Front Page Titles (by Subject) PART XI.: 1879—1889. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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PART XI.: 1879—1889. - 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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UP THE NILE.
One morning at the close of October, I received from a young lady a note saying—“Will you not come and bid me good-bye before I start for Egypt?” Of course I went forthwith.
Already I had been telling my friends that if I could get fit companionship I would again spend the winter in the South. Egypt was a country to be visited; and as I was now fifty-nine, there was not much time to be lost if I meant ever to see it. What if, instead of saying goodbye, I should become one of the party!
The party I found consisted of a clergyman, his wife, and the young lady in question; and it had been arranged that each of the ladies should choose a gentleman who, added to the rest, would make up a number sufficient to occupy a dahabeyah and share the cost: the intention being that the selections should be made from those in the hotel at Cairo. How the matter came about I do not remember; but it was soon perceived that I entertained the thought of joining; whereupon I was pressed to do so. As the pressure was added to by the father of the young lady, who happened to be present, I felt inclined to yield. Not then deciding, however, I took time to consider whether such a journey might be undertaken without too great a hindrance to my work, and next day assented to the proposal. An immediate departure in company with the three was obviously impracticable; for I had more than a week’s revision to do on the last sheets of Ceremonial Institutions. But as they were going all the way by sea, and as I proposed to go by land as far as Brindisi, it was clear that I should be able to reach Cairo as soon as they did, though I started a week later. With this understanding we exchanged our temporary farewells.
During the time the negociation was pending, I said it was a pity that the party did not include one of the young lady’s sisters. This remark was repeated in a letter to the mother; and, a day or two later, there came from her the question—“Will you take charge of H———?” Naturally nothing could please me better than to have such a travelling companion; and, telegraphing at once an affirmative answer, I rushed off to Leadenhall Street to engage a berth for her. A bustling interval after the young lady’s arrival in town, was followed by our departure on the 11th November.
Details of the journey need not be given. Suffice it to say that, while crossing the Channel, we made the acquaintance of a gentleman and his wife who were also bound for Cairo; and I was enabled to put my charge under the lady’s wing: so absolving myself from much of my responsibility; which was a great satisfaction. Our stopping places were Paris, Turin, Bologna (where we had nearly two days to spare) and Brindisi; leaving which last place by the P. & O. steamer, we reached Alexandria on the 20th and Cairo the same evening.
A good deal of merriment was caused by an occurrence which arose from the division of our party. The arrangements in pursuance of which I brought with me an additional member of it, were made after the departure of the original group. They went by a private steamer bound from Liverpool to Port Said; and they were, of course, in ignorance of what had happened. A passage written from Cairo on Nov. 23, thus narrates the consequences:—
“H——— and I, after a prosperous journey, arrived here nearly three days ago. We got here two days before her sister, whom we were to join, and who had no notion that she was coming! Last night, on her sister’s arrival, we had an immense joke. H——— was dressed up as a Turkish lady, with black veil just showing her eyes. I took E——— to show her her room; and, on entering the ante-chamber, explained to her that for a night or so, it would be needful to share the double room with this Turkish lady, whom, as I assured her, she would find a nice creature, and to whom I then proceeded to introduce her. H——— drawled out some broken French; and it was great fun to watch, first E———’s horror and disgust at the prospect before her, and then her astonishment as the truth was disclosed.
The sunny weather is charming, but thus far I find my sleep much worse instead of better. I hope it may be otherwise after a while.
The population here shocks me greatly. Very picturesque, but poor ragged, dirty, diseased. I am eager to get away on to the Nile; hoping to see a less concentrated form of the misery of a long-decaying civilization.”
That this experience was unique is not likely; but there cannot have been many who have had the opportunity of introducing one sister to another in disguise, two thousand miles away from home.
A fortnight in Cairo, partly spent in making arrangements for our inland voyage, and otherwise in sight-seeing, now followed. To myself it brought not much satisfaction. An imprudent meal at Alexandria established a long fit of indigestion, producing, as my diary tells me, a succession of wretched nights.
One result was that when, after a few days, we made an expedition to the Pyramids, I felt too much enfeebled to attempt the ascent, and had to content myself with rambling about their bases and inspecting the adjacent remains. The entry in my diary describes me as “much impressed.” Perhaps even more than the Great Pyramid, the thing which impressed me was the tomb-temple in which we picnic’d. It is built of large polished granite blocks, so accurately fitted as not to have needed any mortar. Egyptologists say it is of greater antiquity than the pyramids themselves! More than anything else I saw, this ancient structure made me feel the mystery which enshrouds the earliest Egyptian civilization known to us.
It is needless to describe our visits to the mosques of Sultan Hassan and Mohammed Ali, the Tomb of the Kings and the Cemetery, the mosque of Talou, the Arab University, the howling dervishes and dancing dervishes, and a moonlight ride to the Tombs of the Caliphs. Suffice it to say that more or less daily sight-seeing relieved the long-drawn negotiation with a dragoman and the choice of a dahabeyah; for in the East, business-transactions, accompanied by much giving and receiving of presents, are exasperatingly slow.
During this interval the ladies of the party were taken to be presented to the Sultana (if that is the title of the Khedive’s wife); and it was proposed to me to make a like visit to the Khedive. I do not remember by whom the proposal was made; but I greatly astonished the gentleman by declining, and by giving as my reason that I did not care for introductions which led to nothing. I have a great aversion to mere ceremonial interviews.
By the end of a fortnight matters had been settled, and there remained only to stock the dahabeyah with the needful supplies. My friends amused themselves by rambling through the bazaars buying oriental knick-knacks; but as I had no taste for them (I brought back nothing but photographs) this distraction was not available. Hence I was a good deal bored. One of the things I did to pass the time was to make an excursion to a suburban watering place.
This place was Helouan, some dozen miles from Cairo, on the border of the Eastern Desert, where the existence of sulphuretted springs had led the late Khedive to attempt the establishment of a resort for visitors; not, however, with much success, for the place lacked attractions.
Clearer ideas of a desert were obtained than I before had; but that which I chiefly remember is that for the first time I perceived the nature of an “after-glow.” Egypt is a land in which fine sunsets are habitual—not sunsets of that gorgeous kind in which clusters of clouds are splendidly lighted up, for there are not commonly the clouds required; but sunsets fine in the sense of presenting a brightly illuminated Western sky. From the clearness and dryness of the air, it further results that habitually (as occasionally in our own climate in frosty weather), just as sunset is taking place, the Eastern portion of the heavens to some height above the horizon, becomes red. Evidently its redness is due to the fact that along with those rays which, reaching the observer, yield to his eyes the bright red of the western sky, there go the rays which pass by him and fall on the haze in the lower part of the Eastern sky. Now this illuminated haze, visible to him by reflected light, must be visible by transmitted light to people living several hundred miles below the Eastern horizon; and to them it constitutes an “after-glow.” Verification is obtained by watching what takes place. As the sun goes below the Western horizon, there may be observed on the Eastern horizon (which the flatness of the desert makes visible in Egypt) a grey band, due to that portion of the Eastern haze which does not catch the red rays from the West. As the sun descends further below the Western horizon, this grey band broadens; and, at the same time, the red haze above it ascends and broadens. This process continues until eventually the red haze, becoming fainter as it broadens and rises higher, is lost in mid-heaven; where, of course, the thickness of illuminated haze, as seen from below, is insufficient to cause appreciable colour. Presently, on the other side of the heavens, this process is reversed. The diffused and faint red light extending high up, gradually descends, narrows, becomes brighter, and ends in an “after-glow”.
On the morning of Dec. 12 our dragoman signalized the departure of our dahabeyah by discharging his pistol—the sole weapon of defence we had on board; and we sailed away with a fair north wind.
It seems at first surprising that the North wind should blow daily, if not with complete regularity, yet with something approaching it. I suppose the cause is that, to supply the place of the immense volume of heated air which ascends from the surfaces of the surrounding deserts when the sun begins to heat them, a current of air sets in below; and the coldest air, which is that from the North, is that which takes the place of the heated air. Be this as it may, however, the cold North wind greatly qualifies one’s sensation of warmth from the sun’s rays, and at the same time greatly qualifies the pre-conception one has of the climate. How cold it frequently is may may be judged from the fact that the fellahs, who, on the banks of the river, work all day with their shadoofs, raising water to irrigate their lands, habitually construct screens to shelter themselves from the blast. And, in further proof of the coldness, I may add that more than ten days’ journey South of Cairo, we twice had ice formed at night on the deck of our dahabeyah.
Here let me correct another erroneous impression respecting the meteorology of Egypt, entertained, I suppose, by others in common with myself. I had always been led to believe that “it never rains in Egypt.” I was completely undeceived when at Helouan; where, in the adjacent desert, besides marks of recent storms, I saw a channel which had been cut through the rock, some dozen or more feet wide, and nearly as deep, by the tremendous torrents which occasionally rushed down it.
While I am speaking of natural objects which interested me, let me name a flock of pelicans seated upon an adjacent sand-bank as we sailed by. After the melancholy-looking specimens in the Zoological Gardens, it was pleasant to see these birds in one of their natural habitats. I was puzzled to understand how, in the turbid waters of the Nile, they are able to secure a sufficiency of prey. Obscured by the suspended mud and sand, fish can be visible at but very short distances; and one would have thought that creatures requiring food in such considerable quantities, could not have obtained, by diving, a sufficiency.
Perhaps it may be that the fish are limited almost entirely to the bottom, of which there is curious evidence. As far as I remember, all the fish I saw, differing though they might in species, were alike in being provided with long pendant tentacles; showing how large a part exploration by touch played in their lives. So thick is the Nile water that at any considerable depth in it the light must be very dim; and, as the distance seen through an obstructing medium with little light can be but small, the obtainment of food in mid-water must be impracticable. Feeling about at the bottom seems the only alternative; and hence the great development of tactile organs.
But what of our life and adventures on the Nile? Well, is seems hardly worth while to say anything concerning them. As to the life, considered apart from occasional excursions to tombs and temples, it was monotonous enough. And as for the things seen, are they not described by many travellers, and delineated in the works of Egyptologists? Now-a-days, to say anything new about them would be difficult.
There is, however, a further reason why I do not give details of our journey. The dyspepsia set up at Alexandria, with its consequent bad nights, had produced a state of depression which prevented me from entering with due zest into sight-seeing; and anything I might say about what we did and saw would lack that character which only deep interest can give. Hitherto my nervous relapses had not caused any conspicuous changes in my flow of spirits, which, throughout life, had been equable—never very high, never very low. But now I had experience of a state, not uncommon with nervous subjects, in which fancies, afterwards seen to be morbid, took possession of me; leading to ill-balanced estimates and consequent unwise judgments. Already I had once decided to return, and had changed my mind; and at the first cataract I finally decided to return. As is usual, our expedition was to extend to the second cataract; but at Philæ, leaving my friends to carry out the original plan, I bade them good-bye. This decision of course added considerably to my expenses; for, beyond my share of the costs up to the second cataract and back, which of course I paid though I did not go, I had to pay the cost of the return-journey to Cairo.
This return-journey was rendered less monotonous than it would else have been by a fortunate incident. Such excursion traffic on the Nile as is not carried on in dahabeyahs, is divided between two steamers; one of which plies below the first cataract and the other above it: passengers being transferred through some five miles of desert from the one to the other. When my friends sailed away from Philæ, this upper steamer had just returned from the second cataract; and, joining those on board, I had, in common with them, to wait three days until the steamer at Assouan was ready for us. Among those thus detained was Prof. Sayce; and during these three days we had some interesting conversations. One of them concerned a general assumption of the philologists to which I demur; and I remember it in some measure because it took place as we paced backwards and forwards on the southern side of a grove of palms, to shelter ourselves from the North wind; though the place is nearly five hundred miles south of Cairo.
On our way down the river Prof. Sayce’s information made more instructive than they would otherwise have been some things we saw together, and particularly the temple of Abydos.
How much was due to the aspect of things, and how much to my mood, I cannot say, but Egypt impressed me as a melancholy country. In the title of a work by Mr. Stuart Glennie, it is called “the Morning-Land”: the intention obviously being to suggest that it was the land in which civilization dawned. But to me, not looking forward upon it but looking back, it seemed rather the land of decay and death—dead men, dead races, dead creeds.
Everywhere are ancient burial places to be visited—vast cemeteries like that of Sakkara, extensive sepulchral chambers such as those of the kings of Thebes, and rockcut tombs seen in the faces of the cliffs as we sail by. Relics taken from graves are soon made familiar; and from time to time one sees fragments of mummy-cloth blown about by the winds. Here and there are shapeless mounds of débris, chaotically grouped, where once towns and cities stood. At some places half imbedded in these, and elsewhere otherwise imbedded, are the remains more or less ruined of the ancient temples, in which, as in the tombs, was carried on a cult that grievously subordinated the living to the dead; while, along with represented acts of sacrifice, their walls are filled with scenes of merciless slaughter of one people by another. And then, from the lifeless deserts on either hand, the winds have ever been bringing sands to bury the remains of men and their works, and to re-bury them when exhumed.
Nor does modern Egypt fail to remind one of death and decay. Vast heaps which cover up once populous towns, probably of comparatively recent date, draw one’s attention close to Cairo. Tombs, as of the Caliphs and others, are here, again, among the things to be visited. Moreover there are the burial grounds now in use—unfenced places run over by children and dogs, covered by broken stones and monuments, with holes which seem to run into the graves: places so repulsive that anyone otherwise indifferent to death might shudder at the thought of being interred there.
And then there comes the thought of the miserable peoples who have lived and died in the Nile valley; from the earliest times, when the masses were slaves to the military and priestly castes, down to our own times, when unhappy fellahs are beaten by extortionate taxgatherers to get money for supporting corrupt governments. The suffering which has been borne on the banks of the Nile by millions of men during thousands of years is appalling to think of.
Connected with these impressions, is the remembrance of a marvellous contrast between two memorials to the dead, presented at Ghizeh and at Elephantine respectively.
With the one memorial is associated the name of Cheops, or, as he is now called, Shufu or Koofoo—a king who, if we may believe Herodotus, kept a hundred thousand men at work for twenty years building his tomb; and who, whether these figures are or are not correct, must have imposed forced labour on enormous numbers of men for periods during which tens of thousands had to bear great pains, and thousands upon thousands died of their sufferings. If the amounts of misery and mortality inflicted are used as measures, this king, held in such detestation by later generations that statues of him were defaced by them, ought to be numbered among the few most accursed of men.
The other memorial I observed on the occasion of an excursion we made to the island of Elephantine at Assouan. We saw a burial place there; and noted a grave-heap recently made. Perhaps it covered the body of one who died prematurely of toil made greater by State-extortions; perhaps of a son who had laboured in support of aged parents; perhaps of a widow who had borne the burden of rearing fatherless children. But the fact which impressed me was that at the head of this grave-heap the sole mark of remembrance was a sundried brick stuck on end.
The contrasts between these monuments was striking when one thought of it. To a man of immeasurable guilt the biggest building which the world contains; to a man probably inoffensive and possibly meritorious a lump of parched clay!
