By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews
Author: Huxley, Thomas Henry, 1825-1895
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.





MacMillan and Co.
R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor, Printers,
Bread Street Hill.




I should have liked to provide this collection of "Lay Sermons,
Addresses, and Reviews," with a Dedication and a Preface. In the former,
I should have asked you to allow me to associate your name with the
book, chiefly on the ground that the oldest of the papers in it is a
good deal younger than our friendship. In the latter, I intended to
comment upon certain criticisms with which some of these Essays have
been met.

But, on turning the matter over in my mind, I began to fear that a
formal dedication at the beginning of such a volume would look like a
grand lodge in front of a set of cottages; while a complete defence of
any of my old papers would simply amount to writing a new one--a labour
for which I am, at present, by no means fit.

The book must go forth, therefore, without any better substitute for
either Dedication, or Preface, than this letter; before concluding which
it is necessary for me to notify you, and any other reader, of two or
three matters.

The first is, that the oldest Essay of the whole, that "On the
Educational Value of the Natural History Sciences," contains a view of
the nature of the differences between living and not-living bodies out
of which I have long since grown.

Secondly, in the same paper, there is a statement concerning the method
of the mathematical sciences, which, repeated and expanded elsewhere,
brought upon me, during the meeting of the British Association at
Exeter, the artillery of our eminent friend Professor Sylvester.

No one knows better than you do, how readily I should defer to the
opinion of so great a mathematician if the question at issue were
really, as he seems to think it is, a mathematical one. But I submit,
that the dictum of a mathematical athlete upon a difficult problem which
mathematics offers to philosophy, has no more special weight, than the
verdict of that great pedestrian Captain Barclay would have had, in
settling a disputed point in the physiology of locomotion.

The genius which sighs for new worlds to conquer beyond that surprising
region in which "geometry, algebra, and the theory of numbers melt into
one another like sunset tints, or the colours of a dying dolphin," may
be of comparatively little service in the cold domain (mostly lighted by
the moon, some say) of philosophy. And the more I think of it, the more
does our friend seem to me to fall into the position of one of those
"verständige Leute," about whom he makes so apt a quotation from Goethe.
Surely he has not duly considered two points. The first, that I am in no
way answerable for the origination of the doctrine he criticises: and
the second, that if we are to employ the terms observation, induction,
and experiment, in the sense in which he uses them, logic is as much an
observational, inductive, and experimental science as mathematics; and
that, I confess, appears to me to be a _reductio ad absurdum_ of his

Thirdly, the essay "On the Physical Basis of Life" was intended to
contain a plain and untechnical statement of one of the great tendencies
of modern biological thought, accompanied by a protest, from the
philosophical side, against what is commonly called Materialism. The
result of my well-meant efforts I find to be, that I am generally
credited with having invented "protoplasm" in the interests of
"materialism." My unlucky "Lay Sermon" has been attacked by
microscopists, ignorant alike of Biology and Philosophy; by
philosophers, not very learned in either Biology or Microscopy; by
clergymen of several denominations; and by some few writers who have
taken the trouble to understand the subject. I trust that these last
will believe that I leave the essay unaltered from no want of respectful
attention to all they have said.

Fourthly, I wish to refer all who are interested in the topics discussed
in my address on "Geological Reform," to the reply with which Sir
William Thomson has honoured me.

And, lastly, let me say that I reprint the review of "The Origin of
Species" simply because it has been cited as mine by a late President of
the Geological Society. If you find its phraseology, in some places, to
be more vigorous than seems needful, recollect that it was written in
the heat of our first battles over the Novum Organon of biology; that we
were all ten years younger in those days; and last, but not least, that
it was not published until it had been submitted to the revision of a
friend for whose judgment I had then, as I have now, the greatest

Ever, my dear TYNDALL,

Yours very faithfully,


LONDON, _June 1870_.


  (A Lay Sermon delivered in St. Martin's Hall, on the evening
  of Sunday, the 7th of January, 1866, and subsequently published
  in the _Fortnightly Review_)                                    3


  (The _Reader_, May 20th, 1865)                                 23


  to the South London Working Men's College, delivered on the
  4th of January, 1868, and subsequently published in _Macmillan's
  Magazine_)                                                     31


  before the Liverpool Philomathic Society in April 1869,
  and subsequently published in _Macmillan's Magazine_)          60


  (An Address delivered at St. Martin's Hall, on the 22d July,
  1854, and published as a pamphlet in that year)                80


ON THE STUDY OF ZOOLOGY. (A Lecture delivered at the South
  Kensington Museum, in 1861, and subsequently published by the
  Department of Science and Art)                                104


ON THE PHYSICAL BASIS OF LIFE. (A Lay Sermon delivered in
  Edinburgh, on Sunday, the 8th of November, 1868, at the request
  of the late Rev. James Cranbrook; subsequently published in the
  _Fortnightly Review_)                                         132


  Attack upon the preceding Paper. Published in the _Fortnightly
  Review._ 1869)                                                162


ON A PIECE OF CHALK. (A Lecture delivered to the Working Men of
  Norwich, during the Meeting of the British Association, in 1868.
  Subsequently published in _Macmillan's Magazine_)             192


  Anniversary Address to the Geological Society for 1862)       223


GEOLOGICAL REFORM. (The Anniversary Address to the Geological
  Society for 1869)                                             251


THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. (The _Westminster Review_, April 1860)   280


  Review_, 1864)                                                328


  the Cambridge Young Men's Christian Society, delivered on the
  24th of March, 1870, and subsequently published in
  _Macmillan's Magazine_)                                       351




This time two hundred years ago--in the beginning of January,
1666--those of our forefathers who inhabited this great and ancient
city, took breath between the shocks of two fearful calamities, one not
quite past, although its fury had abated; the other to come.

Within a few yards of the very spot on which we are assembled, so the
tradition runs, that painful and deadly malady, the plague, appeared in
the latter months of 1664; and, though no new visitor, smote the people
of England, and especially of her capital, with a violence unknown
before, in the course of the following year. The hand of a master has
pictured what happened in those dismal months; and in that truest of
fictions, "The History of the Plague Year," Defoe shows death, with
every accompaniment of pain and terror, stalking through the narrow
streets of old London, and changing their busy hum into a silence broken
only by the wailing of the mourners of fifty thousand dead; by the woful
denunciations and mad prayers of fanatics; and by the madder yells of
despairing profligates.

But, about this time in 1666, the death-rate had sunk to nearly its
ordinary amount; a case of plague occurred only here and there, and the
richer citizens who had flown from the pest had returned to their
dwellings. The remnant of the people began to toil at the accustomed
round of duty, or of pleasure; and the stream of city life bid fair to
flow back along its old bed, with renewed and uninterrupted vigour.

The newly kindled hope was deceitful. The great plague, indeed, returned
no more; but what it had done for the Londoners, the great fire, which
broke out in the autumn of 1666, did for London; and, in September of
that year, a heap of ashes and the indestructible energy of the people
were all that remained of the glory of five-sixths of the city within
the walls.

Our forefathers had their own ways of accounting for each of these
calamities. They submitted to the plague in humility and in penitence,
for they believed it to be the judgment of God. But, towards the fire
they were furiously indignant, interpreting it as the effect of the
malice of man,--as the work of the Republicans, or of the Papists,
according as their prepossessions ran in favour of loyalty or of

It would, I fancy, have fared but ill with one who, standing where I now
stand, in what was then a thickly peopled and fashionable part of
London, should have broached to our ancestors the doctrine which I now
propound to you--that all their hypotheses were alike wrong; that the
plague was no more, in their sense, Divine judgment, than the fire was
the work of any political, or of any religious, sect; but that they were
themselves the authors of both plague and fire, and that they must look
to themselves to prevent the recurrence of calamities, to all appearance
so peculiarly beyond the reach of human control--so evidently the result
of the wrath of God, or of the craft and subtlety of an enemy.

And one may picture to oneself how harmoniously the holy cursing of the
Puritan of that day would have chimed in with the unholy cursing and the
crackling wit of the Rochesters and Sedleys, and with the revilings of
the political fanatics, if my imaginary plain dealer had gone on to say
that, if the return of such misfortunes were ever rendered impossible,
it would not be in virtue of the victory of the faith of Laud, or of
that of Milton; and, as little, by the triumph of republicanism, as by
that of monarchy. But that the one thing needful for compassing this end
was, that the people of England should second the efforts of an
insignificant corporation, the establishment of which, a few years
before the epoch of the great plague and the great fire, had been as
little noticed, as they were conspicuous.

Some twenty years before the outbreak of the plague a few calm and
thoughtful students banded themselves together for the purpose, as they
phrased it, of "improving natural knowledge." The ends they proposed to
attain cannot be stated more clearly than in the words of one of the
founders of the organization:--

"Our business was (precluding matters of theology and state affairs) to
discourse and consider of philosophical enquiries, and such as related
thereunto:--as Physick, Anatomy, Geometry, Astronomy, Navigation,
Staticks, Magneticks, Chymicks, Mechanicks, and Natural Experiments;
with the state of these studies and their cultivation at home and
abroad. We then discoursed of the circulation of the blood, the valves
in the veins, the venæ lacteæ, the lymphatic vessels, the Copernican
hypothesis, the nature of comets and new stars, the satellites of
Jupiter, the oval shape (as it then appeared) of Saturn, the spots on
the sun and its turning on its own axis, the inequalities and
selenography of the moon, the several phases of Venus and Mercury, the
improvement of telescopes and grinding of glasses for that purpose, the
weight of air, the possibility or impossibility of vacuities and
nature's abhorrence thereof, the Torricellian experiment in quicksilver,
the descent of heavy bodies and the degree of acceleration therein, with
divers other things of like nature, some of which were then but new
discoveries, and others not so generally known and embraced as now they
are; with other things appertaining to what hath been called the New
Philosophy, which, from the times of Galileo at Florence, and Sir
Francis Bacon (Lord Verulam) in England, hath been much cultivated in
Italy, France, Germany, and other parts abroad, as well as with us in

The learned Dr. Wallis, writing in 1696, narrates, in these words, what
happened half a century before, or about 1645. The associates met at
Oxford, in the rooms of Dr. Wilkins, who was destined to become a
bishop; and subsequently coming together in London, they attracted the
notice of the king. And it is a strange evidence of the taste for
knowledge which the most obviously worthless of the Stuarts shared with
his father and grandfather, that Charles the Second was not content
with saying witty things about his philosophers, but did wise things
with regard to them. For he not only bestowed upon them such attention
as he could spare from his poodles and his mistresses, but, being in his
usual state of impecuniosity, begged for them of the Duke of Ormond;
and, that step being without effect, gave them Chelsea College, a
charter, and a mace: crowning his favours in the best way they could be
crowned, by burdening them no further with royal patronage or state

Thus it was that the half-dozen young men, studious of the "New
Philosophy," who met in one another's lodgings in Oxford or in London,
in the middle of the seventeenth century, grew in numerical and in real
strength, until, in its latter part, the "Royal Society for the
Improvement of Natural Knowledge" had already become famous, and had
acquired a claim upon the veneration of Englishmen, which it has ever
since retained, as the principal focus of scientific activity in our
islands, and the chief champion of the cause it was formed to support.

It was by the aid of the Royal Society that Newton published his
"Principia." If all the books in the world, except the Philosophical
Transactions, were destroyed, it is safe to say that the foundations of
physical science would remain unshaken, and that the vast intellectual
progress of the last two centuries would be largely, though
incompletely, recorded. Nor have any signs of halting or of decrepitude
manifested themselves in our own times. As in Dr. Wallis's days, so in
these, "our business is, precluding theology and state affairs, to
discourse and consider of philosophical enquiries." But our
"Mathematick" is one which Newton would have to go to school to learn;
our "Staticks, Mechanicks, Magneticks, Chymicks, and Natural
Experiments" constitute a mass of physical and chemical knowledge, a
glimpse at which would compensate Galileo for the doings of a score of
inquisitorial cardinals; our "Physick" and "Anatomy" have embraced such
infinite varieties of being, have laid open such new worlds in time and
space, have grappled, not unsuccessfully, with such complex problems,
that the eyes of Vesalius and of Harvey might be dazzled by the sight of
the tree that has grown out of their grain of mustard seed.

The fact is perhaps rather too much, than too little, forced upon one's
notice, nowadays, that all this marvellous intellectual growth has a no
less wonderful expression in practical life; and that, in this respect,
if in no other, the movement symbolized by the progress of the Royal
Society stands without a parallel in the history of mankind.

A series of volumes as bulky as the Transactions of the Royal Society
might possibly be filled with the subtle speculations of the schoolmen;
not improbably, the obtaining a mastery over the products of mediæval
thought might necessitate an even greater expenditure of time and of
energy than the acquirement of the "New Philosophy;" but though such
work engrossed the best intellects of Europe for a longer time than has
elapsed since the great fire, its effects were "writ in water," so far
as our social state is concerned.

On the other hand, if the noble first President of the Royal Society
could revisit the upper air and once more gladden his eyes with a sight
of the familiar mace, he would find himself in the midst of a material
civilization more different from that of his day, than that of the
seventeenth, was from that of the first, century. And if Lord
Brouncker's native sagacity had not deserted his ghost, he would need no
long reflection to discover that all these great ships, these railways,
these telegraphs, these factories, these printing presses, without which
the whole fabric of modern English society would collapse into a mass of
stagnant and starving pauperism,--that all these pillars of our State
are but the ripples and the bubbles upon the surface of that great
spiritual stream, the springs of which, only, he and his fellows were
privileged to see; and seeing, to recognise as that which it behoved
them above all things to keep pure and undefiled.

It may not be too great a flight of imagination to conceive our noble
_revenant_ not forgetful of the great troubles of his own day, and
anxious to know how often London had been burned down since his time,
and how often the plague had carried off its thousands. He would have to
learn that, although London contains tenfold the inflammable matter that
it did in 1666; though, not content with filling our rooms with woodwork
and light draperies, we must needs lead inflammable and explosive gases
into every corner of our streets and houses, we never allow even a
street to burn down. And if he asked how this had come about, we should
have to explain that the improvement of natural knowledge has furnished
us with dozens of machines for throwing water upon fires, anyone of
which would have furnished the ingenious Mr. Hooke, the first "curator
and experimenter" of the Royal Society, with ample materials for
discourse before half a dozen meetings of that body; and that, to say
truth, except for the progress of natural knowledge, we should not have
been able to make even the tools by which these machines are
constructed. And, further, it would be necessary to add, that although
severe fires sometimes occur and inflict great damage, the loss is very
generally compensated by societies, the operations of which have been
rendered possible only by the progress of natural knowledge in the
direction of mathematics, and the accumulation of wealth in virtue of
other natural knowledge.

But the plague? My Lord Brouncker's observation would not, I fear, lead
him to think that Englishmen of the nineteenth century are purer in
life, or more fervent in religious faith, than the generation which
could produce a Boyle, an Evelyn, and a Milton. He might find the mud of
society at the bottom, instead of at the top, but I fear that the sum
total would be as deserving of swift judgment as at the time of the
Restoration. And it would be our duty to explain once more, and this
time not without shame, that we have no reason to believe that it is the
improvement of our faith, nor that of our morals, which keeps the plague
from our city; but, again, that it is the improvement of our natural

We have learned that pestilences will only take up their abode among
those who have prepared unswept and ungarnished residences for them.
Their cities must have narrow, unwatered streets, foul with accumulated
garbage. Their houses must be ill-drained, ill-lighted, ill-ventilated.
Their subjects must be ill-washed, ill-fed, ill-clothed. The London of
1665 was such a city. The cities of the East, where plague has an
enduring dwelling, are such cities. We, in later times, have learned
somewhat of Nature, and partly obey her. Because of this partial
improvement of our natural knowledge and of that fractional obedience,
we have no plague; because that knowledge is still very imperfect and
that obedience yet incomplete, typhus is our companion and cholera our
visitor. But it is not presumptuous to express the belief that, when our
knowledge is more complete and our obedience the expression of our
knowledge, London will count her centuries of freedom from typhus and
cholera, as she now gratefully reckons her two hundred years of
ignorance of that plague which swooped upon her thrice in the first half
of the seventeenth century.

Surely, there is nothing in these explanations which is not fully borne
out by the facts? Surely, the principles involved in them are now
admitted among the fixed beliefs of all thinking men? Surely, it is true
that our countrymen are less subject to fire, famine, pestilence, and
all the evils which result from a want of command over and due
anticipation of the course of Nature, than were the countrymen of
Milton; and health, wealth, and well-being are more abundant with us
than with them? But no less certainly is the difference due to the
improvement of our knowledge of Nature, and the extent to which that
improved knowledge has been incorporated with the household words of
men, and has supplied the springs of their daily actions.

Granting for a moment, then, the truth of that which the depreciators of
natural knowledge are so fond of urging, that its improvement can only
add to the resources of our material civilization; admitting it to be
possible that the founders of the Royal Society themselves looked for no
other reward than this, I cannot confess that I was guilty of
exaggeration when I hinted, that to him who had the gift of
distinguishing between prominent events and important events, the origin
of a combined effort on the part of mankind to improve natural knowledge
might have loomed larger than the Plague and have outshone the glare of
the Fire; as a something fraught with a wealth of beneficence to
mankind, in comparison with which the damage done by those ghastly evils
would shrink into insignificance.

It is very certain that for every victim slain by the plague, hundreds
of mankind exist and find a fair share of happiness in the world, by the
aid of the spinning jenny. And the great fire, at its worst, could not
have burned the supply of coal, the daily working of which, in the
bowels of the earth, made possible by the steam pump, gives rise to an
amount of wealth to which the millions lost in old London are but as an
old song.

But spinning jenny and steam pump are, after all, but toys, possessing
an accidental value; and natural knowledge creates multitudes of more
subtle contrivances, the praises of which do not happen to be sung
because they are not directly convertible into instruments for creating
wealth. When I contemplate natural knowledge squandering such gifts
among men, the only appropriate comparison I can find for her is, to
liken her to such a peasant woman as one sees in the Alps, striding ever
upward, heavily burdened, and with mind bent only on her home; but yet,
without effort and without thought, knitting for her children. Now
stockings are good and comfortable things, and the children will
undoubtedly be much the better for them; but surely it would be
short-sighted, to say the least of it, to depreciate this toiling mother
as a mere stocking-machine--a mere provider of physical comforts?

However, there are blind leaders of the blind, and not a few of them,
who take this view of natural knowledge, and can see nothing in the
bountiful mother of humanity but a sort of comfort-grinding machine.
According to them, the improvement of natural knowledge always has been,
and always must be, synonymous with no more than the improvement of the
material resources and the increase of the gratifications of men.

Natural knowledge is, in their eyes, no real mother of mankind, bringing
them up with kindness, and, if need be, with sternness, in the way they
should go, and instructing them in all things needful for their welfare;
but a sort of fairy godmother, ready to furnish her pets with shoes of
swiftness, swords of sharpness, and omnipotent Aladdin's lamps, so that
they may have telegraphs to Saturn, and see the other side of the moon,
and thank God they are better than their benighted ancestors.

If this talk were true, I, for one, should not greatly care to toil in
the service of natural knowledge. I think I would just as soon be
quietly chipping my own flint axe, after the manner of my forefathers a
few thousand years back, as be troubled with the endless malady of
thought which now infests us all, for such reward. But I venture to say
that such views are contrary alike to reason and to fact. Those who
discourse in such fashion seem to me to be so intent upon trying to see
what is above Nature, or what is behind her, that they are blind to what
stares them in the face, in her.

I should not venture to speak thus strongly if my justification were not
to be found in the simplest and most obvious facts,--if it needed more
than an appeal to the most notorious truths to justify my assertion,
that the improvement of natural knowledge, whatever direction it has
taken, and however low the aims of those who may have commenced it--has
not only conferred practical benefits on men, but, in so doing, has
effected a revolution in their conceptions of the universe and of
themselves, and has profoundly altered their modes of thinking and their
views of right and wrong. I say that natural knowledge, seeking to
satisfy natural wants, has found the ideas which can alone still
spiritual cravings. I say that natural knowledge, in desiring to
ascertain the laws of comfort, has been driven to discover those of
conduct; and to lay the foundations of a new morality.

Let us take these points separately; and, first, what great ideas has
natural knowledge introduced into men's minds?

I cannot but think that the foundations of all natural knowledge were
laid when the reason of man first came face to face with the facts of
Nature: when the savage first learned that the fingers of one hand are
fewer than those of both; that it is shorter to cross a stream than to
head it; that a stone stops where it is unless it be moved, and that it
drops from the hand which lets it go; that light and heat come and go
with the sun; that sticks burn away in a fire; that plants and animals
grow and die; that if he struck his fellow-savage a blow he would make
him angry, and perhaps get a blow in return, while if he offered him a
fruit he would please him, and perhaps receive a fish in exchange. When
men had acquired this much knowledge, the outlines, rude though they
were, of mathematics, of physics, of chemistry, of biology, of moral,
economical, and political science, were sketched. Nor did the germ of
religion fail when science began to bud. Listen to words which, though
new, are yet three thousand years old:--

     "...When in heaven the stars about the moon
     Look beautiful, when all the winds are laid,
     And every height comes out, and jutting peak
     And valley, and the immeasurable heavens
     Break open to their highest, and all the stars
     Shine, and the shepherd gladdens in his heart."[1]

If the half-savage Greek could share our feelings thus far, it is
irrational to doubt that he went further, to find, as we do, that upon
that brief gladness there follows a certain sorrow,--the little light of
awakened human intelligence shines so mere a spark amidst the abyss of
the unknown and unknowable; seems so insufficient to do more than
illuminate the imperfections that cannot be remedied, the aspirations
that cannot be realized, of man's own nature. But in this sadness, this
consciousness of the limitation of man, this sense of an open secret
which he cannot penetrate, lies the essence of all religion; and the
attempt to embody it in the forms furnished by the intellect is the
origin of the higher theologies.

Thus it seems impossible to imagine but that the foundations of all
knowledge--secular or sacred--were laid when intelligence dawned, though
the superstructure remained for long ages so slight and feeble as to be
compatible with the existence of almost any general view respecting the
mode of governance of the universe. No doubt, from the first, there were
certain phenomena which, to the rudest mind, presented a constancy of
occurrence, and suggested that a fixed order ruled, at any rate, among
them. I doubt if the grossest of Fetish worshippers ever imagined that a
stone must have a god within it to make it fall, or that a fruit had a
god within it to make it taste sweet. With regard to such matters as
these, it is hardly questionable that mankind from the first took
strictly positive and scientific views.

But, with respect to all the less familiar occurrences which present
themselves, uncultured man, no doubt, has always taken himself as the
standard of comparison, as the centre and measure of the world; nor
could he well avoid doing so. And finding that his apparently uncaused
will has a powerful effect in giving rise to many occurrences, he
naturally enough ascribed other and greater events to other and greater
volitions, and came to look upon the world and all that therein is, as
the product of the volitions of persons like himself, but stronger, and
capable of being appeased or angered, as he himself might be soothed or
irritated. Through such conceptions of the plan and working of the
universe all mankind have passed, or are passing. And we may now
consider, what has been the effect of the improvement of natural
knowledge on the views of men who have reached this stage, and who have
begun to cultivate natural knowledge with no desire but that of
"increasing God's honour and bettering man's estate."

For example: what could seem wiser, from a mere material point of view,
more innocent, from a theological one, to an ancient people, than that
they should learn the exact succession of the seasons, as warnings for
their husbandmen; or the position of the stars, as guides to their rude
navigators? But what has grown out of this search for natural knowledge
of so merely useful a character? You all know the reply.
Astronomy,--which of all sciences has filled men's minds with general
ideas of a character most foreign to their daily experience, and has,
more than any other, rendered it impossible for them to accept the
beliefs of their fathers. Astronomy,--which tells them that this so vast
and seemingly solid earth is but an atom among atoms, whirling, no man
knows whither, through illimitable space; which demonstrates that what
we call the peaceful heaven above us, is but that space, filled by an
infinitely subtle matter whose particles are seething and surging, like
the waves of an angry sea; which opens up to us infinite regions where
nothing is known, or ever seems to have been known, but matter and
force, operating according to rigid rules; which leads us to contemplate
phenomena the very nature of which demonstrates that they must have had
a beginning, and that they must have an end, but the very nature of
which also proves that the beginning was, to our conceptions of time,
infinitely remote, and that the end is as immeasurably distant.

But it is not alone those who pursue astronomy who ask for bread and
receive ideas. What more harmless than the attempt to lift and
distribute water by pumping it; what more absolutely and grossly
utilitarian? But out of pumps grew the discussions about Nature's
abhorrence of a vacuum; and then it was discovered that Nature does not
abhor a vacuum, but that air has weight; and that notion paved the way
for the doctrine that all matter has weight, and that the force which
produces weight is co-extensive with the universe,--in short, to the
theory of universal gravitation and endless force. While learning how to
handle gases led to the discovery of oxygen, and to modern chemistry,
and to the notion of the indestructibility of matter.

Again, what simpler, or more absolutely practical, than the attempt to
keep the axle of a wheel from heating when the wheel turns round very
fast? How useful for carters and gig drivers to know something about
this; and how good were it, if any ingenious person would find out the
cause of such phenomena, and thence educe a general remedy for them.
Such an ingenious person was Count Rumford; and he and his successors
have landed us in the theory of the persistence, or indestructibility,
of force. And in the infinitely minute, as in the infinitely great, the
seekers after natural knowledge, of the kinds called physical and
chemical, have everywhere found a definite order and succession of
events which seem never to be infringed.

And how has it fared with "Physick" and Anatomy? Have the anatomist, the
physiologist, or the physician, whose business it has been to devote
themselves assiduously to that eminently practical and direct end, the
alleviation of the sufferings of mankind,--have they been able to
confine their vision more absolutely to the strictly useful? I fear they
are worst offenders of all. For if the astronomer has set before us the
infinite magnitude of space, and the practical eternity of the duration
of the universe; if the physical and chemical philosophers have
demonstrated the infinite minuteness of its constituent parts, and the
practical eternity of matter and of force; and if both have alike
proclaimed the universality of a definite and predicable order and
succession of events, the workers in biology have not only accepted all
these, but have added more startling theses of their own. For, as the
astronomers discover in the earth no centre of the universe, but an
eccentric speck, so the naturalists find man to be no centre of the
living world, but one amidst endless modifications of life; and as the
astronomer observes the mark of practically endless time set upon the
arrangements of the solar system, so the student of life finds the
records of ancient forms of existence peopling the world for ages,
which, in relation to human experience, are infinite.

Furthermore, the physiologist finds life to be as dependent for its
manifestation on particular molecular arrangements as any physical or
chemical phenomenon; and, wherever he extends his researches, fixed
order and unchanging causation reveal themselves, as plainly as in the
rest of Nature.

Nor can I find that any other fate has awaited the germ of Religion.
Arising, like all other kinds of knowledge, out of the action and
interaction of man's mind, with that which is not man's mind, it has
taken the intellectual coverings of Fetishism or Polytheism; of Theism
or Atheism; of Superstition or Rationalism. With these, and their
relative merits and demerits, I have nothing to do; but this it is
needful for my purpose to say, that if the religion of the present
differs from that of the past, it is because the theology of the present
has become more scientific than that of the past; because it has not
only renounced idols of wood and idols of stone, but begins to see the
necessity of breaking in pieces the idols built up of books and
traditions and fine-spun ecclesiastical cobwebs: and of cherishing the
noblest and most human of man's emotions, by worship "for the most part
of the silent sort" at the altar of the Unknown and Unknowable.

Such are a few of the new conceptions implanted in our minds by the
improvement of natural knowledge. Men have acquired the ideas of the
practically infinite extent of the universe and of its practical
eternity; they are familiar with the conception that our earth is but an
infinitesimal fragment of that part of the universe which can be seen;
and that, nevertheless, its duration is, as compared with our standards
of time, infinite. They have further acquired the idea that man is but
one of innumerable forms of life now existing in the globe, and that the
present existences are but the last of an immeasurable series of
predecessors. Moreover, every step they have made in natural knowledge
has tended to extend and rivet in their minds the conception of a
definite order of the universe--which is embodied in what are called, by
an unhappy metaphor, the laws of Nature--and to narrow the range and
loosen the force of men's belief in spontaneity, or in changes other
than such as arise out of that definite order itself.

Whether these ideas are well or ill founded is not the question. No one
can deny that they exist, and have been the inevitable outgrowth of the
improvement of natural knowledge. And if so, it cannot be doubted that
they are changing the form of men's most cherished and most important

And as regards the second point--the extent to which the improvement of
natural knowledge has remodelled and altered what may be termed the
intellectual ethics of men,--what are among the moral convictions most
fondly held by barbarous and semi-barbarous people?

They are the convictions that authority is the soundest basis of belief;
that merit attaches to a readiness to believe; that the doubting
disposition is a bad one, and scepticism a sin; that when good authority
has pronounced what is to be believed, and faith has accepted it, reason
has no further duty. There are many excellent persons who yet hold by
these principles, and it is not my present business, or intention, to
discuss their views. All I wish to bring clearly before your minds is
the unquestionable fact, that the improvement of natural knowledge is
effected by methods which directly give the lie to all these
convictions, and assume the exact reverse of each to be true.

The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge
authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind
faith the one unpardonable sin. And it cannot be otherwise, for every
great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection
of authority, the cherishing of the keenest scepticism, the annihilation
of the spirit of blind faith: and the most ardent votary of science
holds his firmest convictions, not because the men he most venerates
hold them; not because their verity is testified by portents and
wonders; but because his experience teaches him that whenever he chooses
to bring these convictions into contact with their primary source,
Nature--whenever he thinks fit to test them by appealing to experiment
and to observation--Nature will confirm them. The man of science has
learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.

Thus, without for a moment pretending to despise the practical results
of the improvement of natural knowledge, and its beneficial influence on
material civilization, it must, I think, be admitted that the great
ideas, some of which I have indicated, and the ethical spirit which I
have endeavoured to sketch, in the few moments which remained at my
disposal, constitute the real and permanent significance of natural

If these ideas be destined, as I believe they are, to be more and more
firmly established as the world grows older; if that spirit be fated, as
I believe it is, to extend itself into all departments of human thought,
and to become co-extensive with the range of knowledge; if, as our race
approaches its maturity, it discovers, as I believe it will, that there
is but one kind of knowledge and but one method of acquiring it; then
we, who are still children, may justly feel it our highest duty to
recognise the advisableness of improving natural knowledge, and so to
aid ourselves and our successors in their course towards the noble goal
which lies before mankind.


[1] Need it be said that this is Tennyson's English for Homer's Greek?



Quashie's plaintive inquiry, "Am I not a man and a brother?" seems at
last to have received its final reply--the recent decision of the fierce
trial by battle on the other side of the Atlantic fully concurring with
that long since delivered here in a more peaceful way.

The question is settled; but even those who are most thoroughly
convinced that the doom is just, must see good grounds for repudiating
half the arguments which have been employed by the winning side; and for
doubting whether its ultimate results will embody the hopes of the
victors, though they may more than realize the fears of the vanquished.
It may be quite true that some negroes are better than some white men;
but no rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average
negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the average white man.
And, if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his
disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field
and no favour, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete
successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a
contest which is to be carried on by thoughts and not by bites. The
highest places in the hierarchy of civilization will assuredly not be
within the reach of our dusky cousins, though it is by no means
necessary that they should be restricted to the lowest. But whatever the
position of stable equilibrium into which the laws of social gravitation
may bring the negro, all responsibility for the result will henceforward
lie between Nature and him. The white man may wash his hands of it, and
the Caucasian conscience be void of reproach for evermore. And this, if
we look to the bottom of the matter, is the real justification for the
abolition policy.

The doctrine of equal natural rights may be an illogical delusion;
emancipation may convert the slave from a well fed animal into a
pauperised man; mankind may even have to do without cotton shirts; but
all these evils must be faced, if the moral law, that no human being can
arbitrarily dominate over another without grievous damage to his own
nature, be, as many think, as readily demonstrable by experiment as any
physical truth. If this be true, no slavery can be abolished without a
double emancipation, and the master will benefit by freedom more than
the freed-man.

The like considerations apply to all the other questions of emancipation
which are at present stirring the world--the multifarious demands that
classes of mankind shall be relieved from restrictions imposed by the
artifice of man, and not by the necessities of Nature. One of the most
important, if not the most important, of all these, is that which daily
threatens to become the "irrepressible" woman question. What social and
political rights have women? What ought they to be allowed, or not
allowed, to do, be, and suffer? And, as involved in, and underlying all
these questions, how ought they to be educated?

There are philogynists as fanatical as any "misogynists" who, reversing
our antiquated notions, bid the man look upon the woman as the higher
type of humanity; who ask us to regard the female intellect as the
clearer and the quicker, if not the stronger; who desire us to look up
to the feminine moral sense as the purer and the nobler; and bid man
abdicate his usurped sovereignty over Nature in favour of the female
line. On the other hand, there are persons not to be outdone in all
loyalty and just respect for woman-kind, but by nature hard of head and
haters of delusion, however charming, who not only repudiate the new
woman-worship which so many sentimentalists and some philosophers are
desirous of setting up, but, carrying their audacity further, deny even
the natural equality of the sexes. They assert, on the contrary, that in
every excellent character, whether mental or physical, the average woman
is inferior to the average man, in the sense of having that character
less in quantity, and lower in quality. Tell these persons of the rapid
perceptions and the instinctive intellectual insight of women, and they
reply that the feminine mental peculiarities, which pass under these
names, are merely the outcome of a greater impressibility to the
superficial aspects of things, and of the absence of that restraint upon
expression, which, in men, is imposed by reflection and a sense of
responsibility. Talk of the passive endurance of the weaker sex, and
opponents of this kind remind you that Job was a man, and that, until
quite recent times, patience and long-suffering were not counted among
the specially feminine virtues. Claim passionate tenderness as
especially feminine, and the inquiry is made whether all the best
love-poetry in existence (except, perhaps, the "Sonnets from the
Portuguese") has not been written by men; whether the song which
embodies the ideal of pure and tender passion--Adelaida--was written by
_Frau_ Beethoven; whether it was the Fornarina, or Raphael, who painted
the Sistine Madonna. Nay, we have known one such heretic go so far as to
lay his hands upon the ark itself, so to speak, and to defend the
startling paradox that, even in physical beauty, man is the superior. He
admitted, indeed, that there was a brief period of early youth when it
might be hard to say whether the prize should be awarded to the graceful
undulations of the female figure, or the perfect balance and supple
vigour of the male frame. But while our new Paris might hesitate between
the youthful Bacchus and the Venus emerging from the foam, he averred
that, when Venus and Bacchus had reached thirty, the point no longer
admitted of a doubt; the male form having then attained its greatest
nobility, while the female is far gone in decadence; and that, at this
epoch, womanly beauty, so far as it is independent of grace or
expression, is a question of drapery and accessories.

Supposing, however, that all these arguments have a certain foundation;
admitting for a moment, that they are comparable to those by which the
inferiority of the negro to the white man may be demonstrated, are they
of any value as against woman-emancipation? Do they afford us the
smallest ground for refusing to educate women as well as men--to give
women the same civil and political rights as men? No mistake is so
commonly made by clever people as that of assuming a cause to be had
because the arguments of its supporters are, to a great extent,
nonsensical. And we conceive that those who may laugh at the arguments
of the extreme philogynists, may yet feel bound to work heart and soul
towards the attainment of their practical ends.

As regards education, for example. Granting the alleged defects of
women, is it not somewhat absurd to sanction and maintain a system of
education which would seem to have been specially contrived to
exaggerate all these defects?

Naturally not so firmly strung, nor so well balanced, as boys, girls are
in great measure debarred from the sports and physical exercises which
are justly thought absolutely necessary for the full development of the
vigour of the more favoured sex. Women are, by nature, more excitable
than men--prone to be swept by tides of emotion, proceeding from hidden
and inward, as well as from obvious and external causes; and female
education does its best to weaken every physical counterpoise to this
nervous mobility--tends in all ways to stimulate the emotional part of
the mind and stunt the rest. We find girls naturally timid, inclined to
dependence, born conservatives; and we teach them that independence is
unladylike; that blind faith is the right frame of mind; and that
whatever we may be permitted, and indeed encouraged, to do to our
brother, our sister is to be left to the tyranny of authority and
tradition. With few insignificant exceptions, girls have been educated
either to be drudges, or toys, beneath man; or a sort of angels above
him; the highest ideal aimed at oscillating between Clärchen and
Beatrice. The possibility that the ideal of womanhood lies neither in
the fair saint, nor in the fair sinner; that the female type of
character is neither better nor worse than the male, but only weaker;
that women are meant neither to be men's guides nor their playthings,
but their comrades, their fellows and their equals, so far as Nature
puts no bar to that equality, does not seem to have entered into the
minds of those who have had the conduct of the education of girls.

If the present system of female education stands self-condemned, as
inherently absurd; and if that which we have just indicated is the true
position of woman, what is the first step towards a better state of
things? We reply, emancipate girls. Recognise the fact that they share
the senses, perceptions, feelings, reasoning powers, emotions, of boys,
and that the mind of the average girl is less different from that of the
average boy, than the mind of one boy is from that of another; so that
whatever argument justifies a given education for all boys, justifies
its application to girls as well. So far from imposing artificial
restrictions upon the acquirement of knowledge by women, throw every
facility in their way. Let our Faustinas, if they will, toil through the
whole round of

     "Juristerei und Medizin,
     Und leider! auch Philosophie."

Let us have "sweet girl graduates" by all means. They will be none the
less sweet for a little wisdom; and the "golden hair" will not curl less
gracefully outside the head by reason of there being brains within. Nay,
if obvious practical difficulties can be overcome, let those women who
feel inclined to do so descend into the gladiatorial arena of life, not
merely in the guise of _retiariæ_, as heretofore, but as bold
_sicariæ_, breasting the open fray. Let them, if they so please, become
merchants, barristers, politicians. Let them have a fair field, but let
them understand, as the necessary correlative, that they are to have no
favour. Let Nature alone sit above the lists, "rain influence and judge
the prize."

And the result? For our parts, though loth to prophesy, we believe it
will be that of other emancipations. Women will find their place, and it
will neither be that in which they have been held, nor that to which
some of them aspire. Nature's old salique law will not be repealed, and
no change of dynasty will be effected. The big chests, the massive
brains, the vigorous muscles and stout frames, of the best men will
carry the day, whenever it is worth their while to contest the prizes of
life with the best women. And the hardship of it is, that the very
improvement of the women will lessen their chances. Better mothers will
bring forth better sons, and the impetus gained by the one sex will be
transmitted, in the next generation, to the other. The most Darwinian of
theorists will not venture to propound the doctrine, that the physical
disabilities under which women have hitherto laboured, in the struggle
for existence with men, are likely to be removed by even the most
skilfully conducted process of educational selection.

We are, indeed, fully prepared to believe that the bearing of children
may, and ought, to become as free from danger and long disability, to
the civilized woman, as it is to the savage; nor is it improbable that,
as society advances towards its right organization, motherhood will
occupy a less space of woman's life than it has hitherto done. But
still, unless the human species is to come to an end altogether--a
consummation which can hardly be desired by even the most ardent
advocate of "women's rights"--somebody must be good enough to take the
trouble and responsibility of annually adding to the world exactly as
many people as die out of it. In consequence of some domestic
difficulties, Sydney Smith is said to have suggested that it would have
been good for the human race had the model offered by the hive been
followed, and had all the working part of the female community been
neuters. Failing any thorough-going reform of this kind, we see nothing
for it but the old division of humanity into men potentially, or
actually, fathers, and women potentially, if not actually, mothers. And
we fear that so long as this potential motherhood is her lot, woman will
be found to be fearfully weighted in the race of life.

The duty of man is to see that not a grain is piled upon that load
beyond what Nature imposes; that injustice is not added to inequality.



The business which the South London Working Men's College has undertaken
is a great work; indeed, I might say, that Education, with which that
college proposes to grapple, is the greatest work of all those which lie
ready to a man's hand just at present.

And, at length, this fact is becoming generally recognised. You cannot
go anywhere without hearing a buzz of more or less confused and
contradictory talk on this subject--nor can you fail to notice that, in
one point at any rate, there is a very decided advance upon like
discussions in former days. Nobody outside the agricultural interest now
dares to say that education is a bad thing. If any representative of the
once large and powerful party, which, in former days, proclaimed this
opinion, still exists in a semi-fossil state, he keeps his thoughts to
himself. In fact, there is a chorus of voices, almost distressing in
their harmony, raised in favour of the doctrine that education is the
great panacea for human troubles, and that, if the country is not
shortly to go to the dogs, everybody must be educated.

The politicians tell us, "you must educate the masses because they are
going to be masters." The clergy join in the cry for education, for they
affirm that the people are drifting away from church and chapel into the
broadest infidelity. The manufacturers and the capitalists swell the
chorus lustily. They declare that ignorance makes bad workmen; that
England will soon be unable to turn out cotton goods, or steam engines,
cheaper than other people; and then, Ichabod! Ichabod! the glory will be
departed from us. And a few voices are lifted up in favour of the
doctrine that the masses should be educated because they are men and
women with unlimited capacities of being, doing, and suffering, and that
it is as true now, as ever it was, that the people perish for lack of

These members of the minority, with whom I confess I have a good deal of
sympathy, are doubtful whether any of the other reasons urged in favour
of the education of the people are of much value--whether, indeed, some
of them are based upon either wise or noble grounds of action. They
question if it be wise to tell people that you will do for them, out of
fear of their power, what you have left undone, so long as your only
motive was compassion for their weakness and their sorrows. And, if
ignorance of everything which it is needful a ruler should know is
likely to do so much harm in the governing classes of the future, why is
it, they ask reasonably enough, that such ignorance in the governing
classes of the past has not been viewed with equal horror?

