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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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Table of Contents
HERBERT SPENCER’S WORKS.
First Principles. 1 vol. 12mo. $2.00.
The Principles of Biology. 2 vols. 12mo. $4.00.
The Principles of Psychology. 2 vols. 12mo. $4.00.
The Principles of Sociology. 3 vols. 12mo. $6.00.
The Principles of Ethics. 2 vols. 12mo. $4.00.
Essays: Scientific, Political, and Speculative. New edition; 3 vols. 12mo. $6.00.
Social Statics, ALridged and Revised: and The ManversusThe State. 1 vol. 12mo. $2.00.
The Study of Sociology. 1 vol. 12mo. $1.50.
Education. 1 vol. 12mo. Cloth, $1.25; paper, 50 cents.
Facts and Comments. 1 vol. 12mo. $1.20 net; postage, 12 cents additional.
Various Fragments. 1 vol. 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.
The Inadequacy of “Natural Selection.” 1 vol. 12mo. Paper, 30 cents.
Descriptive Sociology. A Cyclopædia of Social Facts. 8vo. Folio. $35.00
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.[Back to Table of Contents]
A SYSTEM OF PHILOSOPHY PROJECTED.
My search for a fit place of abode when I returned to town, ended satisfactorily. Malvern House, otherwise 13, Loudoun Road, St. John’s Wood, in which I settled myself, is a good house seated in the midst of a garden walled round. The occupier, who carried on a wholesale business in the city, and who, as I afterward learnt, feared to fall into a state of chronic melancholy, as his father had done before him, had hit on a prophylactic—surrounding himself with a lively circle. In addition to the family, consisting of host and hostess, three daughters and a son, ranging from seven up to about twenty, and a governess, there were as boarders an old retired government official (a commissioner of some kind I think he had been) lively notwithstanding his years—eighty and a wit; a “grass-widow,” pleasant to look upon but without an idea in her head, whose husband was in India; and her friend, a vain old lady who played the part of duenna.
Beyond the fitness of the circle and the salubrity of the locality, which is on the backbone of St. John’s Wood, the place had the advantage that it was within two minutes’ walk of No. 1, Waverley Place, then occupied by Huxley. We had a standing engagement for Sunday afternoons: a walk of a few miles into the country along the Finchley Road, or up to Hampstead, being the usual routine. Many pleasant talks and useful discussions there were between us on those occasions during the succeeding year. I remember that once when, as it would seem, society and human life as at present existing had been topics of somewhat pessimistic comment, I said (not however doing justice to my thought)—“Yes, one cannot hope for much more than to make one’s mark and die.” Whereupon Huxley, with greater self-abnegation, responded—“Never mind about the mark: it is enough if one can give a push.”
Reference to these walks and talks reminds me of an incident connected with one of them. Shortly after I had established myself in Loudoun Road, Buckle called. It was on a Sunday afternoon. Our conversation had not gone far when I intimated that the hour had come for the usual excursion; and, on my answering his inquiry who Huxley was (for then he was not widely known), Buckle agreed to go with me to be introduced. He went with us a short distance up the Finchley Road; but, saying that he had an engagement, presently turned back. We looked after him as he walked away; and Huxley, struck by his feeble, undecided gait, remarked—“Ah, I see the kind of man. He is top-heavy.” I have never done more than dip into The History of Civilization in England; but I suspect that the analogy suggested was not without truth. Buckle had taken in a much larger quantity of matter than he could organize; and he staggered under the mass of it.
November was occupied chiefly in seeing through the press the volume of Essays: Scientific, Political, and Speculative; but its last days, joined with the first part of December, found me busy with a review-article. A letter to my father dated 28th November, contains the paragraph—
“I have undertaken to write a short article on this Banking crisis—perhaps under the title of the bunglings of State-banking—in which I propose showing the evils of meddling and the superiorities of an unrestricted system. It is for the next Westminster.”
This essay, which appeared under the title of “State Tamperings with Money and Banks,” displayed once more my antagonism to over-legislation. It is significant, too, as showing in another direction, an abiding faith in the self-regulation of internal social activities.
An essay on such a subject seems a very unlikely place in which to meet with a biological doctrine; and yet one cropped up. Among reasons given for reprobating the policy of guarding imprudent people against the dangers of reckless banking, one was that such a policy interferes with that normal process which brings benefit to the sagacious and disaster to the stupid. “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools,” was a belief expressed. This was a tacit assertion, recalling like assertions previously made, that the survival of the fittest operates beneficially in society. It appears that in the treatment of every topic, however seemingly remote from philosophy, I found occasion for falling back on some ultimate principle in the natural order.
But now I come to an event of much moment—an event which initiated a long series of changes and determined my subsequent career.
Already I have, when speaking of each essay or book from time to time written, indicated the way in which it stood related to the general doctrine elaborated in after years. Here, to exhibit more clearly the attitude of mind and stage of thought which had been reached, it will be well briefly to recapitulate in immediate succession the implied steps of mental development.
In the narrative of my boyhood I pointed out that I early became possessed by the idea of causation. My father’s frequent questions—“Can you tell me the cause of this?” or—“I wonder what is the cause of that,” presented to me now one thing and now another, as due to some identifiable agency, usually physical. Though his religious views prevented him from denying the miraculous, yet so frequently did there recur the interpretation of things as natural, and so little reference did he make to the supernatural, that there grew up in me a tacit belief that whatever occurred had its assignable cause of a comprehensible kind. Such notions as uniformity of law and an established order, were of course not then entertained; but the kind of thinking into which I had been led, and which was in part natural to me, prepared the way for acceptance of such notions in due time. How deep-seated had become the implied kind of consciousness, was shown a little later by the incident I narrated as occurring at Hinton when Arnott’s Physics was being read aloud; and when I called in question the conception of vis inertiæ there set forth, which, as I dimly perceived, was irreconcilable with that conception of causation I had come to entertain. The same mental proclivity displayed itself during the later years of my youth in the discussions continually entered upon. Very rarely if ever did I cite an authority for any opinion expressed; but always the course taken was that of seeking to justify an opinion by reference to natural necessities or probabilities. Doubtless my intellectual leaning towards belief in natural causation everywhere operating, and my consequent tendency to disbelieve alleged miracles, had much to do with my gradual relinquishment of the current creed and its associated story of creation—a relinquishment which went on insensibly during early manhood. Doubtless, too, a belief in evolution at large was then latent; since, little as the fact is recognized, anyone who, abandoning the supernaturalism of theology, accepts in full the naturalism of science, tacitly asserts that all things as they now exist have been evolved. The doctrine of the universality of natural causation, has for its inevitable corollary the doctrine that the Universe and all things in it have reached their present forms through successive stages physically necessitated. No such corollary, however, had at that time made itself manifest to me; and I cannot recall any definite belief then entertained about the origin of the Universe or the origin of living things. The first pronounced convictions on these matters were, as I have said, due to the reading of Lyell’s Principles of Geology when I was twenty: his arguments against Lamarck producing in me a partial acceptance of Lamarck’s view.
Two years after, in The Proper Sphere of Government, there was shown an unhesitating belief that the phenomena of both individual life and social life, conform to law; and there was insistence on the progressive adaptation of constitution to conditions: implying the influence of the development hypothesis previously accepted. Eight years later increased consistency and definiteness were given to these views in Social Statics. Though, as shown in the chapter on “The Divine Idea,” positive theism was implied; and though teleological conceptions were involved; yet, practically, the supernaturalism was almost hidden behind the naturalism. Everything was was referred to the unvarying course of causation, no less uniform in the spheres of life and mind than in the sphere of inanimate existence. Continuous adaptation was insisted on as holding of all organisms, and of mental faculties as well as bodily. For this adaptation, the first cause assigned was the increase or decrease of structure consequent on increase or decrease of function; and the second cause assigned was the killing off, or dying out, of individuals least adapted to the requirements of their lives. The ideally moral state was identified with complete adjustment of constitution to conditions; and the fundamental requirement, alike ethical and political, was represented as being the rigorous maintenance of the conditions to harmonious social co-operation; with the certainty that human nature will gradually be moulded to fit them. The dependence of institutions upon individual character was dwelt on; the reciprocal influences of the two emphasized; and the adjustment of moral ideas to the social state illustrated. A physiological view of social actions was taken; on sundry occasions the expression “social organism” was used; the aggregation of citizens forming a nation was compared with the aggregation of cells forming a living body; the progress from a whole made up of like parts which have but little mutual dependence, to a whole made up of unlike parts which are mutually dependent in a high degree, was shown to be a progress common to individual organisms and social organisms. So that the conception of progress subsequently to be presented in a more generalized form, was evidently foreshadowed.
Thus far, acceptance of the developmental idea had been tacit only; but soon after the publication of Social Statics it was avowed: the essay on the “Development Hypothesis,” published in March, 1852, being a profession of faith. Immediately after, in “A Theory of Population,” &c., came an argument which, dealing with only one aspect of evolution—the decrease of fertility that accompanies increase of development—nevertheless practically assumed the rest. Assigning for this inverse relation necessary physical causes, it also assigned to necessary physical causes, the anticipated increase of mental development and decrease of fertility pointed out as likely to occur in the human race under that growing competition entailed by pressure of population. Treating though it did of a political question, the essay on “Over-legislation,” not long afterwards published, betrayed the same general mode of thinking. It assumed that social arrangements and institutions are products of natural causes, and that they have a normal order of growth.
An additional element of thought of great importance now came into play. When looking through the edition of Carpenter’s Principles of Physiology published in 1851, for the purpose of writing a notice of it in the Westminster Review, I became acquainted with von Baer’s statement that the development of every organism is a change from homogeneity to heterogeneity. The substance of the thought was not new to me, though its form was. As above shown, in Social Statics, citing facts in illustration from Professors Owen and Rymer Jones, I had emphasized the truth that in ascending grades of organization, “we find a gradual diminution in the number of like parts, and a multiplication of unlike ones. In the one extreme there are but few functions, and many similar agents to each function: in the other, there are many functions, and few similar agents to each function.” And there is also emphasized the truth that “just this same increasing subdivision of functions takes place in the development of society”—that “the earliest social organizations consist almost wholly of repetitions of one element;” while, with social progress there goes multiplication of “distinct classes” and “special occupations.” But in the first place, the conception thus reached had not a sufficiently consolidated form to make it an efficient factor in further thought; and in the second place, involving as it did the idea of function along with the idea of structure, it was limited to organic phenomena. It was otherwise with the more generalized expression of von Baer. Besides being brief it was not necessarily limited to the organic world; though it was by him recognized only as the law of evolution of each individual organism. Added to my stock of general ideas, this idea did not long lie dormant. It was soon extended to certain phenomena of the super-organic class. At the close of the essay on “The Philosophy of Style,” published in October, 1852, it made an unobtrusive first appearance as supplying a measure of superiority in style. Change from homogeneity to heterogeneity, began to be recognized as that change in which progress other than organic, consists. But this mode of expressing the idea did not at once replace the one used in Social Statics. The doctrine set forth in the essay on “Manners and Fashion,” published in April, 1854, that the ceremonial, political, and ecclesiastical controls, are divergent forms of one original control, again exhibits in its original shape the conception that advance from lower to higher is characterized by increasing multiformity.
How dominant the hypothesis of development had now become with me, is curiously shown in an essay on “The Universal Postulate,” published in the Westminster Review for October, 1853. Irrelevant though the hypothesis seems to a discussion concerning the test of truth; yet it came out in the expressed belief that fundamental intuitions of which the negations are inconceivable, are products of organized and inherited effects of experiences: evidently the germ of an evolutionary psychology.
Further extensions in the same fields, accompanied by increased definiteness and the sudden appearance of certain other cardinal ideas of like generality, occurred in the two essays published at midsummer, 1854, on “The Genesis of Science” and “The Art of Education.” A leading conception set forth in the first of these essays, was that the sciences neither arise in serial order nor can be arranged in serial order, but that their relations are those of divergence and re-divergence: increasing heterogeneity in the body of science being an implication. Moreover it was shown that as the diverging branches of science inosculate more and more, there is an advancing integration keeping pace with the advancing differentiation. And it was also pointed out that along with growing heterogeneity there is growing definiteness. There were kindred ideas in “The Art of Education.” It was contended that as the course of mental development is from the simple to the complex, and from the indefinite to the definite, educational methods must be adjusted to this course of development.
A large step was next made. The belief set forth in the early essay on “The Development Hypothesis,” implied that not only had bodily organization been naturally evolved, but mental organization too. In the article on “The Genesis of Science” I had been led to trace the growth of definite reasoning, and the gradual formation of cardinal scientific ideas, as resulting from the accumulating experiences of mankind. Hence arose the thought of writing a Principles of Psychology, tracing out the genesis of mind in all its forms, sub-human and human, as produced by the organized and inherited effects of mental actions. In the survey of so relatively wide a field of phenomena, there of course occurred opportunities for further development of the conceptions already entertained; and further development took place. An early-impressed belief in the increase of faculty by exercise in the individual, and the subsequently accepted idea of adaptation as a universal principle of bodily life, now took, when contemplating the phenomena of mind, an appropriately modified form. Progressive adaptation became increasing adjustment of inner subjective relations to outer objective relations—increasing correspondence between the two. Successive chapters treat of the correspondence as “direct and homogeneous,” as “direct but heterogeneous,” as “increasing in speciality,” as “increasing in complexity,” and also of “the integration of correspondences.”
Quite naturally then, on thus recognizing throughout a further vast field of phenomena the increase of heterogeneity, of speciality, of integration, previously recognized as traits of progress in various minor groups of phenomena, there was suggested the question—Are not these the traits of progress of all kinds? And it needed but to ask the question to find an affirmative answer. Brief inspection made it manifest that the law held in the inorganic world, as in the organic and super-organic. There resulted forthwith the conception of an essay which should set forth the universal presence of these traits—or rather, the first of them; for my mind was at the time so pre-occupied with the thought of increasing heterogeneity as a universal trait, that no space seems to have been left for recognition of the truth that increasing integration and increasing definiteness were also universal traits. There immediately occurred a further significant advance. After recognition of the truth that increasing heterogeneity is universal, there arose the question—Why is it universal? And a transition from the inductive stage to the deductive stage was shown in the answer—the transformation results from the unceasing multiplication of effects. When, shortly after, there came the perception that the condition of homogeneity is an unstable condition, yet another step towards the completely deductive stage was made. And here it may be remarked that with this change from the empirical to the rational, the theorem passed into the region of physical science. It became now a question of causes and effects reduced to their simple forms—a question of molar and molecular forces and energies—a question of the never-ending re-distribution of matter and motion considered under its most general aspects. Thus it is clear that something like a consolidated system of thought was nearly reached.
On glancing over these stages it is, indeed, observable that the advance towards a complete conception of evolution was itself a process of evolution. At first there was simply an unshaped belief in the development of living things; including, in a vague way, social development. The extension of von Baer’s formula expressing the development of each organism, first to one and then to another group of phenomena, until all were taken in as parts of a whole, exemplified the process of integration. With advancing integration there went that advancing heterogeneity implied by inclusion of the several classes of inorganic phenomena and the several classes of super-organic phenomena in the same category with organic phenomena. And then the indefinite idea of progress passed into the definite idea of evolution, when there was recognized the essential nature of the change, as a physically-determined transformation conforming to ultimate laws of force. Not until setting down as above the successive stages of thought, was I myself aware how naturally each stage had prepared the way for the next, and how each additional conclusion increased the mental proclivity towards further conclusions lying in the same direction. It now seems that there was an almost inevitable transition to that coherent body of beliefs which soon took place.
What initiated the unification? No positive answer is furnished by my memory; but there is an answer which, on reviewing the circumstances, may be considered as almost certainly the true one.
As above narrated, I had recently been collecting together, revising, and publishing, a number of essays. The transaction had entailed two readings. There was the preparation of them for the press; and there was the correction of the proofs as they passed through the press. Hitherto the various evolutionary ideas which, during the preceding six years had been from time to time expressed in these essays, had been lying apart in my thoughts; but now they were brought together and twice over contemplated in immediate succession. Obviously this process was one fitted to disclose kinships and connexions before unobserved, and fitted, therefore, to produce consolidation.
With this special cause there probably co-operated a more general cause. The time was one at which certain all-embracing scientific truths of a simple order, were being revealed. Years before had been published the work of Sir William Grove on The Correlation of Physical Forces; and now the scientific world was becoming everywhere possessed by the general doctrine of the “Conservation of Force,” as it was then called. When writing the Principles of Psychology three years previously, and proposing (in the division referred to in the preface as then withheld, but which was added in the second edition) to interpret nervous phenomena as resulting from discharges along lines of least resistance, my tendency to seek for ultimate physical principles as keys to complex phenomena, had shown itself. Apt thus to look at things, and prepared therefore to be especially receptive of such truths as that the various kinds of force are but different forms of one force, and that this one force can in no case be either increased or decreased, but only transformed; it is manifest that I was ready to have the several general conceptions above described, still further unified by affiliation on these ultimate physical principles. There naturally arose the perception that the instability of the homogeneous and the multiplication of effects, must be derivative laws; and that the laws from which they are derived must be those ultimate laws of force similarly traceable throughout all orders of existences. There came the thought that the concrete sciences at large should have their various classes of facts presented in subordination to these universal principles, proximate and ultimate. Clearly the astronomic, geologic, biologic, psychologic, and sociologic groups of phenomena, form a connected aggregate of phenomena: the successive parts having arisen one out of another by insensible gradations, and admitting only of conventional separations. Clearly, too, they are unified by exhibiting in common the law of transformation and the causes of transformation. And clearly, therefore, they should be arranged into a coherent body of doctrine, held together by the fundamental kinships.
Though naturally I cannot say that these were the ideas which actually occurred, and that this was their order; yet that some such ideas occurred in some such order, is proved by the fact that I shortly sketched out a scheme of the kind indicated. Evidently I felt at the time that I had made an important step; for this rough draft, then drawn up as follows, is dated.
6 January, 1858.
This is reproduced verbatim from the original draft, which had been left without any corrections. Evidently there is much crudity in the portions which are detailed; and the other portions, merely indicated, are not thought out. But it is remarkable that the scheme as at first thus suddenly conceived, should have resembled as much as it does the scheme eventually executed. Three days after the date of this sketch I wrote home as follows:—
“13 Loudoun Road
My dear Father
I sent the Westminster yesterday. When done with circulate it in the usual order.
Within the last ten days my ideas on various matters have suddenly crystallized into a complete whole. Many things which were before lying separate have fallen into their places as harmonious parts of a system that admits of logical development from the simplest general principles. I send you a brief sketch which will give you some idea of it. In process of time I hope gradually to develop the system here sketched out.
I am very well. After having had a rest I am just beginning the article for the British Quarterly.
I wish you had some good news to give me about the Bridgegate property. My mother’s cold is by this time I hope quite well.
A verification of date is yielded by a subsequent letter from my father. Finding me but a poor correspondent and apt to overlook the questions he asked, he had fallen into the habit of writing out these questions as they occurred to him from time to time on separate half-sheets of note-paper: each question having beneath it a space to contain my answer. Two such separate half-sheets, both dated January 31, 1858, contain these questions and answers.
How do you reconcile your omnipresent activity with the future equilibrium you speak of?
An equilibrium like that of the solar system consists with activity.
Shall you be able to prove that perfect homogeneity is unstable?
Absolute homogeneity extending throughout infinity would be stable.
Can you tell me whether the future work alluded to in your Social Statics embraces the Principles of Sociology together with the Principles of Rectitude?
I am puzzled to know how your vol. 7 will be able to take in with Social Statics Negative Beneficence and Positive Beneficence and retain a moderate size. Shall you take part of the matter of Social Statics from it and put to other chapters?
Did you wish me to keep these crystallized ideas of yours to myself or do you wish me to divulge them?
Keep them to yourself.
Thus then it is clear that the first days of 1858 saw the inception of the undertaking to which the rest of my life was to be devoted.
An engagement had been made in November, 1857, to write an article for the April number of the British Quarterly on the moral discipline of children; and the writing of this essay (which forms one of the chapters in the little volume on Education) occupied me during the early part of 1858.
Concerned with the process of mental unfolding, the subject was certain to be treated by me from the point of view now reached. Consciously or unconsciously the theory of evolution furnished guidance. One of the initial conceptions is that since inherited constitution must ever be the chief factor in determining character, it is absurd to suppose that any system of moral discipline can produce an ideal character, or anything more than some moderate advance towards it. “The guiding principle of moral education” especially insisted on, is that there shall habitually be experienced the natural reaction consequent on each action. As the ascent through lower forms of life has been effected by the discipline of enjoying the pleasures and suffering the pains which followed this or that kind of conduct; so further ascent above the form of life now reached must be thus effected. One of the corollaries drawn is that as throughout our converse with surrounding Nature, most of our activities are unrestrained, but those which bring penalties continue to bring penalties whenever they are repeated—Nature accepting no excuses; so, with educational discipline, while there should be no needless restraints, the needful restraints should be unvarying and irresistible.
These leading ideas sufficiently indicate the way in which moral education was conceived as simply a final part of the process by which the emotional nature has been evolved—a process which in the future is to follow the same lines as in the past.
Life in those days was passing not unpleasantly. Some incidents of the time I give in extracts from letters. The first is from one to my mother dated February 19.
“I am going on very well—sleeping better for the last ten days, and writing all morning without thinking about my head. Indeed I have rarely any sensation now. The good living and the lively society here evidently suit me well.
I dined lately at Sir John Trelawney’s, in company with Mr. Grote the historian of Greece, and Mr. Buckle, the new historian, whom I knew previously. Mr. Grote I wanted to know. He was very civil and hoped we should meet again.
I saw John Mill lately. He was complimentary about the essays; telling me he had read all those he had not before seen and had re-read the others.”
Here is part of a letter to my father dated March 1:—
“The enclosed note is from the Editor of the Quarterly Review. The article which I am to write is on ‘Physical Training,’ in which I am proposing to expose the bad results of under-feeding, under-clothing, and over-education. I have not written for the Quarterly before, and as their pay is the same as the Edinburgh (£16 per sheet) I am glad to make the connexion.”
In a letter to him dated March 22nd occurs the passage:—
“I am day by day developing further the scheme of which I gave you a sketch. Another general law of force has occurred to me since I saw you, viz.—the universality of rhythm; which is a necessary consequence of the antagonism of opposing forces. This holds equally in the undulations of the etherial medium, and the actions and reactions of social life.”
A later note runs:—“I dined with Buckle the other day. Among other guests were Mr. Grote, Sir Henry Holland, Monckton Milnes, m.p.” [afterwards Lord Houghton].
The essay on physical training above referred to as having been written for the Quarterly Review was not accepted by the editor: at that time the Rev. Mr. Elwin. Possibly its conceptions, anti-ascetic as they were, did not harmonize either with his theological system or with the ideas which public school-life had fostered in him. It was not until April, 1859, that this essay, now forming the fourth chapter of the little book on Education, was published in the British Quarterly Review.
Though it makes no reference to the doctrine of evolution, its ideas are congruous with the doctrine in so far that the method of nature is emphasized as that which should be kept in view when deciding on methods of physical training. There is an implied recognition of the principle conformed to in the rearing of offspring throughout the animal-world at large; namely that in proportion as growth and organization are incomplete, much must be given and little demanded. It is argued that as with inferior creatures, early life is distinguished by the continual receipt of benefits and absence of labours; so with ourselves, early life, instead of being made often as laborious as adult life, should be so carried on as to favour more the development of the body, and to postpone later such development of the mind as requires any great and continuous effort.* In harmony with this view, it is contended that for bodily welfare the sensations are the most trustworthy guides; and that the mischiefs of bad physical management result from disregard of them. Though it is not so alleged in the essay, this guiding principle, too, is a corollary from a general biological truth—the truth that among all lower forms of life, uncontrolled by commands, traditions, or creeds, there has been no other prompter to right physical actions than obedience to the sensations: the continual killing off of those in which the two were not rightly adjusted to the needs, having maintained and improved the adjustment. Whence it follows that, inheriting as we do adjustments established during the progress through lower forms of life, our sensations are on the whole trustworthy guides to bodily welfare.†
So that though this essay was not conspicuously evolutionary in its doctrines, yet its doctrines were evolutionary in their unavowed origin.
A few years before this time, the great telescope of Lord Rosse had resolved into stars, sundry nebulæ which were previously regarded as irresolvable. There was drawn the inference that all nebulæ, so called, consist of stars; and that their nebulous appearance is solely the result of extreme remoteness. This inference was at that time generally accepted among astronomers.
As the doctrine of evolution in its widest sense sets out with that state of matter and motion implied by the nebular hypothesis, it naturally happened that this tacit denial of the nebular hypothesis did not leave me unmoved. I saw reasons for questioning the legitimacy of the inferences above described, and was prompted to look more nearly into the matter. Finding abundant grounds for dissent, I set them forth in an article for the Westminster, entitled “Recent Astronomy and the Nebular Hypothesis.”
The first part of the article, having for its purpose to show that the conclusion which had been drawn from the assigned evidence was logically untenable, was not an inappropriate undertaking for an outsider; but the undertaking grew into an exposition and defence of the nebular hypothesis considered in detail. With a daring which I look back upon with surprise, I set forth sundry suggestions, interpretations, and speculations, in aid of it. There was an attempt to show how nebular rotation would be set up in masses of diffused nebulous matter. Arguments were drawn from the distribution of comets; from the inclinations of the orbit-planes of the planets; from the inclinations of the planetary axes to their respective orbit-planes; from the velocities of rotation of the planets; and from the distribution of satellites. An endeavour was made to show that for the various specific gravities of the planets the hypothesis yields an explanation; and that the differences in temperature among them, which there is reason to infer, as well as their general differences from the Sun in respect of temperature, are also such as the hypothesis implies: to which last argument there was added an inference respecting the composition of the solar atmosphere.
An astronomer would have been chary about committing himself to so many speculative views. To propound them needed one who had not an established scientific reputation at stake. Naturally there were errors in the article. Two, however, of the conclusions drawn have since been verified. Mr. Proctor has given abundant further proof that the nebulæ are not remote sidereal systems; and within some three years after the publication of the article, the researches of Kirchhoff and Bunsen proved, by the help of the spectroscope, the truth of the speculation I had ventured concerning the photosphere of the sun. The article was published in the Westminster Review for July. Some correspondence ensued with Sir John Herschel and Sir G. B. Airy, then Astronomer Royal, who were good enough to favour me with criticisms. On two points I had the satisfaction of finding the disagreement of the first met by the agreement of the last.
I left town towards the end of June, and before going elsewhere spent a few days at home.
The scheme which had in January taken definite shape in my mind, and indeed on paper, had of course during the spring been the subject of thought in respect of the means for carrying it into effect. I finally decided to consult John Mill on the matter, and wrote to him the following letter.
“17, Wilmot Street,
My dear Sir,—
May I ask your opinion on a point partly of personal interest, partly of more general interest?
In the essays on “Progress: its Law and Cause” and on “Transcendental Physiology,” which I believe you have read, are the rudiments of certain general principles, which, at the time they were first enunciated, I had no intention of developing further. But more recently, these general principles, uniting with certain others whose connexion with them I did not before recognize, have evolved into a form far higher than I had ever anticipated; and I now find that the various special ideas which I had designed hereafter to publish on certain divisions of Biology, Psychology and Sociology, have fallen into their places as parts of the general body of doctrine thus originating. Having intended to continue occupying myself, as hitherto, in writing essays and books embodying these various special ideas, I have become still more anxious to devote my energies to the exposition of these larger views which include them, and, as I think, reduce all the higher sciences to a rational form.
But, unhappily, my books have at present no adequate sale. Not only have they entailed upon me the negative loss of years spent without remuneration, but also a heavy positive loss in unrepaid expenses of publication. What little property I had has been thus nearly all dissipated. And now that I am more anxious than ever to persevere, it seems likely that I shall be unable to do so. My health does not permit me to spend leisure hours in these higher pursuits, after a day spent in remunerative occupation. And thus there appears no alternative but to desist.
Under these circumstances my question is—Do you think that in the reorganized staff of the Indian Administration I might find some post, rather of trust than of much active duty, which would give me an income sufficing for my modest bachelor needs, while it would allow adequate leisure for the prosecution of these aims? I fear that few if any such posts are likely to exist; and that my political views might render some, even of these few, unavailable; but it appears worth while to inquire. I need hardly say that my object is so exclusively that which I have explained, that a post which did not conduce to it would have no temptation for me, however otherwise desirable.
I ask your advice under the belief that you sympathize in the general views I wish to develop, and may therefore feel some interest in the matter.
|Composition, Correction, Stereotyping, Duplicate Plates and Printing One Thousand Copies||£351||15||10|
|Cost of authorship [i.e. payments to compiler]. .||296||7||2|
You will see at once that to reimburse myself for this large outlay (which would reach £700 were I to add loss of interest) will require either an extensive sale or a pretty high rate of profit on a small sale; and I see little chance of being able to go on with such returns from America as even your last letter seems to imply.” . . .
“I am quite content to give my labour for nothing. I am content even to lose something by unrepaid costs of authorship. But it is clear that I shall not be able to bear the loss that now appears likely. In addition to the sum of £648 named above, I have already spent on the first division of Duncan, “Uncivilized Races,” in printing and authorship, about £400; and on the second division about £280. So that you see I am more than £1300 out of pocket without getting a penny back. I must now, being in the middle of it, complete the first part of the “Extinct Civilized Races” and the first part of the “Savage Races,” by which time I shall have laid out more than £2000. It will then be time to stop; for, as I now infer, there is but little probability of getting a return that will approximately meet my outlay.”