After a day spent at Cairo in recruiting (for, as may be imagined, five nights on board a cramped Nile-steamer left me in a state of exhaustion), and after going to see the resident English physician there, Dr. Grant, I departed for Alexandria. Next morning was spent in an excursion to Ramleh, a residential suburb, to call on Mr. Hills, the international arbitrator (I don’t know his official title), who had invited me to stay with him; and, in the afternoon, I went on board the “Ceylon” P. & O. steamer.
Three days took us to Brindisi; another day to Ancona; and the next morning found us at Venice. Here I suppose I ought to have remained some time; but I find by my diary, rather to my surprise, that my stay did not extend beyond three days. Doubtless my impatience to get home was the chief cause of this abridgment; joined, perhaps, with the fact that “the stones of Venice” did not produce in me so much enthusiasm as in many. Not that I failed to derive much pleasure; but the pleasure was less multitudinous in its sources than that which is felt, or is alleged to be felt, by the majority. This may be seen from the first entry in my diary:—
“Venice at 8 to 9; went to Danielli’s. Saw St. Mark’s, the Piazza, the Grand Canal, and some churches: fine day—very picturesque—general effect fine—individual things not.”
Quarries in which men thought only of getting stone, often present picturesque effects when deserted; whereas the artificial rock-works made when trying to produce picturesqueness are always miserable failures. Venice reminded me of this. In the separate buildings in which architects aimed at beauty, they have rarely achieved it; but they have unawares achieved it in the assemblages of buildings. Houses severally placed without reference to effect, present everywhere charming combinations of forms and colours; so that, especially in the smaller canals, every turn furnishes a picture.
Astonished at these heretical opinions, the reader will doubtless ask for justifications, and I cannot well avoid giving them. Speaking generally, then, say of the palaces along the Grand Canal, my first criticism is that they are fundamentally defective in presenting to the eye nothing more than decorated flat surfaces. No fine architectural effect can be had without those advancing and retreating masses which produce broad contrasts of light and shade and yield variety in the perspective lines. This is not all. A flat façade has not only the defects that its perspective lines are monotonous and its contrasts of light and shade insufficient; but it has, in too conspicuous a way, the aspect of artificiality. Its decorative elements—columns placed against the surface, pilasters stuck upon it, reveals cut into it, string-courses running along it, plaques or medallions or carved wreaths attached in plain spaces—are all obviously designed for effect. They form no needful parts of the structure, but are merely superposed; and clearly tell the spectator that they are there simply to be admired. But any work of art is faulty if it suggests an eager desire for admiration in the artist—if it suggests that neither the thought of use nor the simple perception of beauty moved him, but that he was chiefly moved by love of applause. It is a recognized truth that that is the highest art which hides the art, and an ornamented flat surface necessarily fails in this respect; since it discloses unmistakably the fact that almost everything done to the surface is done for the sake of appearance. As illustrations of my meaning I may name the Dario, the Corner-Spinelli, and the Rezzonico palaces. The best of the flat façades is that of the Scuola di San Rocco; and it is so because the decorative element, less obtrusive than usual, is also subordinated to the structural element in such wise that its lines are dependent on the structural lines.
Passing from this general criticism to more special criticisms, let me single out the Ducal Palace. There are many faults which might be severally dwelt upon—the inelegant proportions of its main dimensions; the dumpy arches of the lower tier, and the dumpy windows in the wall above; the meaningless diaper pattern covering this wall, which suggests something woven rather than built; and the long rows of projections and spikes surmounting the coping, which remind one of nothing so much as the vertebral spines of a fish. But, not dwelling on these defects, let me signalize a defect of another order: the impression of weakness which the construction gives. A satisfactory architectural work, if it does not positively suggest stability, must, at any rate, avoid suggesting instability. The artist has to consider the sum total of a spectator’s consciousness; and if one element of that consciousness is a feeling of insecurity, however vague, that feeling is so much deduction from whatever pleasure is yielded by the purely æsthetic characters. In the Ducal Palace we have a lower tier of arches borne on dwarf columns, and above these a tier of more numerous arches on taller and thinner columns which support foliated circles; and then, surmounting this structure, we have a large area of wall, not much lightened by openings. The general effect is that of a very heavy mass posed on an assemblage of slender supports. That the weight is not too great for them to bear, is true: the building stands. But the appearance is such as to raise the thought of a dangerous stress—an uncomfortable thought which more or less perturbs the consciousness of such beauty as there may be in the parts.
And what about St. Mark’s? Well, I admit that it is a fine sample of barbaric architecture. I use the word barbaric advisedly; for it has the trait distinctive of semicivilized art—excess of decoration. This trait is seen in an Egyptian temple, with its walls and columns covered with coloured frescoes and hieroglyphs. It is seen in oriental dresses, of which the fabric is almost hidden by gold braiding and crusts of jewellery. It is seen in such articles of Indian manufacture as cabinets and boxes, having surfaces filled with fret-works of carving. And in mediæval days throughout Europe, it was habitually displayed on articles belonging to those of rank—pieces of furniture profusely inlaid; suits of armour covered everywhere with elaborate chasing; swords, guns, and pistols, with blades, barrels and stocks chased and carved from one end to the other. The characteristic of barbaric art is that it leaves no space without ornament; and this is the characteristic of St. Mark’s. The spandrils of the lower tier of arches are the only parts of the façade not crammed with decorative work. This is an error which more developed art avoids. Practically, if not theoretically, it recognizes the fact that, to obtain the contrasts requisite for good effect, there must be large areas which are relatively plain, to serve as foils to the enriched areas. A work of art which is full of small contrasts and without any great contrasts, sins against the fundamental principles of beauty; and a contrast above all others indispensable is that between simplicity and complexity.
Archeologically considered, St. Mark’s is undoubtedly precious; but it is not precious æsthetically considered. Unfortunately many people confound the two.
My last glance at Venice was from the gondola which took me up the Grand Canal to the Railway Station, early on the 7th of February. Thence I started for the West and reached Milan in the afternoon.
Two days there were pretty fully occupied in sight-seeing: the cathedral being the chief attraction. I see by my diary that I glanced into it on the afternoon of my arrival; heard part of the Mass there next day; and, before departing the day after, “went again to admire the cathedral”.
Leaving Milan on the 9th, I journeyed home viâ Turin and Paris, reaching London on the 12th. The entry in my diary is:—“Home at 7-10; heartily glad—more pleasure than in anything that occurred during my tour”.
From a letter to Youmans written on the 13th, I may quote a passage of some interest which, though irrelevant to the subject-matter of the chapter, belongs to it by order of date:—
“I reached home last night . . . In Paris on Wednesday I saw Baillière, and he told me that the French Minister of Education was desirous of having an edition of the Education from which the first chapter [“What Knowledge is of most worth”] should be omitted; for that, though he himself concurred in its argument, there would be much opposition if official distribution was given to a book containing it. I agreed with Baillière to let such an edition be published in a very cheap form.”
I should add that, in giving my assent to the publication of such an addition, I stipulated that the extent and nature of the part omitted should be specified in the preface. This was done, and the truncated book issued for tutorial use as desired.
ENDING OF THE DESCRIPTIVE SOCIOLOGY.
As during a long preceding period, so during the period covered by the foregoing six chapters, there had been carried on, in addition to other occupations, the superintendence of the Descriptive Sociology. In chapter XLVII an account was given of this undertaking up to the stage reached at the close of 1874; and here I have to indicate the course of events connected with it up to the date now arrived at, and then to a date considerably in advance. I may most conveniently do this by stringing together a number of extracts from letters to my American friend. One of them, dated January 22, 1875, says:—
“The loss on the Descriptive Sociology threatens to be very great, at any rate for a long time to come. I have had the accounts of expenditures and receipts made up to the end of last year. I find that to that date, I had spent £2170 ,, 12 ,, 10; and that my returns amounted to £260 ,, 17. To these returns I may add, as money not yet received but due, about £80 from sales of the three first numbers during the last half-year; and I suppose that the sum due from your side will, when received, swell the proceeds of sales to about £400.”
A letter of 27 Feb. again touches upon the question of loss:—
“It is clear that, as things now look, I must stop. The Savage Races now printing and in manuscript, must be published; and also the parts on which Collier, Scheppig, and Duncan, are now engaged; but after this is done I shall be disinclined to sacrifice further large sums, and give myself continued trouble, for the benefit of . . . .”
The correspondence after this contains nothing concerning the matter that is worth quoting until midsummer 1876; when, on July 10, I wrote:—
“Nos. 5 & 6 of the Des. Soc. are still in the press. No. 5 I hope to issue as soon as I return in the autumn; but No. 6 (the Hebrews) will not, I expect, be ready until the beginning of next year. I have abandoned the Hindoo civilization, finding that Duncan did not wish to continue the compilation, and being very glad to escape the further trouble and loss; so that I shall cease with No. 8.”
I evidently looked forward to this final issue after no great delay; but I was doomed to disappointment.
For now affairs became considerably complicated, and my worries much increased, in two ways. The rate of compilation was greatly diminished by the ill-health of the compilers, brought on by over-work notwithstanding my frequent protests; and it was further diminished by the premature departure from England of one of them. Dr. Scheppig’s adopted career—that of a teacher—he had, it appeared, simply intended to suspend for a time when he made his engagement with me: partly wishing to see something of English life and institutions. After three years he became impatient to resume his career; knowing that, according to German regulations, he had to pass through an ordained series of stages, and that longer delay would postpone by so much the attainment of a good position. Hence, at the beginning of 1876, he asked my permission to accept a post in Germany; representing to me that he would be able to finish the work he had in hand—the Hebrews—before leaving. The result well exemplifies the illusions caused by hope. When, towards April 1876, the time for going came, he had far from finished his task, and had to take it with him. This explanation will make comprehensible the following paragraph in a letter dated Jan. 3, 1877.
“Collier is quite broken down. He relapsed during the spring at the time when he became a candidate for that Professorship which he foolishly thought he would be able to undertake along with the completion of my work, and which, instead, sufficed, even by the excitement of the candidature, to put him wrong again. He has never got right since, and has been two months doing nothing. I had a letter from him this morning saying that he was no better. The evil is very serious, for this prostration of his state which has now lasted so long from the time since it first commenced two years ago, greatly adds to the cost of the compilation of the French Civilization. The compilation alone of this part will cost me £500 at least, if, indeed, I succeed in getting it completed, about which I begin to have my doubts. Scheppig too, I fear, is greatly out of health. His copy for the printer has been coming very slowly of late, although I was led to suppose there was not much to be done to it; and although I wrote a fortnight ago, inquiring about his health, he has not replied. I very much fear that he is worse. I repent greatly of my foolish good-nature in agreeing early last year that he should apply for the post that he now holds at Holstein. I listened to his representations that he would be able to finish the work before he went. He utterly miscalculated, was unable to anything like finish it, but took a great part of the work with him to complete there, and has not completed it by a great deal even now.”
The next noteworthy report of progress is dated Feb. 16, 1878:—
“A few days ago I made up my annual accounts of the Descriptive Sociology, and I find that I have now spent £3,200 and odd, while I have got back from England and America £800 and odd. That I shall ever in any lapse of time repay even printing expenses, is obviously out of the question; for I now see that the sales of the parts that have been issued some little time do not suffice to pay interest upon the capital invested in them. As soon as No. VI, the American Races, is through the press, which it will be I hope early in the autumn, I shall go to press with the French, which will be the last. The Hebrews is still dragging its slow length along, not above two-thirds of the extracts being as yet printed. I suspect as things are going on it will be another year before that is ready.”
In the slow progress of the undertaking nothing further is to be noted in correspondence until a passage dated Oct. 6, 1880, which runs:—“The printing of this part [Hebrews and Phœnicians] has cost me £320, saying nothing of the cost of compilation.” And then, in a letter of Dec. 2, comes this further reference to it:—
“This number of the “Hebrews and Phœnicians” has not yet had much notice, and there has been no sign of such extra sale as I had anticipated; so you had better beware how you run to any expense in the anticipation of a demand. The stupidity of the public passes all comprehension. Here is a thing which, as Hooker says, “every parson ought to have”, and yet there is no demand for it.”
It seemed a reasonable anticipation that, if not to the clergy as a body, yet to a considerable sprinkling of them, a work which presented the successive phases of Hebrew life under all its aspects in a way convenient for reference, would appear worth possessing. But authors and publishers alike are often utterly wrong. Books of which they have small hopes prove great successes, and books of great promise prove failures. Neither at the above date, nor during the subsequent months or years, did this number of the Descriptive Sociology command greater attention than the others.
Nearly another year had to elapse before this undertaking, so disastrous to the compilers in health and to me in purse, was brought to a close. A letter to Youmans dated Oct. 27, 1881, contains the passage:—
“At length the lingering process of getting No. 8 of the Descriptive Sociology through the press is complete. Collier has been so prostrate that he has actually taken more than a year to get the tables corrected and printed. I enclose herewith a copy of the notice of cessation, from which you will see that the pecuniary results are sufficiently disastrous. I am heartily glad, irrespective of this, to get the business out of hand, so that it may no longer occupy my attention.
Collier has written to me respecting the proposed introduction to the Descriptive Sociology. He is, however, so far shattered in health that he does not think he could work at it more than an hour a day.”
The “Notice of Cessation,” above referred to, ran as follows:—
“With the issue of the VIIIth part, herewith, the publication of the Descriptive Sociology will be closed.
The collecting, classifying, and abstracting of the materials contained in the parts now completed, was commenced in 1867; and the work, carried on at first by one compiler, subsequently by two, and for some years by three, has continued down to the present time.
On going through his accounts, Mr. Spencer finds that during the fourteen years which have elapsed since the undertaking was commenced, the payments to compilers, added to the costs of printing, etc., have amounted to £4,425 15s. 7d.; while, up to the present time, the returns (including those from America) have been £1,054 12s. 1d.—returns which, when they have been increased by the amount derived from the first sales of the part now issued, will leave a deficit of about £3,250.
Even had there been shown considerable appreciation of the work, it would still have been out of the question to continue it in face of the fact that, after the small sales which immediately follow publication, the returns, so far from promising to repay expenses in course of time, do not even yield five per cent. interest on the capital sunk.
Should the day ever come when the love for the personalities of history is less and the desire for its instructive facts greater, those who occupy themselves in picking out the gold from the dross will perhaps be able to publish their results without inflicting on themselves losses too grievous to be borne—nay, may possibly receive some thanks for their pains.”
Perhaps I ought to add that the above-stated loss is much less than that which would be set down by an accountant. As is implied by the figures, the amount laid out is the total which resulted from adding each year the sum spent in that year, and similarly with the proceeds: no account being taken of interest in either case. If the amount expended in successive years had been considered as otherwise invested, in securities yielding, say, 4 per cent.; and if, as I suppose they would have been by a man of business, the sums sacrificed in loss of interest on the progressively increasing total during the fourteen years, had been taken into calculation, the loss specified would have been considerably more than £4000.
Since the notice was issued the sales, small as they were, have so greatly decreased that nothing like 5 per cent. upon the capital sunk is obtained. The returns for last year (I write in 1889), after deducting trade-profits and the costs of paper, printing, and binding, yielded a little more than one per cent. on the irrecoverable outlay.