Compare the average artisan and the average country squire, and it may
be doubted if you will find a pin to choose between the two in point of
ignorance, class feeling, or prejudice. It is true that the ignorance
is of a different sort--that the class feeling is in favour of a
different class, and that the prejudice has a distinct flavour of
wrong-headedness in each case--but it is questionable if the one is
either a bit better, or a bit worse than the other. The old
protectionist theory is the doctrine of trades unions as applied by the
squires, and the modern trades unionism is the doctrine of the squires
applied by the artisans. Why should we be worse off under one _régime_
than under the other?

Again, this sceptical minority asks the clergy to think whether it is
really want of education which keeps the masses away from their
ministrations--whether the most completely educated men are not as open
to reproach on this score as the workmen; and whether, perchance, this
may not indicate that it is not education which lies at the bottom of
the matter?

Once more, these people, whom there is no pleasing, venture to doubt
whether the glory, which rests upon being able to undersell all the rest
of the world, is a very safe kind of glory--whether we may not purchase
it too dear; especially if we allow education, which ought to be
directed to the making of men, to be diverted into a process of
manufacturing human tools, wonderfully adroit in the exercise of some
technical industry, but good for nothing else.

And, finally, these people inquire whether it is the masses alone who
need a reformed and improved education. They ask whether the richest of
our public schools might not well be made to supply knowledge, as well
as gentlemanly habits, a strong class feeling, and eminent proficiency
in cricket. They seem to think that the noble foundations of our old
universities are hardly fulfilling their functions in their present
posture of half-clerical seminaries, half racecourses, where men are
trained to win a senior wranglership, or a double-first, as horses are
trained to win a cup, with as little reference to the needs of
after-life in the case of the man as in that of the racer. And, while as
zealous for education as the rest, they affirm that, if the education of
the richer classes were such as to fit them to be the leaders and the
governors of the poorer; and, if the education of the poorer classes
were such as to enable them to appreciate really wise guidance and good
governance; the politicians need not fear mob-law, nor the clergy lament
their want of flocks, nor the capitalists prognosticate the annihilation
of the prosperity of the country.

Such is the diversity of opinion upon the why and the wherefore of
education. And my hearers will be prepared to expect that the practical
recommendations which are put forward are not less discordant. There is
a loud cry for compulsory education. We English, in spite of constant
experience to the contrary, preserve a touching faith in the efficacy of
acts of parliament; and I believe we should have compulsory education in
the course of next session, if there were the least probability that
half a dozen leading statesmen of different parties would agree what
that education should be.

Some hold that education without theology is worse than none. Others
maintain, quite as strongly, that education with theology is in the same
predicament. But this is certain, that those who hold the first opinion
can by no means agree what theology should be taught; and that those who
maintain the second are in a small minority.

At any rate "make people learn to read, write, and cipher," say a great
many; and the advice is undoubtedly sensible as far as it goes. But, as
has happened to me in former days, those who, in despair of getting
anything better, advocate this measure, are met with the objection that
it is very like making a child practise the use of a knife, fork, and
spoon, without giving it a particle of meat. I really don't know what
reply is to be made to such an objection.

But it would be unprofitable to spend more time in disentangling, or
rather in showing up the knots in, the ravelled skeins of our
neighbours. Much more to the purpose is it to ask if we possess any clue
of our own which may guide us among these entanglements. And by way of a
beginning, let us ask ourselves--What is education? Above all things,
what is our ideal of a thoroughly liberal education?--of that education
which, if we could begin life again, we would give ourselves--of that
education which, if we could mould the fates to our own will, we would
give our children. Well, I know not what may be your conceptions upon
this matter, but I will tell you mine, and I hope I shall find that our
views are not very discrepant.

Suppose it were perfectly certain that the life and fortune of every one
of us would, one day or other, depend upon his winning or losing a game
at chess. Don't you think that we should all consider it to be a primary
duty to learn at least the names and the moves of the pieces; to have a
notion of a gambit, and a keen eye for all the means of giving and
getting out of check? Do you not think that we should look with a
disapprobation amounting to scorn, upon the father who allowed his son,
or the state which allowed its members, to grow up without knowing a
pawn from a knight?

Yet it is a very plain and elementary truth, that the life, the fortune,
and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less, of those who
are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something of the rules
of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. It is a
game which has been played for untold ages, every man and woman of us
being one of the two players in a game of his or her own. The
chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe,
the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on
the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair,
just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never
overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To
the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paid, with that sort of
overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength.
And one who plays ill is checkmated--without haste, but without remorse.

My metaphor will remind some of you of the famous picture in which
Retzsch has depicted Satan playing at chess with man for his soul.
Substitute for the mocking fiend in that picture, a calm, strong angel
who is playing for love, as we say, and would rather lose than win--and
I should accept it as an image of human life.

Well, what I mean by Education is learning the rules of this mighty
game. In other words, education is the instruction of the intellect in
the laws of Nature, under which name I include not merely things and
their forces, but men and their ways; and the fashioning of the
affections and of the will into an earnest and loving desire to move in
harmony with those laws. For me, education means neither more nor less
than this. Anything which professes to call itself education must be
tried by this standard, and if it fails to stand the test, I will not
call it education, whatever may be the force of authority, or of
numbers, upon the other side.

It is important to remember that, in strictness, there is no such thing
as an uneducated man. Take an extreme case. Suppose that an adult man,
in the full vigour of his faculties, could be suddenly placed in the
world, as Adam is said to have been, and then left to do as he best
might. How long would he be left uneducated? Not five minutes. Nature
would begin to teach him, through the eye, the ear, the touch, the
properties of objects. Pain and pleasure would be at his elbow telling
him to do this and avoid that; and by slow degrees the man would receive
an education, which, if narrow, would be thorough, real, and adequate to
his circumstances, though there would be no extras and very few

And if to this solitary man entered a second Adam, or, better still, an
Eve, a new and greater world, that of social and moral phenomena, would
be revealed. Joys and woes, compared with which all others might seem
but faint shadows, would spring from the new relations. Happiness and
sorrow would take the place of the coarser monitors, pleasure and pain;
but conduct would still be shaped by the observation of the natural
consequences of actions; or, in other words, by the laws of the nature
of man.

To every one of us the world was once as fresh and new as to Adam. And
then, long before we were susceptible of any other mode of instruction,
Nature took us in hand, and every minute of waking life brought its
educational influence, shaping our actions into rough accordance with
Nature's laws, so that we might not be ended untimely by too gross
disobedience. Nor should I speak of this process of education as past,
for any one, be he as old as he may. For every man, the world is as
fresh as it was at the first day, and as full of untold novelties for
him who has the eyes to see them. And Nature is still continuing her
patient education of us in that great university, the universe, of which
we are all members--Nature having no Test-Acts.

Those who take honours in Nature's university, who learn the laws which
govern men and things and obey them, are the really great and successful
men in this world. The great mass of mankind are the "Poll," who pick up
just enough to get through without much discredit. Those who won't learn
at all are plucked; and then you can't come up again. Nature's pluck
means extermination.

Thus the question of compulsory education is settled so far as Nature is
concerned. Her bill on that question was framed and passed long ago.
But, like all compulsory legislation, that of Nature is harsh and
wasteful in its operation. Ignorance is visited as sharply as wilful
disobedience--incapacity meets with the same punishment as crime.
Nature's discipline is not even a word and a blow, and the blow first;
but the blow without the word. It is left to you to find out why your
ears are boxed.

The object of what we commonly call education--that education in which
man intervenes and which I shall distinguish as artificial education--is
to make good these defects in Nature's methods; to prepare the child to
receive Nature's education, neither incapably nor ignorantly, nor with
wilful disobedience; and to understand the preliminary symptoms of her
displeasure, without waiting for the box on the ear. In short, all
artificial education ought to be an anticipation of natural education.
And a liberal education is an artificial education, which has not only
prepared a man to escape the great evils of disobedience to natural
laws, but has trained him to appreciate and to seize upon the rewards,
which Nature scatters with as free a hand as her penalties.

That man, I think, has had a liberal education, who has been so trained
in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will, and does with
ease and pleasure all the work that, as a mechanism, it is capable of;
whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine, with all its parts of
equal strength, and in smooth working order; ready, like a steam engine,
to be turned to any kind of work, and spin the gossamers as well as
forge the anchors of the mind; whose mind is stored with a knowledge of
the great and fundamental truths of Nature and of the laws of her
operations; one who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but
whose passions are trained to come to heel by a vigorous will, the
servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love all beauty,
whether of Nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others
as himself.

Such an one and no other, I conceive, has had a liberal education; for
he is, as completely as a man can be, in harmony with Nature. He will
make the best of her, and she of him. They will get on together rarely;
she as his ever beneficent mother; he as her mouth-piece, her conscious
self, her minister and interpreter.

Where is such an education as this to be had? Where is there any
approximation to it? Has any one tried to found such an education?
Looking over the length and breadth of these islands, I am afraid that
all these questions must receive a negative answer. Consider our primary
schools, and what is taught in them. A child learns:--

1. To read, write, and cipher, more or less well; but in a very large
proportion of cases not so well as to take pleasure in reading, or to be
able to write the commonest letter properly.

2. A quantity of dogmatic theology, of which the child, nine times out
of ten, understands next to nothing.

3. Mixed up with this, so as to seem to stand or fall with it, a few of
the broadest and simplest principles of morality. This, to my mind, is
much as if a man of science should make the story of the fall of the
apple in Newton's garden, an integral part of the doctrine of
gravitation, and teach it as of equal authority with the law of the
inverse squares.

4. A good deal of Jewish history and Syrian geography, and, perhaps, a
little something about English history and the geography of the child's
own country. But I doubt if there is a primary school in England in
which hangs a map of the hundred in which the village lies, so that the
children may be practically taught by it what a map means.

5. A certain amount of regularity, attentive obedience, respect for
others: obtained by fear, if the master be incompetent or foolish; by
love and reverence, if he be wise.

So far as this school course embraces a training in the theory and
practice of obedience to the moral laws of Nature, I gladly admit, not
only that it contains a valuable educational element, but that, so far,
it deals with the most valuable and important part of all education.
Yet, contrast what is done in this direction with what might be done;
with the time given to matters of comparatively no importance; with the
absence of any attention to things of the highest moment; and one is
tempted to think of Falstaff's bill and "the halfpenny worth of bread to
all that quantity of sack."

Let us consider what a child thus "educated" knows, and what it does not
know. Begin with the most important topic of all--morality, as the guide
of conduct. The child knows well enough that some acts meet with
approbation and some with disapprobation. But it has never heard that
there lies in the nature of things a reason for every moral law, as
cogent and as well defined as that which underlies every physical law;
that stealing and lying are just as certain to be followed by evil
consequences, as putting your hand in the fire, or jumping out of a
garret window. Again, though the scholar may have been made acquainted,
in dogmatic fashion, with the broad laws of morality, he has had no
training in the application of those laws to the difficult problems
which result from the complex conditions of modern civilization. Would
it not be very hard to expect anyone to solve a problem in conic
sections who had merely been taught the axioms and definitions of
mathematical science?

A workman has to bear hard labour, and perhaps privation, while he sees
others rolling in wealth, and feeding their dogs with what would keep
his children from starvation. Would it not be well to have helped that
man to calm the natural promptings of discontent by showing him, in his
youth, the necessary connexion of the moral law which prohibits stealing
with the stability of society--by proving to him, once for all, that it
is better for his own people, better for himself, better for future
generations, that he should starve than steal? If you have no foundation
of knowledge, or habit of thought, to work upon, what chance have you of
persuading a hungry man that a capitalist is not a thief "with a
circumbendibus?" And if he honestly believes that, of what avail is it
to quote the commandment against stealing, when he proposes to make the
capitalist disgorge?

Again, the child learns absolutely nothing of the history or the
political organization of his own country. His general impression is,
that everything of much importance happened a very long while ago; and
that the Queen and the gentlefolks govern the country much after the
fashion of King David and the elders and nobles of Israel--his sole
models. Will you give a man with this much information a vote? In easy
times he sells it for a pot of beer. Why should he not? It is of about
as much use to him as a chignon, and he knows as much what to do with
it, for any other purpose. In bad times, on the contrary, he applies his
simple theory of government, and believes that his rulers are the cause
of his sufferings--a belief which sometimes bears remarkable practical

Least of all, does the child gather from this primary "education" of
ours a conception of the laws of the physical world, or of the relations
of cause and effect therein. And this is the more to be lamented, as the
poor are especially exposed to physical evils, and are more interested
in removing them than any other class of the community. If any one is
concerned in knowing the ordinary laws of mechanics one would think it
is the hand-labourer, whose daily toil lies among levers and pulleys; or
among the other implements of artisan work. And if any one is interested
in the laws of health, it is the poor workman, whose strength is wasted
by ill-prepared food, whose health is sapped by bad ventilation and bad
drainage, and half whose children are massacred by disorders which might
be prevented. Not only does our present primary education carefully
abstain from hinting to the workman that some of his greatest evils are
traceable to mere physical agencies, which could be removed by energy,
patience, and frugality; but it does worse--it renders him, so far as it
can, deaf to those who could help him, and tries to substitute an
Oriental submission to what is falsely declared to be the will of God,
for his natural tendency to strive after a better condition.

What wonder then, if very recently, an appeal has been made to
statistics for the profoundly foolish purpose of showing that education
is of no good--that it diminishes neither misery, nor crime, among the
masses of mankind? I reply, why should the thing which has been called
education do either the one or the other? If I am a knave or a fool,
teaching me to read and write won't make me less of either one or the
other--unless somebody shows me how to put my reading and writing to
wise and good purposes.

Suppose any one were to argue that medicine is of no use, because it
could be proved statistically, that the percentage of deaths was just
the same, among people who had been taught how to open a medicine chest,
and among those who did not so much as know the key by sight. The
argument is absurd; but it is not more preposterous than that against
which I am contending. The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all
the other woes of mankind, is wisdom. Teach a man to read and write, and
you have put into his hands the great keys of the wisdom box. But it is
quite another matter whether he ever opens the box or not. And he is as
likely to poison as to cure himself, if, without guidance, he swallows
the first drug that comes to hand. In these times a man may as well be
purblind, as unable to read--lame, as unable to write. But I protest
that, if I thought the alternative were a necessary one, I would rather
that the children of the poor should grow up ignorant of both these
mighty arts, than that they should remain ignorant of that knowledge to
which these arts are means.

It may be said that all these animadversions may apply to primary
schools, but that the higher schools, at any rate, must be allowed to
give a liberal education. In fact, they professedly sacrifice everything
else to this object.

Let us inquire into this matter. What do the higher schools, those to
which the great middle class of the country sends it children, teach,
over and above the instruction given in the primary schools? There is a
little more reading and writing of English. But, for all that, every
one knows that it is a rare thing to find a boy of the middle or upper
classes who can read aloud decently, or who can put his thoughts on
paper in clear and grammatical (to say nothing of good or elegant)
language. The "ciphering" of the lower schools expands into elementary
mathematics in the higher; into arithmetic, with a little algebra, a
little Euclid. But I doubt if one boy in five hundred has ever heard the
explanation of a rule of arithmetic, or knows his Euclid otherwise than
by rote.

Of theology, the middle class schoolboy gets rather less than poorer
children, less absolutely and less relatively, because there are so many
other claims upon his attention. I venture to say that, in the great
majority of cases, his ideas on this subject when he leaves school are
of the most shadowy and vague description, and associated with painful
impressions of the weary hours spent in learning collects and catechism
by heart.

Modern geography, modern history, modern literature; the English
language as a language; the whole circle of the sciences, physical,
moral, and social, are even more completely ignored in the higher than
in the lower schools. Up till within a few years back, a boy might have
passed through any one of the great public schools with the greatest
distinction and credit, and might never so much as have heard of one of
the subjects I have just mentioned. He might never have heard that the
earth goes round the sun; that England underwent a great revolution in
1688, and France another in 1789; that there once lived certain notable
men called Chaucer, Shakspeare, Milton, Voltaire, Goethe, Schiller. The
first might be a German and the last an Englishman for anything he
could tell you to the contrary. And as for science, the only idea the
word would suggest to his mind would be dexterity in boxing.

I have said that this was the state of things a few years back, for the
sake of the few righteous who are to be found among the educational
cities of the plain. But I would not have you too sanguine about the
result, if you sound the minds of the existing generation of public
school-boys, on such topics as those I have mentioned.

Now let us pause to consider this wonderful state of affairs; for the
time will come when Englishmen will quote it as the stock example of the
stolid stupidity of their ancestors in the nineteenth century. The most
thoroughly commercial people, the greatest voluntary wanderers and
colonists the world has ever seen, are precisely the middle classes of
this country. If there be a people which has been busy making history on
the great scale for the last three hundred years--and the most
profoundly interesting history--history which, if it happened to be that
of Greece or Rome, we should study with avidity--it is the English. If
there be a people which, during the same period, has developed a
remarkable literature, it is our own. If there be a nation whose
prosperity depends absolutely and wholly upon their mastery over the
forces of Nature, upon their intelligent apprehension of, and obedience
to, the laws of the creation and distribution of wealth, and of the
stable equilibrium of the forces of society, it is precisely this
nation. And yet this is what these wonderful people tell their
sons:--"At the cost of from one to two thousand pounds of our hard
earned money, we devote twelve of the most precious years of your lives
to school. There you shall toil, or be supposed to toil; but there you
shall not learn one single thing of all those you will most want to
know, directly you leave school and enter upon the practical business of
life. You will in all probability go into business, but you shall not
know where, or how, any article of commerce is produced, or the
difference between an export or an import, or the meaning of the word
'capital.' You will very likely settle in a colony, but you shall not
know whether Tasmania is part of New South Wales, or _vice versâ_.

"Very probably you may become a manufacturer, but you shall not be
provided with the means of understanding the working of one of your own
steam-engines, or the nature of the raw products you employ; and, when
you are asked to buy a patent, you shall not have the slightest means of
judging whether the inventor is an impostor who is contravening the
elementary principles of science, or a man who will make you as rich as

"You will very likely get into the House of Commons. You will have to
take your share in making laws which may prove a blessing or a curse to
millions of men. But you shall not hear one word respecting the
political organization of your country; the meaning of the controversy
between freetraders and protectionists shall never have been mentioned
to you: you shall not so much as know that there are such things as
economical laws.

"The mental power which will be of most importance in your daily life
will be the power of seeing things as they are without regard to
authority; and of drawing accurate general conclusions from particular
facts. But at school and at college you shall know of no source of truth
but authority; nor exercise your reasoning faculty upon anything but
deduction from that which is laid down by authority.

"You will have to weary your soul with work, and many a time eat your
bread in sorrow and in bitterness, and you shall not have learned to
take refuge in the great source of pleasure without alloy, the serene
resting-place for worn human nature,--the world of art."

Said I not rightly that we are a wonderful people? I am quite prepared
to allow, that education entirely devoted to these omitted subjects
might not be a completely liberal education. But is an education which
ignores them all, a liberal education? Nay, is it too much to say that
the education which should embrace these subjects and no others, would
be a real education, though an incomplete one; while an education which
omits them is really not an education at all, but a more or less useful
course of intellectual gymnastics?

For what does the middle-class school put in the place of all these
things which are left out? It substitutes what is usually comprised
under the compendious title of the "classics"--that is to say, the
languages, the literature, and the history of the ancient Greeks and
Romans, and the geography of so much of the world as was known to these
two great nations of antiquity. Now, do not expect me to depreciate the
earnest and enlightened pursuit of classical learning. I have not the
least desire to speak ill of such occupations, nor any sympathy with
those who run them down. On the contrary, if my opportunities had lain
in that direction, there is no investigation into which I could have
thrown myself with greater delight than that of antiquity.

What science can present greater attractions than philology? How can a
lover of literary excellence fail to rejoice in the ancient
masterpieces? And with what consistency could I, whose business lies so
much in the attempt to decipher the past, and to build up intelligible
forms out of the scattered fragments of long-extinct beings, fail to
take a sympathetic, though an unlearned, interest in the labours of a
Niebuhr, a Gibbon, or a Grote? Classical history is a great section of
the palæontology of man; and I have the same double respect for it as
for other kinds of palæontology--that is to say, a respect for the facts
which it establishes as for all facts, and a still greater respect for
it as a preparation for the discovery of a law of progress.

But if the classics were taught as they might be taught--if boys and
girls were instructed in Greek and Latin, not merely as languages, but
as illustrations of philological science; if a vivid picture of life on
the shores of the Mediterranean, two thousand years ago, were imprinted
on the minds of scholars; if ancient history were taught, not as a weary
series of feuds and fights, but traced to its causes in such men placed
under such conditions; if, lastly, the study of the classical books were
followed in such a manner as to impress boys with their beauties, and
with the grand simplicity of their statement of the everlasting problems
of human life, instead of with their verbal and grammatical
peculiarities; I still think it as little proper that they should form
the basis of a liberal education for our contemporaries, as I should
think it fitting to make that sort of palæontology with which I am
familiar, the back-bone of modern education.

It is wonderful how close a parallel to classical training could be made
out of that palæontology to which I refer. In the first place I could
get up an osteological primer so arid, so pedantic in its terminology,
so altogether distasteful to the youthful mind, as to beat the recent
famous production of the head-masters out of the field in all these
excellences. Next, I could exercise my boys upon easy fossils, and bring
out all their powers of memory and all their ingenuity in the
application of my osteo-grammatical rules to the interpretation, or
construing, of those fragments. To those who had reached the higher
classes, I might supply odd bones to be built up into animals, giving
great honour and reward to him who succeeded in fabricating monsters
most entirely in accordance with the rules. That would answer to
verse-making and essay-writing in the dead languages.

To be sure, if a great comparative anatomist were to look at these
fabrications he might shake his head, or laugh. But what then? Would
such a catastrophe destroy the parallel? What think you would Cicero, or
Horace, say to the production of the best sixth form going? And would
not Terence stop his ears and run out if he could be present at an
English performance of his own plays? Would Hamlet, in the mouths of a
set of French actors, who should insist on pronouncing English after the
fashion of their own tongue, be more hideously ridiculous?

But it will be said that I am forgetting the beauty, and the human
interest, which appertain to classical studies. To this I reply that it
is only a very strong man who can appreciate the charms of a landscape,
as he is toiling up a steep hill, along a bad road. What with
short-windedness, stones, ruts, and a pervading sense of the wisdom of
rest and be thankful, most of us have little enough sense of the
beautiful under these circumstances. The ordinary school-boy is
precisely in this case. He finds Parnassus uncommonly steep, and there
is no chance of his having much time or inclination to look about him
till he gets to the top. And nine times out of ten he does not get to
the top.

But if this be a fair picture of the results of classical teaching at
its best--and I gather from those who have authority to speak on such
matters that it is so--what is to be said of classical teaching at its
worst, or in other words, of the classics of our ordinary middle-class
schools[2]? I will tell you. It means getting up endless forms and rules
by heart. It means turning Latin and Greek into English, for the mere
sake of being able to do it, and without the smallest regard to the
worth, or worthlessness, of the author read. It means the learning of
innumerable, not always decent, fables in such a shape that the meaning
they once had is dried up into utter trash; and the only impression left
upon a boy's mind is, that the people who believed such things must have
been the greatest idiots the world ever saw. And it means, finally, that
after a dozen years spent at this kind of work, the sufferer shall be
incompetent to interpret a passage in an author he has not already got
up; that he shall loathe the sight of a Greek or Latin book; and that he
shall never open, or think of, a classical writer again, until,
wonderful to relate, he insists upon submitting his sons to the same

These be your gods, O Israel! For the sake of this net result (and
respectability) the British father denies his children all the knowledge
they might turn to account in life, not merely for the achievement of
vulgar success, but for guidance in the great crises of human existence.
This is the stone he offers to those whom he is bound by the strongest
and tenderest ties to feed with bread.

If primary and secondary education are in this unsatisfactory state,
what is to be said to the universities? This is an awful subject, and
one I almost fear to touch with my unhallowed hands; but I can tell you
what those say who have authority to speak.

The Rector of Lincoln College, in his lately published, valuable
"Suggestions for Academical Organization with especial reference to
Oxford," tells us (p. 127):--

"The colleges were, in their origin, endowments, not for the elements of
a general liberal education, but for the prolonged study of special and
professional faculties by men of riper age. The universities embraced
both these objects. The colleges, while they incidentally aided in
elementary education, were specially devoted to the highest learning....

"This was the theory of the middle-age university and the design of
collegiate foundations in their origin. Time and circumstances have
brought about a total change. The colleges no longer promote the
researches of science, or direct professional study. Here and there
college walls may shelter an occasional student, but not in larger
proportions than may be found in private life. Elementary teaching of
youths under twenty is now the only function performed by the
university, and almost the only object of college endowments. Colleges
were homes for the life-study of the highest and most abstruse parts of
knowledge. They have become boarding schools in which the elements of
the learned languages are taught to youths."

If Mr. Pattison's high position, and his obvious love and respect for
his university, be insufficient to convince the outside world that
language so severe is yet no more than just, the authority of the
Commissioners who reported on the University of Oxford in 1850 is open
to no challenge. Yet they write:--

"It is generally acknowledged that both Oxford and the country at large
suffer greatly from the absence of a body of learned men devoting their
lives to the cultivation of science, and to the direction of academical

"The fact that so few books of profound research emanate from the
University of Oxford, materially impairs its character as a seat of
learning, and consequently its hold on the respect of the nation."

Cambridge can claim no exemption from the reproaches addressed to
Oxford. And thus there seems no escape from the admission that what we
fondly call our great seats of learning are simply "boarding schools"
for bigger boys; that learned men are not more numerous in them than out
of them; that the advancement of knowledge is not the object of fellows
of colleges; that, in the philosophic calm and meditative stillness of
their greenswarded courts, philosophy does not thrive, and meditation
bears few fruits.

It is my great good fortune to reckon amongst my friends resident
members of both universities, who are men of learning and research,
zealous cultivators of science, keeping before their minds a noble ideal
of a university, and doing their best to make that ideal a reality; and,
to me, they would necessarily typify the universities, did not the
authoritative statements I have quoted compel me to believe that they
are exceptional, and not representative men. Indeed, upon calm
consideration, several circumstances lead me to think that the Rector of
Lincoln College and the Commissioners cannot be far wrong.

I believe there can be no doubt that the foreigner who should wish to
become acquainted with the scientific, or the literary, activity of
modern England, would simply lose his time and his pains if he visited
our universities with that object.

And, as for works of profound research on any subject, and, above all,
in that classical lore for which the universities profess to sacrifice
almost everything else, why, a third-rate, poverty-stricken German
university turns out more produce of that kind in one year, than our
vast and wealthy foundations elaborate in ten.

Ask the man who is investigating any question, profoundly and
thoroughly--be it historical, philosophical, philological, physical,
literary, or theological; who is trying to make himself master of any
abstract subject (except, perhaps, political economy and geology, both
of which are intensely Anglican sciences) whether he is not compelled
to read half a dozen times as many German, as English, books? And
whether, of these English books, more than one in ten is the work of a
fellow of a college, or a professor of an English university?

Is this from any lack of power in the English as compared with the
German mind? The countrymen of Grote and of Mill, of Faraday, of Robert
Brown, of Lyell, and of Darwin, to go no further back than the
contemporaries of men of middle age, can afford to smile at such a
suggestion. England can show now, as she has been able to show in every
generation since civilization spread over the West, individual men who
hold their own against the world, and keep alive the old tradition of
her intellectual eminence.

But, in the majority of cases, these men are what they are in virtue of
their native intellectual force, and of a strength of character which
will not recognise impediments. They are not trained in the courts of
the Temple of Science, but storm the walls of that edifice in all sorts
of irregular ways, and with much loss of time and power, in order to
obtain their legitimate positions.

Our universities not only do not encourage such men; do not offer them
positions, in which it should be their highest duty to do, thoroughly,
that which they are most capable of doing; but, as far as possible,
university training shuts out of the minds of those among them, who are
subjected to it, the prospect that there is anything in the world for
which they are specially fitted. Imagine the success of the attempt to
still the intellectual hunger airy of the men I have mentioned, by
putting before him, as the object of existence, the successful mimicry
of the measure of a Greek song, or the roll of Ciceronian prose! Imagine
how much success would be likely to attend the attempt to persuade such
men, that the education which leads to perfection in such elegancies is
alone to be called culture; while the facts of history, the process of
thought, the conditions of moral and social existence, and the laws of
physical nature, are left to be dealt with as they may, by outside

It is not thus that the German universities, from being beneath notice a
century ago, have become what they are now--the most intensely
cultivated and the most productive intellectual corporations the world
has ever seen.

The student who repairs to them sees in the list of classes and of
professors a fair picture of the world of knowledge. Whatever he needs
to know there is some one ready to teach him, some one competent to
discipline him in the way of learning; whatever his special bent, let
him but be able and diligent, and in due time he shall find distinction
and a career. Among his professors, he sees men whose names are known
and revered throughout the civilized world; and their living example
infects him with a noble ambition, and a love for the spirit of work.

The Germans dominate the intellectual world by virtue of the same simple
secret as that which made Napoleon the master of old Europe. They have
declared _la carrière ouverte aux talents_, and every Bursch marches
with a professor's gown in his knapsack. Let him become a great scholar,
or man of science, and ministers will compete for his services. In
Germany, they do not leave the chance of his holding the office he
would render illustrious to the tender mercies of a hot canvass, and the
final wisdom of a mob of country parsons.

In short, in Germany, the universities are exactly what the Rector of
Lincoln and the Commissioners tell us the English universities are not;
that is to say, corporations "of learned men devoting their lives to the
cultivation of science, and the direction of academical education." They
are not "boarding schools for youths," nor clerical seminaries; but
institutions for the higher culture of men, in which the theological
faculty is of no more importance, or prominence, than the rest; and
which are truly "universities," since they strive to represent and
embody the totality of human knowledge, and to find room for all forms
of intellectual activity.

May zealous and clear-headed reformers like Mr. Pattison succeed in
their noble endeavours to shape our universities towards some such ideal
as this, without losing what is valuable and distinctive in their social
tone! But until they have succeeded, a liberal education will be no more
obtainable in our Oxford and Cambridge Universities than in our public

If I am justified in my conception of the ideal of a liberal education;
and if what I have said about the existing educational institutions of
the country is also true, it is clear that the two have no sort of
relation to one another; that the best of our schools and the most
complete of our university trainings give but a narrow, one-sided, and
essentially illiberal education--while the worst give what is really
next to no education at all. The South London Working-Men's College
could not copy any of these institutions if it would. I am bold enough
to express the conviction that it ought not if it could.

For what is wanted is the reality and not the mere name of a liberal
education; and this College must steadily set before itself the ambition
to be able to give that education sooner or later. At present we are but
beginning, sharpening our educational tools, as it were, and, except a
modicum of physical science, we are not able to offer much more than is
to be found in an ordinary school.

Moral and social science--one of the greatest and most fruitful of our
future classes, I hope--at present lacks only one thing in our
programme, and that is a teacher. A considerable want, no doubt; but it
must be recollected that it is much better to want a teacher than to
want the desire to learn.

Further, we need what, for want of a better name, I must call Physical
Geography. What I mean is that which the Germans call "_Erdkunde_." It
is a description of the earth, of its place and relation to other
bodies; of its general structure, and of its great features--winds,
tides, mountains, plains; of the chief forms of the vegetable and animal
worlds, of the varieties of man. It is the peg upon which the greatest
quantity of useful and entertaining scientific information can be

Literature is not upon the College programme; but I hope some day to see
it there. For literature is the greatest of all sources of refined
pleasure, and one of the great uses of a liberal education is to enable
us to enjoy that pleasure. There is scope enough for the purposes of
liberal education in the study of the rich treasures of our own language
alone. All that is needed is direction, and the cultivation of a refined
taste by attention to sound criticism. But there is no reason why French
and German should not be mastered sufficiently to read what is worth
reading in those languages, with pleasure and with profit.

And finally, by-and-by, we must have History; treated not as a
succession of battles and dynasties; not as a series of biographies; not
as evidence that Providence has always been on the side of either Whigs
or Tories; but as the development of man in times past, and in other
conditions than our own.

But, as it is one of the principles of our College to be
self-supporting, the public must lead, and we must follow, in these
matters. If my hearers take to heart what I have said about liberal
education, they will desire these things, and I doubt not we shall be
able to supply them. But we must wait till the demand is made.


[2] For a justification of what is here said about these schools, see
that valuable book, "Essays on a Liberal Education," _passim_.



     [MR. THACKERAY, talking of after-dinner speeches, has
     lamented that "one never can recollect the fine things one thought
     of in the cab," in going to the place of entertainment. I am not
     aware that there are any "fine things" in the following pages, but
     such as there are stand to a speech which really did get itself
     spoken, at the hospitable table of the Liverpool Philomathic
     Society, more or less in the position of what "one thought of in
     the cab."]

The introduction of scientific training into the general education of
the country is a topic upon which I could not have spoken, without some
more or less apologetic introduction, a few years ago. But upon this, as
upon other matters, public opinion has of late undergone a rapid
modification. Committees of both Houses of the Legislature have agreed
that something must be done in this direction, and have even thrown out
timid and faltering suggestions as to what should be done; while at the
opposite pole of society, committees of working-men have expressed their
conviction that scientific training is the one thing needful for their
advancement, whether as men, or as workmen. Only the other day, it was
my duty to take part in the reception of a deputation of London working
men, who desired to learn from Sir Roderick Murchison, the Director of
the Royal School of Mines, whether the organization of the Institution
in Jermyn Street could be made available for the supply of that
scientific instruction, the need of which could not have been
apprehended, or stated, more clearly than it was by them.

The heads of colleges in our great Universities (who have not the
reputation of being the most mobile of persons) have, in several cases,
thought it well that, out of the great number of honours and rewards at
their disposal, a few should hereafter be given to the cultivators of
the physical sciences. Nay, I hear that some colleges have even gone so
far as to appoint one, or, may be, two special tutors for the purpose of
putting the facts and principles of physical science before the
undergraduate mind. And I say it with gratitude and great respect for
those eminent persons, that the head masters of our public schools,
Eton, Harrow, Winchester, have addressed themselves to the problem of
introducing instruction in physical science among the studies of those
great educational bodies, with much honesty of purpose and enlightenment
of understanding; and I live in hope that, before long, important
changes in this direction will be carried into effect in those
strongholds of ancient prescription. In fact, such changes have already
been made, and physical science, even now, constitutes a recognised
element of the school curriculum in Harrow and Rugby, whilst I
understand that ample preparations for such studies are being made at
Eton and elsewhere.

Looking at these facts, I might perhaps spare myself the trouble of
giving any reasons for the introduction of physical science into
elementary education; yet I cannot but think that it may be well, if I
place before you some considerations which, perhaps, have hardly
received full attention.

At other times, and in other places, I have endeavoured to state the
higher and more abstract arguments, by which the study of physical
science may be shown to be indispensable to the complete training of the
human mind; but I do not wish it to be supposed that, because I happen
to be devoted to more or less abstract and "unpractical" pursuits, I am
insensible to the weight which ought to be attached to that which has
been said to be the English conception of Paradise--"namely, getting
on." I look upon it, that "getting on" is a very important matter
indeed. I do not mean merely for the sake of the coarse and tangible
results of success, but because humanity is so constituted that a vast
number of us would never be impelled to those stretches of exertion
which make us wiser and more capable men, if it were not for the
absolute necessity of putting on our faculties all the strain they will
bear, for the purpose of "getting on" in the most practical sense.

Now the value of a knowledge of physical science as a means of getting
on, is indubitable. There are hardly any of our trades, except the
merely huckstering ones, in which some knowledge of science may not be
directly profitable to the pursuer of that occupation. As industry
attains higher stages of its development, as its processes become more
complicated and refined, and competition more keen, the sciences are
dragged in, one by one, to take their share in the fray; and he who can
best avail himself of their help is the man who will come out uppermost
in that struggle for existence which goes on as fiercely beneath the
smooth surface of modern society, as among the wild inhabitants of the

But, in addition to the bearing of science on ordinary practical life,
let me direct your attention to its immense influence on several of the
professions. I ask any one who has adopted the calling of an engineer,
how much time he lost when he left school, because he had to devote
himself to pursuits which were absolutely novel and strange, and of
which he had not obtained the remotest conception from his instructors?
He had to familiarize himself with ideas of the course and powers of
Nature, to which his attention had never been directed during his
school-life, and to learn, for the first time, that a world of facts
lies outside and beyond the world of words. I appeal to those who know
what Engineering is, to say how far I am right in respect to that
profession; but with regard to another, of no less importance, I shall
venture to speak of my own knowledge. There is no one of who may not at
any moment be thrown, bound and foot by physical incapacity, into the
hands of a medical practitioner. The chances of life and death for all
and each of us may, at any moment, depend on the skill with which that
practitioner is able to make out what is wrong in our bodily frames,
and on his ability to apply the proper remedy to the defect.

The necessities of modern life are such, and the class from which the
medical profession is chiefly recruited is so situated, that few medical
men can hope to spend more than three or four, or it may be five, years
in the pursuit of those studies which are immediately germane to physic.
How is that all too brief period spent at present? I speak as an old
examiner, having served some eleven or twelve years in that capacity in
the University of London, and therefore having a practical acquaintance
with the subject; but I might fortify myself by the authority of the
President of the College of Surgeons, Mr. Quain, whom I heard the other
day in an admirable address (the Hunterian Oration) deal fully and
wisely with this very topic[3].

A young man commencing the study of medicine is at once required to
endeavour to make an acquaintance with a number of sciences, such as
Physics, as Chemistry, as Botany, as Physiology, which are absolutely
and entirely strange to him, however excellent his so-called education
at school may have been. Not only is he devoid of all apprehension of
scientific conceptions, not only does he fail to attach any meaning to
the words "matter," "force," or "law" in their scientific senses, but,
worse still, he has no notion of what it is to come into contact with
nature, or to lay his mind alongside of a physical fact, and try to
conquer it, in the way our great naval hero told his captains to master
their enemies. His whole mind has been given to books, and I am hardly
exaggerating if I say that they are more real to him than Nature. He
imagines that all knowledge can be got out of books, and rests upon the
authority of some master or other; nor does he entertain any misgiving
that the method of learning which led to proficiency in the rules of
grammar, will suffice to lead him to a mastery of the laws of Nature.
The youngster, thus unprepared for serious study, is turned loose among
his medical studies, with the result, in nine cases out of ten, that the
first year of his curriculum is spent in learning how to learn. Indeed,
he is lucky, if at the end of the first year, by the exertions of his
teachers and his own industry, he has acquired even that art of arts.
After which there remain not more than three, or perhaps four, years for
the profitable study of such vast sciences as Anatomy, Physiology,
Therapeutics, Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics, and the like, upon his
knowledge or ignorance of which it depends whether the practitioner
shall diminish, or increase, the bills of mortality. Now what is it but
the preposterous condition of ordinary school education which prevents a
young man of seventeen, destined for the practice of medicine, from
being fully prepared for the study of nature; and from coming to the
medical school, equipped with that preliminary knowledge of the
principles of Physics, of Chemistry, and of Biology, upon which he has
now to waste one of the precious years, every moment of which ought to
be given to those studies which bear directly upon the knowledge of his

There is another profession, to the members of which, I think, a certain
preliminary knowledge of physical science might be quite as valuable as
to the medical man. The practitioner of medicine sets before himself the
noble object of taking care of man's bodily welfare; but the members of
this other profession undertake to "minister to minds diseased," and, so
far as may be, to diminish sin and soften sorrow. Like the medical
profession, the clerical, of which I now speak, rests its power to heal
upon its knowledge of the order of the universe--upon certain theories
of man's relation to that which lies outside him. It is not my business
to express any opinion about these theories. I merely wish to point out
that, like all other theories, they are professedly based upon matter of
fact. Thus the clerical profession has to deal with the facts of Nature
from a certain point of view; and hence it comes into contact with that
of the man of science, who has to treat the same facts from another
point of view. You know how often that contact is to be described as
collision, or violent friction; and how great the heat, how little the
light, which commonly results from it.

In the interests of fair play, to say nothing of those of mankind, I
ask, Why do not the clergy as a body acquire, as a part of their
preliminary education, some such tincture of physical science as will
put them in a position to understand the difficulties in the way of
accepting their theories, which are forced upon the mind of every
thoughtful and intelligent man, who has taken the trouble to instruct
himself in the elements of natural knowledge?