At the close of the subsequent March, I find a passage implying further discouragement:—
“No. 2 of the Des. Soc. is out, and I have ordered a copy to be sent to you. It will be a very valuable instalment for all people sufficiently rational to appreciate it; of which, however, there are unfortunately but few. The third volume of Forster’s Life of Dickens sold 10,000 copies in ten days. The first part of Descriptive Sociology has been asked for by the public to the extent of not quite 200 copies in eight months.”
It was thus becoming clear that I had greatly overestimated the amount of desire which existed in the public mind for social facts of an instructive kind. They greatly preferred those of an uninstructive kind.
My American friend had, I suppose, been naming to some of those likely to be interested, these adverse results, and the consequent probability that I should shortly bring the undertaking to a close; for, early in the autumn, he transmitted to me a letter from Mr. Edwin W. Bryant, an actuary of St. Louis, showing something more than ordinary sympathy. This letter, dated 27 June, setting out with remarks of a complimentary kind concerning the importance of the undertaking, went on to say:—
“But, leaving to you all this argument, to amplify, supplement, or suppress, as you may think best, I propose this: that we try to get £1000 (or more if we can) to send to Mr. Spencer, to be used by him as he chooses, in aid of the work—to pay for assistance, printing or whatever else there may be to pay for. Of this amount, you may count on me for one half—five hundred pounds—any time at call, and without reference to what you may get or fail to get from any one else.”
This drew from me the following response in a letter dated 23 Sept. 1874:—
“Bryant’s proposal is a very noble one, and the more noble because he is not, I suppose, a man of very extensive means. I suspected that there was behind the question in your previous letter, some scheme of the kind; as I concluded that it was not likely to come from the Appletons.
While fully appreciating the feeling with which Mr. Bryant’s proposal is made, and that which has previously prompted others to offer to bear part of the expenses, I still cannot yield to such an arrangement as that proposed. There is, however, a plan which it occurs to me might possibly be practicable, and which would, I think, serve the several ends aimed at, in an unobjectionable way. Mr. Bryant and other Americans, while anxious to insure the continuance of the Descriptive Sociology, are also anxious that local institutions should have copies. Both ends would be subserved if they were to purchase from me, and were to distribute to these institutions; and this arrangement might be made in such a way as to divide the advantages. It would yield me an ample return were I to supply copies at half the retail price. Instead of absolutely giving copies to American libraries, schools, &c., my American friends might offer them to such buyers at, say, 1-3rd the retail price. In this case they would themselves have to lose on each copy only 1-6th of the retail price; and thus a moderate sum would go a long way. Even if they offered copies to these institutions at 1-4th the retail price, themselves paying the other 1-4th the distribution of, say, 300 copies, would go far towards covering the printing expenses, and would leave the English sales to do something towards returning cost of authorship [i.e. payments to compilers].”
Three weeks later, however, I wrote withdrawing this qualified assent, as follows:—
“After several times thinking over again the reply I made in my last to the generous proposal made by Mr. Bryant, I have decided to decline even that modified mode of aid which I described as one that might perhaps be adopted. On considering my accounts and probable resources, I conclude that the amount of loss entailed on me will not be greater than I can bear. Manifestly, the undertaking will become easier as it goes on; since, besides the proceeds of my books at large, which seem likely to go on increasing, I shall have the proceeds from the Descriptive Sociology itself, which, inadequate as they may be, will go some way towards defraying the cost of each succeeding number. As I have been able to meet the expenditure up to the present time (for I have now settled my printer’s account) I may fairly calculate upon being able to do so in future—especially as the parts are not likely to be issued so near together as the two in last half year. Concluding, thus, that I shall be able to do the work myself by devoting to it such part of my income as remains after defraying personal expenses, I prefer to do this. I have no motive for accumulating.”
Nothing further passed; and thus ended all plans for lightening the burden I had taken upon myself.
A foregoing extract, dated 27th Sept. 1873, intimates my intention of stopping as soon as I had printed and published the first part of the “Extinct Civilized Races” and the first part of the “Savage Races.” This intention, however, I abandoned for more reasons than one.
The understanding in pursuance of which the compilers were working, stood in the way of so prompt a cessation. To each of them I had given a double incentive beyond the direct payment for work done which he received. One was the publication of his name as compiler and abstracter, and consequent obtainment of credit for such skill and labour as were implied. The other was a promise that, as soon as the sales repaid me for printing expenses, I would give him half the net returns, without waiting to repay myself for the cost of compilation. This undertaking I felt bound to carry out in respect not only of those parts which were completed or far advanced, but also in respect of those which were commenced. Of the “Uncivilized Races,” compiled by Prof. Duncan, such parts as were not wholly or partially through the press were in manuscript. Dr. Scheppig had already made considerable progress with the “Hebrews and Phœnicians.” And Mr. Collier had been for some time at work on the “French.” To have stopped at the point above named would, of course, have been to break, if not wholly still in part, the engagement I had made; so that I was obliged to continue.
A further reason for continuing was that if I did not do so, a large amount of collected, classified, and digested information, extremely valuable to the sociological student, would be thrown away. That I was leaving in a useless state the products of years of labour, would have been a thought scarcely tolerable to me. I should have been restive under the consciousness of what would have seemed a serious loss to social science.
Thus I found myself committed to more than I at first foresaw. I accepted the situation; and, disastrous as was the undertaking pecuniarily considered, I persisted in it through the seven following years.[Back to Table of Contents]
- XLVIII.A Retrospective Glance.
- XLIX.Vol. I of the Sociology.
- L.A Series of Articles.
- LI.The Data of Ethics.
- LII.Ceremonial Institutions.
A RETROSPECTIVE GLANCE.
1874. Æt. 54.
Before saying anything about my next book, or rather about my life during the time it was in hand, it will be well to look back from this advanced stage of my undertaking to the earlier stages. This retrospective glance discloses a certain trait not hitherto named.
For now I had come round a second time to the topic with which I commenced my career as a writer; after having made, first a narrower, and then a wider, circuit of exploration. In 1842, while but two and twenty, the predominant interest I displayed, apart from interests in subjects bearing on civil engineering, was an interest in the politico-ethical question—“What are the duties of the State, and what are not its duties”. There resulted the letters, and subsequently the pamphlet, on The Proper Sphere of Government. In the interval between 1842 and 1848, a consciousness that the conceptions set forth in this pamphlet were crude and incomplete, prompted me to enter on new fields of thought and inquiry. Various readings in politics and ethics, joined with some excursions into biology and psychology, gave to these conceptions more developed forms and more satisfactory foundations. A desire to set forth the ethical principles reached, and the derived conclusions respecting the right limits of governmental action, led, in 1848, to the commencement of Social Statics. At the close of 1850 the results of this widened range of inquiry, as embodied in that work, were published: the completion of the first circuit having brought me round, in the latter chapters, to my original topic.
In the subsequent seven years, less from intention than from unconscious proclivity, this process was repeated. Not only subjects nearly allied to the politico-ethical, but also subjects remotely allied to it, occupied my attention and were dealt with in various essays. This extension of the range of inquiry, leading to more general conclusions, ended in those most general conclusions set forth in the programme of the Synthetic Philosophy, written out in the first days of 1858. In this the doctrines concerning social organization, and after them the ethical doctrines, were, by their positions in the series of volumes described, represented as the outcome of the doctrines included in the volumes on Biology and Psychology, as well as of those included in First Principles. That is to say, the politico-ethical conclusions held, had come to form the terminal part of a system the earlier parts of which prepared the way for it. From that date, 1858, down to the time now arrived at, the years had been spent in writing the volumes in which the simpler sciences, forming the true bases of the most complex sciences, were dealt with. At length, in 1874, the second circuit, immensely wider than the first, had been traversed; and I had come round once more, not immediately to the topic with which I set out, but to the science of Sociology at large, which eventually rises to this topic.
Beyond this long and elaborate preparation, which, at first pursued without conscious reference to an end, was, during the preceding 16 years, consciously pursued with such reference, there had been a preparation not contemplated. The Descriptive Sociology had been for seven years in progress; making me gradually acquainted with more numerous and varied groups of social phenomena, disclosing truths of unexpected kinds, and occasionally obliging me to abandon some of my pre-conceptions. And then, lastly, I had been incidentally led into writing a book which, ostensibly for the instruction of others, served at the same time for self-instruction—The Study of Sociology. In setting forth the difficulties to be encountered and the varieties of bias to be guarded against, I became myself better disciplined for the task I was about to undertake.
This second recommencement, forming a new departure in my work, seems to call for some definite division in the narrative; and I have therefore thought it well here to commence Part X.[Back to Table of Contents]
VOL. I. OF THE SOCIOLOGY.
1874—77. Æt. 54—57.
With the entry on this new division of my work, the marshalling of evidence became a much more extensive and complicated business than it had hitherto been. The facts, so multitudinous in their numbers, so different in their kinds, so varied in their sources, formed a heterogeneous aggregate difficult to bring into the clear and effective order required for carrying on an argument; so that I felt much as might a general of division who had become commander-in-chief; or rather, as one who had to undertake this highest function in addition to the lower functions of all his subordinates of the first, second and third grades. Only by deliberate method persistently followed, was it possible to avoid confusion. A few words may fitly be said here concerning my materials, and the ways in which I dealt with them.
During the five and twenty preceding years there had been in course of accumulation, extracts and memoranda from time to time made. My reading, though not extensive, and though chiefly devoted to the subjects which occupied me during this long interval, frequently brought under my eyes noteworthy facts bearing on this or that division of Sociology. These, along with the suggested ideas, were jotted down and put away. The resulting mass of manuscript materials remained for years unclassified; but every now and then I took out the contents of the drawer which received these miscellaneous contributions and put them in some degree of order—grouping together the ecclesiastical, the political, the industrial &c.; so that, by the time I began to build, there had been formed several considerable heaps of undressed stones and bricks.
But now I had to utilize the relatively large masses of materials gathered together in the Descriptive Sociology. For economization of labour, it was needful still further to classify these; and to save time, as well as to avoid errors in re-transcription, my habit was, with such parts of the work as were printed, to cut up two copies. Suppose the general topic to be dealt with was “Primitive Ideas.” Then the process was that of reading through all the groups of extracts concerning the uncivilized and semi-civilized races under the head of “Superstitions,” as well as those under other heads that were likely to contain allied evidence—“Knowledge”, “Ecclesiastical” &c. As I read I marked each statement that had any significant bearing; and these marked statements were cut out by my secretary after he had supplied any references which excision would destroy. The large heap resulting was joined with the kindred heap of materials previously accumulated; and there now came the business of re-classifying them all in preparation for writing. During a considerable preceding period the subdivisions of the topic of “Primitive Ideas” had been thought about; and various heads of chapters had been settled—“Ideas of Sleep and Dreams,” “Ideas of Death and Resurrection,” “Ideas of Another Life,” “Ideas of Another World” &c. &c. Taking a number of sheets of double foolscap, severally fitted to contain between their two leaves numerous memoranda, I placed these in a semi-circle on the floor round my chair: having indorsed each with the title of a chapter, and having arranged them in something like proper sequence. Then, putting before me the heap of extracts and memoranda, I assigned each as I read it to its appropriate chapter. Occasionally I came upon a fact which indicated to me the need for a chapter I had not thought of. An additional sheet for this was introduced, and other kindred facts were from time to time placed with this initial one. Several sittings were usually required to thus sort the entire heap. Mostly, too, as this process was gone through some time in advance of need, there came a repetition, or several repetitions, before the series of chapters had assumed its final order, and the materials had all been distributed.
When about to begin a chapter, I made a further rough classification. On a small table before me I had a large rude desk—a hinged board, covered with green baize, which was capable of being inclined at different angles by a moveable prop behind. Here I grouped the collected materials appropriated to the successive sections of the chapter; and those which were to be contained in each section were put into the most convenient sequence. Then, as I dictated, I from time to time handed to my secretary an extract to be incorporated.
Concerning the start made with this division of my work, the only information I have is contained in the following extract dated 5 March 1874:—
“But for various minor bothers, and chiefly these replies to criticisms, I should have been by this time pretty far advanced with the first number of the Principles of Sociology. As it is, about 50 pp. of MS. are ready; and I shall give the first two chapters to the printer immediately. . .
I received this morning from the Prof. of Philosophy at Messina, a proposal to translate my books into Italian in conjunction with his brother. He seems a fit translator, and I have assented. . .
I suppose I shall hear of the Appletons soon after their arrival. I must ask them to meet Huxley, Tyndall and King at dinner. To night I expect to meet President Eliot of Harvard, who is coming to dine at the X.”
Respecting the second of the foregoing paragraphs, I may remark that the proposal to translate into Italian did not then take effect, because the translators were unable to find a publisher who would run the risk.
On turning over my papers I find that in 1874 I made an abortive attempt to keep a diary. I say abortive, because the entries, irregular while they continued, ceased altogether in March. The diary sets out with mention of the usual New Year’s Day dinner at Huxley’s: the joining in which, commenced in 1856, still continued. On Jan. 24 occurs the entry:—
“Went to the Burrs at Aldermaston. Met there Reeve of the Edinburgh Rev., Lord Aberdare, Lord A. Russell, Miss Thackeray &c.”
This was not the first, but the second or third, of my visits to Aldermaston Court, the seat of Mr. Higford Burr—or rather, one might almost say, of Mrs. Higford Burr; who took the lead and who habitually gathered together on such occasions circles of agreeable people. The place has attractive surroundings: notably the “Chase,” which is said to date back to the time of Doomsday Book. On two occasions when I was there, visits were paid to Silchester, an adjacent old Roman town of which the remains are very striking. It must have been nearly as large as Pompeii: the surrounding walls, which are still almost if not quite complete, showing its dimensions. After contemplating the uncovered basements of public buildings, baths &c., and seeing the entrance-steps deeply worn by passing feet, and noting, too, the remains of an amphitheatre, I conceived far more vividly than before the hold which Roman civilization had obtained in England.
While mentioning these visits into the country, I am reminded that Spottiswoode (one of our X Club) had, before this time, purchased Coombe Bank near Sevenoaks. Here I occasionally spent the time from Saturday to Monday: usually in company with others of our common friends. After his mathematics, Spottiswoode especially devoted himself to researches in electricity; and, as a natural consequence, he early made domestic use of electric lighting. I believe he was the first to have his dinner table lighted by the Swan-lamps.
I may here add the fact, recalled by letters of this date, that I avoided social gatherings of a public kind. The last public dinner I attended was in 1865; and several motives then prompted a resolution never to attend another. In pursuance of this resolve I invariably declined not only such dinners as those given in the City but more select dinners; even including those of the Royal Academy, which are, with good reason I believe, regarded as particularly enjoyable. Though not from deliberate resolution, I also fell into the habit of neglecting invitations to public soirées. Those of the Royal Academy were the only ones which I went to a few times during more than twenty years. Even when I decided to go, which occasionally happened, my intention melted away when the hour for dressing came.
In May of this year I was elected a member of the Committee of the Athenæum, and for a long subsequent period continued to take an active part in the administration of the Club. I say an active part, because I attended the committee-meetings with regularity. Save when I was away from town, I believe I missed only one, and then forgetfulness was the cause.
Certain traits of nature, made manifest to me by experiences of myself as a committee-man, I may here set down. The most conspicuous is want of tact. This is an inherited deficiency. The Spencers of the preceding generation were all characterized by lack of reticence. Things thought were habitually said; and there was little prudence in the expression of them. My mother was distinguished by extreme simple-mindedness: so much so that, unlike women in general, she was without the thought of policy in her dealings with other persons. In me these traits were united. I tended habitually to undisguised utterance of ideas and feelings: the results being that while I often excited opposition from not remembering what others were likely to feel, I, at the same time, disclosed my own intentions in cases where concealment of them was needful as a means to success.
On one occasion my attention was irresistibly drawn to this trait and its effects. Some proposal—I do not remember what—which I had made in committee, I had urged with my usual bluntness; with the result that those whose prejudices I had not duly respected, voted against me and the proposal was lost. A week or so afterwards, the late Sir Frederick Elliot, a man whose official life had disciplined him in cautiousness of expression, and who, judged by his manner, was also diplomatic by nature, brought forward substantially the same proposal; and, taking care not to tread upon anybody’s toes, he carried it without difficulty. But though I recognized the lesson, it wrought, I fancy, little or no alteration. We say that experience teaches; but experience is practically powerless to change by its teaching any marked organic tendencies. Let me add that, though I sometimes failed in my aims from want of tact, I frequently succeeded by persistence.
The term of service on the committee is three years, and a rule provides that one who has served is not again eligible until after the lapse of a year. During the year which intervened between my two terms of service, I was one of a special committee appointed at the annual general meeting to investigate a matter respecting which the committee and the Club at large differed. Hence resulted the anomaly that I was concerned with Club-business for seven consecutive years.
While speaking of committees I may name the fact that I had been, for some time before this date, and for long afterwards continued to be, a member of the London Library committee. At this my attendances were far less regular: I suppose, in part, because the administrative business, neither so extensive nor so complex, attracted me less.
This autumn I made an observation that interested me much, as demonstrating a physical truth which is difficult to believe.
While I was at the Dell of Abernethy we had a picnic on the shore of Loch Garten, some four or five miles off. This loch is from half a mile to a mile long, and perhaps a quarter of a mile broad. A breeze of moderate strength was blowing; so that, on the sandy beach next to us, there broke small waves, say of eighteen inches wide and three inches high. After our picnic we rowed towards the other end of the loch. As we approached it the waves diminished in size, gradually becoming ripples; and finally we came to still water. On arriving at this glassy surface I saw, to my great surprise, feeble undulations, discernible only by the aid of reflections, moving in a direction opposite to the wind. No other origin for these could be assigned than the recoil-waves from the sandy beach at the opposite end, which had persisted through all the intervening rough water, and finally made their reappearance in this remote smooth water. Many must have occasionally observed how, when a breaker bursts against a sea-wall, the recoil-wave rushes out seawards; and some have learned that this wave continues its progress out to sea, invisibly modifying the forms of the incoming waves, until at a great distance it is dissipated by fluid friction. Though theoretically accepted by me, this truth had been but vaguely conceived. Now it was brought home very clearly.
My stay at Ardtornish this year was abridged to little more than a fortnight; for I was due at Belfast on the 19th of August. The British Association met there. Tyndall was president; and I felt bound to be present. As on the occasion of the meeting at Liverpool, the members of the X Club, with their wives, made a family party at the chief hotel; and this of course gave an enjoyable character to our sojourn. Many will remember that Prof. Tyndall’s address, dealing with those aspects of Science which bring it into relation with Theology, was a very bold one, and produced a strong sensation followed by a good deal of controversy. My remembrance of the address is further strengthened by a personal interest it had for me. Some passages in it referred to the evolutionary character of the Principles of Psychology, and aimed at correcting current misapprehensions respecting the origin of the evolutionary doctrine, in so far as it applies to Mind. I have before exemplified Prof. Tyndall’s chivalrous desire to see justice done where he thinks it is not done, and it was here manifested on my behalf. Not much effect was produced, however. The public mind, difficult to impress, having once taken an impression, retains it right or wrong, and resents any effort to change it.
The pleasures of my stay at Belfast were increased by the presence of my friend Lott. At its close he and I had a further week or ten days of companionship at Llandudno on our way south. Departing thence, I sojourned for a while at Standish before returning to London.
Neither correspondence nor memory furnishes me with anything to set down until the close of the year. A letter of 8. December says:—
“I am dreadfully bothered with an increasing business-correspondence, and with increasing private correspondence, and with presentation copies of books. I am now deciding to do the replying and acknowledging by deputy, whenever it can possibly be done. One-third to one-half of my morning has been of late cut off by these distractions.
Otherwise things are going on remarkably well. The second volume of the French translation of the Psychology is out; and I have also recently got the German translation of the Education, and am expecting shortly to have their translation of First Principles.”
Winter passed and the early spring passed without incident. Here is a passage written to Youmans on April 10, 1875:—
“Thanks for your untiring advocacy, and for your defence in the last number of the Monthly. It is droll to find myself described by some as not being inductive, while by others I am blamed for overburdening my arguments with illustrative facts.”
And here is another from a letter dated April 14:—
“Though I wrote to you a few days ago, I write again on receiving your letter of the 3rd, to say how glad I shall be to see you. Irrespective of other ends, I doubt not you will derive physical and mental benefits from the change of scene and from the enforced rest of the voyage. I shall be in town till towards the end of July; after which date I shall probably be away for some six weeks, so that if you come in May there will be some six weeks during which we may be together (for of course I shall expect you to come and stay at Queen’s Gardens as my guest) and there will be a further interval after my return to town.”
This programme was partially carried out: he arrived on July 14, and joined me as proposed.
Very little more has to be said concerning the incidents of the season. There were the usual perturbations of health, and short absences of a week or so to obtain, partly by fresh air and partly by quiet, better nights and restored power of working. Letters show that during two such absences in February and May I was at Brighton; and at Easter I was at Clifton, where I was joined by Lott.
But the fact perhaps most worth mentioning is that in May I commenced dictating the rough draft of this autobiography. How came I to take such a step at so relatively early a period? may be asked. The cause was this. Not long before, a friend referred to a not unimportant scheme I had several years previously suggested to him, for furthering a public movement then in progress. By the help of his reminder I recalled the incident; but it was clear to me that, had it not been for his reminder, it would have disappeared absolutely from my memory. There afterwards resulted the reflection that if a biography was to be written, either by myself or any one else, the materials for it should be collected at once; otherwise there would probably be serious omissions.
“But why a biography at all?” will perhaps be asked. The question is reasonable enough, considering how often I have uttered unfavourable opinions concerning biography at large. The reply is that in these days of active book-manufacture, when there are so many men each of whom, having completed and sold one work, forthwith casts about for the subject-matter of another, no one whose name has been much before the public can escape having his life written: if he does not do it himself some one else will do it for him. This induction from current experience brought with it the conclusion that in either case it was desirble that a connected narrative of events, such as I alone could furnish with anything like completeness, should be written; and that the verifying and illustrative materials should be put in order along with it.
How to execute this task remained for some time a problem. I could not think of suspending my ordinary work for the purpose—sacrificing the important for the relatively unimportant. And yet, if I postponed setting down these biographical memoranda until after the completion of the Synthetic Philosophy, it was pretty clear that they would never be set down at all. At length I hit upon a compromise. Each successive week I prepared myself by looking through the correspondence and documents referring to the period to be dealt with, and then, for an hour on Saturday afternoon, I dictated to a shorthand writer: narrating in brief form the chief events, with my comments upon them, without regard to literary form or even correctness of expression. The transcribed notes, which the shorthand writer handed to me the next week in the shape of a large-sized copy book of twenty or thirty pages, I took from him, and inserted between the leaves in their respective places all the relevant letters and other papers. How long this process continued I cannot remember: for something like a year I think. Eventually the narrative was brought up to date and the process ceased.
This rough draft, with its incorporated materials, remained for many years in the same state; changed only by an occasional addition, and in a few places by redictating portions in somewhat more complete forms. It would have remained in this state to the present time had it not been for the utter breakdown of health which made it impossible to do any but the lightest work, and limited me to extremely little even of that.
In the middle of July, as already indicated, arrived my friend Youmans with his sister and nephew; and a week afterwards, leaving them in possession, I departed for the North.
Little needs be said concerning my month at Ardtornish. I may set down, however, an interesting elucidation of a truth in optics I noted while there.
Along the shore of Loch Aline, between the new house and the ferry, there is a tract of shelving beach on which grows a zone of bladder-weed, covered at high tide, dry at low tide, and at mid-tide partially floating, in such wise that the upper fronds of each plant lie on the surface. As we drove by one day, when a fresh breeze was blowing from the other side of the loch, producing waves of moderate size, the surfaces of which were of course covered by wavelets and ripples, my attention was drawn to the fact that all the wavelets and ripples were stopped by this belt formed of the patches of partially-floating bladder-weed, while the larger undulations passed through this belt, and, traversing the smooth water inside of it, reached the beach. This struck me as illustrating that which is said to happen with luminiferous undulations. Passing through air containing impurities—dust, smoke or thick vapour—the shorter among these are stopped, while the longer pass through. The result is that under such circumstances the Sun appears red: the red rays being those formed of the longer undulations. Doubtless the waves are of utterly different natures, so that nothing more than analogy may be alleged; but it is an interesting analogy.
The transition from the scientific to the comic is a violent one; but I am led to make it here by remembering that during my stay I verified a rather amusing story which dated back some dozen years or more. The head gamekeeper’s son, a young man of twenty, was quizzed by me one day when we were out fishing, concerning this story of his boyhood; and, as he looked sheepish and did not deny it, I presume it was true. At the time in question Lord Kirkcaldy—a very unimposing sample of humanity, which added somewhat to the point of the incident—was staying at Ardtornish for a little salmon-fishing. One day during his stay this gamekeeper’s son, then perhaps some six or seven years of age, ran in to his mother exclaiming—“O mither, mither, I’ve seen the Lord, and he’s just like a man!”
Leaving Ardtornish towards the close of August I broke my journey south by a week at Llandudno and reached London early in September. When I add that the latter part of October and beginning of November were spent at Standish, I have sufficiently indicated my autumn doings.
Late in the autumn my friend Youmans, after returning to America, sent me a discouraging account of himself. Already extracts from my letters have from time to time shown that I expostulated with him for his disregard alike of health and of personal interests while pursuing his aims—aims largely directed to the propagation of Evolution-doctrines and diffusion of my works. He had now illustrated afresh this tendency to undue self-sacrifice, and I wrote to him strongly on the subject. My letter, dated 18. Dec., while it may serve as a general lesson, I quote here partly because it illustrates this trait of his nature, and partly because it illustrates a trait of my nature—a somewhat too candid expression of opinions.
“Turning to your letter, let me say first that I have regretted greatly to have an account of your state that is so unsatisfactory, alike by what it says and by what it implies. To think that you should have come over here mainly to recruit, and now that you should be apparently no better than when you left; and all because you would go on working and worrying instead of resting! Your intention to be careful now amounts to nothing—you have all along been intending that and doing the contrary. That you will either cut short your life, or incapacitate yourself, is an inference one cannot avoid drawing; seeing that in your case, as in a host of other cases, experience seems to have not the slightest effect. It is a kind of work-drunkenness; and you seem to be no more able to resist the temptation than the dypsomaniac resists alcohol. Excuse my strong expressions. I use them in the hope that they may do some good, though it is a very faint hope. The only course which could give me any confidence that you will not bring your career of usefulness to a premature close, would be to learn that you had put yourself under the despotic control of your sister; and even if you did this, I suspect you would quickly break the agreement under the pressure of some fancied necessity. As though fulfilment of some passing purpose was necessary and maintenance of life unnecessary! What is the use of all this propagation of knowledge, if it is to end in such results?”
Unhappily the opinion above expressed that he would bring his life to a premature close was verified. Though he reached the age of sixty-six, yet that his death at that age was premature is shown by the fact that both his parents were then alive.
In a letter to him written ten days later, I find the following passage about another matter:—
“Since I wrote I received some news from Russia which will interest you. A professor at Kiev proposes, in conjunction with his colleagues and pupils, to translate the Descriptive Sociology. He tells me, to my surprise, that all my books have now been translated into Russian with the exception of the Descriptive Sociology, which will thus soon be added to the list. Further, he tells me that he has proposed to the Historical Society of Kiev to make a like classification and tabulation of Russian history. The name of this Russian is Soutchitzici (?)”.
Whether this project was carried out I could not at first remember, but I have since found proof that it was.
While I am quoting from letters I may as well add a passage from one to my friend Lott dated a week after, namely Jan. 5, 1876. This I give chiefly for the sake of its second paragraph:—
“I am sorry to hear your plans are interfered with. However, next week will suit me just as well. If Mr. Earp is sufficiently recovered you might come on Saturday. You would not, indeed, find me at home in the evening; for we shall be celebrating our hundredth meeting of the X club; but Miss Shickle will take care of you until my return.
I am glad you like No. 40. It is surprising what an effect is produced on one by this tracing out the natural history of beliefs. I feel, even myself, more completely out of the wood now that the whole thing is accounted for: not having been conscious that I remained at all in the shade of the wood, until now that I have got into broad daylight.”
The process here described as at length ended had been a long one, for it commenced when I was in my teens.
The first volume of the Principles of Sociology might have been issued before Midsummer 1876, had it not been for the discovery of a serious lacuna in my original scheme. Up to this time the programme of the Synthetic Philosophy, issued in 1860, had been in all respects adhered to; but now it became clear that an addition must be made. I had, as most do, approached the subject of Sociology on its political side; and though, when its divisions were set down, there was a clear recognition of sundry other sides—the Ecclesiastical, the Industrial, and so forth,—yet all of these were what may be distinguished as the public sides of the subject. Sociology in fact, as we ordinarily conceive it, is concerned exclusively with the phenomena resulting from the co-operation of citizens. But now, when about to deal with institutions of this or that kind, I suddenly became aware that domestic institutions had to be dealt with. It was not that I accepted in full the views of Sir Henry Maine; for my studies of primitive societies had familiarized me with the truths that the patriarchal form of family is not the earliest, and that the relations of parents to one another and to children have sundry more archaic forms. But I became conscious that these more archaic forms, as well as the more developed form supposed by him to be universal, influence deeply the type of social organization assumed. Further, reflection made it clear that intrinsically as well as extrinsically, the traits of its family-life form an important group in the traits presented by each society; and that a great omission had been made in ignoring them.
The result was that in the spring of 1876 I began to prepare myself for treating this topic; and a further result was that I delayed the publication of Vol. 1 of the Sociology for the purpose of adding to it the new division required: a course which I have since regretted; for it is now manifest to me that the first volume ought to have included the Data and the Inductions only.
Neither letters nor documents recall anything worthy of record during the season of 1876; and I pass at once to the latter part of July, when I left for the North.
