them being identified with the inference that I had come from the shore. In face of their testimony the explanation given by me would have been taken by all as an audacious fiction.
Three days later I was at Laidlawstiel, the residence, or rather one of the residences, on the estate of Mrs. Mitchell (now Lady Reay)—a lady whose scientific proclivities were shown by the establishment of a laboratory, and for whom Prof. Piazzi Smyth had set up a reflecting telescope. The place stands high above the Tweed nearly opposite Ashestiel, the residence of Scott at one time. Here, in a pleasant circle, a week passed away, partly filled with some lawn-tennis playing and a great deal of talking—far too much indeed for my welfare.
Before I returned to town a few days were spent at Derby with my friend George Holme, who, as narrated in an early chapter, saved me from drowning when I was a boy. Other few days were spent with Lott at Quorndon, or Quorn as it is commonly called,—a place about four miles off, which serves as a sanatorium for Derby, and where my friend had now taken a house, in which he continued to reside during the rest of his life. Home was reached early in September.
Immediately after my return I made a change in working arrangements; consequent, partly, on the desire to relieve Mr. Collier from a daily task too mechanical to be properly assigned to him. As explained in a preceding chapter, I had, in earlier years, employed a youth as amanuensis; and then, after 1867, when Mr. Duncan came to me as secretary, he was occupied every morning in writing to my dictation from 10 till 1, and devoted the rest of the day to the Descriptive Sociology. This routine had continued: Mr. Collier fulfilling the same divided functions. For some time he had been occupied with the French Civilization; and it now seemed to me undesirable, alike on his own account and on mine, that he should any longer be prevented from spending all his energies on the work for which his powers and culture fitted him. Having become able to pay for more help, I therefore decided to emancipate him from his morning’s clerk-like duties, and to employ some one else to discharge them.
The experience I had recently had while dictating to a shorthand-writer the rough draft of the autobiography, opened my eyes to the fact that I might effect some further economy of brain-power by having an amanuensis who could write shorthand. On trial I found that my anticipations were fulfilled; and thereafter continued to benefit by the discovery. For letter-writing the advantages proved great. Choice of the best expressions not being of moment, a marked saving of time and effort was achieved. For book-writing the advantage was by no means so great, but still appreciable. Forms of sentences having to be as carefully weighed as before, the required pauses remained unabridged; and I habitually kept my shorthand-writer waiting, sometimes for long intervals, while I decided on the way in which a thought should be framed. But, though thus far there was no gain of time or of effort, there was a gain in the rapidity with which a sentence, or part of a sentence, once fixed upon, could be disposed of. With a longhand-writer as amanuensis, a few words only could be uttered at a time; and if a whole sentence, or large part of a sentence, had been mentally prepared, it had to be kept before the mind while the successive instalments forming it were written down. When, however, the amanuensis was a shorthand-writer, the whole sentence, or such part of the sentence as was ready, could be uttered right off, and the attention forthwith occupied with the next. A little time was thus saved and a great deal of attention economized.
Hereafter, if the employment of shorthand-writers increases, this proceeding will seem an ordinary one. At the time of which I speak it was quite exceptional for an author, though not for a lawyer or merchant.
During the subsequent two months at home, considerable progress was made with “Domestic Institutions,” by the completion of which I hoped shortly to end the volume. But either because of my unsatisfactory autumn-holiday in the course of which an injury to my foot negatived the usual amount of walking, or because I applied myself too strenuously to work, there came, before the middle of November, a collapse, and I had to desist. My friends at Standish had recently invited me, and I had postponed acceptance. Now, however, I revoked my decision and went: not with a beneficial result, as is shown by the following extract:—
“Unfortunately it happened that my friends in the country had their house full of guests, and that there were large and elaborate dinner parties nearly every night of my stay; so that, so far from leading a quiet life as I had anticipated, I did the reverse, and ended by making myself worse than when I went. The climax of the mischief was brought about by the Bishop of Gloucester, who would get me into metaphysical controversy.”