Some time ago I attended a large meeting of the clergy, for the purpose
of delivering an address which I had been invited to give. I spoke of
some of the most elementary facts in physical science, and of the manner
in which they directly contradict certain of the ordinary teachings of
the clergy. The result was, that, after I had finished, one section of
the assembled ecclesiastics attacked me with all the intemperance of
pious zeal, for stating facts and conclusions which no competent judge
doubts; while, after the first speakers had subsided, amidst the cheers
of the great majority of their colleagues, the more rational minority
rose to tell me that I had taken wholly superfluous pains, that they
already knew all about what I had told them, and perfectly agreed with
me. A hard-headed friend of mine, who was present, put the not unnatural
question, "Then why don't you say so in your pulpits?" to which inquiry
I heard no reply.

In fact the clergy are at present divisible into three sections: an
immense body who are ignorant and speak out; a small proportion who know
and are silent; and a minute minority who know and speak according to
their knowledge. By the clergy, I mean especially the Protestant clergy.
Our great antagonist--I speak as a man of science--the Roman Catholic
Church, the one great spiritual organization which is able to resist,
and must, as a matter of life and death, resist, the progress of science
and modern civilization, manages her affairs much better.

It was my fortune some time ago to pay a visit to one of the most
important of the institutions in which the clergy of the Roman Catholic
Church in these islands are trained; and it seemed to me that the
difference between these men and the comfortable champions of
Anglicanism and of Dissent, was comparable to the difference between our
gallant Volunteers and the trained veterans of Napoleon's Old Guard.

The Catholic priest is trained to know his business, and do it
effectually. The professors of the college in question, learned,
zealous, and determined, men, permitted me to speak frankly with them.
We talked like outposts of opposed armies during a truce--as friendly
enemies; and when I ventured to point out the difficulties their
students would have to encounter from scientific thought, they replied:
"Our Church has lasted many ages, and has passed safely through many
storms. The present is but a new gust of the old tempest, and we do not
turn out our young men less fitted to weather it, than they have been,
in former times, to cope with the difficulties of those times. The
heresies of the day are explained to them by their professors of
philosophy and science, and they are taught how those heresies are to be

I heartily respect an organization which faces its enemies in this way;
and I wish that all ecclesiastical organizations were in as effective a
condition. I think it would be better, not only for them, but for us.
The army of liberal thought is, at present, in very loose order; and
many a spirited free-thinker makes use of his freedom mainly to vent
nonsense. We should he the better for a vigorous and watchful enemy to
hammer us into cohesion and discipline; and I, for one, lament that the
bench of Bishops cannot show a man of the calibre of Butler of the
"Analogy," who, if he were alive, would make short work of much of the
current _à priori_ "infidelity."

I hope you will consider that the arguments I have now stated, even if
there were no better ones, constitute a sufficient apology for urging
the introduction of science into schools. The next question to which I
have to address myself is, What sciences ought to be thus taught? And
this is one of the most important of questions, because my side (I am
afraid I am a terribly candid friend) sometimes spoils its cause by
going in for too much. There are other forms of culture beside physical
science; and I should be profoundly sorry to see the fact forgotten, or
even to observe a tendency to starve, or cripple, literary, or æsthetic,
culture for the sake of science. Such a narrow view of the nature of
education has nothing to do with my firm conviction that a complete and
thorough scientific culture ought to be introduced into all schools. By
this, however, I do not mean that every schoolboy should be taught
everything in science. That would be a very absurd thing to conceive,
and a very mischievous thing to attempt. What I mean is, that no boy nor
girl should leave school without possessing a grasp of the general
character of science, and without having been disciplined, more or less,
in the methods of all sciences; so that, when turned into the world to
make their own way, they shall be prepared to face scientific problems,
not by knowing at once the conditions of every problem, or by being able
at once to solve it; but by being familiar with the general current of
scientific thought, and by being able to apply the methods of science in
the proper way, when they have acquainted themselves with the conditions
of the special problem.

That is what I understand by scientific education. To furnish a boy with
such an education, it is by no means necessary that he should devote his
whole school existence to physical science: in fact, no one would lament
so one-sided a proceeding more than I. Nay more, it is not necessary for
him to give up more than a moderate share of his time to such studies,
if they be properly selected and arranged, and if he be trained in them
in a fitting manner.

I conceive the proper course to be somewhat as follows. To begin with,
let every child be instructed in those general views of the phenomena of
Nature for which we have no exact English name. The nearest
approximation to a name for what I mean, which we possess, is "physical
geography." The Germans have a better, "Erdkunde," ("earth knowledge" or
"geology" in its etymological sense,) that is to say, a general
knowledge of the earth, and what is on it, in it, and about it. If any
one who has had experience of the ways of young children will call to
mind their questions, he will find that so far as they can be put into
any scientific category, they come under this head of "Erdkunde." The
child asks, "What is the moon, and why does it shine?" "What is this
water, and where does it run?" "What is the wind?" "What makes the waves
in the sea?" "Where does this animal live, and what is the use of that
plant?" And if not snubbed and stunted by being told not to ask foolish
questions, there is no limit to the intellectual craving of a young
child; nor any bounds to the slow, but solid, accretion of knowledge and
development of the thinking faculty in this way. To all such questions,
answers which are necessarily incomplete, though true as far as they go,
may be given by any teacher whose ideas represent real knowledge and not
mere book learning; and a panoramic view of Nature, accompanied by a
strong infusion of the scientific habit of mind, may thus be placed
within the reach of every child of nine or ten.

After this preliminary opening of the eyes to the great spectacle of the
daily progress of Nature, as the reasoning faculties of the child grow,
and he becomes familiar with the use of the tools of knowledge--reading,
writing, and elementary mathematics--he should pass on to what is, in
the more strict sense, physical science. Now there are two kinds of
physical science: the one regards form and the relation of forms to one
another; the other deals with causes and effects. In many of what we
term our sciences, these two kinds are mixed up together; but systematic
botany is a pure example of the former kind, and physics of the latter
kind, of science. Every educational advantage which training in
physical science can give is obtainable from the proper study of these
two; and I should be contented, for the present, if they, added to our
"Erdkunde," furnished the whole of the scientific curriculum of schools.
Indeed I conceive it would be one of the greatest boons which could be
conferred upon England, if henceforward every child in the country were
instructed in the general knowledge of the things about it, in the
elements of physics, and of botany. But I should be still better pleased
if there could be added somewhat of chemistry, and an elementary
acquaintance with human physiology.

So far as school education is concerned, I want to go no further just
now; and I believe that such instruction would make an excellent
introduction to that preparatory scientific training which, as I have
indicated, is so essential for the successful pursuit of our most
important professions. But this modicum of instruction must be so given
as to ensure real knowledge and practical discipline. If scientific
education is to be dealt with as mere bookwork, it will be better not to
attempt it, but to stick to the Latin Grammar, which makes no pretence
to be anything but bookwork.

If the great benefits of scientific training are sought, it is essential
that such training should be real: that is to say, that the mind of the
scholar should be brought into direct relation with fact, that he should
not merely be told a thing, but made to see by the use of his own
intellect and ability that the thing is _so_ and no otherwise. The great
peculiarity of scientific training, that in virtue of which it cannot be
replaced by any other discipline whatsoever, is this bringing of the
mind directly into contact with fact, and practising the intellect in
the completest form of induction; that is to say, in drawing conclusions
from particular facts made known by immediate observation of Nature.

The other studies which enter into ordinary education do not discipline
the mind in this way. Mathematical training is almost purely deductive.
The mathematician starts with a few simple propositions, the proof of
which is so obvious that they are called self-evident, and the rest of
his work consists of subtle deductions from them. The teaching of
languages, at any rate as ordinarily practised, is of the same general
nature,--authority and tradition furnish the data, and the mental
operations of the scholar are deductive.

Again: if history be the subject of study, the facts are still taken
upon the evidence of tradition and authority. You cannot make a boy see
the battle of Thermopylæ for himself, or know, of his own knowledge,
that Cromwell once ruled England. There is no getting into direct
contact with natural fact by this road; there is no dispensing with
authority, but rather a resting upon it.

In all these respects, science differs from other educational
discipline, and prepares the scholar for common life. What have we to do
in every-day life? Most of the business which demands our attention is
matter of fact, which needs, in the first place, to be accurately
observed or apprehended; in the second, to be interpreted by inductive
and deductive reasonings, which are altogether similar in their nature
to those employed in science. In the one case, as in the other, whatever
is taken for granted is so taken at one's own peril; fact and reason
are the ultimate arbiters, and patience and honesty are the great
helpers out of difficulty.

But if scientific training is to yield its most eminent results, it
must, I repeat, be made practical. That is to say, in explaining to a
child the general phenomena of Nature, you must, as far as possible,
give reality to your teaching by object-lessons; in teaching him botany,
he must handle the plants and dissect the flowers for himself; in
teaching him physics and chemistry, you must not be solicitous to fill
him with information, but you must be careful that what he learns he
knows of his own knowledge. Don't be satisfied with telling him that a
magnet attracts iron. Let him see that it does; let him feel the pull of
the one upon the other for himself. And, especially, tell him that it is
his duty to doubt until he is compelled, by the absolute authority of
Nature, to believe that which is written in books. Pursue this
discipline carefully and conscientiously, and you may make sure that,
however scanty may be the measure of information which you have poured
into the boy's mind, you have created an intellectual habit of priceless
value in practical life.

One is constantly asked, When should this scientific education be
commenced? I should say with the dawn of intelligence. As I have already
said, a child seeks for information about matters of physical science as
soon as it begins to talk. The first teaching it wants is an
object-lesson of one sort or another; and as soon as it is fit for
systematic instruction of any kind, it is fit for a modicum of science.

People talk of the difficulty of teaching young children such matters,
and in the same breath insist upon their learning their Catechism,
which contains propositions far harder to comprehend than anything in
the educational course I have proposed. Again, I am incessantly told
that we, who advocate the introduction of science into schools, make no
allowance for the stupidity of the average boy or girl; but, in my
belief, that stupidity, in nine cases out of ten, "_fit, non nascitur_,"
and is developed by a long process of parental and pedagogic repression
of the natural intellectual appetites, accompanied by a persistent
attempt to create artificial ones for food which is not only tasteless,
but essentially indigestible.

Those who urge the difficulty of instructing young people in science are
apt to forget another very important condition of success--important in
all kinds of teaching, but most essential, I am disposed to think, when
the scholars are very young. This condition is, that the teacher should
himself really and practically know his subject. If he does, he will be
able to speak of it in the easy language, and with the completeness of
conviction, with which he talks of any ordinary every-day matter. If he
does not, he will be afraid to wander beyond the limits of the technical
phraseology which he has got up; and a dead dogmatism, which oppresses,
or raises opposition, will take the place of the lively confidence, born
of personal conviction, which cheers and encourages the eminently
sympathetic mind of childhood.

I have already hinted that such scientific training as we seek for may
be given without making any extravagant claim upon the time now devoted
to education. We ask only for "a most favoured nation" clause in our
treaty with the schoolmaster; we demand no more than that science shall
have as much time given to it as any other single subject--say four
hours a week in each class of an ordinary school.

For the present, I think men of science would be well content with such
an arrangement as this; but, speaking for myself, I do not pretend to
believe that such an arrangement can be, or will be, permanent. In these
times the educational tree seems to me to have its roots in the air, its
leaves and flowers in the ground; and, I confess, I should very much
like to turn it upside down, so that its roots might be solidly embedded
among the facts of Nature, and draw thence a sound nutriment for the
foliage and fruit of literature and of art. No educational system can
have a claim to permanence, unless it recognises the truth that
education has two great ends to which everything else must be
subordinated. The one of these is to increase knowledge; the other is to
develop the love of right and the hatred of wrong.

With wisdom and uprightness a nation can make its way worthily, and
beauty will follow in the footsteps of the two, even if she be not
specially invited; while there is perhaps no sight in the whole world
more saddening and revolting than is offered by men sunk in ignorance of
everything but what other men have written; seemingly devoid of moral
belief or guidance; but with the sense of beauty so keen, and the power
of expression so cultivated, that their sensual caterwauling may be
almost mistaken for the music of the spheres.

At present, education is almost entirely devoted to the cultivation of
the power of expression, and of the sense of literary beauty. The matter
of having anything to say, beyond a hash of other people's opinions, or
of possessing any criterion of beauty, so that we may distinguish
between the Godlike and the devilish, is left aside as of no moment. I
think I do not err in saying that if science were made the foundation of
education, instead of being, at most, stuck on as cornice to the
edifice, this state of things could not exist.

In advocating the introduction of physical science as a leading element
in education, I by no means refer only to the higher schools. On the
contrary, I believe that such a change is even more imperatively called
for in those primary schools, in which the children of the poor are
expected to turn to the best account the little time they can devote to
the acquisition of knowledge. A great step in this direction has already
been made by the establishment of science-classes under the Department
of Science and Art,--a measure which came into existence unnoticed, but
which will, I believe, turn out to be of more importance to the welfare
of the people, than many political changes, over which the noise of
battle has rent the air.

Under the regulations to which I refer, a schoolmaster can set up a
class in one or more branches of science; his pupils will be examined,
and the State will pay him, at a certain rate, for all who succeed in
passing. I have acted as an examiner under this system from the
beginning of its establishment, and this year I expect to have not fewer
than a couple of thousand sets of answers to questions in Physiology,
mainly from young people of the artisan class, who have been taught in
the schools which are now scattered all over Great Britain and Ireland.
Some of my colleagues, who have to deal with subjects such as Geometry,
for which the present teaching power is better organized, I understand
are likely to have three or four times as many papers. So far as my own
subjects are concerned, I can undertake to say that a great deal of the
teaching, the results of which are before me in these examinations, is
very sound and good; and I think it is in the power of the examiners,
not only to keep up the present standard, but to cause an almost
unlimited improvement. Now what does this mean? It means that by holding
out a very moderate inducement, the masters of primary schools in many
parts of the country have been led to convert them into little foci of
scientific instruction; and that they and their pupils have contrived to
find, or to make, time enough to carry out this object with a very
considerable degree of efficiency. That efficiency will, I doubt not, be
very much increased as the system becomes known and perfected, even with
the very limited leisure left to masters and teachers on week-days. And
this leads me to ask, Why should scientific teaching be limited to

Ecclesiastically-minded persons are in the habit of calling things they
do not like by very hard names, and I should not wonder if they brand
the proposition I am about to make as blasphemous, and worse. But, not
minding this, I venture to ask, Would there really be anything wrong in
using part of Sunday for the purpose of instructing those who have no
other leisure, in a knowledge of the phenomena of Nature, and of man's
relation to nature?

I should like to see a scientific Sunday-school in every parish, not for
the purpose of superseding any existing means of teaching the people
the things that are for their good, but side by side with them. I cannot
but think that there is room for all of us to work in helping to bridge
over the great abyss of ignorance which lies at our feet.

And if any of the ecclesiastical persons to whom I have referred, object
that they find it derogatory to the honour of the God whom they worship,
to awaken the minds of the young to the infinite wonder and majesty of
the works which they proclaim His, and to teach them those laws which
must needs be His laws, and therefore of all things needful for man to
know--I can only recommend them to be let blood and put on low diet.
There must be something very wrong going on in the instrument of logic,
if it turns out such conclusions from such premisses.


[3] Mr. Quain's words (_Medical Times and Gazette_, February 20)
are:--"A few words as to our special Medical course of instruction and
the influence upon it of such changes in the elementary schools as I
have mentioned. The student now enters at once upon several
sciences--physics, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, botany, pharmacy,
therapeutics--all these, the facts and the language and the laws of
each, to be mastered in eighteen months. Up to the beginning of the
Medical course many have learned little. We cannot claim anything better
than the Examiner of the University of London and the Cambridge Lecturer
have reported for their Universities. Supposing that at school young
people had acquired some exact elementary knowledge in physics,
chemistry, and a branch of natural history--say botany--with the
physiology connected with it, they would then have gained necessary
knowledge, with some practice in inductive reasoning. The whole studies
are processes of observation and induction--the best discipline of the
mind for the purposes of life--for our purposes not less than any. 'By
such study (says Dr. Whewell) of one or more departments of inductive
science the mind may escape from the thraldom of mere words.' By that
plan the burden of the early Medical course would be much lightened, and
more time devoted to practical studies, including Sir Thomas Watson's
'final and supreme stage' of the knowledge of Medicine."



The subject to which I have to beg your attention during the ensuing
hour is "The Relation of Physiological Science to other branches of

Had circumstances permitted of the delivery, in their strict logical
order, of that series of discourses of which the present lecture is a
member, I should have preceded my friend and colleague Mr. Henfrey, who
addressed you on Monday last; but while, for the sake of that order, I
must beg you to suppose that this discussion of the Educational bearings
of Biology in general _does_ precede that of Special Zoology and Botany,
I am rejoiced to be able to take advantage of the light thus already
thrown upon the tendency and methods of Physiological Science.

Regarding Physiological Science, then, in its widest sense--as the
equivalent of _Biology_--the Science of Individual Life--we have to
consider in succession:

1. Its position and scope as a branch of knowledge.

2. Its value as a means of mental discipline.

3. Its worth as practical information.

And lastly,

4. At what period it may best be made a branch of Education.

Our conclusions on the first of these heads must depend, of course, upon
the nature of the subject-matter of Biology; and I think a few
preliminary considerations will place before you in a clear light the
vast difference which exists between the living bodies with which
Physiological science is concerned, and the remainder of the
universe;--between the phænomena of Number and Space, of Physical and of
Chemical force, on the one hand, and those of Life on the other.

The mathematician, the physicist, and the chemist contemplate things in
a condition of rest; they look upon a state of equilibrium as that to
which all bodies normally tend.

The mathematician does not suppose that a quantity will alter, or that a
given point in space will change its direction with regard to another
point, spontaneously. And it is the same with the physicist. When Newton
saw the apple fall, he concluded at once that the act of falling was not
the result of any power inherent in the apple, but that it was the
result of the action of something else on the apple. In a similar
manner, all physical force is regarded as the disturbance of an
equilibrium to which things tended before its exertion,--to which they
will tend again after its cessation.

The chemist equally regards chemical change in a as the effect of the
action of something external to the body changed. A chemical compound
once formed would persist for ever, if no alteration took place in
surrounding conditions.

But to the student of Life the aspect of nature is reversed. Here,
incessant, and, so far as we know, spontaneous change is the rule, rest
the exception--the anomaly to be accounted for. Living things have no
inertia, and tend to no equilibrium.

Permit me, however, to give more force and clearness to these somewhat
abstract considerations, by an illustration or two.

Imagine a vessel full of water, at the ordinary temperature, in an
atmosphere saturated with vapour. The _quantity_ and the _figure_ of
that water will not change, so far as we know, for ever.

Suppose a lump of gold be thrown into the vessel--motion and disturbance
of figure exactly proportional to the momentum of the gold will take
place. But after a time the effects of this disturbance will
subside--equilibrium will be restored, and the water will return to its
passive state.

Expose the water to cold--it will solidify--and in so doing its
particles will arrange themselves in definite crystalline shapes. But
once formed, these crystals change no further.

Again, substitute for the lump of gold some substance capable of
entering into chemical relations with the water:--say, a mass of that
substance which is called "protein"--the substance of flesh:--a very
considerable disturbance of equilibrium will take place--all sorts of
chemical compositions and decompositions will occur; but in the end, as
before, the result will be the resumption of a condition of rest.

Instead of such a mass of _dead_ protein, however, take a particle of
_living_ protein--one of those minute microscopic living things which
throng our pools, and are known as Infusoria--such a creature, for
instance, as an Euglena, and place it in our vessel of water. It is a
round mass provided with a long filament, and except in this peculiarity
of shape, presents no appreciable physical or chemical difference
whereby it might be distinguished from the particle of dead protein.

But the difference in the phænomena to which it will give rise is
immense: in the first place it will develop a vast quantity of physical
force--cleaving the water in all directions with considerable rapidity
by means of the vibrations of the long filament or cilium.

Nor is the amount of chemical energy which the little creature possesses
less striking. It is a perfect laboratory in itself, and it will act and
react upon the water and the matters contained therein; converting them
into new compounds resembling its own substance, and, at the same time,
giving up portions of its own substance which have become effete.

Furthermore, the Euglena will increase in size; but this increase is by
no means unlimited, as the increase of a crystal might be. After it has
grown to a certain extent it divides, and each portion assumes the form
of the original, and proceeds to repeat the process of growth and

Nor is this all. For after a series of such divisions and subdivisions,
these minute points assume a totally new form, lose their long
tails--round themselves, and secrete a sort of envelope or box, in which
they remain shut up for a time, eventually to resume, directly or
indirectly, their primitive mode of existence.

Now, so far as we know, there is no natural limit to the existence of
the Euglena, or of any other living germ. A living species once launched
into existence tends to live for ever.

Consider how widely different this living particle is from the dead
atoms with which the physicist and chemist have to do!

The particle of gold falls to the bottom and rests--the particle of dead
protein decomposes and disappears--it also rests: but the _living_
protein mass neither tends to exhaustion of its forces nor to any
permanency of form, but is essentially distinguished as a disturber of
equilibrium so far as force is concerned,--as undergoing continual
metamorphosis and change, in point of form.

Tendency to equilibrium of force and to permanency of form then, are the
characters of that portion of the universe which does not live--the
domain of the chemist and physicist.

Tendency to disturb existing equilibrium,--to take on forms which
succeed one another in definite cycles, is the character of the living

What is the cause of this wonderful difference between the dead particle
and the living particle of matter appearing in other respects identical?
that difference to which we give the name of Life?

I, for one, cannot tell you. It may be that, by and by, philosophers
will discover some higher laws of which the facts of life are particular
cases--very possibly they will find out some bond between
physico-chemical phænomena on the one hand, and vital phænomena on the
other. At present, however, we assuredly know of none; and I think we
shall exercise a wise humility in confessing that, for us at least, this
successive assumption of different states--(external conditions
remaining the same)--this _spontaneity of action_--if I may use a term
which implies more than I would be answerable for--which constitutes so
vast and plain a practical distinction between living bodies and those
which do not live, is an ultimate fact; indicating as such, the
existence of a broad line of demarcation between the subject-matter of
Biological and that of all other sciences.

For I would have it understood that this simple Euglena is the type of
_all_ living things, so far as the distinction between these and inert
matter is concerned. That cycle of changes, which is constituted by
perhaps not more than two or three steps in the Euglena, is as clearly
manifested in the multitudinous stages through which the germ of an oak
or of a man passes. Whatever forms the Living Being may take on, whether
simple or complex, _production_, _growth_, _reproduction_, are the
phænomena which distinguish it from that which does not live.

If this be true, it is clear that the student, in passing from the
physico-chemical to the physiological sciences, enters upon a totally
new order of facts; and it will next be for us to consider how far these
new facts involve _new_ methods, or require a modification of those with
which he is already acquainted. Now a great deal is said about the
peculiarity of the scientific method in general, and of the different
methods which are pursued in the different sciences. The Mathematics
are said to have one special method; Physics another, Biology a third,
and so forth. For my own part, I must confess that I do not understand
this phraseology.

So far as I can arrive at any clear comprehension of the matter, Science
is not, as many would seem to suppose, a modification of the black art,
suited to the tastes of the nineteenth century, and flourishing mainly
in consequence of the decay of the Inquisition.

Science is, I believe, nothing but _trained and organized common sense_,
differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw
recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only so far
as the guardsman's cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a
savage wields his club. The primary power is the same in each case, and
perhaps the untutored savage has the more brawny arm of the two. The
_real_ advantage lies in the point and polish of the swordsman's weapon;
in the trained eye quick to spy out the weakness of the adversary; in
the ready hand prompt to follow it on the instant. But after all, the
sword exercise is only the hewing and poking of the clubman developed
and perfected.

So, the vast results obtained by Science are won by no mystical
faculties, by no mental processes, other than those which are practised
by every one of us, in the humblest and meanest affairs of life. A
detective policeman discovers a burglar from the marks made by his shoe,
by a mental process identical with that by which Cuvier restored the
extinct animals of Montmartre from fragments of their bones. Nor does
that process of induction and deduction by which a lady, finding a stain
of a peculiar kind upon her dress, concludes that somebody has upset
the inkstand thereon, differ in any way, in kind, from that by which
Adams and Leverrier discovered a new planet.

The man of science, in fact, simply uses with scrupulous exactness, the
methods which we all, habitually and at every moment, use carelessly;
and the man of business must as much avail himself of the scientific
method--must be as truly a man of science--as the veriest bookworm of us
all; though I have no doubt that the man of business will find himself
out to be a philosopher with as much surprise as M. Jourdain exhibited,
when he discovered that he had been all his life talking prose. If,
however, there be no real difference between the methods of science and
those of common life, it would seem, on the face of the matter, highly
improbable that there should be any difference between the methods of
the different sciences; nevertheless, it is constantly taken for
granted, that there is a very wide difference between the Physiological
and other sciences in point of method.

In the first place it is said--and I take this point first, because the
imputation is too frequently admitted by Physiologists themselves--that
Biology differs from the Physico-chemical and Mathematical sciences in
being "inexact."

Now, this phrase "inexact" must refer either to the _methods_ or to the
_results_ of Physiological science.

It cannot be correct to apply it to the methods; for, as I hope to show
you by and by, these are identical in all sciences, and whatever is true
of Physiological method is true of Physical and Mathematical method.

Is it then the _results_ of Biological science which are "inexact"? I
think not. If I say that respiration is performed by the lungs; that
digestion is effected in the stomach; that the eye is the organ of
sight; that the jaws of a vertebrated animal never open sideways, but
always up and down; while those of an annulose animal always open
sideways, and never up and down--I am enumerating propositions which are
as exact as anything in Euclid. How then has this notion of the
inexactness of Biological science come about? I believe from two causes:
first, because, in consequence of the great complexity of the science
and the multitude of interfering conditions, we are very often only
enabled to predict approximatively what will occur under given
circumstances; and secondly, because, on account of the comparative
youth of the Physiological sciences, a great many of their laws are
still imperfectly worked out. But, in an educational point of view, it
is most important to distinguish between the essence of a science and
the accidents which surround it; and essentially, the methods and
results of Physiology are as exact as those of Physics or Mathematics.

It is said that the Physiological method is especially _comparative_[4];
and this dictum also finds favour in the eyes of many. I should be
sorry to suggest that the speculators on scientific classification have
been misled by the accident of the name of one leading branch of
Biology--_Comparative Anatomy_; but I would ask whether _comparison_,
and that classification which is the result of comparison, are not the
essence of every science whatsoever? How is it possible to discover a
relation of cause and effect of _any_ kind without comparing a series of
cases together in which the supposed cause and effect occur singly, or
combined? So far from comparison being in any way peculiar to Biological
science, it is, I think, the essence of every science.

A speculative philosopher again tells us that the Biological sciences
are distinguished by being sciences of observation and not of

Of all the strange assertions into which speculation without practical
acquaintance with a subject may lead even an able man, I think this is
the very strangest. Physiology not an experimental science! Why, there
is not a function of a single organ in the body which has not been
determined wholly and solely by experiment. How did Harvey determine the
nature of the circulation, except by experiment? How did Sir Charles
Bell determine the functions of the roots of the spinal nerves, save by
experiment? How do we know the use of a nerve at all, except by
experiment? Nay, how do you know even that your eye is your seeing
apparatus, unless you make the experiment of shutting it; or that your
ear is your hearing apparatus, unless you close it up and thereby
discover that you become deaf?

It would really be much more true to say that Physiology is _the_
experimental science _par excellence_ of all sciences; that in which
there is least to be learnt by mere observation, and that which affords
the greatest field for the exercise of those faculties which
characterise the experimental philosopher. I confess, if any one were to
ask me for a model application of the logic of experiment, I should know
no better work to put into his hands than Bernard's late Researches on
the Functions of the Liver.[6]

Not to give this lecture a too controversial tone, however, I must only
advert to one more doctrine, held by a thinker of our own age and
country, whose opinions are worthy of all respect. It is, that the
Biological sciences differ from all others, inasmuch as in _them_
classification takes place by type and not by definition.[7]

It is said, in short, that a natural-history class is not capable of
being defined--that the class Rosaceæ, for instance, or the class of
Fishes, is not accurately and absolutely definable, inasmuch as its
members will present exceptions to every possible definition; and that
the members of the class are united together only by the circumstance
that they are all more like some imaginary average rose or average fish,
than they resemble anything else.

But here, as before, I think the distinction has arisen entirely from
confusing a transitory imperfection with an essential character. So long
as our information concerning them is imperfect, we class all objects
together according to resemblances which we _feel_, but cannot _define_:
we group them round _types_, in short. Thus, if you ask an ordinary
person what kinds of animals there are, he will probably say, beasts,
birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, &c. Ask him to define a beast from a
reptile, and he cannot do it; but he says, things like a cow or a horse
are beasts, and things like a frog or a lizard are reptiles. You see _he
does_ class by type, and not by definition. But how does this
classification differ from that of the scientific Zoologist? How does
the meaning of the scientific class-name of "Mammalia" differ from the
unscientific of "Beasts"?

Why, exactly because the former depends on a definition, the latter on a
type. The class Mammalia is scientifically defined as "all animals which
have a vertebrated skeleton and suckle their young." Here is no
reference to type, but a definition rigorous enough for a geometrician.
And such is the character which every scientific naturalist recognises
as that to which his classes must aspire--knowing, as he does, that
classification by type is simply an acknowledgment of ignorance and a
temporary device.

So much in the way of negative argument as against the reputed
differences, between Biological and other methods. No such differences,
I believe, really exist. The subject-matter of Biological science is
different from that of other sciences, but the methods of all are
identical; and these methods are--

1. _Observation_ of facts--including under this head that _artificial
observation_ which is called _experiment_.

2. That process of tying up similar facts into bundles, ticketed and
ready for use, which is called _Comparison_ and _Classification_,--the
results of the process, the ticketed bundles, being named _General

3. _Deduction_, which takes us from the general proposition to facts
again--teaches us, if I may so say, to anticipate from the ticket what
is inside the bundle. And finally--

4. _Verification_, which is the process of ascertaining whether, in
point of fact, our anticipation is a correct one.

Such are the methods of all science whatsoever; but perhaps you will
permit me to give you an illustration of their employment in the science
of Life; and I will take as a special case, the establishment of the
doctrine of the _Circulation of the Blood_.

In this case, _simple observation_ yields us a knowledge of the
existence of the blood from some accidental hæmorrhage, we will say: we
may even grant that it informs us of the localization of this blood in
particular vessels, the heart, &c., from some accidental cut or the
like. It teaches also the existence of a pulse in various parts of the
body, and acquaints us with the structure of the heart and vessels.

Here, however, _simple observation_ stops, and we must have recourse to

You tie a vein, and you find that the blood accumulates on the side of
the ligature opposite the heart. You tie an artery, and you find that
the blood accumulates on the side near the heart. Open the chest, and
you see the heart contracting with great force. Make openings into its
principal cavities, and you will find that all the blood flows out, and
no more pressure is exerted on either side of the arterial or venous

Now all these facts, taken together, constitute the evidence that the
blood is propelled by the heart through the arteries, and returns by the
veins--that, in short, the blood circulates.

Suppose our experiments and observations have been made on horses, then
we group and ticket them into a general proposition, thus:--_all horses
have a circulation of their blood_.

Henceforward a horse is a sort of indication or label, telling us where
we shall find a peculiar series of phænomena called the circulation of
the blood.

Here is our _general proposition_ then.

How and when are we justified in making our next step--a _deduction_
from it?

Suppose our physiologist, whose experience is limited to horses, meets
with a zebra for the first time,--will he suppose that this
generalization holds good for zebras also?

That depends very much on his turn of mind. But we will suppose him to
be a bold man. He will say, "The zebra is certainly not a horse, but it
is very like one,--so like, that it must be the 'ticket' or mark of a
blood-circulation also; and, I conclude that the zebra has a

That is a deduction, a very fair deduction, but by no means to be
considered scientifically secure. This last quality in fact can only be
given by _verification_--that is, by making a zebra the subject of all
the experiments performed on the horse. Of course, in the present case,
the _deduction_ would be _confirmed_ by this process of verification,
and the result would be, not merely a positive widening of knowledge,
but a fair increase of confidence in the truth of one's generalizations
in other cases.

Thus, having settled the point in the zebra and horse, our philosopher
would have great confidence in the existence of a circulation in the
ass. Nay, I fancy most persons would excuse him, if in this case he did
not take the trouble to go through the process of verification at all;
and it would not be without a parallel in the history of the human mind,
if our imaginary physiologist now maintained that he was acquainted with
asinine circulation _à priori_.

However, if I might impress any caution upon your minds, it is, the
utterly conditional nature of all our knowledge,--the danger of
neglecting the process of verification under any circumstances; and the
film upon which we rest, the moment our deductions carry us beyond the
reach of this great process of verification. There is no better instance
of this than is afforded by the history of our knowledge of the
circulation of the blood in the animal kingdom until the year 1824. In
every animal possessing a circulation at all, which had been observed up
to that time, the current of the blood was known to take one definite
and invariable direction. Now, there is a class of animals called
_Ascidians_, which possess a heart and a circulation, and up to the
period of which I speak, no one would have dreamt of questioning the
propriety of the deduction, that these creatures have a circulation in
one direction; nor would any one have thought it worth while to verify
the point. But, in that year, M. von Hasselt happening to examine a
transparent animal of this class, found to his infinite surprise, that
after the heart had beat a certain number of times, it stopped, and then
began beating the opposite way--so as to reverse the course of the
current, which returned by and by to its original direction.

I have myself timed the heart of these little animals. I found it as
regular as possible in its periods of reversal: and I know no spectacle
in the animal kingdom more wonderful than that which it presents--all
the more wonderful that to this day it remains an unique fact, peculiar
to this class among the whole animated world. At the same time I know of
no more striking case of the necessity of the _verification_ of even
those deductions which seem founded on the widest and safest inductions.

Such are the methods of Biology--methods which are obviously identical
with those of all other sciences, and therefore wholly incompetent to
form the ground of any distinction between it and them.[8]

But I shall be asked at once, Do you mean to say that there is no
difference between the habit of mind of a mathematician and that of a
naturalist? Do you imagine that Laplace might have been put into the
Jardin des Plantes, and Cuvier into the Observatory, with equal
advantage to the progress of the sciences they professed?

To which I would reply, that nothing could be further from my thoughts.
But different habits and various special tendencies of two sciences do
not imply different methods. The mountaineer and the man of the plains
have very different habits of progression, and each would be at a loss
in the other's place; but the method of progression, by putting one leg
before the other, is the same in each case. Every step of each is a
combination of a lift and a push; but the mountaineer lifts more and the
lowlander pushes more. And I think the case of two sciences resembles

I do not question for a moment, that while the Mathematician is busied
with deductions _from_ general propositions, the Biologist is more
especially occupied with observation, comparison, and those processes
which lead _to_ general propositions. All I wish to insist upon is, that
this difference depends not on any fundamental distinction in the
sciences themselves, but on the accidents of their subject-matter, of
their relative complexity, and consequent relative perfection.

The Mathematician deals with two properties of objects only, number and
extension, and all the inductions he wants have been formed and finished
ages ago. He is occupied now with nothing but deduction and

The Biologist deals with a vast number of properties of objects, and
his inductions will not be completed, I fear, for ages to come; but when
they are, his science will be as deductive and as exact as the
Mathematics themselves.

Such is the relation of Biology to those sciences which deal with
objects having fewer properties than itself. But as the student, in
reaching Biology, looks back upon sciences of a less complex and
therefore more perfect nature; so, on the other hand, does he look
forward to other more complex and less perfect branches of knowledge.
Biology deals only with living beings as isolated things--treats only of
the life of the individual: but there is a higher division of science
still, which considers living beings as aggregates--which deals with the
relation of living beings one to another--the science which _observes_
men--whose _experiments_ are made by nations one upon another, in
battle-fields--whose _general propositions_ are embodied in history,
morality, and religion--whose _deductions_ lead to our happiness or our
misery,--and whose _verifications_ so often come too late, and serve

     "To point a moral or adorn a tale"--

I mean the science of Society or _Sociology_.

I think it is one of the grandest features of Biology, that it occupies
this central position in human knowledge. There is no side of the human
mind which physiological study leaves uncultivated. Connected by
innumerable ties with abstract science, Physiology is yet in the most
intimate relation with humanity; and by teaching us that law and order,
and a definite scheme of development, regulate even the strangest and
wildest manifestations of individual life, she prepares the student to
look for a goal even amidst the erratic wanderings of mankind, and to
believe that history offers something more than an entertaining chaos--a
journal of a toilsome, tragi-comic march nowhither.

The preceding considerations have, I hope, served to indicate the
replies which befit the two first of the questions which I set before
you at starting, viz. what is the range and position of Physiological
Science as a branch of knowledge, and what is its value as a means of
mental discipline.

Its _subject-matter_ is a large moiety of the universe--its _position_
is midway between the physico-chemical and the social sciences. Its
_value_ as a branch of discipline is partly that which it has in common
with all sciences--the training and strengthening of common sense;
partly that which is more peculiar to itself--the great exercise which
it affords to the faculties of observation and comparison; and I may
add, the _exactness_ of knowledge which it requires on the part of those
among its votaries who desire to extend its boundaries.

If what has been said as to the position and scope of Biology be
correct, our third question--What is the practical value of
physiological instruction?--might, one would think, be left to answer

On other grounds even, were mankind deserving of the title "rational,"
which they arrogate to themselves, there can be no question that they
would consider, as the most necessary of all branches of instruction for
themselves and for their children, that which professes to acquaint them
with the conditions of the existence they prize so highly--which teaches
them how to avoid disease and to cherish health, in themselves and
those who are dear to them.

I am addressing, I imagine, an audience of educated persons; and yet I
dare venture to assert that, with the exception of those of my hearers
who may chance to have received a medical education, there is not one
who could tell me what is the meaning and use of an act which he
performs a score of times every minute, and whose suspension would
involve his immediate death;--I mean the act of breathing--or who could
state in precise terms why it is that a confined atmosphere is injurious
to health.

The _practical value_ of Physiological knowledge! Why is it that
educated men can be found to maintain that a slaughter-house in the
midst of a great city is rather a good thing than otherwise?--that
mothers persist in exposing the largest possible amount of surface of
their children to the cold, by the absurd style of dress they adopt, and
then marvel at the peculiar dispensation of Providence, which removes
their infants by bronchitis and gastric fever? Why is it that quackery
rides rampant over the land; and that not long ago, one of the largest
public rooms in this great city could be filled by an audience gravely
listening to the reverend expositor of the doctrine--that the simple
physiological phenomena known as spirit-rapping, table-turning,
phreno-magnetism, and by I know not what other absurd and inappropriate
names, are due to the direct and personal agency of Satan?

Why is all this, except from the utter ignorance as to the simplest laws
of their own animal life, which prevails among even the most highly
educated persons in this country?

But there are other branches of Biological Science, besides Physiology
proper, whose practical influence, though less obvious, is not, as I
believe, less certain. I have heard educated men speak with an
ill-disguised contempt of the studies of the naturalist, and ask, not
without a shrug, "What is the use of knowing all about these miserable
animals--what bearing has it on human life?"

I will endeavour to answer that question. I take it that all will admit
there is definite Government of this universe--that its pleasures and
pains are not scattered at random, but are distributed in accordance
with orderly and fixed laws, and that it is only in accordance with all
we know of the rest of the world, that there should be an agreement
between one portion of the sensitive creation and another in these

Surely then it interests us to know the lot of other animal
creatures--however far below us, they are still the sole created things
which share with us the capability of pleasure and the susceptibility to

I cannot but think that he who finds a certain proportion of pain and
evil inseparably woven up in the life of the very worms, will bear his
own share with more courage and submission; and will, at any rate, view
with suspicion those weakly amiable theories of the Divine government,
which would have us believe pain to be an oversight and a mistake,--to
be corrected by and by. On the other hand, the predominance of happiness
among living things--their lavish beauty--the secret and wonderful
harmony which pervades them all, from the highest to the lowest, are
equally striking refutations of that modern Manichean doctrine, which
exhibits the world as a slave-mill, worked with many tears, for mere
utilitarian ends.

There is yet another way in which natural history may, I am convinced,
take a profound hold upon practical life,--and that is, by its influence
over our finer feelings, as the greatest of all sources of that pleasure
which is derivable from beauty. I do not pretend that natural-history
knowledge, as such, can increase our sense of the beautiful in natural
objects. I do not suppose that the dead soul of Peter Bell, of whom the
great poet of nature says,--

     A primrose by the river's brim,
     A yellow primrose was to him,--
     And it was nothing more,--

would have been a whit roused from its apathy, by the information that
the primrose is a Dicotyledonous Exogen, with a monopetalous corolla and
central placentation. But I advocate natural-history knowledge from this
point of view, because it would lead us to _seek_ the beauties of
natural objects, instead of trusting to chance to force them on our
attention. To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country, or
sea-side, stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works
of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall. Teach
him something of natural history, and you place in his hands a catalogue
of those which are worth turning round. Surely our innocent pleasures
are not so abundant in this life, that we can afford to despise this or
any other source of them. We should fear being banished for our neglect
to that limbo, where the great Florentine tells us are those who, during
this life, "wept when they might be joyful."

But I shall be trespassing unwarrantably on your kindness, if I do not
proceed at once to my last point--the time at which Physiological
Science should first form a part of the Curriculum of Education.