I had been told of good fishing in the Morar, and while staying with my friends at the Dell of Abernethy this information had its effect. I opened negotiations with the factor of Lord Lovat, to whom the north bank of the river belonged, and eventually agreed to take the fishing. Ten days later I started for the west. The drive from Banavie to Arisaig was new to me; and though I internally grumbled at having to post all the way (more than forty miles I think), yet I felt before the day was over that I was amply repaid by the scenery. A letter describes the drive as “the most beautiful drive in the kingdom so far as I have seen.” As I approached Arisaig I heard that Lord Lovat was in advance of me; and, on my arrival, found the hotel occupied by him and his suite. The factor, coming afterwards, explained that Lord Lovat, somewhat taken aback that his fishing had been let, suggested that I might like to try the river for a few days before finally agreeing to rent it, and that meanwhile he would take a cast himself. Of course I assented; and next day, not wishing to interfere with the owner’s amusement, I postponed going over to the Morar, which is some miles off, till the evening after his return. Here I found myself a good deal deceived—not by the untruth of statements made but by the omission of something equally true. Success quickly proved the presence of numerous sea-trout; and then, just below the falls, which could not be leapt by fish for want of water, I had remarkable ocular proof of the presence of salmon. There, in a smooth back water, were lying, unconcealed and unalarmed, half a dozen salmon and a score of sea-trout. While sitting on an overhanging rock with feet dangling above the water, one could see these large and small fish quietly sailing about so close that even the opening and shutting of their gills was visible. The place was a kind of natural aquarium, the like of which I have neither seen nor heard of elsewhere. But now the per contra facts were that the fishable part of the river, extending from the falls to the sea, was less than two hundred yards in length, and that out of some four salmon-casts in that distance there was but one at which there seemed a fair chance of landing a fish when hooked. Joining these facts with the fact that after three days’ stay there came no rain, nor at the end of that time any sign of rain, I decided to relinquish the agreement and leave Lord Lovat uninterfered with.
But how to get away? I discovered that next day a steamer coming south would touch at Armadale in Skye—a place on the other side of the Sleat Sound about a dozen miles higher up. Here was an escape. Next morning a fishing boat which I hired took me, partly sailing and partly rowing, to Armadale bay in good time. Here occurred an instructive incident which must be my excuse for the foregoing details. “Shall we land, sir?” asked the boatmen. “No,” I replied. “See, there is the steamer coming; she will be here in less than half an hour.” So the men rested on their oars in the midst of the bay. As the steamer approached they rowed me out to meet her, and my ascent up her side was watched by two friends who saluted me as I stepped on deck—a daughter of Prof. Sellar and an uncle of hers.
Suppose there had arisen some question the decision of which turned on my presence in or absence from Skye that year. My oath or affirmation that I had not been in Skye might have been met by two witnesses who swore that they saw me come out of Armadale bay in Skye and get on board the steamer: the visible fact testified to by them being identified with the inference that I had come from the shore. In face of their testimony the explanation given by me would have been taken by all as an audacious fiction.
Three days later I was at Laidlawstiel, the residence, or rather one of the residences, on the estate of Mrs. Mitchell (now Lady Reay)—a lady whose scientific proclivities were shown by the establishment of a laboratory, and for whom Prof. Piazzi Smyth had set up a reflecting telescope. The place stands high above the Tweed nearly opposite Ashestiel, the residence of Scott at one time. Here, in a pleasant circle, a week passed away, partly filled with some lawn-tennis playing and a great deal of talking—far too much indeed for my welfare.
Before I returned to town a few days were spent at Derby with my friend George Holme, who, as narrated in an early chapter, saved me from drowning when I was a boy. Other few days were spent with Lott at Quorndon, or Quorn as it is commonly called,—a place about four miles off, which serves as a sanatorium for Derby, and where my friend had now taken a house, in which he continued to reside during the rest of his life. Home was reached early in September.
Immediately after my return I made a change in working arrangements; consequent, partly, on the desire to relieve Mr. Collier from a daily task too mechanical to be properly assigned to him. As explained in a preceding chapter, I had, in earlier years, employed a youth as amanuensis; and then, after 1867, when Mr. Duncan came to me as secretary, he was occupied every morning in writing to my dictation from 10 till 1, and devoted the rest of the day to the Descriptive Sociology. This routine had continued: Mr. Collier fulfilling the same divided functions. For some time he had been occupied with the French Civilization; and it now seemed to me undesirable, alike on his own account and on mine, that he should any longer be prevented from spending all his energies on the work for which his powers and culture fitted him. Having become able to pay for more help, I therefore decided to emancipate him from his morning’s clerk-like duties, and to employ some one else to discharge them.
The experience I had recently had while dictating to a shorthand-writer the rough draft of the autobiography, opened my eyes to the fact that I might effect some further economy of brain-power by having an amanuensis who could write shorthand. On trial I found that my anticipations were fulfilled; and thereafter continued to benefit by the discovery. For letter-writing the advantages proved great. Choice of the best expressions not being of moment, a marked saving of time and effort was achieved. For book-writing the advantage was by no means so great, but still appreciable. Forms of sentences having to be as carefully weighed as before, the required pauses remained unabridged; and I habitually kept my shorthand-writer waiting, sometimes for long intervals, while I decided on the way in which a thought should be framed. But, though thus far there was no gain of time or of effort, there was a gain in the rapidity with which a sentence, or part of a sentence, once fixed upon, could be disposed of. With a longhand-writer as amanuensis, a few words only could be uttered at a time; and if a whole sentence, or large part of a sentence, had been mentally prepared, it had to be kept before the mind while the successive instalments forming it were written down. When, however, the amanuensis was a shorthand-writer, the whole sentence, or such part of the sentence as was ready, could be uttered right off, and the attention forthwith occupied with the next. A little time was thus saved and a great deal of attention economized.
Hereafter, if the employment of shorthand-writers increases, this proceeding will seem an ordinary one. At the time of which I speak it was quite exceptional for an author, though not for a lawyer or merchant.
During the subsequent two months at home, considerable progress was made with “Domestic Institutions,” by the completion of which I hoped shortly to end the volume. But either because of my unsatisfactory autumn-holiday in the course of which an injury to my foot negatived the usual amount of walking, or because I applied myself too strenuously to work, there came, before the middle of November, a collapse, and I had to desist. My friends at Standish had recently invited me, and I had postponed acceptance. Now, however, I revoked my decision and went: not with a beneficial result, as is shown by the following extract:—
“Unfortunately it happened that my friends in the country had their house full of guests, and that there were large and elaborate dinner parties nearly every night of my stay; so that, so far from leading a quiet life as I had anticipated, I did the reverse, and ended by making myself worse than when I went. The climax of the mischief was brought about by the Bishop of Gloucester, who would get me into metaphysical controversy.”
To this last sentence there hangs a tale, or rather there hang two tales, not altogether unamusing. On my arrival I found that some of the family and guests had taken tickets for an amateur concert, about to be given at the Bishop’s Palace at Gloucester. I willingly followed their example (by doing which, however, I afterwards found that I had subscribed half-a-guinea to the funds of a Church School!) When, on the appointed day, we had taken our seats, and were glancing through the programme, I was alike pleased and amused to find among the pieces “Mynheer van Dunck”—pleased because the music is fine, amused because of the incongruity suggested by the words of the glee, which I here give for the benefit of those who do not know them. If I recollect rightly, they run thus:—
“Mynheer van Dunck, tho’ he never was drunk, sipped brandy-and-water gaily; and he quenched his thirst with two quarts of the first, to a pint of the latter daily; singing ‘Oh that a Dutchman’s draught might be, as deep as the rolling Zuyder Zee.’ ”
It struck me that it would be droll to hear these words amid the ecclesiastical surroundings, sung by a Cathedral Choir aided by the Bishop’s wife, who was one of the performers. I was disappointed, however. When the time came there was a good deal of hesitation and moving about on the platform, and another glee was sung instead. A few days later, the Bishop and Mrs. Ellicott were among the guests at one of the county dinner-parties at Standish; and, being seated next to Mrs. Ellicott at dinner, I took occasion to express my regret at the substitution: saying that I supposed their courage had failed them at the last moment. “Oh, not at all” she replied. “It was simply that we had lost the music.” I suspect, however, that the loss was not accidental; but that the Bishop, having seen the programme at the last moment, had “put his foot down,” as the Americans say, and caused the abstraction of the music.
The other incident concerned the Bishop himself. Being fond of walking, he had, on the day of the dinner-party, come to Standish on foot in the course of the afternoon. During a conversation in the billiard-room, reference was made to the fact that I had come down from London to recruit: finding myself unable to work. “Ah,” remarked the Bishop to our host, “perhaps it’s quite as well; because otherwise he would have been promulgating some mischievous doctrine or other.” I replied that, as the Bishop supposed the doctrine I was setting forth was mischievous, he would, of course, be prepared to defend the opposite doctrine. His assent to this I followed up by saying that, as I was then engaged in writing a chapter showing the great superiority of monogamy, he was bound to take up the defence of polygamy. Finding himself thus fixed, the Bishop jestingly accepted the situation, and pointed out that at any rate he would be able to cite the example of the partriarchs in justification.
The close of the year was reached without much improvement in health, and Christmas week, spent with my friend Lott at Quorn, did not much aid recovery. Throughout the early spring, too, I struggled with my work to small purpose. In March, matters were made considerably worse by an imprudence. I unwisely yielded to a suggestion to give evidence before the Copyright Commission, then sitting. Partly by the trouble taken in preparing my evidence, and partly by the excitement attendant on giving it (which I did in great fear of the consequences, and rushed down to Brighton by the next train), my nervous symptoms were exacerbated; and, as may be supposed, they were not much improved by attending a second time to give further evidence. At Easter another sojourn at Quorn did but little towards setting me right. A more drastic measure was now taken. My friend’s partner, a keen fisherman, usually paid one or two visits to Killin every spring for the purpose of salmon-trolling on Loch Tay. I was pressed to accompany him. Being unable to work, and hoping for benefit, I agreed. But the weather was unpropitious. Even my companion, enthusiast though he was, declined to sit out in a boat in the midst of bitter East winds with occasional snow-showers. Three days of this weather sent me south in disgust; and, as the following letter to Lott, dated 16th April, shows, I had no reason to regret that I was thus driven away:—
“Thanks to Quorn, thanks possibly in some degree to the few days in Scotland, and thanks to some unknown causes which I cannot understand, I am considerably better since my return to town. From time to time one gets rather shaken in one’s determination to be careful in diet &c., by finding the benefits of carelessness. I continued to be troubled by indigestion while in Scotland, and even on my way back to town. Next day was the X. dinner; and, contrary to my habit for a month or six weeks previously, I took a substantial miscellaneous late meal, with several kinds of wine. I had no indigestion after it, and have been exceptionally well since. This is one of the many illustrations of the great effect of mental exhilaration. I know no other cause for this odd change.
It was well I was driven back to town by the weather when I was; for, quite contrary to my anticipation, the committee-meeting for selecting new committee-men was fixed before instead of after the Rule II election, namely yesterday; and, had I stayed in Scotland as long as I intended, my plans would have been thwarted. As it was, they have answered pretty well. We carried eight good men: none of them being of the public-service class, and four of them being among those I had fixed upon;—the others equally good.
There was a still further reason why I was glad that I returned when I did; for, on going to the Athenæum on Thursday, I found lying there a note from Mr. Gladstone, asking me to meet Dr. Schliemann at dinner on Saturday. As you may suppose, I should not have liked to miss it. The party was a pleasant one. Beyond the guest of the evening there were present, Lowe, Lubbock, Forsyth (the member for Marylebone), the Duke of Argyll, Hayward &c.”
The second of the above paragraphs refers to measures for reinforcing the representatives of Science, Literature, and Art on the committee, with a view of preventing the Rule II. elections from going so largely in favour of those whose merit was “distinguished public service”—a merit which had come to be chiefly found among retired Anglo-Indian officials. Persisted in for several years, the course taken completely succeeded, and the original purpose of the elections under Rule II. was, for a time at least, fulfilled.
The only further incident of the season to which I may refer, was my attendance at some of the Wagner concerts, given in illustration of his musical dramas, at the Albert Hall. One of my attendances was in company with some friends who had a box; and, as we came down stairs, the lady of the party was accosted by an acquaintance with the question—“Well, how did you like it?” to which her reply was—“Oh, I bore it pretty well”—a reply which went far to express my own feeling.
Now-a-days it is the fashion to admire Wagner, and those who care to be in the fashion dare not, I suppose, say anything in disparagement of him. As the reader must have pretty clearly seen, it is my habit to say what I think, though I may so show myself one of a very small minority, or even a minority of one. In this case, however, the dissentients from the fashion are tolerably numerous. I discussed the question with the Leweses, who had been to these same performances; and though George Eliot, herself a good musician and a cultivated judge, said that the music pleased her, yet she confessed it was lacking in that dramatic character which it especially aims at—did not give musical form to the feelings which the words expressed. I remember observing of two songs, quite different in the sentiments verbally embodied, that the melodies might just as well have been exchanged. Moreover, I observed that the musical phrases were very generally of kinds to be anticipated. They were not like those of true musical inspiration, which suddenly discloses beautiful combinations one would never have conceived, but they were of familiar types.
On this occasion, as on previous occasions when I listened to Wagner’s music, I came to the conclusion that he was a great artist but not a great musician: a great artist in the respect that he understood better than other composers how to marshal his effects. To make a fine work of art it is requisite that its components shall be arranged in such ways as to yield adequate contrasts of all orders: large for the great divisions and smaller for the sub-divisions and sub-sub-divisions; and that there shall be contrast not of one kind only but of many kinds. Wagner, I think, saw this more clearly than his predecessors. Complex music as ordinarily written is not sufficiently differentiated. Composers for the orchestra habitually use in combination instruments of all kinds, having tones with timbres quite unlike in their characters, and tones which are not sufficiently congruous to make good harmonies. Further, by constantly employing them together, they produce a monotony of general effect, which would be avoided if there was a more distinct predominance now of tones having this quality, now of tones having that. Wagner—certainly in some cases, but in how many I cannot say—specialized the uses of his instruments more than most; and so gave more marked kinds of effects, each having its distinctive character, and all of them together constituting a more heterogeneous whole. I hope that his example will be followed and bettered.
And now, to my great satisfaction, there came, at the end of May and beginning of June, the completion and publication of the first volume of The Principles of Sociology. It had been more than three years in hand: its progress having been hindered in large measure by ill-health, and in some measure by digressions. There had, indeed, been a first issue of the volume early in December 1873; but the final chapters, which formed a somewhat independent portion, were not contained in it. What prompted the premature issue I cannot now remember.
This long incubation was in part due to the fact that the volume was much larger than any of its predecessors. It extended to nearly eight hundred pages, and contained an immense accumulation of facts, the incorporation of which had been a laborious business. Mr. Tedder, librarian of the Athenæum Club, who, when the third edition was in preparation, verified for me all the quotations with their references, found that in this first edition “there were 2192 references to the 379 works quoted” (in the new edition there were “about 2500 references to 455 works”). And here I may note, in passing, the great aid rendered me by the Descriptive Sociology. Evidently, had it not been for that compilation, the gathering together of so great a mass of evidence would have been impracticable.
With the ending of this volume came a decision to change my mode of publication. Forty-four numbers of the serial had now been issued; making, with certain occasional extra portions which were included, about three thousand six hundred pages thus covered: a longer continuance than might have been anticipated. But the motive for this mode of publication had now become relatively weak. It is true that, by giving up the distribution to subscribers, I sacrificed perhaps some fifty pounds a year. This sacrifice was, however, of less moment to me than was the economy of time and attention. Each number of the serial had entailed a set of transactions with printer, binder, and publisher; and there were other small worries attendant on the frequently recurring issues. To avoid all these evils I willingly submitted to some pecuniary loss. With No. 44 was therefore sent round a notice of discontinuance.
As intimated in a preceding chapter, I eventually resumed the practice of distributing copies of books to the press, and did this with the first volume of The Principles of Sociology. The reasons, which I could not then give without forestalling the narrative, I am able to give now. The first was that The Study of Sociology, of which a qualified copyright was in the hands of the publishers, was of course sent out by them after their ordinary habit. The second was that the successive numbers of the Descriptive Sociology had also to be sent out; since the interests of the compilers apparently dictated a pursuance of the usual course. To have withheld volumes belonging to my series while these other volumes were subjected to criticism, would inevitably have caused misinterpretations. Hence I was in a manner compelled again to do as others do.[Back to Table of Contents]
A SERIES OF ARTICLES.
1877—78. Æt. 57—58.
While words are necessary aids to all thoughts save very simple ones, they are impediments to correct thinking. Every word carries with it a cluster of associations determined by its most familiar uses, and these associations, often inappropriate to the particular case in which the word is being used, distort more or less the image it calls up. An instance of this is furnished to me by an incident which occurred when about to commence my next volume.
Government, conceived apart from any particular species of it, is a form of control. But, when we think of government, we instantly think of a ministry, a legislature, laws, and police—we think of that particular kind of government made dominant in consciousness by the reading of newspapers and by conversation over dinner-tables. If, on occasion, we extend the conception of government so as to include the control exercised over men by clergy, creeds, and religious observances, it is rather by deliberate analysis than by spontaneous association that we are led to do this. And neither spontaneously nor after consideration do we habitually include in our conception of government the regulative influence of usages, manners, ceremonies; though, as measured by its effects on men’s conduct from hour to hour, this kind of government is more powerful than any other. While I was not so swayed by current ideas as to ignore the governmental nature of ceremonies, I was swayed to the extent of under-estimating its relative importance. Hence, in the programme of the Synthetic Philosophy, the divisions III, IV, and V, of the Principles of Sociology, stood in the order Political, Ecclesiastical, Ceremonial; and in this order I was about to write them.
But the process of reading and arranging my memoranda brought with it a revelation. There dawned upon me the truth that political government is neither the earliest nor the most general; but that, in order of evolution, and in order of generality, ceremonial government precedes it. There are small social groups without any kind of political control; but there are none without that control which is exercised by established modes of behaviour between man and man. Even among the rudest savages there are peremptory rules of intercourse—rules more peremptory, indeed, than those existing among the civilized. Thus it became manifest to me that Ceremonial Institutions stand first; and there was a resulting change in the order of my work.
In what manner to publish was a question which now arose. No longer tied to a serial issue, but proposing to issue the remaining divisions of the Synthetic Philosophy in volumes, I still had to choose between certain alternatives. I might continue writing, and make no sign until the second volume was completed; or I might publish instalments of it in the shape of magazine-articles.
This last course was one which I should probably not have thought of, had not a preceding experience suggested it. The Study of Sociology made its first appearance as a series of articles in the Contemporary Review. Why should I not in like manner bring out Ceremonial Institutions chapter by chapter? In a letter to Youmans, dated May 26, 1877, I find the following passage referring to the matter:—
“I think of beginning with the division treating of Ceremonial Institutions, and, in connexion with this, am entertaining the thought of preliminary publication in chapters. The subjects will be popular and novel, as well as instructive, and will bear detachment in the shape of magazine-articles, under the titles of “Mutilations,” “Presents,” “Obeisances,” “Salutations,” “Titles,” “Badges,” “Dresses” &c. I shall probably propose them to Morley for the Fortnightly, and they would probably suit you also.”
Before anything was settled there presented itself the further question—Why should the serial publication be limited to England and America? Why not publish at the same time in periodicals on the Continent? Translations of my books had made my name known abroad; and it occurred to me as possible that editors would like to have early proofs of the articles sent them in time for translation, so that they might be issued in their respective magazines when they were issued here. My anticipation proved not ill-founded; and arrangements were accordingly made such that, as the successive chapters were published in England and America, they were simultaneously published in France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Russia.
None of these chapters were, however, as yet written; and it was only after the lapse of some six months, occupied in preparing them, that the publication thus described commenced.
During this summer, as during the preceding summer, several picnic water-parties had been given by my friends the Potters on the Thames above Taplow—chiefly in the grounds of the Duke of Sutherland, where a picturesque cottage by the water-side has been provided for those who, on such occasions, obtain permission to use it. Picnics are about the most enjoyable of social gatherings, and these had been very pleasant.
Why should not I give a picnic? was a question that resulted. Entertainments of friends had, up to this time, been limited, first of all to occasional dinners given at an hotel; afterwards to dinners given at the Athenæum, which were necessarily restricted to members; and only in more recent years, when I had come to have adequate facilities, at Queen’s Gardens. Of course, among the friends who came to these parties, there were no ladies. But to a picnic ladies in due proportion might be invited. This consideration furnished a motive enforcing others that arose; and a picnic was decided upon.
St. George’s Hill, Weybridge, was the place I fixed upon; and, having obtained permission from Admiral Egerton to do so, I there, in July, assembled a number of friends—between a dozen and twenty I think. The experiment was a success, but it created considerable surprise. One of the ladies, I remember, could not refrain from expressing her astonishment—“A philosopher, and give a picnic!” She exhibited afresh what I have before remarked on: she identified philosophy with disregard of pains and contempt for pleasures.
Picnics generally drag a little towards the close; and to avoid the dragging I adopted the device of changing the scene. The carriages were ordered to fetch us between five and six, and in them we drove to the Oatlands-Park Hotel. After an hour or so spent by some in playing a game of one or other kind, and by some in rambling about the grounds, we went indoors for a “high tea”. The animation was thus kept up to the last. A like routine was followed on subsequent occasions, which recurred annually until my bad health compelled desistance.
A few weeks earlier than this first picnic, I had passed by Weybridge on my way to Godalming and Witley, where the Leweses had just bought a country house. They presently derived much benefit in health from it: not wholly from the fresh air, but partly from taking to an outdoor game. Often when at the Priory, I had urged them not to spend their evenings in reading aloud, but to find some indoor amusement; and I suggested a billiard-table as a resource. They were deaf to my arguments. Soon after they bought the house at Witley, however, a letter from Lewes told me that they had been following, if not the letter, yet the spirit of my advice, and had taken to lawn-tennis, with the effect of improving their physical state. It is a great mistake for adults, and especially for adults who work their brains much, to give up sports and games. The maxim on which I have acted, and the maxim which I have often commended to my friends is—Be a boy as long as you can.
This mention of a letter from Lewes calls to mind an earlier one in which he gave me a fact that bears upon a question recently discussed—the question whether writers of fiction feel much sympathy with their characters: the consensus of opinion appearing to be that they do. Certainly George Eliot did. Clear proof was given to me by a passage in the letter I have referred to, which ran:—“Marian is in the next room crying over the distresses of her young people.”
Two or three incidents of interest dating in the autumn of this year, sufficiently justify an account of my doings during it.
Rheumatism, which had been troublesome for some time, prompted me to visit Buxton on my way North. In the train which took me there about the middle of July, were Prof. Goldwin Smith and his wife, who were bound for the same place with a view to benefiting Mrs. Smith’s health. It happened that we went to the same hotel. The result was that I saw a good deal of them, and had many pleasant talks during my ten days’ stay. I have never been able to understand him: the manifestations of nature on different occasions having been so widely unlike. When, in 1861, a relapse obliged me to issue a notice that the next number of my serial must be postponed, and that subsequent numbers would appear at irregular intervals, Prof. Goldwin Smith wrote me a letter of condolence. From him alone, out of 450 subscribers, there came this mark of sympathy—a mark of sympathy the more surprising, because we were but slightly acquainted and he was theologically an antagonist. On the other hand, when, after the Data of Ethics was published, he commented upon it in the Contemporary Review, he made misrepresentations so grave, and, it seemed to me, so inexcusable, that I had to expose them in a subsequent number of that periodical. How to reconcile the two traits of character thus implied has always been a puzzle to me. I can only suppose that he does not perceive the gravity of the statements he makes.
From Buxton I betook myself to Whitby: being prompted by the prospect of companionship with the Huxleys, who were about to spend their autumn there. Unfortunately the greater part of my stay passed before they arrived; and the search for ammonites, for which the place is famed, did not much console me. One incident has remained in my memory, and is worth recording. Seating himself at the same table at the hotel one day, a clergyman of advanced years entered into conversation with me over our dinner. It turned out that he had, when young, resided in or near Derby, and had known my father. This disclosure led to friendly talk, in the course of which he remarked on the great change which had taken place in the general state of men’s minds during his life. He said that, whereas in his early days indifference was the rule, nowadays everybody is in earnest about something or other. The contrast struck me as one of great significance.
An excursion-steamer by-and-by took me to Scarborough; whence, after a time, I departed for the North: staying a day at Edinburgh to see Masson, and then, after a short pause at Innellan, proceeding to Ardtornish, where the record shows I arrived on August 15.
Have I, or have I not, named the fact that yachting had become one of the recreations at Ardtornish. Mr. Valentine Smith, to whom the estates had descended on his father’s death, had built himself a fine steam-yacht of 450 tons burthen, the “Dobhran” (pronounced Doran, the Gaelic name for a sea-otter); and excursions in this varied the routine of fishing, grouse-shooting, and deer-stalking. Two extensive ones were made this season, the last of which ended in a catastrophe. Taking our course up the Sleat Sound, we had coasted the western side of Skye as far as Dunvegan; and, anchoring in the loch for the night, had visited the ancient castle, where the honours were done by Miss McLeod—a polished old lady whose presence in so wild and remote a region seemed anomalous. Next day we steamed along the northern coast of the island, and onwards to Gairloch; and then, taking to a wagonette provided by our host, we drove along the shore of Loch Maree and through Glen Torridon: going on board the yacht in Loch Torridon, where it had been sent round to meet us. The following morning saw us going South between the island of Raasay and the mainland; and now came the disaster. Mr. Smith and the captain had gone below to consult the charts before entering Loch Carron: leaving the vessel in the charge of the mate, with directions respecting his course. But the mate, thinking he could make a short cut, quickly put an end to our cruise. The following letter to Lott, dated 9 Sept. 1877, tells what happened:—
“In the papers of about a week ago, you might have seen the brief account of the wreck of the steam-yacht Dobhran on a sunken rock near the shore of Applecross. This was the yacht of my friend here, Valentine Smith. There were eight of us, besides a crew of 21. We had been cruising about Skye, Dunvegan, Gairloch, Torridon, and were coming south to Loch Carron, when the mate brought us to grief. The vessel struck and heeled over to about 45° forthwith, and her stern began to sink. We all got into the boats safely in about five minutes. She is still on the rocks, and the insurers are trying to raise her and will probably succeed. She cost about £20,000 and is insured for £15,000.”
Having all got safely into the boats, we hung around for some time to see what would happen: some of the sailors fearing that the vessel, which was continuing to blow off steam, would explode (but with what reason I could not understand), and others fearing that she would slip off the rock and go down. Spite of all protests, Mr. Smith, with the daring characteristic of the family, insisted on going on board again to get the ship’s papers and other valuables; and presently returned, bringing, among other things, a quantity of wraps for the ladies. After a time we were taken on to Strome Ferry by another yacht, and, our host and his cousin remaining behind to look after the wrecked vessel, the rest of us made the best of our way back to Ardtornish. Eventually the insurers succeeding in getting off the “Dobhran”. She was duly repaired and has since led an active life every season.
The record kept at Ardtornish shows that I left that place on Sept. 13, and, I suppose, returned straight to town.
During the remainder of the year little occurred calling for mention. My daily routine was broken by a short stay at Wykehurst, and a longer one at Standish, and there also occurred a visit from my friend Youmans. A letter to him written on Dec. 17, after his return to America, contains a quotable passage:—
“About ten days ago I received from Russia a copy of a Russian translation of No. I. of the Descriptive Sociology—“English”. I was at first puzzled to make out what it was—whether it was the Descriptive Sociology for Russia which they proposed to undertake, or whether it was a translation; but comparison of dates, divisions and names, finally made it clear that it was a translation. What a go-a-head people they are!”
This was the translation referred to in an extract some time since given, which indicated that the professors of the University of Kiev were about to undertake it. Commenting on the mental inertness of most people here, a Russian once told me that in his country the young men starve themselves to buy books: a fact which seems related to that great receptivity which these professors exemplified. Certainly their proceeding implies a strange contrast between the appreciation of the Descriptive Sociology in Russia and its non-appreciation in Britain.
Whether it was during this autumn, or whether it was at an earlier period, that I decided to have a set of my books permanently bound, I cannot now remember; but the incident resulting from the decision remains the same in either case. “Why should I not treat myself to copies in handsome bindings?” I asked. So I went to the binders to consult and order. Various samples of leather were shown to me. Some I objected to as unfit in colour—too gay perhaps, or too sombre; while this was too dark, and that too light. At length the manager, seeing the kind of thing I wanted, put his mouth to the speaking tube and called—“Mr. Jones, send me some light divinity calf”. The sample brought down proved to be just the thing I wanted; and, accordingly, in “light divinity calf” my books were bound.
The year 1878 opened for me with a serious illness. A letter dated Feb. 16, concerning it, I quote chiefly because it serves to explain the step I took the winter after:—
“Perhaps I am the more apt to put this construction on the matter [inferring Youmans’ illness from his silence] because I have myself been seriously unwell since I wrote last. More than a month ago, I got one chill upon another, and, mismanaging things, got into a state of pyrexia—pulse high, temperature over 100—and passed eleven days indoors: the most miserable eleven days I remember; for, upon the whole, my life thus far has been tolerably free from illnesses that have kept me within doors. . . .