Already in October 1879, while the volume on Ceremonial Institutions was passing through the press, and there remained nothing for me to do to it beyond correcting the proofs, the next division, Political Institutions, had been commenced: the first half of the month having been devoted to the preparation of materials, and much of the latter part to the writing of the “Preliminary” chapter. On Oct. 8 I wrote:—
“It is a big business even to prepare the materials, and it will be a very big business to properly deal with them. In fact I feel I am about to commence the most arduous part of my undertaking—being, as it is, so immensely extensive and so immensely complex. However, the organizing ideas are making themselves fairly clear, and I have hopes that it will work out satisfactorily, and that, having worked out satisfactorily, it will be of very great importance in rationalizing people’s ideas; or at least the ideas of those who are sufficiently advanced to be capable of assimilating it.”
The decision, made on the 31st of the month, to go to Egypt, was joined with the intention of writing further chapters during the voyage up and down the Nile; and to this end I took with me a considerable quantity of classified extracts and memoranda: deciding that “I must revert to primitive practices and be my own amanuensis.” But, as is implied by the last chapter but one, these preparations and resolves proved futile. Though one of the young ladies of our party kindly offered to write to my dictation, yet my mood was such that nothing came of the offer; and the packet of materials I had taken with me was brought back unopened: the only furtherance of my work being, perhaps, that which resulted from contact with people in a lower stage of civilization.
Concerning the course of my writing during the period covered by this chapter, not very much needs here be said. I will note only that I decided to treat the successive chapters of Political Institutions as I had treated those of Ceremonial Institutions. I decided to publish them, or at any rate a number of them, serially; and I made arrangements, like those before made, with the Fortnightly Review in England, with the Popular Science Monthly in America, and with periodicals in France, Germany, and Italy. In this case I did not extend the simultaneous publication of translations to Hungary and Russia: why I do not now remember; but I think because it did not seem worth while to take the extra trouble involved. Adding only that the first of the chapters thus published made its appearance in Nov. 1880, and the last (in England at least) in July 1881, I pass on to narrate the incidents which accompanied this portion of my work.
And here I am reminded that I have not said anything about the daily routine I went through during the years now passing. Some three chapters back, a transcribed portion of my diary presented in detail my occupations and amusements during an autumn vacation; and it seems fit that I should somewhere give a like transcript from the register of my occupations and amusements during a portion of the London season. To avoid the need for selection, I will take the interval between my return from Egypt and the end of March; omitting the first week, during which, after three months’ absence, I had of course scarcely settled down into the usual order, either of work or of social life.
“February 22nd [Sunday]:—Reading and sorting mems; Club; dined at Busk’s—Allman and wife. 23rd:—New secretary—Mr. Sutton; letters and sorting mems; Club; dined there, Hirst and Debus. 24th:—Letters and sorting mems; Athenæum committee; dined at Club—Tyndall, Hirst, and Debus. 25th:—Letters; reading French tables for extracts; business; Club; dined there—Hirst, Debus. 26th:—reading French tables for extracts; Club; dined there—Hirst. 27th:—Commenced “Political Organization”; dined at Club—Hirst, Debus. 28th:—“Political Organization”; Club; dined at Tyndall’s—Huxley, Dean Stanley, Hirst, Lady Claud Hamilton, Miss Hamilton, &c. 29th [Sunday]:—Revising draft of Autobio.; dined at Club—Hirst and Debus. March 1st:—“Political Organization”; Club as usual. 2nd:—“Political Organization”; Club; dined with Miss North—Holman Hunt, Fergusson, Galton, Richmond, Maskelyne, &c. 3rd:—“Political Organization”; Club; dined with Frankland—meeting Spottiswoode, Hooker, Huxley, Debus, Tyndall, &c. 4th:—“Political Organization”; Club; X dinner. 5th:—“Political Organization”; Club; dined there—Hirst. 6th:—“Political Organization”; Club; to Kew and dined with Hooker—met Siemens, Masters, and Henslow. 7th [Sunday]:—Revising Autobio.; walk with Cobb and [Arthur] Cohen; called on Campbells; Club; dined there—Hirst and Debus. 8th:—Finished “Political Organization”; dined at Club; went to Criterion Theatre. 9th:—Arranging mems; Athenæum committee—Rule II election; called on Theresa Potter to inquire about the travellers; dined at Club—Morley. 10th:—Arranging mems; began “Political Integration”; dined at Club—Hirst; Soirée at Spottiswoode’s. 11th:—“Political Integration”; dined at Club. 12th:—“Political Integration”; Club. 13th:—“Political Integration”; Club; dined with Lord Arthur Russell—met Lord and Lady Sligo, Lord and Lady Reay, General McCrealock, &c. 14th [Sunday]:—Miscellaneous; called on Mrs. Lewes; dined at Club—Tyndall, Hirst, and Debus. 15th:—Revising; dined at Club—Roupell, Hirst, and Debus. 16th:—Revising; Club; dined at Galton’s—Romanes, Maskelyne, Strachey, Miss Lawrences, &c., &c. 17th:—Revising; dined at Club. 18th:—Correspondence with Collier all morning—no amanuensis; dined at Club. 19th:—Ditto, Ditto; Athenæum House-Committee—selecting cooks; dined at Club. 20th:—Revising; Club; dined at Smalley’s—Lord Reay, A. Forbes, Lord Houghton, Elton, Cartwright, &c. 21st [Sunday]:—Unwell; dined at Club. 22nd:—Revising; dined at Club—Hirst, Debus. 23rd:—Revising; Club; dined at Harrison’s—Pigott, Paul, &c. 24th:—Revising; looking after refitting of my study, and arranging books &c.; dined at Club. 25th:—Revising; dined at Club and came home to meet Lott. 26th:—With Lott to Richmond; dined there; down the Thames to Kew; home at 6½. 27th:—Revising; afternoon with Lott to Lyceum, to see Merchant of Venice; evening, called on Baileys [old friends we made in Switzerland in ’53]. 28th [Sunday]:—Loch came to spend the day; afternoon, called on Bishop [an old engineering friend]; dined at St. James restaurant; evening at Busk’s. 29th:—Over with Lott to Enmore Park and spent the day with Loch; walked to Crohamhurst. 30th:—Lott went home; new secretary, Mr. Edmunds; dictating “Political Integration”; dined at Club. 31st:—“Political Integration”; Club; dined there.”
These entries may be taken as fair representatives, save in two respects. It seems that from the want of a secretary during part of the time, my morning’s work did not proceed in the ordinary uniform way—was not indicated, as it mostly was, by the title of a chapter repeated day after day, followed after a while by the title of a subsequent chapter. And then I see no mention of music. Usually, in the space of a month, a concert, public or private, would appear in the record of my relaxations.
If I did not go to him at Easter, Lott usually came to me; and this year a special motive for coming had been to hear all about my doings in Egypt. Doubtless among the things I told him, was something equivalent to the following passage written to Youmans on April 13:—
“I am glad to report myself as well—better indeed than I have been for a long time. Notwithstanding drawbacks, the break in my ordinary life which the excursion to Egypt involved, seems to have been decidedly beneficial, and has apparently worked some kind of constitutional change; for, marvellous to relate, I am now able to drink beer with impunity and I think with benefit—a thing I have not been able to do for these 15 years or more.” [Long desistance from work was probably a chief cause.]
On May 3, referring to the same subject, I wrote:—
“I was 60 on Tuesday last. My vigour is pretty well shown by the fact that I found myself running up stairs two steps at a time, as I commonly do.”
It seems strange that, considering my frequent bouts of dyspepsia and perpetual bad nights, I should have retained so much vitality. The next extract, dated 21 June, concerns another matter:—
“Enclosed I send you a note which will please you, and which will furnish you with an admirable handle against the Classicists. It is from the Greek minister here; and accompanies, as you see by its contents, a Greek translation made by a late Minister of Education. The surprising and extremely telling fact is that this thing which the Greeks have first undertaken to translate, is the first chapter of the Education—‘What knowledge is of most worth.’ ”
Anomalous enough! While in England the educational authorities cry “Greek Literature rather than Science,” in Greece they cry “Science rather than Greek literature.”
Whitsuntide found me at Clifton: duty more than pleasure being the occasion of my journey there. Since the death of my uncle Thomas, named in an early part of this volume, I have made no mention of my aunt Anna. But on looking back I count up four visits to see her, which were among those unrecorded excursions referred to in a recent chapter: two being to Hinton, where, after the death of her brother, Mr. Brooke, she lived for some years with her sister-in-law and niece; and two being to Churchill near Bristol, where she has, since the death of her sister-in-law, lived with the clergyman to whom her niece was married. Churchill is within easy reach of Clifton. On going thither I learned that she was at Weston-super-Mare. There I went next day, and found her bearing cheerfully her invalid-life in bed, borne for years before and years since—evidently consoled by those thoughts of compensation hereafter which doubtless, in the present state of the world, make the ills of life more tolerable to many than they would else be.
Before returning to town I made a détour to Stourbridge, with a view to finding an answer to the genealogical question named in a preceding chapter; but I failed, as before.
In the course of his career an author finds that each new book is a new hostage to fortune. Like a child of the body, to which Bacon’s metaphor tacitly refers, a child of the mind becomes a source of troubles and anxieties; so that, as he advances in life, more and more of the author’s time is taken up with the increasing distractions which accompany the increasing number of volumes published. I do not refer only to the fact that each additional work furnishes a further vulnerable place to antagonists; though this is of course a large part of the result. But I refer also to the fact that each additional work brings after it an extra series of transactions which augment the complications of life in subsequent years—the trouble of revision, the attention required to bring things up to date, the business of new editions.
This spring two interruptions hence arising occurred; of which the first was entailed by an apparent need for self-defence. By Mr. Malcolm Guthrie there had been published a volume, On Mr. Spencer’s Formula of Evolution, aiming to refute the doctrine set forth in First Principles; and the Rev. Prof. Birks had issued a book entitled Modern Physical Fatalism and the Doctrine of Evolution, including an examination of Mr. H. Spencer’s First Principles. Besides these major attacks, formidable if measured by bulk, there were some minor ones, less bulky, but more worthy of notice, coming from Prof. Tait, the Rev. Mr. Kirkman, Mr. Matthew Arnold, the North American Review, and Prof. Cliffe Leslie. A new edition of First Principles was called for; and, thinking it worth while to deal with these antagonists in an Appendix, I devoted to the task parts of June and July.
The other interruption had a different origin. When I agreed to publish The Study of Sociology in the “International Scientific Series,” I stipulated that after a specified period I should be at liberty to issue an edition of the work along with my other works. The year in which I became free to do this was 1880; and for several preceding years I had, during intervals of leisure, been slowly removing such defects of expression as I found in the book, and preparing a postscript. I think I have before named the fact that so far from disliking the process of polishing, as most writers do, I had a partiality for it; and cannot let any piece of work pass so long as it seems to me possible to improve it. The library edition of The Study of Sociology, published in July of this year, furnished a marked illustration of this trait. I had of course revised the original MS.; I had revised the proofs before publication in the Contemporary; I had revised the proofs of the re-published articles forming the volume as it appeared in the “International Scientific Series”; I had revised this volume in preparation for a final edition; and, lastly, I had revised the successive sheets of this final edition as they passed through the press. Thus every sentence in the work had passed under my eye for correction five times; and each time there was rarely a page which did not bear some erasures and marginal marks. There are those who hold that changes of expression, carried even to a much smaller extent, are commonly injurious; and it may be that the first mode of expression is occasionally the best. But I am of opinion that where an alteration is also a condensation it is nearly always an improvement.
Occasionally very ludicrous effects are caused by the printing of sentences which were probably not read over after they were written. I have noted in the course of years two examples worth recording. One was in an advertisement which I cut out of The Times, and have now before me. It begins as follows:—
“Mr. Henry Leslie’s Choir, June 11.—Programme:—Part 1. Sacred Music.—Motett, for double choir, ‘The Spirit also helpeth us’ (in compliance with very numerous requests), Bach.”
The other was still more remarkable. Some dozen years since there arose a mania for ornamenting houses at Christmas with illuminated texts; and in response to the demand for these, there appeared an advertisement of “Marcus Ward’s Christmas Wall Decorations”. To guide purchasers in ordering those which would fit spaces on their walls, Messrs. Ward & Co. had specified after each text the length of the scroll occupied by it. This memorandum of length gave to more than one of them some oddity of appearance; but finally there came this:—
“ ‘Unto you is born a Saviour.’ About 6 feet long.”
This advertisement, which also I have preserved, will be found in the Athenæum for Dec. 15, 1877, page 788.
Already I have narrated two strange coincidences that have occurred to me; and because it furnished the occasion for a third, I must say something about my visit to Scotland this autumn.
After a fortnight at Inveroran, I moved on to Loch Hourn-head. A deer-forest, spreading over some of the mountains adjacent, had been for several years tenanted by Mr. Robert Birkbeck; and by him I had been invited there. A small yacht which fetched me from Glenelg, and in which various excursions were made, added to the pleasures of the place; and partly in rambling, partly in sea-fishing, partly in yachting, a pleasant ten days was passed. During my stay, reference was made to Black’s novels, the scenes of many of which lie on the west coast of Scotland. This recalled to me a curious coincidence which had occurred some years before while I was staying at Ardtornish. I was reading A Daughter of Heth. At intervals I had got through the first volume and commenced the second, when, one afternoon, it was announced that the Dobhran was about to start for Oban to meet friends who were arriving from Glasgow. Knowing that there would be a good deal of unoccupied time, I took with me this second volume. We arrived in Oban Bay half an hour before the steamer was due, and cast anchor. During the interval of waiting I resumed my novel. Presently I came to a part which told how the heroine was taken on a yachting excursion by her friends, and went to Oban Bay. This odd coincidence between the fictitious yachting and the actual yachting I narrated. Now comes the strange fact. If not the next day, then certainly within a few days, I took up a number of the Cornhill Magazine in which Mr. Black’s novel, White Wings, was being serially published, and read a chapter containing an account of a visit paid by the heroine and her friends to Loch Hourn! The coincidence was not, on this second occasion, complete; for I was not on board Mr. Birkbeck’s yacht while reading. But the yacht was lying out in the loch, within two hundred yards of the window at which I sat.
For this last of the three coincidences I have named, there is no other evidence than my own word; but of the others there exist, among my papers, documentary proofs. The one described in the first volume, showing that, at an interval of four years, I made two engagements of exactly the same kind, in which my two superiors were both of the same nationality, had the same surnames, and the same christian names, is one which might as readily have occurred to any one else as to me; and one which I suppose must from time to time be paralleled in the degree of correspondence, if not in the kind of correspondence. Now comes the lesson. There is no more reason for expecting correspondence between two such sets of facts in actual life, than between such a set in actual life and such a set in a dream. Considered as a question of probabilities, the last correspondence is just as likely as the first. See then the implication. Millions of people in Great Britain dream every night; and in the space of a year there are probably at least a hundred millions of dreams vivid enough to be recalled on awaking. Clearly, then, in view of this occasional correspondence between two sets of events in actual life, we must infer that out of this enormous number of cases there will occasionally be a correspondence between a set of events in actual life and a set of events in a dream; and when one such occurs it will appear like a fulfilment. May we not say that the alleged fulfilments are not more common than, in conformity with the law of probability, we may expect them to be?