The distinction between the teaching of the facts of a science as
instruction, and the teaching it systematically as knowledge, has
already been placed before you in a previous lecture: and it appears to
me, that, as with other sciences, the _common facts_ of Biology--the
uses of parts of the body--the names and habits of the living creatures
which surround us--may be taught with advantage to the youngest child.
Indeed, the avidity of children for this kind of knowledge, and the
comparative ease with which they retain it, is something quite
marvellous. I doubt whether any toy would be so acceptable to young
children as a vivarium, of the same kind as, but of course on a smaller
scale than, those admirable devices in the Zoological Gardens.

On the other hand, systematic teaching in Biology cannot be attempted
with success until the student has attained to a certain knowledge of
physics and chemistry: for though the phænomena of life are dependent
neither on physical nor on chemical, but on vital forces, yet they
result in all sorts of physical and chemical changes, which can only be
judged by their own laws.

And now to sum up in a few words the conclusions to which I hope you see
reason to follow me.

Biology needs no apologist when she demands a place--and a prominent
place--in any scheme of education worthy of the name. Leave out the
Physiological sciences from your curriculum, and you launch the student
into the world, undisciplined in that science whose subject-matter
would best develop his powers of observation; ignorant of facts of the
deepest importance for his own and others' welfare; blind to the richest
sources of beauty in God's creation; and unprovided with that belief in
a living law, and an order manifesting itself in and through endless
change and variety, which might serve to check and moderate that phase
of despair through which, if he take an earnest interest in social
problems, he will assuredly sooner or later pass.

Finally, one word for myself. I have not hesitated to speak strongly
where I have felt strongly; and I am but too conscious that the
indicative and imperative moods have too often taken the place of the
more becoming subjunctive and conditional. I feel, therefore, how
necessary it is to beg you to forget the personality of him who has thus
ventured to address you, and to consider only the truth or error in what
has been said.


[4] "In the third place, we have to review the method of Comparison,
which is so specially adapted to the study of living bodies, and by
which, above all others, that study must be advanced. In Astronomy, this
method is necessarily inapplicable; and it is not till we arrive at
Chemistry that this third means of investigation can be used, and then
only in subordination to the two others. It is in the study, both
statical and dynamical, of living bodies that it first acquires its full
development; and its use elsewhere can be only through its application
here."--COMTE'S _Positive Philosophy_, translated by Miss Martineau.
Vol. i. p. 372.

By what method does M. Comte suppose that the equality or inequality of
forces and quantities and the dissimilarity or similarity of
forms--points of some slight importance not only in Astronomy and
Physics, but even in Mathematics--are ascertained, if not by Comparison?

[5] "Proceeding to the second class of means,--Experiment cannot but be
less and less decisive, in proportion to the complexity of the phænomena
to be explored; and therefore we saw this resource to be less effectual
in chemistry than in physics: and we now find that it is eminently
useful in chemistry in comparison with physiology. _In fact, the nature
of the phænomena seems to offer almost insurmountable impediments to any
extensive and prolific application of such a procedure in
biology._"--Comte, vol i. p. 367.

M. Comte, as his manner is, contradicts himself two pages further on,
but that will hardly relieve him from the responsibility of such a
paragraph as the above.

[6] "Nouvelle Fonction du Foie considéré comme organe producteur de
matière sucrée chez l'Homme et les Animaux," par M. Claude Bernard.

[7] "_Natural Groups given by Type, not by Definition...._ The class is
steadily fixed, though not precisely limited; it is given, though not
circumscribed; it is determined, not by a boundary-line without, but by
a central point within; not by what it strictly excludes, but what it
eminently includes; by an example, not by a precept; in short, instead
of Definition we have a _Type_ for our director. A type is an example of
any class, for instance, a species of a genus, which is considered as
eminently possessing the characters of the class. All the species which
have a greater affinity with this type-species than with any others,
form the genus, and are ranged about it, deviating from it in various
directions and different degrees."--WHEWELL, _The Philosophy of the
Inductive Sciences_, vol. i. pp. 476, 477.

[8] Save for the pleasure of doing so, I need hardly point out my
obligations to Mr. J.S. Mill's "System of Logic," in this view of
scientific method.



Natural history is the name familiarly applied to the study of the
properties of such natural bodies as minerals, plants, and animals; the
sciences which embody the knowledge man has acquired upon these subjects
are commonly termed Natural Sciences, in contradistinction to other,
so-called "physical," sciences; and those who devote themselves
especially to the pursuit of such sciences have been, and are, commonly
termed "Naturalists."

Linnæus was a naturalist in this wide sense, and his "Systema Naturæ"
was a work upon natural history, in the broadest acceptation of the
term; in it, that great methodizing spirit embodied all that was known
in his time of the distinctive characters of minerals, animals, and
plants. But the enormous stimulus which Linnæus gave to the
investigation of nature soon rendered it impossible that any one man
should write another "Systema Naturæ," and extremely difficult for any
one to become a naturalist such as Linnæus was.

Great as have been the advances made by all the three branches of
science, of old included under the title of natural history, there can
be no doubt that zoology and botany have grown in an enormously greater
ratio than mineralogy; and hence, as I suppose, the name of "natural
history" has gradually become more and more definitely attached to these
prominent divisions of the subject, and by "naturalist" people have
meant more and more distinctly to imply a student of the structure and
functions of living beings.

However this may be, it is certain that the advance of knowledge has
gradually widened the distance between mineralogy and its old
associates, while it has drawn zoology and botany closer together; so
that of late years it has been found convenient (and indeed necessary)
to associate the sciences which deal with vitality and all its phenomena
under the common head of "biology;" and the biologists have come to
repudiate any blood-relationship with their foster-brothers, the

Certain broad laws have a general application throughout both the animal
and the vegetable worlds, but the ground common to these kingdoms of
nature is not of very wide extent, and the multiplicity of details is so
great, that the student of living beings finds himself obliged to devote
his attention exclusively either to the one or the other. If he elects
to study plants, under any aspect, we know at once what to call him; he
is a botanist, and his science is botany. But if the investigation of
animal life be his choice, the name generally applied to him will vary,
according to the kind of animals he studies, or the particular phenomena
of animal life to which he confines his attention. If the study of man
is his object, he is called an anatomist, or a physiologist, or an
ethnologist; but if he dissects animals, or examines into the mode in
which their functions are performed, he is a comparative anatomist or
comparative physiologist. If he turns his attention to fossil animals,
he is a palæontologist. If his mind is more particularly directed to the
description, specific discrimination, classification, and distribution
of animals, he is termed a zoologist.

For the purposes of the present discourse, however, I shall recognise
none of these titles save the last, which I shall employ as the
equivalent of botanist, and I shall use the term zoology as denoting the
whole doctrine of animal life, in contradistinction to botany, which
signifies the whole doctrine of vegetable life.

Employed in this sense, zoology, like botany, is divisible into three
great but subordinate sciences, morphology, physiology, and
distribution, each of which may, to a very great extent, be studied
independently of the other.

Zoological morphology is the doctrine of animal form or structure.
Anatomy is one of its branches, development is another; while
classification is the expression of the relations which different
animals bear to one another, in respect of their anatomy and their

Zoological distribution is the study of animals in relation to the
terrestrial conditions which obtain now, or have obtained at any
previous epoch of the earth's history.

Zoological physiology, lastly, is the doctrine of the functions or
actions of animals. It regards animal bodies as machines impelled by
certain forces, and performing an amount of work, which can be
expressed in terms of the ordinary forces of nature. The final object of
physiology is to deduce the facts of morphology, on the one hand, and
those of distribution on the other, from the laws of the molecular
forces of matter.

Such is the scope of zoology. But if I were to content myself with the
enunciation of these dry definitions, I should ill exemplify that method
of teaching this branch of physical science, which it is my chief
business to-night to recommend. Let us turn away then from abstract
definitions. Let us take some concrete living thing, some animal, the
commoner the better, and let us see how the application of common sense
and common logic to the obvious facts it presents, inevitably leads us
into all these branches of zoological science.

I have before me a lobster. When I examine it, what appears to be the
most striking character it presents? Why, I observe that this part which
we call the tail of the lobster, is made up of six distinct hard rings
and a seventh terminal piece. If I separate one of the middle rings, say
the third, I find it carries upon its under surface a pair of limbs or
appendages, each of which consists of a stalk and two terminal pieces.
So that I can represent a transverse section of the ring and its
appendages upon the diagram board in this way.

If I now take the fourth ring I find it has the same structure, and so
have the fifth and the second; so that, in each of these divisions of
the tail, I find parts which correspond with one another, a ring and two
appendages; and in each appendage a stalk and two end pieces. These
corresponding parts are called, in the technical language of anatomy,
"homologous parts." The ring of the third division is the "homologue"
of the ring of the fifth, the appendage of the former is the homologue
of the appendage of the latter. And, as each division exhibits
corresponding parts in corresponding places, we say that all the
divisions are constructed upon the same plan. But now let us consider
the sixth division. It is similar to, and yet different from, the
others. The ring is essentially the same as in the other divisions; but
the appendages look at first as if they were very different; and yet
when we regard them closely, what do we find? A stalk and two terminal
divisions, exactly as in the others, but the stalk is very short and
very thick, the terminal divisions are very broad and flat, and one of
them is divided into two pieces.

I may say, therefore, that the sixth segment is like the others in plan,
but that it is modified in its details.

The first segment is like the others, so far as its ring is concerned,
and though its appendages differ from any of those yet examined in the
simplicity of their structure, parts corresponding with the stem and one
of the divisions of the appendages of the other segments can be readily
discerned in them.

Thus it appears that the lobster's tail is composed of a series of
segments which are fundamentally similar, though each presents peculiar
modifications of the plan common to all. But when I turn to the fore
part of the body I see, at first, nothing but a great shield-like shell,
called technically the "carapace," ending in front in a sharp spine, on
either side of which are the curious compound eyes, set upon the ends of
stout moveable stalks. Behind these, on the under side of the body, are
two pairs of long feelers, or antennæ, followed by six pairs of jaws,
folded against one another over the mouth, and five pairs of legs, the
foremost of these being the great pinchers, or claws, of the lobster.

It looks, at first, a little hopeless to attempt to find in this complex
mass a series of rings, each with its pair of appendages, such as I have
shown you in the abdomen, and yet it is not difficult to demonstrate
their existence. Strip off the legs, and you will find that each pair is
attached to a very definite segment of the under wall of the body; but
these segments, instead of being the lower parts of free rings, as in
the tail, are such parts of rings which are all solidly united and bound
together; and the like is true of the jaws, the feelers, and the
eye-stalks, every pair of which is borne upon its own special segment.
Thus the conclusion is gradually forced upon us, that the body of the
lobster is composed of as many rings as there are pairs of appendages,
namely, twenty in all, but that the six hindmost rings remain free and
moveable, while the fourteen front rings become firmly soldered
together, their backs forming one continuous shield--the carapace.

Unity of plan, diversity in execution, is the lesson taught by the study
of the rings of the body, and the same instruction is given still more
emphatically by the appendages. If I examine the outermost jaw I find it
consists of three distinct portions, an inner, a middle, and an outer,
mounted upon a common stem; and if I compare this jaw with the legs
behind it, or the jaws in front of it, I find it quite easy to see,
that, in the legs, it is the part of the appendage which corresponds
with the inner division, which becomes modified into what we know
familiarly as the "leg," while the middle division, disappears, and the
outer division is hidden under the carapace. Nor is it more difficult to
discern that, in the appendages of the tail, the middle division appears
again and the outer vanishes; while, on the other hand, in the foremost
jaw, the so-called mandible, the inner division only is left; and, in
the same way, the parts of the feelers and of the eye-stalks can be
identified with those of the legs and jaws.

But whither does all this tend? To the very remarkable conclusion that a
unity of plan, of the same kind as that discoverable in the tail or
abdomen of the lobster, pervades the whole organization of its skeleton,
so that I can return to the diagram representing any one of the rings of
the tail, which I drew upon the board, and by adding a third division to
each appendage, I can use it as a sort of scheme or plan of any ring of
the body. I can give names to all the parts of that figure, and then if
I take any segment of the body of the lobster, I can point out to you
exactly, what modification the general plan has undergone in that
particular segment; what part has remained moveable, and what has become
fixed to another; what has been excessively developed and metamorphosed,
and what has been suppressed.

But I imagine I hear the question, How is all this to be tested? No
doubt it is a pretty and ingenious way of looking at the structure of
any animal, but is it anything more? Does Nature acknowledge, in any
deeper way, this unity of plan we seem to trace?

The objection suggested by these questions is a very valid and important
one, and morphology was in an unsound state, so long as it rested upon
the mere perception of the analogies which obtain between fully formed
parts. The unchecked ingenuity of speculative anatomists proved itself
fully competent to spin any number of contradictory hypotheses out of
the same facts, and endless morphological dreams threatened to supplant
scientific theory.

Happily, however, there is a criterion of morphological truth, and a
sure test of all homologies. Our lobster has not always been what we see
it; it was once an egg, a semifluid mass of yolk, not so big as a pin's
head, contained in a transparent membrane, and exhibiting not the least
trace of any one of those organs, whose multiplicity and complexity, in
the adult, are so surprising. After a time a delicate patch of cellular
membrane appeared upon one face of this yolk, and that patch was the
foundation of the whole creature, the clay out of which it would be
moulded. Gradually investing the yolk, it became subdivided by
transverse constrictions into segments, the forerunners of the rings of
the body. Upon the ventral surface of each of the rings thus sketched
out, a pair of bud-like prominences made their appearance--the rudiments
of the appendages of the ring. At first, all the appendages were alike,
but, as they grew, most of them became distinguished into a stem and two
terminal divisions, to which, in the middle part of the body, was added
a third outer division; and it was only at a later period, that by the
modification, or abortion, of certain of these primitive constituents,
the limbs acquired their perfect form.

Thus the study of development proves that the doctrine of unity of plan
is not merely a fancy, that it is not merely one way of looking at the
matter, but that it is the expression of deep-seated natural facts. The
legs and jaws of the lobster may not merely be regarded as modifications
of a common type,--in fact and in nature they are so,--the leg and the
jaw of the young animal being, at first, indistinguishable.

These are wonderful truths, the more so because the zoologist finds them
to be of universal application. The investigation of a polype, of a
snail, of a fish, of a horse, or of a man, would have led us, though by
a less easy path, perhaps, to exactly the same point. Unity of plan
everywhere lies hidden under the mask of diversity of structure--the
complex is everywhere evolved out of the simple. Every animal has at
first the form of an egg, and every animal and every organic part, in
reaching its adult state, passes through conditions common to other
animals and other adult parts; and this leads me to another point. I
have hitherto spoken as if the lobster were alone in the world, but, as
I need hardly remind you, there are myriads of other animal organisms.
Of these, some, such as men, horses, birds, fishes, snails, slugs,
oysters, corals, and sponges, are not in the least like the lobster. But
other animals, though they may differ a good deal from the lobster, are
yet either very like it, or are like something that is like it. The cray
fish, the rock lobster, and the prawn, and the shrimp, for example,
however different, are yet so like lobsters, that a child would group
them as of the lobster kind, in contradistinction to snails and slugs;
and these last again would form a kind by themselves, in
contradistinction to cows, horses, and sheep, the cattle kind.

But this spontaneous grouping into "kinds" is the first essay of the
human mind at classification, or the calling by a common name of those
things that are alike, and the arranging them in such a manner as best
to suggest the sum of their likenesses and unlikenesses to other things.

Those kinds which include no other subdivisions than the sexes, or
various breeds, are called, in technical language, species. The English
lobster is a species, our cray fish is another, our prawn is another. In
other countries, however, there are lobsters, cray fish, and prawns,
very like ours, and yet presenting sufficient differences to deserve
distinction. Naturalists, therefore, express this resemblance and this
diversity by grouping them as distinct species of the same "genus." But
the lobster and the cray fish, though belonging to distinct genera, have
many features in common, and hence are grouped together in an assemblage
which is called a family. More distant resemblances connect the lobster
with the prawn and the crab, which are expressed by putting all these
into the same order. Again, more remote, but still very definite,
resemblances unite the lobster with the woodlouse, the king crab, the
water-flea, and the barnacle, and separate them from all other animals;
whence they collectively constitute the larger group, or class,
_Crustacea_. But the _Crustacea_ exhibit many peculiar features in
common with insects, spiders, and centipedes, so that these are grouped
into the still larger assemblage or "province" _Articulata_; and,
finally, the relations which these have to worms and other lower
animals, are expressed by combining the whole vast aggregate into the
sub-kingdom of _Annulosa_.

If I had worked my way from a sponge instead of a lobster, I should have
found it associated, by like ties, with a great number of other animals
into the sub-kingdom _Protozoa_; if I had selected a fresh-water polype
or a coral, the members of what naturalists term the sub-kingdom
_Cælenterata_ would have grouped themselves around my type; had a snail
been chosen, the inhabitants of all univalve and bivalve, land and
water, shells, the lamp shells, the squids, and the sea-mat would have
gradually linked themselves on to it as members of the same sub-kingdom
of _Mollusca_; and finally, starting from man, I should have been
compelled to admit first, the ape, the rat, the horse, the dog, into the
same class; and then the bird, the crocodile, the turtle, the frog, and
the fish, into the same sub-kingdom of _Vertebrata_.

And if I had followed out all these various lines of classification
fully, I should discover in the end that there was no animal, either
recent or fossil, which did not at once fall into one or other of these
sub-kingdoms. In other words, every animal is organized upon one or
other of the five, or more, plans, whose existence renders our
classification possible. And so definitely and precisely marked is the
structure of each animal, that, in the present state of our knowledge,
there is not the least evidence to prove that a form, in the slightest
degree transitional between any of the two groups _Vertebrata, Annulosa,
Mollusca_, and _Cælenterata_, either exists, or has existed, during that
period of the earth's history which is recorded by the geologist.
Nevertheless, you must not for a moment suppose, because no such
transitional forms are known, that the members of the sub-kingdoms are
disconnected from, or independent of, one another. On the contrary, in
their earliest condition they are all alike, and the primordial germs
of a man, a dog, a bird, a fish, a beetle, a snail, and a polype are, in
no essential structural respects, distinguishable.

In this broad sense, it may with truth be said, that all living animals,
and all those dead creations which geology reveals, are bound together
by an all-pervading unity of organization, of the same character, though
not equal in degree, to that which enables us to discern one and the
same plan amidst the twenty different segments of a lobster's body.
Truly it has been said, that to a clear eye the smallest fact is a
window through which the Infinite may be seen.

Turning from these purely morphological considerations, let us now
examine into the manner in which the attentive study of the lobster
impels us into other lines of research.

Lobsters are found in all the European seas; but on the opposite shores
of the Atlantic and in the seas of the southern hemisphere they do not
exist. They are, however, represented in these regions by very closely
allied, but distinct forms--the _Homarus Americanus_ and the _Homarus
Capensis_: so that we may say that the European has one species of
_Homarus_; the American, another; the African, another; and thus the
remarkable facts of geographical distribution begin to dawn upon us.

Again, if we examine the contents of the earth's crust, we shall find in
the latter of those deposits, which have served as the great burying
grounds of past ages, numberless lobster-like animals, but none so
similar to our living lobster as to make zoologists sure that they
belonged even to the same genus. If we go still further back in time,
we discover, in the oldest rocks of all, the remains of animals,
constructed on the same general plan as the lobster, and belonging to
the same great group of _Crustacea_; but for the most part totally
different from the lobster, and indeed from any other living form of
crustacean; and thus we gain a notion of that successive change of the
animal population of the globe, in past ages, which is the most striking
fact revealed by geology.

Consider, now, where our inquiries have led us. We studied our type
morphologically, when we determined its anatomy and its development, and
when comparing it, in these respects, with other animals, we made out
its place in a system of classification. If we were to examine every
animal in a similar manner, we should establish a complete body of
zoological morphology.

Again, we investigated the distribution of our type in space and in
time, and, if the like had been done with every animal, the sciences of
geographical and geological distribution would have attained their

But you will observe one remarkable circumstance, that, up to this
point, the question of the life of these organisms has not come under
consideration. Morphology and distribution might be studied almost as
well, if animals and plants were a peculiar kind of crystals, and
possessed none of those functions which distinguish living beings so
remarkably. But the facts of morphology and distribution have to be
accounted for, and the science, whose aim it is to account for them, is

Let us return to our lobster once more. If we watched the creature in
its native element, we should see it climbing actively the submerged
rocks, among which it delights to live, by means of its strong legs; or
swimming by powerful strokes of its great tail, the appendages of whose
sixth joint are spread out into a broad fan-like propeller: seize it,
and it will show you that its great claws are no mean weapons of
offence; suspend a piece of carrion among its haunts, and it will
greedily devour it, tearing and crushing the flesh by means of its
multitudinous jaws.

Suppose that we had known nothing of the lobster but as an inert mass,
an organic crystal, if I may use the phrase, and that we could suddenly
see it exerting all these powers, what wonderful new ideas and new
questions would arise in our minds! The great new question would be,
"How does all this take place?" the chief new idea would be, the idea of
adaptation to purpose,--the notion, that the constituents of animal
bodies are not mere unconnected parts, but organs working together to an
end. Let us consider the tail of the lobster again from this point of
view. Morphology has taught us that it is a series of segments composed
of homologous parts, which undergo various modifications--beneath and
through which a common plan of formation is discernible. But if I look
at the same part physiologically, I see that it is a most beautifully
constructed organ of locomotion, by means of which the animal can
swiftly propel itself either backwards or forwards.

But how is this remarkable propulsive machine made to perform its
functions? If I were suddenly to kill one of these animals and to take
out all the soft parts, I should find the shell to be perfectly inert,
to have no more power of moving itself than is possessed by the
machinery of a mill, when disconnected from its steam-engine or
water-wheel. But if I were to open it, and take out the viscera only,
leaving the white flesh, I should perceive that the lobster could bend
and extend its tail as well as before. If I were to cut off the tail, I
should cease to find any spontaneous motion in it; but on pinching any
portion of the flesh, I should observe that it underwent a very curious
change--each fibre becoming shorter and thicker. By this act of
contraction, as it is termed, the parts to which the ends of the fibre
are attached are, of course, approximated; and according to the
relations of their points of attachment to the centres of motion of the
different rings, the bending or the extension of the tail results. Close
observation of the newly opened lobster would soon show that all its
movements are due to the same cause--the shortening and thickening of
these fleshy fibres, which are technically called muscles.

Here, then, is a capital fact. The movements of the lobster are due to
muscular contractility. But why does a muscle contract at one time and
not at another? Why does one whole group of muscles contract when the
lobster wishes to extend his tail, and another group, when he desires to
bend it? What is it originates, directs, and controls the motive power?

Experiment, the great instrument for the ascertainment of truth in
physical science, answers this question for us. In the head of the
lobster there lies a small mass of that peculiar tissue which is known
as nervous substance. Cords of similar matter connect this brain of the
lobster, directly or indirectly, with the muscles. Now, if these
communicating cords are cut, the brain remaining entire, the power of
exerting what we call voluntary motion in the parts below the section is
destroyed; and on the other hand, if, the cords remaining entire, the
brain mass be destroyed, the same voluntary mobility is equally lost.
Whence the inevitable conclusion is, that the power of originating these
motions resides in the brain, and is propagated along the nervous cords.

In the higher animals the phænomena which attend this transmission have
been investigated, and the exertion of the peculiar energy which resides
in the nerves has been found to be accompanied by a disturbance of the
electrical state of their molecules.

If we could exactly estimate the signification of this disturbance; if
we could obtain the value of a given exertion of nerve force by
determining the quantity of electricity, or of heat, of which it is the
equivalent; if we could ascertain upon what arrangement, or other
condition of the molecules of matter, the manifestation of the nervous
and muscular energies depends, (and doubtless science will some day or
other ascertain these points,) physiologists would have attained their
ultimate goal in this direction; they would have determined the relation
of the motive force of animals to the other forms of force found in
nature; and if the same process had been successfully performed for all
the operations which are carried on in, and by, the animal frame,
physiology would be perfect, and the facts of morphology and
distribution would be deducible from the laws which physiologists had
established, combined with those determining the condition of the
surrounding universe.

There is not a fragment of the organism of this humble animal, whose
study would not lead us into regions of thought as large as those which
I have briefly opened up to you; but what I have been saying, I trust,
has not only enabled you to form a conception of the scope and purport
of zoology, but has given you an imperfect example of the manner in
which, in my opinion, that science, or indeed any physical science, may
be best taught. The great matter is, to make teaching real and
practical, by fixing the attention of the student on particular facts;
but at the same time it should be rendered broad and comprehensive, by
constant reference to the generalizations of which all particular facts
are illustrations. The lobster has served as a type of the whole animal
kingdom, and its anatomy and physiology have illustrated for us some of
the greatest truths of biology. The student who has once seen for
himself the facts which I have described, has had their relations
explained to him, and has clearly comprehended them, has, so far, a
knowledge of zoology, which is real and genuine, however limited it may
be, and which is worth more than all the mere reading knowledge of the
science he could ever acquire. His zoological information is, so far,
knowledge and not mere hearsay.

And if it were my business to fit you for the certificate in zoological
science granted by this department, I should pursue a course precisely
similar in principle to that which I have taken to-night. I should
select a fresh-water sponge, a fresh-water polype or a _Cyanæa_, a
fresh-water mussel, a lobster, a fowl, as types of the five primary
divisions of the animal kingdom. I should explain their structure very
fully, and show how each illustrated the great principles of zoology.
Having gone very carefully and fully over this ground, I should feel
that you had a safe foundation, and I should then take you in the same
way, but less minutely, over similarly selected illustrative types of
the classes; and then I should direct your attention to the special
forms enumerated under the head of types, in this syllabus, and to the
other facts there mentioned.

That would, speaking generally, be my plan. But I have undertaken to
explain to you the best mode of acquiring and communicating a knowledge
of zoology, and you may therefore fairly ask me for a more detailed and
precise account of the manner in which I should propose to furnish you
with the information I refer to.

My own impression is, that the best model for all kinds of training in
physical science is that afforded by the method of teaching anatomy, in
use in the medical schools. This method consists of three
elements--lectures, demonstrations, and examinations.

The object of lectures is, in the first place, to awaken the attention
and excite the enthusiasm of the student; and this, I am sure, may be
effected to a far greater extent by the oral discourse and by the
personal influence of a respected teacher than in any other way.
Secondly, lectures have the double use of guiding the student to the
salient points of a subject, and at the same time forcing him to attend
to the whole of it, and not merely to that part which takes his fancy.
And lastly, lectures afford the student the opportunity of seeking
explanations of those difficulties which will; and indeed ought to,
arise in the course of his studies.

But for a student to derive the utmost possible value from lectures,
several precautions are needful.

I have a strong impression that the better a discourse is, as an
oration, the worse it is as a lecture. The flow of the discourse carries
you on without proper attention to its sense; you drop a word or a
phrase, you lose the exact meaning for a moment, and while you strive to
recover yourself, the speaker has passed on to something else.

The practice I have adopted of late years, in lecturing to students, is
to condense the substance of the hour's discourse into a few dry
propositions, which are read slowly and taken down from dictation; the
reading of each being followed by a free commentary, expanding and
illustrating the proposition, explaining terms, and removing any
difficulties that may be attackable in that way, by diagrams made
roughly, and seen to grow under the lecturer's hand. In this manner you,
at any rate, insure the co-operation of the student to a certain extent.
He cannot leave the lecture-room entirely empty if the taking of notes
is enforced; and a student must be preternaturally dull and mechanical,
if he can take notes and hear them properly explained, and yet learn

What books shall I read? is a question constantly put by the student to
the teacher. My reply usually is, "None: write your notes out carefully
and fully; strive to understand them thoroughly; come to me for the
explanation of anything you cannot understand; and I would rather you
did not distract your mind by reading." A properly composed course of
lectures ought to contain fully as much matter as a student can
assimilate in the time occupied by its delivery; and the teacher should
always recollect that his business is to feed, and not to cram the
intellect. Indeed, I believe that a student who gains from a course of
lectures the simple habit of concentrating his attention upon a
definitely limited series of facts, until they are thoroughly mastered,
has made a step of immeasurable importance.

But, however good lectures may be, and however extensive the course of
reading by which they are followed up, they are but accessories to the
great instrument of scientific teaching--demonstration. If I insist
unweariedly, nay fanatically, upon the importance of physical science as
an educational agent, it is because the study of any branch of science,
if properly conducted, appears to me to fill up a void left by all other
means of education. I have the greatest respect and love for literature;
nothing would grieve me more than to see literary training other than a
very prominent branch of education: indeed, I wish that real literary
discipline were far more attended to than it is; but I cannot shut my
eyes to the fact, that there is a vast difference between men who have
had a purely literary, and those who have had a sound scientific,

Seeking for the cause of this difference, I imagine I can find it in the
fact, that, in the world of letters, learning and knowledge are one, and
books are the source of both; whereas in science, as in life, learning
and knowledge are distinct, and the study of things, and not of books,
is the source of the latter.

All that literature has to bestow may be obtained by reading and by
practical exercise in writing, and in speaking; but I do not exaggerate
when I say, that none of the best gifts of science are to be won by
these means. On the contrary, the great benefit which a scientific
education bestows, whether as training or as knowledge, is dependent
upon the extent to which the mind of the student is brought into
immediate contact with facts--upon the degree to which he learns the
habit of appealing directly to Nature, and of acquiring through his
senses concrete images of those properties of things, which are, and
always will be, but approximatively expressed in human language. Our way
of looking at Nature, and of speaking about her, varies from year to
year; but a fact once seen, a relation of cause and effect, once
demonstratively apprehended, are possessions which neither change nor
pass away, but, on the contrary, form fixed centres, about which other
truths aggregate by natural affinity.

Therefore, the great business of the scientific teacher is, to imprint
the fundamental, irrefragable facts of his science, not only by words
upon the mind, but by sensible impressions upon the eye, and ear, and
touch of the student, in so complete a manner, that every term used, or
law enunciated, should afterwards call up vivid images of the particular
structural, or other, facts which furnished the demonstration of the
law, or the illustration of the term.

Now this important operation can only be achieved by constant
demonstration, which may take place to a certain imperfect extent during
a lecture, but which ought also to be carried on independently, and
which should be addressed to each individual student, the teacher
endeavouring, not so much to show a thing to the learner, as to make him
see it for himself.

I am well aware that there are great practical difficulties in the way
of effectual zoological demonstrations. The dissection of animals is
not altogether pleasant, and requires much time; nor is it easy to
secure an adequate supply of the needful specimens. The botanist has
here a great advantage; his specimens are easily obtained, are clean and
wholesome, and can be dissected in a private house as well as anywhere
else; and hence, I believe, the fact, that botany is so much more
readily and better taught than its sister science. But, be it difficult
or be it easy, if zoological science is to be properly studied,
demonstration, and, consequently, dissection, must be had. Without it,
no man can have a really sound knowledge of animal organization.

A good deal may be done, however, without actual dissection on the
student's part, by demonstration upon specimens and preparations; and in
all probability it would not be very difficult, were the demand
sufficient, to organize collections of such objects, sufficient for all
the purposes of elementary teaching, at a comparatively cheap rate. Even
without these, much might be effected, if the zoological collections,
which are open to the public, were arranged according to what has been
termed the "typical principle;" that is to say, if the specimens exposed
to public view were so selected, that the public could learn something
from them, instead of being, as at present, merely confused by their
multiplicity. For example, the grand ornithological gallery at the
British Museum contains between two and three thousand species of birds,
and sometimes five or six specimens of a species. They are very pretty
to look at, and some of the cases are, indeed, splendid; but undertake
to say, that no man but a professed ornithologist has ever gathered
much information from the collection. Certainly, no one of the tens of
thousands of the general public who have walked through that gallery
ever knew more about the essential peculiarities of birds when he left
the gallery, than when he entered it. But if, somewhere in that vast
hall, there were a few preparations, exemplifying the leading structural
peculiarities and the mode of development of a common fowl; if the types
of the genera, the leading modifications in the skeleton, in the plumage
at various ages, in the mode of nidification, and the like, among birds,
were displayed; and if the other specimens were put away in a place
where the men of science, to whom they are alone useful, could have free
access to them, I can conceive that this collection might become a great
instrument of scientific education.

The last implement of the teacher to which I have adverted is
examination--a means of education now so thoroughly understood that I
need hardly enlarge upon it. I hold that both written and oral
examinations are indispensable, and, by requiring the description of
specimens, they may be made to supplement demonstration.

Such is the fullest reply the time at my disposal will allow me to give
to the question--how may a knowledge of zoology be best acquired and

But there is a previous question which may be moved, and which, in fact,
I know many are inclined to move. It is the question, why should
training masters be encouraged to acquire a knowledge of this, or any
other branch of physical science? What is the use, it is said, of
attempting to make physical science a branch of primary education? It
is not probable that teachers, in pursuing such studies, will be led
astray from the acquirement of more important but less attractive
knowledge? And, even if they can learn something of science without
prejudice to their usefulness, what is the good of their attempting to
instil that knowledge into boys whose real business is the acquisition
of reading, writing, and arithmetic?

These questions are, and will be, very commonly asked, for they arise
from that profound ignorance of the value and true position of physical
science, which infests the minds of the most highly educated and
intelligent classes of the community. But if I did not feel well assured
that they are capable of being easily and satisfactorily answered; that
they have been answered over and over again; and that the time will come
when men of liberal education will blush to raise such questions,--I
should be ashamed of my position here to-night. Without doubt, it is
your great and very important function to carry out elementary
education; without question, anything that should interfere with the
faithful fulfilment of that duty on your part would be a great evil; and
if I thought that your acquirement of the elements of physical science,
and your communication of those elements to your pupils, involved any
sort of interference with your proper duties, I should be the first
person to protest against your being encouraged to do anything of the

But is it true that the acquisition of such a knowledge of science as is
proposed, and the communication of that knowledge, are calculated to
weaken your usefulness? Or may I not rather ask, is it possible for you
to discharge your functions properly without these aids?

What is the purpose of primary intellectual education? I apprehend that
its first object is to train the young in the use of those tools
wherewith men extract knowledge from the ever-shifting succession of
phenomena which pass before their eyes; and that its second object is to
inform them of the fundamental laws which have been found by experience
to govern the course of things, so that they may not be turned out into
the world naked, defenceless, and a prey to the events they might

A boy is taught to read his own and other languages, in order that he
may have access to infinitely wider stores of knowledge than could ever
be opened to him by oral intercourse with his fellow men; he learns to
write, that his means of communication with the rest of mankind may be
indefinitely enlarged, and that he may record and store up the knowledge
he acquires. He is taught elementary mathematics, that he may understand
all those relations of number and form, upon which the transactions of
men, associated in complicated societies, are built, and that he may
have some practice in deductive reasoning.

All these operations of reading, writing, and ciphering, are
intellectual tools, whose use should, before all things, be learned, and
learned thoroughly; so that the youth may be enabled to make his life
that which it ought to be, a continual progress in learning and in

But, in addition, primary education endeavours to fit a boy out with a
certain equipment of positive knowledge. He is taught the great laws of
morality; the religion of his sect; so much history and geography as
will tell him where the great countries of the world are, what they are,
and how they have become what they are.

Without doubt all these are most fitting and excellent things to teach a
boy; I should be very sorry to omit any of them from any scheme of
primary intellectual education. The system is excellent, so far as it

But if I regard it closely, a curious reflection arises. I suppose that,
fifteen hundred years ago, the child of any well-to-do Roman citizen was
taught just these same things; reading and writing in his own, and,
perhaps, the Greek tongue; the elements of mathematics; and the
religion, morality, history, and geography current in his time.
Furthermore, I do not think I err in affirming, that, if such a
Christian Roman boy, who had finished his education, could be
transplanted into one of our public schools, and pass through its course
of instruction, he would not meet with a single unfamiliar line of
thought; amidst all the new facts he would have to learn, not one would
suggest a different mode of regarding the universe from that current in
his own time.

And yet surely there is some great difference between the civilization
of the fourth century and that of the nineteenth, and still more between
the intellectual habits and tone of thought of that day and this?

And what has made this difference? I answer fearlessly,--The prodigious
development of physical science within the last two centuries.

Modern civilization rests upon physical science; take away her gifts to
our own country, and our position among the leading nations of the world
is gone to-morrow; for it is physical science only, that makes
intelligence and moral energy stronger than brute force.

The whole of modern thought is steeped in science; it has made its way
into the works of our best poets, and even the mere man of letters, who
affects to ignore and despise science, is unconsciously impregnated with
her spirit, and indebted for his best products to her methods. I believe
that the greatest intellectual revolution mankind has yet seen is now
slowly taking place by her agency. She is teaching the world that the
ultimate court of appeal is observation and experiment, and not
authority; she is teaching it to estimate the value of evidence; she is
creating a firm and living faith in the existence of immutable moral and
physical laws, perfect obedience to which is the highest possible aim of
an intelligent being.

But of all this your old stereotyped system of education takes no note.
Physical science, its methods, its problems, and its difficulties, will
meet the poorest boy at every turn, and yet we educate him in such a
manner that he shall enter the world as ignorant of the existence of the
methods and facts of science as the day he was born. The modern world is
full of artillery; and we turn out our children to do battle in it,
equipped with the shield and sword of an ancient gladiator.

Posterity will cry shame on us if we do not remedy this deplorable state
of things. Nay, if we live twenty years longer, our own consciences will
cry shame on us.

It is my firm conviction that the only way to remedy it is, to make the
elements of physical science an integral part of primary education. I
have endeavoured to show you how that may be done for that branch of
science which it is my business to pursue; and I can but add, that I
should look upon the day when every schoolmaster throughout this land
was a centre of genuine, however rudimentary, scientific knowledge, as
an epoch in the history of the country.

But let me entreat you to remember my last words. Addressing myself to
you, as teachers, I would say, mere book learning in physical science is
a sham and a delusion--what you teach, unless you wish to be impostors,
that you must first know; and real knowledge in science means personal
acquaintance with the facts, be they few or many.[9]


[9] It has been suggested to me that these words may be taken to imply a
discouragement on my part of any sort of scientific instruction which
does not give an acquaintance with the facts at first hand. But this is
not my meaning. The ideal of scientific teaching is, no doubt, a system
by which the scholar sees every fact for himself, and the teacher
supplies only the explanations. Circumstances, however, do not often
allow of the attainment of that ideal, and we must put up with the next
best system--one in which the scholar takes a good deal on trust from a
teacher, who, knowing the facts by his own knowledge, can describe them
with so much vividness as to enable his audience to form competent ideas
concerning them. The system which I repudiate is that which allows
teachers who have not come into direct contact with the leading facts of
a science to pass their second-hand information on. The scientific
virus, like vaccine lymph, if passed through too long a succession of
organisms, will lose all its effect in protecting the young against the
intellectual epidemics to which they are exposed.



In order to make the title of this discourse generally intelligible, I
have translated the term "Protoplasm," which is the scientific name of
the substance of which I am about to speak, by the words "the physical
basis of life." I suppose that, to many, the idea that there is such a
thing as a physical basis, or matter, of life may be novel--so widely
spread is the conception of life as a something which works through
matter, but is independent of it; and even those who are aware that
matter and life are inseparably connected, may not be prepared for the
conclusion plainly suggested by the phrase, "_the_ physical basis or
matter of life," that there is some one kind of matter which is common
to all living beings, and that their endless diversities are bound
together by a physical, as well as an ideal, unity. In fact, when first
apprehended, such a doctrine as this appears almost shocking to common

What, truly, can seem to be more obviously different from one another in
faculty, in form, and in substance, than the various kinds of living
beings? What community of faculty can there be between the
brightly-coloured lichen, which so nearly resembles a mere mineral
incrustation of the bare rock on which it grows, and the painter, to
whom it is instinct with beauty, or the botanist, whom it feeds with

Again, think of the microscopic fungus--a mere infinitesimal ovoid
particle, which finds space and duration enough to multiply into
countless millions in the body of a living fly; and then of the wealth
of foliage, the luxuriance of flower and fruit, which lies between this
bald sketch of a plant and the giant pine of California, towering to the
dimensions of a cathedral spire, or the Indian fig, which covers acres
with its profound shadow, and endures while nations and empires come and
go around its vast circumference? Or, turning to the other half of the
world of life, picture to yourselves the great Finner whale, hugest of
beasts that live, or have lived, disporting his eighty or ninety feet of
bone, muscle, and blubber, with easy roll, among waves in which the
stoutest ship that ever left dockyard would founder hopelessly; and
contrast him with the invisible animalcules--mere gelatinous specks,
multitudes of which could, in fact, dance upon the point of a needle
with the same ease as the angels of the Schoolmen could, in imagination.
With these images before your minds, you may well ask, what community
of form, or structure, is there between the animalcule and the whale; or
between the fungus and the fig-tree? And, _à fortiori_, between all

Finally, if we regard substance, or material composition, what hidden
bond can connect the flower which a girl wears in her hair and the blood
which courses through her youthful veins; or, what is there in common
between the dense and resisting mass of the oak, or the strong fabric of
the tortoise, and those broad disks of glassy jelly which may be seen
pulsating through the waters of a calm sea, but which drain away to mere
films in the hand which raises them out of their element?

Such objections as these must, I think, arise in the mind of every one
who ponders, for the first time, upon the conception of a single
physical basis of life underlying all the diversities of vital
existence; but I propose to demonstrate to you that, notwithstanding
these apparent difficulties, a threefold unity--namely, a unity of
power, or faculty, a unity of form, and a unity of substantial
composition--does pervade the whole living world.