As I was saying to the doctor, who has just now left me, I begin to find more and more difficulty in reconciling the physical, intellectual, and moral requirements of my life. More and more each winter there is forced upon me the experience that five months of bad weather,—cold, wet, gloomy, relaxing, by turns—is trying to my system, and that I profit greatly by getting away to some sunnier and drier region on the South Coast of England, and perhaps should do the like still better on the South Coast of Europe. But the difficulty of meeting the mental requirements is insuperable. I cannot take my friends with me; and in the absence of ability to pass the time in reading to any extent, I get dreadfully bored; so that when I go away for a week, and have profited by the better sleeping and other physical advantages, I always rejoice greatly when the last days come, enabling me to return to town from my wearisome banishment. I really cannot see how I am to manage matters; having to choose, on the one hand, between the physical mischiefs of a winter in London, and, on the other hand, the delay of work and moral depression resulting from a winter spent elsewhere, in the absence of friends about me I care for, and in the absence of those occupations which enable me to kill time.”
The sequence of this illness was a ten-days stay at Brighton to recruit. Entries in my diary show that a fortnight after my return came another week indoors, implying that my state was still unsatisfactory.
Two extracts from letters dated respectively May 10 and May 15, may fitly be given here. The first shows the commencement of a task which was slowly completed in the course of some years:—
“Talking of occupying greater space, I took up a while since the first volume of the Sociology, and, on beginning to re-read the earlier part, found that there was much that could be condensed; not by omitting anything, but by cutting out superfluous qualifications and clauses that were entirely unimportant. I have gone through several chapters, and on averaging them I conclude that I can economize to something like the extent of three lines a page; and this will, I think, effect an abridgment of some 60 or 70 pages on the whole volume. I feel alike pleased and disgusted with this result—pleased that there is so much room for improvement, and disgusted that the improvement is called for.”
The second extract concerns a matter of more interest: to me at least, if not to others:—
“I think you take in the Revue Scientifique. Just look at No. 45, for 11 May, 1878, which I have just received. You will find in it an Essay by M. Paulhan, entitled “Le Progres, d’apres M. Herbert Spencer”, which is a review based upon the translation of the Essay by M. Burdeau. It has for me, and possibly will have for you, a certain interest as pointing out what I had forgotten—the extent to which the general theory of Evolution, as set forth in First Principles, is indicated in “Progress its Law and Cause”, in other directions beyond the transformation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous: how segregation and integration and coherence are incidentally and vaguely implied; and how also what he calls the metaphysical defect is similarly implied. I had not been conscious, until thus pointed out by this French critic, that the rudiments of the other parts of this theory of Evolution were lying there in germ; and the fact is interesting to note.”
Certainly it seems strange I should have needed a critic to reveal to me the extent to which, in 1857, I had expressed ideas which I thought were reached in subsequent years.
Of occurrences during the season, only one calls for notice—a visit to Paris, extending from May 18 to May 27, in company with my friend Lott, to see the International Exhibition, then just opened.
Paris was unseen by him save through such glances as he got during a few hours when on his way to join me in Switzerland in 1853; and it was pleasant to play the guide and participate in his interest. Of course, joining the chief sights with the contents of the Exhibition, and with the display in the Salon, which opened while we were there, gave us so much to look at that our time was overfilled.
I see by my diary that I did not, during our stay, desist entirely from such work as might be done in the shape of revising. Being able to do so little each day, I was always reluctant to sacrifice wholly the working power which each day gave me. I remember correcting some MS. when seated in the garden of the Trocadero, while Lott pursued his researches in the annexed Exhibition Building.
The chief incident which this visit brought forth, may be conveniently described in the words of a letter dated May 30:—
“I am just back from Paris not the better, but rather the worse for my excursion. Too much sight-seeing and too many excitements of one kind or other, have rather knocked me over, so that I am by no means in working order. I am, however, better this morning and hope to be able to do something to-morrow. I send you by this same post a French paper, Le Temps, from which you will see that I did not escape, as I had intended to do, from seeing some of my Parisian friends. Anxious to avoid all social excitements, I postponed calling on Baillière until I had been in Paris for a week, and only two days before starting back: thinking that I should so render impossible the making of any engagements. However, I was deluded. Within twenty-four hours he got up the dinner you see noticed, and I had no escape from it.”
Failure of the reporter to understand my English speech, made in response to the compliment paid me, led three French papers to represent me as having proposed “Fraternity” as a toast. The statement was repeated in the English papers; and, being at once ludicrous and annoying, I had to publish a letter correcting it.
I regretted that the non-intimation of my presence in Paris prevented me from seeing Dr. Cazelles—my first and chief French translator—who had been drawn from his home in the South by the International Exhibition; and to whom I should have liked to express personally my thanks for his conscientious labours.
The successive articles agreed on as above described, had been coming out in the Fortnightly Review and other periodicals during the half-year: the first having appeared in January, and the last in July. Not, indeed, that the series of chapters proposed to be thus issued was so concluded; for there were others which remained. But no more had a periodical publication.
The reason for the cessation was that the articles had not proved as attractive as I expected. I thought that the genesis of ceremonies of all kinds would be found not uninteresting, and that, as the illustrations were many of them curious, and many of them piquant, people would be led to give attention. To judge from the Press-notices, however, this was not so. There was, indeed, along with the facts cited, now strange and now amusing, a doctrine set forth—a theory which served to link them together. I suppose this element proved repugnant. It seemed as if the mass of readers preferred to have their amusement unadulterated by thought. The result is shown in the following letter, dated May 15, 1878; which, after describing this lack of interest displayed, continues—
“Thinking that Morley might be led to regret that he had undertaken to publish the whole series of chapters, I wrote to him the other day saying that I thought, from what I saw, that the series was not successful in respect of popularity; and that I did not wish that he should feel himself bound to fulfil our engagement by occupying his pages with matter that turned out not to be advantageous; and that consequently we would, if he pleased, publish no more. Though himself apparently surprised at the result, he recognizes the fact to which I drew his attention; and, thanking me for making the proposal, which he says he hardly likes to entertain, yet yields to it if I wish: suggesting, however, the desirability of publishing the next instalment in his June number—that is, the chapter on ‘Forms of Address’.”
Five chapters were in consequence of this decision withheld: some of them already written, and the closing ones unwritten. The entries in my diary appear to imply that I completed them before doing anything else; or, at any rate, before devoting myself entirely to the task I proposed next to undertake.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE DATA OF ETHICS.
1878—79. Æt. 58—59.
An unusual amount of ill-health experienced during the winter months of 1877—78, had, even before the illness described in the last chapter, led to serious thoughts respecting my future; and these had prompted a precautionary step. On the 9th January, while lying in bed with a bad cold, I sent for my secretary, and, after disposing of a small matter, began dictating memoranda for the Data of Ethics. My reasons for doing this are given in a letter dated Feb. 16, 1878, as follows:—
“When I have got through the chapters on Ceremonial Government, and have also got through those on Ecclesiastical Government, which I propose to deal with next (not, however, publishing them in the same way), I have some idea of writing, and publishing as I am now doing in the Fortnightly, the first division of the Principles of Morality: showing how morality is to be dealt with from the Evolution point of view, as the outcome of all preceding investigations. I begin to feel that it is quite a possible thing that I may never get through both the other volumes of the Principles of Sociology, and that, if I go on writing them, and not doing anything towards the Principles of Morality till they are done, it may result in this last subject remaining untreated altogether; and since the whole system was at the outset, and has ever continued to be, a basis for a right rule of life, individual and social, it would be a great misfortune if this, which is the outcome of it all, should remain undone. So that I think of putting together some ten chapters under the title of the “Data of Morality”, in which the evolutionary conception of the subject will be so far clearly set forth, that the development may safely be left to others, if I cannot achieve it myself.”
Of course this dictating of memoranda for The Data of Ethics I was able to carry on only at intervals; for as I had committed myself to the series of articles described in the last chapter, my time was chiefly occupied in writing them. But the ideas to be set forth were gradually being arranged and developed, as is implied by the following extract dated March 13:—
“I have quite decided upon the course I named with regard to the first division of the Principles of Morality, and, indeed, am getting a little anxious to undertake it; for now that I have for some time been thinking it over, and putting the ideas into shape, it is taking so satisfactory a form, and so much more complete a development than I anticipated, that I shall be glad to set it forth: even apart from the precaution of avoiding any possible ultimate failure in publication of it. It will, however, as I think I indicated, be postponed for some time; inasmuch as I have committed myself to writing the Ecclesiastical division as soon as I have done the Ceremonial. But when that is done I shall take up the Ethical forthwith.”
Continued during the remainder of the spring, this elaboration of ideas had the result that when, towards the close of June, the chapters on Ceremonial Institutions were completed, I was ready to begin putting into shape this new division of my undertaking: the intention of previously executing the Ecclesiastical division, having been abandoned.
The latter part of June 1878 was extremely hot: making one long for a shady place out of doors. Kensington Gardens, only three minutes walk off, fulfilled the desideratum; and thither I betook myself with my shorthand secretary. Hiring two chairs, we seated ourselves under the trees, and I dictated for half an hour. Then we walked about awhile; after doing which came more dictating; and so on alternately throughout the morning. In the course of a week the rough drafts of sundry chapters were thus prepared.
I say “rough drafts”; for I had been led into a mode of composition unlike that hitherto pursued by me. Usually my first MS. was also the last, and went to the printers with my erasures and inter-lineations upon it. But having in this case commenced by jotting down memoranda, and having from time to time during the spring continued this process, I now persisted in it under a modified form: the memoranda taking a coherent shape, so as to become a full presentation of the argument. Hence resulted the practice of devoting a “copy-book” to each chapter, and putting it aside with the intention of using it as a basis for the final dictation.
I name this fact because of a certain accidental sequence worth mentioning. One of the “copy-books” was mislaid; and when I came to the chapter sketched out in it, I had to re-dictate this without reference to what I had before said. Some time after the book was published, I found this missing rough draft. A perusal showed that, besides a different presentation of the argument, it contained some illustrations which the chapter in its finished form did not contain; and the perusal also showed that, though the ideas had been given forth in an off-hand way, the expression of them was sufficiently good to make the chapter readable. When preparing the second edition, I therefore decided to append this rough-draft chapter just as it stood: merely punctuating it, and substituting the right words in some few places where the shorthand writer had put wrong ones by mistake. It serves to exemplify my mode of expression when unstudied and unrevised.
Of late years, since the need for economy of time and labour has become so manifest, there has sometimes occurred to me the question—Why not do the rest of my books in this easy and rapid way; so as to get the ideas set forth in some shape, if not in the best shape? More than once I have tried to dictate permanent work after the suggested manner, but have completely failed. The rough drafts above described were dictated in the belief that they were rough drafts—were not to be printed; and the facility resulted from this belief. As soon as I begin to dictate in the same manner with the consciousness that what I am doing is to be final, I am hindered by self-criticism. Flowingly as I may commence, I quickly find the current of my composition checked by pausing to weigh this sentence or that expression, until presently I drop down to my ordinary rate. It is a provoking difficulty, which I see no way of surmounting.
Neither anecdote, nor adventure, nor scientific observation, affords a reason for giving much space to details of my life in the North this autumn.
Leaving town on the 25th July, I passed a few days at Liverpool with the Holts. My chief recollection of the visit is that I spent the mornings in wandering about Sefton Park (on the border of which Mr. Holt’s house stands), carrying Bain’s Mental and Moral Science under my arm, and occasionally sitting down to read portions of it. The motive for this is implied in the following extract from a letter written on July 5:—
“At intervals during the Spring, and more especially of late, I have been sketching out in the rough the division which I named to you—the Data of Ethics, which I am, as I said, intending to write and publish before I go further with the Sociology. This rough outline is now mainly done: being complete in chapters and sections of chapters, each of which is sketched out. I shall finish it before leaving Town, and then, taking it with me, along with sundry books to be consulted, I shall devote myself while away to the re-elaboration of it before proceeding finally to write”.
From Liverpool I departed for Inveroran, where three weeks were spent with but moderate success in catching salmon, and considerable success, I suppose, in reading and revising, if I may judge by the time devoted to it; for my diary shows that there was but little fishing weather. Why I left for the South on the 19th I do not understand, for an entry on the 17th tells me that I hooked and lost four salmon in succession; proving that there was no lack of fish in the river. Nor do I understand what prompted me to make a detour into the Island of Arran on my way South. Two days were spent at Brodick; and, that time having sufficed me, I returned to London, which I reached on the 23rd August. Perhaps a desire to get to work again chiefly moved me thus to abridge my absence to less than a month.
But it seems I was not satisfied with this half-holiday. There shortly came a supplementary one, as shown by the following extract dated Sept. 27:—
“Your letter of Sept. 3 reached me at Lyme Regis, where I have been spending the last ten days with the Busks. I had, as you suppose, returned to Town, and indeed had been three weeks here before going away again; so that I was able to take away a sufficiency of MS. to occupy me in revision. I arrived back last night and am now setting to work again.”
One of the incidents of my stay at Lyme Regis was a visit to the remarkable landslip, about six miles to the west, where a tract some quarter of a mile long and many acres in area, bearing a house, slid bodily forward over the shore into the water; leaving inland a vast chasm of perhaps fifty yards wide and thirty or forty feet deep.
As my beliefs are at variance with those expressed in burial-services, I do not like attending funerals, and giving a kind of tacit adhesion to all that is said. But I am compelled to make exceptions, and made one towards the close of this year; partly because my absence would have been generally misinterpreted, and partly because it might have given pain to one whose feelings I should have been very reluctant to hurt, though probably she would have understood my motive. The funeral I refer to was that of my friend Lewes, which occurred on the 4th of December.
His death ended a domestic union of nearly twenty-five years’ duration. One might have expected that the expressions used in the dedications of George Eliot’s MSS. to him, would have sufficed as proofs of his devotedness. But there are not a few who, in such cases, gladly find occasion for unfavourable comment, or assume occasion if they cannot find it; and most people have no scruples in circulating adverse statements without asking for evidence. So far as I saw (and I had many opportunities of seeing) they exceeded any married pair I have known in the constancy of their companionship; and his studious care of her was manifest. I remember that on one occasion when, perhaps during a temporary mood, I had been saying that though possessed of so many advantages I valued life but little, save for the purpose of finishing my work, they both of them ascribed my state of feeling to lack of the domestic affections, and simultaneously exclaimed that their great sorrow was that the time would soon come when death would part them.
In the brief characterization of Lewes which I gave in an early chapter of this volume, I omitted two allied traits which ought to be mentioned. One of them was that he was studiously fair in his criticisms, alike of friends and of foes. Bias in another’s favour did not prevent him from indicating such faults as he recognized; and antagonism did not prevent him from according praise for merit, where it existed. The other was that in controversy he was exceptionally open-minded. Of all those with whom I have had discussions, I cannot remember one who, when he saw that a position was untenable, would with such entire candour avowedly surrender it. Though he had plenty of amour propre, it did not prevent him from yielding to a conclusive argument—did not induce him to go on fighting, as most men do, after they are conscious that they are wrong.
Later in December came the preparations for a change foreshadowed in the last chapter. Already to a letter I have quoted concerning my health, there came from Youmans a response the nature of which is implied in the rejoinder I made on March 13:—
“I wish I could follow out your advice with regard to wintering in Algiers, but I do not find it practicable to get a friend about whom I care anything to join me; and it is quite out of the question to go alone. That you should propose to make a sacrifice of the kind you so generously indicate, is quite in harmony with your nature, and your interest in the end to be achieved; but you must not suppose that there are many others who have like feelings, and would be ready to do like things. However I shall make an effort next year, if I can manage to conform such an arrangement with the progress of my work, to carry out this scheme.”
On July 5, in a letter partially quoted already, I wrote:—
“I have pretty well decided to spend my next winter in the South of Europe. My experiences year after year, and especially this year, have impressed me more and more with the fact that our winter is very injurious to me; and is injurious because my powers of making vital heat, naturally not high, have fallen so much below par. One of the evidences of how much I fail in maintaining my vital heat, which has long struck me, has been that, far from finding a hot bath enervating, as many people do, it always gives me a better appetite: showing that the exaltation of the functions due to a gratis supply of heat, enables me to carry on my physiological business better. Quite recently I have had still clearer evidence of this; for a fit of hot weather which we had lately, did me very great good—increased my appetite and improved my digestion, and in all respects made me better. So that I see that my health and power of working for the future, will depend very much on avoiding the evils which the winter’s cold entails upon me.”
A passage from a letter dated Sept. 27, shows what was about to happen:—
“I was delighted to find that my suggested intention of going to the South of Europe to spend some of the winter months, raised in you the thought of accompanying me; and I strongly urge you to carry out that thought.”
Accordingly, on Dec. 17, my American friend arrived in London. Starting on the 20th for Paris; spending two days there to arrange for the translation of The Data of Ethics; and halting for a day at Lyons to rest; we reached Hyères on Christmas eve.
After leaving the gloom and inclemency of a London December, it was delightful, on Christmas morning, to saunter about the garden of the Hôtel des Iles d’Or, and hear the buzzing of the flies in the sunshine—a sound so strongly associated with the glow of a summer’s day. It was pleasant, too, to pass from trees black and bare, to trees and plants in full leaf, native and introduced—the eucalyptus, the palms, the aloes, which are becoming so abundant along the Riviera as greatly to mask the indigenous vegetation.
Speaking of aloes reminds me that I observed one which, having lately sent up its vast flower-stalk, had drooping and shrunken leaves; and this suggested a good question that might be put to those who are studying plant-life after a rational manner: the question, namely—What are the conditions which make it profitable to the aloe-species to postpone flowering so long? Young people should always have in their minds problems to be solved concerning the phenomena of the surrounding world, and of human life. A boy or girl rising in the teens, might with advantage be asked—How happens it that in hilly counties, such as Devonshire, the lanes are deep down below the surfaces of the adjacent fields; whereas in flat countries the surfaces of the lanes and of the fields are on the same level? What is the definite and unmistakable distinction between running and walking? Why do horses and cows drink as human beings do, by sucking in the water; whereas dogs and cats drink by lapping? What is that adjustment of the parts of the eye which gives the infantine stare, as contrasted with that adjustment which gives the calm gaze of the adult? What advantage does a plant get from having a hollow stem or stem filled with pith? and why is this advantage, which many short-lived plants avail themselves of, unavailable by trees, save when young and afterwards in their shoots? Why, in a river, is the water next a convex shore usually shallow, and the bottom often sandy?
A teacher who understood his business would be continually devising questions of these and countless other kinds, to which no answers could be found in books, and would persistently refuse to give the answers: leaving the questions to be puzzled over for years if need were. The mental exercise which solving one such question implies, is of more value than that implied by a dozen rote-learnt lessons.
Details of our seven-weeks’ sojourn on the Riviera are not called for. I had left a quantity of MS. with the printer, and had taken a further quantity with me to revise. My mornings up to the time of the dejeuner I devoted to correcting MS. and proofs; while the afternoons were spent, weather permitting, in saunterings and explorations.
On New Year’s day we left Hyères for Cannes; and, after a pleasant week there we passed on to Nice, or rather to Cimiez—a little place on the high ground some three miles inland. A post-card to Lott written thence on Jan 15, says something about our experiences:—
“This is the region of extremes—winter and summer mixed. Now sitting crouching over the fire with great coat and cap on, and piling rugs on the bed at night, and now walking in bright warm sunshine, seeing butterflies about and peas six feet high in blossom, and being obliged to use mosquito cutrains!
We have been at Hyères and Cannes for a week each, and on Friday shall go on to Mentone, to which place I went yesterday “prospecting” and was delighted with it.”
On the 17th a charming drive along that beautiful part of the Corniche road lying East of Nice, took us to Mentone; and there we settled: both of us preferring the place to any of the others, chiefly because of its surprizing number of picturesque walks. Of course we made expeditions. There was a trip to Monaco and Monte Carlo to see the gambling-tables, where the faces of the players were less repulsive than I had expected. A day was spent at Ventimiglia. During an absence of two days we visited Bordighera and San Remo. And there were smaller excursions to places near at hand—Roquebrune and Eza.
Concerning this last place, to which I went alone (for Youmans was not equal to much exertion), something may be said. Already from the Corniche road we had looked down upon its truncated peak of rock, and cluster of habitations on the top; and now I climbed up to it from the railway-station near the sea-side. The climb occupied me more than an hour; for I sat down occasionally to rest and do a little revising. But the sight of its curious interior well repaid me for the climb. With its irregular dwellings huddled together chaotically around narrow streets and passages and archways like tunnels, it may be compared to the oldest part of one of our oldest provincial towns, in course of being changed into a magnified rabbit-warren. At the highest part there is a ruined stronghold, in which I sat down. After contemplating awhile the magnificent panoramic view, I took out a portion of The Data of Ethics, and spent half an hour upon it; and, remembering what the place had witnessed during the times when it was a refuge for the people of the district, and during other times when it was held by the invading Saracens, I was struck by the odd contrast between the purposes to which it was then put, and the purpose to which I was putting it.
By the middle of February my friend and I found reasons for returning: I, because I had got through all the MS. I had brought with me, and he, because he longed for home. We reached London on the 17th; and, after remaining with me a fortnight he departed for America. Writing on Feb. 19 to Lott I said:—
“The excursion was a success as being an escape from the terrible winter you have had here, though not so satisfactory absolutely. One-third rainy days, one-third dull days, one-third bright days, describes the weather approximately. Still, the change was beneficial in some respects and enjoyable; and as I did my full stint of work or rather more, and have come back perhaps a little better than I went, I am content.” This description of the unsatisfactory weather is, I find, an over-statement. My diary shows that the fine days were slightly in excess of the rest.
Save a week’s visit to Quorn at Easter, nothing occurred to vary the even tenor of my life until the beginning of June; on the 7th of which month I find the entry “Finished the Data of Ethics”. The printers had been at my heels all through the Spring; so that now, when I put the final portion of MS. into their hands, there remained only to pass the last sheets through the press.
This small task was not, however, completed in London, but near Salisbury; where I had been invited to spend a few days at Wilton House, with the kind intention of benefiting my health. Had I thought of it, I might have corrected the closing pages of The Data of Ethics in the groves where Sir Philip Sidney is said to have composed his Arcadia; but attractive though the grounds are, it did not then occur to me to take my work out of doors. A little time only being occupied in looking through proofs, the rest was spent partly in drives and walks accompanied by somewhat too much conversation for my welfare, and partly amidst an agreeable circle of Whitsuntide guests. I have often regretted that the health of our host has not allowed him to take a more prominent part in public life; where the philanthropic nature he inherits, joined with a clear intelligence, might have done conspicuous service.
Shortly after my return to town The Data of Ethics was issued, and met with a more favourable reception than I had been accustomed to. More endeavour was made than usual to give some idea of the contents of the work; and especially in one instance, a clear and succinct account of its argument was set forth. A curious commentary on current criticism is supplied by the fact that I was, after nearly thirty years experience of it, surprized to meet with a case in which the reviewer did that which every reviewer ought to do.[Back to Table of Contents]
1879. Æt. 59.
As the articles named in the last chapter but one were all nearly completed, though not all published, before The Data of Ethics was seriously commenced, why was not the volume on Ceremonial Institutions, constituted by these articles, published first? Was I so anxious to write The Data of Ethics that I could not even delay to pass Ceremonial Institutions through the press? These questions at first puzzled me; and it was only after some consideration that I saw what had happened.
At the time when I made the resolve to write The Data of Ethics forthwith, lest it should never be written at all, my intention was to publish the second volume of The Principles of Sociology as a whole, according to programme. As the chapters dealing with Ceremonial Institutions formed but the first division of it, they were consequently laid aside until the other divisions should be written. On returning to the subject, however, I reflected that as the volume was to contain five divisions, treating respectively of Ceremonial, Political, Ecclesiastical, Professional, and Industrial Institutions, it would be very bulky, and would be a long time in hand—certainly several years. Hence there arose the thought—Why not publish each division separately? Though organically connected with the rest, each division has a sufficient degree of independence to admit of separate treatment; each division will form a volume of sufficient size; and, further, each division will have more chance of being bought and read than did it form a part of one large expensive volume. Moreover, if the paging was made to run consecutively through these successive divisions, they could be bound into one volume when all were issued.
Once entertained, the thought of making this change of plan quickly ended in action; and, soon after The Data of Ethics was through the press, I took the requisite steps.
The season, verging towards its close when this happened, brought no further incident worthy of mention. A letter, however, dated 26 June, names a fact which, I suppose, ought not to be omitted:—
“You will, I daresay, be somewhat surprised so soon again to have a letter from me; but I have just received a piece of news of a satisfactory kind which you will be glad to have. . . . It is contained in a letter just received from Ribot.
‘I have the pleasure of informing you that, by official resolution of the Minister of Public Instruction, your principal works (First Principles, Principles of Biology, &c.) are henceforth to be placed at the disposal of the pupils of the Lyceums, and may be given to them as prizes. This resolution is the result of efforts to this end which I have long made in company with some friends (MM. Marion, Maspero, &c.) who are, like me, members of the Ministerial Commission which selects books. There were animated discussions over each of your works. We have nevertheless had a majority (the Commission is composed of about forty members), excepting the work on Education, which has been excluded “as being likely to make the students conceive a dislike for classical studies”. At the same time it has been decided that this book may be given to students who are about to leave the Lyceum. These resolutions apply to the whole of France.’ ”
I feel that the quoting of this passage is in somewhat questionable taste; and yet to say nothing about the endorsement it describes would be to leave out an occurrence of some significance.
A biographer, or autobiographer, is obliged to omit from his narrative the common-places of daily life, and to limit himself almost exclusively to salient events, actions, and traits. The writing and reading of the bulky volumes otherwise required, would be alike impossible. But by leaving out the humdrum part of the life, forming that immensely larger part which it had in common with other lives, and by setting forth only the striking things, he produces the impression that it differed from other lives more than it really did. This defect is inevitable.
Consciousness of it, and the desire to diminish it, have helped to make me persist in noting my various absences from town, and in many cases giving accounts of their doings; since, being parts of the life which might as well have belonged to other lives, they tend to assimilate it to other lives. Not, indeed, that I have done this exhaustively. Partly by intention, and partly because there was no diary to bring them before me, nor references in correspondence to remind me of them, I have left out many of the least important of my relaxations—short sojourns at Brighton, and others at Eastbourne, Hastings, Folkestone, Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks; as well as various short visits to High Elms, Coombe Bank, Wykehurst, Aldermaston, and longer ones to Standish and Quorn. But if the reader will conceive that the breaks in my London routine, already shown to be frequent, were still more frequent, it will suffice.
Instead of indicating in the same way as heretofore my doings in the autumn of this year, I may copy verbatim my diary during the period, or, at any rate, during the greater part of it: so giving the reader a clearer idea how my holidays were spent than any description would do.
“July 30th. Left Euston Station by the 8.50 limited mail for Stirling. 31st. Stirling at 7.50. Inveroran about 3. Aug. 1st. Began fishing at 11, ended at 5. Got 3 salmon—one 17 lb., one of 15 lb. and one 10 lb.—all in the Island-pool. 2nd. Revising Ceremonial Government in morning. Afternoon fishing; river gone down; no sport. 3rd. Revising Ceremonial Government most of the day—foot blistered and could not walk much. 4th. Revising Ceremonial Government; short walks. 5th. Revising and short walks. 6th. Revising; some rain; river higher; fished from 12 to 5—one salmon 16 lb. 7th. River low—reading, revising, and walking. 8th. Reading, revising, and walking. 9th. Reading, revising, and walking. 10th. Reading, revising, and walking. 11th. Left at 10½; Tyndrum at 12½; left at 1; got to Oban at 6½—Craigard Hotel; met Lingards. 12th. Left at 7 by Skye-boat; Loch Aline at 8½; and Ardtornish at 9½; afternoon, netting in Loch Arienas and picnic with the ladies there. 13th. Revising, walking, and drive to old Ardtornish in afternoon. 14th. In the yacht Dobhran up Loch Sunart to Strontian; back by 9 o’clock. 15th. Started at 8 in the Dobhran to Staffa; fine day; explored cave; back by 6½. 16th. Walking, and revising, and reading. 17th. Walking, revising, and reading. 18th. Started in Dobhran up Loch Linnhe; saw two stags stalked and shot by V. Smith; on to Loch Corrie and Loch Leven; back at 8. 19th. Fishing on Loch Arienas; 14 sea-trout and 12 loch-trout in 5 hours. 20th. Revising, reading, and walking. 21st. Fishing on Loch Arienas; no sport. 22nd. Revising, walking, and playing lawn-tennis. 23rd. Excursion in the Dobhran to Loch-na-Kiel, in Mull. In the sound saw a whale about 50 ft. long [which accompanied us for a mile or more]. 24th. Revising, billiards, and walking; went to Old Ardtornish in afternoon. 25th. Fishing from 11 to 5 in river; 6 sea trout—one 5 lb. one 2 lbs.; missed 4 salmon. 26th. Fishing in river 11 to 5; got 2 salmon—one 7 lb., one 6 lb.; and lost a third. 27th. Revising and walking. 28th. Fishing from 11 to 3; 3 sea-trout—one of 2 lbs. 29th. Revising and walking; afternoon to Acharn with the ladies. 30th. Revising and walking. 31st. Revising and walking to Old Ardtornish in afternoon. Sept. 1st. Revising, very wet; in all day. 2nd. Ditto. 3rd. Ditto; packing up. 4th. Left for Oban by the Plover at 2; Oban at 4; met E. Lott and Phy at the Craigard; evening with them. 5th. At 8 left by Chevalier; reached Glasgow 7.40. 6th. At 10.20 left for Edinburgh; there at 11.50; left at 2.30; Galashiels at 3.30; Laidlawstiel at 4.30.”
Here follows a week’s record; chiefly of walks and drives with host or hostess. Then there is a journey to Rusland near Windermere, to join the Potters; where another week was spent—now in some unsuccessful fishing in the Leven, now in excursions to Barrow and Carpmel, and now in climbing hills and rambling over moors. After which, on the 20th September, comes the journey home.