My farewell to my friends, and to the grand scenery of Loch Hourn, was made on the 25th August, and on the next day I arrived in London.
As narrated above, there had arisen in the spring two of those eddies or backwaters by which the stream of an author’s life is more and more impeded as it lengthens and broadens; and now in the autumn there arose another. Its nature is indicated in the following extract from correspondence:—
“As you have, I daresay, observed, I have been a good deal attacked by various critics as to the “incoherence”, as they call it, of my psychological system, and the “confused” character of my metaphysics: the confusion which they ascribe to me, being, as I conceive, due to their own inability to co-ordinate the several aspects of the system as they are now separately stated. As I hinted in the course of my reply to criticisms, written some years ago, I had originally intended to write a division under the head “Congruities”, in which the harmony existing between the several parts should be pointed out, and had refrained from doing this because I thought the harmony was sufficiently conspicuous; but that, as the criticisms passed proved that this was not the case, I might hereafter add this division. The third edition of the Psychology, I find, is now gone, with the exception of fifty copies; and finding this, I am inclined to prepare this additional division for the fourth edition. As this opinion concerning the Psychology,—that the views are not consistent with one another,—has been made widely prevalent, and is repeated by critics who know nothing about it as an established truth, it seems to me needful that I should do this; especially as I fancy the reputation of the book is somewhat damaged by this kind of opinion in the Universities.”
The execution of this piece of work, commenced before I left town, occupied me for a month after my return; and then followed a short supplementary holiday. I had for several years made it a practice to take runs down to the sea-side (usually Brighton) when the state of my work enabled me to partly occupy the time in revision. So, taking with me a set of proofs of this new division of the Psychology, and visiting the Spottiswoodes at Coombe Bank on my way, I passed on to Minster, Margate, Westgate, Ramsgate, Sandwich, Deal, and Dover: staying a few hours at some of these places and a few days at others; and returning to town as soon as I had finished my proof-correcting.
Still another backwater now hindered me. Various criticisms, some from undistinguished persons and others from men of mark, had been made upon The Data of Ethics: Prof. Sidgwick being, I remember, one among these last. A new edition was called for; and, to remove certain of the misapprehensions and invalid objections, it seemed worth while to say something. The result was that I devoted nearly three weeks to writing an appendix to the book. Only in the last week of October had I freed myself from these various entanglements, and was able to resume the writing of Political Institutions, which thereafter made some progress.
Two months later came one of those events which, as the years roll on, happen with increasing frequency, and render life less worth living. The following extract from a letter to Lott tells what this event was:—
“You were doubtless saddened by the sudden death of George Eliot. I had seen her on the very afternoon of the day on which she was taken ill—being impelled to go in response to a note I had received the preceding day, and by the consciousness that I was leaving town and could not otherwise expect to see her for three weeks. The next I knew was the announcement of her death in Thursday’s evening paper, which reached me at Hastings.”
Some of the obituary notices contained an error which had been long current without making its appearance in such form as to admit of rectification. It was now needful to rectify it, and I published the following letter in several of the daily papers.
“Sir,—Though, as one among those intimate friends most shocked by her sudden death, I would willingly keep silence, I feel that I cannot allow to pass a serious error contained in your biographical notice of George Eliot. A positive form is there given to the belief which has been long current, that I had much to do with her education. There is not the slightest foundation for this belief. Our friendship did not commence until 1851—a date several years later than the publication of her translation of Strauss, and when she was already distinguished by that breadth of culture and universality of power which have since made her known to all the world.—Herbert Spencer.”
Information which I had, I suppose, given to my American friend during one of his visits here, led him to publish in a New York journal a letter rectifying kindred misconceptions current in the United States. This is what I subsequently wrote to him on the matter:—
“Your second letter, which concerned the notice of ‘George Eliot,’ reached me while away in Gloucestershire, but only this morning did I receive a copy of the Sun, containing your explanations.
What you have said is nearer to the truth than the current statements are, though it is still, I think, divergent, as representing my influence as greater than I think it was. In respect to the fact that I, in early days, urged her to write fiction, you are doubtless right; though it was not so much on the ground of any unfitness for philosophical writing, which I should be far from alleging, but on the ground that I thought she had in a high degree all the faculties needed for fiction. That she resisted this suggestion for some years is also true. It may be, and probably is, as you say, that she was considerably influenced all along by my books. In fact, accepting their general views as she did, it could hardly be otherwise; and it may be that the Principles of Psychology was a help to her in the respect of her analyses. But it never occurred to me to consider the effect so great as you suppose. Her powers in respect of introspection and sympathetic insight into others, were naturally extremely great; and I think her achievements in the way of delineation of character are almost wholly due to spontaneous intuition.
In respect of her avowed condition, she has been more a disciple of Comte than of mine; although her acceptance of Comte’s views was very much qualified, and, indeed, hardly constituted her a Comtist in the full sense of the word. Still she had strong leanings to the “Religion of Humanity”, and that always remained a point of difference between us. However, during our last interview, which was on the very day she was taken ill, conversation brought out evidence that she was veering a good deal away from Comte, and recognized the fundamental divergence from the Comtist conception of society, of views of mine which she accepted. She had been re-reading, with Mr. Cross, the Data of Ethics and the Study of Sociology (the last, indeed, for the third time), and was in general sympathy with their views. So that the influence might have been more manifest in further works if she had lived to write them (she had sketched out another novel and written the first chapter).
However, you have done very well by correcting the false impressions that have been so widely diffused. Probably you have already seen that I immediately myself wrote a letter to the papers stating that there was no truth in the notion that her education had been under my direction.”
To exclude a mis-apprehension likely to be strengthened by a reference made above, let me say that the mention of Comte and his doctrines had resulted during a conversation concerning The Study of Sociology, and was quite incidental. Positivism had always been a tacitly tabooed topic between the Leweses and myself—the only topic on which we differed, and which we refrained from discussing.
A movement was commenced to obtain for George Eliot a place in Westminster Abbey; but, before any overt steps were taken, it was concluded that undesirable comments would probably be made, and the movement was abandoned. She was buried in the Highgate Cemetery; and, though the day was continuously rainy, the funeral was attended by a very large concourse, including many distinguished men.
The mention above of The Study of Sociology, and the consciousness that the writing of Political Institutions occupied me during the period covered by this chapter, suggest the propriety of here saying something about my political opinions at the age of 60, considered in contrast with those I held in early days. Have my ideas been modified by the conservatism of advancing years, or by the wider knowledge acquired? or have both operated in causing the change from a sanguine view to a desponding view? I have sometimes startled friends by saying that I am more tory than any tory, and more radical than any radical; and the still-continued truth of this paradox shows that, while I have not relinquished my ideal of the future, I have come to see that its realization is far more remote than I had supposed. The indignation against wrong, the hopefulness of youth, and the lack of experience, had joined in me, as they do in many, to produce eagerness for political re-organization, and the belief that it needed only to establish a form of government theoretically more equitable, to remedy the evils under which society suffered. Hence my juvenile radicalism.
It is true, as shown in Social Statics, that by the time I was thirty the crude notions of five-and-twenty had been considerably qualified. I had come to see that institutions are dependent on character; and, however changed in their superficial aspects, cannot be changed in their essential natures faster than character changes. It had become manifest to me that men are rational beings in but a very limited sense; that conduct results from desire, to the gratification of which reason serves but as a guide; and that hence political action will on the average be determined by the balance of desires, wherever this can show itself. It is also true, as shown in the essay on “Reform: the Dangers and the Safeguards”, that ten years later I saw that mischiefs would result from the giving of votes, unless the cost of political action, general and local, were made to fall directly and unmistakeably on all individuals who had them; and that political power can be safely extended only as fast as governmental functions are restricted.
But I myself illustrated the truth that feeling rather than intellect guides; for, apparently forgetting these conclusions, I approved that wide extension of the franchise effected by the Reform Bill of 1867. The sentiment of early years, so strongly enlisted on behalf of the seemingly-just principle of giving equal political powers to all men, proved too strong for the restraints of my calmer judgments. And then, beyond those recognized truths which feeling led me to ignore, there were other truths unrecognized which I ought not to have overlooked, and from the recognition of which further deterrents should have arisen.
I might have inferred a priori, that which has now become clear a posteriori, that the change would result in replacing the old class-legislation by a new class-legislation. It is certain that, given the average human nature now existing, those who have power will pursue, indirectly if not directly, obscurely if not clearly, their own interests, or rather their apparent interests. We have no reason for supposing that the lower classes are intrinsically better than the higher classes. Hence if, while the last were predominant, they made laws which in one way or other favoured themselves, it follows that now, when the first are predominant, they also will give legislation a bias to their own advantage. Manifest as it always was, it has now become more manifest still, that, so long as governmental action is unrestricted, the thing required is a representation of interests; and that a system under which one interest is overwhelmingly represented (whether it be that of a smaller or of a larger section of the community) will issue in one-sided laws. We shall presently see the injustices once inflicted by the employing classes paralleled by the injustices inflicted by the employed classes. During a long past the superior have inequitably profited at the cost of the inferior; and now one of those rhythms displayed in movements of every order, is bringing about a state in which the inferior will inequitably profit at the cost of the superior.
There was another overlooked truth which has lately become conspicuous enough. Often I have reproached politicians with contemplating only the proximate results of legislation and not seeing the remote results; and I find I have to reproach myself with a kindred blindness. I did not in early days perceive that one organic change tends ever to initiate another, and this another, occasionally bringing about a perpetual moulding and re-moulding of institutions, and a too-plastic state of society; until there eventually arrives something approaching to political disorganization.
But, as above said, while character remains unchanged, change of institutions, however great superficially, cannot be fundamentally great; and while there is going on disorganization of one kind, there goes on re-organization of another kind—while the old coercive arrangements are being relaxed, new coercive arrangements are being unobtrusively established. For the concomitant of that legislation which more and more advantages the employed classes at the expense of the employing classes, is the growth of an administrative system becoming ever more powerful and peremptory—a new governing agency which the emancipated people are unawares elaborating for themselves, while thinking only of gaining the promised benefits. Unceasing development of this, daily more rapid, has now become inevitable, for the reason that both electors and their representatives invoke with increasing urgency public help, public expenditure, and public regulation, which all imply a continually augmenting army of officials—an army which, by the restrictions and dictations its members enforce, gradually decreases the freedom of citizens, at the same time that it further decreases this freedom by demanding that more and more of their labour shall be devoted to maintaining it and paying for the work it superintends. The insidious growth of this organized and consolidated bureaucracy will go on, because the electorate cannot conceive the general but distant evils it must entail, in contrast with the special and immediate advantages to be gained by its action. For the masses can appreciate nothing but material boons—better homes, shorter hours, higher wages, more regular work. Hence they are in favour of those who vote for restricting time in mines, for forcing employers to contribute to men’s insurance funds, for dictating railway-fares and freights, for abolishing the so-called sweating system. It seems to them quite right that education, wholly paid for by rates, should be State-regulated; that the State should give technical instruction; that quarries should be inspected and regulated; that there should be sanitary registration of hotels. The powers which local governments now have to supply gas, water, and electric light, they think may fitly be extended to making tramways, buying and working adjacent canals, building houses for artizans and labourers, lending money for the purchase of freeholds, and otherwise adding to conveniences and giving employment. While all this implies a wide-spread officialism, ever growing in power, it implies augmented burdens upon all who have means: constituting an indirect re-distribution of property. There is, in fact, already in force the policy which Mr. Henry George advocates, when he says we must not turn out the landlords but “tax them out”.
On recognizing the universality of rhythm, it becomes clear that it was absurd to suppose that the great relaxation of restraints—political, social, commercial—which culminated in free-trade, would continue. A re-imposition of restraints, if not of the same kind then of other kinds, was inevitable; and it is now manifest that whereas during a long period there had been an advance from involuntary co-operation in social affairs to voluntary co-operation (or, to use Sir Henry Maine’s language, from status to contract), there has now commenced a reversal of the process. Contract is in all directions being weakened and broken; and we are on the way back to that involuntary co-operation, or system of status, consequent on the immense development of public administrations and the corresponding subordination of citizens—a system of industries carried on under universal State-regulation—a new tyranny eventually leading to new resistances and emancipations.
There may be factors which I have overlooked. Cooperation, for example, were it successful, might do much towards checking this transformation. But so long as cooperation succeeds only in distribution and fails in production, not much is to be hoped from it. Human nature must be much better than it at present is before a much higher civilization can be established. Though I believe that, in the words of the song, “there’s a good time coming,” it now seems to me that the “good time” is very far distant.
Beyond the usual routine entries, varied by mention of a visit to Standish at Easter, my diary tells me nothing of note concerning the season of 1881. The following extracts from letters, however, seem worth reproducing.
The first is dated Feb. 14:—
“I had from Alglave the other day a pleasant piece of intelligence which you will be glad to learn. The French Government have bought 100 copies of the translation of the Data of Ethics for the public libraries in France.”
The next is dated May 7:—
“I inclose a letter from Morley in which, as you see, he proposes to end the series with the forthcoming chapter on ‘Compound Political Heads.’ ”
The succeeding chapters were, however, published in America. The next passage which may fitly be quoted bears the date June 13:—
“I am glad to see that you take the same view as I do with respect to the supreme importance of the political theory, especially for you in the U.S. I do not believe that a true theory will do much good; but we may at any rate say, contrariwise, that an untrue one does a great deal of harm; and at present much mischief is going on among you as a result of untrue theories.”
Utterly irrelevant though it is in subject, I am prompted to add here a passage written during this spring to my friend Lott:—
“As you say you have thoughts of coming to hear Berlioz’s Faust, I would suggest that a much better thing in that way would be to hear his Romeo and Juliet, which I am glad to say is to be repeated on April 7th. This is, I am now certain, the piece a part of which so delighted me when I heard it thirty years ago, and the non-recognition of which by the critical world so exasperated me. I have been since that time aware that it was a part of Faust or a part of Romeo and Juliet; and now, having recently heard Faust, which did not reach my expectations, I am clear it was a part of Romeo and Juliet.”
I must have been mistaken, however; for I did not find in Romeo and Juliet anything which gave me such extreme pleasure as did some music of Berlioz played during the first season of the New Philharmonic Concerts, which he then conducted. I have not been able to discover what music it was.
An occurrence too amusing to go unrecorded, requires the introduction that this autumn I decided to visit the Eastern side of the Grampians, which I had never seen. One of the results is given in the following passage from a letter to my American friend:—
“I may end with something to make you laugh. A story is in circulation, which originally made its appearance in one of our personal journals, The World, that a place which I had visited during my absence has been exorcised, in consequence of my presence. It was at Braemar, where, as the paragraph states (rightly), I had been staying some days, and where a Free Church clergyman saw my name in the visitors’ book. ‘He was seen to shudder, and, being asked what was the matter, in tremulous accents said that Anti-Christ was living under the same roof, and straightway convened a prayer-meeting in the billiard room as a fumigatory measure.’ ”
Knowing the worth of newspaper statements, I gave but little heed to this story until I obtained a verification. But from a fellow-member of the Athenæum, who was in the hotel after my departure, and also from another acquaintance, I learnt that something of the kind took place.