No very abstruse argumentation is needed, in the first place, to prove
that the powers, or faculties, of all kinds of living matter, diverse as
they may be in degree, are substantially similar in kind.

Goethe has condensed a survey of all the powers of mankind into the
well-known epigram:--

     "Warum treibt sich das Volk so und schreit? Es will sich ernähren
         Kinder zeugen, und die nähren so gut es vermag.

            *       *       *       *       *

     Weiter bringt es kein Mensch, stell' er sich wie er auch will."

In physiological language this means, that all the multifarious and
complicated activities of man are comprehensible under three categories.
Either they are immediately directed towards the maintenance and
development of the body, or they effect transitory changes in the
relative positions of parts of the body, or they tend towards the
continuance of the species. Even those manifestations of intellect, of
feeling, and of will, which we rightly name the higher faculties, are
not excluded from this classification, inasmuch as to every one but the
subject of them, they are known only as transitory changes in the
relative positions of parts of the body. Speech, gesture, and every
other form of human action are, in the long run, resolvable into
muscular contraction, and muscular contraction is but a transitory
change in the relative positions of the parts of a muscle. But the
scheme which is large enough to embrace the activities of the highest
form of life, covers all those of the lower creatures. The lowest plant,
or animalcule, feeds, grows, and reproduces its kind. In addition, all
animals manifest those transitory changes of form which we class under
irritability and contractility; and, it is more than probable, that when
the vegetable world is thoroughly explored, we shall find all plants in
possession of the same powers, at one time or other of their existence.

I am not now alluding to such phænomena, at once rare and conspicuous,
as those exhibited by the leaflets of the sensitive plant, or the
stamens of the barberry, but to much more widely-spread, and, at the
same time, more subtle and hidden, manifestations of vegetable
contractility. You are doubtless aware that the common nettle owes its
stinging property to the innumerable stiff and needle-like, though
exquisitely delicate, hairs which cover its surface. Each
stinging-needle tapers from a broad base to a slender summit, which,
though rounded at the end, is of such microscopic fineness that it
readily penetrates, and breaks off in, the skin. The whole hair consists
of a very delicate outer case of wood, closely applied to the inner
surface of which is a layer of semifluid matter, full of innumerable
granules of extreme minuteness. This semi-fluid lining is protoplasm,
which thus constitutes a kind of bag, full of a limpid liquid, and
roughly corresponding in form with the interior of the hair which it
fills. When viewed with a sufficiently high magnifying power, the
protoplasmic layer of the nettle hair is seen to be in a condition of
unceasing activity. Local contractions of the whole thickness of its
substance pass slowly and gradually from point to point, and give rise
to the appearance of progressive waves, just as the bending of
successive stalks of corn by a breeze produces the apparent billows of a

But, in addition to these movements, and independently of them, the
granules are driven, in relatively rapid streams, through channels in
the protoplasm which seem to have a considerable amount of persistence.
Most commonly, the currents in adjacent parts of the protoplasm take
similar directions; and, thus, there is a general stream up one side of
the hair and down the other. But this does not prevent the existence of
partial currents which take different routes; and, sometimes, trains of
granules may be seen coursing swiftly in opposite directions, within a
twenty-thousandth of an inch of one another; while, occasionally,
opposite streams come into direct collision, and, after a longer or
shorter struggle, one predominates. The cause of these currents seems
to lie in contractions of the protoplasm which bounds the channels in
which they flow, but which are so minute that the best microscopes show
only their effects, and not themselves.

The spectacle afforded by the wonderful energies prisoned within the
compass of the microscopic hair of a plant, which we commonly regard as
a merely passive organism, is not easily forgotten by one who has
watched its display, continued hour after hour, without pause or sign of
weakening. The possible complexity of many other organic forms,
seemingly as simple as the protoplasm of the nettle, dawns upon one; and
the comparison of such a protoplasm to a body with an internal
circulation, which has been put forward by an eminent physiologist,
loses much of its startling character. Currents similar to those of the
hairs of the nettle have been observed in a great multitude of very
different plants, and weighty authorities have suggested that they
probably occur, in more or less perfection, in all young vegetable
cells. If such be the case, the wonderful noonday silence of a tropical
forest is, after all, due only to the dulness of our hearing; and could
our ears catch the murmur of these tiny Maelstroms, as they whirl in the
innumerable myriads of living cells which constitute each tree, we
should be stunned, as with the roar of a great city.

Among the lower plants, it is the rule rather than the exception, that
contractility should be still more openly manifested at some periods of
their existence. The protoplasm of _Algæ_ and _Fungi_ becomes, under
many circumstances, partially, or completely, freed from its woody
case, and exhibits movements of its whole mass, or is propelled by the
contractility of one, or more, hair-like prolongations of its body,
which are called vibratile cilia. And, so far as the conditions of the
manifestation of the phænomena of contractility have yet been studied,
they are the same for the plant as for the animal. Heat and electric
shocks influence both, and in the same way, though it may be in
different degrees. It is by no means my intention to suggest that there
is no difference in faculty between the lowest plant and the highest, or
between plants and animals. But the difference between the powers of the
lowest plant, or animal, and those of the highest, is one of degree, not
of kind, and depends, as Milne-Edwards long ago so well pointed out,
upon the extent to which the principle of the division of labour is
carried out in the living economy. In the lowest organism all parts are
competent to perform all functions, and one and the same portion of
protoplasm may successively take on the function of feeding, moving, or
reproducing apparatus. In the highest, on the contrary, a great number
of parts combine to perform each function, each part doing its allotted
share of the work with great accuracy and efficiency, but being useless
for any other purpose.

On the other hand, notwithstanding all the fundamental resemblances
which exist between the powers of the protoplasm in plants and in
animals, they present a striking difference (to which I shall advert
more at length presently), in the fact that plants can manufacture fresh
protoplasm out of mineral compounds, whereas animals are obliged to
procure it ready made, and hence, in the long run, depend upon plants.
Upon what condition this difference in the powers of the two great
divisions of the world of life depends, nothing is at present known.

With such qualification as arises out of the last-mentioned fact, it may
be truly said that the acts of all living things are fundamentally one.
Is any such unity predicable of their forms? Let us seek in easily
verified facts for a reply to this question. If a drop of blood be drawn
by pricking one's finger, and viewed with proper precautions and under a
sufficiently high microscopic power, there will be seen, among the
innumerable multitude of little, circular, discoidal bodies, or
corpuscles, which float in it and give it its colour, a comparatively
small number of colourless corpuscles, of somewhat larger size and very
irregular shape. If the drop of blood be kept at the temperature of the
body, these colourless corpuscles will be seen to exhibit a marvellous
activity, changing their forms with great rapidity, drawing in and
thrusting out prolongations of their substance, and creeping about as if
they were independent organisms.

The substance which is thus active is a mass of protoplasm, and its
activity differs in detail, rather than in principle, from that of the
protoplasm of the nettle. Under sundry circumstances the corpuscle dies
and becomes distended into a round mass, in the midst of which is seen a
smaller spherical body, which existed, but was more or less hidden, in
the living corpuscle, and is called its _nucleus_. Corpuscles of
essentially similar structure are to be found in the skin, in the lining
of the mouth, and scattered through the whole framework of the body.
Nay, more; in the earliest condition of the human organism, in that
state in which it has but just become distinguishable from the egg in
which it arises, it is nothing but an aggregation of such corpuscles,
and every organ of the body was, once, no more than such an aggregation.

Thus a nucleated mass of protoplasm turns out to be what may be termed
the structural unit of the human body. As a matter of fact, the body, in
its earliest state, is a mere multiple of such units; and, in its
perfect condition, it is a multiple of such units, variously modified.

But does the formula which expresses the essential structural character
of the highest animal cover all the rest, as the statement of its powers
and faculties covered that of all others? Very nearly. Beast and fowl,
reptile and fish, mollusk, worm, and polype, are all composed of
structural units of the same character, namely, masses of protoplasm
with a nucleus. There are sundry very low animals, each of which,
structurally, is a mere colourless blood-corpuscle, leading an
independent life. But, at the very bottom of the animal scale, even this
simplicity becomes simplified, and all the phænomena of life are
manifested by a particle of protoplasm without a nucleus. Nor are such
organisms insignificant by reason of their want of complexity. It is a
fair question whether the protoplasm of those simplest forms of life,
which people an immense extent of the bottom of the sea, would not
outweigh that of all the higher living beings which inhabit the land put
together. And in ancient times, no less than at the present day, such
living beings as these have been the greatest of rock builders.

What has been said of the animal world is no less true of plants.
Imbedded in the protoplasm at the broad, or attached, end of the nettle
hair, there lies a spheroidal nucleus. Careful examination further
proves that the whole substance of the nettle is made up of a repetition
of such masses of nucleated protoplasm, each contained in a wooden case,
which is modified in form, sometimes into a woody fibre, sometimes into
a duct or spiral vessel, sometimes into a pollen grain, or an ovule.
Traced back to its earliest state, the nettle arises as the man does, in
a particle of nucleated protoplasm. And in the lowest plants, as in the
lowest animals, a single mass of such protoplasm may constitute the
whole plant, or the protoplasm may exist without a nucleus.

Under these circumstances it may well be asked, how is one mass of
non-nucleated protoplasm to be distinguished from another? why call one
"plant" and the other "animal"?

The only reply is that, so far as form is concerned, plants and animals
are not separable, and that, in many cases, it is a mere matter of
convention whether we call a given organism an animal or a plant. There
is a living body called _Æthalium septicum_, which appears upon decaying
vegetable substances, and, in one of its forms, is common upon the
surfaces of tan-pits. In this condition it is, to all intents and
purposes, a fungus, and formerly was always regarded as such; but the
remarkable investigations of De Bary have shown that, in another
condition, the _Æthalium_ is an actively locomotive creature, and takes
in solid matters, upon which, apparently, it feeds, thus exhibiting the
most characteristic feature of animality. Is this a plant; or is it an
animal? Is it both; or is it neither? Some decide in favour of the last
supposition, and establish an intermediate kingdom, a sort of biological
No Man's Land for all these questionable forms. But, as it is admittedly
impossible to draw any distinct boundary line between this no man's land
and the vegetable world on the one hand, or the animal, on the other, it
appears to me that this proceeding merely doubles the difficulty which,
before, was single.

Protoplasm, simple or nucleated, is the formal basis of all life. It is
the clay of the potter: which, bake it and paint it as he will, remains
clay, separated by artifice, and not by nature, from the commonest brick
or sun-dried clod.

Thus it becomes clear that all living powers are cognate, and that all
living forms are fundamentally of one character. The researches of the
chemist have revealed a no less striking uniformity of material
composition in living matter.

In perfect strictness, it is true that chemical investigation can tell
us little or nothing, directly, of the composition of living matter,
inasmuch as such matter must needs die in the act of analysis,--and upon
this very obvious ground, objections, which I confess seem to me to be
somewhat frivolous, have been raised to the drawing of any conclusions
whatever respecting the composition of actually living matter, from that
of the dead matter of life, which alone is accessible to us. But
objectors of this class do not seem to reflect that it is also, in
strictness, true that we know nothing about the composition of any body
whatever, as it is. The statement that a crystal of calc-spar consists
of carbonate of lime, is quite true, if we only mean that, by
appropriate processes, it may be resolved into carbonic acid and
quicklime. If you pass the same carbonic acid over the very quicklime
thus obtained, you will obtain carbonate of lime again; but it will not
be calc-spar, nor anything like it. Can it, therefore, be said that
chemical analysis teaches nothing about the chemical composition of
calc-spar? Such a statement would be absurd; but it is hardly more so
than the talk one occasionally hears about the uselessness of applying
the results of chemical analysis to the living bodies which have yielded

One fact, at any rate, is out of reach of such refinements, and this is,
that all the forms of protoplasm which have yet been examined contain
the four elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, in very
complex union, and that they behave similarly towards several reagents.
To this complex combination, the nature of which has never been
determined with exactness, the name of Protein has been applied. And if
we use this term with such caution as may properly arise out of our
comparative ignorance of the things for which it stands, it may be truly
said, that all protoplasm is proteinaceous; or, as the white, or
albumen, of an egg is one of the commonest examples of a nearly pure
protein matter, we may say that all living matter is more or less

Perhaps it would not yet be safe to say that all forms of protoplasm are
affected by the direct action of electric shocks; and yet the number of
cases in which the contraction of protoplasm is shown to be effected by
this agency increases every day.

Nor can it be affirmed with perfect confidence, that all forms of
protoplasm are liable to undergo that peculiar coagulation at a
temperature of 40°--50° centigrade, which has been called
"heat-stiffening," though Kühne's beautiful researches have proved this
occurrence to take place in so many and such diverse living beings, that
it is hardly rash to expect that the law holds good for all.

Enough has, perhaps, been said to prove the existence of a general
uniformity in the character of the protoplasm, or physical basis, of
life, in whatever group of living beings it may be studied. But it will
be understood that this general uniformity by no means excludes any
amount of special modifications of the fundamental substance. The
mineral, carbonate of lime, assumes an immense diversity of characters,
though no one doubts that, under all these Protean changes, it is one
and the same thing.

And now, what is the ultimate fate, and what the origin, of the matter
of life?

Is it, as some of the older naturalists supposed, diffused throughout
the universe in molecules, which are indestructible and unchangeable in
themselves; but, in endless transmigration, unite in innumerable
permutations, into the diversified forms of life we know? Or, is the
matter of life composed of ordinary matter, differing from it only in
the manner in which its atoms are aggregated? Is it built up of ordinary
matter, and again resolved into ordinary matter when its work is done?

Modern science does not hesitate a moment between these alternatives.
Physiology writes over the portals of life--

     "Debemur morti nos nostraque,"

with a profounder meaning than the Roman poet attached to that
melancholy line. Under whatever disguise it takes refuge, whether fungus
or oak, worm or man, the living protoplasm not only ultimately dies and
is resolved into its mineral and lifeless constituents, but is always
dying, and, strange as the paradox may sound, could not live unless it

In the wonderful story of the "Peau de Chagrin," the hero becomes
possessed of a magical wild ass' skin, which yields him the means of
gratifying all his wishes. But its surface represents the duration of
the proprietor's life; and for every satisfied desire the skin shrinks
in proportion to the intensity of fruition, until at length life and the
last handbreadth of the _peau de chagrin_ disappear with the
gratification of a last wish.

Balzac's studies had led him over a wide range of thought and
speculation, and his shadowing forth of physiological truth in this
strange story may have been intentional. At any rate, the matter of life
is a veritable _peau de chagrin_, and for every vital act it is somewhat
the smaller. All work implies waste, and the work of life results,
directly or indirectly, in the waste of protoplasm.

Every word uttered by a speaker costs him some physical loss; and, in
the strictest sense, he burns that others may have light--so much
eloquence, so much of his body resolved into carbonic acid, water, and
urea. It is clear that this process of expenditure cannot go on for
ever. But happily, the protoplasmic _peau de chagrin_ differs from
Balzac's in its capacity of being repaired, and brought back to its full
size, after every exertion.

For example, this present lecture, whatever its intellectual worth to
you, has a certain physical value to me, which is, conceivably,
expressible by the number of grains of protoplasm and other bodily
substance wasted in maintaining my vital processes during its delivery.
My _peau de chagrin_ will be distinctly smaller at the end of the
discourse than it was at the beginning. By and by, I shall probably have
recourse to the substance commonly called mutton, for the purpose of
stretching it back to its original size. Now this mutton was once the
living protoplasm, more or less modified, of another animal--a sheep. As
I shall eat it, it is the same matter altered, not only by death, but by
exposure to sundry artificial operations in the process of cooking.

But these changes, whatever be their extent, have not rendered it
incompetent to resume its old functions as matter of life. A singular
inward laboratory, which I possess, will dissolve a certain portion of
the modified protoplasm; the solution so formed will pass into my veins;
and the subtle influences to which it will then be subjected will
convert the dead protoplasm into living protoplasm, and transubstantiate
sheep into man.

Nor is this all. If digestion were a thing to be trifled with, I might
sup upon lobster, and the matter of life of the crustacean would undergo
the same wonderful metamorphosis into humanity. And were I to return to
my own place by sea, and undergo shipwreck, the crustacea might, and
probably would, return the compliment, and demonstrate our common nature
by turning my protoplasm into living lobster. Or, if nothing better were
to be had, I might supply my wants with mere bread, and I should find
the protoplasm of the wheat-plant to be convertible into man, with no
more trouble than that of the sheep, and with far less, I fancy, than
that of the lobster.

Hence it appears to be a matter of no great moment what animal, or what
plant, I lay under contribution for protoplasm, and the fact speaks
volumes for the general identity of that substance in all living beings.
I share this catholicity of assimilation with other animals, all of
which, so far as we know, could thrive equally well on the protoplasm of
any of their fellows, or of any plant; but here the assimilative powers
of the animal world cease. A solution of smelling-salts in water, with
an infinitesimal proportion of some other saline matters, contains all
the elementary bodies which enter into the composition of protoplasm;
but, as I need hardly say, a hogshead of that fluid would not keep a
hungry man from starving, nor would it save any animal whatever from a
like fate. An animal cannot make protoplasm, but must take it ready-made
from some other animal, or some plant--the animal's highest feat of
constructive chemistry being to convert dead protoplasm into that living
matter of life which is appropriate to itself.

Therefore, in seeking for the origin of protoplasm, we must eventually
turn to the vegetable world. The fluid containing carbonic acid, water,
and ammonia, which offers such a Barmecide feast to the animal, is a
table richly spread to multitudes of plants; and, with a due supply of
only such materials, many a plant will not only maintain itself in
vigour, but grow and multiply, until it has increased a million-fold, or
a million million-fold, the quantity of protoplasm which it originally
possessed; in this way building up the matter of life, to an indefinite
extent, from the common matter of the universe.

Thus, the animal can only raise the complex substance of dead
protoplasm to the higher power, as one may say, of living protoplasm;
while the plant can raise the less complex substances--carbonic acid,
water, and ammonia--to the same stage of living protoplasm, if not to
the same level. But the plant also has its limitations. Some of the
fungi, for example, appear to need higher compounds to start with; and
no known plant can live upon the uncompounded elements of protoplasm. A
plant supplied with pure carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen,
phosphorus, sulphur, and the like, would as infallibly die as the animal
in his bath of smelling-salts, though it would be surrounded by all the
constituents of protoplasm. Nor, indeed, need the process of
simplification of vegetable food be carried so far as this, in order to
arrive at the limit of the plant's thaumaturgy. Let water, carbonic
acid, and all the other needful constituents be supplied with ammonia,
and an ordinary plant will still be unable to manufacture protoplasm.

Thus the matter of life, so far as we know it (and we have no right to
speculate on any other), breaks up, in consequence of that continual
death which is the condition of its manifesting vitality, into carbonic
acid, water, and ammonia, which certainly possess no properties but
those of ordinary matter. And out of these same forms of ordinary
matter, and from none which are simpler, the vegetable world builds up
all the protoplasm which keeps the animal world a going. Plants are the
accumulators of the power which animals distribute and disperse.

But it will be observed, that the existence of the matter of life
depends on the pre-existence of certain compounds; namely, carbonic
acid, water, and ammonia. Withdraw any one of these three from the
world and all vital phænomena come to an end. They are related to the
protoplasm of the plant, as the protoplasm of the plant is to that of
the animal. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are all lifeless
bodies. Of these, carbon and oxygen unite, in certain proportions and
under certain conditions, to give rise to carbonic acid; hydrogen and
oxygen produce water; nitrogen and hydrogen give rise to ammonia. These
new compounds like the elementary bodies of which they are composed, are
lifeless. But when they are brought together, under certain conditions
they give rise to the still more complex body, protoplasm, and this
protoplasm exhibits the phenomena of life.

I see no break in this series of steps in molecular complication, and I
am unable to understand why the language which is applicable to any one
term of the series may not be used to any of the others. We think fit to
call different kinds of matter carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen,
and to speak of the various powers and activities of these substances as
the properties of the matter of which they are composed.

When hydrogen and oxygen are mixed in a certain proportion, and an
electric spark is passed through them, they disappear, and a quantity of
water, equal in weight to the sum of their weights, appears in their
place. There is not the slightest parity between the passive and active
powers of the water and those of the oxygen and hydrogen which have
given rise to it. At 32° Fahrenheit, and far below that temperature,
oxygen and hydrogen are elastic gaseous bodies, whose particles tend to
rush away from one another with great force. Water, at the same
temperature, is a strong though brittle solid, whose particles tend to
cohere into definite geometrical shapes, and sometimes build up frosty
imitations of the most complex forms of vegetable foliage.

Nevertheless we call these, and many other strange phænomena, the
properties of the water, and we do not hesitate to believe that, in some
way or another, they result from the properties of the component
elements of the water. We do not assume that a something called
"aquosity" entered into and took possession of the oxide of hydrogen as
soon as it was formed, and then guided the aqueous particles to their
places in the facets of the crystal, or amongst the leaflets of the
hoar-frost. On the contrary, we live in the hope and in the faith that,
by the advance of molecular physics, we shall by and by be able to see
our way as clearly from the constituents of water to the properties of
water, as we are now able to deduce the operations of a watch from the
form of its parts and the manner in which they are put together.

Is the case in any way changed when carbonic acid, water, and ammonia
disappear, and in their place, under the influence of pre-existing
living protoplasm, an equivalent weight of the matter of life makes its

It is true that there is no sort of parity between the properties of the
components and the properties of the resultant, but neither was there in
the case of the water. It is also true that what I have spoken of as the
influence of pre-existing living matter is something quite
unintelligible; but does anybody quite comprehend the _modus operandi_
of an electric spark, which traverses a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen?

What justification is there, then, for the assumption of the existence
in the living matter of a something which has no representative, or
correlative, in the not living matter which gave rise to it? What better
philosophical status has "vitality" than "aquosity"? And why should
"vitality" hope for a better fate than the other "itys" which have
disappeared since Martinus Scriblerus accounted for the operation of the
meat-jack by its inherent "meat roasting quality," and scorned the
"materialism" of those who explained the turning of the spit by a
certain mechanism worked by the draught of the chimney?

If scientific language is to possess a definite and constant
signification whenever it is employed, it seems to me that we are
logically bound to apply to the protoplasm, or physical basis of life,
the same conceptions as those which are held to be legitimate elsewhere.
If the phænomena exhibited by water are its properties, so are those
presented by protoplasm, living or dead, its properties.

If the properties of water may be properly said to result from the
nature and disposition of its component molecules, I can find no
intelligible ground for refusing to say that the properties of
protoplasm result from the nature and disposition of its molecules.

But I bid you beware that, in accepting these conclusions, you are
placing your feet on the first rung of a ladder which, in most people's
estimation, is the reverse of Jacob's, and leads to the antipodes of
heaven. It may seem a small thing to admit that the dull vital actions
of a fungus, or a foraminifer, are the properties of their protoplasm,
and are the direct results of the nature of the matter of which they
are composed. But if, as I have endeavoured to prove to you, their
protoplasm is essentially identical with, and most readily converted
into, that of any animal, I can discover no logical halting-place
between the admission that such is the case, and the further concession
that all vital action may, with equal propriety, be said to be the
result of the molecular forces of the protoplasm which displays it. And
if so, it must be true, in the same sense and to the same extent, that
the thoughts to which I am now giving utterance, and your thoughts
regarding them, are the expression of molecular changes in that matter
of life which is the source of our other vital phænomena.

Past experience leads me to be tolerably certain that, when the
propositions I have just placed before you are accessible to public
comment and criticism, they will be condemned by many zealous persons,
and perhaps by some few of the wise and thoughtful. I should not wonder
if "gross and brutal materialism" were the mildest phrase applied to
them in certain quarters. And, most undoubtedly, the terms of the
propositions are distinctly materialistic. Nevertheless two things are
certain: the one, that I hold the statements to be substantially true;
the other, that I, individually, am no materialist, but, on the
contrary, believe materialism to involve grave philosophical error.

This union of materialistic terminology with the repudiation of
materialistic philosophy, I share with some of the most thoughtful men
with whom I am acquainted. And, when I first undertook to deliver the
present discourse, it appeared to me to be a fitting opportunity to
explain how such a union is not only consistent with, but necessitated
by, sound logic. I purposed to lead you through the territory of vital
phenomena to the materialistic slough in which you find yourselves now
plunged, and then to point out to you the sole path by which, in my
judgment, extrication is possible.

An occurrence of which I was unaware until my arrival here last night,
renders this line of argument singularly opportune. I found in your
papers the eloquent address "On the Limits of Philosophical Inquiry,"
which a distinguished prelate of the English Church delivered before the
members of the Philosophical Institution on the previous day. My
argument, also, turns upon this very point of the limits of
philosophical inquiry; and I cannot bring out my own views better than
by contrasting them with those so plainly, and, in the main, fairly,
stated by the Archbishop of York.

But I may be permitted to make a preliminary comment upon an occurrence
that greatly astonished me. Applying the name of "the New Philosophy" to
that estimate of the limits of philosophical inquiry which I, in common
with many other men of science, hold to be just, the Archbishop opens
his address by identifying this "New Philosophy" with the Positive
Philosophy of M. Comte (of whom he speaks as its "founder"); and then
proceeds to attack that philosopher and his doctrines vigorously.

Now, so far as I am concerned, the most reverend prelate might
dialectically hew M. Comte in pieces, as a modern Agag, and I should not
attempt to stay his hand. In so far as my study of what specially
characterises the Positive Philosophy has led me, I find therein little
or nothing of any scientific value, and a great deal which is as
thoroughly antagonistic to the very essence of science as anything in
ultramontane Catholicism. In fact, M. Comte's philosophy in practice
might be compendiously described as Catholicism _minus_ Christianity.

But what has Comtism to do with the "New Philosophy," as the Archbishop
defines it in the following passage?

     "Let me briefly remind you of the leading principles of this new

     "All knowledge is experience of facts acquired by the senses. The
     traditions of older philosophies have obscured our experience by
     mixing with it much that the senses cannot observe, and until these
     additions are discarded our knowledge is impure. Thus metaphysics
     tell us that one fact which we observe is a cause, and another is
     the effect of that cause; but upon a rigid analysis, we find that
     our senses observe nothing of cause or effect: they observe, first,
     that one fact succeeds another, and, after some opportunity, that
     this fact has never failed to follow--that for cause and effect we
     should substitute invariable succession. An older philosophy
     teaches us to define an object by distinguishing its essential from
     its accidental qualities: but experience knows nothing of essential
     and accidental; she sees only that certain marks attach to an
     object, and, after many observations, that some of them attach
     invariably, whilst others may at times be absent.... As all
     knowledge is relative, the notion of anything being necessary must
     be banished with other traditions."[11]

There is much here that expresses the spirit of the "New Philosophy," if
by that term be meant the spirit of modern science; but I cannot but
marvel that the assembled wisdom and learning of Edinburgh should have
uttered no sign of dissent, when Comte was declared to be the founder of
these doctrines. No one will accuse Scotchmen of habitually forgetting
their great countrymen; but it was enough to make David Hume turn in
his grave, that here, almost within earshot of his house, an instructed
audience should have listened, without a murmur, while his most
characteristic doctrines were attributed to a French writer of fifty
years later date, in whose dreary and verbose pages we miss alike the
vigour of thought and the exquisite clearness of style of the man whom I
make bold to term the most acute thinker of the eighteenth century--even
though that century produced Kant.

But I did not come to Scotland to vindicate the honour of one of the
greatest men she has ever produced. My business is to point out to you
that the only way of escape out of the crass materialism in which we
just now landed, is the adoption and strict working-out of the very
principles which the Archbishop holds up to reprobation.

Let us suppose that knowledge is absolute, and not relative, and
therefore, that our conception of matter represents that which it really
is. Let us suppose, further, that we do know more of cause and effect
than a certain definite order of succession among facts, and that we
have a knowledge of the necessity of that succession--and hence, of
necessary laws--and I, for my part, do not see what escape there is from
utter materialism and necessarianism. For it is obvious that our
knowledge of what we call the material world, is, to begin with, at
least as certain and definite as that of the spiritual world, and that
our acquaintance with law is of as old a date as our knowledge of
spontaneity. Further, I take it to be demonstrable that it is utterly
impossible to prove that anything whatever may not be the effect of a
material and necessary cause, and that human logic is equally
incompetent to prove that any act is really spontaneous. A really
spontaneous act is one which, by the assumption, has no cause; and the
attempt to prove such a negative as this is, on the face of the matter,
absurd. And while it is thus a philosophical impossibility to
demonstrate that any given phænomenon is not the effect of a material
cause, any one who is acquainted with the history of science will admit,
that its progress has, in all ages, meant, and now, more than ever,
means, the extension of the province of what we call matter and
causation, and the concomitant gradual banishment from all regions of
human thought of what we call spirit and spontaneity.

I have endeavoured, in the first part of this discourse, to give you a
conception of the direction towards which modern physiology is tending;
and I ask you, what is the difference between the conception of life as
the product of a certain disposition of material molecules, and the old
notion of an Archæus governing and directing blind matter within each
living body, except this--that here, as elsewhere, matter and law have
devoured spirit and spontaneity? And as surely as every future grows out
of past and present, so will the physiology of the future gradually
extend the realm of matter and law until it is co-extensive with
knowledge, with feeling, and with action.

The consciousness of this great truth weighs like a nightmare, I
believe, upon many of the best minds of these days. They watch what they
conceive to be the progress of materialism, in such fear and powerless
anger as a savage feels, when, during an eclipse, the great shadow
creeps over the face of the sun. The advancing tide of matter threatens
to drown their souls; the tightening grasp of law impedes their freedom;
they are alarmed lest man's moral nature be debased by the increase of
his wisdom.

If the "New Philosophy" be worthy of the reprobation with which it is
visited, I confess their fears seem to me, to be well founded. While, on
the contrary, could David Hume be consulted, I think he would smile at
their perplexities, and chide them for doing even as the heathen, and
falling down in terror before the hideous idols their own hands have

For, after all, what do we know of this terrible "matter," except as a
name for the unknown and hypothetical cause of states of our own
consciousness? And what do we know of that "spirit" over whose
threatened extinction by matter a great lamentation is arising, like
that which was heard at the death of Pan, except that it is also a name
for an unknown and hypothetical cause, or condition, of states of
consciousness? In other words, matter and spirit are but names for the
imaginary substrata of groups of natural phænomena.

And what is the dire necessity and "iron" law under which men groan?
Truly, most gratuitously invented bugbears. I suppose if there be an
"iron" law, it is that of gravitation; and if there be a physical
necessity, it is that a stone, unsupported, must fall to the ground. But
what is all we really know and can know about the latter phænomenon?
Simply, that, in all human experience, stones have fallen to the ground
under these conditions; that we have not the smallest reason for
believing that any stone so circumstanced will not fall to the ground;
and that we have, on the contrary, every reason to believe that it will
so fall. It is very convenient to indicate that all the conditions of
belief have been fulfilled in this case, by calling the statement that
unsupported stones will fall to the ground, "a law of nature." But when,
as commonly happens, we change _will_ into _must_, we introduce an idea
of necessity which most assuredly does not lie in the observed facts,
and has no warranty that I can discover elsewhere. For my part, I
utterly repudiate and anathematize the intruder. Fact I know; and Law I
know; but what is this Necessity, save an empty shadow of my own mind's

But, if it is certain that we can have no knowledge of the nature of
either matter or spirit, and that the notion of necessity is something
illegitimately thrust into the perfectly legitimate conception of law,
the materialistic position that there is nothing in the world but
matter, force, and necessity, is as utterly devoid of justification as
the most baseless of theological dogmas. The fundamental doctrines of
materialism, like those of spiritualism, and most other "isms," lie
outside "the limits of philosophical inquiry," and David Hume's great
service to humanity is his irrefragable demonstration of what these
limits are. Hume called himself a sceptic, and therefore others cannot
be blamed if they apply the same title to him; but that does not alter
the fact that the name, with its existing implications, does him gross

If a man asks me what the politics of the inhabitants of the moon are,
and I reply that I do not know; that neither I, nor any one else, have
any means of knowing; and that, under these circumstances, I decline to
trouble myself about the subject at all, I do not think he has any
right to call me a sceptic. On the contrary, in replying thus, I
conceive that I am simply honest and truthful, and show a proper regard
for the economy of time. So Hume's strong and subtle intellect takes up
a great many problems about which we are naturally curious, and shows us
that they are essentially questions of lunar politics, in their essence
incapable of being answered, and therefore not worth the attention of
men who have work to do in the world. And he thus ends one of his

     "If we take in hand any volume of Divinity, or school metaphysics,
     for instance, let us ask, _Does it contain any abstract reasoning
     concerning quantity or number_? No. _Does it contain any
     experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence_?
     No. Commit it then to the flames; for it can contain nothing but
     sophistry and illusion."[12]

Permit me to enforce this most wise advice. Why trouble ourselves about
matters of which, however important they may be, we do know nothing, and
can know nothing? We live in a world which is full of misery and
ignorance, and the plain duty of each and all of us is to try to make
the little corner he can influence somewhat less miserable and somewhat
less ignorant than it was before he entered it. To do this effectually
it is necessary to be fully possessed of only two beliefs: the first,
that the order of nature is ascertainable by our faculties to an extent
which is practically unlimited; the second, that our volition counts for
something as a condition of the course of events.

Each of these beliefs can be verified experimentally, as often as we
like to try. Each, therefore, stands upon the strongest foundation upon
which any belief can rest, and forms one of our highest truths. If we
find that the ascertainment of the order of nature is facilitated by
using one terminology, or one set of symbols, rather than another, it is
our clear duty to use the former; and no harm can accrue, so long as we
bear in mind, that we are dealing merely with terms and symbols.

In itself it is of little moment whether we express the phænomena of
matter in terms of spirit; or the phænomena of spirit, in terms of
matter: matter may be regarded as a form of thought, thought may be
regarded as a property of matter--each statement has a certain relative
truth. But with a view to the progress of science, the materialistic
terminology is in every way to be preferred. For it connects thought
with the other phænomena of the universe, and suggests inquiry into the
nature of those physical conditions, or concomitants of thought, which
are more or less accessible to us, and a knowledge of which may, in
future, help us to exercise the same kind of control over the world of
thought, as we already possess in respect of the material world;
whereas, the alternative, or spiritualistic, terminology is utterly
barren, and leads to nothing but obscurity and confusion of ideas.

Thus there can be little doubt, that the further science advances, the
more extensively and consistently will all the phænomena of nature be
represented by materialistic formulæ and symbols.

But the man of science, who, forgetting the limits of philosophical
inquiry, slides from these formulæ and symbols into what is commonly
understood by materialism, seems to me to place himself on a level with
the mathematician, who should mistake the _x_'s and _y_'s, with which he
works his problems, for real entities--and with this further
disadvantage, as compared with the mathematician, that the blunders of
the latter are of no practical consequence, while the errors of
systematic materialism may paralyse the energies and destroy the beauty
of a life.


[10] The substance of this paper was contained in a discourse which was
delivered in Edinburgh on the evening of Sunday, the 8th of November,
1868--being the first of a series of Sunday evening addresses upon
non-theological topics, instituted by the Rev. J. Cranbrook. Some
phrases, which could possess only a transitory and local interest, have
been omitted; instead of the newspaper report of the Archbishop of
York's address, his Grace's subsequently-published pamphlet "On the
Limits of Philosophical Inquiry" is quoted; and I have, here and there,
endeavoured to express my meaning more fully and clearly than I seem to
have done in speaking--if I may judge by sundry criticisms upon what I
am supposed to have said, which have appeared. But in substance, and, so
far as my recollection serves, in form, what is here written corresponds
with what was there said.

[11] "The Limits of Philosophical Inquiry," pp. 4 and 5.

[12] Hume's Essay "Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy," in the
"Inquiry concerning the Human Understanding."



It is now some sixteen or seventeen years since I became acquainted with
the "Philosophic Positive," the "Discours sur l'Ensemble du
Positivisme," and the "Politique Positive" of Auguste Comte. I was led
to study these works partly by the allusions to them in Mr. Mill's
"Logic," partly by the recommendation of a distinguished theologian, and
partly by the urgency of a valued friend, the late Professor Henfrey,
who looked upon M. Comte's bulky volumes as a mine of wisdom, and lent
them to me that I might dig and be rich. After due perusal, I found
myself in a position to echo my friend's words, though I may have laid
more stress on the "mine" than on the "wisdom." For I found the veins of
ore few and far between, and the rock so apt to run to mud, that one
incurred the risk of being intellectually smothered in the working.
Still, as I was glad to acknowledge, I did come to a nugget here and
there; though not, so far as my experience went, in the discussions on
the philosophy of the physical sciences, but in the chapters on
speculative and practical sociology. In these there was indeed much to
arouse the liveliest interest in one whose boat had broken away from
the old moorings, and who had been content "to lay out an anchor by the
stern" until daylight should break and the fog clear. Nothing could be
more interesting to a student of biology than to see the study of the
biological sciences laid down, as an essential part of the prolegomena
of a new view of social phenomena. Nothing could be more satisfactory to
a worshipper of the severe truthfulness of science than the attempt to
dispense with all beliefs, save such as could brave the light, and seek,
rather than fear, criticism; while, to a lover of courage and
outspokenness, nothing could be more touching than the placid
announcement on the title-page of the "Discours sur l'Ensemble du
Positivisme," that its author proposed

     "Réorganiser, sans Dieu ni roi,
     Par le culte systématique de l'Humanité,"

the shattered frame of modern society.

In those days I knew my "Faust" pretty well, and, after reading this
word of might, I was minded to chant the well-known stanzas of the

     "Weh! Weh!
     Die schöne welt.
     Sie stürzt, sie zerfällt
     Wir tragen
     Die Trümmern ins Nichts hinüber.
     Der Erdensöhne,
     Baue sie wieder
     In deinem Busen baue sie auf."

Great, however, was my perplexity, not to say disappointment, as I
followed the progress of this "mighty son of earth" in his work of
reconstruction. Undoubtedly "Dieu" disappeared, but the "Nouveau
Grand-Être Suprême," a gigantic fetish, turned out bran-new by M.
Comte's own hands, reigned in his stead. "Roi" also was not heard of;
but, in his place, I found a minutely-defined social organization,
which, if it ever came into practice, would exert a despotic authority
such as no sultan has rivalled, and no Puritan presbytery, in its
palmiest days, could hope to excel. While, as for the "culte
systématique de l'Humanité," I, in my blindness, could not distinguish
it from sheer Popery, with M. Comte in the chair of St. Peter, and the
names of most of the saints changed. To quote "Faust" again, I found
myself saying with Gretchen,--

     "Ungefähr sagt das der Pfarrer auch
     Nur mit ein bischen andern Worten."

Rightly or wrongly, this was the impression which, all those years ago,
the study of M. Comte's works left on my mind, combined with the
conviction, which I shall always be thankful to him for awakening in me,
that the organization of society upon a new and purely scientific basis
is not only practicable, but is the only political object much worth
fighting for.

As I have said, that part of M. Comte's writings which deals with the
philosophy of physical science appeared to me to possess singularly
little value, and to show that he had but the most superficial, and
merely second-hand, knowledge of most branches of what is usually
understood by science. I do not mean by this merely to say that Comte
was behind our present knowledge, or that he was unacquainted with the
details of the science of his own day. No one could justly make such
defects cause of complaint in a philosophical writer of the past
generation. What struck me was his want of apprehension of the great
features of science; his strange mistakes as to the merits of his
scientific contemporaries; and his ludicrously erroneous notions about
the part which some of the scientific doctrines current in his time were
destined to play in the future. With these impressions in my mind, no
one will be surprised if I acknowledge that, for these sixteen years, it
has been a periodical source of irritation to me to find M. Comte put
forward as a representative of scientific thought; and to observe that
writers whose philosophy had its legitimate parent in Hume, or in
themselves, were labelled "Comtists" or "Positivists" by public writers,
even in spite of vehement protests to the contrary. It has cost Mr. Mill
hard rubbings to get that label off; and I watch Mr. Spencer, as one
regards a good man struggling with adversity, still engaged in eluding
its adhesiveness, and ready to tear away skin and all, rather than let
it stick. My own turn might come next; and, therefore, when an eminent
prelate the other day gave currency and authority to the popular
confusion, I took an opportunity of incidentally revindicating Hume's
property in the so-called "New Philosophy," and, at the same time, of
repudiating Comtism on my own behalf.[13]

The few lines devoted to Comtism in my paper on the "Physical Basis of
Life" were, in intention, strictly limited to these two purposes. But
they seem to have given more umbrage than I intended they should, to the
followers of M. Comte in this country, for some of whom, let me observe
in passing, I entertain a most unfeigned respect; and Mr. Congreve's
recent article gives expression to the displeasure which I have excited
among the members of the Comtian body.

Mr. Congreve, in a peroration which seems especially intended to catch
the attention of his readers, indignantly challenges me to admire M.
Comte's life, "to deny that it has a marked character of grandeur about
it;" and he uses some very strong language because I show no sign of
veneration for his idol. I confess I do not care to occupy myself with
the denigration of a man who, on the whole, deserves to be spoken of
with respect. Therefore, I shall enter into no statement of the reasons
which lead me unhesitatingly to accept Mr. Congreve's challenge, and to
refuse to recognise anything which deserves the name of grandeur of
character in M. Comte, unless it be his arrogance, which is undoubtedly
sublime. All I have to observe is, that if Mr. Congreve is justified in
saying that I speak with a tinge of contempt for his spiritual father,
the reason for such colouring of my language is to be found in the fact,
that, when I wrote, I had but just arisen from the perusal of a work
with which he is doubtless well acquainted, M. Littré's "Auguste Comte
et la Philosophic Positive."