Perhaps I should explain that there had been no permanent migration from Standish. The timber-importing firm, of which my friend was the leading partner, in addition to their place of business at Gloucester, had established branches at Great Grimsby and Barrow; and finding it needful to be near Barrow for some months in the autumn, he had taken Rusland Hall furnished.
The foregoing extracts from my diary imply that a good deal had been done during my vacation; and the following passage from a letter dated Laidlawstiel shows the result:—
“I have been revising the chaps. on Ceremonial Institutions, and shall go to press as soon as I get back. Probably I shall publish by the end of November.”
Some extracts from letters written shortly after, which have interests of several kinds, may be added. The first is dated October 1.
“I heard yesterday from John Evans some lines [of his own] which have become current, summing up the moral of Allman’s address at the Association. They are as follows:
- ‘’Twixt life and consciousness the chasm,
- Cannot be bridged by protoplasm;
- All flesh is grass, yet chlorophyl
- Can All man’s duties not fulfil.’ ”
It rarely happens that a pun has the peculiarity that it is not only true either way, but has the same kind of truth both ways. The next extract is from a letter written on Oct. 8.
“Mrs. Lewes, in writing to me about the Data of Ethics, expressed her anxiety that I should forthwith finish the Ethics, rather than return to the Sociology; but, though it would be important to do this, I feel that there is still greater importance in forthwith dealing with Social Evolution under its political aspect, even if under no other.”
In a letter two days later in date there is a passage of which the significance will appear hereafter.
“While away in the country this time, I have been so frequently thinking of the question of Militancy v. Industrialism, and the profound antagonism between the two which comes out more and more at every step in my Sociological inquiries, and I have been so strongly impressed with the rebarbarization that is going on in consequence of the return to militant activities, that I have come to the conclusion that it is worth while to try and do something towards organizing an antagonistic agitation. We have, lying diffused throughout English society, various bodies and classes very decidedly opposed to it, which I think merely want bringing together to produce a powerful agency, which may do eventually a good deal in a civilizing direction. The Nonconformist body as a whole, through its ministers, has been manifesting anti-war feelings very strongly; the leading working-men, as was shown at the late Sheffield Congress, are quite alive to the mischief; the Secularists as a body will go in the same direction; so will the Comtists; so will a considerable number of rationalists; so will a considerable sprinkling of Liberal politicians; and so will even a certain proportion of the advanced Churchmen, such as Hughes, and of the clerical body. I have talked to several about the matter—Rathbone, member for Liverpool, Harrison, Morley and others—and I am about to take further steps. There is a decided sympathy felt by all I have named; and I think that it is important to move.”
Probably, if I had duly borne in mind the general principle of the specialization of functions, I should have seen that my function was to think rather than to act, and should have never entertained the intention here indicated.
During the short period covered by the title of this chapter, nothing further occurred calling for mention.
In respect of punctuality, printers are not more praiseworthy than other men of business. Delay in the receipt of proofs is a standing grievance with authors, as delay in the receipt of coats and boots is a standing grievance with men at large. In this case, however, the printers proved unusually virtuous; and my anticipation above expressed, that Ceremonial Institutions would be ready for publication by the end of November, was more than fulfilled; for the book was nearly through the press before many days in November had passed.
But now, while the last sheets were passing under my eyes, came an event which changed the course of my life for the next three months. So marked a break may fitly be signalized by the commencement of a new division.[Back to Table of Contents]
- LIII.Up the Nile.
- LIV.Ending of the Descriptive Sociology.
- LV.Political Institutions.
- LVI.A Grievous Mistake.
- LVII.Coming Events.
- LVIII.A Visit to America.
UP THE NILE.
1879—80. Æt. 59.
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.[Back to Table of Contents]
ENDING OF THE DESCRIPTIVE SOCIOLOGY.
1874—81. Æt. 54—61.
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.[Back to Table of Contents]
1880—82. Æt. 60—62.
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.[Back to Table of Contents]
A GRIEVOUS MISTAKE.
1881—82. Æt. 61.
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.[Back to Table of Contents]
1881—82. Æt. 61—62.
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.[Back to Table of Contents]
A VISIT TO AMERICA.
1882. Æt. 62.
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.[Back to Table of Contents]
1882—89. Æt. 62—69.
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.[Back to Table of Contents]
- LX. Reflections.
[Written Four Years Later.][Back to Table of Contents]
[Written Four Years Later.]
If we pass over that earliest conception of the supernatural which exists among various uncivilized and semi-civilized peoples, who believe in a material resurrection—who think the dead man reappears in substantial shape, has to be fought over again in battle, as the Fijians believe, or gets up from his grave at night and goes hunting, as is asserted by many savages; and if we begin with the ghost-theory under that modified form in which the double, more or less spiritualized, goes away at death, returning to the body after a shorter or longer period; we see that at the outset the idea of a relation between character and bodily structure is excluded. Along with the notion of duality there grows up the assumption that character inheres in the ghost, and that the body is merely the ghost’s house, having no causal relation to it. This is the necessary implication, too, of all the various doctrines of metempsychosis. The soul which, according to some forms of the doctrine, is condemned to be encased in numerous inferior creatures, one after another, is manifestly regarded as independent of its material embodiment, and not as in any sense a product of its material embodiment.
How far back may be traced the belief that there exists a connexion between mind and brain, it is difficult to say. It seems probable that very early the phenomena of idiocy raised the thought of some such relation, qualifying the current dualism—qualifying it, however, in an inconsistent way. For at a time when there was recognized the “narrow forehead of the fool,” there was no assertion of the logical implication that a man’s nature is determined by his cerebral development. Even in our own day, though this truth is recognized in the scientific world, and in a half-and-half way in the unscientific world, yet by most people it is asserted in one breath and denied in another. The same man who now speaks contemptuously of another as having no brains, now contests the doctrine that character varies with brain. Nevertheless it is clear that some sort of dependence is currently admitted.
But there remains to be made a further admission. There has still to be recognized the truth that, in both amounts and kinds, mental manifestations are in part dependent on bodily structures. Mind is not as deep as the brain only, but is, in a sense, as deep as the viscera.
Before specifying the psycho-physical connexions which more especially concern us, let me name certain subordinate ones not here in question, though they should be noted.
There are the ways in which perfections and imperfections of face and limbs have reactive influences on character. Much might be said about the mental effects of bodily deformity. One who knows that he is looked upon by those around with disfavour, can scarcely avoid being in some measure soured—cannot feel the friendship for them which he might otherwise feel. At the same time his temper is almost certain to be injuriously influenced by the consciousness of inability to compete with others in sports and games, and to obtain those satisfactions which efficiency brings: envy being a probable result. Conversely, the man of fine physique, prompted by proved strength and skill to attempt things beyond the powers of most, and to gain applause by success, has his mental attitude modified, in some respects favourably and in other respects unfavourably. Achievements produce content with himself and an increase of friendliness to those who applaud him; though, at the same time, he may be rendered haughty and unsympathetic in his other relations.
So it is with beauty and ugliness. A fine face is a letter of recommendation which usually begets more kindly treatment from all than would else be experienced; and, though a very ugly face will draw from a few special attentions, intended to dissipate the depressed consciousness accompanying it, yet in most cases this consciousness is not weakened but strengthened by others’ behaviour. There is neglect, if nothing more; and this, causing a sense of social isolation, tends to repress the sympathies.
It is true that the reactive effects of these physical traits on psychical traits are variable, and sometimes opposite; according as they fall on one or another original nature. Women show us that the possession of great facial attractions may, if the nature is essentially sympathetic, conduce to increase of sympathetic manifestations; since the genial behaviour to one who has great beauty excites in such case a kindred response, and increases the natural kindliness of disposition. Conversely, a handsome woman who is decidedly egoistic is usually made worse by her handsomeness—lives chiefly for admiration, and becomes more regardless of others’ claims than she would else be. So, too, great bodily powers in a man may, according to the original balance of his feelings, lead him to treat those of inferior strength either less kindly or more kindly than he would have done were he not thus distinguished. In like manner deformity or ugliness may, instead of souring those characterized by it, have, in some cases, a reverse effect. It may prompt them to make themselves attractive in other ways than by their physical traits.
All I wish here to note is that, given an inherited cerebral structure and accompanying balance of mental traits, the development of the external organs, if it departs considerably from the ordinary standard, makes the mental traits different from those which the same brain would have yielded had it been associated with ordinary face or limb.
But now I pass from indirect relations to direct relations. The psycho-physical connexions which I more especially refer to, are those existing between the mental manifestations and what we distinguish as the constitution; meaning, thereby, the sizes and qualities of the various vital organs, and those peripheral extensions of them which take the forms of arteries and veins.
Consciousness forthwith ceases if the current of blood through the brain is stopped. The amounts and kinds of the mental actions constituting consciousness vary, other things equal, according to the rapidity, the quantity, and the quality, of the blood-supply; and all these vary according to the sizes and proportions of the sundry organs which unite in preparing blood from food, the organs which circulate it and the organs which purify it from waste products.
That intellectual and emotional manifestations are changed in their kinds and amounts by changes among these factors, many know, though few recognize the implications. The quantity of mental action shown in energy of will and flow of spirits ebbs during the prostration of illness; and the quality of mental action is altered as well as the quantity. Supposing there is enough vitality to cause display of feeling (which sometimes there is not), the display frequently takes the form of irritability. We have daily proof, too, that the volume of emotion, and consequently the efflux of muscular energy, is diminished by fatigue and accompanying fall in the circulation through the brain. And everyone has seen how great are the effects on the mind of medicinal agents which change the quantity and quality of the cerebral blood-supply—the influence, now exhilarating, now stupefying, of alcohol; the primarily exciting, and secondarily sedative, results of opium; the improved spirits which tonics often produce; and the lowered mental energies following use of medicines like the bromide of potassium, which, persisted in, sometimes causes extreme depression.
But, if variations of both ability and feeling are caused by variations in those physical processes which enable the brain to act, then it follows that permanent differences in the sizes and proportions of the organs carrying on those physical processes—differences which distinguish one constitution from another—must have permanent effects on the mental manifestations, both intellectual and moral. Men’s characters must be in part determined by their visceral structures.
Primarily, the question concerns the amount of life—the amount of that molecular change from which results the energy expended in both bodily activities and mental activities. The evolution of this energy depends on the cooperation of sundry vital organs, and the efficiency or non-efficiency of each one affects all the others and affects the total result: the brain being implicated alike as a recipient of more or less blood which is more or less fit in quality, and as being also a generator of nerve-force which influences the actions of the viscera. Let us look at the three sets of visceral factors separately.
First must be named the structures constituting the alimentary system, which may severally be well or ill developed. There may be inability to deal with an adequate quantity of food, or there may be slovenly digestion, having the effect that much of the food taken in is thrown away—unmasticated lumps which the over-taxed stomach gets into the habit of passing on inadequately triturated, and therefore unutilized. Or, again, there may be solvent secretions of which some are unfit in quantity or quality or both. If one or other of these causes necessitates a deficient amount of blood, the vital actions, those of the brain included, must, other things equal, go on slowly or feebly or be soon checked. It is true that the food eaten is no measure of the nutriment absorbed. But, whether smallness of the alimentary system or imperfect action of it be the reason, chronic deficiency of blood must entail chronic cerebral inactivity, intellectual and emotional. Conversely, there is evidence that an unusually active digestion may, other things equal, be a factor in unusual mental energy. Handel, so wonderfully productive, so marvellous for the number and vigour of his musical compositions, may be named in illustration.
Abundance of good blood will not be followed by vividness of thought or power of feeling, unless there is efficient propulsion of it. Great cerebral action implies great waste and rapid repair; and, if the repair does not keep pace with the waste, prostration must soon result. If the slowness of the blood-supply is temporary the activity will soon flag, and if it is constitutional there will be a low standard of mental manifestation. The emotions especially, which are relatively costly, will be feeble; and this will result in lack of energy and want of will. When, at the one extreme, we see that stoppage of the blood-supply is immediately followed by insensibility, and, at the other extreme, see that exalting the blood-supply by a medicinal agent which raises the power of the heart, produces elation of feeling and increase of vigour, it becomes manifest that permanent differences between the efficiences of the structures which carry on circulation, must cause permanent differences between the amounts of mental manifestation. Not only is power of heart a factor in power of mind, but quality of the arteries is also a factor. Those in whom the blood-vessels, inadequately contractile, soon yield under stress, have not the untiring energy of those whose blood-vessels can bear persistent action without yielding.
And then, beyond quantity of blood and circulation of blood, comes the further factor—purification of blood. Professor Michael Foster has recently been enlarging on the truth that fatigue is chiefly caused by the accumulation of waste products in the system. The depurating organs fail to get rid of these with adequate speed; and the blood becomes fuller than usual of substances which, instead of aiding the functions, tend to arrest them. A familiar example is the effect produced by great exertion in running. This increases the carbonic acid in the blood more rapidly than it can be eliminated by the lungs. The being “out of breath,” as we say, and the need for temporary desistence, show us how presence of an overcharge of a poisonous substance impedes the vital actions. A corollary is that those in whom the lungs are ill-developed will have a constitutionally lower activity, bodily or mental, or both. Similarly, deficient size of the kidneys, entailing imperfect excretion of the waste products they get rid of, and consequent accumulation of them in the blood, causes hindrance to nervous action; as is implied by the fact that stoppage of the excretion produces dimness of sight, at other times deafness, and, when extreme, brings on drowsiness, torpor, and coma. So, too, it is if the liver fails in its action. Lowness of spirits, drowsiness, and torpor, are among the symptoms of liver-derangement; and these are aspects of diminished nervous energy. The implication is, then, that those who have by nature livers or kidneys below the average in development, are to that extent likely to be characterized by some failure in the genesis of nerveforce, and by consequent lack of animation.
Details apart, however, the general conclusion is undeniable. If by skin, lungs, liver, and kidneys, waste-products of the muscular, nervous, and other activities are excreted—if the existence of these depurating structures implies that, unless by their agency effete matters are got rid of, life must cease; it is a corollary that life must be impeded if one or other of them is deficient in size or quality. And it follows that the brain, depending for its action on a due supply of blood duly purified, must be affected in its efficiency by every variation in the development of this or that excreting organ.
But now we come to the truth of chief significance. Not the quantity of mind only, but the quality of mind also, is in part determined by these psycho-physical connexions. Amount and structure of brain being the same, not only may the totality of feelings and thoughts be greater or less according as this or that viscus is well or ill developed, but the feelings and thoughts may also be favourably or unfavourably modified in their kinds. Difference of disposition is caused both directly and indirectly.
Directly, the effect of imperfect supply of blood to the brain is shown in reluctance to do many things which require energy, and in consequent failure of duty towards self and others. One of the absurdities current among both cultured and uncultured is that it is as easy for one man to be active as for another. If A is diligent and B idle, the condemnation of B always takes for granted that the cost of effort is the same to A and B. Though everyone knows that during the prostration of illness, or before good health has been recovered, it is a great trial to make even a small exertion, yet scarcely any draw the inference that the lack of energy, temporarily existing in such cases, exists permanently in other cases, and throughout life makes activity more or less difficult. Character is affected in sundry ways. Often the individual thus made inert by constitution, cannot be at the trouble of doing needful things for his own benefit, but persistently submits to a serious inconvenience rather than take measures to remove it. And if even when personal pains and pleasures are in question he will not exert himself, naturally he is reluctant to exert himself when the pains and pleasures of others are in question. A, who is constitutionally active, takes trouble in doing things for others’ gratifications, and is credited as essentially altruistic; while B, though his absence of effort for others is due to constitutional inactivity, and not to want of sympathy with them, is thought essentially egoistic. Differences hence resulting may affect even the discharge of equitable obligations; for while to the man of restless energy the liquidation of a claim may present no obstacle, it may present a great obstacle to an equally conscientious man of inert nature.
But now, beyond these qualitative mental differences which arise directly from quantitative differences of mental energy, there are other qualitative differences arising indirectly—differences of disposition seemingly consequent on inherited differences of brain, but really consequent on differences between the blood-supplies to the brain. For the higher emotions are physiologically more expensive than the lower; and, when the blood-supply is deficient, fail before the lower do. In the Principles of Psychology, §§ 249-261, I have set down various corollaries from the truth that from cerebral actions of simple kinds, which are directly related to maintenance of life, and are, therefore, essentially egoistic, we rise by successive complications to those highest governing cerebral actions which, most involved in their compositions, arise from less fully organized structures, the actions of which are most liable to fail. Ancient and simple nervous connexions, and accompanying mental cohesions, which are primary and deep down in the nature, are more persistent than those superposed ones which are relatively modern and complex; and, consequently, when the tide of blood ebbs, these last become feeble or disappear while the first remain: the result being that the surviving egoistic feelings are no longer kept in check by altruistic feelings. Examples of this causation in its temporary form are familiar. When a child who is ordinarily amiable becomes pettish and fretful, the medical man suspects that the alimentary canal is not doing its duty, and finds that, the cause of failing nutrition having been removed, the mental perversions disappear. So, too, in adult life the visceral derangements produced by over-work and anxiety are often followed by ill-temper. Even the recognized differences between irritability before dinner and equanimity (sometimes joined with generosity) after dinner, suffice to show that, when flagging pulsation and impoverished blood are exchanged for vigorous pulsation and enriched blood, there results that change in the balance of the emotions which constitutes a moral change. And, if there are such temporary mental unlikenesses due to temporary physiological causes, there must be analogous permanent mental unlikenesses due to permanent physiological causes. It becomes clear that in this respect, as in other respects, the mind is as deep as the viscera.
These general conclusions are intended to introduce certain special conclusions. Often it has been a question with me why, in certain respects, I contrast unfavourably with both father and mother. Probably in chief measure the cause is of the kind just explained—a physiological cause. I have never shown the unfailing diligence which was common to them; and there has not been displayed by me as great an amount of altruistic feeling as was displayed by both. One apparent reason is that the cerebral circulation has, by certain bodily traits, been throughout life rendered less vigorous than it should be.
Besides his large brain, my father, as a part of his fine physique, had a large chest; and, as a result of well-developed thoracic viscera, had an abundant supply of energy. I have heard him say that he looked back with astonishment at the work he did when a young man; and even during later life, though his activity was not judiciously directed, he was always busy about something. In physique my mother was not of so fine a type, and the constitution, though fairly well balanced, was by no means so vigorous: the development of the thorax being rather below than above the average standard. But she had an overwhelming sense of duty, and, throughout life, was daily forced by it to expend energy in excess of the normal amount; so that, spite of all protests, she eventually brought herself to a state of chronic prostration. This overwhelming sense of duty was, doubtless, in its origin religious: the moral feelings, naturally decided, were reinforced by the religious feeling. But in me the cooperative factors were not the same as in either. The visceral constitution was maternal rather than paternal. Traits of bony structure imply that the thoracic viscera are not so well developed as they were in my father; and that, as a consequence, the circulation and aeration have not been constitutionally so good.
As far back as I can remember there have been signs that the periphery of the vascular system has not been well filled. Except in hot weather, or after walking several miles, the ends of my fingers have been inadequately distended; coldness of the hands has been an ordinary trait; and relative dryness of the skin has also shown deficient blood-supply at the surface: an obvious implication being that in the brain also, the blood-supply, when not increased by excitement, has been below par. It is true that my extraordinary feat in walking when a boy of 13, seems to prove that there was at that time no deficiency in either heart-power or lung-power; and, if we pass over the evidence from thoracic development, it might be inferred that the damage done by this enormous overtax on a half-finished body, was the primary cause of this defective function throughout after life. Certainly it seems likely to have been a part cause. Be this as it may, however, there is undeniable evidence that, either from deficient propulsive power or from some chronic constriction of the arterioles, the remoter plexuses of blood-vessels everywhere have commonly not been duly charged. Hence a somewhat deficient genesis of energy, or, at any rate, a genesis of energy not as great as that displayed in my father.
The same cause has probably operated in producing that further moral difference above indicated. In respect of negative beneficence the likeness to both father and mother is fairly well marked. In early days there was none of that tendency towards cruelty which boys so commonly display, and, throughout later life, the infliction of pain or the witnessing of pain inflicted, has ever been repugnant; save, indeed, under the excitement of argument, when I have usually shown but little regard for the feelings of opponents. But in the kind of beneficence distinguishable as positive—that which implies not passivity but activity—I perceive a decided difference between myself and my parents. My father especially, with his abundant energy, was active on behalf of others—doing things which would either give them pleasure or be indirectly beneficial. But my greater inertia, caused in the way shown, has tended to hinder such actions. The incentives to them have been commonly neutralized by dislike to taking the requisite trouble. This initial difference has doubtless originated a difference of mental tendency; for, where the yielding to sympathetic promptings has commenced, there is established the habit of so yielding, and, conversely, under opposite conditions there arises the habit of not yielding. In respect to one kind of altruistic action, however, I recognize no deficiency. The sentiment of egoistic justice is strong in me, and sympathetic excitement of it produces a strong sentiment of altruistic justice. Consequently, there is not only a readiness to join others in opposition to political injustice, but a readiness to take up the causes of individuals unjustly dealt with. Abundant energy is furnished in such cases by the anger which the sight of aggression generates in me.
A cooperative cause may be named as having accentuated the contrast between the amount of the wish to avoid giving pain and the amount of the wish to give pleasure. From time to time it has seemed to me that in families brought up from generation to generation ascetically, and acting up to the belief that the pursuit of pleasure is wrong, it happens that while there is a frequent witnessing of suffering, and familiarity with the natural language of suffering, and therefore ability to sympathize with suffering, there is a relatively infrequent witnessing of pleasure, and an unfamiliarity with the natural language of pleasure, and consequently a relative inability to sympathize with pleasure. And, if there thus results a relative inability to sympathize with pleasure, the temptation to give pleasure must be less than usual, at the same time that the desire to avoid giving pain may be as great as usual or greater. Having in my own case recognized this as a possible cause of the difference, or at least a cooperative cause, I was some years ago struck by a parallel inference drawn by the Rev. Dr. Martineau, à propos of his sister, in The Daily News for December 30, 1884:—
“That in our early home the parents were so ‘cruel’ as ‘to starve the emotions in’ their children by ‘lack of tenderness in manner or feeling’ (3 4), I can in no wise admit as a characteristic of that particular household, though the allegation would have a certain amount of truth if turned into a general description of the prevailing habit of the time. In old Nonconformist families especially, the Puritan tradition, and the reticence of a persecuted race, had left their austere impress upon speech and demeanour unused to be free; so that in domestic and social life there was enforced, as a condition of decorum a retenue of language and deportment strongly contrasting with our modern effusiveness.”
An influence of this kind was certainly at work both in the Spencer family and in the Holmes family, and may have had its effect on me. But I here name it chiefly with a view to the general implication that asceticism tends to produce inability to sympathize with others’ pleasures, and therefore a lack of desire to give them pleasures.
Leaving these psycho-physical interpretations of character, I pass now to those which are more especially psychical—those which depend on structure of brain rather than on the pressure at which the brain is worked. For, let me remark in passing, there are two distinguishable sources of mental power. It may result from an ordinary brain worked at unusually high pressure, or from a brain which, in some respects not ordinary, is worked at medium pressure or even low pressure: the one giving manifestations of great intensity but not special in their kinds, the other giving special manifestations. It is with the last that we are here concerned.
Whatever specialities of character and faculty in me are due to inheritance, are inherited from my father. Between my mother’s mind and my own I see scarcely any resemblances, emotional or intellectual. She was very patient; I am very impatient. She was tolerant of pain, bodily or mental; I am intolerant of it. She was little given to finding fault with others; I am greatly given to it. She was submissive; I am the reverse of submissive. So, too, in respect of intellectual faculties, I can perceive no trait common to us; unless it be a certain greater calmness of judgment than was shown by my father; for my father’s vivid representative faculty was apt to play him false. Not only, however, in the moral characters just named am I like my father, but such intellectual characters as are peculiar are derived from him. We will look first at three fundamental ones.
Though an intution is not inheritable, the capacity for an intuition is, and I inherited an unusual capacity for the intuition of cause. Already I have commented on the curious display of it when, as a boy of thirteen, I called in question the dictum of Dr. Arnott, endorsed by my uncle Thomas, respecting inertia. Without instruction, and without special thought, I had reached a truer insight into ultimate dynamical relations than those who were much older and far better cultured. Always my father had been prone to inquiries about causes. The habit of making them implied that the consciousness of causation was dominant in him; and often during my boyhood, as I have before said, he put to me questions about causes: not, however, questions of the fundamental kind just referred to. But the aptitude for conceiving causes, primarily inherited, had been rendered by practice unusually strong; and there had been produced a latent readiness to grasp the abstract necessity of causal relations. This has been shown in my course of thought throughout life. Though my conclusions have usually been reached inductively, yet I have never been satisfied without finding how they could be reached deductively. Alike in various detached essays and in that general doctrine which has chiefly occupied me, this fact is conspicuous; and it is equally conspicuous in my political thinking, which is pervaded by an unconquerable belief in the effects of general causes working generation after generation: exemplified, for instance, in my often repeated prophecy that a nation which fosters its good-for-nothings will end by becoming a good-for-nothing nation.
Of the two further intellectual traits inherited from my father, the first to be named is the synthetic tendency. That this was dominant in him is proved by his little work entitled Inventional Geometry, containing a multitude of problems to be solved by synthetic processes which pupils are to discover. Both the tendency in himself and the encouragement of the tendency in me, were seen when, during my youth, he led me through the successively more complicated problems in Perspective: requiring me to find out the modes of solving them. It scarcely needs saying that the synthetic tendency has been conspicuous in all I have done from the beginning. Social Statics set out with a fundamental principle, and built upon it a coherent body of conclusions. My first essay, published not long after —“A Theory of Population, deduced from the general Law of Animal Fertility”—proved by its title that its argument was synthetic, while the same trait, manifested in many subsequently-written essays, clearly declared itself in the organization of the series of works which I commenced in 1860, and finally took an overt form in the title of that series.
But the synthetic tendency has in me been accompanied by an almost equal analytic tendency. Though in my father’s mind this was less manifest, it nevertheless existed to a greater extent than it exists in most minds. Indeed, his habit of seeking for causes implied it; since the detection of a cause cannot be achieved without analysis. But in him the analytic tendency, like the synthetic tendency, was relatively limited in its range. He occupied himself much more with the concrete, and much less with the abstract, than it became my habit to do. While the analytic tendency was more pronounced in me, it also displayed itself in a wider sphere. There was an early illustration of it in the progress from the views set forth in The Proper Sphere of Government to those set forth in Social Statics. The last work grew out of the first in consequence of an inquiry for the common origin of the conclusions which the first set forth separately; and the analysis which disclosed the common principle involved in them, preceded the synthesis which constituted the body of the work. Not long after, an essay on “The Universal Postulate” furnished a more pronounced illustration of the analytic tendency; for the purpose of that essay was to identify the common character of all those beliefs, established immediately by perception or mediately by reason, which we regard as having absolute validity. So, a few years later, with the Theory of Evolution at large. It was not enough that the general transformation should be shown to arise from the instability of the homogeneous and the multiplication of effects. It was needful that these also should be analyzed and shown to be corollaries from the persistence of force—a truth defying further analysis. So that, both subjectively and objectively, the desire to build up was accompanied by an almost equal desire to delve down to the deepest accessible truth, which should serve as an unshakable foundation.
One further cardinal trait, which is in a sense a result of the preceding traits, has to be named—the ability to discern inconspicuous analogies. Of course, in the process of taking to pieces some group of phenomena, there come into view those factors which are deep-seated and necessary, as distinguished from those which are superficial and not necessary. So, too, is it in the process of building up. A coherent fabric of conclusions cannot be framed unless there is a recognition of primary and unchangeable connexions, as distinguished from secondary and changeable ones. Evidently, then, the habit of ignoring the variable outer components and relations, and looking for the invariable inner components and relations, facilitates the perception of likeness between things which externally are quite unlike—perhaps so utterly unlike that, by an unanalytical intelligence, they cannot be conceived to have any resemblance whatever. An example is furnished by the analogy between a social organism and an individual organism. A vague recognition of this analogy was seen in an article named in Chapter XV as written in 1844, in which, commenting on the propagation of the evil consequences of dishonesty among citizens, I argued that a society has a common life which implicates all its individuals. This preparedness for recognizing a definite analogy presently had its effect. When writing Social Statics, there was made the statement that social organizations and individual organizations are similar in their phases of development. It was pointed out that a low society, like a low animal, is made up of like parts performing like functions; whereas, as fast as societies and organisms become more highly evolved, they severally become composed of unlike parts performing unlike functions. Evidently this was a parallelism recognized only by ignoring all concrete characters of the parts and thinking only of the essential relations among the parts—an analytical process of stripping off whatever the two things had not in common. And then, when the nakedness of the essential relations in each permitted comparison of them, it became manifest that the fundamental analogy was determined by the operation of the same cause in each: this cause being the mutual dependence of parts. It became manifest that it is the mutual dependence of parts which constitutes either the one or the other a living aggregate, and that it is because of the increasing mutual dependence of parts, and consequent increasing unity and vitality of the aggregate, that there is in both cases shown an advance from a homogeneous structure to a heterogeneous structure.
To the co-operation of these intellectual tendencies, the first three of which were exhibited in my father, and apparently transmitted with increase, and the last of which, a derivative result of the others, took in me an activity not apparent in him—to these tendencies, I say, working together throughout wider ranges of thought, must be in large measure ascribed whatever I have done.
One further intellectual trait, in part derived from the foregoing and in part of more general nature, must be set down. Already there has been named the fact that in boyhood and youth I was much given to castle-building: not differing from other young people in respect of the tendency, but only in respect of its degree. The absorption which, as indicated in Chapter II, went to the extent of talking to myself as I walked through the streets, and the love of picturing adventures, nightly indulged in, which, on awaking, often made me vexed because I had gone to sleep before having had my fill, proved that ideal representation was habitual; and continuance of it under other forms in later life was shown by the fact, named in Chapter XXXI, that when out of doors I sometimes passed those living in the same house with me without knowing that I had seen them, though I looked them in the face. This activity of imagination, not greater than in many others, but in me specialized by the synthetic tendency, has had an effect which at first sight seems anomalous.
