Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LVII.: COMING EVENTS. 1881—82. Æt. 61—62. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER LVII.: COMING EVENTS. 1881—82. Æt. 61—62. - 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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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.