To this last sentence there hangs a tale, or rather there hang two tales, not altogether unamusing. On my arrival I found that some of the family and guests had taken tickets for an amateur concert, about to be given at the Bishop’s Palace at Gloucester. I willingly followed their example (by doing which, however, I afterwards found that I had subscribed half-a-guinea to the funds of a Church School!) When, on the appointed day, we had taken our seats, and were glancing through the programme, I was alike pleased and amused to find among the pieces “Mynheer van Dunck”—pleased because the music is fine, amused because of the incongruity suggested by the words of the glee, which I here give for the benefit of those who do not know them. If I recollect rightly, they run thus:—
“Mynheer van Dunck, tho’ he never was drunk, sipped brandy-and-water gaily; and he quenched his thirst with two quarts of the first, to a pint of the latter daily; singing ‘Oh that a Dutchman’s draught might be, as deep as the rolling Zuyder Zee.’ ”
It struck me that it would be droll to hear these words amid the ecclesiastical surroundings, sung by a Cathedral Choir aided by the Bishop’s wife, who was one of the performers. I was disappointed, however. When the time came there was a good deal of hesitation and moving about on the platform, and another glee was sung instead. A few days later, the Bishop and Mrs. Ellicott were among the guests at one of the county dinner-parties at Standish; and, being seated next to Mrs. Ellicott at dinner, I took occasion to express my regret at the substitution: saying that I supposed their courage had failed them at the last moment. “Oh, not at all” she replied. “It was simply that we had lost the music.” I suspect, however, that the loss was not accidental; but that the Bishop, having seen the programme at the last moment, had “put his foot down,” as the Americans say, and caused the abstraction of the music.
The other incident concerned the Bishop himself. Being fond of walking, he had, on the day of the dinner-party, come to Standish on foot in the course of the afternoon. During a conversation in the billiard-room, reference was made to the fact that I had come down from London to recruit: finding myself unable to work. “Ah,” remarked the Bishop to our host, “perhaps it’s quite as well; because otherwise he would have been promulgating some mischievous doctrine or other.” I replied that, as the Bishop supposed the doctrine I was setting forth was mischievous, he would, of course, be prepared to defend the opposite doctrine. His assent to this I followed up by saying that, as I was then engaged in writing a chapter showing the great superiority of monogamy, he was bound to take up the defence of polygamy. Finding himself thus fixed, the Bishop jestingly accepted the situation, and pointed out that at any rate he would be able to cite the example of the partriarchs in justification.
The close of the year was reached without much improvement in health, and Christmas week, spent with my friend Lott at Quorn, did not much aid recovery. Throughout the early spring, too, I struggled with my work to small purpose. In March, matters were made considerably worse by an imprudence. I unwisely yielded to a suggestion to give evidence before the Copyright Commission, then sitting. Partly by the trouble taken in preparing my evidence, and partly by the excitement attendant on giving it (which I did in great fear of the consequences, and rushed down to Brighton by the next train), my nervous symptoms were exacerbated; and, as may be supposed, they were not much improved by attending a second time to give further evidence. At Easter another sojourn at Quorn did but little towards setting me right. A more drastic measure was now taken. My friend’s partner, a keen fisherman, usually paid one or two visits to Killin every spring for the purpose of salmon-trolling on Loch Tay. I was pressed to accompany him. Being unable to work, and hoping for benefit, I agreed. But the weather was unpropitious. Even my companion, enthusiast though he was, declined to sit out in a boat in the midst of bitter East winds with occasional snow-showers. Three days of this weather sent me south in disgust; and, as the following letter to Lott, dated 16th April, shows, I had no reason to regret that I was thus driven away:—
“Thanks to Quorn, thanks possibly in some degree to the few days in Scotland, and thanks to some unknown causes which I cannot understand, I am considerably better since my return to town. From time to time one gets rather shaken in one’s determination to be careful in diet &c., by finding the benefits of carelessness. I continued to be troubled by indigestion while in Scotland, and even on my way back to town. Next day was the X. dinner; and, contrary to my habit for a month or six weeks previously, I took a substantial miscellaneous late meal, with several kinds of wine. I had no indigestion after it, and have been exceptionally well since. This is one of the many illustrations of the great effect of mental exhilaration. I know no other cause for this odd change.
It was well I was driven back to town by the weather when I was; for, quite contrary to my anticipation, the committee-meeting for selecting new committee-men was fixed before instead of after the Rule II election, namely yesterday; and, had I stayed in Scotland as long as I intended, my plans would have been thwarted. As it was, they have answered pretty well. We carried eight good men: none of them being of the public-service class, and four of them being among those I had fixed upon;—the others equally good.
There was a still further reason why I was glad that I returned when I did; for, on going to the Athenæum on Thursday, I found lying there a note from Mr. Gladstone, asking me to meet Dr. Schliemann at dinner on Saturday. As you may suppose, I should not have liked to miss it. The party was a pleasant one. Beyond the guest of the evening there were present, Lowe, Lubbock, Forsyth (the member for Marylebone), the Duke of Argyll, Hayward &c.”
The second of the above paragraphs refers to measures for reinforcing the representatives of Science, Literature, and Art on the committee, with a view of preventing the Rule II. elections from going so largely in favour of those whose merit was “distinguished public service”—a merit which had come to be chiefly found among retired Anglo-Indian officials. Persisted in for several years, the course taken completely succeeded, and the original purpose of the elections under Rule II. was, for a time at least, fulfilled.