Probably many readers of the foregoing pages will have been struck by the heterogeneity in my mental occupations and objects of interest. Fully to perceive how apparently unlike one another these have been, it is requisite to bring into juxta-position sundry of the subjects of speculation occupying my later life with the appliances and improvements devised during my earlier life. The products of mental action are then seen to range from a doctrine of State-functions to a levelling-staff; from the genesis of religious ideas to a watch escapement; from the circulation in plants to an invalid bed; from the law of organic symmetry to planing machinery; from principles of ethics to a velocimeter; from a metaphysical doctrine to a binding-pin; from a classification of the sciences to an improved fishing-rod joint; from the general Law of Evolution to a better mode of dressing artificial flies.*
There is something almost ludicrous in this contrast between the large and the small, the important and the trivial; but, as facts in that natural history of myself which I have aimed to give, it is fit that they should be indicated. The almost equal proclivities towards analysis and synthesis above pointed out, seem to be paralleled by almost equal proclivities to the abstract and the concrete, the general and the special; or, otherwise regarded, equal proclivities to the theoretical and the practical. But for every interest in either the theoretical or the practical, a requisite condition has been—the opportunity offered for something new. And here may be perceived the trait which unites the extremely unlike products of mental action exemplified above. They have one and all afforded scope for constructive imagination. Evidently constructive imagination finds a sphere for activity alike in an invention and in a theory. Indeed, when we put the two together, we are at once shown the kinship; since every invention is a theory before it is reduced to a material form.
In this, as in so many other traits, I recognize inheritance from my father: in some directions with increase, and in others without. His constructive imagination was shown not only by his Inventional Geometry, but by sundry small inventions; and it was shown much more conspicuously by his Lucid Shorthand, in which it appears under both the analytic and the synthetic aspects. It was shown, too, by an unusual ability for solving puzzles, alike of the mental and of the mechanical kinds. In this I could not compare with him; but in both mechanical inventions and in the union of philosophical analysis and synthesis, this applied form of constructive imagination appears to have been further developed while transmitted.
And here this last remark introduces a group of facts at once striking and instructive.
When discussing the question whether the effects of use and disuse are inherited, I have sometimes been tempted to cite evidence furnished by sundry of my own traits; but have refrained because of dislike to making public statements about them. Here, however, as included in an autobiography, I may fitly set down these instances of modifications, mental and bodily, resulting from specialities of habit in ancestors.
It has been remarked that I have an unusual faculty of exposition—set forth my data and reasonings and conclusions with a clearness and coherence not common. Whence this faculty? My grandfather passed all his life in teaching, and my father, too, passed all his life in teaching. Teaching is, in large measure, a process of exposition. Hour after hour, day after day, the master of a school, or one who gives private lessons, spends time in explaining. If he is worth his salt, he does not simply listen to rote-learnt lessons, but takes care that his pupils understand what they are learning; and, to this end, either solves their difficulties for them, or, much better, puts them in the way of solving them by making them comprehend the principles on which solutions depend. The good instructor is one in whom nature or discipline has produced what we may call intellectual sympathy—such an insight into another’s mental state as is needed rightly to adjust the sequence of ideas to be communicated. To what extent my grandfather possessed this intellectual sympathy I do not know; but his daily life cultivated it to some extent. My father possessed it in a high degree, and throughout life cultivated it. I possess it in a still higher degree: so, at least, I was told, when a young man, by one who had experience of my father’s expositions and of mine. It appears, then, that the faculty has developed by exercise and inheritance.
No one will deny that I am much given to criticism. Along with exposition of my own views there has always gone a pointing out of defects in the views of others. And, if this is a trait in my writing, still more is it a trait in my conversation. The tendency to fault-finding is dominant—disagreeably dominant. The indicating of errors in thought and in speech made by those around, has all through life been an incurable habit—a habit for which I have often reproached myself, but to no purpose. Whence this habit? There is the same origin as before. While one-half of a teacher’s time is spent in exposition, the other half is spent in criticism—in detecting mistakes made by those who are saying lessons, or in correcting exercises, or in checking calculations; and the implied powers, moral and intellectual, are used with a sense of duty performed. And here let me add that in me, too, a sense of duty prompts criticism; for when, occasionally, I succeed in restraining myself from making a comment on something wrongly said or executed, I have a feeling of discomfort, as though I had left undone something which should have been done: the inherited tendency is on its way to become an instinct acting automatically.
Similarly to be explained as resulting from inheritance, is an allied trait—disregard of authority. Few have shown this more conspicuously. As an early illustration may be remembered the incident narrated of myself as happening at the age of 13, when I called in question the doctrine of inertia set forth in Dr. Arnott’s Physics and defended by my uncle, and persisted in my dissent spite of this combined authority against me. Out of illustrations furnished by later life may be named my published rejection, in 1858, of the conception of nebulæ then universally accepted in the astronomical world; and again my rejection of Owen’s theory concerning the archetype and homologies of the vertebrate skeleton, at that time accepted in the biological world and taught in some medical schools. My books show submission to established authority, only in cases where my knowledge of data needed for judgment was obviously inadequate (as, say, in the higher Mathematics, or the higher Physics, or in Chemistry) and where, consequently, the opinions of experts were to be accepted. For this trait, so unusual in its degree, there is, as said above, the same explanation as before. For what is the attitude perpetually maintained by the teacher? Always in presence of his pupils he is himself the authority, subject to no other. All through adult life the mental attitude of subordination is made foreign to him by his function. Such contact as he occasionally has with superiors, bears but a very small ratio to the contact he has with inferiors. Hence the sentiment of submission to authority is but little exercised.
A closely-allied trait, or in part another aspect of the same trait, has to be indicated—the absence of moral fear. In the account of my life at Hinton, a passage from a letter written by my uncle to my father was quoted, commenting upon this. He said:—
“The grand deficiency in Herbert’s natural character is in the principle of Fear. And it is only so far as his residence with me has supplied that principle in a degree unusual to him, that after a few struggles he entirely surrendered himself to obey me with a promptness and alacrity that would have given you pleasure to witness; and the more obedient I have observed him the more I have refrained from exercising authority. By Fear, I mean both that ‘Fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom,’ and that fear of Parents, Tutors, &c.”
Deficient fear of those superior to me in age or position, of course implied want of respect for authority; but it included a further element—disregard of the consequences which such disrespect might bring. And this trait, conspicuous in my boyhood, has been in later life shown throughout my writings; for nowhere have I betrayed any fear either of an individual or of the aggregate of individuals. It has, in fact, never occurred to me to hesitate because of foreseen mischiefs; or rather, I have not foreseen them because I have not thought about them. It has been thus even in cases where public disapprobation was unmistakable; as in my persistent opposition to State-education—an opposition expressed when 22, and expressed with equal or greater strength when 73; though for these many years past I have been conscious that almost the whole world is against me. And now observe that we have the same explanation as before. For what is the relation between a master and his pupils? It is a relation from which the sentiment of fear on his side is excluded. The school is a small society; and in it the master fears neither any one member of it nor the whole assemblage.
I pass now to a bodily trait no less significant. My hands are unusually small—smaller than the hands of a woman of less than my own height. Both in size of the bones and in development of the accompanying muscles they are considerably below what they should be. How is this? If the lives passed by my father and grandfather are considered, a cause is manifest. Both of them did nothing more, day by day, than wield the pen or the pencil, and neither of them was given to sports of any kind or to any exercises which might have served to keep up the sizes of the hands. Occasionally, when a young man, my father went fishing, and sometimes, though rarely, he did a little gardening of a light kind; but the exercise of the hands beyond that which his daily avocations entailed was scarcely appreciable. In me, then, the hands show the result of two generations of diminished action.
Thus the inheritance of acquired characters is exemplified in four mental traits and one bodily trait.
It is rightly said that a man has the defects of his qualities—that, along with certain advantages his nature yields him, there go certain disadvantages. On considering the effects of the inherited traits above enumerated, I am struck with the verification of this truth which some of them afford.
Lack of regard for authority, and fearlessness of the consequences entailed by dissent from other men’s opinions, have been part causes of what success I have had in philosophical inquiry. Such reverence for great names as most feel, and resulting acceptance of established doctrines, would have negatived that independence without which I could not have reached the conclusions I have. Never stopping to ask what has been thought about this or that matter, I have usually gone direct to the facts as presented in Nature, and drawn inferences afresh from them—occasionally, it may be, untrue inferences, but in other cases inferences which are true. Meanwhile the implied moral nature has had—especially in early life—injurious consequences. Little as the fact was recognized by my father, the insubordination shown during my childhood and boyhood was, as I have indicated, a trait indirectly caused by absence of subordination throughout his life and the life of his father. The resulting chronic disobedience, so often deplored, led not only to direct evils, but to various indirect evils: chiefly the attitude of antagonism, the alienation of feeling, the undermining of the affections, and the consequent weakening of that influence which should be exercised through them: a diminished activity of sympathy being also an accompaniment. So that this trait, advantageous to me as a thinker, was otherwise disadvantageous.
Instead of saying “was,” I ought to say “has been,” for I recognize certain detrimental effects extending throughout adult life. One has been a tendency to under-estimate the past as compared with the present. Doubtless this has been partly due to reaction against the over-estimating which is current. To me it has seemed obvious that boys, early impressed with the products of Greek and Roman civilization—products sundry of which appeal strongly to the instincts of the savage, dominant in them at that age—never recover from the resulting bias, but remain throughout life subject to the perverted judgments then formed. They read everything ancient with a predisposition to appreciate, and everything modern with a predisposition to depreciate.
Uninfluenced in this way, I have very likely been carried to the other extreme. Take, for example, the opinion about Plato. Time after time I have attempted to read, now this dialogue and now that, and have put it down in a state of impatience with the indefiniteness of the thinking and the mistaking of words for things: being repelled also by the rambling form of the argument. Once when I was talking on the matter to a classical scholar, he said—“Yes, but as works of art they are well worth reading.” So, when I again took up the dialogues, I contemplated them as works of art, and put them aside in greater exasperation than before. To call that a “dialogue” which is an interchange of speeches between the thinker and his dummy, who says just what it is convenient to have said, is absurd. There is more dramatic propriety in the conversations of our third-rate novelists; and such a production as that of Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew, has more strokes of dramatic truth than all the Platonic dialogues put together, if the rest are like those I have looked into. Still, quotations from time to time met with, lead me to think that there are in Plato detached thoughts from which I might benefit had I the patience to seek them out. The like is probably true of other ancient writings.
The a priori conclusion that reaction against current error almost certainly leads to an opposite error, implying that, being so intensely modern, I undervalue that which is ancient, has been impressed on me a good deal of late years by recognizing the great progress made during some of the earliest civilizations—Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian. But while it has become clear that the remains left by these eastern nations prove them to have been more advanced, both in the arts and in thought, than I had supposed, and that lack of reverence for what others have said and done has tended to make me neglect the evidence of early achievements, it has also become clear that the common educational bias, against which my own bias is a reaction, has led to a like under-estimation of pre-classic progress. The great indebtedness of the Greeks to the peoples who preceded them in civilization, is yearly becoming more conspicuous.
The critical tendency dominant in me, because perpetually exercised by father and grandfather, has similarly entailed advantages and disadvantages. In presence of current opinions it has prompted examinations, often disclosing errors and causing rejections; while, as already implied, the fault-finding spirit, leading to more or less disagreeableness in social intercourse, has also partially debarred me from the pleasures of admiration, by making me too much awake to mistakes and shortcomings.
In conversation the critical tendency has constantly led to discovery of reasons for disagreement rather than reasons for agreement. To name those points in respect of which another’s view coincided with my own, has not usually occurred to me; but it has always occurred to me to name the points of non-coincidence between our views.
A further effect has been to render my enjoyment of works of art less than it might else have been. The readiness to dwell upon defects has diminished the appreciation of beauties, by pre-occupying consciousness. Possibly there are perfections in various paintings of the old masters which impress me but little, because I am keenly alive to the many mistakes in chiaroscuro which characterize them. These force themselves on my attention in a way which they would not do were there no such constitutional aptitude for seeing the imperfections. When looking at Greek sculpture, too, I constantly observe how unnatural and inartistic is the drapery. Though in large measure I admire the more important parts of the works, my admiration is much less than it would be but for the vivid consciousness of this drawback. In some measure the like happens with music. Many years ago, when I attended the opera a good deal, I remarked to one who was frequently my companion—George Eliot—how much analysis of the effects produced deducts from enjoyment of the effects. In proportion as intellect is active emotion is rendered inactive. And a like result necessarily accompanies criticism, since the critical process involves more or less the analytical process. So is it also with my appreciation of literature—more especially poetry. In these various cases it is not that I am reluctant to admire—quite the contrary. I rejoice in admiration; and rejoice when at one with others in their admiration. But it rarely happens that the work of art of whatever kind is so satisfactory in every way as to leave no room for adverse comment.
Not in respect of works of art only, but also in respect of some works of Nature, this tendency has been shown: the works of Nature being, in this case, persons. An illustration occurred during the first year of my friendship with the Potters. Mr. Potter had a younger sister—a great beauty, alike in face and figure. During the visit of my uncle and aunt to them in Upper Hamilton Terrace, and during an evening I was spending there, my aunt said to me:—“Well, what do you think of Miss Potter?” Any other young fellow would have launched out into unmeasured praise. But my reply was:—“I do not quite like the shape of her head”: referring, of course, to my phrenological diagnosis. The incident has dwelt in my memory, because I afterwards blamed myself for the absurd way in which I had singled out a trait that did not, on theoretical grounds, quite satisfy me, and ignored all that there was calling for admiration.
It seems probable that this abnormal tendency to criticize has been a chief factor in the continuance of my celibate life. Readiness to see inferiorities rather than superiorities, must have impeded the finding of one who attracted me in adequate degree.
Lest the above anecdote should be taken to imply deficient appreciation of physical beauty, I must add that this is far from being the fact. The fact is quite the reverse. Physical beauty is a sine quâ non with me; as was once unhappily proved where the intellectual traits and the emotional traits were of the highest.
How difficult is the judging of character; and yet how little hesitation most people have in forming positive judgments. “What do you think of Mr. So-and-so?” has been the question occasionally put to me concerning someone I have seen for an hour. And then, after my reply that I was unable to form an opinion so soon, there has come an expression of surprise. It is true that occasionally, where the manifestations have been clear—perhaps in a handsome woman spoiled by adulation, who makes great claims and has become distinctly selfish—my estimate has been formed forthwith, and a sufficiently strong prejudice—if it is to be so called—established. But in average cases decision is suspended until I have had considerable evidence.
Sometimes I have expressed my belief about this matter by the paradox that nobody knows himself and nobody knows any one else; meaning, by this extreme statement, that the possibilities of a nature are never disclosed until it has been placed in all circumstances, and that no nature ever is placed in all circumstances. Generally, the conditions of life have been so comparatively uniform that very few tests have been applied, and very few phases of character made visible in conduct.
An experience of early years gave me a vivid consciousness of the way in which feelings are readily determined this way or that way by accidents. It was in the days of my difficulties, when regard for economy obliged me always to travel in third-class carriages: then far less comfortable than they are now. Opposite to me, on one occasion, sat a man who, at the time I first observed him, was occupied in eating food he had brought with him—I should rather say devouring it, for his mode of eating was so brutish as to attract my attention and fill me with disgust: a disgust which verged into anger. Some time after, when he had finished his meal and become quiescent, I was struck by the woe-begone expression of his face. Years of suffering were registered on it; and, while I gazed on the sad eyes and deeply-marked lines, I began to realize the life of misery through which he had passed. As I continued to contemplate the face and to understand all which its expression of distress implied, the pity excited in me went to the extent of causing that constriction of the throat which strong feelings sometimes produces. Here, then, were two utterly antagonistic emotions aroused within a short time by the same person under different aspects. In the absence of the change described, either of these might have arisen without the other, and either of them, had it been expressed alone, would have given to other persons an untrue conception of me; an untrue conception which, indeed, I should have had of myself, had not the circumstances been varied in the way they were.
In respect of the intellectual faculties, experience shows that manifestations are often determined by accidents. Here is a skilful physician, who, in the leisure part of his later life, shows considerable ability in water-colour landscape—an ability not discovered until a vacation at the seaside in company with an artist friend, led to an attempt. One whose forte is mathematics, being led by accident into a musical circle, proves to have musical gifts which neither he nor others suspected. And some exceptional occasion discloses the fact that a distinguished chemist is also a born orator. But what is true of the intellectual faculties is also true of the emotional faculties. Each nature is a bundle of potentialities of which only some are allowed by the conditions to become actualities.
In this latter part of my life a personal illustration has forced this truth upon me in a marked way. During early years, and throughout mature years, there was no sign of marked liking for children. It is true that when, as narrated, I took up my abode with a family in Marlborough Gardens, I did not make the presence of children an objection—rather the contrary. It is true, also, that during my many visits to Standish, recurring throughout a large part of my life, I was always on good terms with the bevy of little girls who were growing up. But my feeling was of a tepid kind, and, as I learned from one of them when she was adult, the belief, or at any rate her belief, was that I did not care much for children. Had it not been for a mere accident this might have remained her belief and mine also. When at Brighton in 1887, suffering the ennui of an invalid life, passed chiefly in bed and on the sofa, I one day, while thinking over modes of killing time, bethought me that the society of children might be a desirable distraction. The girls above referred to were most of them, at the time I speak of, married and had families; and one of them—Mrs. W. Cripps—let me have two of her little ones for a fortnight. The result of being thus placed in a nearer relation to children than before, was to awaken, in a quite unanticipated way, the philoprogenitive instinct—or rather a vicarious phase of it; and instead of simply affording me a little distraction, the two afforded me a great deal of positive gratification. When at Dorking a year afterwards, I again petitioned to have them, and again there passed a fortnight which was pleasurable to me and to them. Such was the effect that from that time to this, the presence of a pair of children, now from this family of the clan and now from that, has formed a leading gratification—I may say the chief gratification—during each summer’s sojourn in the country.
Evidently, but for the thought, and consequent experiment, at Brighton, my nature, in so far as this part of it is concerned, would have remained unknown to me and unknown to every one else.
So is it with character throughout its entire range. The remark that the manifestations of feelings are greatly changed by marriage is often made. The new circumstances initiate a new balance; and without doubt all other new circumstances have their effects in bringing out traits not before known to exist.
The motives which cause the essential actions of life are simple. No one fails to identify the appetite which normally prompts eating; though, in an invalid state, this prompting feeling may become complicated, or replaced by other feelings. So, too, with the love of children. Variations in its quality do not mask its essential nature. But when we come to those complex emotions which originate the complex actions of life, there is usually great difficulty in deciding what are the proportions among their components. The conduct which social relations daily call out, and the activities into which all are led, may be generated in various ways, and probably in no two persons are generated in exactly the same ways—in no two persons are the elements of them alike in their kinds and their ratios.
Occasionally I have asked myself what have been the motives prompting my career—how much have they been egoistic and how much altruistic. That they have been mixed there can be no doubt. And in this case, as in most cases, it is next to impossible to separate them mentally in such way as to perceive the relations of amount among them. So deep down is the gratification which results from the consciousness of efficiency, and the further consciousness of the applause which recognized efficiency brings, that it is impossible for any one to exclude it. Certainly, in my own case, the desire for such recognition has not been absent. Yet, so far as I can remember, ambition was not the primary motive of my first efforts, nor has it been the primary motive of my larger and later efforts. The letters on The Proper Sphere of Government were prompted solely, I believe, by the desire to diffuse what seemed to me true views. That this was a chief motive to the rationalization and elaboration of them constituting Social Statics, seems implied by the fact that, had it not been for the publisher, Mr. Chapman, I should have issued the work anonymously. And of later evidences there is that furnished by the Descriptive Sociology, on which I continued to spend money and labour after the absence of public appreciation became manifest.
Still, as I have said, the desire for achievement and the honour which achievement brings, have doubtless been large factors. Where I have been forestalled in the promulgation of an idea, I have unquestionably felt some annoyance; though the altruistic sentiment acting alone would have made me equally content to have it promulgated by another as by myself. In controversy, again, the wish for personal success has gone along with the wish to establish the truth—perhaps has predominated over it, as I fancy it does in most. For fighting excites the personal feeling so as to make it primary rather than secondary. Nor can it be denied that, in the prosecution of my chief undertaking, I have been throughout stimulated by the desire to associate my name with an achievement. Though from the outset I have had in view the effects to be wrought on men’s beliefs and courses of action—especially in respect of social affairs and governmental functions; yet the sentiment of ambition has all along been operative.
Two other prompters have had shares. There has been the immediate gratification which results from seizing and working out ideas. As I once heard a scientific friend say, the greatest satisfaction he knew was that yielded by a successful day’s hunting—figuratively thus expressing the discovery of facts or truths. And it has been with me a source of continual pleasure, distinct from other pleasures, to evolve new thoughts, and to be in some sort a spectator of the way in which, under persistent contemplation, they gradually unfolded into completeness. There is a keen delight in intellectual conquest—in appropriating a portion of the unknown and bringing it within the realm of the known.
Of these two remaining prompters the other, allied to the last though distinguishable from it, is the architectonic instinct—the love of system-building, as it would be called in less complimentary language. During these thirty years it has been a source of frequent elation to see each division, and each part of a division, working out into congruity with the rest—to see each component fitting into its place, and helping to make a harmonious whole. That the gratification of this instinct has been a not unimportant factor, I find at the present moment clear proof. As soon as I have ended this series of reflections, I am about to commence Part VII of the Principles of Sociology—“Professional Institutions”—in the hope that after finishing it I may be able to finish also the next part—“Industrial Institutions,” and so complete the third volume. What spurs me on to this undertaking? Though the genesis of the professions constitutes a not uninteresting subject, it does not seem that a coherent account of it, showing how the general process of evolution is afresh illustrated, is of any public importance. Nor can I suppose that by executing this piece of work I shall add in any appreciable degree to my own reputation: this will be practically the same whether I do the work or not. Clearly, then, my desire to do it is the desire to fill up a gap in my work. My feeling is analogous to that of the architect when contemplating the unfinished wing of a building he has designed, or one of the roofs only half-built. Like the restless desire he would feel to supply these missing structures, is the restless desire I feel to complete these divisions now wanting.
Though it is partly included in the last factor, there should be definitely named a further factor—the æsthetic sentiment. There appears to be in me a dash of the artist, which has all along made the achievement of beauty a stimulus: not, of course, beauty as commonly conceived, but such beauty as may exist in a philosophical structure. I have always felt a wish to make both the greater arguments, and the smaller arguments composing them, finished and symmetrical. In so far as giving coherence and completeness is concerned, I have generally satisfied my ambition; but I have fallen short of it in respect of literary form. The æsthetic sense has in this always kept before me an ideal which I could never reach. Though my style is lucid, it has, as compared with some styles, a monotony that displeases me. There is a lack of variety in its verbal forms and in its larger components, and there is a lack of vigour in its phrases. But the desire for perfection has in this, as in the building up of arguments, prompted unceasing efforts to remove defects.
Here I am struck with a proof that this architectonic instinct and this æsthetic sentiment, now chiefly operative as stimuli, must be very dominant; since they are making me persevere spite of strong deterrents. With a brain lamed when I was five and thirty, and since that time so frequently put wrong by over-work, or other excitement, as to have been made almost incapable of bearing activity, I am, at seventy-three, urged on to do a little more of the task I set myself thirty-three years ago.
My state of brain is now such that I am obliged to break the small amount of work I do into short lengths. I dictate for ten minutes and then rest awhile; and, as I have observed this morning (July 24, 1893), I do not usually repeat this process more than five times, making a total of fifty minutes. Very frequently (as at the time I am revising this in proof) I dare not do more than three times ten minutes or twice ten minutes; and often I dare do nothing. When above my average, there is the addition of a little revising in the afternoon, done in a similar manner—a few sentences at once. Throughout the rest of the day the process of killing time has to be carried on as best it may.
Walking has to be restricted to two or three hundred yards when at my best, and occasionally has to be given up altogether. A drive of an hour and a quarter or an hour and a half, in a carriage with india-rubber tyres, is all the further exercise practicable; and continually a little excess in this produces injurious effects, now and then demanding entire desistence. Reading, even of the lightest kind, is almost as injurious as working. Everyday the temptation to read has to be resisted: a few pages at once being alone practicable. Very often forgetfulness leads to a transgression of the limits; bringing, as a penalty, a night worse than usual. So is it with conversation. When I am below my average, this has to be given up altogether, and when at my best has to be kept within narrow bounds. Even much listening is negatived. I make use of ear-stoppers, which when I cannot conveniently leave the room, enable me to shut out the voices of those around sufficiently to prevent me from understanding what is said; for damage results from the continuous attention which listening involves.
The mischief caused by continuous attention prevents use of the microscope, in which I had this year hoped to occupy a little time while here (Pewsey). A small amount of it produced general disturbance, which lasted several days; and now I find that three or four minutes at a time is as much as I can bear. Games, too, of all kinds are rendered impracticable. Even the simple child’s game of spillicans, requiring intent observation and careful action of the muscles, proves too much for me. Cards are quite out of the question; and I have not tried backgammon since 1887, when, being at the time in a low condition, two games caused a serious relapse.
Of course this constitutional state, varying within wide limits, usually forbids social intercourse. I have not been at a soirée for these ten years; and only on a few occasions since 1882 have dared to dine out: the last occasion being nearly two years since, when the imprudence was severely punished. Public amusements are rigorously excluded. When in the United States in 1882, I went to a theatre, but never since. Concerts, too, are negatived. Half-an-hour proved more than enough the last time I attended one. Nor can any considerable amount of drawing-room music be borne. When, two years ago, Mr. Carnegie presented me with a piano, I made arrangements with a professional lady to give me an hour’s performance upon it weekly; but two experiments sufficed to cause desistence. I got no sleep afterwards on either occasion.
Thus the waking hours have to be passed in an unexciting and, by implication, in an uninteresting way—lying on the sofa or lounging about, and, when the weather and the place permit, as now, sitting very much in the open air, hearing and observing the birds, watching the drifting clouds, listening to the sighings of the wind through the trees, and letting my thoughts ramble in harmless ways, avoiding as much as possible exciting subjects. But of course, debarred, as I thus am, from bodily and mental exercise and most kinds of pleasures, no ingenuity can prevent weariness.
When I speak of the waking hours, meaning of course the day, as passed in this manner, I apparently imply that the hours of the night are not waking hours. But in large measure they are. If the day has been gone through with prudence, and I have taken my dose of opium (1½ grains) at the right hour, then between half-past ten and perhaps one, perhaps two, perhaps half-past two, broken sleep is obtained—never continuous sleep. After that come hours of sleeplessness and tossing from side to side; mostly followed, but sometimes not followed, by more broken sleep before the servant comes with my breakfast in the morning, at 8. And then the dreams accompanying such sleep as I obtain, though not bad in the sense of being dreadful or horrible, are usually annoying.
Yet this state which I have brought myself to by forty years of brain-work—a brain-work which would have been by no means too much had I not at the outset overstrained myself—I am impelled to maintain by this desire to continue the task I have undertaken. This architectonic instinct tyrannizes over me. Such more comfortable life as I might lead if I would cease altogether to tax myself, I decline to lead. And this I suppose for the reason that, though more comfortable in one sense, it would be on the whole less comfortable. Besides being debarred from that slight pleasurable excitement given me by the trifling amount of work I am able to do daily, there would be the perpetual consciousness of something left undone which I wanted to do. The weariness would become still worse had I to spend the whole day in killing time, with such small means of doing it.
Contemplation of these physical consequences of my career leads me to think of the other consequences—the question,—What advice would I give to an aspirant, pecuniary, social, &c.; and the thought of them raises who, in early or middle life, thought of devoting himself to philosophy, or to some other division of grave literature: prompted to do so by the belief that he had something important to say? Supposing the something to be really of importance (against which, however, the probabilities are great, notwithstanding his own confident opinion), deterrent advice might fitly be given.
In the first place, unless his means are such as enable him not only to live for a long time without returns, but to bear the losses which his books entail on him, he will soon be brought to a stand and subjected to heavy penalties. My own history well exemplifies this probability, or rather certainty. Had it not been for the £80 which, in 1850, I proved to the printer was coming to me under the Railway Winding-up Act, I should have been unable to publish Social Statics. Only because the bequest from my uncle Thomas made it possible to live for a time without remunerative labour, was I enabled to write and publish the Principles of Psychology. For two years after The Synthetic Philosophy had been projected, no way of bringing it before the world was discoverable. When, at length, mainly by the aid of scientific friends, without whose endorsement I could have done nothing, it became possible to get together a sufficient number of subscribers, it was presently proved that, partly because of my inability to keep up the intended rate of publication, and partly because of losses entailed by numerous defaulters, I should have been obliged to desist before the completion of First Principles, had it not been that the death of my uncle William, and bequest of the greater part of his property to me, afforded the means of continuing. Not even then were my difficulties ended. Six years’ persistence in work which failed to yield such returns as, added to other sources of income, sufficed to meet my modest expenses of living, brought me, in 1866, to an impending cessation. After finding that in the course of the years devoted to philosophical writing, I had sunk more than £1100, and was continuing to lose, I announced that when the volume then in hand was completed I should discontinue. Only because the necessity for discontinuance was removed, partly by the American testimonial and partly by my father’s death, which diminished the responsibilities coming upon me, was the notice of cessation cancelled. Even after that, several years elapsed before the returns from my books became such as put me quite at my ease. And only in subsequent years did my income become ample. Evidently it was almost a miracle that I did not sink before success was reached.