Though there are tolerably fixed standards of right and wrong, and even
of generosity and meanness, it may be said that the beauty, or grandeur,
of a life is more or less a matter of taste; and Mr. Congreve's notions
of literary excellence are so different from mine that, it may be, we
should diverge as widely in our judgment of moral beauty or ugliness.
Therefore, while retaining my own notions, I do not presume to quarrel
with his. But when Mr. Congreve devotes a great deal of laboriously
guarded insinuation to the endeavour to lead the public to believe that
I have been guilty of the dishonesty of having criticised Comte without
having read him, I must be permitted to remind him that he has neglected
the well-known maxim of a diplomatic sage, "If you want to damage a man,
you should say what is probable, as well as what is true."

And when Mr. Congreve speaks of my having an advantage over him in my
introduction of "Christianity" into the phrase that "M. Comte's
philosophy, in practice, might be described as Catholicism _minus_
Christianity;" intending thereby to suggest that I have, by so doing,
desired to profit by an appeal to the _odium theologicum_,--he lays
himself open to a very unpleasant retort.

What if I were to suggest that Mr. Congreve had not read Comte's works;
and that the phrase "the context shows that the view of the writer
ranges--however superficially--over the whole works. This is obvious
from the mention of Catholicism," demonstrates that Mr. Congreve has no
acquaintance with the "Philosophie Positive"? I think the suggestion
would be very unjust and unmannerly, and I shall not make it. But the
fact remains, that this little epigram of mine, which has so greatly
provoked Mr. Congreve, is neither more nor less than a condensed
paraphrase of the following passage, which is to be found at page 344 of
the fifth volume of the "Philosophie Positive:"[14]--

     "La seule solution possible de ce grand problème historique, qui
     n'a jamais pu être philosophiquement posé jusqu'ici, consiste à
     concevoir, en sens radicalement inverse des notions habituelles,
     _que ce qui devait nécessairement périr ainsi, dans le
     catholicisme, c'était la doctrine, et non l'organisation_, qui n'a
     été passagèrement ruinée que par suite de son inévitable adhérence
     élémentaire a la philosophie théologique, destinée à succomber
     graduellement sous l'irrésistible émancipation de la raison
     humaine; _tandis qu'une telle constitution, convenablement
     reconstruite sur des bases intellectuelles à la fois plus étendues
     et plus stables, devra finalement présider à l'indispensable
     réorganisation spirituelle des sociétés modernes, sauf les
     différences essentielles spontanément correspondantes à l'extrême
     diversité des doctrines fondamentales_; à moins de supposer, ce qui
     serait certainement contradictoire à l'ensemble des lois de notre
     nature, que les immenses efforts de tant de grands hommes, secondés
     par la persévérante sollicitude des nations civilisées, dans la
     fondation séculaire de ce chef-d'oeuvre politique de la sagesse
     humaine, doivent être enfin irrévocablement perdus pour l'élite de
     l'humanité sauf les résultats, capitaux mais provisoires, qui s'y
     rapportaient immédiatement. Cette explication générale, déjà
     évidemment motivée par la suite des considérations propres à ce
     chapitre, sera de plus en plus confirmée par tout le reste de
     notre opération historique, _dont elle constituera spontanément la
     principale conclusion politique."_

Nothing can be clearer. Comte's ideal, as stated by himself, is Catholic
organization without Catholic doctrine, or, in other words, Catholicism
_minus_ Christianity. Surely it is utterly unjustifiable to ascribe to
me base motives for stating a man's doctrines, as nearly as may be, in
his own words!

My readers would hardly be interested were I to follow Mr. Congreve any
further, or I might point out that the fact of his not having heard me
lecture is hardly a safe ground for his speculations as to what I do not
teach. Nor do I feel called upon to give any opinion as to M. Comte's
merits or demerits as regards sociology. Mr. Mill (whose competence to
speak on these matters I suppose will not be questioned, even by Mr.
Congreve) has dealt with M. Comte's philosophy from this point of view,
with a vigour and authority to which I cannot for a moment aspire; and
with a severity, not unfrequently amounting to contempt, which I have
not the wish, if I had the power, to surpass. I, as a mere student in
these questions, am content to abide by Mr. Mill's judgment until some
one shows cause for its reversal, and I decline to enter into a
discussion which I have not provoked.

The sole obligation which lies upon me is to justify so much as still
remains without justification of what I have written respecting
Positivism--namely, the opinion expressed in the following paragraph:--

     "In so far as my study of what specially characterises the Positive
     Philosophy has led me, I find therein little or nothing of any
     scientific value, and a great deal which is as thoroughly
     antagonistic to the very essence of science as any thing in
     ultramontane Catholicism."

Here are two propositions: the first, that the "Philosophie Positive"
contains little or nothing of any scientific value; the second, that
Comtism is, in spirit, anti-scientific. I shall endeavour to bring
forward ample evidence in support of both.

I. No one who possesses even a superficial acquaintance with physical
science can read Comte's "Leçons" without becoming aware that he was at
once singularly devoid of real knowledge on these subjects, and
singularly unlucky. What is to be thought of the contemporary of Young
and of Fresnel, who never misses an opportunity of casting scorn upon
the hypothesis of an ether--the fundamental basis not only of the
undulatory theory of light, but of so much else in modern physics--and
whose contempt for the intellects of some of the strongest men of his
generation was such, that he puts forward the mere existence of night as
a refutation of the undulatory theory?[15] What a wonderful gauge of his
own value as a scientific critic does he afford, by whom we are informed
that phrenology is a great science, and psychology a chimæra; that Gall
was one of the great men of his age, and that Cuvier was "brilliant but
superficial"![16] How unlucky must one consider the bold speculator who,
just before the dawn of modern histology--which is simply the
application of the microscope to anatomy--reproves what he calls "the
abuse of microscopic investigations," and "the exaggerated credit"
attached to them; who, when the morphological uniformity of the tissues
of the great majority of plants and animals was on the eve of being
demonstrated, treated with ridicule those who attempt to refer all
tissues to a "tissu générateur," formed by "le chimérique et
inintelligible assemblage d'une sorte de monades organiques, qui
seraient dès lors les vrais éléments primordiaux de tout corps
vivant;"[17] and who finally tells us, that all the objections against a
linear arrangement of the species of living beings are in their essence
foolish, and that the order of the animal series is "necessarily
linear,"[18] when the exact contrary is one of the best-established and
the most important truths of zoology. Appeal to mathematicians,
astronomers, physicists,[19] chemists, biologists, about the
"Philosophie Positive," and they all, with one consent, begin to make
protestation that, whatever M. Comte's other merits, he has shed no
light upon the philosophy of their particular studies.

To be just, however, it must be admitted that even M. Comte's most
ardent disciples are content to be judiciously silent about his
knowledge or appreciation of the sciences themselves, and prefer to base
their master's claims to scientific authority upon his "law of the three
states," and his "classification of the sciences." But here, also, I
must join issue with them as completely as others--notably Mr. Herbert
Spencer--have done before me. A critical examination of what M. Comte
has to say about the "law of the three states" brings out nothing but a
series of more or less contradictory statements of an imperfectly
apprehended truth; and his "classification of the sciences," whether
regarded historically or logically, is, in my judgment, absolutely

Let us consider the law of "the three states" as it is put before us in
the opening of the first Leçon of the "Philosophie Positive:"--

     "En étudiant ainsi le développement total de l'intelligence humaine
     dans ses diverses sphères d'activité, depuis son premier essor le
     plus simple jusqu'à nos jours, je crois avoir découvert une grande
     loi fondamentale, à laquelle il est assujetti par une nécessité
     invariable, et qui me semble pouvoir être solidement établie, soit
     sur les preuves rationelles fournies par la connaissance de notre
     organisation, soit sur les vérifications historiques résultant d'un
     examen attentif du passé. Cette loi consiste en ce que chacune de
     nos conceptions principales, chaque branche de nos connaissances,
     passe successivement par trois états théoriques différents; l'état
     théologique, ou fictif; l'état métaphysique, ou abstrait; l'état
     scientifique, ou positif. En d'autres termes, l'esprit humain, par
     sa nature, emploie successivement dans chacune de ses recherches
     trois méthodes de philosopher, dont _le caractère est
     essentiellement différent et même radicalement opposé_; d'abord la
     méthode théologique, ensuite la méthode métaphysique, et enfin la
     méthode positive. De là, trois sortes de philosophie, ou de
     systèmes généraux de conceptions sur l'ensemble des phénomènes _qui
     s'excluent mutuellement_; la première est le point de départ
     nécessaire de l'intelligence humaine; la troisième, son état fixe
     et définitif; la seconde est uniquement destinée à servir de

Nothing can be more precise than these statements, which may be put into
the following propositions:--

(a) The human intellect is subjected to the law by an invariable
necessity, which is demonstrable, _à priori_, from the nature and
constitution of the intellect; while, as a matter of historical fact,
the human intellect has been subjected to the law.

(b) Every branch of human knowledge passes through the three states,
necessarily beginning with the first stage.

(c) The three states mutually exclude one another, being essentially
different, and even radically opposed.

Two questions present themselves. Is M. Comte consistent with himself in
making these assertions? And is he consistent with fact? I reply to both
questions in the negative; and, as regards the first, I bring forward as
my witness a remarkable passage which is to be found in the fourth
volume of the "Philosophic Positive" (p. 491), when M. Comte had had
time to think out, a little more fully, the notions crudely stated in
the first volume:--

     "A proprement parler, la philosophie théologique, même dans notre
     première enfance, individuelle ou sociale, n'a jamais pu être
     rigoureusement universelle, c'est-à-dire que, pour les ordres
     quelconques de phénomènes, _les faits les plus simples et les plus
     communs ont toujours été regardés comme essentiellement assujettis
     à des lois naturelles, au lieu d'être attribués à l'arbitraire
     volonté des agents surnaturels_. L'illustre Adam Smith a, par
     example, très-heureusement remarqué dans ses essais philosophiques,
     qu'on ne trouvait, en aucun temps ni en aucun pays, un dieu pour la
     pesanteur. _Il en est ainsi, en général, même à l'égard des sujets
     les plus compliqués, envers tous les phénomènes assez élémentaires
     et assez familiers pour que la parfaite invariabilité de leurs
     relations effectives ait toujours dû frapper spontanément
     l'observateur le moins préparé_. Dans l'ordre moral et social,
     qu'une vaine opposition voudrait aujourd'hui systématiquement
     interdire à la philosophie positive, il y a eu nécessairement, en
     tout temps, la pensée des lois naturelles, relativement aux plus
     simples phénomènes de la vie journalière, comme l'exige évidemment
     la conduite générale de notre existence réelle, individuelle ou
     sociale, qui n'aurait pu jamais comporter aucune prévoyance
     quelconque, si tous les phénomènes humains avaient été
     rigoureusement attribués à des agents surnaturels, puisque dès lors
     la prière aurait logiquement constitué la seule ressource
     imaginable pour influer sur le cours habituel des actions humaines.
     _On doit même remarquer, à ce sujet, que c'est, au contraire,
     l'ébauche spontanée des premières lois naturelles propres aux
     actes individuels ou sociaux qui, fictivement transportée à tous
     les phénomènes du monde extérieur, a d'abord fourni, d'après nos
     explications précédentes, le vrai principe fondamental de la
     philosophie théologique. Ainsi, le germe élémentaire de la
     philosophie positive est certainement tout aussi primitif au fond
     que celui de la philosophie théologique elle-même, quoi qu'il n'ait
     pu se développer que beaucoup plus tard._ Une telle notion importe
     extrêmement à la parfaite rationalité de notre théorie
     sociologique, puisque la vie humaine ne pouvant jamais offrir
     aucune véritable création quelconque, mais toujours une simple
     évolution graduelle, l'essor final de l'esprit positif deviendrait
     scientifiquement incompréhensible, si, dès l'origine, on n'en
     concevait, à tous égards, les premiers rudiments nécessaires.
     Depuis cette situation primitive, à mesure que nos observations se
     sont spontanément étendues et généralisées, cet essor, d'abord à
     peine appréciable, a constamment suivi, sans cesser longtemps
     d'être subalterne, une progression très-lente, mais continue, la
     philosophie théologique restant toujours réservée pour les
     phénomènes, de moins en moins nombreux, dont les lois naturelles ne
     pouvaient encore être aucunement connues."

Compare the propositions implicitly laid down here with those contained
in the earlier volume. (a) As a matter of fact, the human intellect
has _not_ been invariably subjected to the law of the three states, and
therefore the necessity of the law _cannot_ be demonstrable _à priori_.
(b) Much of our knowledge of all kinds has _not_ passed through the
three states, and more particularly, as M. Comte is careful to point
out, not through the first, (c) The positive state has more or less
co-existed with the theological, from the dawn of human intelligence.
And, by way of completing the series of contradictions, the assertion
that the three states are "essentially different and even radically
opposed," is met a little lower on the same page by the declaration that
"the metaphysical state is, at bottom, nothing but a simple general
modification of the first;" while, in the fortieth Leçon, as also in the
interesting early essay entitled "Considérations philosophiques sur les
Sciences et les Savants (1825)," the three states are practically
reduced to two. "Le véritable esprit général de toute philosophie
théologique ou métaphysique consiste à prendre pour principe, dans
l'explication des phénomènes du monde extérieur, notre sentiment
immédiat des phénomènes humains; tandis que au contraire, la philosophie
positive est toujours caractérisée, non moins profondément, par la
subordination nécessaire et rationnelle de la conception de l'homme à
celle du monde."[21]

I leave M. Cointe's disciples to settle which of these contradictory
statements expresses their master's real meaning. All I beg leave to
remark is, that men of science are not in the habit of paying much
attention to "laws" stated in this fashion.

The second statement is undoubtedly far more rational and consistent
with fact than the first; but I cannot think it is a just or adequate
account of the growth of intelligence, either in the individual man, or
in the human species. Any one who will carefully watch the development
of the intellect of a child will perceive that, from the first, its mind
is mirroring nature in two different ways. On the one hand, it is merely
drinking in sensations and building up associations, while it forms
conceptions of things and their relations which are more thoroughly
"positive," or devoid of entanglement with hypotheses of any kind, than
they will ever be in after-life. No child has recourse to imaginary
personifications in order to account for the ordinary properties of
objects which are not alive, or do not represent living things. It does
not imagine that the taste of sugar is brought about by a god of
sweetness, or that a spirit of jumping causes a ball to bound. Such
phænomena, which form the basis of a very large part of its ideas, are
taken as matters of course--as ultimate facts which suggest no
difficulty and need no explanation. So far as all these common, though
important, phænomena are concerned, the child's mind is in what M. Comte
would call the "positive" state.

But, side by side with this mental condition, there rises another. The
child becomes aware of itself as a source of action and a subject of
passion and of thought. The acts which follow upon its own desires are
among the most interesting and prominent of surrounding occurrences; and
these acts, again, plainly arise either out of affections caused by
surrounding things, or of other changes in itself. Among these
surrounding things, the most interesting and important are mother and
father, brethren and nurses. The hypothesis that these wonderful
creatures are of like nature to itself is speedily forced upon the
child's mind; and this primitive piece of anthropomorphism turns out to
be a highly successful speculation, which finds its justification at
every turn. No wonder, then, that it is extended to other similarly
interesting objects which are not too unlike these--to the dog, the cat,
and the canary, the doll, the toy, and the picture-book--that these are
endowed with wills and affections, and with capacities for being "good"
and "naughty." But surely it would be a mere perversion of language to
call this a "theological" state of mind, either in the proper sense of
the word "theological," or as contrasted with "scientific" or
"positive." The child does not worship either father or mother, dog or
doll. On the contrary, nothing is more curious than the absolute
irreverence, if I may so say, of a kindly-treated young child; its
tendency to believe in itself as the centre of the universe, and its
disposition to exercise despotic tyranny over those who could crush it
with a finger.

Still less is there anything unscientific, or anti-scientific, in this
infantile anthropomorphism. The child observes that many phænomena are
the consequences of affections of itself; it soon has excellent reasons
for the belief that many other phænomena are consequences of the
affections of other beings, more or less like itself. And having thus
good evidence for believing that many of the most interesting
occurrences about it are explicable on the hypothesis that they are the
work of intelligences like itself--having discovered a _vera causa_ for
many phænomena--why should the child limit the application of so
fruitful an hypothesis? The dog has a sort of intelligence, so has the
cat; why should not the doll and the picture-book also have a share,
proportioned to their likeness to intelligent things?

The only limit which does arise is exactly that which, as a matter of
science, should arise; that is to say, the anthropomorphic
interpretation is applied only to those phænomena which, in their
general nature, or their apparent capriciousness, resemble those which
the child observes to be caused by itself, or by beings like itself. All
the rest are regarded as things which explain themselves, or are

It is only at a later stage of intellectual development that the
intelligence of man awakes to the apparent conflict between the
anthropomorphic, and what I may call the physical,[22] aspect of
nature, and either endeavours to extend the anthropomorphic view over
the whole of nature--which is the tendency of theology; or to give the
same exclusive predominance to the physical view--which is the tendency
of science; or adopts a middle course, and taking from the
anthropomorphic view its tendency to personify, and from the physical
view its tendency to exclude volition and affection, ends in what M.
Comte calls the "metaphysical" state--"metaphysical," in M. Comte's
writings, being a general term of abuse for anything he does not like.

What is true of the individual is, _mutatis mutandis_, true of the
intellectual development of the species. It is absurd to say of men in a
state of primitive savagery, that all their conceptions are in a
theological state. Nine-tenths of them are eminently realistic, and as
"positive" as ignorance and narrowness can make them. It no more occurs
to a savage than it does to a child, to ask the why of the daily and
ordinary occurrences which form the greater part of his mental life. But
in regard to the more striking, or out-of-the-way, events, which force
him to speculate, he is highly anthropomorphic; and, as compared with a
child, his anthropomorphism is complicated by the intense impression
which the death of his own kind makes upon him, as indeed it well may.
The warrior, full of ferocious energy, perhaps the despotic chief of
his tribe, is suddenly struck down. A child may insult the man a moment
before so awful; a fly rests, undisturbed, on the lips from which
undisputed command issued. And yet the bodily aspect of the man seems
hardly more altered than when he slept, and, sleeping, seemed to himself
to leave his body and wander through dreamland. What then if that
something, which is the essence of the man, has really been made to
wander by the violence done to it, and is unable, or has forgotten, to
come back to its shell? Will it not retain somewhat of the powers it
possessed during life? May it not help us if it be pleased, or (as seems
to be by far the more general impression) hurt us if it be angered? Will
it not be well to do towards it those things which would have soothed
the man and put him in good humour during his life? It is impossible to
study trustworthy accounts of savage thought without seeing, that some
such train of ideas as this, lies at the bottom of their speculative

There are savages without God, in any proper sense of the word, but none
without ghosts. And the Fetishism, Ancestor-worship, Hero-worship, and
Demonology of primitive savages, are all, I believe, different manners
of expression of their belief in ghosts, and of the anthropomorphic
interpretation of out-of-the-way events, which is its concomitant.
Witchcraft and sorcery are the practical expressions of these beliefs;
and they stand in the same relation to religious worship as the simple
anthropomorphism of children, or savages, does to theology.

In the progress of the species from savagery to advanced civilization,
anthropomorphism grows into theology, while physicism (if I may so call
it) develops into science; but the development of the two is
contemporaneous, not successive. For each, there long exists an assured
province which is not invaded by the other; while, between the two, lies
a debateable land, ruled by a sort of bastards, who owe their complexion
to physicism and their substance to anthropomorphism, and are M. Comte's
particular aversions--metaphysical entities.

But, as the ages lengthen, the borders of Physicism increase. The
territories of the bastards are all annexed to science; and even
Theology, in her purer forms, has ceased to be anthropomorphic, however
she may talk. Anthropomorphism has taken stand in its last fortress--man
himself. But science closely invests the walls; and Philosophers gird
themselves for battle upon the last and greatest of all speculative
problems--Does human nature possess any free, volitional, or truly
anthropomorphic element, or is it only the cunningest of all Nature's
clocks? Some, among whom I count myself, think that the battle will for
ever remain a drawn one, and that, for all practical purposes, this
result is as good as anthropomorphism winning the day.

The classification of the sciences, which, in the eyes of M. Comte's
adherents, constitutes his second great claim to the dignity of a
scientific philosopher, appears to me to be open to just the same
objections as the law of the three states. It is inconsistent in itself,
and it is inconsistent with fact. Let us consider the main points of
this classification successively:--

     "Il faut distinguer par rapport à tous les ordres des phénomènes,
     deux genres de sciences naturelles; les unes abstraites,
     générales, ont pour objet la découverte des lois qui régissent les
     diverses classes de phénomènes, en considérant tous les cas qu'on
     peut concevoir; les autres concrètes, particulières, descriptives,
     et qu'on désigne quelquefois sous le nom des sciences naturelles
     proprement dites, consistent dans l'application de ces lois à
     l'histoire effective des différents êtres existants."[23]

The "abstract" sciences are subsequently said to be mathematics,
astronomy, physics, chemistry, physiology, and social physics--the
titles of the two latter being subsequently changed to biology and
sociology. M. Comte exemplifies the distinction between his abstract and
his concrete sciences as follows:--

     "On pourra d'abord l'apercevoir très-nettement en comparant, d'une
     part, la physiologie générale, et d'une autre part la zoologie et
     la botanique proprement dites. Ce sont évidemment, en effet, deux
     travaux d'un caractère fort distinct, que d'étudier, en général,
     les lois de la vie, ou de déterminer le mode d'existence de chaque
     corps vivant, en particulier. _Cette seconde étude, en outre, est
     nécessairememt fondée sur la première._"--P. 57.

All the unreality and mere bookishness of M. Comte's knowledge of
physical science comes out in the passage I have italicised. "The
special study of living beings is based upon a general study of the laws
of life!" What little I know about the matter leads me to think, that,
if M. Comte had possessed the slightest practical acquaintance with
biological science, he would have turned his phraseology upside down,
and have perceived that we can have no knowledge of the general laws of
life, except that which is based upon the study of particular living

The illustration is surely unluckily chosen; but the language in which
these so-called abstract sciences are defined seems to me to be still
more open to criticism. With what propriety can astronomy, or physics,
or chemistry, or biology, be said to occupy themselves with the
consideration of "all conceivable cases" which fall within their
respective provinces? Does the astronomer occupy himself with any other
system of the universe than that which is visible to him? Does he
speculate upon the possible movements of bodies which may attract one
another in the inverse proportion of the cube of their distances, say?
Does biology, whether "abstract" or "concrete," occupy itself with any
other form of life than those which exist, or have existed? And, if the
abstract sciences embrace all conceivable cases of the operation of the
laws with which they are concerned, would not they, necessarily, embrace
the subjects of the concrete sciences, which, inasmuch as they exist,
must needs be conceivable? In fact, no such distinction as that which M.
Comte draws is tenable. The first stage of his classification breaks by
its own weight.

But granting M. Comte his six abstract sciences, he proceeds to arrange
them according to what he calls their natural order or hierarchy, their
places in this hierarchy being determined by the degree of generality
and simplicity of the conceptions with which they deal. Mathematics
occupies the first, astronomy the second, physics the third, chemistry
the fourth, biology the fifth, and sociology the sixth and last place in
the series. M. Comte's arguments in favour of this classification are

     "Sa conformité essentielle avec la co-ordination, en quelque sorte
     spontanée, qui se trouve en effet implicitement admise par les
     savants livrés à l'étude des diverse branches de la philosophie

But I absolutely deny the existence of this conformity. If there is one
thing clear about the progress of modern science, it is the tendency to
reduce all scientific problems, except those which are purely
mathematical, to questions of molecular physics--that is to, say, to the
attractions, repulsions, motions, and co-ordination of the ultimate
particles of matter. Social phænomena are the result of the interaction
of the components of society, or men, with one another and the
surrounding universe. But, in the language of physical science, which,
by the nature of the case, is materialistic, the actions of men, so far
as they are recognisable by science, are the results of molecular
changes in the matter of which they are composed; and, in the long run,
these must come into the hands of the physicist. _A fortiori_, the
phænomena of biology and of chemistry are, in their ultimate analysis,
questions of molecular physics. Indeed, the fact is acknowledged by all
chemists and biologists who look beyond their immediate occupations. And
it is to be observed, that the phænomena of biology are as directly and
immediately connected with molecular physics as are those of chemistry.
Molar physics, chemistry, and biology are not three successive steps in
the ladder of knowledge, as M. Comte would have us believe, but three
branches springing from the common stem of molecular physics.

As to astronomy, I am at a loss to understand how any one who will give
a moment's attention to the nature of the science can fail to see that
it consists of two parts: first, of a description of the phænomena,
which is as much entitled as descriptive zoology, or botany, is, to the
name of natural history; and, secondly, of an explanation of the
phænomena, furnished by the laws of a force--gravitation--the study of
which is as much a part of physics, as is that of heat, or electricity.
It would be just as reasonable to make the study of the heat of the sun
a science preliminary to the rest of thermotics, as to place the study
of the attraction of the bodies, which compose the universe in general,
before that of the particular terrestrial bodies, which alone we can
experimentally know. Astronomy, in fact, owes its perfection to the
circumstance that it is the only branch of natural history, the
phænomena of which are largely expressible by mathematical conceptions,
and which can be, to a great extent, explained by the application of
very simple physical laws.

With regard to mathematics, it is to be observed, in the first place,
that M. Comte mixes up under that head the pure relations of space and
of quantity, which are properly included under the name, with rational
mechanics and statics, which are mathematical developments of the most
general conceptions of physics, namely, the notions of force and of
motion. Relegating these to their proper place in physics, we have left
pure mathematics, which can stand neither at the head, nor at the tail,
of any hierarchy of the sciences, since, like logic, it is equally
related to all; though the enormous practical difficulty of applying
mathematics to the more complex phænomena of nature removes them, for
the present, out of its sphere.

On this subject of mathematics, again, M. Comte indulges in assertions
which can only be accounted for by his total ignorance of physical
science practically. As for example:--

     "C'est donc par l'étude des mathématiques, _et seulement par elle_,
     que l'on peut se faire une idée juste et approfondie de ce que
     c'est qu'une _science_. C'est là _uniquement_ qu'on doit chercher à
     connaître avec précision _la méthode générale que l'esprit humain
     emploie constamment dans toutes ses recherches positives_, parce
     que nulle part ailleurs les questions ne sont résolues d'une
     manière aussi complète et les déductions prolongées aussi loin avec
     une sévérité rigoureuse. C'est là également que notre entendement a
     donné les plus grandes preuves de sa force, parce que les ideés
     qu'il y considère sont du plus haut degré d'abstraction possible
     dans l'ordre positif. _Toute éducation scientifique qui ne commence
     point par une telle étude pèche donc nécessairement par sa

That is to say, the only study which can confer "a just and
comprehensive idea of what is meant by science," and, at the same time,
furnish an exact conception of the general method of scientific
investigation, is that which knows nothing of observation, nothing of
experiment, nothing of induction, nothing of causation! And education,
the whole secret of which consists in proceeding from the easy to the
difficult, the concrete to the abstract, ought to be turned the other
way, and pass from the abstract to the concrete.

M. Comte puts a second argument in favour of his hierarchy of the
sciences thus:--

     "Un second caractère très-essentiel de notre classification, c'est
     d'être nécessairement conforme à l'ordre effectif du développement
     de la philosophie naturelle. C'est ce que vérifie tout ce qu'on
     sait de l'histoire des sciences."[25]

But Mr. Spencer has so thoroughly and completely demonstrated the
absence of any correspondence between the historical development of the
sciences, and their position in the Comtean hierarchy, in his essay on
the "Genesis of Science," that I shall not waste time in repeating his

A third proposition in support of the Comtean classification of the
sciences stands as follows:--

     "En troisième lieu cette classification présente la propriété
     très-remarquable de marquer exactement la perfection relative des
     différentes sciences, laquelle consiste essentiellement dans le
     degré de précision des connaissances et dans leur co-ordination
     plus ou moins intime."[26]

I am quite unable to understand the distinction which M. Comte
endeavours to draw in this passage in spite of his amplifications
further on. Every science must consist of precise knowledge, and that
knowledge must be co-ordinated into general proportions, or it is not
science. When M. Comte, in exemplification of the statement I have
cited, says that "les phénomènes organiques ne comportent qu'une étude à
la fois moins exacte et moins systématique que les phénomènes des corps
bruts," I am at a loss to comprehend what he means. If I affirm that
"when a motor nerve is irritated, the muscle connected with it becomes
simultaneously shorter and thicker, without changing its volume," it
appears to me that the statement is as precise or exact (and not merely
as true) as that of the physicist who should say, that "when a piece of
iron is heated, it becomes simultaneously longer and thicker and
increases in volume;" nor can I discover any difference, in point of
precision, between the statement of the morphological law that "animals
which suckle their young have two occipital condyles," and the
enunciation of the physical law that "water subjected to electrolysis
is replaced by an equal weight of the gases, oxygen and hydrogen." As
for anatomical or physiological investigation being less "systematic"
than that of the physicist or chemist, the assertion is simply
unaccountable. The methods of physical science are everywhere the same
in principle, and the physiological investigator who was not
"systematic" would, on the whole, break down rather sooner than the
inquirer into simpler subjects.

Thus M. Comte's classification of the sciences, under all its aspects,
appears to me to be a complete failure. It is impossible, in an article
which is already too long, to inquire how it may be replaced by a
better; and it is the less necessary to do so, as a second edition of
Mr. Spencer's remarkable essay on this subject has just been published.
After wading through pages of the long-winded confusion and second-hand
information of the "Philosophic Positive," at the risk of a _crise
cérébrale_--it is as good as a shower-bath to turn to the
"Classification of the Sciences," and refresh oneself with Mr. Spencer's
profound thought, precise knowledge, and clear language.

II. The second proposition to which I have committed myself, in the
paper to which I have been obliged to refer so often, is, that the
"Positive Philosophy" contains "a great deal which is as thoroughly
antagonistic to the very essence of science as is anything in
ultramontane Catholicism."

What I refer to in these words, is, on the one hand, the dogmatism and
narrowness which so often mark M. Comte's discussion of doctrines which
he does not like, and reduce his expressions of opinion to mere
passionate puerilities; as, for example, when he is arguing against the
assumption of an ether, or when he is talking (I cannot call it arguing)
against psychology, or political economy. On the other hand, I allude to
the spirit of meddling systematization and regulation which animates
even the "Philosophic Positive," and breaks out, in the latter volumes
of that work, into no uncertain foreshadowing of the anti-scientific
monstrosities of Comte's later writings.

Those who try to draw a line of demarcation between the spirit of the
"Philosophic Positive," and that of the "Politique" and its successors,
(if I may express an opinion from fragmentary knowledge of these last,)
must have overlooked, or forgotten, what Comte himself labours to show,
and indeed succeeds in proving, in the "Appendice Général" of the
"Politique Positive." "Dès mon début," he writes, "je tentai de fonder
le nouveau pouvoir spirituel que j'institue aujourd'hui." "Ma politique,
loin d'être aucunement opposée à ma philosophie, en constitue tellement
la suite naturelle que celle-ci fut directement instituée pour servir de
base à celle-là, comme le prouve cet appendice."[27]

This is quite true. In the remarkable essay entitled "Considérations sur
le Pouvoir spirituel," published in March 1826, Comte advocates the
establishment of a "modern spiritual power," which, he anticipates, may
exercise an even greater influence over temporal affairs, than did the
Catholic clergy, at the height of their vigour and independence, in the
twelfth century. This spiritual power is, in fact, to govern opinion,
and to have the supreme control over education, in each nation of the
West; and the spiritual powers of the several European peoples are to be
associated together and placed under a common direction or "souveraineté

A system of "Catholicism _minus_ Christianity" was therefore completely
organized in Comte's mind, four years before the first volume of the
"Philosophie Positive" was written; and, naturally, the papal spirit
shows itself in that work, not only in the ways I have already
mentioned, but, notably, in the attack on liberty of conscience which
breaks out in the fourth volume:--

     "Il n'y a point de liberté de conscience en astronomie, en
     physique, en chimie, en physiologie même, en ce sens que chacun
     trouverait absurde de ne pas croire de confiance aux principes
     établis dans les sciences par les hommes compétents."

"Nothing in ultramontane Catholicism" can, in my judgment, be more
completely sacerdotal, more entirely anti-scientific, than this dictum.
All the great steps in the advancement of science have been made by just
those men who have not hesitated to doubt the "principles established in
the sciences by competent persons;" and the great teaching of
science--the great use of it as an instrument of mental discipline--is
its constant inculcation of the maxim, that the sole ground on which any
statement has a right to be believed is the impossibility of refuting

Thus, without travelling beyond the limits of the "Philosophie
Positive," we find its author contemplating the establishment of a
system of society, in which an organized spiritual power shall over-ride
and direct the temporal power, as completely as the Innocents and
Gregorys tried to govern Europe in the middle ages; and repudiating the
exercise of liberty of conscience against the "_hommes compétents_", of
whom, by the assumption, the new priesthood would be composed. Was Mr.
Congreve as forgetful of this, as he seems to have been of some other
parts of the "Philosophie Positive," when he wrote, that "in any
limited, careful use of the term, no candid man could say that the
Positive Philosophy contained a great deal as thoroughly antagonistic to
[the very essence of[28]] science as Catholicism"?

M. Comte, it will have been observed, desires to retain the whole of
Catholic organization; and the logical practical result of this part of
his doctrine would be the establishment of something corresponding with
that eminently Catholic, but admittedly anti-scientific,
institution--the Holy Office.

I hope I have said enough to show that I wrote the few lines I devoted
to M. Comte and his philosophy, neither unguardedly, nor ignorantly,
still less maliciously. I shall be sorry if what I have now added, in my
own justification, should lead any to suppose that I think M. Comte's
works worthless; or that I do not heartily respect, and sympathise with,
those who have been impelled by him to think deeply upon social
problems, and to strive nobly for social regeneration. It is the virtue
of that impulse, I believe, which will save the name and fame of Auguste
Comte from oblivion. As for his philosophy, I part with it by quoting
his own words, reported to me by a quondam Comtist, now an eminent
member of the Institute of France, M. Charles Robin:--

     "La Philosophie est une tentative incessante de l'esprit humain
     pour arriver au repos: mais elle se trouve incessamment aussi
     dérangée par les progrès continus de la science. De là vient pour
     le philosophe l'obligation de refaire chaque soir la synthèse de
     ses conceptions; et un jour viendra où l'homme raisonnable ne fera
     plus d'autre prière du soir."


[13] I am glad to observe that Mr. Congreve, in the criticism with which
he has favoured me in the number of the _Fortnightly Review_ for April
1869, does not venture to challenge the justice of the claim I make for
Hume. He merely suggests that I have been wanting in candour in not
mentioning Comte's high opinion of Hume. After mature reflection I am
unable to discern my fault. If I had suggested that Comte had borrowed
from Hume without acknowledgment; or if, instead of trying to express my
own sense of Hume's merits with the modesty which becomes a writer who
has no authority in matters of philosophy, I had affirmed that no one
had properly appreciated him, Mr. Congreve's remarks would apply: but as
I did neither of these things, they appear to me to be irrelevant, if
not unjustifiable. And even had it occurred to me to quote M. Comte's
expressions about Hume, I do not know that I should have cited them,
inasmuch as, on his own showing, M. Comte occasionally speaks very
decidedly touching writers of whose works he has not read a line. Thus,
in Tome VI. of the "Philosophie Positive," p. 619, M. Comte writes: "Le
plus grand des métaphysiciens modernes, l'illustre Kant, a noblement
mérité une éternelle admiration en tentant, le premier, d'échapper
directement a l'absolu philosophique par sa célèbre conception de la
double réalité, à la fois objective et subjective, qui indique un si
juste sentiment de la saine philosophie."

But in the "Préface Personnelle" in the same volume, p. 35, M. Comte
tells us:--"Je n'ai jamais lu, en aucune langue, ni Vico, _ni Kant_, ni
Herder, ni Hegel, &c.; je ne connais leurs divers ouvrages que d'après
quelques relations indirectes et certains extraits fort insuffisants."

Who knows but that the "&c." may include Hume? And in that case what is
the value of M. Comte's praise of him?

[14] Now and always I quote the second edition, by Littré.

[15] "Philosophie Positive," ii. p. 440.

[16] "Le brillant mais superficiel Cuvier."--_Philosophie Positive_, vi.
p. 383.

[17] "Philosophie Positive," iii. p. 369.

[18] Ibid. p. 387.

[19] Hear the late Dr. Whewell, who calls Comte "a shallow pretender,"
so far as all the modern sciences, except astronomy, are concerned; and
tells us that "his pretensions to discoveries are, as Sir John Herschel
has shown, absurdly fallacious."--"Comte and Positivism," _Macmillan's
Magazine_, March 1866.

[20] "Philosophie Positive," i. pp. 8, 9.

[21] "Philosophie Positive," iii. p. 188.

[22] The word "positive" is in every way objectionable. In one sense it
suggests that mental quality which was undoubtedly largely developed in
M. Comte, but can best be dispensed with in a philosopher; in another,
it is unfortunate in its application to a system which starts with
enormous negations; in its third, and specially philosophical sense, as
implying a system of thought which assumes nothing beyond the content of
observed facts, it implies that which never did exist, and never will.

[23] "Philosophie Positive," i. p. 56.

[24] "Philosophie Positive," i. p. 99.

[25] Ibid., i. p. 77.

[26] "Philosophie Positive," i. p. 78.

[27] Loc. cit., Préface Spéciale, pp. i. ii.

[28] Mr. Congreve leaves out these important words, which show that I
refer to the spirit, and not to the details of science.




If a well were to be sunk at our feet in the midst of the city of
Norwich, the diggers would very soon find themselves at work in that
white substance almost too soft to be called rock, with which we are all
familiar as "chalk."

Not only here, but over the whole county of Norfolk, the well-sinker
might carry his shaft down many hundred feet without coming to the end
of the chalk; and, on the sea-coast, where the waves have pared away the
face of the land which breasts them, the scarped faces of the high
cliffs are often wholly formed of the same material. Northward, the
chalk may be followed as far as Yorkshire; on the south coast it appears
abruptly in the picturesque western bays of Dorset, and breaks into the
Needles of the Isle of Wight; while on the shores of Kent it supplies
that long line of white cliffs to which England owes her name of Albion.

Were the thin soil which covers it all washed away, a curved band of
white chalk, here broader, and there narrower, might be followed
diagonally across England from Lulworth in Dorset, to Flamborough Head
in Yorkshire--a distance of over 280 miles as the crow flies.

From this band to the North Sea, on the east, and the Channel, on the
south, the chalk is largely hidden by other deposits; but, except in the
Weald of Kent and Sussex, it enters into the very foundation of all the
south-eastern counties.

Attaining, as it does in some places, a thickness of more than a
thousand feet, the English chalk must be admitted to be a mass of
considerable magnitude. Nevertheless, it covers but an insignificant
portion of the whole area occupied by the chalk formation of the globe,
which has precisely the same general characters as ours, and is found in
detached patches, some less, and others more extensive, than the

Chalk occurs in north-west Ireland; it stretches over a large part of
France,--the chalk which underlies Paris being, in fact, a continuation
of that of the London basin; it runs through Denmark and Central Europe,
and extends southward to North Africa; while, eastward, it appears in
the Crimea and in Syria, and may be traced as far as the shores of the
Sea of Aral, in Central Asia.

If all the points at which true chalk occurs were circumscribed, they
would lie within an irregular oval about 3,000 miles in long
diameter--the area of which would be as great as that of Europe, and
would many times exceed that of the largest existing inland sea--the

Thus the chalk is no unimportant element in the masonry of the earth's
crust, and it impresses a peculiar stamp, varying with the conditions
to which it is exposed, on the scenery of the districts in which it
occurs. The undulating downs and rounded coombs, covered with
sweet-grassed turf, of our inland chalk country, have a peacefully
domestic and mutton-suggesting prettiness, but can hardly be called
either grand or beautiful. But, on our southern coasts, the wall-sided
cliffs, many hundred feet high, with vast needles and pinnacles standing
out in the sea, sharp and solitary enough to serve as perches for the
wary cormorant, confer a wonderful beauty and grandeur upon the chalk
headlands. And, in the East, chalk has its share in the formation of
some of the most venerable of mountain ranges, such as the Lebanon.

What is this wide-spread component of the surface of the earth? and
whence did it come?

You may think this no very hopeful inquiry. You may not unnaturally
suppose that the attempt to solve such problems as these can lead to no
result, save that of entangling the inquirer in vague speculations,
incapable of refutation and of verification.

If such were really the case, I should have selected some other subject
than a "piece of chalk" for my discourse. But, in truth, after much
deliberation, I have been unable to think of any topic which would so
well enable me to lead you to see how solid is the foundation upon which
some of the most startling conclusions of physical science rest.