The only further incident of the season to which I may refer, was my attendance at some of the Wagner concerts, given in illustration of his musical dramas, at the Albert Hall. One of my attendances was in company with some friends who had a box; and, as we came down stairs, the lady of the party was accosted by an acquaintance with the question—“Well, how did you like it?” to which her reply was—“Oh, I bore it pretty well”—a reply which went far to express my own feeling.
Now-a-days it is the fashion to admire Wagner, and those who care to be in the fashion dare not, I suppose, say anything in disparagement of him. As the reader must have pretty clearly seen, it is my habit to say what I think, though I may so show myself one of a very small minority, or even a minority of one. In this case, however, the dissentients from the fashion are tolerably numerous. I discussed the question with the Leweses, who had been to these same performances; and though George Eliot, herself a good musician and a cultivated judge, said that the music pleased her, yet she confessed it was lacking in that dramatic character which it especially aims at—did not give musical form to the feelings which the words expressed. I remember observing of two songs, quite different in the sentiments verbally embodied, that the melodies might just as well have been exchanged. Moreover, I observed that the musical phrases were very generally of kinds to be anticipated. They were not like those of true musical inspiration, which suddenly discloses beautiful combinations one would never have conceived, but they were of familiar types.
On this occasion, as on previous occasions when I listened to Wagner’s music, I came to the conclusion that he was a great artist but not a great musician: a great artist in the respect that he understood better than other composers how to marshal his effects. To make a fine work of art it is requisite that its components shall be arranged in such ways as to yield adequate contrasts of all orders: large for the great divisions and smaller for the sub-divisions and sub-sub-divisions; and that there shall be contrast not of one kind only but of many kinds. Wagner, I think, saw this more clearly than his predecessors. Complex music as ordinarily written is not sufficiently differentiated. Composers for the orchestra habitually use in combination instruments of all kinds, having tones with timbres quite unlike in their characters, and tones which are not sufficiently congruous to make good harmonies. Further, by constantly employing them together, they produce a monotony of general effect, which would be avoided if there was a more distinct predominance now of tones having this quality, now of tones having that. Wagner—certainly in some cases, but in how many I cannot say—specialized the uses of his instruments more than most; and so gave more marked kinds of effects, each having its distinctive character, and all of them together constituting a more heterogeneous whole. I hope that his example will be followed and bettered.
And now, to my great satisfaction, there came, at the end of May and beginning of June, the completion and publication of the first volume of The Principles of Sociology. It had been more than three years in hand: its progress having been hindered in large measure by ill-health, and in some measure by digressions. There had, indeed, been a first issue of the volume early in December 1873; but the final chapters, which formed a somewhat independent portion, were not contained in it. What prompted the premature issue I cannot now remember.
This long incubation was in part due to the fact that the volume was much larger than any of its predecessors. It extended to nearly eight hundred pages, and contained an immense accumulation of facts, the incorporation of which had been a laborious business. Mr. Tedder, librarian of the Athenæum Club, who, when the third edition was in preparation, verified for me all the quotations with their references, found that in this first edition “there were 2192 references to the 379 works quoted” (in the new edition there were “about 2500 references to 455 works”). And here I may note, in passing, the great aid rendered me by the Descriptive Sociology. Evidently, had it not been for that compilation, the gathering together of so great a mass of evidence would have been impracticable.
With the ending of this volume came a decision to change my mode of publication. Forty-four numbers of the serial had now been issued; making, with certain occasional extra portions which were included, about three thousand six hundred pages thus covered: a longer continuance than might have been anticipated. But the motive for this mode of publication had now become relatively weak. It is true that, by giving up the distribution to subscribers, I sacrificed perhaps some fifty pounds a year. This sacrifice was, however, of less moment to me than was the economy of time and attention. Each number of the serial had entailed a set of transactions with printer, binder, and publisher; and there were other small worries attendant on the frequently recurring issues. To avoid all these evils I willingly submitted to some pecuniary loss. With No. 44 was therefore sent round a notice of discontinuance.
As intimated in a preceding chapter, I eventually resumed the practice of distributing copies of books to the press, and did this with the first volume of The Principles of Sociology. The reasons, which I could not then give without forestalling the narrative, I am able to give now. The first was that The Study of Sociology, of which a qualified copyright was in the hands of the publishers, was of course sent out by them after their ordinary habit. The second was that the successive numbers of the Descriptive Sociology had also to be sent out; since the interests of the compilers apparently dictated a pursuance of the usual course. To have withheld volumes belonging to my series while these other volumes were subjected to criticism, would inevitably have caused misinterpretations. Hence I was in a manner compelled again to do as others do.