A letter written soon after from Ardtornish, or rather from its neighbourhood, contains a quotable paragraph. It is dated “SS. Yacht Dobhran, in the Sleat Sound,” 12th August:—
“As you see, I write this while out yachting on the west coast of Scotland, in a steam-yacht belonging to my friends at Ardtornish. I have brought with me, for final revision, the last of the chapters intended for serial publication, [“The Industrial Type”], and shall post it to you from some place we touch at.
It is terribly long, and I fear may entail on you some inconvenience. But it could not with justice to the subject-matter be made shorter; and the matter is of cardinal importance—indeed it is the culminating chapter of the work—and, indeed, of the Synthetic Philosophy, in so far as practical applications are concerned. It has worked out quite to my satisfaction. You will be glad to see how entire is the harmony between the concrete argument, as here set forth, and the abstract argument contained in The Data of Ethics.”
The fiftieth meeting of the British Association was held at York this year. Sir John Lubbock, one of our X club, was President; and this fact furnished one of the motives which prompted my departure for York after three weeks at Ardtornish. A letter to Lott, written after my return to town, gives some particulars concerning my stay there:—
“You complained in your last that I had not given you any account of my own previous doings. Well, to exclude any such complaint in your next letter, I will just indicate my movements since I wrote to you from Ardtornish. Valentine Smith took me in the Dobhran to Stranraer on my way to York [he being on his way to London], and in the course of our day’s voyage we touched at Jura and called on Henry Evans to see his place. It is recently built and a very comfortable one. At York I had pleasant days: my stay at Escrick being especially enjoyable. The circle was a varied one, and everything was made more agreeable by our very charming hostess, Lady Wenlock, who is one of the most attractive women I know. At Fryson, where I afterwards spent some four days, among the guests were Lady Burdett-Coutts and her husband. She is amiable and unassuming.
From Fryson I went to Rusland, and had a quiet ten days before coming South, where I have now been for nearly a month. On the whole I had a very enjoyable holiday, and have come back all the better for it: being, in fact, in very fair condition.”
And so ends the last narrative of my vacation doings with which the reader need be troubled.
The remainder of ’81 and early part of ’82, yielded but one incident of moment; and this proved to be of so much moment—to me, at least—that I have reserved it for separate narration in the next chapter. Too great an amount of walking, entailed by an expedition into South Wales during my stay at Standish at Christmas, considerably weakened me, and, as I see by entries in my diary after my return to town, prepared the way for the mischief which I brought on myself in February.
The only noteworthy occurrence which the beginning of 1882 brought, is described in the following passage from a letter dated Feb. 14:—
“This morning is marked by a somewhat unusual incident. I received from America, from a naturalized German named Hegeler, one of the firm of Matthieson and Hegeler, Zinc Manufacturers of La Salle, Illinois, a long letter inclosing me a bill of exchange for two hundred and odd pounds. He explained that his immediate reason for sending it was that he had read in the Chicago Daily News, that I am “not in easy financial circumstances”; a statement which, I presume, has taken its origin in the announcement of my loss on the Descriptive Sociology. I am, by this same post, returning the bill of exchange to Mr. Hegeler, with due recognition of his generosity, but with the explanation that there exists no such need as that which he supposes. He seems, by his account of himself, to have been active in the endeavour to propagate advanced ideas.”
Mr. Hegeler’s activity in the direction named was shown some four years later by founding and supporting The Open Court—a weekly paper having for its object the reconciliation of Religion and Science on the basis of Monism.
The last chapter of Political Institutions, commenced on Feb. 13, was not completed till the 24th of March—a delay consequent on the disturbance of health caused in a way to be presently described. Early in April the volume was delivered over to the attention or inattention—chiefly inattention—of the reviewers.
I am not sure whether I entertained some hope that the general doctrine set forth would receive consideration: probably not much if any. But if I entertained any I was disappointed. Though this doctrine, being a part of the general Theory of Evolution, might not unnaturally be regarded as having an a priori character, yet, since it is throughout ostensibly based on, and justified by, multitudinous facts, it has an inductive warrant which might have commended it even to those whose reasonings are limited to inferences from blue books and newspaper statistics. But conclusions to which men are averse cannot be made acceptable to them by facts any more than by arguments; and Englishmen are averse to conclusions of wide generality. Not only out of parliament, among the ignorant, but in parliament, among those supposed to be enlightened, such a question as whether there are or are not any limits to the functions of government is pooh-poohed as an abstract question not worth discussing. “Practical” wisdom is supposed to lie in the assumption that an Act of Parliament can do anything, and that it is foolish to waste time in considering whether there are any principles of social life which justify one kind of legislation and negative another. Perhaps it will some day be seen—possibly by some it is seen now—that the question of the proper sphere of government is the most “practical” of all questions; and that the fostering of false ideas concerning the things to be asked for and expected from the State, is fast leading to a social revolution which threatens to end in re-barbarization.
If I did look for some acceptance of the leading ideas set forth in this volume, it was from the men of science that I looked for it. These general facts,—that in the course of animal evolution there arises a strong contrast between the method of co-operation among those organs which carry on the vital actions, and the method of co-operation among those organs which carry on dealings with the environment; and that there arises in the course of social evolution a kindred contrast between the mode of co-operation among the industrial structures which sustain social life, and the structures which perform actions of offence and defence against other societies (which form the social environment),—might, I thought, be recognized by the scientifically cultured, and their significance perceived. That there results the industrial type or the militant type according as one or other set of organs and mode of co-operation predominates; and that the phenomena of activity, structure, government, with the corresponding beliefs and sentiments, are determined by the relative predominance; proved to be conceptions no more appreciated by those who are in the habit of studying natural causation, than by those to whom natural causation is an unfamiliar thought.
Beliefs, like creatures, must have fit environments before they can live and grow; and the environment furnished by the ideas and sentiments now current, is an entirely unfit environment for the beliefs which the volume sets forth.
A GRIEVOUS MISTAKE.
When something like half the period covered by the last chapter had elapsed, there occurred an incident which led to the greatest disaster of my life—a disaster that resulted from doing more than I ought to have done.
During many years the materials for the Principles of Sociology in course of accumulation, had from time to time shown me the relation which exists between a militancy and a social organization despotic in form and barbaric in ideas and sentiments while they had simultaneously shown me the relation which exists between industrialism and a freer form of government, accompanied by feelings and beliefs of just and humane kinds, conducive in a higher degree to happiness. Near the end of Chapter LII, a passage I have quoted from a letter shows that in 1879 I had spoken to friends concerning the possibility of doing something towards checking the aggressive tendencies displayed by us all over the world—sending, as pioneers, missionaries of “the religion of love,” and then picking quarrels with native races and taking possession of their lands. Sympathetic though our conversations were, they ended without result. Sometime near midsummer 1881, however, Mr. Frederic Harrison reminded me of these conversations, and asked me whether I had thought anything more about the matter. While writing Political Institutions, I had become still more profoundly impressed with the belief that the possibility of a higher civilization depends wholly on the cessation of militancy and the growth of industrialism. Hence I responded eagerly; and the result was a renewal of the consultations which had been dropped. Mr. John Morley joined in them, Mr. Dillwyn, M.P., Professor Leone Levi, the Rev. Llewelyn Davies, Canon Fremantle, Mr. Chesson, Col. Osborne, and others. By request I drew up an address setting forth our aims: its general idea being that while the doctrine of non-resistance, on which the Peace Society take their stand, is quite untenable, the doctrine of non-aggression is tenable. In July sundry meetings of those interested were held at the house of Sir Arthur (now Lord) Hobhouse; and matters were put in train before the close of the London season.
All this was in direct contravention of a rule I had laid down for myself. As shown by the circular quoted in a preceding chapter, I had, years before, decided to decline joining in public movements; and I had, up to this date, persevered in my refusal to give anything more than name and money in furtherance of ends of which I approved. But now my interest was such that I unhappily forgot, or disregarded, the prudential considerations which had, on all previous occasions, restrained me. Not, indeed, that I intended to take continuously an active part. It was obvious that there existed a large amount of anti-war feeling, especially among the artisan-class and the great body of dissenters; and the belief was that if this feeling were provided with some means of expressing itself, there would result a self-sustaining movement. I thought it would be practicable to join in the effort to initiate such a movement, and then leave others to carry it on. Had not my wishes so possessed me as to exclude ideas of possible consequences, I should have seen that I might not improbably be led, in spite of myself, to do more than I intended.
In the autumn our meetings were resumed; arrangements were gradually matured; further sympathizers gathered together; and on the 22 of February 1882, we held a public meeting at the Westminster Palace Hotel. Being anxious to see a successful start made, I had allowed much work to devolve upon me which should have been undertaken by others. I agreed, contrary to my original intention, to take part in the meeting, move a resolution and make a speech. With my narrow margin of nervous power it was an absurd thing to do; and still more so to persevere when, as my diary shows, I was, for several days before, breaking down. But I had put my hand to the plough and would not turn back. There was here again illustrated a trait on which I have before commented—the liability to be tyrannized over by a resolution once formed: consciousness becoming so possessed by the end in view that all thought of anything adverse is excluded.
Nothing of any moment came of our action. Some sympathy was expressed by newspapers representing the dissenters; and I remember one of them said it was a disgrace to their body that such a movement should have been initiated by rationalists. Yet neither from those who are stirred chiefly by religious motives, nor from those who are stirred chiefly by political motives, did there come any support worth naming. Though year by year filibustering colonists and ambitious officials, civil and military, were everywhere laying hands on the territories of neighbouring weaker races (“ ‘annexing’ the wise call it”)—though consequent chronic hostilities, and multiplying salaries to new governors and their staffs, were continually swelling the national expenditure; yet the elector at home, preoccupied by disputes about local option, hours of closing public-houses, employers’ liabilities, preferential railway rates, and countless small questions, would give no attention to the fact that his burdens are being perpetually made heavier, and his risks more numerous, without his assent or even his knowledge. And while the average tax-payer, bourgeois and artisan, thinking only of small proximate evils, remained indifferent to this great but remote evil, the organs of the upper classes, ever favouring a policy which calls for increase of armaments and multiplication of places for younger sons, ridiculed the supposition that it was practicable or desirable to restrain those colonial authorities who yearly commit us unawares to expensive wars and additional responsibilities.
It was, indeed, a foolish hope that any appreciable effect could be produced under conditions then existing, and with an average national character like that displayed. While continental nations were bristling with arms, and our own was obliged to increase its defensive forces and simultaneously foster militant sentiments and ideas, it was out of the question that an “Anti-Aggression League” could have any success. While promotion was accorded, and titles were given, to those who, in our dependencies, forestalled supposed hostile intentions of neighbouring tribes by commencing hostilities—while the tens of thousands of appointed teachers of forgiveness of injuries, uttered no denunciations of the implied maxim—“Injure others before they injure you”; it was absurd to expect that any considerable number would listen to the prinicple enunciated, that aggression should be suffered before counter-aggression is entered upon. With a parliament and people who quietly look on, or even applaud, while, on flimsy pretexts, the forces of our already vast Eastern Empire successfully invade neighbouring States, and then vilify as “dacoits,” i.e. brigands, those who continue to resist them, the expectation that equitable international conduct would commend itself was irrational.
But while no good came of our movement, great evil came to me. There was produced a mischief which, in a gradually increasing degree, undermined life and arrested work.
Beyond dictating the last pages of Political Institutions, nothing was done during the Spring: recovery of health, not then supposed to be seriously deranged, being the chief occupation. There were visits of a few days to Brighton and one to Hastings (where the Busks were staying), with consequent improvements, and relapses on return to town and resumption of daily routine. There was a short sojourn with my friend Lott at Quorn early in April, and a longer one towards the end of May, during which he and his belongings accompanied me on a three days’ excursion to Sherwood Forest. Standish, too, was visited on my way back to town; and with my stay there this time is associated the remembrance of a discussion on the question of immortality: the occasion for it being the recent death of Mrs. Potter, which had ended a friendship of nearly forty years standing. As may be supposed, my position in respect to the question discussed was agnostic—the position that on the one hand there is no evidence supporting the belief in immortality, and that on the other hand there is no evidence to warrant denial of it.
Later in the season occurred a sequence of this visit. My friend Potter was one of the directors of the Dutch Rhenish Railway Company; and there had long been entertained the suggestion that I should some day accompany him on one of his visits to Holland to attend the annual meeting. This year the suggestion took effect. Going a few days in advance, to renew my recollections of Antwerp and to give a little time to Ghent and Rotterdam, I joined my friend and two of his daughters at the Hague. Our brief stay there was followed by a visit to Amsterdam, where, as at the Hague, the picture galleries were seen, and where, of course, many adverse criticisms were passed by me. Two works only I remember—one a Burgomaster’s feast by Van der Helst, which, unsatisfactory as a whole (the subject being unfitted for art), is admirable in many of its faces; the other, Rembrandt’s celebrated “Lesson in Anatomy” at the Hague. This appeared to me to fail utterly in the essential point of dramatic truth. Instead of being shown as occupied in observing the professor’s proceedings, or listening to what he says, or else in some intelligible bye-play, the students are shown in meaningless attitudes and with vacant expressions of face, in no way relevant to the occasion.
After a day at Utrecht (where the railway meeting was held), a short sojourn at Cologne, and a voyage up the Rhine as far as Coblenz, my friends and I parted: they continuing their journey to Switzerland, and I turning my face homewards—taking my route up the Moselle to Trèves to see the Roman remains, going thence to Metz, and from there viâ Paris to London.
No permanent benefit resulted from this any more than from previous relaxations. There had commenced a series of descents, severally caused by exceeding my diminished strength and making it still less, which brought me down in the course of subsequent years to the condition of a confirmed invalid, leading little more than a vegetative life.
This final result I refer to here, considerably in advance of its date, chiefly for the purpose of pointing a moral. The occasion is a fit one for criticizing an opinion often professed and rarely ever called in question.
We are told that the pleasurable feeling caused by the doing of right is itself a sufficient reward for the right done, and a sufficient compensation for any evil which doing right entails. Though probably many are conscious that their experiences do not verify this belief, yet the propriety of maintaining it, as well as all beliefs which apparently conduce to good conduct, seem so obvious that they keep silence. The tacit assumption made by writers on ethics, and by ordinary people who moralize on the affairs of life, is that only vice brings ill-consequences, while virtue always brings good consequences; and this creed is taught without qualification, though facts daily prove that wrong-doing often escapes punishment, alike external and internal, (conscience being callous), while right-doing often brings heavy penalties, and is followed by no such moral satisfaction as appreciably mitigate the pains to be borne. Bodies permanently enfeebled by self-sacrifices in nursing, minds injured for life by overwork in fulfilment of responsibilities, social positions damaged by the conscientious acting-out of convictions, are constantly thrust on the observation of all; and inquiries, if made, would prove that the supposed mental content obtained not only forms no adequate set off to the evils suffered, but commonly forms no appreciable element in consciousness.