As the difficulties of self-maintenance while pursuing a career analogous to mine, are almost insuperable, the maintenance of a wife and family must of course be impossible. One who devotes himself to grave literature must be content to remain celibate; unless, indeed, he obtains a wife having adequate means for both, and is content to put himself in the implied position. Even then, family cares and troubles are likely to prove fatal to his undertakings. As was said to me by a scientific friend, who himself knew by experience the effect of domestic worries—“Had you married there would have been no system of philosophy.”
If the prompting motive is the high one of doing something to benefit mankind, and if there is readiness to bear losses and privations and perhaps ridicule in pursuit of this end, no discouragement is to be uttered; further than that there may be required greater patience and self-sacrifice than will prove practicable. If, on the other hand, the main element in the ambition is the desire to achieve a name, the probability of disappointment may still be placed in bar of it. Adequate appreciation of writings not adapted to satisfy popular desires, is long in coming, if it ever comes; and it comes the more slowly to one who is either not in literary circles, or, being in them, will not descend to literary “logrolling,” and other arts by which favourable recognition is often gained. Comparative neglect is almost certain to follow one who declines to use influence with reviewers, as I can abundantly testify.
Even should it happen that, means and patience having sufficed, the goal is at length reached and applause gained, there will come nothing like the delights hoped for. Of literary distinction, as of so many other things which men pursue, it may be truly said that the game is not worth the candle. When compared with the amount of labour gone through, the disturbances of health borne, the denial of many gratifications otherwise attainable, and the long years of waiting, the satisfaction which final recognition gives proves to be relatively trivial. As contrasted with the aggregate of preceding pains, the achieved pleasure is insignificant. A transitory emotion of joy may be produced by the first marks of success; but after a time the continuance of success excites no emotion which rises above the ordinary level. It is, indeed, astonishing to what an extent men are deluded into pursuit of “the bubble reputation,” when they have within their reach satisfactions which are much greater: supposing, at least, that the endeavours to gain these greater satisfactions are not disappointed, which unhappilly they very often are.
And, then, beyond the fact that literary success when it comes, if it ever does come, brings pleasures far less than were anticipated, there is the fact that it brings vexations and worries often greatly exceeding them. While the approbation looked for often does not come, there often comes instead undeserved disapprobation. Adverse criticisms of utterly unjust kinds frequently pursue the conscientious writer, not only during his period of struggle but after he has reached his desired position. Careless mis-statements and gross misrepresentations continually exasperate him; and if he measures the pains produced by these against the pleasures produced by due appreciation, he is likely to find them in excess.
Beyond the evils which the aspirant will have to bear in the shape of blame for ascribed oversights which do not exist, and ascribed errors which are not committed, and ascribed absurdities which are in truth rational conclusions, he may have to bear graver evils. If his writings are of kinds which arouse antagonisms, political, religious, or social, there will be visited upon him the anger of offended prejudices, or of threatened interests, or both.
Already, in giving an account of my uncle Thomas, I have pointed out the extent to which the odium theologicum, joined with the animosity caused by attack on class-interests, may prompt grave calumnies. One who raised his parish from a low and neglected state to a state of relative culture and prosperity; one who spent all his spare time in efforts to benefit the working-classes by lectures and writings; one who, returning from the scenes of his philanthropic exertions, always reached home on Saturday night so as to give his two services on the Sunday; one who for discharge of his clerical duties, and for activities which went far beyond them, received the pittance of £80 a year; was actually described as a sinecurist! One whose efforts were devoted to the moralization of men so strenuously that he eventually killed himself by them, was described as not even expending the efforts which an ordinary parish priest devotes to the mechanical performance of his routine functions in return for a good income! While doing an excess of work, he was stigmatized as doing none!
From theological antagonism I have myself suffered but little; and, indeed, have met with an amount of forbearance and sympathy which has surprised me. On me, however, there have of late come the effects of political animosity. In my first work, Social Statics, it was contended that alienation of the land from the people at large is inequitable; and that there should be a restoration of it to the State, or incorporated community, after making due compensation to existing landowners. In later years I concluded that a resumption on such terms would be a losing transaction, and that individual ownership under State-suzerainty ought to continue. In his Progress and Poverty, Mr. Henry George, quoting the conclusion drawn in Social Statics, made it a part-basis for his arguments; and, when my changed belief was made public, his indignation was great. There resulted after some years a work by him entitled A Perplexed Philosopher, in which he devoted three hundred odd pages to denunciation, not only of my views but of my motives, and assailed me as a traitor to the cause of the people. He alleged that my change of opinion must have resulted from a wish to ingratiate myself with the landed and ruling classes: applying to me Browning’s lines in The Lost Leader—“Just for a handful of silver he left us, just for a ribbon to stick in his coat.” This he did in face of the fact that in works quoted by him, I have spoken disrespectfully of the two most conspicuous members of these classes, Mr. Gladstone and Lord Salisbury (Study of Sociology, chap. xvi, and Principles of Ethics, §130); and have thus spoken of each at the time when he was Prime Minister, and had in his hands the dispensing of honours and patronage! Then, turning his fiction into a fact, and working himself into a fury over it, Mr. George does not scruple to manufacture evidence in its support. He says:—
The name of Herbert Spencer now appears with those of about all the Dukes in the kingdom as the director of an association formed for the purpose of defending private property in land (p. 201).
I am a member of but one political body. This body, which I was in part instrumental in establishing, was subsequently joined by sundry men of title, and among them two dukes. This body is the London Ratepayers Defence League!
Mr. George’s book, circulated in the United States and in England, has been reviewed in various journals which have accepted its statements; and many have quoted its denunciations, apparently supposing that there was ground for them. Even The Times cites, without any condemnation of it, Mr. George’s charge that I have “abandoned the necessary inferences, from motives less abstract and considerably less creditable, than those founded on sound logic and the truth of things.” (January 12, 1893.)
Here, then, are lessons for one who, dealing with theological, political, or social subjects, says candidly what he believes. If his career leads him to set forth views exciting class-animosities, or individual-animosities, he may count upon greater evils than are entailed by the stupidities and misinterpretations of critical journals; and must take into account the possibility, if not the probability, that he will be injured by utterly false interpretations of his motives and by consequent vilifications.
Is it then that these various dissuasives, had they been put before me when I began my career, would have stopped me; or do I regret that I was not stopped by such dissuasives? I cannot say yes. If at the outset the many chances against success had been specified, it is doubtful whether desistence would have resulted. Nor even had I seen clearly the evil to be entailed in the shape of ill-health, would this further deterrent have sufficed. Once having become possessed by the conception of Evolution in its comprehensive form, the desire to elaborate and set it forth was so strong that to have passed life in doing something else would, I think, have been almost intolerable. The perpetual consciousness of a large aim unachieved would have been a cause of chronic irritation hardly to be borne.
Little, then, as I should encourage another to follow my example and throw prudence to the winds, it will readily be understood that, as things have turned out, I find no reason to regret the course I took and the life I have passed: very much the contrary, indeed. Nearly all men have to spend their energies, year after year, in occupations which are more or less wearisome, if not repugnant, simply that they may gain the means of living for themselves and their dependents; and have not the daily satisfaction of working towards a greatly-desired end. The artist of genius may, indeed, be named as one whose labour subserves the double purpose of bringing him material support and realizing his conceptions: the pleasurableness of the last being doubtless very great. The born musician, or painter, or poet, experiences an intensity of pleasure in his work which no other man does. But omitting these, men at large have to pass their days in duties from which they would gladly be excused. Quite different has been my lot: my chief complaint having been that state of brain every day forbade me to continue when I wished to do so. Even taking into account chronic disturbance of health, I have every reason to be satisfied with that which fate has awarded me.
Moreover, these disturbances of health have not been of a kind so difficult to bear as those borne by many who have no compensations for them. They have not entailed on me any positive suffering; unless, indeed, the weariness and irritation of perpetual bad nights come under that name. I have not been subject to much positive pain: less, I think, than most are. And then, during the greater part of the time since my break-down in 1855, the constitutional state, which seems to have become adapted to a small amount of broken sleep, has not been such as to negative many of the pleasures within reach. It is true that, reading to any considerable extent being injurious, light literature has been almost wholly cut off, and restriction of evening excitements has been imperative; but otherwise, up to the age of 62, the deprivations were not great. Only during the last ten years, and especially during the last six years, have I been more and more cut off from most relaxations.
And here let me exclude some misapprehensions likely to be caused by what has been said above. Naturally it will be inferred that the chronic perturbations of health described, and especially those which of late years have brought me to what may be called an invalid life, must be indicated by an invalid appearance. This is far from being the case. Neither in the lines of the face nor in its colour, is there any such sign of constitutional derangement as would be expected. Contrarywise, I am usually supposed to be about ten years younger than I am. And this anomalous peculiarity conforms to a medical observation which I have seen made, that nervous subjects are generally older than they look.
Thus, if I leave out altruistic considerations and include egoistic considerations only, I may still look back from these declining days of life with content. One drawback indeed there has been, and that a great one. All through those years in which work should have had the accompaniment of wife and children, my means were such as to render marriage impossible: I could barely support myself, much less others. And when, at length, there came adequate means the fit time had passed by. Even in this matter, however, it may be that fortune has favoured me. Frequently when prospects are promising, dissatisfaction follows marriage rather than satisfaction; and in my own case the prospects would not have been promising. I am not by nature adapted to a relation in which perpetual compromise and great forbearance are needful. That extreme critical tendency which I have above described, joined with a lack of reticence no less pronounced, would, I fear, have caused perpetual domestic differences. After all my celibate life has probably been the best for me, as well as the best for some unknown other.
And now, having made these reflections concerning my own nature and its relation to the work I have done, what have I got to say concerning things at large? Besides those products of experience which, in my books, have been organized into a coherent whole, what further products have been collaterally formed. In these my declining days, what noteworthy differences have arisen in the aspects which the world around presents to me?
Not very much has to be said beyond emphasizing what has been already said. In various of my later books there have been indicated those modifications of views which mature years had brought concerning political, religious, and social affairs. The years which have since elapsed have served but to make these modifications more marked. All that remains is to set them forth in their accentuated shapes, after asking what probability there is that the opinions formed in this closing part of life are nearer to the truth than those formed in its earlier part.
The comparative conservatism of old age has various factors. In part it results negatively from diminished energy. Strength prompts action; and action, resulting in change, familiarizes the mind with changes and makes the effecting of them relatively attractive: enterprise is a trait of youth. Not diminished strength only, but hardening habit also, tends to make changes less and less attractive. To break through the usages of thought and conduct gradually established, becomes at once difficult and repugnant. Then, to these obstacles resulting from constitutional alteration are added others arising from what is in one sense mental growth. Things which in early life look simple and easy to deal with, are found, as life goes on, to be complex and deeply rooted. In what appeared wholly evil there are discovered elements of good below the surface; and what once seemed useless or superfluous is discovered to be in some way beneficial, if not essential. In each man as he grows old such factors act in various proportions and combinations: those due to senility being usually the chief.
In myself those due to wider observation and longer thought are, I believe predominant. I believe this because the aversion felt in early days for the older types of social organization survives. Now, as at first, not only is autocracy detestable, but there persists a dislike to that form of personal rule seen in qualified monarchical governments. I still sometimes think to myself, as I thought fifty years ago, how ludicrous would be the account given by some second Micromegas who, looking down on the doings of these little beings covering the Earth’s surface, told how, to some member of a particular family, they assigned vast revenues and indulgences beyond possibility of enjoyment, ascribed beauty where there was ugliness, intelligence where there was stupidity, traits of character above the average where they were below; and then daily surrounded these idealized persons with flattering ceremonies, accorded to them extensive powers, and treated with contumely any who did not join in the general worship. Holding that true loyalty consists in honouring that which is intrinsically honourable, and showing reverence for a worth demonstrated by conduct and achievement, I feel at present, as in the past, irritated by such observances as those which lately showered multitudinous wedding presents, and contributions of money from countless men and women, on two young people who, enjoying luxurious lives, have neither benefited their kind nor shown the least capacity for benefiting them. Hence it is clearly not because of any change of sentiment that I look with greater tolerance on monarchy; but simply because wider knowledge has led me to perceive its adaptation to the existing type of man. Institutions of every kind must be regarded as relative to the characters of citizens and the conditions under which they exist; and the feelings enlisted on behalf of such institutions must be judged, not by their absolute fitness but by their relative fitness. While the average feelings of people continue to be those which are daily shown, it would be no more proper to deprive them of their king than it would be proper to deprive a child of its doll.
Chiefly, however, the greater contentment I feel now than of old with established governmental forms, is due to the strengthened belief that there is a necessary connexion between the natures of the social units and the nature of the social aggregate. A cardinal doctrine of M. Comte and his disciples, is that individual men are products of the great body in which they exist—that they are, in all their higher attributes, created by that incorporated humanity called by Comte the supreme being. But it is no less true, or rather it is much more true, that the society is created by its units, and that the nature of its organization is determined by the natures of its units. The two act and re-act; but the original factor is the character of the individuals, and the derived factor is the character of the society. The conception of the social organism necessarily implies this. The units out of which an individual organism builds itself up, will not build up into an organism of another kind: the structure of the animal evolved from them is inherent in them. So, too, is it in large measure with a society. I say “in large measure” because the relations between the two are less rigid. In an animal the units and the organism have worked together, acting and reacting, for millions of years; but in a society for only a few thousands of years, and in the higher types of societies for only a few hundreds of years. Hence the character of the society inheres in the characters of its units far less deeply. Still, it inheres in so considerable a degree that complete change from one social type to another is impracticable; and a suddenly-made change is inevitably followed by a reversion, if not to the previous type in its old form, yet to the previous type in a superficially different form.
Illustrations of this truth are arising before our eyes. While old kinds of coercive government are dissolving, new kinds of coercive government are evolving. The rule of the monarch and the landed class, unqualified in feudal days, and in part replaced by the rule of the middle class after the Reform Bill, has since then been in larger part replaced by that of the working class, which is fast becoming predominant. But the temporary freedom obtained by abolishing one class of restraints, which reached its climax about the middle of the century, has since been decreased by the rise of another class of restraints, and will presently be no greater than it was before. We have been living in the midst of a social exuviation, and the old coercive shell having been cast off, a new coercive shell is in course of development; for in our day, as in past days, there co-exist the readiness to coerce and the readiness to submit to coercion.
Here, then, I see a change in my political views which has become increasingly marked with increasing years. Whereas, in the days of early enthusiasm, I thought that all would go well if governmental arrangements were transformed, I now think that transformations in governmental arrangements can be of use only in so far as they express the transformed natures of citizens.
Less marked, perhaps, though still sufficiently marked, is a modification in my ideas about religious institutions, which, indicated in my later books, has continued to grow more decided. While the current creed was slowly losing its hold on me, the sole question seemed to be the truth or untruth of the particular doctrines I had been taught. But gradually, and especially of late years, I have become aware that this is not the sole question.
Partly, the wider knowledge obtained of human societies has caused this. Many have, I believe, recognized the fact that a cult of some sort, with its social embodiment, is a constituent in every society which has made any progress; and this has led to the conclusion that the control exercised over men’s conduct by theological beliefs and priestly agency, has been indispensable. The masses of evidence classified and arranged in the Descriptive Sociology, have forced this belief upon me independently: if not against my will, still without any desire to entertain it. So conspicuous are the proofs that among unallied races in different parts of the globe, progress in civilization has gone along with development of a religious system, absolute in its dogmas and terrible in its threatened penalties, administered by a powerful priesthood, that there seems no escape from the inference that the maintenance of social subordination has peremptorily required the aid of some such agency.
Much astonishment may, indeed, reasonably be felt at the ineffectiveness of threats and promises of supposed supernatural origin. European history, dyed through and through with crime, seems to imply that fear of hell and hope of heaven have had small effects on men. Even at the present moment, the absolute opposition between the doctrine of forgiveness preached by a hundred thousand European priests, and the actions of European soldiers and colonists who out-do the law of blood-revenge among savages, and massacre a village in retaliation for a single death, shows that two thousand years of Christian culture has changed the primitive barbarian very little. And yet one cannot but conclude that it has had some effect, and may infer that in its absence things would have been worse.
At any rate, it is clear that, with men as they have been and are, the ultimate reasons for good conduct are too remote and shadowy to be operative. If prospect of definite eternal torture fails to restrain, still more must prospect of indefinite temporal evil fail. When we study the thoughts of the average British elector, who can conceive no reason for voting thus or thus save some material advantage to be gained, we may see that threats and promises of intense pains and vivid pleasures are alone likely to influence his conduct in marked ways.
Then, again, there is the truth, which is becoming more and more manifest, that real creeds continually diverge from nominal creeds, and adapt themselves to new social and individual requirements. The contrast between mediæval Christianity and the present Christianity of protestant countries, or again the contrast between the belief in a devil appointed to torment the wicked, strenuously held early in this century, and the spreading denial both of a devil and of eternal punishment, or again the recent expression of opinion by a Roman Catholic that there may be happiness in hell, suffice to show the remoulding of what is nominally the same creed into what is practically a quite different creed. And when we observe, too, how in modern preaching theological dogmas are dropping into the background and ethical doctrines coming into the foreground, it seems that in course of time we shall reach a stage in which, recognizing the mystery of things as insoluble, religious organizations will be devoted to ethical culture.
Thus I have come more and more to look calmly on forms of religious belief to which I had, in earlier days, a pronounced aversion. Holding that they are in the main naturally adapted to their respective peoples and times, it now seems to me well that they should severally live and work as long as the conditions permit, and, further, that sudden changes of religious institutions, as of political institutions, are certain to be followed by reactions.
If it be asked why, thinking thus, I have persevered in setting forth views at variance with current creeds, my reply is the one elsewhere made:—It is for each to utter that which he sincerely believes to be true, and, adding his unit of influence to all other units, leave the results to work themselves out.
Largely, however, if not chiefly, this change of feeling towards religious creeds and their sustaining institutions, has resulted from a deepening conviction that the sphere occupied by them can never become an unfilled sphere, but that there must continue to arise afresh the great questions concerning ourselves and surrounding things; and that, if not positive answers, then modes of consciousness standing in place of positive answers, must ever remain.
We find, indeed, an unreflective mood general among both cultured and uncultured, characterized by indifference to everything beyond material interests and the superficial aspects of things. There are the many millions of people who daily see sunrise and sunset without ever asking what the Sun is. There are the university men, interested in linguistic criticism, to whom inquiries concerning the origin and nature of living things seem trivial. And even among men of science there are those who, curiously examining the spectra of nebulæ or calculating the masses and motions of double-stars, never pause to contemplate under other than physical aspects the immeasurably vast facts they record. But in both cultured and uncultured there occur lucid intervals. Some, at least, either fill the vacuum by stereotyped answers, or become conscious of unanswered questions of transcendent moment. By those who know much, more than by those who know little, is there felt the need for explanation. Whence this process, inconceivable however symbolized, by which alike the monad and the man build themselves up into their respective structures? What must we say of the life, minute, multitudinous, degraded, which, covering the ocean-floor, occupies by far the larger part of the Earth’s area; and which yet, growing and decaying in utter darkness, presents hundreds of species of a single type? Or, when we think of the myriads of years of the Earth’s past, during which have arisen and passed away low forms of creatures, small and great, which, murdering and being murdered, have gradually evolved, how shall we answer the question—To what end? Ascending to wider problems, in which way are we to interpret the lifelessness of the greater celestial masses—the giant planets and the Sun; in proportion to which the habitable planets are mere nothings? If we pass from these relatively near bodies to the thirty millions of remote suns and solar systems, where shall we find a reason for all this apparently unconscious existence, infinite in amount compared with the existence which is conscious—a waste Universe as it seems? Then behind these mysteries lies the all-embracing mystery—whence this universal transformation which has gone on unceasingly throughout a past eternity and will go on unceasingly throughout a future eternity? And along with this rises the paralyzing thought—what if, of all that is thus incomprehensible to us, there exists no comprehension anywhere? No wonder that men take refuge in authoritative dogma!
So is it, too, with our own natures. No less inscrutable is this complex consciousness which has slowly evolved out of infantine vacuity—consciousness which, in other shapes, is manifested by animate beings at large—consciousness which, during the development of every creature, makes its appearance out of what seems unconscious matter; suggesting the thought that consciousness in some rudimentary form is omnipresent. Lastly come the insoluble questions concerning our own fate: the evidence seeming so strong that the relations of mind and nervous structure are such that cessation of the one accompanies dissolution of the other, while, simultaneously, comes the thought, so strange and so difficult to realize, that with death there lapses both the consciousness of existence and the consciousness of having existed.
Thus religious creeds, which in one way or other occupy the sphere that rational interpretation seeks to occupy and fails, and fails the more the more it seeks, I have come to regard with a sympathy based on community of need: feeling that dissent from them results from inability to accept the solutions offered, joined with the wish that solutions could be found.
the end.[Back to Table of Contents]
APPENDICES.[Back to Table of Contents]
A NOTE: Concerning the Life and Letters of T.H. Huxley.
[Where to place the following two letters has been a question not easily answered, for no place seems quite appropriate. After much consideration I have decided that they should be inserted here rather than elsewhere.]
5 Percival Terrace,
Nov. 21, 1900.
Dear Mr. Huxley,
On further reading your very interesting Life of your father, I find some statements of personal concern which will cause much misapprehension.
Through inadvertence, passages on pages 333 of vol. I. and 266 and 68 of vol. II. convey the impression that the criticism of my proofs by your father extended to my writings at large; and a phrase of yours on page 133 of vol. II. implies that you have yourself derived this impression. It is an erroneous one. Beyond First Principles your father read in proof The Principles of Biology, a biological essay, and some chapters concerning the nervous system. There was peremptory need for expert criticisms on these, and he very kindly gave me his; but I did not ask his critical aid when writing the seven volumes dealing with Sociology, Psychology, and Ethics, or the six volumes of my miscellaneous works, save the 15 pages of “diabolical dialectics” (ii. 185), and a chapter entitled “Religious Retrospect and Prospect.” This is in a measure implied by my letter accompanying the proofs of the essay on “The Factors of Organic Evolution”—a letter in which I spoke of habitually submitting “my biological writing to your [his] castigation” (ii. 127); for had the practice been general I evidently should not have limited the statement to biological writing.
A word concerning the unpublished Autobiography. Reading of proofs by friends (your father being one) was to be a check on errors of taste. The parts your father saw amounted to about a third.
When saying, à propos of his rôle of “devil’s advocate,” that “there is no telling how many brilliant speculations I have been the means of choking in an embryonic state,” your father was venting one of his facetious exaggerations. A comparison between the original MSS. and the printed books, made by my secretary to whom I dictate this letter, shows that in the three volumes above named there are four passages of a speculative kind in the MS. which have disappeared from the printed text. [Let me add that of the two omitted from The Principles of Biology one concerned the derivation of the vertebrate type from the ascidian type—a speculation which not long after received support from the discoveries of Kowalewsky. I afterwards gave it a place in Appendix D of vol. II.]
As shown by a letter you have partly quoted, I have expressed my grateful sense of your father’s “invaluable critical aid,” but naturally I do not wish this to be understood as having been far greater than it was.
Whatever changes you may make in future editions for the purpose of preventing misapprehensions, cannot of course be known to readers of the current edition. Yet I am not content that they should remain in error. What should be done?
In response to this appeal Mr. Huxley published the following letter in The Athenæum for December 8, 1900.
November 28, 1900.
It has been suggested to me by Mr. Herbert Spencer that a phrase of mine in the Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley (vol. II. p. 133) might give rise to a false impression touching the extent to which my father used to criticize the proofs of Mr. Spencer’s published writings. The words “from whom [viz., Mr. Spencer] he had, according to custom, received some proofs to read,” refer, of course, to the “biological writings” mentioned in Mr. Spencer’s letter quoted on p. 127. Besides such biological writings, my father read in proof only First Principles and two small fragments amounting to thirty-two pages. I do not suppose that those who have any knowledge of the subject will imagine that he criticized the proofs of Mr. Spencer’s writings at large; but I should be sorry to think that I had possibly suggested a false notion to others.
Your readers will hardly need telling that epistolary humour is not always to be taken literally, and that the phrase about his being “devil’s advocate” to Mr. Spencer (i. 333)—“There is no telling how many brilliant speculations I have been the means of choking in an embryonic state”—is meant rather as a consolation for a young worker in biological science, to whom my father proposed to act in the same useful, if ungrateful capacity, than as a definite statement as to Mr. Spencer’s biological writings, in which, I understand, a comparison of the MSS. with the printed volumes shows the removal of but four* such speculative passages during the proof stage.
But the period assigned to this “devil’s advocacy,” going back “thirty odd years” from 1884 to the beginning of my father’s acquaintance with Mr. Spencer, indicates that the playful allusion must be as much to the informal dialectics of conversation as to serious written work, for the reading of proofs referred to above only began with the Synthetic Philosophy in 1860.
It is manifestly needful that I should give a permanent place to these letters. Were they to disappear, the one privately and the other in an ephemeral publication, the first edition of Professor Huxley’s Life and Letters would establish everywhere the belief that my writings at large had had the benefit of his criticisms, and that had it not been for his restraints I should have set forth numerous ill-based speculations in the thirteen volumes treating of Psychology, Sociology, Ethics, and miscellaneous subjects.[Back to Table of Contents]
Programme of the Synthetic Philosophy
[The following programme of the Synthetic Philosophy, issued in the spring of 1860, though quoted in the preface to “First Principles,” is given here as being a biographical document. A further reason for re-quoting it is that opportunity is afforded for appending the names of the first subscribers, which are not without interest.]
A SYSTEM OF PHILOSOPHY.
Mr. Herbert Spencer proposes to issue in periodical parts, a connected series of works which he has for several years been preparing. Some conception of the general aim and scope of this series may be gathered from the following Programme.
Part I. The Unknowable.—Carrying a step further the doctrine put into shape by Hamilton and Mansel; pointing out the various directions in which Science leads to the same conclusions; and showing that in this united belief in an Absolute that transcends not only human knowledge but human conception, lies the only possible reconciliation of Science and Religion.
II. Laws of the Knowable.—A statement of the ultimate principles discernible throughout all manifestations of the Absolute—those highest generalizations now being disclosed by Science, which are severally true not of one class of phenomena but of all classes of phenomena; and which are thus the keys to all classes of phenomena.*
[In logical order should here come the application of these First Principles to Inorganic Nature. But this great division it is proposed to pass over: partly because, even without it, the scheme is too extensive; and partly because the interpretation of Organic Nature after the proposed method is of more immediate importance. The second work of the series will therefore be—]
THE PRINCIPLES OF BIOLOGY.
Part I.The Data of Biology.—Including those general truths of Physics and Chemistry with which rational Biology must set out.
II.The Inductions of Biology.—A statement of the leading generalizations which Naturalists, Physiologists, and Comparative Anatomists, have established.
III.The Evolution of Life.—Concerning the speculation commonly known as “The Development Hypothesis”—its a priori and a posteriori evidences.
IV.Morphological Development.—Pointing out the relations that are everywhere traceable between organic forms and the average of the various forces to which they are subject; and seeking in the cumulative effects of such forces a theory of the forms.
V.Physiological Development.—The progressive differentiation of functions similarly traced; and similarly interpreted as consequent upon the exposure of different parts of organisms to different sets of conditions.
VI.The Laws of Multiplication.—Generalizations respecting the rates of reproduction of the various classes of plants and animals; followed by an attempt to show the dependence of these variations upon certain necessary causes.*
THE PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY.
Part I. The Data of Psychology.—Treating of the general connexions of Mind and Life, and their relations to other modes of the Unknowable.
II. The Inductions of Psychology.—A digest of such generalizations respecting mental phenomena as have already been empirically established. [This proved to be a very inadequate description.]
III. General Synthesis.—A republication, with additional chapters, of the same part in the already-published Principles of Psychology.
IV. Special Synthesis.—A republication, with extensive revisions and additions, of the same part, &c. &c.
V. Physical Synthesis.—An attempt to show the manner in which the succession of states of consciousness conforms to a certain fundamental law of nervous action that follows from the First Principles laid down at the outset.
VI. Special Analysis.—As at present published, but further elaborated by some additional chapters.
VII. General Analysis.—As at present published, with several explanations and additions.
VIII. Corollaries.—Consisting in part of a number of derivative principles which form a necessary introduction to Sociology.*
THE PRINCIPLES OF SOCIOLOGY.
Part I. The Data of Sociology.—A statement of the several sets of factors entering into social phenomena—human ideas and feelings considered in their necessary order of evolution; surrounding natural conditions; and those ever-complicating conditions to which Society itself gives origin.
II. The Inductions of Sociology.—General facts, structural and functional, as gathered from a survey of Societies and their changes: in other words, the empirical generalizations that are arrived at by comparing different societies, and successive phases of the same society.
III. Political Organization.—The evolution of governments, general and local, as determined by natural causes; their several types and metamorphoses; their increasing complexity and specialization; and the progressive limitation of their functions.
IV. Ecclesiastical Organization.—Tracing the differentiation of religious government from secular; its successive complications and the multiplication of sects; the growth and continued modification of religious ideas, as caused by advancing knowledge and changing moral character; and the gradual reconciliation of these ideas with the truths of abstract science.
V. Ceremonial Organization.—The natural history of that third kind of government which, having a common root with the others, and slowly becoming separate from and supplementary to them, serves to regulate the minor actions of life.
VI. Industrial Organization.—The development of productive and distributive agencies, considered, like the foregoing, in its necessary causes: comprehending not only the progressive division of labour, and the increasing complexity of each industrial agency, but also the successive forms of industrial government as passing through like phases with political government.