A great chapter of the history of the world is written in the chalk. Few
passages in the history of man can be supported by such an overwhelming
mass of direct and indirect evidence as that which testifies to the
truth of the fragment of the history of the globe, which I hope to
enable you to read, with your own eyes, to-night.

Let me add, that few chapters of human history have a more profound
significance for ourselves. I weigh my words well when I assert, that
the man who should know the true history of the bit of chalk which every
carpenter carries about in his breeches-pocket, though ignorant of all
other history, is likely, if he will think his knowledge out to its
ultimate results, to have a truer, and therefore a better, conception of
this wonderful universe, and of man's relation to it, than the most
learned student who is deep-read in the records of humanity and ignorant
of those of Nature.

The language of the chalk is not hard to learn, not nearly so hard as
Latin, if you only want to get at the broad features of the story it has
to tell; and I propose that we now set to work to spell that story out

We all know that if we "burn" chalk the result is quicklime. Chalk, in
fact, is a compound of carbonic acid gas and lime, and when you make it
very hot the carbonic acid flies away and the lime is left.

By this method of procedure we see the lime, but we do not see the
carbonic acid. If, on the other hand, you were to powder a little chalk,
and drop it into a good deal of strong vinegar, there would be a great
bubbling and fizzing, and, finally, a clear liquid, in which no sign of
chalk would appear. Here you see the carbonic acid in the bubbles; the
lime, dissolved in the vinegar, vanishes from sight. There are a great
many other ways of showing that chalk is essentially nothing but
carbonic acid and quicklime. Chemists enunciate the result of all the
experiments which prove this, by stating that chalk is almost wholly
composed of "carbonate of lime."

It is desirable for us to start from the knowledge of this fact, though
it may not seem to help us very far towards what we seek. For carbonate
of lime is a widely-spread substance, and is met with under very various
conditions. All sorts of limestones are composed of more or less pure
carbonate of lime. The crust which is often deposited by waters which
have drained through limestone rocks, in the form of what are called
stalagmites and stalactites, is carbonate of lime. Or, to take a more
familiar example, the fur on the inside of a tea-kettle is carbonate of
lime; and, for anything chemistry tells us to the contrary, the chalk
might be a kind of gigantic fur upon the bottom of the earth-kettle,
which is kept pretty hot below.

Let us try another method of making the chalk tell us its own history.
To the unassisted eye chalk looks simply like a very loose and open kind
of stone. But it is possible to grind a slice of chalk down so thin that
you can see through it--until it is thin enough, in fact, to be examined
with any magnifying power that may be thought desirable. A thin slice of
the fur of a kettle might be made in the same way. If it were examined
microscopically, it would show itself to be a more or less distinctly
laminated mineral substance, and nothing more.

But the slice of chalk presents a totally different appearance when
placed under the microscope. The general mass of it is made up of very
minute granules; but imbedded in this matrix, are innumerable bodies,
some smaller and some larger, but, on a rough average, not more than a
hundredth of an inch in diameter, having a well-defined shape and
structure. A cubic inch of some specimens of chalk may contain hundreds
of thousands of these bodies, compacted together with incalculable
millions of the granules.

The examination of a transparent slice gives a good notion of the manner
in which the components of the chalk are arranged, and of their relative
proportions. But, by rubbing up some chalk with a brush in water and
then pouring off the milky fluid, so as to obtain sediments of different
degrees of fineness, the granules and the minute rounded bodies may be
pretty well separated from one another, and submitted to microscopic
examination, either as opaque or as transparent objects. By combining
the views obtained in these various methods, each of the rounded bodies
may be proved to be a beautifully-constructed calcareous fabric, made up
of a number of chambers, communicating freely with one another. The
chambered bodies are of various forms. One of the commonest is something
like a badly-grown raspberry, being formed of a number of nearly
globular chambers of different sizes congregated together. It is called
_Globigerina_, and some specimens of chalk consist of little else than
_Globigerinæ_ and granules.

Let us fix our attention upon the _Globigerina_. It is the spoor of the
game we are tracking. If we can learn what it is and what are the
conditions of its existence, we shall see our way to the origin and past
history of the chalk.

A suggestion which may naturally enough present itself is, that these
curious bodies are the result of some process of aggregation which has
taken place in the carbonate of lime; that, just as in winter, the rime
on our windows simulates the most delicate and elegantly arborescent
foliage--proving that the mere mineral water may, under certain
conditions, assume the outward form of organic bodies--so this mineral
substance, carbonate of lime, hidden away in the bowels of the earth,
has taken the shape of these chambered bodies. I am not raising a merely
fanciful and unreal objection. Very learned men, in former days, have
even entertained the notion that all the formed things found in rocks
are of this nature; and if no such conception is at present held to be
admissible, it is because long and varied experience has now shown that
mineral matter never does assume the form and structure we find in
fossils. If any one were to try to persuade you that an oyster-shell
(which is also chiefly composed of carbonate of lime) had crystallized
out of sea-water, I suppose you would laugh at the absurdity. Your
laughter would be justified by the fact that all experience tends to
show that oyster-shells are formed by the agency of oysters, and in no
other way. And if there were no better reasons, we should be justified,
on like grounds, in believing that _Globigerina_ is not the product of
anything but vital activity.

Happily, however, better evidence in proof of the organic nature of the
_Globigerinæ_ than that of analogy is forthcoming. It so happens that
calcareous skeletons, exactly similar to the _Globigerinæ_ of the chalk,
are being formed, at the present moment, by minute living creatures,
which flourish in multitudes, literally more numerous than the sands of
the sea-shore, over a large extent of that part of the earth's surface
which is covered by the ocean.

The history of the discovery of these living _Globigerinæ_, and of the
part which they play in rock-building, is singular enough. It is a
discovery which, like others of no less scientific importance, has
arisen, incidentally, out of work devoted to very different and
exceedingly practical interests.

When men first took to the sea, they speedily learned to look out for
shoals and rocks; and the more the burthen of their ships increased, the
more imperatively necessary it became for sailors to ascertain with
precision the depth of the waters they traversed. Out of this necessity
grew the use of the lead and sounding-line; and, ultimately,
marine-surveying, which is the recording of the form of coasts and of
the depth of the sea, as ascertained by the sounding-lead, upon charts.

At the same time, it became desirable to ascertain and to indicate the
nature of the sea-bottom, since this circumstance greatly affects its
goodness as holding ground for anchors. Some ingenious tar, whose name
deserves a better fate than the oblivion into which it has fallen,
attained this object by "arming" the bottom of the lead with a lump of
grease, to which more or less of the sand or mud, or broken shells, as
the case might be, adhered, and was brought to the surface. But, however
well adapted such an apparatus might be for rough nautical purposes,
scientific accuracy could not be expected from the armed lead, and to
remedy its defects (especially when applied to sounding in great depths)
Lieut. Brooke, of the American Navy, some years ago invented a most
ingenious machine, by which a considerable portion of the superficial
layer of the sea-bottom can be scooped out and brought up, from any
depth to which the lead descends.

In 1853, Lieut. Brooke obtained mud from the bottom of the North
Atlantic, between Newfoundland and the Azores, at a depth of more than
10,000 feet, or two miles, by the help of this sounding apparatus. The
specimens were sent for examination to Ehrenberg of Berlin, and to
Bailey of West Point, and those able microscopists found that this
deep-sea mud was almost entirely composed of the skeletons of living
organisms--the greater proportion of these being just like the
_Globigerinæ_ already known to occur in the chalk.

Thus far, the work had been carried on simply in the interests of
science, but Lieut. Brooke's method of sounding acquired a high
commercial value, when the enterprise of laying down the telegraph-cable
between this country and the United States was undertaken. For it became
a matter of immense importance to know, not only the depth of the sea
over the whole line along which the cable was to be laid, but the exact
nature of the bottom, so as to guard against chances of cutting or
fraying the strands of that costly rope. The Admiralty consequently
ordered Captain Dayman, an old friend and shipmate of mine, to ascertain
the depth over the whole line of the cable, and to bring back specimens
of the bottom. In former days, such a command as this might have sounded
very much like one of the impossible things which the young prince in
the Fairy Tales is ordered to do before he can obtain the hand of the
Princess. However, in the months of June and July 1857, my friend
performed the task assigned to him with great expedition and precision,
without, so far as I know, having met with any reward of that kind. The
specimens of Atlantic mud which he procured were sent to me to be
examined and reported upon.[29]

The result of all these operations is, that we know the contours and the
nature of the surface-soil covered by the North Atlantic, for a distance
of 1,700 miles from east to west, as well as we know that of any part of
the dry land.

It is a prodigious plain--one of the widest and most even plains in the
world. If the sea were drained off, you might drive a wagon all the way
from Valentia, on the west coast of Ireland, to Trinity Bay, in
Newfoundland. And, except upon one sharp incline about 200 miles from
Valentia, I am not quite sure that it would even be necessary to put the
skid on, so gentle are the ascents and descents upon that long route.
From Valentia the road would lie down hill for about 200 miles to the
point at which the bottom is now covered by 1,700 fathoms of sea-water.
Then would come the central plain, more than a thousand miles wide, the
inequalities of the surface of which would be hardly perceptible, though
the depth of water upon it now varies from 10,000 to 15,000 feet; and
there are places in which Mont Blanc might be sunk without showing its
peak above water. Beyond this, the ascent on the American side
commences, and gradually leads, for about 300 miles, to the Newfoundland

Almost the whole of the bottom of this central plain (which extends for
many hundred miles in a north and south direction) is covered by a fine
mud, which, when brought to the surface, dries into a greyish-white
friable substance. You can write with this on a blackboard, if you are
so inclined; and, to the eye, it is quite like very soft, greyish chalk.
Examined chemically, it proves to be composed almost wholly of carbonate
of lime; and if you make a section of it, in the same way as that of the
piece of chalk was made, and view it with the microscope, it presents
innumerable _Globigerinæ_, embedded in a granular matrix.

Thus this deep-sea mud is substantially chalk. I say substantially,
because there are a good many minor differences: but as these have no
bearing on the question immediately before us,--which is the nature of
the _Globigerinæ_ of the chalk,--it is unnecessary to speak of them.

_Globigerinæ_ of every size, from the smallest to the largest, are
associated together in the Atlantic mud, and the chambers of many are
filled by a soft animal matter. This soft substance is, in fact, the
remains of the creature to which the _Globigerina_ shell, or rather
skeleton, owes its existence--and which is an animal of the simplest
imaginable description. It is, in fact, a mere particle of living jelly,
without defined parts of any kind--without a mouth, nerves, muscles, or
distinct organs, and only manifesting its vitality to ordinary
observation by thrusting out and retracting from all parts of its
surface, long filamentous processes, which serve for arms and legs. Yet
this amorphous particle, devoid of everything which, in the higher
animals, we call organs, is capable of feeding, growing, and
multiplying; of separating from the ocean the small proportion of
carbonate of lime which is dissolved in sea-water; and of building up
that substance into a skeleton for itself, according to a pattern which
can be imitated by no other known agency.

The notion that animals can live and flourish in the sea, at the vast
depths from which apparently living _Globigerinæ_ have been brought up,
does not agree very well with our usual conceptions respecting the
conditions of animal life; and it is not so absolutely impossible as it
might at first sight appear to be, that the _Globigerinæ_ of the
Atlantic sea-bottom do not live and die where they are found.

As I have mentioned, the soundings from the great Atlantic plain are
almost entirely made up of _Globigerinæ_, with the granules which have
been mentioned, and some few other calcareous shells; but a small
percentage of the chalky mud--perhaps at most some five per cent. of
it--is of a different nature, and consists of shells and skeletons
composed of silex, or pure flint. These silicious bodies belong partly
to the lowly vegetable organisms which are called _Diatomaceæ_, and
partly to the minute, and extremely simple, animals, termed
_Radiolaria_. It is quite certain that these creatures do not live at
the bottom of the ocean, but at its surface--where they may be obtained
in prodigious numbers by the use of a properly constructed net. Hence
it follows that these silicious organisms, though they are not heavier
than the lightest dust, must have fallen, in some cases, through fifteen
thousand feet of water, before they reached their final resting-place on
the ocean floor. And, considering how large a surface these bodies
expose in proportion to their weight, it is probable that they occupy a
great length of time in making their burial journey from the surface of
the Atlantic to the bottom.

But if the _Radiolaria_ and Diatoms are thus rained upon the bottom of
the sea, from the superficial layer of its waters in which they pass
their lives, it is obviously possible that the _Globigerinæ_ may be
similarly derived; and if they were so, it would be much more easy to
understand how they obtain their supply of food than it is at present.
Nevertheless, the positive and negative evidence all points the other
way. The skeletons of the full-grown, deep-sea _Globigerinæ_ are so
remarkably solid and heavy in proportion to their surface as to seem
little fitted for floating; and, as a matter of fact, they are not to be
found along with the Diatoms and _Radiolaria_, in the uppermost stratum
of the open ocean.

It has been observed, again, that the abundance of _Globigerinæ_, in
proportion to other organisms of like kind, increases with the depth of
the sea; and that deep-water _Globigerinæ_ are larger than those which
live in shallower parts of the sea; and such facts negative the
supposition that these organisms have been swept by currents from the
shallows into the deeps of the Atlantic.

It therefore seems to be hardly doubtful that these wonderful creatures
live and die at the depths in which they are found.[30]

However, the important points for us are, that the living _Globigerinæ_
are exclusively marine animals, the skeletons of which abound at the
bottom of deep seas; and that there is not a shadow of reason for
believing that the habits of the _Globigerinæ_ of the chalk differed
from those of the existing species. But if this be true, there is no
escaping the conclusion that the chalk itself is the dried mud of an
ancient deep sea.

In working over the soundings collected by Captain Dayman, I was
surprised to find that many of what I have called the "granules" of that
mud, were not, as one might have been tempted to think at first, the
mere powder and waste of _Globigerinæ_, but that they had a definite
form and size, I termed these bodies "_coccoliths_," and doubted their
organic nature. Dr. Wallich verified my observation, and added the
interesting discovery that, not unfrequently, bodies similar to these
"coccoliths" were aggregated together into spheroids, which he termed
"_coccospheres_." So far as we knew, these bodies, the nature of which
is extremely puzzling and problematical, were peculiar to the Atlantic

But, a few years ago, Mr. Sorby, in making a careful examination of the
chalk by means of thin sections and otherwise, observed, as Ehrenberg
had done before him, that much of its granular basis possesses a
definite form. Comparing these formed particles with those in the
Atlantic soundings, he found the two to be identical; and thus proved
that the chalk, like the soundings, contains these mysterious coccoliths
and coccospheres. Here was a further and a most interesting
confirmation, from internal evidence, of the essential identity of the
chalk with modern deep-sea mud. _Globigerinæ_, coccoliths, and
coccospheres are found as the chief constituents of both, and testify to
the general similarity of the conditions under which both have been

The evidence furnished by the hewing, facing, and superposition of the
stones of the Pyramids, that these structures were built by men, has no
greater weight than the evidence that the chalk was built by
_Globigerinæ_; and the belief that those ancient pyramid-builders were
terrestrial and air-breathing creatures like ourselves, is not better
based than the conviction that the chalk-makers lived in the sea.

But as our belief in the building of the Pyramids by men is not only
grounded on the internal evidence afforded by these structures, but
gathers strength from multitudinous collateral proofs, and is clinched
by the total absence of any reason for a contrary belief; so the
evidence drawn from the _Globigerinæ_ that the chalk is an ancient
sea-bottom, is fortified by innumerable independent lines of evidence;
and our belief in the truth of the conclusion to which all positive
testimony tends, receives the like negative justification from the fact
that no other hypothesis has a shadow of foundation.

It may be worth while briefly to consider a few of these collateral
proofs that the chalk was deposited at the bottom of the sea.

The great mass of the chalk is composed, as we have seen, of the
skeletons of _Globigerinæ_, and other simple organisms, imbedded in
granular matter. Here and there, however, this hardened mud of the
ancient sea reveals the remains of higher animals which have lived and
died, and left their hard parts in the mud, just as the oysters die and
leave their shells behind them, in the mud of the present seas.

There are, at the present day, certain groups of animals which are never
found in fresh waters, being unable to live anywhere but in the sea.
Such are the corals; those corallines which are called _Polyzoa_; those
creatures which fabricate the lamp-shells, and are called _Brachiopoda_;
the pearly _Nautilus_, and all animals allied to it; and all the forms
of sea-urchins and star-fishes.

Not only are all these creatures confined to salt water at the present
day; but, so far as our records of the past go, the conditions of their
existence have been the same: hence, their occurrence in any deposit is
as strong evidence as can be obtained, that that deposit was formed in
the sea. Now the remains of animals of all the kinds which have been
enumerated, occur in the chalk, in greater or less abundance; while not
one of those forms of shell-fish which are characteristic of fresh water
has yet been observed in it.

When we consider that the remains of more than three thousand distinct
species of aquatic animals have been discovered among the fossils of the
chalk, that the great majority of them are of such forms as are now met
with only in the sea, and that there is no reason to believe that any
one of them inhabited fresh water--the collateral evidence that the
chalk represents an ancient sea-bottom acquires as great force as the
proof derived from the nature of the chalk itself. I think you will now
allow that I did not overstate my case when I asserted that we have as
strong grounds for believing that all the vast area of dry land, at
present occupied by the chalk, was once at the bottom of the sea, as we
have for any matter of history whatever; while there is no justification
for any other belief.

No less certain is it that the time during which the countries we now
call south-east England, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Egypt, Arabia,
Syria, were more or less completely covered by a deep sea, was of
considerable duration.

We have already seen that the chalk is, in places, more than a thousand
feet thick. I think you will agree with me, that it must have taken some
time for the skeletons of animalcules of a hundredth of an inch in
diameter to heap up such a mass as that. I have said that throughout the
thickness of the chalk the remains of other animals are scattered. These
remains are often in the most exquisite state of preservation. The
valves of the shell-fishes are commonly adherent; the long spines of
some of the sea-urchins, which would be detached by the smallest jar,
often remain in their places. In a word, it is certain that these
animals have lived and died when the place which they now occupy was
the surface of as much of the chalk as had then been deposited; and that
each has been covered up by the layer of _Globigerinæ_ mud, upon which
the creatures imbedded a little higher up have, in like manner, lived
and died. But some of these remains prove the existence of reptiles of
vast size in the chalk sea. These lived their time, and had their
ancestors and descendants, which assuredly implies time, reptiles being
of slow growth.

There is more curious evidence, again, that the process of covering up,
or, in other words, the deposit of _Globigerinæ_ skeletons, did not go
on very fast. It is demonstrable that an animal of the cretaceous sea
might die, that its skeleton might lie uncovered upon the sea-bottom
long enough to lose all its outward coverings and appendages by
putrefaction; and that, after this had happened, another animal might
attach itself to the dead and naked skeleton, might grow to maturity,
and might itself die before the calcareous mud had buried the whole.

Cases of this kind are admirably described by Sir Charles Lyell. He
speaks of the frequency with which geologists find in the chalk a
fossilized sea-urchin, to which is attached the lower valve of a
_Crania_. This is a kind of shell-fish, with a shell composed of two
pieces, of which, as in the oyster, one is fixed and the other free.

"The upper valve is almost invariably wanting, though occasionally found
in a perfect state of preservation in the white chalk at some distance.
In this case, we see clearly that the sea-urchin first lived from youth
to age, then died and lost its spines, which were carried away. Then
the young _Crania_ adhered to the bared shell, grew and perished in its
turn; after which, the upper valve was separated from the lower, before
the Echinus became enveloped in chalky mud."[32]

A specimen in the Museum of Practical Geology, in London, still further
prolongs the period which must have elapsed between the death of the
sea-urchin, and its burial by the _Globigerinæ_. For the outward face of
the valve of a _Crania_, which is attached to a sea-urchin
(_Micraster_), is itself overrun by an incrusting coralline, which
spreads thence over more or less of the surface of the sea-urchin. It
follows that, after the upper valve of the _Crania_ fell off, the
surface of the attached valve must have remained exposed long enough to
allow of the growth of the whole coralline, since corallines do not live
imbedded in mud.

The progress of knowledge may, one day, enable us to deduce from such
facts as these the maximum rate at which the chalk can have accumulated,
and thus to arrive at the minimum duration of the chalk period. Suppose
that the valve of the _Crania_ upon which a coralline has fixed itself
in the way just described, is so attached to the sea-urchin that no part
of it is more than an inch above the face upon which the sea-urchin
rests. Then, as the coralline could not have fixed itself, if the
_Crania_ had been covered up with chalk mud, and could not have lived
had itself been so covered, it follows, that an inch of chalk mud could
not have accumulated within the time between the death and decay of the
soft parts of the sea-urchin and the growth of the coralline to the full
size which it has attained. If the decay of the soft parts of the
sea-urchin; the attachment, growth to maturity, and decay of the
_Crania_; and the subsequent attachment and growth of the coralline,
took a year (which is a low estimate enough), the accumulation of the
inch of chalk must have taken more than a year: and the deposit of a
thousand feet of chalk must, consequently, have taken more than twelve
thousand years.

The foundation of all this calculation is, of course, a knowledge of the
length of time the _Crania_ and the coralline needed to attain their
full size; and, on this head, precise knowledge is at present wanting.
But there are circumstances which tend to show, that nothing like an
inch of chalk has accumulated during the life of a _Crania_; and, on any
probable estimate of the length of that life, the chalk period must have
had a much longer duration than that thus roughly assigned to it.

Thus, not only is it certain that the chalk is the mud of an ancient
sea-bottom; but it is no less certain, that the chalk sea existed during
an extremely long period, though we may not be prepared to give a
precise estimate of the length of that period in years. The relative
duration is clear, though the absolute duration may not be definable.
The attempt to affix any precise date to the period at which the chalk
sea began, or ended, its existence, is baffled by difficulties of the
same kind. But the relative age of the cretaceous epoch may be
determined with as great ease and certainty as the long duration of that

You will have heard of the interesting discoveries recently made, in
various parts of Western Europe, of flint implements, obviously worked
into shape by human hands, under circumstances which show conclusively
that man is a very ancient denizen of these regions.

It has been proved that the old populations of Europe, whose existence
has been revealed to us in this way, consisted of savages, such as the
Esquimaux are now; that, in the country which is now France, they hunted
the reindeer, and were familiar with the ways of the mammoth and the
bison. The physical geography of France was in those days different from
what it is now--the river Somme, for instance, having cut its bed a
hundred feet deeper between that time and this; and, it is probable,
that the climate was more like that of Canada or Siberia, than that of
Western Europe.

The existence of these people is forgotten even in the traditions of the
oldest historical nations. The name and fame of them had utterly
vanished until a few years back; and the amount of physical change which
has been effected since their day, renders it more than probable that,
venerable as are some of the historical nations, the workers of the
chipped flints of Hoxne or of Amiens are to them, as they are to us, in
point of antiquity.

But, if we assign to these hoar relics of long vanished generations of
men the greatest age that can possibly be claimed for them, they are not
older than the drift, or boulder clay, which, in comparison with the
chalk, is but a very juvenile deposit. You need go no further than your
own sea-board for evidence of this fact. At one of the most charming
spots on the coast of Norfolk, Cromer, you will see the boulder clay
forming a vast mass, which lies upon the chalk, and must consequently
have come into existence after it. Huge boulders of chalk are, in fact,
included in the clay, and have evidently been brought to the position
they now occupy, by the same agency as that which has planted blocks of
syenite from Norway side by side with them.

The chalk, then, is certainly older than the boulder clay. If you ask
how much, I will again take you no further than the same spot upon your
own coasts for evidence. I have spoken of the boulder clay and drift as
resting upon the chalk. That is not strictly true. Interposed between
the chalk and the drift is a comparatively insignificant layer,
containing vegetable matter. But that layer tells a wonderful history.
It is full of stumps of trees standing as they grew. Fir-trees are there
with their cones, and hazel-bushes with their nuts; there stand the
stools of oak and yew trees, beeches and alders. Hence this stratum is
appropriately called the "forest-bed."

It is obvious that the chalk must have been upheaved and converted into
dry land, before the timber trees could grow upon it. As the bolls of
some of these trees are from two to three feet in diameter, it is no
less clear that the dry land thus formed remained in the same condition
for long ages. And not only do the remains of stately oaks and
well-grown firs testify to the duration of this condition of things, but
additional evidence to the same effect is afforded by the abundant
remains of elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and other great wild
beasts, which it has yielded to the zealous search of such men as the
Rev. Mr. Gunn.

When you look at such a collection as he has formed, and bethink you
that these elephantine bones did veritably carry their owners about,
and these great grinders crunch, in the dark woods of which the
forest-bed is now the only trace, it is impossible not to feel that they
are as good evidence of the lapse of time as the annual rings of the

Thus there is a writing upon the wall of cliffs at Cromer, and whoso
runs may read it. It tells us, with an authority which cannot be
impeached, that the ancient sea-bed of the chalk sea was raised up, and
remained dry land, until it was covered with forest, stocked with the
great game whose spoils have rejoiced your geologists. How long it
remained in that condition cannot be said; but "the whirligig of time
brought its revenges" in those days as in these. That dry land, with the
bones and teeth of generations of long-lived elephants, hidden away
among the gnarled roots and dry leaves of its ancient trees, sank
gradually to the bottom of the icy sea, which covered it with huge
masses of drift and boulder clay. Sea-beasts, such as the walrus, now
restricted to the extreme north, paddled about where birds had twittered
among the topmost twigs of the fir-trees. How long this state of things
endured we know not, but at length it came to an end. The upheaved
glacial mud hardened into the soil of modern Norfolk. Forests grew once
more, the wolf and the beaver replaced the reindeer and the elephant;
and at length what we call the history of England dawned.

Thus you have, within the limits of your own county, proof that the
chalk can justly claim a very much greater antiquity than even the
oldest physical traces of mankind. But we may go further and
demonstrate, by evidence of the same authority as that which testifies
to the existence of the father of men, that the chalk is vastly older
than Adam himself.

The Book of Genesis informs us that Adam, immediately upon his creation,
and before the appearance of Eve, was placed in the Garden of Eden. The
problem of the geographical position of Eden has greatly vexed the
spirits of the learned in such matters, but there is one point
respecting which, so far as I know, no commentator has ever raised a
doubt. This is, that of the four rivers which are said to run out of it,
Euphrates and Hiddekel are identical with the rivers now known by the
names of Euphrates and Tigris.

But the whole country in which these mighty rivers take their origin,
and through which they run, is composed of rocks which are either of the
same age as the chalk, or of later date. So that the chalk must not only
have been formed, but, after its formation, the time required for the
deposit of these later rocks, and for their upheaval into dry land, must
have elapsed, before the smallest brook which feeds the swift stream of
"the great river, the river of Babylon," began to flow.

Thus, evidence which cannot be rebutted, and which need not be
strengthened, though if time permitted I might indefinitely increase its
quantity, compels you to believe that the earth, from the time of the
chalk to the present day, has been the theatre of a series of changes as
vast in their amount, as they were slow in their progress. The area on
which we stand has been first sea and then land, for at least four
alternations; and has remained in each of these conditions for a period
of great length.

Nor have these wonderful metamorphoses of sea into land, and of land
into sea, been confined to one corner of England. During the chalk
period, or "cretaceous epoch," not one of the present great physical
features of the globe was in existence. Our great mountain ranges,
Pyrenees, Alps, Himalayas, Andes, have all been upheaved since the chalk
was deposited, and the cretaceous sea flowed over the sites of Sinai and

All this is certain, because rocks of cretaceous, or still later, date
have shared in the elevatory movements which gave rise to these mountain
chains; and may be found perched up, in some cases, many thousand feet
high upon their flanks. And evidence of equal cogency demonstrates that,
though, in Norfolk, the forest-bed rests directly upon the chalk, yet it
does so, not because the period at which the forest grew immediately
followed that at which the chalk was formed, but because an immense
lapse of time, represented elsewhere by thousands of feet of rock, is
not indicated at Cromer.

I must ask you to believe that there is no less conclusive proof that a
still more prolonged succession of similar changes occurred, before the
chalk was deposited. Nor have we any reason to think that the first term
in the series of these changes is known. The oldest sea-beds preserved
to us are sands, and mud, and pebbles, the wear and tear of rocks which
were formed in still older oceans.

But, great as is the magnitude of these physical changes of the world,
they have been accompanied by a no less striking series of modifications
in its living inhabitants.

All the great classes of animals, beasts of the field, fowls of the
air, creeping things, and things which dwell in the waters, flourished
upon the globe long ages before the chalk was deposited. Very few,
however, if any, of these ancient forms of animal life were identical
with those which now live. Certainly not one of the higher animals was
of the same species as any of those now in existence. The beasts of the
field, in the days before the chalk, were not our beasts of the field,
nor the fowls of the air such as those which the eye of men has seen
flying, unless his antiquity dates infinitely further back than we at
present surmise. If we could be carried back into those times, we should
be as one suddenly set down in Australia before it was colonized. We
should see mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, snails, and the
like, clearly recognisable as such, and yet not one of them would be
just the same as those with which we are familiar, and many would be
extremely different.

From that time to the present, the population of the world has undergone
slow and gradual, but incessant, changes. There has been no grand
catastrophe--no destroyer has swept away the forms of life of one
period, and replaced them by a totally new creation; but one species has
vanished and another has taken its place; creatures of one type of
structure have diminished, those of another have increased, as time has
passed on. And thus, while the differences between the living creatures
of the time before the chalk and those of the present day appear
startling, if placed side by side, we are led from one to the other by
the most gradual progress, if we follow the course of Nature through
the whole series of those relics of her operations which she has left

And it is by the population of the chalk sea that the ancient and the
modern inhabitants of the world are most completely connected. The
groups which are dying out flourish, side by side, with the groups which
are now the dominant forms of life.

Thus the chalk contains remains of those strange flying and swimming
reptiles, the pterodactyl, the ichthyosaurus, and the plesiosaurus,
which are found in no later deposits, but abounded in preceding ages.
The chambered shells called ammonites and belemnites, which are so
characteristic of the period preceding the cretaceous, in like manner
die with it.

But, amongst these fading remainders of a previous state of things, are
some very modern forms of life, looking like Yankee pedlars among a
tribe of Red Indians. Crocodiles of modern type appear; bony fishes,
many of them very similar to existing species, almost supplant the forms
of fish which predominate in more ancient seas; and many kinds of living
shell-fish first become known to us in the chalk. The vegetation
acquires a modern aspect. A few living animals are not even
distinguishable as species, from those which existed at that remote
epoch. The _Globigerina_ of the present day, for example, is not
different specifically from that of the chalk; and the same may be said
of many other _Foraminifera_. I think it probable that critical and
unprejudiced examination will show that more than one species of much
higher animals have had a similar longevity; but the only example which
I can at present give confidently is the snake's-head lamp-shell
(_Terebratulina caput serpentis_), which lives in our English seas and
abounded (as _Terebratulina striata_ of authors) in the chalk.

The longest line of human ancestry must hide its diminished head before
the pedigree of this insignificant shell-fish. We Englishmen are proud
to have an ancestor who was present at the Battle of Hastings. The
ancestors of _Terebratulina caput serpentis_ may have been present at a
battle of _Ichthyosauria_ in that part of the sea which, when the chalk
was forming, flowed over the site of Hastings. While all around has
changed, this _Terebratulina_ has peacefully propagated its species from
generation to generation, and stands to this day, as a living testimony
to the continuity of the present with the past history of the globe.

Up to this moment I have stated, so far as I know, nothing but
well-authenticated facts, and the immediate conclusions which they force
upon the mind.

But the mind is so constituted that it does not willingly rest in facts
and immediate causes, but seeks always after a knowledge of the remoter
links in the chain of causation.

Taking the many changes of any given spot of the earth's surface, from
sea to land and from land to sea, as an established fact, we cannot
refrain from asking ourselves how these changes have occurred. And when
we have explained them--as they must be explained--by the alternate slow
movements of elevation and depression which have affected the crust of
the earth, we go still further back, and ask, Why these movements?

I am not certain that any one can give you a satisfactory answer to
that question. Assuredly I cannot. All that can be said, for certain,
is, that such movements are part of the ordinary course of nature,
inasmuch as they are going on at the present time. Direct proof may be
given, that some parts of the land of the northern hemisphere are at
this moment insensibly rising and others insensibly sinking; and there
is indirect, but perfectly satisfactory, proof, that an enormous area
now covered by the Pacific has been deepened thousands of feet, since
the present inhabitants of that sea came into existence.

Thus there is not a shadow of a reason for believing that the physical
changes of the globe, in past times, have been effected by other than
natural causes.

Is there any more reason for believing that the concomitant
modifications in the forms of the living inhabitants of the globe have
been brought about in other ways?

Before attempting to answer this question, let us try to form a distinct
mental picture of what has happened in some special case.

The crocodiles are animals which, as a group, have a very vast
antiquity. They abounded ages before the chalk was deposited; they
throng the rivers in warm climates, at the present day. There is a
difference in the form of the joints of the back-bone, and in some minor
particulars, between the crocodiles of the present epoch and those which
lived before the chalk; but, in the cretaceous epoch, as I have already
mentioned, the crocodiles had assumed the modern type of structure.
Notwithstanding this, the crocodiles of the chalk are not identically
the same as those which lived in the times called "older tertiary,"
which succeeded the cretaceous epoch; and the crocodiles of the older
tertiaries are not identical with those of the newer tertiaries, nor are
these identical with existing forms. I leave open the question whether
particular species may have lived on from epoch to epoch. But each epoch
has had its peculiar crocodiles; though all, since the chalk, have
belonged to the modern type, and differ simply in their proportions, and
in such structural particulars as are discernible only to trained eyes.

How is the existence of this long succession of different species of
crocodiles to be accounted for?

Only two suppositions seem to be open to us--Either each species of
crocodile has been specially created, or it has arisen out of some
pre-existing form by the operation of natural causes.

Choose your hypothesis; I have chosen mine. I can find no warranty for
believing in the distinct creation of a score of successive species of
crocodiles in the course of countless ages of time. Science gives no
countenance to such a wild fancy; nor can even the perverse ingenuity of
a commentator pretend to discover this sense, in the simple words in
which the writer of Genesis records the proceedings of the fifth and
sixth days of the Creation.

On the other hand, I see no good reason for doubting the necessary
alternative, that all these varied species have been evolved from
pre-existing crocodilian forms, by the operation of causes as completely
a part of the common order of nature, as those which have effected the
changes of the inorganic world.

Few will venture to affirm that the reasoning which applies to
crocodiles loses its force among other animals, or among plants. If one
series of species has come into existence by the operation of natural
causes, it seems folly to deny that all may have arisen in the same way.

A small beginning has led us to a great ending. If I were to put the bit
of chalk with which we started into the hot but obscure flame of burning
hydrogen, it would presently shine like the sun. It seems to me that
this physical metamorphosis is no false image of what has been the
result of our subjecting it to a jet of fervent, though nowise
brilliant, thought to-night. It has become luminous, and its clear rays,
penetrating the abyss of the remote past, have brought within our ken
some stages of the evolution of the earth. And in the shifting "without
haste, but without rest" of the land and sea, as in the endless
variation of the forms assumed by living beings, we have observed
nothing but the natural product of the forces originally possessed by
the substance of the universe.


[29] See Appendix to Captain Dayman's "Deep Sea Soundings in the North
Atlantic Ocean, between Ireland and Newfoundland, made in H.M.S.
_Cyclops_. Published by order of the Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty, 1858." They have since formed the subject of an elaborate
Memoir by Messrs. Parker and Jones, published in the _Philosophical
Transactions_ for 1865.

[30] During the cruise of H.M.S. _Bull-dog_, commanded by Sir Leopold
M'Clintock, in 1860, living star-fish were brought up, clinging to the
lowest part of the sounding-line, from a depth of 1,260 fathoms, midway
between Cape Farewell, in Greenland, and the Rockall banks. Dr. Wallich
ascertained that the sea-bottom at this point consisted of the ordinary
_Globigerina_ ooze, and that the stomachs of the star-fishes were full
of _Globigerinæ_. This discovery removes all objections to the existence
of living _Globigerinæ_ at great depths, which are based upon the
supposed difficulty of maintaining animal life under such conditions;
and it throws the burden of proof upon those who object to the
supposition that the _Globigerinæ_ live and die where they are found.

[31] I have recently traced out the development of the "coccoliths" from
a diameter of 1/7000th of an inch up to their largest size (which is
about 1/1600th), and no longer doubt that they are produced by
independent organisms, which, like the _Globigerinæ_, live and die at
the bottom of the sea.

[32] "Elements of Geology," by Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. F.R.S., p. 23.



Merchants occasionally go through a wholesome, though troublesome and
not always satisfactory, process which they term "taking stock." After
all the excitement of speculation, the pleasure of gain, and the pain of
loss, the trader makes up his mind to face facts and to learn the exact
quantity and quality of his solid and reliable possessions.

The man of science does well sometimes to imitate this procedure; and,
forgetting for the time the importance of his own small winnings, to
re-examine the common stock in trade, so that he may make sure how far
the stock of bullion in the cellar--on the faith of whose existence so
much paper has been circulating--is really the solid gold of truth.

The Anniversary Meeting of the Geological Society seems to be an
occasion well suited for an undertaking of this kind--for an inquiry, in
fact, into the nature and value of the present results of
palæontological investigation; and the more so, as all those who have
paid close attention to the late multitudinous discussions in which
palæontology is implicated, must have felt the urgent necessity of some
such scrutiny.

First in order, as the most definite and unquestionable of all the
results of palæontology, must be mentioned the immense extension and
impulse given to botany, zoology, and comparative anatomy, by the
investigation of fossil remains. Indeed, the mass of biological facts
has been so greatly increased, and the range of biological speculation
has been so vastly widened, by the researches of the geologist and
palæontologist, that it is to be feared there are naturalists in
existence who look upon geology as Brindley regarded rivers. "Rivers,"
said the great engineer, "were made to feed canals;" and geology, some
seem to think, was solely created to advance comparative anatomy.

Were such a thought justifiable, it could hardly expect to be received
with favour by this assembly. But it is not justifiable. Your favourite
science has her own great aims independent of all others; and if,
notwithstanding her steady devotion to her own progress, she can scatter
such rich alms among her sisters, it should be remembered that her
charity is of the sort that does not impoverish, but "blesseth him that
gives and him that takes."

Regard the matter as we will, however, the facts remain. Nearly 40,000
species of animals and plants have been added to the Systema Naturæ by
palæontological research. This is a living population equivalent to that
of a new continent in mere number; equivalent to that of a new
hemisphere, if we take into account the small population of insects as
yet found fossil, and the large proportion and peculiar organization of
many of the Vertebrata.

But, beyond this, it is perhaps not too much to say that, except for the
necessity of interpreting palæontological facts, the laws of
distribution would have received less careful study; while few
comparative anatomists (and those not of the first order) would have
been induced by mere love of detail, as such, to study the minutiæ of
osteology, were it not that in such minutiæ lie the only keys to the
most interesting riddles offered by the extinct animal world.

These assuredly are great and solid gains. Surely it is matter for no
small congratulation that in half a century (for palæontology, though it
dawned earlier, came into full day only with Cuvier) a subordinate
branch of biology should have doubled the value and the interest of the
whole group of sciences to which it belongs.

But this is not all. Allied with geology, palæontology has established
two laws of inestimable importance: the first, that one and the same
area of the earth's surface has been successively occupied by very
different kinds of living beings; the second, that the order of
succession established in one locality holds good, approximately, in

The first of these laws is universal and irreversible; the second is an
induction from a vast number of observations, though it may possibly,
and even probably, have to admit of exceptions. As a consequence of the
second law, it follows that a peculiar relation frequently subsists
between series of strata, containing organic remains, in different
localities. The series resemble one another, not only in virtue of a
general resemblance of the organic remains in the two, but also in
virtue of a resemblance in the order and character of the serial
succession in each. There is a resemblance of arrangement; so that the
separate terms of each series, as well as the whole series, exhibit a

Succession implies time; the lower members of a series of sedimentary
rocks are certainly older than the upper; and when the notion of age was
once introduced as the equivalent of succession, it was no wonder that
correspondence in succession came to be looked upon as correspondence in
age, or "contemporaneity." And, indeed, so long as relative age only is
spoken of, correspondence in succession _is_ correspondence in age; it
is _relative_ contemporaneity.

But it would have been very much better for geology if so loose and
ambiguous a word as "contemporaneous" had been excluded from her
terminology, and if, in its stead, some term expressing similarity of
serial relation, and excluding the notion of time altogether, had been
employed to denote correspondence in position in two or more series of

In anatomy, where such correspondence of position has constantly to be
spoken of, it is denoted by the word "homology" and its derivatives; and
for Geology (which after all is only the anatomy and physiology of the
earth) it might be well to invent some single word, such as "homotaxis"
(similarity of order), in order to express an essentially similar idea.
This, however, has not been done, and most probably the inquiry will at
once be made--To what end burden science with a new and strange term in
place of one old, familiar, and part of our common language?

The reply to this question will become obvious as the inquiry into the
results of palæontology is pushed further.

Those whose business it is to acquaint themselves specially with the
works of palæontologists, in fact, will be fully aware that very few, if
any, would rest satisfied with such a statement of the conclusions of
their branch of biology as that which has just been given.