Certainly this expresses my own experience; and I have no reason to suppose it exceptional. If I know my own motives, the actions I have narrated above were prompted exclusively by the desire to further human welfare. Indeed, I do not see how any other construction can be put upon them. It is obvious that I had nothing to gain in this world by the implied expenditure of time, money, and effort; and as I have no belief in anything to be gained in another world, it cannot be that otherworldliness moved me. But right though I thought it, my course brought severe penalties and no compensations whatever. I am not thinking only of the weeks, months, years, of wretched nights and vacant days; though these made existence a long-drawn weariness. I refer chiefly to the gradual arrest and final cessation of my work; and the consciousness that there was slipping by that closing part of life during which it should have been completed. For had I not been thus incapacitated, the remaining volumes of the Synthetic Philosophy might by this time have been written and published. What, then, is the quality of the consciousness produced in me by looking back on this most disastrous incident in my career? Though I still regard with approval the course I took, considered intrinsically, yet contemplating it, even when separated from its consequences, does not produce a feeling appreciably above equanimity. And when, with this lack of any pleasurable consciousness, there is joined the painful consciousness of evils entailed, and especially the consciousness of a great aim missed, the total result is a feeling the reverse of pleasurable. Habitually shunning the recollection, I shy at the rising idea as a horse shies at an alarming object, and quickly take some other course of thought. In this case, then, the accepted dogma is in every way falsified.
It is best to recognize the facts as they are, and not try to prop up rectitude by fictions. The first needful qualification of the current belief is that the good results of right conduct can be looked for only in the majority of cases, and not in each particular case. And the second needful qualification is that it is not the absolutely right conduct, but the relatively right conduct, from which, on the average, good results flow—the conduct which is duly adjusted to social conditions.
A letter quoted in the last chapter but one, under date 13 June, 1881, contained an unquoted passage which I have reserved for insertion here, as being relevant to the matters contained in this chapter. It runs as follows:—
“After my experience last year in going to and from Alexandria, on each of which occasions I had a three days voyage, my fears of sea-travelling in respect of entailed sleeplessness are somewhat diminished; and I have of late been consequently entertaining the thought that I may possibly come over to see you. If so, it will be, I think, in the latter half of next year.”
In the course of the autumn the intention thus indicated gained in definiteness, and by-and-bye prompted preparations; as witness the following extract dated Jan. 10, 1882:—
“I spent Christmas week with the Potters in Gloucestershire, and during my stay was led by my friend Potter, who has been across the Atlantic some dozen times, to take time by the forelock in respect of a good berth. The result of our conversation was that he wrote to Cunard’s, and that I have secured a desirable room in the “Servia”, sailing on the 12th of August. Unless, therefore, the time of sailing should be altered or some disaster should happen to me, I suppose I shall see you about the 21st or 22nd of August.”
Soon afterwards a further arrangement was made. On Feb. 16, I wrote thus:—
“As to my intentions when I arrive in the U.S. they are at present not very decided. . . I must not forget one piece of intelligence, namely that my intimate friend Edward Lott, of whom you have heard me speak (I am not quite sure whether you have seen him) has volunteered to accompany me, at any rate as far as New York. This will be a great addition to my pleasure, and should we arrange for him to join me in part of the tour, he may serve very advantageously as a buffer: you may depute to him in a considerable measure the function which you have volunteered to undertake.”
I suppose it was his constitutional modesty which led my old friend to make his proposal tentatively, as he did; but the hesitation was quite uncalled for. He might have been sure that after a friendship commenced more than forty years before, the harmony of which had never for a moment been broken, and during which we had made together so many excursions, long and short, his companionship would gratify me more than that of anyone else.
The project having been matured thus far, various sequences presently came. Here is one, indicated in a letter written on March 8, 1882:—
“I see by a copy of the Tribune which he sent me two days ago, that Smalley has telegraphed particulars concerning my visit. Various mis-statements of course are becoming current. It is reported over here that I am in financial difficulties, and am going over to lecture, with a view, it is implied, of recouping myself! You may judge, if you do not otherwise know, the degree of likelihood there is of this, from the fact that a few days ago I received an application from one of your lecture-bureaux offering me terms up to $250 per lecture, which I wrote by return of post positively declining, and saying that no terms they could offer would tempt me.”
A passage in a letter dated March 29, refers to another sequence:
“Your suggestion with regard to attending the meeting of the Association at Montreal, is one which I, of course, yield to; especially with the view of supporting you in your position of Chairman of the Committee of Science Teaching, and especially as you say I shall be free to leave if I find for any reason that it is too much for me.
I have been considerably knocked up by the worry of this Anti-Aggression League business, which has chiefly fallen on my shoulders, and have been in great fear of a prolonged breakdown. However, I am considerably better and hope shortly to be all right again.”
This hope, alas! as already indicated in the last chapter, was doomed to disappointment. I little thought then that there had been initiated a slow and long descent to the invalid life of later years. On April 21 I again expressed myself decidely with respect to my intentions.
“I have already given in the Athenæum an authoritative contradiction to the rumour that I was about to lecture during my tour in America, and I do not propose to change my decision. The reply I gave to one of the lecture bureaux which made an offer to me, was that neither the offer they made, nor any other offer, would induce me. I must still make the same answer. Even the offer of £300 for me to lecture, which you communicate, fails to alter my resolution. Were lecturing my habit, as in the case of Tyndall and Huxley, there would be nothing special in my undertaking to give lectures or a lecture; and the implication would be different. But as matters stand, the giving a lecture or reading a paper, would be nothing more than making myself a show; and I absolutely decline to make myself a show.
What I do while with you I mean to make entirely subordinate to relaxation and amusement; and I shall resist positively anything which in any considerable way entails on me responsibilities or considerable excitements. I suppose you have long ago discovered that I have a faculty of saying No, and that when I say No I mean No.”
Referring to the same subject, a letter of June 21 says:—
“With respect to the proposed public dinner, I must, I presume, assent. To decline would be awkward; and as I propose to limit myself a good deal in the way of social intercourse and receptions, I must, I conclude, yield to some arrangement which shall replace more detailed entertainments.”
Would that my boasted ability to say “No” had been more fully justified! Now, when I look back, I recognize sundry occasions on which failure of this ability entailed mischievous results.
The ensuing six weeks brought no incident of moment not already named. Relaxations and excursions which I trusted would restore my lost balance failed to do this. A letter of July 21 says:—
“Though better, I am still not up to much work. I am looking forward to the voyage and my visit with you to raise me to a higher level of vigour.”
The hope thus implied was not a very rational one. Had I called to mind past results of the wear and tear of travel, I should have anticipated mischief rather than benefit. Even had I been up to my ordinary low level of health, the expedition would have been of doubtful prudence, and in my then debilitated state it was decidedly imprudent.
But here was another case in which a plan once fixed upon becomes a tyrant over me, and dictates persistence regardless of consequences. Under the circumstances which had arisen I ought to have abandoned the projected voyage, and sacrificed my double passage money (I had taken a state-room all to myself, not daring to risk the additional hindrances to sleep entailed by the presence of a fellow-passenger): at the same time reimbursing my friend Lott for his bootless outlay. But such a course did not, I believe, even occur to me, and I unhesitatingly occupied the early part of August in completing my preparations.
On the 10th I went down to Liverpool to spend a day or two with the Holts, who had kindly proposed that I should make their house my place of departure.
A VISIT TO AMERICA.
Paraphrasing a familiar remark, one may say,—Happy are the voyagers whose narratives are dull. Ours answered to this description. It was prosperous, and without noteworthy incident. Of entries in my diary, one made on the 16th, after only four days at sea, shows my constitutional impatience—“Getting very much bored.” On the 19th there is the entry—“Magnificent sunset; the finest in colour I ever saw.” And a wretched night, noted on the 18th, was accompanied by the remark—“Terrific disturbance from fog-whistle.”
This last entry reminds me of an error I had made. It will scarcely be said of me that I usually accept current statements without sufficient criticism; but even I am not infrequently misled by too readily giving credence. It is commonly alleged that a berth amid-ships is the best, because the motion from pitching is there the smallest; and the berth which I took in the “Servia” was in this position. I quite forgot that, as I am a good sailor (I had not a qualm either going or returning), avoidance of much motion was of secondary moment, and that for me a state-room in the bow, where the noises are least, was the most desirable. The result of the mistake was that not only by the shrieks of the fog-whistle, which was just over my head, but by other loud sounds, my ordinarily bad sleep was made more broken than ever.
A climax was put to the mischief on the last night. We arrived too late to reach the wharf, and had to lie off Staten Island. Here the raising of the baggage and cargo, in preparation for landing in the morning, gave me, as my diary says, “a horrible night from noises;” so that, when my friend Youmans came on board at 7 on the morning of the 21st to welcome me, he found me in an unusually dilapidated state.
“I had to remind myself when entering a shop that it was not needful to speak French”, said Lott a day or two after, a propos of the foreign aspect of the houses. It is the older part of New York which yields this impression, due, I suppose, to the prevalence of green Venetian-blind shutters, like those which prevail on the Continent.
Soon, however, when we reached its modern parts, the feeling produced by the aspect of New York was one of surprise at its magnificence. Thinking of it chiefly as a centre of business-activity, and perhaps unduly influenced by much that I had read about its ill-paved streets, I had conceived the place as having small pretensions to architectural beauty; and was consequently unprepared for the multitude of imposing edifices. My diary says—“Am astonished by the grandeur of New York”. We have nothing to compare with Fifth Avenue.
Prof. and Mrs. Youmans had expected me to be their guest, and had made arrangements for my friend Lott also, in fulfilment of an invitation sent him to England. But I was obliged to disappoint them. In my shattered state I dared not undertake the social responsibilities which would have been entailed, even in the absence of visitors. And then the interviewers had to be avoided. These quickly made their appearance, and, though put off for a time by the statement that I was too unwell to see anyone, would have soon returned. The result was that before the day was over, we migrated to the Windsor Hotel; where, my companion having a great faculty for silence when need was, I felt in his company safe against excitement.
Next day was spent in making preparations for our tour; and the morning after saw us on our way to a place of rest, which was so needful to me.
The first part of our journey was by steamer up the Hudson, which scarcely reached my expectations, save about West Point, where it is picturesque. Leaving it at Rondout Ferry, we went thence by railway and vehicle to the Kaarterskill Hotel—the place Youmans had fixed upon for us. Some 3,000 feet above the sea, this is one of those refuges to which the Americans fly in July and August from the heats of their cities. Here five days were passed beneficially.
The entry we made in the hotel-book was—“Mr. Edward Lott and friend”: the intention being to avoid salutations and inquiries. Of course this mode of entry was in itself suspicious; and though the New York papers had given no clue (for they had been successfully mystified respecting my movements), the host and some of the guests, when the time for our departure came, said that from the beginning they had known who the “friend” was; but that, seeing I wished to be quiet, they had respected the incognito. We did not repeat the device, which was obviously useless.
Our rambles during the few days’ stay on the top of this mountain (or big hill, rather, for the Catskills have not that ruggedness which the word mountains suggests) made us acquainted, among other things, with a portion of virgin forest. I was shown how erroneous was my preconception. In common, I daresay, with the preconceptions of most others, mine had been based on experiences of woods at home; and I had failed to imagine an important trait, of which we see nothing in England—the cumbering of the ground on every side with the decaying, moss-covered trunks of past generations of trees, lying prone, or leaning one upon another at various angles, and in all stages of decay.
While sitting on a ledge of rock facing the East, and looking over the wide country stretching away to the horizon beyond the Hudson, it was interesting to think that here we were in a land we had read about all our lives—interesting, and a little difficult, to think of it as some three thousand miles from the island on the other side of the Atlantic whence we had come. Not easy was it either, and indeed impossible in any true sense, to conceive the real position of this island on that vast surface which slowly curves downward beyond the horizon: the impossibility being one which I have vividly felt when gazing sea-ward at the masts of a vessel below the horizon, and trying to conceive the actual surface of the Earth, as slowly bending round till its meridians met eight thousand miles beneath my feet: the attempt producing what may be figuratively called a kind of mental choking, from the endeavour to put into the intellectual structure a conception immensely too large for it.
I may remark, in passing, that it is well occasionally thus to do, what nine hundred and ninety-nine in a thousand never think of doing—to dwell awhile on such imaginations as we can frame of those vast cosmical phenomena amid which “our little lives” are passed—to think, for example, that while the eye has been passing from the beginning of this line to the end of it, the Earth has travelled thirty miles!
On August 29, a drive, a short railway-journey, a ferry passage, and a longer railway-journey, brought us to Albany, where a few hours were spent: mainly in seeing the Capitol. In fulfilment of a pre-arrangement we then went on to Saratoga.
The pre-arrangement was that Prof. Youmans and his wife would meet us there. We found them at the United States Hotel, which my American friend wished me to see as unique—“said to be the biggest hotel in the world—1500 guests,” as my diary notes. The sight was, however, partially thrown away on me. I have a vague recollection of the vast dining-room with its long ranges of tables and multitudinous persons; but the persons themselves left no impression. I am a bad observer of humanity in the concrete: being too much given to wandering off into the abstract. My habit of falling into trains of thought is at variance with the habit of watching people around. I suppose I lack a good deal of knowledge to be hence derived, and lose a good deal of amusement. In these latter years, especially, I find that I contemplate so little the faces of those whom I see at parties or elsewhere, that several meetings are commonly needful to make me remember them. Naturally, then, I did not profit much by the opportunity of criticizing a crowd of American fashionables. Neither their manners nor their costumes, both of which would, I suppose, have called remarks from most people, called any remarks from me. Costumes, indeed, I usually notice so little that, unless they are very good or very bad, I retain not the slightest recollections of them. A simple dress which is elegant without the appearance of effort, and a dress which is tawdry, or discordant in its colours, or bad from overelaboration, I occasionally remark. But unless as presenting one or other of these extremes, the attire of no lady at a dinner party or soirée ever leaves the slightest trace in my memory. Such attention as I give is given to the wearers and not to their clothes.
One person whom I saw, however, and one criticism which I passed on him, I do remember. Walking about the hotel garden was a railway magnate, said to be one of the wealthiest of Americans. He was a coarse-featured man; and, I was told, had manners to match. Before I left England, one who had business-relations with him offered me a letter of introduction; saying that, if I behaved civilly and went to dine with him, he would probably give me a free pass over the railways. But I preferred not to accept the introduction.
Two days sufficed for Saratoga; and on the morning of Sept. 1 we departed northwards by railway to Lake St. George, and by steamer to its upper end: being accompanied so far by Mr. and Mrs. Youmans, who there bade us good-bye and returned home. Lake St. George is the most picturesque thing I saw in the United States. Three of our English lakes placed end to end would be something like it in extent and scenery. A steamer up Lake Champlain delivered us at Burlington in the course of the afternoon; and the afternoon of the next day saw us on our way to Canada. Mr. Iles, the manager of the Windsor Hotel, had some months before written pressing me to stay there when I visited Montreal. He came to a station some distance down the line to meet us, and piloted us thence to our destination. During the few days of our stay, we were treated by him en prince.
The meeting of the British Association had ended before our arrival. On the whole this was fortunate; for, probably, had it been going on, further mischiefs would have been added to those which I had suffered. The sights of Montreal and its surroundings remained the sole attractions. There was the ascent of the hill which gives its name to the place—Mount Royal; there was a drive up the banks of the St. Lawrence to the Lachine rapids; and there were the noteworthy buildings of the city itself.