VII. Lingual Progress.—The evolution of Languages regarded as a psychological process determined by social conditions.
VIII. Intellectual Progress.—Treated from the same point of view: including the growth of classifications; the evolution of science out of common knowledge; the advance from qualitative to quantitative prevision, from the indefinite to the definite, and from the concrete to the abstract.
IX. Æsthetic Progress.—The Fine Arts similarly dealt with: tracing their gradual differentiation from primitive institutions and from each other; their increasing varieties of development; and their advance in reality of expression and superiority of aim.
X. Moral Progress.—Exhibiting the genesis of the slow emotional modifications which human nature undergoes in its adaptation to the social state.
XI. The Consensus.—Treating of the necessary interdependence of structures and of functions in each type of society, and in the successive phases of social development.*
THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALITY.
Part I. The Data of Morality.—Generalizations furnished by Biology, Psychology and Sociology, which underlie a true theory of right living: in other words, the elements of that equilibrium between constitution and conditions of existence, which is at once the moral ideal and the limit towards which we are progressing.
II. The Inductions of Morality.—Those empirically-established rules of human action which are registered as essential laws by all civilized nations: that is to say—the generalizations of expediency.
III. Personal Morals.—The principles of private conduct—physical, intellectual, moral and religious—that follow from the conditions of complete individual life: or, what is the same thing—those modes of private action which must result from the eventual equilibration of internal desires and external needs.
IV. Justice.—The mutual limitations of men’s actions necessitated by their co-existence as units of a society—limitations, the perfect observance of which constitutes that state of equilibrium forming the goal of political progress.
V. Negative Beneficence.—Those secondary limitations, similarly necessitated, which, though less important and not cognizable by law, are yet requisite to prevent mutual destruction of happiness in various indirect ways; in other words—those minor self-restraints dictated by what may be called passive sympathy.
VI. Positive Beneficence.—Comprehending all modes of conduct, dictated by active sympathy, which imply pleasure in giving pleasure—modes of conduct that social adaptation has induced and must render ever more general; and which, in becoming universal, must fill to the full the possible measure of human happiness.*
In anticipation of the obvious criticism that the scheme here sketched out is too extensive, it may be remarked that an exhaustive treatment of each topic is not intended; but simply the establishment of principles, with such illustrations as are needed to make their bearings fully understood. It may also be pointed out that, besides minor fragments, one large division (The Principles of Psychology) is already, in great part, executed. And a further reply is, that impossible though it may prove to execute the whole, yet nothing can be said against an attempt to set forth the First Principles and to carry their applications as far as circumstances permit.
It is proposed to publish in parts of from five to six sheets octavo (80 to 96 pages). These parts to be issued quarterly; or as nearly so as is found possible. The price per part to be half-a-crown; that is to say, the four parts yearly issued to be severally delivered, post free, to all annual subscribers of Ten Shillings.
Should an adequate sale be insured (on which contingency however the execution of the projected works wholly depends) the first part will appear in July next.
London, March 27, 1860.
Those who wish to take in the proposed serial are requested to fill up, cut off, and forward (without delay) the following form to Mr. Manwaring, 8, King William Street, Strand, London, W. C. This form commits the subscriber to the first volume only, of the series. Lest the guaranteed circulation should prove insufficient, no subscription should be paid until the issue of the first part shows that the design will be carried out. Copies of this Circular, for distribution, may be had of Mr. Manwaring.
Please put down my name for one copy of the first of Mr. Herbert Spencer’s projected series of works; and let the successive parts be directed to me as below.
Mr. Manwaring, &c., &c.
List of names sent in up to the date at which this circular is issued:—
JOHN STUART MILL, ESQ.
GEORGE GROTE, ESQ., F.R.S.
RIGHT HON. LORD STANLEY, M.P.
CHARLES DARWIN, ESQ., F.R.S., F.L.S., F.G.S.
PROF. HUXLEY, F.R.S., F.L.S., Sec. G.S.
NEIL ARNOTT, ESQ., M.D., F.R.S.
ERASMUS DARWIN, ESQ.
W. B. CARPENTER, ESQ., M.D., F.R.S., F.L.S., F.G.S.
GEORGE ELIOT, ESQ.
R. MONCKTON MILNES, ESQ., M.P.
OCTAVIUS H. SMITH, ESQ.
PROF. SHARPEY, M.D., Sec. R.S., F.R.S.E.
PROF. DE MORGAN
E. JOHNSON, ESQ., M.D.
E. S. DALLAS, ESQ.
J. LOCKHART CLARKE, ESQ., F.R.S.
CHARLES BABBAGE, ESQ., F.R.S., F.R.A.S., &c.
W. H. RANSOM, ESQ., M.D.
PROF. GOLDWIN SMITH.
O. DE BEAUVOIR PRIAULX, ESQ.
W. H. WALSHE, ESQ., M.D.
HEPWORTH DIXON, ESQ.
DR. FRANKLAND, F.R.S.
T. SPENCER BAYNES, ESQ., LL.B.
J. CHAPMAN, ESQ., M.D.
PROF. GRAHAM, F.R.S., F.G.S., D.C.L., &c.
T. L. HUNT, ESQ.
H. FALCONER, ESQ., M.D., F.R.S., F.L.S., F.G.S.
REV. CHARLES KINGSLEY, F.L.S., F.S.A., &c.
SIR CHARLES LYELL, F.R.S., F.L.S., F.G.S., &c.
R. G. LATHAM, ESQ., M.D., F.R.S.
J. D. HOOKER, ESQ., M.D., F.R.S., F.L.S., F.G.S.
PROF. TYNDALL, F.R.S.
SIR JOHN TRELAWNEY, BART., M.P.
PROF. BUSK, F.R.S., F.G.S., F.L.S.
HENRY T. BUCKLE, ESQ.
PROF. F. W. NEWMAN, M.A.
G. H. LEWES, ESQ.
H. BENCE JONES, ESQ., M.D., F.R.S.
H. DUNNING MACLEOD, ESQ.
PROF. MASSON, M.A.
H. G. ATKINSON, ESQ., F.G.S.
J. D. MORELL, ESQ.
E. H. SIEVEKING, ESQ., M.D.
COL. SIR PROBY T. CAUTLEY, K.C.B., F.R.S.
R. W. MACKAY, ESQ.
PROF. H. D. ROGERS, F.R.S., F.G.S., F.R.S.E., &c.
REV. W. G. CLARK.
GEORGE LOWE, ESQ., C.E., F.R.S., F.G.S., &c.
ALEXANDER BAIN, ESQ.
G. DRYSDALE, ESQ., M.D.
PROF. LAYCOCK, F.R.S.E.
E. S. PIGOTT, ESQ.
SIR JAMES CLARK, BART., M.D., F.R.S.
J. A. FROUDE, ESQ.
SIR HENRY HOLLAND, BART., M.D., F.R.S., F.G.S., &c.
SIR JOHN HERSCHEL, BART., F.R.S., F.R.A.S., F.G.S., &c.
M. CHARLES DE RÉMUSAT, de l’Académie Française, Ancien Ministre, &c., &c.
M. JULES SIMON, Ancien Professeur de Philosophie au Collége de France, Ancien Conseiller d’Etat, &c.
M. EMILE D. FORGUES.
M. AMEDÉE PICHOT, D.M., Directeur de la Revue Britannique.[Back to Table of Contents]
Letter to Mr. G. H. Lewes
[The following is the letter to Mr. G. H. Lewes, referred to at the close of chapter xxxvi, as having resulted from the publication of the “Reasons for dissenting from the Philosophy of M. Comte”.]
29 Bloomsbury Sq. W.C.
March 21st, 1864.
My dear Lewes,
Thanks for your criticisms, some of which are important as saving me from an over-statement that would have been mischievous. With respect to the others I will briefly reply to the most important; and after troubling you to read these replies and my comments on the propositions contained in your two notes, I will say no more on the matter.
I was wrong in the assertion that Comte repudiated the science of mind: I should have said the subjective analysis of mind. That he does this I take on your own evidence; since you quote John Mill against him on this point.
The proposition which I oppose to Comte’s proposition of the three successive states, theological, metaphysical, and positive, you say is “by no means a counter-proposition”. When Comte says that the three methods are “different and even radically opposed,” while I say that the method is one that continues essentially the same; and when he says that there are three possible terminal conceptions while I say there is but one possible terminal conception; it seems to me that the term counter-proposition is well warranted.
I have not read Littré. Harrison named the fact that he had replied to me, and I have as yet only skimmed the chapter in which he does this and sought elsewhere for my name to see whether he anywhere regards me as a partial adherent. As he does not do so I conceive that the note is justified. But I have put a note recognizing your criticism respecting ideas and emotions; and meeting it.
You say I have not recognized Comte’s “conception of sociology as a science” among his distinctive doctrines. I do not see that it is distinctive of him. The conception that there is a social science was surely, as Masson shows, entertained by Vico and Kant—vaguely if you like. That which is distinctive of Comte is his elaboration of the conception. Surely, too, you will not deny that there have been other conceptions of social science among the German thinkers, however wild and untenable. Unless you can show that before Comte no one believed that social phenomena conform to law, you cannot say that the conception of social science is distinctive of Comte.
You ask, too, why I do not put down, as among his distinctive doctrines, the idea of a philosophy constructed out of the sciences. I do not admit this to be distinctive any more than the other. I refer you to your own History of Philosophy (p. 348), in proof that Bacon had an idea of such a philosophy; and, as far as it goes, a very true one. I hold that his assertion that “unless natural philosophy be drawn out to particular sciences; and again, unless these particular sciences be brought back again to natural philosophy,” involves a more correct conception of the relations of the sciences to each other than Comte’s elaborated hierarchy of the sciences. Bacon’s conception is vague and true: Comte’s conception is definite and untrue. I really cannot see that the notion of an organization of the sciences into one whole can be claimed for Comte.
You protest against my representing Comte as excluding the recognition of cause from the positive philosophy. If he does not do so what becomes of his alleged distinction between the perfection of the metaphysical system and the perfection of the positive system.
In your first note you say “when Comte insists on the relativity of knowledge he thereby postulates an Absolute, as you do.” I do not see how you can say this if you mean that he consciously or avowedly does so. Have I not myself joined issue with Hamilton and Mansel on this very point; and endeavored to show that the existence of an Absolute is necessarily postulated though they have not recognized this necessity? And if Hamilton and Mansel assert the relativity of knowledge and do not recognize the implied consciousness of existence transcending knowledge, is it not legitimate to say that Comte does the same when there are his own words to show it?
One of the implications of your first note, and of our conversations, is that I ought to recognize myself “indebted to Comte as one independent thinker may be indebted to a predecessor.” I do not admit that I am reluctant to recognize indebtedness to predecessors: it is a question of the predecessor. If anyone says that had von Baer never written I should not be doing that which I now am, I have nothing to say to the contrary—I should reply it is highly probable. But because I am deeply indebted to one predecessor, I do not see that I am called upon to admit indebtedness to another when I am unconscious of it.
You say that you may have thought that my antagonistic attitude towards Comte has tended to suppress the growth of any consciousness of indebtedness to Comte. Possibly. But allow me to point out, on the other hand, that the attitude of Comte’s disciples, and your own attitude in particular as expositor, is one which inevitably tends to generate an exaggerated estimate of Comte’s influence, and inevitably tends to make you assume indebtedness on insufficient grounds.
You say that Comte’s ideas have reached hundreds who never saw his works. This is perfectly true. If you mean to imply that any such diffused influence affected me before I wrote Social Statics, I say it is out of the question; for my reading up to that time had been wholly confined to the special sciences, and to party-politics, joined with miscellaneous light reading and an occasional glance into the elder writers on philosophy. The only book, which, so far as I know, was a means of diffusing any of Comte’s ideas was Mill’s Logic; and this I did not read until at least two years after Social Statics was written—a fact of which you will I believe find evidence without going far. [Referring to George Eliot, who had presented me with a copy of Mill’s Logic.]
I fancy that you and other partial adherents of Comte mistake as an atmosphere of Comtean thought, what is nothing else than the atmosphere of scientific thought. Those whose education has been mainly literary, are unable to realize the mental attitude of those whose education has been mainly scientific—especially where the scientific education has been joined to scientific tendencies, and a life of practical science continually illustrating theoretic science, as in my own case. How little influence Comte’s teachings have had on scientific thinking in England, will be shown by the accompanying paragraph; which I suppressed from my appendix from the desire to avoid seeming needlessly hostile.
And now let me deal with your two most specific points, taking first the question of the Sociology. You say—“Was not Comte the one who attempted to construct a Sociology on the positive method—and is not that your aim also?” If you say that here is a resemblance, you say truly. If you say that here is priority on the part of Comte, you say truly. If you say that here is indebtedness on my part, I do not admit it. If you believe that I was acquainted with Comte’s ideas before Social Statics was written, you may suppose that I derived the notion of a social organism (which is the only point of community between us) from him: but if you do not suppose this, I do not see what grounds you have for the assumption that I am here in any way indebted to Comte. The conception of Social Science which I have now, differs in nothing except further development from the conception set forth in Social Statics. With the exception of quite minor ethical propositions, I hold to all that is in Social Statics; and in the various political essays which I have since written, have shown its further development by the addition of conceptions which I have proved, by the analysis I sent you, to be neither allied to those of Comte nor suggested by them. I contend that, starting with Social Statics, passing through these several steps to the wider generalization of social phenomena given in the essay on Progress, and from thence by other steps to the views which I now hold, there is a development on lines of organization that cannot be traced to him; but are manifestly traceable to the extension of von Baer’s principle, and to the rationalization of it which I have since attempted. [This statement, along with some preceding and succeeding ones, and along with a passage in the “Reasons for dissenting from the Philosophy of M. Comte,” make it clear that I had, in 1864, forgotten some of the ideas reached in 1850; for on pp. 451-53 of Social Statics, where individual organisms and social organisms are shown to be similar in the respect that progress from low types to high types is progress from uniformity of structure to multiformity of structure, there is, in so far, and in other words, a recognition of the law which von Baer formulated in respect of the development of each organism, as a progress from homogeneity to heterogeneity.]
The other important point is that raised in your question—“Was not Comte the man who first constructed a Philosophy out of the separate sciences—and is not that your aim also”? Here, it seems to me, is the chief source of difference between us. I venture to think that you are assimilating two wholly different things—endeavouring to establish a lineal descent between systems which are not only generically distinct or ordinally distinct, but which belong to distinct classes. What is Comte’s professed aim? To give a coherent account of the progress of human conceptions. What is my aim? To give a coherent account of the progress of the external world. Comte proposes to describe the necessary, and the actual, filiation of ideas. I propose to describe the necessary, and the actual, filiation of things. Comte professes to interpret the genesis of our knowledge of nature. My aim is to interpret, as far as it is possible, the genesis of the phenomena which constitute nature. The one end is subjective. The other is objective. How then can the one be the originator of the other? If I had taken the views briefly set down in The Genesis of Science, and developed them into an elaborate system showing the development and coordination of human knowledge in pursuance of a theory at variance with that of Comte; then you might rightly have said that the one was suggested by the other. Then you might rightly have asked—“Was not Comte the man who first constructed a Philosophy out of the separate sciences—and is not that your aim also?” A philosophy of the sciences has a purely abstract subject-matter. A philosophy of nature has a purely concrete subject-matter, and how the one can beget the other I do not see. A concrete may beget an abstract; but how an abstract begets a concrete is not manifest. Comte’s system is avowedly an Organon of the Sciences. The scheme at which I am working has been called by Martineau a Cosmogony. Surely in the generation of thought, an Organon should give origin to an Organon and a Cosmogony to a Cosmogony. If you look for my predecessors, and if you point to the Cosmogonies of Hegel and Oken as being conceptions which may have influenced me, I do not say nay: I knew the general natures of Hegel’s and Oken’s Cosmogonies, and widely different as their conceptions are from my own, they are conceptions of the same class, and may very possibly have had some suggestive influence.* But why, in seeking the parentage of the Cosmogony at which I am working, you should pass over antecedent Cosmogonies, and fix on an Organon of the Sciences for its parent, is more than I understand.
And now, having pointed out what I conceive to be the fundamental difference between the natures and aims of Comte’s scheme and my own (which your question assumes to be the same in nature and aim) let me take a further step. Looking at it from this new point of view, glance through the essay on Progress. Having done this, ask yourself, in the first place, whether you see any Comtean inspiration in that—whether you see in it anything more than the extension of von Baer’s principle and the endeavour to interpret that principle deductively? You must I think answer—No. In the second place, ask yourself whether there are not in that essay the rudiments of the scheme which is developed in First Principles. You cannot but answer—Yes. And then, in the third place, ask, is it so foreign to my nature to go on further developing ideas, that you cannot believe that the last of these has grown out of the first? In the essay on Progress there is a rudimentary Cosmogony. In First Principles there is a more elaborated Cosmogony. Is it unnatural that the one should in the course of some years have evolved the other?
Even while I write I am reminded of evidence on this point, which, however inconclusive it may be to others, is perfectly conclusive to myself; and makes me more than ever certain of the truth of my denial. You may remember that at the end of 1858 or beginning of 1859, I made an effort to obtain some appointment, which should give me sufficient means and leisure to do that which I am now doing. I have a distinct recollection of then explaining to Mr. Grote, who took some interest in the matter, that my purpose was to elaborate the ideas contained in the essay on Progress, which had then taken a larger development. And if Mr. J. S. Mill keeps his letters, I am greatly mistaken if it cannot be shown by the correspondence I then had with him, that I gave him the same explanation of my aims.*
Whether you do or do not continue to think as you did on this matter, you will at any rate see that the amount and kind of evidence which (to myself) warrants my continual denial, is abundant and definite. And unless there is virtue in saying that you are indebted when you are not conscious of being indebted, I think I am not only warranted in making the denial but bound to make it.
In brief, then, my position is this:—Until it is shown that the views of social science I now hold, differ from those contained in Social Statics, by something more than difference of development—until it is shown that a Cosmogony is not to be rightly affiliated on preceding Cosmogonies but is to be rightly affiliated on an Organon of the Sciences—until it is shown that the essay on Progress does not contain the rudiments out of which First Principles has naturally developed—until it is shown that I have adopted some general view of Comte’s, or been led by his teaching to abandon some view I previously held; I shall continue to assert that I am uninfluenced by Comte, save in those minor views of his which I avowedly accept, and by the influence of antagonism. And until some such specific evidence is assigned, I shall continue to think the opposite assertion unwarranted.
HERBERT SPENCER.[Back to Table of Contents]
Documents Concerning the Cessation of the Issue of the Philosophy
[Documents concerning the intended cessation of the issue of the Synthetic Philosophy, and concerning the measures taken to prevent it.]
London, April 8th, 1866.
The subscribers to Mr. Herbert Spencer’s System of Philosophy have been informed through a circular from the Publisher, that owing to the present insufficiency of Subscriptions its publication must be discontinued.
Mr. Spencer having declined several offers of direct contributions towards the expenses of publishing his great work, the only alternative remaining would appear to be, that those to whom its discontinuance would be a matter of deep regret, should subscribe for a sufficient number of copies to secure the author from loss.
It is estimated that 250 additional Subscriptions would suffice for this purpose.
Should you be disposed to join the undersigned in taking additional copies, you are requested to fill up the enclosed form and send it to Messrs. Williams & Norgate.
J. S. Mill,
T. H. Huxley.
To Messrs. Williams & Norgate,
14 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London, W.C.
Enter my name as a Subscriber to the 4th and following volumes of Mr. Herbert Spencer’s System of Philosophy;
*Number of Subscriptions ______________________________
Messrs. Williams & Norgate are ready to take charge of, and keep for the subscribers the copies they may subscribe for for the present purpose, if directed to do so.
The second of the two circulars named in Chapter XXXVIII here follows:—
The Royal School of Mines, Jermyn Street,
May 18th, 1866.
My dear Sir,
I think it is desirable that a copy of the accompanying letter addressed to me by Mr. Spencer, should be sent to all those who have expressed a wish to co-operate with Mr. Busk, Sir John Lubbock, Mr. Mill, Prof. Tyndall, and myself, in carrying out the plan suggested in our circular of April 8th last.
Mr. Spencer’s letter appears to me to preclude us from any corporate action in promoting the pecuniary success of his works; but so stout a champion of personal liberty, can, I am sure, make no objection to efforts on the part of individuals, who reflect that his time and his labours are still bestowed without remuneration, to extend the list of subscribers.
I am, yours very faithfully,
T. H. HUXLEY.
Sydney Williams, Esq.
17 Wilmot Street, Derby,
13th May, 1866.
My dear Huxley,
You are aware of the sad event which brought me down here some three weeks ago. This event has consequences respecting which it seems proper that I should write to you without further delay.
When, along with the last number of the Biology, I issued a notice of cessation, to take place on the completion of the volume now in progress, I did so because I felt that I was not justified in continuing to sink what little property I possess, as I have been doing year by year since I began publishing. My position is now so far changed, that it will be possible for me to persevere, without making any other sacrifice than that of my time.
As you know, I reluctantly assented to the measures that had, unknown to me, been taken by friends interested in the continuance of my work, only because otherwise the alternatives were, discontinuance of it or prospective ruin. Now that these are no longer the alternatives, my reason for assenting disappears. I shall feel much more at my case in going on with my serial as heretofore, than I should feel with the help of that additional circulation of it proposed to be secured—in however delicate a way.
Will you, therefore, be kind enough to see that the arrangements lately entered into are cancelled—not, however, without expressing my acknowledgments to those who have entered into them. While I regret that you, and others who have co-operated, should have spent so much time and trouble in devising a plan now to be abandoned, the conclusive proofs of sympathy with my aims that have been thus given, will ever be a gratifying remembrance to me.
Very sincerely yours,
HERBERT SPENCER.[Back to Table of Contents]
A New Invalid-Bed
[An account of the invalid-bed, as given by the “British Medical Journal” for July 27, 1867.]
A NEW INVALID-BED.
There is now on view at the establishment of Mr. Ward, the invalid chair-maker, Leicester Square, a new invalid-bed, admitting of a much greater variety of movements than any of those at present in use. The upper framework has adjustments similar to those of an ordinary fracture-bed; permitting the body to be raised to various inclinations, and the knees to be bent to various angles. But the peculiarity is, that this frame-work is supported, under its centre, on a large ball-and-socket joint, which allows the whole frame-work, with its variously adjustable parts, to be moved about bodily in all directions; so as to be inclined longitudinally, laterally, or both, and to be moved round so as to face all points of the compass. By means of a simple locking apparatus, the framework is firmly fixed in any attitude that may be desired: a few turns of the handle sufficing again to release it, and any other attitude to be assumed. Among the advantages obtained are these:—
The patient may be taken out of bed, and put into bed again, without the effort ordinarily required. The ball being unlocked, and the bed being gently tipped forwards, so that its lower end reaches the floor, the patient comes upon his feet; and after the sheets have been changed, or some needful act performed, he is placed with his back against the inclined surface of the bed, which, being then made to revolve backwards, he lies as at first.
By a lateral, instead of a longitudinal inclination of the bed, the patient may be turned over from the back on to the side, or contrariwise; saving the labour and pain often entailed by this change.
The longitudinal inclination of the bed being changeable at pleasure, the patient may lie, or may sleep, at any angle that he may prefer, or that is prescribed; either with the head higher than the feet, or, as it is sometimes desirable, with the feet somewhat higher than the head: the inclination being of course adjustable to a nicety, and changeable at will.
The moveable framework which supports the trunk, being raised, so that the trunk and legs form an angle (which may be varied to any extent up to a right angle) the whole bed may then be moved longitudinally round its centre of support, so that the body in this bent position may have the head and feet placed at all varieties of relative elevation. For example, while the trunk is horizontal the legs may be greatly inclined upwards, an attitude that is desirable where injury of the foot or knee renders it proper to diminish the pressure of blood.
The framework that bends the knees being raised, as well as that which inclines the trunk, the same longitudinal rotation of the framework gives a great variety of partly-reclining, partly-sitting postures. The patient may be placed, without any effort to him, in all attitudes between that of lying horizontally, and that of sitting upright in an easy chair.
These movements may, of course, be all of them joined with any such degree of lateral inclination of the bed as is desired; so that, supposing the framework has been adjusted somewhat into the form of an easy chair, and tilted forwards or backwards so as to bring a wounded arm or foot to the right height, the bed may be at the same time tilted sideways, so as to bring this wounded arm or foot on the uppermost side, into the most convenient position for dressing the wound.
At the same time the movement of horizontal rotation being brought into play, the whole bed may be moved round until the injured part is turned towards the light: this same horizontal rotation being, at other times, available for giving the patient change of view, enabling him to look out of the window when raised in the sitting posture, or to have his face turned away from the light if it is distressing.
To the side of the framework is fixed a moveable arm, carrying a small table, to support a plate or basin, and this table, by a slight change of position, also becomes a reading-easel.
One of the advantages of the bed not originally foreseen, but which has come out in practice, is that of being able to make certain changes in a patient’s position quite suddenly. When the ball-and-socket joint is but partially locked, so that a moderate force applied to the head or foot of the bed will change its position, the patient, previously lying back, may be instantly raised into the sitting posture if a coughing fit come on.
One further use that may be named is, that when the ball-and-socket joint is completely unlocked, so as to permit perfect freedom of movement, two attendants, seizing the handles on the opposite sides of the bed, may give the patient a little exercise, by rocking the bed from side to side in the manner of a cradle.
Beyond the special advantages above described, there are some general advantages. The ability to change the posture of the patient in such a variety of ways and degrees, without any effort to him, must tend to diminish that pain, weariness, and irritability, caused by long continuance of the same attitude, or by small choice of attitudes, and must so conduce to convalescence. A further result to be anticipated, is, that bed sores may be avoided, the points of chief pressure being changeable at will, and as often as is desired.
This bed, devised by Mr. Herbert Spencer, the distinguished biologist and philosophical writer, for a member of his own family, has been in use between four and five months, and has so far answered his expectations that he has had a second made, with sundry improvements, hoping that it may be of service to others. Mr. Spencer has refrained from patenting it: not wishing to place any obstacle in the way of its general use.[Back to Table of Contents]
English Feeling about the American Civil War
[A letter concerning the feeling in England at the time when there began the American War between North and South—a letter written for publication in the “New York Tribune,” and which, though withheld at the time, was published in that Journal some years later.]
My Dear Youmans: When you were here I told you that the Americans wholly misconceive the feeling with which England at first regarded the quarrel between North and South. To others of your countrymen I have, from time to time, made the same statement; and I have urged more than one of them to examine for himself the evidence furnished by our press, and to publish the results of his examination. Nothing has come of my suggestions, however. Whether those I spoke to thought it impossible that the truth could be so entirely at variance with their belief as I represented, or whether they preferred cherishing a belief which seemed to justify their indignation, I cannot say: probably both causes conspired with their dislike to the required trouble.
The importance of disabusing the American mind on this matter is increasingly manifest. That hostile feeling toward us which has for years been displayed by your journals and your orators, has been largely if not mainly caused by the impression that gratuitous ill-will was felt by us from the outset; and I cannot but think that were this erroneous impression removed, there would be less difficulty in coming to an understanding on disputed questions. Failing to find any one else to do what it seems to me should be done, I have myself had collected the requisite materials, with the view of affording to Americans the means of judging how far they are warranted in cherishing that animosity which has lately been exhibited more violently than ever.
In the first place let me show you the public opinion that existed in England at the time that secession was impending, as that opinion was expressed in the columns of the press.
“In South Carolina, and Alabama, and Georgia, an appeal is to be made to the last powers vested in the State Constitution, with a view to disunion, on no ground whatever, that can be discovered, except that they do not like Mr. Lincoln. * * * To all our political notions there is no more reason for the violences reported from the Southern States than there would be for the electors of Southwark refusing to pay assessed taxes because Lord Palmerston had declared against the ballot. * * * The Southern States certainly would not mend matters by a separation. * * * Anything is better than dividing State against State, house against house, and servant against master in the most rising nation in the world.”
[Times, Dec. 5, 1860.
“Without sharing the opinions, much less using the language, of the Abolitionists with respect to Slavery, which bad though it be, must remain for many years an institution of the United States, we look upon the conduct of South Carolina in this matter as disgraceful in the last degree. To gratify their pique against those of opposite politics, and to advance their local interests, the Slave-owners would destroy a Constitution under which their country has enjoyed singular prosperity.”
[Times, Dec. 11, 1860.
“The Americans may confidently assure themselves that there is no party in this kingdom which desires anything but the maintenance and prosperity of the Union. * * * We cannot disguise from ourselves that, apart from all political complications, there is a right and a wrong in this question, and that the right belongs, with all its advantages, to the States of the North.”
[Times, Jan. 4, 1861.
“The proposal of secession is so wild, so absurd, that it could not be put forth by men sensible enough to conduct public affairs unless they were so dishonest as to be unworthy of the trust. The threat is either an outbreak of mad passion, or a device to obtain concessions from the fears and affections of the North.”
[Daily News, Jan. 2, 1861.
“Granted that the United States of America are beset with peculiar difficulties in treating this question [Slavery]—when are these difficulties to vanish, when are they to be lessened under the domination of the South? Have not the Southern states gone on from iniquity to iniquity? * * * *
“We must not forget that slave-owners are necessarily aggressive in every sense, and that in the United States they have been as a minority not only dominant and aggressive, but turbulent, insolent, and overbearing even towards the majority of their own race and nation.”
[Morning Herald, Dec. 27, 1860.
“If the Southern States were the advocates of a cause less pernicious and detestable than the extension of slavery, we should still think their proceedings foolish and suicidal; but, under existing circumstances, they can have neither the sympathy nor good wishes of any man, either in America or in England, who has the slightest regard for t