To many travellers these would, I dare say, have given more pleasure than they gave to me; for I failed to exclude the thought of certain antecedents not in harmony with a feeling of admiration. For a generation or more Canadians have been coming to England for capital to make their great lines of railway; and have put before English investors statements of costs and profits so favourable, that they have obtained the required sums. These statements have proved far more wide of the truth than such statements usually prove—so wide of it that the undertakings have been extremely disastrous to investors: impoverishing great numbers, and ruining not a few (my poor friend Lott becoming, eventually, one of these last, and dying prematurely in consequence). But while, to open up these communications which have been so immensely beneficial to their commerce and industries, the Canadians have, by exaggerated representations, got from the mother-country resources which they were supposed unable to furnish themselves, they have yet been able to build imposing cities full of magnificent mansions, and at Montreal an hotel far exceeding in grandeur anything the mother-country could, at that time, show.
Sunday and Monday having been passed at Montreal, half a day on Tuesday carried us by the Grand Trunk railway to Brockville; where, crossing the St. Lawrence, we got on board a steamer bound for Alexandra Bay—a place built for visitors to “The Thousand Islands.” Here the morrow was spent with much pleasure, partly in a hired boat which took us amid the islands near at hand, and partly in an excursion-steamer which made a run of some forty miles, it was said, through the remoter islands. How the region could have been formed—how the St. Lawrence could have cut these multitudinous channels, dividing tree-covered masses of rock of all sizes,—it is difficult to understand. But it is the romance of the scene which chiefly impresses one. Obviously this trait has prompted inhabitation; for here a small hotel, and there a villa, peeps out amid the trees. It has become the fashion among wealthy Americans to have one of these small water-guarded areas as a summer abode: gratification being doubtless given to a sentiment which is active during boyhood and is not altogether dead in adult life.
Picking us up next day, a steamer for Toronto carried us through another region of “The Thousand Islands,” and presently on to Lake Ontario. “In the afternoon we came unto” a town, in which it could not be said that “it seemed always afternoon”; but in which, contrariwise, the vivacity of morning seemed conspicuous. This was Kingston, where the steamer stopped for a time to take in wood. We rambled about and found, to our astonishment and shame, that though containing only ten or twelve thousand people, Kingston had the telephone in use all over the place. I say “to our shame”, because at that time (1882), the telephone was scarcely used at all in London, and was unknown in our great provincial towns. I have sometimes puzzled myself over the anomaly that while, in some ways, the English are extremely enterprising, they are, in other ways, extremely unenterprising. I remember that in 1868 the hotel I stopped at in Naples had electric bells to all the rooms; though in England no such appliances had come within the range of my observation. While there exist a select few among us who are full of ideas, the great masses of our people appear to be without ideas. Or, to state the case otherwise, it seems as if the English nature (I say English, because I do not assert it of either Scotch or Irish) exhibits a wider range than any other nature between its heights of intelligence and its depths of stupidity.
A night spent on board the steamer while traversing Lake Ontario, was followed by the arrival at Toronto before mid-day; and, after a few hours spent there, another steamer took us across the lake to Niagara. Thence, after a brief railway-journey, we reached the Falls.
“Much what I had expected” is the remark in my diary. That is, the Falls neither came short of my expectations nor much exceeded them. I think, however, that the effect of closer acquaintance was to deepen the impression of grandeur. With the intermission of a day at Buffalo, a week was spent in contemplating the scene and its surroundings from all points of view. We saw everything that was to be seen, including the “Cave of the Winds”; and saw it with the deliberation needful for full appreciation and enjoyment.
I was a good deal at a loss to understand the denuding action by which the falls have cut their way back so far. Often where streams make deep gorges, they do it by the aid of stones and gravel swept down in times of flood, and serving to file the rocks. But at Niagara no hard masses are habitually carried over by the water to act as excavating tools; and though, a mile lower down, the rapids are violent enough to carry along great rocks if they came, yet the intervening space of water has a current so moderate that it could not carry along even boulders. How then is the material cut out, and in what shape transported? There seems no alternative but to conclude that the denuding force is the unaided impact of the water on the rocks at the bottom of the fall. The fall is 160 feet high; and it is calculated that it delivers 100,000,000 tons of water per hour, or more than 27,000 tons per second. As it curls over, this mass of water is probably some 20 feet thick; and though, before reaching the bottom of the water below, perhaps 30 or 40 feet down, its superficial parts must lose a good deal of their velocity, yet its central parts are probably not much retarded. At the bottom, this mass of water is subject to a lateral pressure of, say, fifteen pounds to the square inch; so that though, ordinarily, a stream falling on a hard surface disperses itself laterally, this mass of water is in great measure prevented from thus dispersing itself. Hence the rocks on which it falls have to bear the brunt of, say, 20,000 tons per second moving with a velocity of more than 100 feet per second; and we must infer that the continuous blow is so violent that simple abrasion detaches particles from the surfaces of the rocks and the current carries them away. Though the Clifton Hotel, at which we stayed, is probably a third of a mile from the Great Fall, and though my bedroom was on the opposite side of the building, its windows were in a state of constant jar; and, doubtless, this tremendous impact was the cause.
I have omitted to say that the morning after our arrival Prof. Youmans and his sister, having travelled all night from New York, came to bear us company for a few days. Their presence added much to the enjoyments of our sojourn.
Chicago, at which place Lott had some relatives, was to have been the western limit of our tour; but my state was such that I dared not undertake so long a journey. I urged my friend to proceed thither without me: proposing to stay at Niagara till his return, and representing that the company of Miss Youmans would keep me alive. But I could not persuade him: he insisted on remaining to take care of me.
Our first stopping-place after leaving the Falls on Sept. 16, was Cleveland; respecting which my diary says—“walked about; surprised by the display and bustle” in so new a place. After Cleveland came Pittsburg, boasted of as the smokiest town in the world.
Why Cleveland and why Pittsburg? may naturally be asked. The answer carries me back to our voyages across the Atlantic. On the Servia’s tender at Liverpool, a letter of introduction was handed to me by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, whose iron works at Pittsburg, aided in their prosperity by protection, have made him a millionaire. He pressed me to visit him at Cresson, a place on the Alleghanies, like the Kaarterskill Hotel on the Catskills, used as a summer refuge by over-heated Americans. I eventually yielded to the pressure; and our journey through Cleveland to Pittsburg was in fulfilment of the promise made.
The repulsiveness of Pittsburg led me to break through my resolution always to stop at an hotel; and in the evening we drove with Mr. Carnegie to the house of his brother a few miles out. After we had inspected his works next day, he took us by special carriage, which to my great comfort contained a sleeping compartment, to Cresson. It was now the 19th of September; the summer heats were over; the visitors had gone home; the hotel was closed; and Mr. Carnegie’s annexe was unavailable. He took us to an old-fashioned inn at “Mountain Top.” His departure after a day spent in showing us the neighbourhood, and our departure after a day spent in visiting the little town of Ebensburg, were followed by descent of the Eastern flank of the Alleghanies to Harrisburg. To a day spent in rambling about this not-very-interesting town, succeeded a railway-journey to Washington.
Whether the fact that the President (or rather the Vice-President, for Mr. Garfield was dead) was away at Newport, prompted the decision to go direct to Washington without stopping at Baltimore, I cannot remember; but I remember that his absence was a cause of satisfaction to me. Aversion to ceremonial interviews I have before exemplified as a trait of mine. Partly this is due to dislike of formalities, and partly to a disinclination to converse with strangers. Under ordinary circumstances, thinking is to me more pleasurable than talking; and hence, in the absence of an interlocutor in whom I feel interest, I am not tempted to talk. Some sentiment of friendship or personal regard is requisite to make conversation preferable.
The sights of Washington of course received due attention. We visited the White House, though not its occupant; we went over the Capitol, and paused for a few minutes in its then empty legislative chambers; with Major Powell as our guide we perambulated the Smithsonian Institution and its surroundings; we contemplated the Washington monument, then in course of erection; and we did some justice to the suburbs. One of our days was of course devoted to an excursion up the Potomac to Mount Vernon, famous as Washington’s home and burial place; where some hours were spent in looking over rooms and relics, and wandering about the grounds. I remember we were astonished at seeing a place planted with slips of willow notified as having been brought from Napoleon’s tomb in St. Helena. The incongruity struck us both as passing strange.
Was it at Washington, or was it elsewhere, or was it at all places, that I was struck with the passion of the Americans for iced water? Not only does it come up at every meal, but even in the middle of the night it must be made accessible: the habit being to place in the mouth of a jug a wedge-shaped piece of ice too large to go in, and with its narrow end downwards, so that, thawing all night and dripping into the jug, it insures an ever-ready supply of water just above freezing point. Evidently the origin of this habit is the need for a sensation, which in one form or other is universal. Everyone dislikes food that is insipid, and, when there is no natural taste in it, condiments and sweetening agents are resorted to. Drinks that have flavours, sweet or bitter, are preferred to tasteless drinks; and, if a liquid not otherwise attractive is taken, then it must be not tepid, but decidedly hot or decidedly cold. But why have the Americans especially become such lovers of iced water? Possibly the prevalent disuse of alcoholic drinks, which yield the required sensations, and which one scarcely ever sees at table in the hotels, is the cause. The sensation of taste being ungratified, the sensation of temperature is, as far as possible, substituted for it.
There can, I think, be little doubt that the habit is an injurious one. In the first place, taking an amount of liquid much exceeding that required for carrying on the bodily functions, is pretty certain to be detrimental; and in the second place, frequently taking this at a temperature so much below blood-heat, is also pretty certain to be detrimental by continually checking digestion, which is temporarily arrested by an influx of cold liquid. It is true that upon occasion cold liquid may, by reaction, stimulate the gastric circulation; but perpetually exciting the blood-vessels to reactions inevitably produces in them an abnormal state, resulting in a chronically deficient circulation.
Our arrival at Baltimore in the evening of the 28th was followed next morning by the arrival of Youmans from New York. Whether my state of health would negative the proposed public dinner, had remained an undecided question; and he came over to see what was now my state and my decision. Some improvement had taken place; and though in my diary entries of “bad nights,” “wretched nights,” &c., were frequent, the number of better nights had increased. Hence I thought I might venture; and, returning to New York, he thereafter busied himself in making preparations.
We went to the Mount Vernon Hotel, which was, to my thinking, the best we met with in the United States: moderate in size (small, indeed, according to the American standard) and well appointed. I detest big hotels, with vast crowds of guests: not liking to feel myself a mere unit mechanically manipulated in a great machine. I believe that at the Mount Vernon Hotel, as elsewhere, the waiters, negro and half-caste, were considerably surprised by my disregard of their dictations. Clothed with a little brief authority, they delight in exercising it; and, in the hotels everywhere, habitually fix on this or that table for a guest in a peremptory kind of way. Avoidance of draught, obtainment of light, or other reason, often led me to ignore the choice made for me, where no claims of other guests were in question. Evidently the waiters were unused to this; for Americans commonly make no demurs either to the bedrooms assigned to them by the clerk at the bureau, or to the tables they are motioned to by the head-waiter. The English have the repute among them of being grumblers, and I believe I fully maintained the character.
One of the things I saw in Baltimore was the Johns Hopkins University, which Prof. Sylvester, then engaged there, took us over; but the thing which gave me most pleasure was the Peabody Institute, remarkable for its architectural beauty, especially in the interior. The library struck me as combining use and beauty in a manner perfectly satisfactory. I can recall nothing equal to it. The name of the architect, which I inquired, has unfortunately lapsed from my memory.
Some years before, I had met in England Mr. J. W. Garrett, President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway. He lived in Baltimore during the winter, and in summer at his residence, Montebello, a few miles out. We drove over; and by pressure I was induced to break through my rule of taking up my abode at an hotel. We spent at Montebello five pleasant and beneficial days: lounging in the garden, driving, and on one occasion being taken down the upper part of Chesapeake Bay by our host in a private steamer. As a relaxation he had taken to breeding horses, and was proud of his stud. He had many men engaged in making a private race-course, on which to test the speed of his colts.
Mr. Garrett exhibited the results, so common in America, of over-work. When I saw him in England I supposed that he was ten years or more my senior; but I found, to my astonishment, that he was my junior. To the satisfaction of his wife, I began to preach to him the gospel of relaxation—a gospel on which, a few weeks later, I enlarged in public at greater length.
Poor man! he did not live long to carry on either work or amusement. Some three years after, Mrs. Garrett, thrown from her carriage, died in a few days, and he, chronically out of health, succumbed to the shock.
The next stage in our journey brought us to Philadelphia. To it, of course, some days were to be devoted. Mr. G. W. Childs, who makes it a point to entertain all notables, would have had us stay with him, but from doing this I excused myself. In various ways, however, he conduced to our convenience. Mr. Cook, the correspondent of The Times at Philadelphia, being our guide, and Mr. Childs’ carriage being at our disposal, we saw what was to be seen at our ease.
There were the extensive engine works of Messrs. Baldwin, where they are said to turn out a complete locomotive engine per day. There was the magnificent park, in a drive through which Prof. Leidy was our companion. There was an excursion up and down the Delaware River, in a steamer which Mr. Roberts, President of the Philadelphia Railway, placed at our disposal. There was the Girard College, extensive and well-appointed, but subjecting its boys to a mechanical, coercive kind of discipline which called forth from me a strong expression of disapproval. I hoped the official who showed us round would communicate it to those in authority.
Some immense municipal buildings were, I remember, among the attractions of the city. I was told by Mr. Childs that there existed a committee of citizens formed for the purpose of putting a check on the extravagance of the local authorities; and I believe that in some other American cities there are like committees. A generation ago it was commonly thought that democracy was, and would be, economical; since nothing could be more obvious than that when the people had power, they would not tolerate the wasteful expenditure of the money which they furnished. But experience is not verifying this a priori conclusion in America, and is not verifying it with us.
One more railway-journey, bringing us to New York, completed the tour we had made during the seven weeks of our absence. On looking at the map and seeing how small was our circuit and how enormous was the area of the States not even approached by us, I felt astonished, and almost alarmed, at the vastness of the society we were in. To be told that the dividing line between East and West, on the two sides of which the populations balance, is fast approaching the Mississippi, amazes one on remembering how short a time it is since the countries to the west of the Mississippi were inhabited only by Indians. Clearly, at the present rate of progress (unless internal dissensions should cause separation, which is quite possible), the United States will very soon be by far the most powerful nation in the world.
Our experiences of travel did not verify the impressions derived from books read in past years. Intrusiveness was a trait of Americans described and exemplified; but we found none of it. I cannot remember one occasion on which we were addressed by fellow-travellers, the only intrusiveness was that of the interviewers, who, in fulfilment of their functions, tried, at various places, to see me. As I had anticipated, my friend Lott served as an admirable buffer, and in all cases pleaded, truly enough, that I was not sufficiently well to be visible. As they could not interview me they sometimes interviewed him; and on one occasion he figured in the report as my “leonine friend”. I can understand his calm, massive face, and large beard, suggesting the epithet; and probably when occasion called for it he might be leonine enough in action; but in my long experience of him he had proved himself a very pacific lion.
Interviewers when baulked are apt to be disagreeable. Feeling bound to make some report, they pick up such details as they can from servants, and are not over particular respecting the trustworthiness of their informants. Indeed, in the accounts they thus gather of sayings and doings, food and habits, anything which admits of having a ludicrous aspect given to it is made the most of.
After my return to New York, I named to Youmans some of the annoying things that had been said: among others a reported opinion of mine about an English author then in America. It was purely fictitious; and I remarked that it would be almost worth while to have an interview for the purpose of contradicting these false statements. “By all means,” said he,—“let me interview you.” I acceded to the suggestion, and next morning was appointed for the purpose. The result was, however, that I practically interviewed myself. Two instances excepted, the questions as well as the answers were my own. Ever ready to make the best of the occasion, Youmans had this seeming-interview set up in type, and distributed impressions to the New York papers, and, in advance, to the Chicago papers. Hence it appeared simultaneously in whole or in part in many of them: so being unlike an ordinary interview, which is the product of the reporter for a single paper. Of course my remarks, after my manner, were mainly critical; and while not failing to recognize the greatness of American achievements, consisted largely of adverse comments on their political life. Nevertheless they were well received: I suppose because they were seen to be the criticisms of a friend anxious for American prosperity, rather than of an enemy prompted by a dislike for their institutions.
New York had now to be seen; for of course the day we spent in it after our arrival enabled us only to glance at some of its main thoroughfares. The Central Park was explored and much admired; there were two excursions to Brooklyn; some of the centres of business were visited; hours on sundry occasions were spent at the Century Club, and some at the Lotus Club; and we went to one or two theatres and admired the acting, which we had not done at Washington or Philadelphia.
But we had still to see something of the New England States; and after nine days in New York we departed northwards.
Our first stopping-place was New Haven, where a morning was devoted to inspecting Yale College, and more especially Prof. Marsh’s collection of remains of marvellous fossil mammals from the far West. Then in the afternoon we pursued our course to Newport, which we had been told before leaving England was one of the places to be visited. The chief reason assigned for visiting it, however—namely, that it was the summer resort of the fashionable world—was no longer in force; for the season was over. This we did not regret. The place has some natural attractions, and, as being composed mainly of scattered villas, is more like Bournemouth than any other of our watering-places. Six pleasant and beneficial days were spent there.
And now of course came Boston, to which we took our way on Oct. 28th, occasionally admiring as we went the fine masses of gorgeous autumn foliage.
The day of our departure for Boston was determined by an invitation to dine with the Saturday Club; which we did a few hours after our arrival. At this weekly dinner there had for many preceding years been gathered the chief notabilities of Boston and its neighbourhood—especially Concord. Until recently Emerson had presided; and now the president was Dr. O. W. Holmes. The “Autocrat of the Breakfast Table” proved himself a very genial head of the dinner table. It was pleasant to meet, in company with others less known, one whose writings had given me so much pleasure, and some copies of whose best known book I had given to friends as a book to be read and re-read.
Of course among Bostonians, one who had done so much as an expositor of the Synthetic Philosophy—Mr. John Fiske—was the first to whom attention was due; and we early went over to the suburb, Cambridge, where he lives. After luncheon with him we called on Prof. Asa Gray, and saw something of the Botanical Garden before our return to Boston and our evening at the Union Club. Exploring and admiring the city occupied us the following morning—ascending the Bunker Hill monument, visiting the Eastern suburbs &c. The day after came a visit to the Museum of Arts, and then an inspection of Harvard, with Fiske as our guide; and subsequently a drive with him through Longworthy and the Western suburbs.
Some two hours next day were spent at Lexington, which Lott was anxious to see as a typical New England village; and then we continued our journey to Concord. Our chief purpose was of course to visit Emerson’s house; and here a pleasant hour was spent in company with his widow, son, and daughter. We were then taken to the cemetery. Not many months had passed since Emerson’s death, and the grave-heap was undistinguished by any monument. “Sleepy Hollow” is so beautiful and poetical a spot as to make one almost wish to die at Concord for the purpose of being buried there.
And now there occurred a disaster. We were in danger of losing the train, and I thoughtlessly ran some distance at full speed. The effort, which I perceived at the moment was too much for me, did great, and I believe permanent, damage. The night which followed was so wretched as to prompt the immediate resolution to leave Boston and its excitements; and, sending to Dr Holmes, with whom I was to dine, an apology for breaking the engagement, we forthwith went back to Newport. This step was taken in the hope that a little quiet would restore me: its promptness being due to the consciousness that the time for the dinner was approaching.
Five days did a little, but only a little, towards mitigating the mischief. The dinner was appointed for the 9th; and on the afternoon of the 8th we were obliged to depart for New York.
The prospect before me was sufficiently alarming. An occasion on which, more perhaps than on any other in my life, I ought to have been in good condition, bodily and mental, came when I was in a condition worse than I had been for six-and-twenty years. “Wretched night; no sleep at all; kept in room all day”, says my diary; and I entertained “great fear I should collapse.” When the hour came for making my appearance at Delmonico’s, where the dinner was given, I got my friends to secrete me in an ante-room until the last moment, so that I might avoid all excitements of introductions and congratulations; and as Mr. Evarts, who presided, handed me on to the daïs, I begged him to limit his conversation with me as much as possible, and to expect very meagre responses.
The event proved that, trying though the tax was, there did not result the disaster I feared; and when Mr. Evarts had duly uttered the compliments of the occasion, I was able to get through my prepared speech without difficulty, though not with much effect; for I have no natural gift of oratory, and what little power of impressive utterance I may have was in abeyance. It goes without saying that I diverged a good deal from the form of response customary on such occasions. While setting out with a due recognition of my indebtedness to American sympathy, my address was mainly devoted to a criticism of American life, as characterized by over-devotion to work. The thesis on which I enlarged was that life is not for learning nor is life for working, but learning and working are for life. And a corollary was that the future has in store a new ideal, differing as much from the present ideal of industrialism as that ideal differs from past ideal of militancy.
Of the proceedings which followed I need only say that they were somewhat trying to sit through. Compliments, even when addressed to one privately, do not give unalloyed pleasure. To be wholly pleasing, they must be indirect or more or less disguised. As may be imagined, then, unqualified eulogies uttered by one speaker after another before an audience to whose inquiring glances I was exposed on all sides, were not quite easy to bear—especially in my then state. However, they had to be borne, and by and by I became tolerably callous. When I have said that everything passed off to the entire satisfaction of my friend Youmans, I have sufficiently indicated the success of the dinner and its sequences. Ready, as usual, to make capital of everything, he prepared a little volume in which were published together the “Interview” and the report of the proceedings of the dinner, joined with letters and undelivered speeches.
Rest and preparations for departure occupied the next day; and then, on the 11th November, after lunching with Youmans—taking our last meal with him as we did our first—we went on board the “Germanic.” Various friends and a sprinkling of strangers were there to see us off. Among these last was one who drew me into conversation concerning a recent election in which the “bosses” had been defeated, and asked my opinion about the result; which, taken unawares, I gave without much thought. It afterwards occurred to me that I had been out-manœuvered; and my suspicion was verified on our arrival at Queenstown, where, among many newspapers delivered to me, I found some which contained a telegraphic statement of the opinion I had expressed. Thus I was, after all, interviewed at the last moment.
Concerning our return-voyage I need say no more than is said in the following passages from a letter written on Nov. 25, after our arrival in England.
“Everything on the “Germanic” was satisfactory—attendance good, cuisine admirable, the state-room reserved for me the best possible, and every attention paid to my wishes. The only danger I ran was that resulting from the kindness of American friends. When I got down to my state-room I found that their hospitalities had not ceased, but were pursuing me out into the Atlantic! There were presents of flowers, fruit, wine, brandy, oysters, in quantities beyond the possibility of consumption. So that joined with the excellent fare of the “Germanic,” there resulted some risk of excess. I was reminded by antithesis of the title of a book published some time ago, Plain Living and High Thinking; for high living and plain thinking would fitly have described my regimen. However, if the ocean would have continued its good behaviour to the last, I should have gained greatly notwithstanding.”
This is preceded by a paragraph which gives some subsequent incidents of the voyage.
“My telegram [from Queenstown] unhappily gave a premature statement of results. At the time that I wrote it, in preparation for the delivery at Queenstown the next morning, the “Germanic” was rolling so much in a gale that I had to hold the inkstand from sliding off the table. The previous night the rolling, though less, had been such as to keep me awake a good part of the night; and the night which now followed being much worse, (Cyclones are numbered 1 to 12 in point of strength, and ours was a No. 9) I got no sleep until we were under the lee of the Irish coast, about three or four in the morning. Then the third night was worse still. We were too late to pass the bar of the Mersey, and, anchoring outside, where I thought I was going to have a quiet night, I got literally no sleep, in consequence first of the riot kept up by some men who were having farewell convivialities in their cabin, and afterwards by the noises which went on nearly all through the night in preparation for landing in the morning—chiefly raising the baggage by machinery just over my head. The mischief was not simply the negative mischief of sleeplessness, but the positive mischief of nervous irritation and wear from the perpetual rattle. And then there came the journey by the express to London. It was an immense relief to get home, and I was so delighted I scarcely realized how much I was knocked up.”
And then follows an account of my prostrate state, which I omit. Suffice it to say that I did not stir out for three days, and that ten days passed before I ventured to call on friends.
Thus ended an expedition which I ought never to have undertaken. Setting out with the ill-founded hope that the journey and change of scene would improve my health, I came back in a worse state than I went: having made another step downwards towards invalid life.
More than six years have passed by since the incidents narrated in the last chapter; and, were I to give an account of these years after the same manner as heretofore, several more chapters would be required.
Of work, now proceeding very slowly and with long intervals during which nothing was done, certain small results would have to be described. There were four articles in the Contemporary Review, afterwards published under the title of The Man versus The State. There was a volume on Ecclesiastical Institutions, forming Part VI. of the Principles of Sociology; the separate publication of the last chapter of which led to a disagreeable controversy. There were two essays—or rather an essay divided into two parts—on “The Factors of Organic Evolution”; and two years after the last of these, came two short controversial articles, each of which had to be broken off in the middle from inability to proceed.
Concerning the chief breaks in my ordinary routine, there would be passages telling how, in 1883, my good friend Valentine Smith, finding that I was going North considerably before the time he had fixed for themselves, sent down to Ardtornish a staff of servants for my sole benefit, and left me for a week in exclusive possession of the place and its belongings. In 1884 would come the account of a tour through the west of Scotland, in which I took with me the daughter and niece of my friend Lott: afterwards joining the Potters at Summerfield, a new place which they had for the autumn near Ulverston. And then, in the account of 1885, would have to be told how, after a fortnight with the Potters at Stock Park on the banks of Windermere, I visited Dr. Priestley at his place on the Spey, and there, after walking about half a mile, wielding a salmon-rod for a quarter of an hour and walking back, had to pass several days in bed, and then telegraphed to my secretary to fetch me home: the journey being made with half-a-dozen breaks.
Thus was made a further great descent to confirmed ill-health and incapacity.
Passing over details, it will suffice to say that I gradually got myself into a state in which, with a greatly narrowed margin of strength, I from time to time unawares overstepped the margin, still further diminished my strength, and had thereafter to keep within a still narrower margin; and so on until an extremely low stage had been reached.
After one of these disasters, dating from the private view at the Royal Academy in the spring of 1886, and after presently having to spend some five or six weeks indoors, I took a suite of rooms at Upper Norwood, and there induced to join me as guests Mrs. Bray and Miss Hennell (George Eliot’s great friends): the temporary benefits being then, as afterwards, quickly undone. Depression during a weary month indoors in London did mischief; and, fearing continuance of it, I went down to Brighton: travelling then, as ever since, in a hammock slung diagonally in an invalid-carriage. At Brighton a year and a quarter passed, with many improvements great and small, and many relapses great and small. During the last four months of my stay there, a victoria with india-rubber tyres, which I bought, enabled me to drive about more than I could otherwise have done: days and weeks, however, often passing without my being able to use it. In November 1887 I was induced by Miss Beatrice Potter to take rooms in the same house with them at Bournemouth, where they were fixed for the winter (my friend Potter having also now become an invalid). The change of scene, and still more the presence close at hand of those about whom I cared, produced a great effect; and at the end of January 1888, I returned to town, frequented the Athenæum daily for a month, and even got so far as playing a game at billiards. Then, as usual, came a catastrophe: too long and too animated a conversation brought me down with a crash, and I was unable to reach the Athenæum during the remainder of the season. Drives in the park close at hand, extended on a few occasions to the Savile Club, were all that I could achieve when able to go out. The end of June found me at Dorking, where I took up my abode with my friend Mr. Grant Allen for the summer months. There rapid advances resulted; but a little too much physical effort, followed by a little too much mental excitement, again undid all the good done. Improvements and relapses filled the time till the middle of October, when Mr. Allen was obliged to go, as he habitually did, to a warmer climate; and I, unable to move, took his house for the winter. The five months passed in it, more monotonous even than the fifteen months passed at Brighton, were made more bearable in the one place as in the other by various friends, who came to spend sometimes a few days, sometimes three weeks, with me; and especially were they relieved by two children of my friend Mrs. Cripps (née Potter), who in response to my inquiry—“Will you lend me some children?” let them visit me at Dorking, as they had done at Brighton. In the middle of March 1889 I got back to town; fixed myself at a quiet hotel within five minutes of the Athenæum, so as to get there with but a short drive; was improved greatly by the change; and, as usual, have, by adverse occurrences, physical and mental, again lost what good I gained. So that now, after having been in the interval much better and at other times much worse, I am below the level of three years ago, when my invalid-life commenced.
Beyond correspondence, done by proxy when possible, my sole occupation during these three years (save the two fragments of essays above named) has been the composition of this volume—an occupation which, entered upon because heavier work, even in small quantity, was impracticable, has proved in some measure a solace, by furnishing subjects of thought and preventing that absolute vacuity of life which I must otherwise have borne. How extremely slow has been the progress is shown by the fact that, when the pages of text have been duly reduced by deduction of extracts &c., the amount dictated, revised, and corrected in proof has been at the rate of a little more than fifteen lines per day—three lines less than half a page.
And now about the future? I dictate these lines on my 69th birthday; and an invalid-life like mine, due to chronic disorder unaccompanied by organic disease, is not unlikely to last some time. What then shall I do with it?
Shall I, with such small energy as it leaves me, complete, if possible, the first volume of this autobiography? Part I., giving an account of my early life and education is finished; but Parts II. and III., and IV., covering the interval between 17 and 28, and occupied chiefly with the incidents of my career as a civil engineer, remain in the form of outline draft given to them when, many years ago, I rapidly dictated my recollections to a shorthand-writer. Shall I go back upon this rude sketch, and elaborate it into a readable form?
On reflection I decide against this course. Occasional experiments have raised the hope that I may, in a rough if not in a finished way, write another portion of the Principles of Ethics—the most important portion, which I feel anxious not to leave undone. If I can keep in check the tendency to bestow too much attention on the expression of the ideas, and be content with a sufficiently intelligible presentation of them, it seems possible that, at a slow rate like that above described, I may execute this piece of serious work.
Here, then, at any rate for the present, I suspend this narrative of my life which has so long occupied me: intending to continue it only when I find it impracticable to do anything else.