Our standard repertories of palæontology profess to teach us far higher
things--to disclose the entire succession of living forms upon the
surface of the globe; to tell us of a wholly different distribution of
climatic conditions in ancient times; to reveal the character of the
first of all living existences; and to trace out the law of progress
from them to us.

It may not be unprofitable to bestow on these professions a somewhat
more critical examination than they have hitherto received, in order to
ascertain how far they rest on an irrefragable basis; or whether, after
all, it might not be well for palæontologists to learn a little more
carefully that scientific "ars artium," the art of saying "I don't
know." And to this end let us define somewhat more exactly the extent of
these pretensions of palæontology.

Every one is aware that Professor Bronn's "Untersuchungen" and Professor
Pictet's "Traité de Paléontologie" are works of standard authority,
familiarly consulted by every working palæontologist. It is desirable to
speak of these excellent books, and of their distinguished authors,
with the utmost respect, and in a tone as far as possible removed from
carping criticism; indeed, if they are specially cited in this place, it
is merely in justification of the assertion that the following
propositions, which may be found implicitly, or explicitly, in the works
in question, are regarded by the mass of palæontologists and geologists,
not only on the Continent but in this country, as expressing some of the
best-established results of palæontology. Thus:--

Animals and plants began their existence together, not long after the
commencement of the deposition of the sedimentary rocks; and then
succeeded one another, in such a manner, that totally distinct faunas
and floræ occupied the whole surface of the earth, one after the other,
and during distinct epochs of time.

A geological formation is the sum of all the strata deposited over the
whole surface of the earth during one of these epochs: a geological
fauna or flora is the sum of all the species of animals or plants which
occupied the whole surface of the globe, during one of these epochs.

The population of the earth's surface was at first very similar in all
parts, and only from the middle of the Tertiary epoch onwards, began to
show a distinct distribution in zones.

The constitution of the original population, as well as the numerical
proportions of its members, indicates a warmer and, on the whole,
somewhat tropical climate, which remained tolerably equable throughout
the year. The subsequent distribution of living beings in zones is the
result of a gradual lowering of the general temperature, which first
began to be felt at the poles.

It is not now proposed to inquire whether these doctrines are true or
false; but to direct your attention to a much simpler though very
essential preliminary question--What is their logical basis? what are
the fundamental assumptions upon which they all logically depend? and
what is the evidence on which those fundamental propositions demand our

These assumptions are two: the first, that the commencement of the
geological record is coeval with the commencement of life on the globe;
the second, that geological contemporaneity is the same thing as
chronological synchrony. Without the first of these assumptions there
would of course be no ground for any statement respecting the
commencement of life; without the second, all the other statements
cited, every one of which implies a knowledge of the state of different
parts of the earth at one and the same time, will be no less devoid of

The first assumption obviously rests entirely on negative evidence. This
is, of course, the only evidence that ever can be available to prove the
commencement of any series of phænomena; but, at the same time, it must
be recollected that the value of negative evidence depends entirely on
the amount of positive corroboration it receives. If A.B. wishes to
prove an _alibi_, it is of no use for him to get a thousand witnesses
simply to swear that they did not see him in such and such a place,
unless the witnesses are prepared to prove that they must have seen him
had he been there. But the evidence that animal life commenced with the
Lingula-flags, _e.g._, would seem to be exactly of this unsatisfactory
uncorroborated sort. The Cambrian witnesses simply swear they "haven't
seen anybody their way;" upon which the counsel for the other side
immediately puts in ten or twelve thousand feet of Devonian sandstones
to make oath they never saw a fish or a mollusk, though all the world
knows there were plenty in their time.

But then it is urged that, though the Devonian rocks in one part of the
world exhibit no fossils, in another they do, while the lower Cambrian
rocks nowhere exhibit fossils, and hence no living being could have
existed in their epoch.

To this there are two replies: the first, that the observational basis
of the assertion that the lowest rocks are nowhere fossiliferous is an
amazingly small one, seeing how very small an area, in comparison to
that of the whole world, has yet been fully searched; the second, that
the argument is good for nothing unless the unfossiliferous rocks in
question were not only _contemporaneous_ in the geological sense, but
_synchronous_ in the chronological sense. To use the _alibi_
illustration again. If a man wishes to prove he was in neither of two
places, A and B, on a given day, his witnesses for each place must be
prepared to answer for the whole day. If they can only prove that he was
not at A in the morning, and not at B in the afternoon, the evidence of
his absence from both is _nil_, because he might have been at B in the
morning and at A in the afternoon.

Thus everything depends upon the validity of the second assumption. And
we must proceed to inquire what is the real meaning of the word
"contemporaneous" as employed by geologists. To this end a concrete
example may be taken.

The Lias of England and the Lias of Germany, the Cretaceous rocks of
Britain and the Cretaceous rocks of Southern India, are termed by
geologists "contemporaneous" formations; but whenever any thoughtful
geologist is asked whether he means to say that they were deposited
synchronously, he says, "No,--only within the same great epoch." And if,
in pursuing the inquiry, he is asked what may be the approximate value
in time of a "great epoch"--whether it means a hundred years, or a
thousand, or a million, or ten million years--his reply is, "I cannot

If the further question be put, whether physical geology is in
possession of any method by which the actual synchrony (or the reverse)
of any two distant deposits can be ascertained, no such method can be
heard of; it being admitted by all the best authorities that neither
similarity of mineral composition, nor of physical character, nor even
direct continuity of stratum, are _absolute_ proofs of the synchronism
of even approximated sedimentary strata: while, for distant deposits,
there seems to be no kind of physical evidence attainable of a nature
competent to decide whether such deposits were formed simultaneously, or
whether they possess any given difference of antiquity. To return to an
example already given. All competent authorities will probably assent to
the proposition that physical geology does not enable us in any way to
reply to this question--Were the British Cretaceous rocks deposited at
the same time as those of India, or are they a million of years younger
or a million of years older?

Is palæontology able to succeed where physical geology fails? Standard
writers on palæontology, as has been seen, assume that she can. They
take it for granted, that deposits containing similar organic remains
are synchronous--at any rate in a broad sense; and yet, those who will
study the eleventh and twelfth chapters of Sir Henry De la Beche's
remarkable "Researches in Theoretical Geology," published now nearly
thirty years ago, and will carry out the arguments there most luminously
stated, to their logical consequences, may very easily convince
themselves that even absolute identity of organic contents is no proof
of the synchrony of deposits, while absolute diversity is no proof of
difference of date. Sir Henry De la Beche goes even further, and adduces
conclusive evidence to show that the different parts of one and the same
stratum, having a similar composition throughout, containing the same
organic remains, and having similar beds above and below it, may yet
differ to any conceivable extent in age.

Edward Forbes was in the habit of asserting that the similarity of the
organic contents of distant formations was _primâ facie_ evidence, not
of their similarity, but of their difference of age; and holding as he
did the doctrine of single specific centres, the conclusion was as
legitimate as any other; for the two districts must have been occupied
by migration from one of the two, or from an intermediate spot, and the
chances against exact coincidence of migration and of imbedding are

In point of fact, however, whether the hypothesis of single or of
multiple specific centres be adopted, similarity of organic contents
cannot possibly afford any proof of the synchrony of the deposits which
contain them; on the contrary, it is demonstrably compatible with the
lapse of the most prodigious intervals of time, and with interposition
of vast changes in the organic and inorganic worlds, between the epochs
in which such deposits were formed.

On what amount of similarity of their faunæ is the doctrine of the
contemporaneity of the European and of the North American Silurians
based? In the last edition of Sir Charles Lyell's "Elementary Geology"
it is stated, on the authority of a former President of this Society,
the late Daniel Sharpe, that between 30 and 40 per cent. of the species
of Silurian Mollusca are common to both sides of the Atlantic. By way of
due allowance for further discovery, let us double the lesser number and
suppose that 60 per cent. of the species are common to the North
American and the British Silurians. Sixty per cent. of species in common
is, then, proof of contemporaneity.

Now suppose that, a million or two of years hence, when Britain has made
another dip beneath the sea and has come up again, some geologist
applies this doctrine, in comparing the strata laid bare by the upheaval
of the bottom, say, of St. George's Channel with what may then remain of
the Suffolk Crag. Reasoning in the same way, he will at once decide the
Suffolk Crag and the St. George's Channel beds to be contemporaneous;
although we happen to know that a vast period (even in the geological
sense) of time, and physical changes of almost unprecedented extent,
separate the two.

But if it be a demonstrable fact that strata containing more than 60 or
70 per cent. of species of Mollusca in common, and comparatively close
together, may yet be separated by an amount of geological time
sufficient to allow of some of the greatest physical changes the world
has seen, what becomes of that sort of contemporaneity the sole evidence
of which is a similarity of facies, or the identity of half a dozen
species, or of a good many genera?

And yet there is no better evidence for the contemporaneity assumed by
all who adopt the hypotheses of universal faunæ and floræ, of a
universally uniform climate, and of a sensible cooling of the globe
during geological time.

There seems, then, no escape from the admission that neither physical
geology, nor palæontology, possesses any method by which the absolute
synchronism of two strata can be demonstrated. All that geology can
prove is local order of succession. It is mathematically certain that,
in any given vertical linear section of an undisturbed series of
sedimentary deposits, the bed which lies lowest is the oldest. In any
other vertical linear section of the same series, of course,
corresponding beds will occur in a similar order; but, however great may
be the probability, no man can say with absolute certainty that the beds
in the two sections were synchronously deposited. For areas of moderate
extent, it is doubtless true that no practical evil is likely to result
from assuming the corresponding beds to be synchronous or strictly
contemporaneous; and there are multitudes of accessory circumstances
which may fully justify the assumption of such synchrony. But the moment
the geologist has to deal with large areas, or with completely separated
deposits, the mischief of confounding that "homotaxis" or "similarity of
arrangement," which _can_ be demonstrated, with "synchrony" or "identity
of date," for which there is not a shadow of proof, under the one common
term of "contemporaneity" becomes incalculable, and proves the constant
source of gratuitous speculations.

For anything that geology or palæontology are able to show to the
contrary, a Devonian fauna and flora in the British Islands may have
been contemporaneous with Silurian life in North America, and with a
Carboniferous fauna and flora in Africa. Geographical provinces and
zones may have been as distinctly marked in the Palæozoic epoch as at
present, and those seemingly sudden appearances of new genera and
species, which we ascribe to new creation, may be simple results of

It may be so; it may be otherwise. In the present condition of our
knowledge and of our methods, one verdict--"not proven, and not
proveable"--must be recorded against all the grand hypotheses of the
palæontologist respecting the general succession of life on the globe.
The order and nature of terrestrial life, as a whole, are open
questions. Geology at present provides us with most valuable
topographical records, but she has not the means of working them up into
a universal history. Is such a universal history, then, to be regarded
as unattainable? Are all the grandest and most interesting problems
which offer themselves to the geological student essentially insoluble?
Is he in the position of a scientific Tantalus--doomed always to thirst
for a knowledge which he cannot obtain? The reverse is to be hoped; nay,
it may not be impossible to indicate the source whence help will come.

In commencing these remarks, mention was made of the great obligations
under which the naturalist lies to the geologist and palæontologist.
Assuredly the time will come when these obligations will be repaid
tenfold, and when the maze of the world's past history, through which
the pure geologist and the pure palæontologist find no guidance, will be
securely threaded by the clue furnished by the naturalist.

All who are competent to express an opinion on the subject are, at
present, agreed that the manifold varieties of animal and vegetable form
have not either come into existence by chance, nor result from
capricious exertions of creative power; but that they have taken place
in a definite order, the statement of which order is what men of science
term a natural law. Whether such a law is to be regarded as an
expression of the mode of operation of natural forces, or whether it is
simply a statement of the manner in which a supernatural power has
thought fit to act, is a secondary question, so long as the existence of
the law and the possibility of its discovery by the human intellect are
granted. But he must be a half-hearted philosopher who, believing in
that possibility, and having watched the gigantic strides of the
biological sciences during the last twenty years, doubts that science
will sooner or later make this further step, so as to become possessed
of the law of evolution of organic forms--of the unvarying order of that
great chain of causes and effects of which all organic forms, ancient
and modern, are the links. And then, if ever, we shall be able to begin
to discuss, with profit, the questions respecting the commencement of
life, and the nature of the successive populations of the globe, which
so many seem to think are already answered.

The preceding arguments make no particular claim to novelty; indeed they
have been floating more or less distinctly before the minds of
geologists for the last thirty years; and if, at the present time, it
has seemed desirable to give them more definite and systematic
expression, it is because palæontology is every day assuming a greater
importance, and now requires to rest on a basis the firmness of which is
thoroughly well assured. Among its fundamental conceptions, there must
be no confusion between what is certain and what is more or less
probable.[33] But, pending the construction of a surer foundation than
palæontology now possesses, it may be instructive, assuming for the
nonce the general correctness of the ordinary hypothesis of geological
contemporaneity, to consider whether the deductions which are ordinarily
drawn from the whole body of palæontological facts are justifiable.

The evidence on which such conclusions are based is of two kinds,
negative and positive. The value of negative evidence, in connexion with
this inquiry, has been so fully and clearly discussed in an address from
the chair of this Society,[34] which none of us have forgotten, that
nothing need at present be said about it; the more, as the
considerations which have been laid before you have certainly not tended
to increase your estimation of such evidence. It will be preferable to
turn to the positive facts of palæontology, and to inquire what they
tell us.

We are all accustomed to speak of the number and the extent of the
changes in the living population of the globe during geological time as
something enormous; and indeed they are so, if we regard only the
negative differences which separate the older rocks from the more
modern, and if we look upon specific and generic changes as great
changes, which from one point of view they truly are. But leaving the
negative differences out of consideration, and looking only at the
positive data furnished by the fossil world from a broader point of
view--from that of the comparative anatomist who has made the study of
the greater modifications of animal form his chief business--a surprise
of another kind dawns upon the mind; and under _this_ aspect the
smallness of the total change becomes as astonishing as was its
greatness under the other.

There are two hundred known orders of plants; of these not one is
certainly known to exist exclusively in the fossil state. The whole
lapse of geological time has as yet yielded not a single new ordinal
type of vegetable structure.[35]

The positive change in passing from the recent to the ancient animal
world is greater, but still singularly small. No fossil animal is so
distinct from those now living as to require to be arranged even in a
separate class from those which, contain existing forms. It is only
when we come to the orders, which may be roughly estimated at about a
hundred and thirty, that we meet with fossil animals so distinct from
those now living as to require orders for themselves; and these do not
amount, on the most liberal estimate, to more than about 10 per cent, of
the whole.

There is no certainly known extinct order of Protozoa; there is but one
among the Coelenterata--that of the rugose corals; there is none among
the Mollusca; there are three, the Cystidea, Blastoidea, and
Edrioasterida, among the Echinoderms; and two, the Trilobita and
Eurypterida, among the Crustacea; making altogether five for the great
sub-kingdom of Annulosa. Among Vertebrates there is no ordinally
distinct fossil fish: there is only one extinct order of Amphibia--the
Labyrinthodonts; but there are at least four distinct orders of
Reptilia, viz. the Ichthyosauria, Plesiosauria, Pterosauria, Dinosauria,
and perhaps another or two. There is no known extinct order of Birds,
and no certainly known extinct order of Mammals, the ordinal
distinctness of the "Toxodontia" being doubtful.

The objection that broad statements of this kind, after all, rest
largely on negative evidence is obvious, but it has less force than may
at first be supposed; for, as might be expected from the circumstances
of the case, we possess more abundant positive evidence regarding Fishes
and marine Mollusks than respecting any other forms of animal life; and
yet these offer us, through the whole range of geological time, no
species ordinarily distinct from those now living; while the far less
numerous class of Echinoderms presents three, and the Crustacea two,
such orders, though none of these come down later than the Palæozoic
age. Lastly, the Reptilia present the extraordinary and exceptional
phænomenon of as many extinct as existing orders, if not more; the four
mentioned maintaining their existence from the Lias to the Chalk

Some years ago one of your Secretaries pointed out another kind of
positive palæontological evidence tending towards the same
conclusion--afforded by the existence of what he termed "persistent
types" of vegetable and of animal life.[36] He stated, on the authority
of Dr. Hooker, that there are Carboniferous plants which appear to be
generically identical with some now living; that the cone of the Oolitic
_Araucaria_ is hardly distinguishable from that of an existing species;
that a true _Pinus_ appears in the Purbecks and a _Juglans_ in the
Chalk; while, from the Bagshot Sands, a _Banksia_, the wood of which is
not distinguishable from that of species now living in Australia, had
been obtained.

Turning to the animal kingdom, he affirmed the tabulate corals of the
Silurian rocks to be wonderfully like those which now exist; while even
the families of the Aporosa were all represented in the older Mesozoic

Among the Mollusca similar facts were adduced. Let it be borne in mind
that _Avicula_, _Mytilus_, _Chiton_, _Natica_, _Patella_, _Trochus_,
_Discina_, _Orbicula_, _Lingula_, _Rhynchonella_, and _Nautilus_, all of
which are existing _genera_, are given without a doubt as Silurian in
the last edition of "Siluria;" while the highest forms of the highest
Cephalopods are represented in the Lias by a genus, _Belemnoteuthis_,
which presents the closest relation to the existing _Loligo_.

The two highest groups of the Annulosa, the Insecta and the Arachnida,
are represented in the Coal, either by existing genera, or by forms
differing from existing genera in quite minor peculiarities.

Turning to the Vertebrata, the only palæozoic Elasmobranch Fish of which
we have any complete knowledge is the Devonian and Carboniferous
_Pleuracanthus_, which differs no more from existing Sharks than these
do from one another.

Again, vast as is the number of undoubtedly Ganoid fossil Fishes, and
great as is their range in time, a large mass of evidence has recently
been adduced to show that almost all those respecting which we possess
sufficient information, are referable to the same sub-ordinal groups as
the existing _Lepidosteus_, _Polypterus_, and Sturgeon; and that a
singular relation obtains between the older and the younger Fishes; the
former, the Devonian Ganoids, being almost all members of the same
sub-order as _Polypterus_, while the Mesozoic Ganoids are almost all
similarly allied to _Lepidosteus_.[37]

Again, what can be more remarkable than the singular constancy of
structure preserved throughout a vast period of time by the family of
the Pycnodonts and by that of the true Coelacanths: the former
persisting, with but insignificant modifications, from the Carboniferous
to the Tertiary rocks, inclusive; the latter existing, with still less
change, from the Carboniferous rocks to the Chalk, inclusive?

Among Reptiles, the highest living group, that of the Crocodilia, is
represented, at the early part of the Mesozoic epoch, by species
identical in the essential characters of their organization with those
now living, and differing from the latter only in such matters as the
form of the articular facets of the vertebral centra, in the extent to
which the nasal passages are separated from the cavity of the mouth by
bone, and in the proportions of the limbs.

And even as regards the Mammalia, the scanty remains of Triassic and
Oolitic species afford no foundation for the supposition that the
organization of the oldest forms differed nearly so much from some of
those which now live as these differ from one another.

It is needless to multiply these instances; enough has been said to
justify the statement that, in view of the immense diversity of known
animal and vegetable forms, and the enormous lapse of time indicated by
the accumulation of fossiliferous strata, the only circumstance to be
wondered at is, not that the changes of life, as exhibited by positive
evidence, have been so great, but that they have been so small.

Be they great or small, however, it is desirable to attempt to estimate
them. Let us, therefore, take each great division of the animal world in
succession, and, whenever an order or a family can be shown to have had
a prolonged existence, let us endeavour to ascertain how far the later
members of the group differ from the earlier ones. If these later
members, in all or in many cases, exhibit a certain amount of
modification, the fact is so far, evidence in favour of a general law of
change; and, in a rough way, the rapidity of that change will be
measured by the demonstrable amount of modification. On the other hand,
it must be recollected that the absence of any modification, while it
may leave the doctrine of the existence of a law of change without
positive support, cannot possibly disprove all forms of that doctrine,
though it may afford a sufficient refutation of many of them.

The PROTOZOA.--The Protozoa are represented throughout the
whole range of geological series, from the Lower Silurian formation to
the present day. The most ancient forms recently made known by Ehrenberg
are exceedingly like those which now exist: no one has ever pretended
that the difference between any ancient and any modern Foraminifera is
of more than generic value; nor are the oldest Foraminifera either
simpler, more embryonic, or less differentiated, than the existing

The CoeLENTERATA.--The Tabulate Corals have existed from the
Silurian epoch to the present day, but I am not aware that the ancient
_Heliolites_ possesses a single mark of a more embryonic or less
differentiated character, or less high organization, than the existing
_Heliopora_. As for the Aporose Corals, in what respect is the Silurian
_Paloeocydus_ less highly organized or more embryonic than the modern
_Fungia_, or the Liassic Aporosa than the existing members of the same

The _Mollusca_.--In what sense is the living _Waldheimia_ less
embryonic, or more specialized, than the palæozoic _Spirifer_; or the
existing _Rhynchonellæ_, _Craniæ_, _Discinæ_, _Lingulæ_, than the
Silurian species of the same genera? In what sense can _Loligo_ or
_Spirula_ be said to be more specialized, or less embryonic, than
_Belemnites_; or the modern species of Lamellibranch and Gasteropod
genera, than the Silurian species of the same genera?

The ANNULOSA.--The Carboniferous Insecta and Arachnida are
neither less specialized, nor more embryonic, than those that now live,
nor are the Liassic Cirripedia and Macrura; while several of the
Brachyura, which appear in the Chalk, belong to existing genera; and
none exhibit either an intermediate, or an embryonic, character.

The VERTEBRATA.--Among fishes I have referred to the
Coelacanthini (comprising the genera _Coelacanthus_, _Holophagus_,
_Undina_, and _Macropoma_) as affording an example of a persistent type;
and it is most remarkable to note the smallness of the differences
between any of these fishes (affecting at most the proportions of the
body and fins, and the character and sculpture of the scales),
notwithstanding their enormous range in time. In all the essentials of
its very peculiar structure, the _Macropoma_ of the Chalk is identical
with the _Coelacanthus_ of the Coal. Look at the genus _Lepidotus_,
again, persisting without a modification of importance from the Liassic
to the Eocene formations, inclusive.

Or among the Teleostei--in what respect is the _Beryx_ of the Chalk more
embryonic, or less differentiated, than _Beryx lineatus_ of King
George's Sound?

Or to turn to the higher Vertebrata--in what sense are the Liassic
Chelonia inferior to those which now exist? How are the Cretaceous
Ichthyosauria, Plesiosauria, or Pterosauria less embryonic, or more
differentiated, species than those of the Lias?

Or lastly, in what circumstance is the _Phascolotherium_ more embryonic,
or of a more generalized type, than the modern Opossum; or a
_Lophiodon_, or a _Palæotherium_, than a modern _Tapirus_ or _Hyrax_?

These examples might be almost indefinitely multiplied, but surely they
are sufficient to prove that the only safe and unquestionable testimony
we can procure--positive evidence--fails to demonstrate any sort of
progressive modification towards a less embryonic, or less generalized,
type in a great many groups of animals of long-continued geological
existence. In these groups there is abundant evidence of variation--none
of what is ordinarily understood as progression; and, if the known
geological record is to be regarded as even any considerable fragment of
the whole, it is inconceivable that any theory of a necessarily
progressive development can stand, for the numerous orders and families
cited afford no trace of such a process.

But it is a most remarkable fact, that, while the groups which have been
mentioned, and many besides, exhibit no sign of progressive
modification, there are others, coexisting with them, under the same
conditions, in which more or less distinct indications of such a process
seem to be traceable. Among such indications I may remind you of the
predominance of Holostome Gasteropoda in the older rocks as compared
with that of Siphonostome Gasteropoda in the later. A case less open to
the objection of negative evidence, however, is that afforded by the
Tetrabranchiate Cephalopoda, the forms of the shells and of the septal
sutures exhibiting a certain increase of complexity in the newer genera.
Here, however, one is met at once with the occurrence of _Orthoceras_
and _Baculites_ at the two ends of the series, and of the fact that one
of the simplest genera, _Nautilus_, is that which now exists.

The Crinoidea, in the abundance of stalked forms in the ancient
formations as compared with their present rarity, seem to present us
with a fair case of modification from a more embryonic towards a less
embryonic condition. But then, on careful consideration of the facts,
the objection arises that the stalk, calyx, and arms of the palæozoic
Crinoid are exceedingly different from the corresponding organs of a
larval _Comatula_; and it might with perfect justice be argued that
_Actinocrinus_ and _Eucalyptocrinus_, for example, depart to the full as
widely, in one direction, from the stalked embryo of _Comatula_, as
_Comatula_ itself does in the other.

The Echinidea, again, are frequently quoted as exhibiting a gradual
passage from a more generalized to a more specialized type, seeing that
the elongated, or oval, Spatangoids appear after the spheroidal
Echinoids. But here it might be argued, on the other hand, that the
spheroidal Echinoids, in reality, depart further from the general plan
and from the embryonic form than the elongated Spatangoids do; and that
the peculiar dental apparatus and the pedicellariæ of the former are
marks of at least as great differentiation as the petaloid ambulacra and
semitæ of the latter.

Once more, the prevalence of Macrurous before Brachyurous Podophthalmia
is, apparently, a fair piece of evidence in favour of progressive
modification in the same order of Crustacea; and yet the case will not
stand much sifting, seeing that the Macrurous Podophthalmia depart as
far in one direction from the common type of Podophthalmia, or from any
embryonic condition of the Brachyura, as the Brachyura do in the other;
and that the middle terms between Macrura and Brachyura--the
Anomura--are little better represented in the older Mesozoic rocks than
the Brachyura are.

None of the cases of progressive modification which are cited from among
the Invertebrata appear to me to have a foundation less open to
criticism than these; and if this be so, no careful reasoner would, I
think, be inclined to lay very great stress upon them. Among the
Vertebrata, however, there are a few examples which appear to be far
less open to objection.

It is, in fact, true of several groups of Vertebrata which have lived
through a considerable range of time, that the endoskeleton (more
particularly the spinal column) of the older genera presents a less
ossified, and, so far, less differentiated, condition than that of the
younger genera. Thus the Devonian Ganoids, though almost all members of
the same sub-order as _Polypterus,_ and presenting numerous important
resemblances to the existing genus, which possesses biconcave vertebræ,
are, for the most part, wholly devoid of ossified vertebral centra. The
Mesozoic Lepidosteidæ, again, have, at most, biconcave vertebræ, while
the existing _Lepidosteus_ has Salamandroid, opisthocoelous, vertebræ.
So, none of the Palæozoic Sharks have shown themselves to be possessed
of ossified vertebræ, while the majority of modern Sharks possess such
vertebræ. Again, the more ancient Crocodilia and Lacertilia have
vertebræ with the articular facets of their centra flattened or
biconcave, while the modern members of the same group have them
procoelous. But the most remarkable examples of progressive
modification of the vertebral column, in correspondence with geological
age, are those afforded by the Pycnodonts among fish, and the
Labyrinthodonts among Amphibia.

The late able ichthyologist Heckel pointed out the fact, that, while the
Pycnodonts never possess true vertebral centra, they differ in the
degree of expansion and extension of the ends of the bony arches of the
vertebræ upon the sheath of the notochord; the Carboniferous forms
exhibiting hardly any such expansion, while the Mesozoic genera present
a greater and greater development, until, in the Tertiary forms, the
expanded ends become suturally united so as to form a sort of false
vertebra. Hermann von Meyer, again, to whose luminous researches we are
indebted for our present large knowledge of the organization of the
older Labyrinthodonts, has proved that the Carboniferous _Archegosaurus_
had very imperfectly developed vertebral centra, while the Triassic
_Mastodonsaurus_ had the same parts completely ossified.[38]

The regularity and evenness of the dentition of the _Anoplotherium_, as
contrasted with that of existing Artiodactyles, and the assumed nearer
approach of the dentition of certain ancient Carnivores to the typical
arrangement, have also been cited as exemplifications of a law of
progressive development, but I know of no other cases based on positive
evidence which are worthy of particular notice.

What then does an impartial survey of the positively ascertained truths
of palæontology testify in relation to the common doctrines of
progressive modification, which suppose that modification to have taken
place by a necessary progress from more to less embryonic forms, or from
more to less generalized types, within the limits of the period
represented by the fossiliferous rocks?

It negatives those doctrines; for it either shows us no evidence of any
such modification, or demonstrates it to have been very slight; and as
to the nature of that modification, it yields no evidence whatsoever
that the earlier members of any long-continued group were more
generalized in structure than the later ones. To a certain extent,
indeed, it may be said that imperfect ossification of the vertebral
column is an embryonic character; but, on the other hand, it would be
extremely incorrect to suppose that the vertebral columns of the older
Vertebrata are in any sense embryonic in their whole structure.

Obviously, if the earliest fossiliferous rocks now known are coeval with
the commencement of life, and if their contents give us any just
conception of the nature and the extent of the earliest fauna and flora,
the insignificant amount of modification which can be demonstrated to
have taken place in any one group of animals, or plants, is quite
incompatible with the hypothesis that all living forms are the results
of a necessary process of progressive development, entirely comprised
within the time represented by the fossiliferous rocks.

Contrariwise, any admissible hypothesis of progressive modification
must be compatible with persistence without progression, through
indefinite periods. And should such an hypothesis eventually be proved
to be true, in the only way in which it can be demonstrated, viz. by
observation and experiment upon the existing forms of life, the
conclusion will inevitably present itself, that the Palæozoic, Mesozoic,
and Cainozoic faunæ and floræ, taken together, bear somewhat the same
proportion to the whole series of living beings which have occupied this
globe, as the existing fauna and flora do to them.

Such are the results of palæontology as they appear, and have for some
years appeared, to the mind of an inquirer who regards that study simply
as one of the applications of the great biological sciences, and who
desires to see it placed upon the same sound basis as other branches of
physical inquiry. If the arguments which have been brought forward are
valid, probably no one, in view of the present state of opinion, will be
inclined to think the time wasted which has been spent upon their


[33] "Le plus grand service qu'on puisse rendre à la science est d'y
faire place nette avant d'y rien construire."--CUVIER.

[34] Anniversary Address for 1851, Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. vol. vii.

[35] See Hooker's "Introductory Essay to the Flora of Tasmania," p.

[36] See the abstract of a Lecture "On the Persistent Types of Animal
Life" in the "Notices of the Meetings of the Royal Institution of Great
Britain," June 3, 1859, vol. iii. p. 151.

[37] "Memoirs of the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom.--Decade x.
Preliminary Essay upon the Systematic Arrangement of the Fishes of the
Devonian Epoch."

[38] As this Address is passing through the press (March 7, 1862),
evidence lies before me of the existence of a new Labyrinthodont
(_Pholidogaster_), from the Edinburgh coal-field, with well-ossified
vertebral centra.



     "A great reform in geological speculation seems now to have become

     "It is quite certain that a great mistake has been made,--that
     British popular geology at the present time is in direct opposition
     to the principles of Natural Philosophy."[39]

In reviewing the course of geological thought during the past year, for
the purpose of discovering those matters to which I might most fitly
direct your attention in the Address which it now becomes my duty to
deliver from the Presidential Chair, the two somewhat alarming sentences
which I have just read, and which occur in an able and interesting essay
by an eminent natural philosopher, rose into such prominence before my
mind that they eclipsed everything else.

It surely is a matter of paramount importance for the British geologists
(some of them very popular geologists too) here in solemn annual session
assembled, to inquire whether the severe judgment thus passed upon them,
by so high an authority as Sir William Thomson is one to which they
must plead guilty _sans phrase_, or whether they are prepared to say
"not guilty," and appeal for a reversal of the sentence to that higher
court of educated scientific opinion to which we are all amenable.

As your attorney-general for the time being, I thought I could not do
better than get up the case with a view of advising you. It is true that
the charges brought forward by the other side involve the consideration
of matters quite foreign to the pursuits with which I am ordinarily
occupied; but, in that respect, I am only in the position which is, nine
times out of ten, occupied by counsel, who nevertheless contrive to gain
their causes, mainly by force of mother-wit and common sense, aided by
some training in other intellectual exercises.

Nerved by such precedents, I proceed to put my pleading before you.

And the first question with which I propose to deal is, What is it to
which Sir W. Thomson refers when he speaks of "geological speculation"
and "British popular geology"?

I find three, more or less contradictory, systems of geological thought,
each of which might fairly enough claim these appellations, standing
side by side in Britain. I shall call one of them CATASTROPHISM, another
UNIFORMITARIANISM, the third EVOLUTIONISM; and I shall try briefly to
sketch the characters of each, that you may say whether the
classification is, or is not, exhaustive.

By CATASTROPHISM, I mean any form of geological speculation
which, in order to account for the phænomena of geology, supposes the
operation of forces different in their nature, or immeasurably different
in power, from those which we at present see in action in the universe.

The Mosaic cosmogony is, in this sense, catastrophic, because it
assumes the operation of extra-natural power. The doctrine of violent
upheavals, _débâcles_, and cataclysms in general, is catastrophic, so
far as it assumes that these were brought about by causes which have now
no parallel. There was a time when catastrophism might, pre-eminently,
have claimed the title of "British popular geology;" and assuredly it
has yet many adherents, and reckons among its supporters some of the
most honoured members of this Society.

By UNIFORMITARIANISM, I mean especially, the teaching of Hutton
and of Lyell.

That great, though incomplete work, "The Theory of the Earth," seems to
me to be one of the most remarkable contributions to geology which is
recorded in the annals of the science. So far as the not-living world is
concerned, uniformitarianism lies there, not only in germ, but in
blossom and fruit.

If one asks how it is that Hutton was led to entertain views so far in
advance of those prevalent in his time, in some respects; while, in
others, they seem almost curiously limited, the answer appears to me to
be plain.

Hutton was in advance of the geological speculation of his time,
because, in the first place, he had amassed a vast store of knowledge of
the facts of geology, gathered by personal observation in travels of
considerable extent; and because, in the second place, he was thoroughly
trained in the physical and chemical science of his day, and thus
possessed, as much as any one in his time could possess it, the
knowledge which is requisite for the just interpretation of geological
phænomena, and the habit of thought which fits a man for scientific

It is to this thorough scientific training, that I ascribe Hutton's
steady and persistent refusal to look to other causes than those now in
operation, for the explanation of geological phænomena.

Thus he writes:--"I do not pretend, as he [M. de Luc] does in his
theory, to describe the beginning of things. I take things such as I
find them at present; and from these I reason with regard to that which
must have been."[40]

And again:--"A theory of the earth, which has for object truth, can have
no retrospect to that which had preceded the present order of the world;
for this order alone is what we have to reason upon; and to reason
without data is nothing but delusion. A theory, therefore, which is
limited to the actual constitution of this earth cannot be allowed to
proceed one step beyond the present order of things."[41]

And so clear is he, that no causes beside such as are now in operation
are needed to account for the character and disposition of the
components of the crust of the earth, that he says, broadly and
boldly:-- "... There is no part of the earth which has not had the same
origin, so far as this consists in that earth being collected at the
bottom of the sea, and afterwards produced, as land, along with masses
of melted substances, by the operation of mineral causes."[42]

But other influences were at work upon Hutton beside those of a mind
logical by Nature, and scientific by sound training; and the peculiar
turn which his speculations took seems to me to be unintelligible,
unless these be taken into account. The arguments of the French
astronomers and mathematicians, which, at the end of the last century,
were held to demonstrate the existence of a compensating arrangement
among the celestial bodies, whereby all perturbations eventually reduced
themselves to oscillations on each side of a mean position, and the
stability of the solar system was secured, had evidently taken strong
hold of Hutton's mind.

In those oddly constructed periods which seem to have prejudiced many
persons against reading his works, but which are full of that peculiar,
if unattractive, eloquence which flows from mastery of the subject,
Hutton says:--

"We have now got to the end of our reasoning; we have no data further to
conclude immediately from that which actually is. But we have got
enough; we have the satisfaction to find, that in Nature there is
wisdom, system, and consistency. For having, in the natural history of
this earth, seen a succession of worlds, we may from this conclude that
there is a system in Nature; in like manner as, from seeing revolutions
of the planets, it is concluded, that there is a system by which they
are intended to continue those revolutions. But if the succession of
worlds is established in the system of Nature, it is in vain to look for
anything higher in the origin of the earth. The result, therefore, of
this physical inquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning,--no
prospect of an end."[43]

Yet another influence worked strongly upon Hutton. Like most
philosophers of his age, he coquetted with those final causes which have
been named barren virgins, but which might be more fitly termed the
_hetairæ_ of philosophy, so constantly have they led men astray. The
final cause of the existence of the world is, for Hutton, the production
of life and intelligence.

"We have now considered the globe of this earth as a machine,
constructed upon chemical as well as mechanical principles, by which its
different parts are all adapted, in form, in quality, and in quantity,
to a certain end; an end attained with certainty or success; and an end
from which we may perceive wisdom, in contemplating the means employed.

"But is this world to be considered thus merely as a machine, to last no
longer than its parts retain their present position, their proper forms
and qualities? Or may it not be also considered as an organized body?
such as has a constitution in which the necessary decay of the machine
is naturally repaired, in the exertion of those productive powers by
which it had been formed.

"This is the view in which we are now to examine the globe; to see if
there be, in the constitution of this world, a reproductive operation,
by which a ruined constitution may be again repaired, and a duration or
stability thus procured to the machine, considered as a world sustaining
plants and animals."[44]

Kirwan, and the other Philistines of the day, accused Hutton of
declaring that his theory implied that the world never had a beginning,
and never differed in condition from its present state. Nothing could be
more grossly unjust, as he expressly guards himself against any such
conclusion in the following terms:--

"But in thus tracing back the natural operations which have succeeded
each other, and mark to us the course of time past, we come to a period
in which we cannot see any farther. This, however, is not the beginning
of the operations which proceed in time and according to the wise
economy of this world; nor is it the establishing of that which, in the
course of time, had no beginning; it is only the limit of our
retrospective view of those operations which have come to pass in time,
and have been conducted by supreme intelligence."[45]

I have spoken of Uniformitarianism as the doctrine of Hutton and of
Lyell. If I have quoted the older writer rather than the newer, it is
because his works are little known, and his claims on our veneration too
frequently forgotten, not because I desire to dim the fame of his
eminent successor. Few of the present generation of geologists have read
Playfair's "Illustrations," fewer still the original "Theory of the
Earth;" the more is the pity; but which of us has not thumbed every page
of the "Principles of Geology?" I think that he who writes fairly the
history of his own progress in geological thought, will not be able to
separate his debt to Hutton from his obligations to Lyell; and the
history of the progress of individual geologists is the history of

No one can doubt that the influence of uniformitarian views has been
enormous, and, in the main, most beneficial and favourable to the
progress of sound geology.

Nor can it be questioned that Uniformitarianism has even a stronger
title than Catastrophism to call itself the geological speculation of
Britain, or, if you will, British popular geology. For it is eminently a
British doctrine, and has even now made comparatively little progress
on the continent of Europe. Nevertheless it seems to me to be open to
serious criticism upon one of its aspects.

I have shown how unjust was the insinuation that Hutton denied a
beginning to the world. But it would not be unjust to say that he
persistently, in practice, shut his eyes to the existence of that prior
and different state of things which, in theory, he admitted; and, in
this aversion to look beyond the veil of stratified rocks, Lyell follows

Hutton and Lyell alike agree in their indisposition to carry their
speculations a step beyond the period recorded in the most ancient
strata now open to observation in the crust of the earth. This is, for
Hutton, "the point in which we cannot see any farther;" while Lyell
tells us,--

"The astronomer may find good reasons for ascribing the earth's form to
the original fluidity of the mass, in times long antecedent to the first
introduction of living beings into the planet; but the geologist must be
content to regard the earliest monuments which it is his task to
interpret, as belonging to a period when the crust had already acquired
great solidity and thickness, probably as great as it now possesses, and
when volcanic rocks, not essentially differing from those now produced,
were formed from time to time, the intensity of volcanic heat being
neither greater nor less than it is now."[46]

And again, "As geologists, we learn that it is not only the present
condition of the globe which has been suited to the accommodation of
myriads of living creatures, but that many former states also have been
adapted to the organization and habits of prior races of beings. The
disposition of the seas, continents and islands, and the climates, have
varied; the species likewise have been changed; and yet they have all
been so modelled, on types analogous to those of existing plants and
animals, as to indicate, throughout, a perfect harmony of design and
unity of purpose. To assume that the evidence of the beginning, or end,
of so vast a scheme lies within the reach of our philosophical
inquiries, or even of our speculations, appears to be inconsistent with
a just estimate of the relations which subsist between the finite powers
of man and the attributes of an infinite and eternal Being."[47]

The limitations implied in these passages appear to me to constitute the
weakness and the logical defect of uniformitarianism. No one will impute
blame to Hutton that, in face of the imperfect condition, in his day, of
those physical sciences which furnish the keys to the riddles of
geology, he should have thought it practical wisdom to limit his theory
to an attempt to account for "the present order of things;" but I am at
a loss to comprehend why, for all time, the geologist must be content to
regard the oldest fossiliferous rocks as the _ultima Thule_ of his
science; or what there is inconsistent with the relations between the
finite and the infinite mind, in the assumption, that we may discern
somewhat of the beginning, or of the end, of this speck in space we call
our earth. The finite mind is certainly competent to trace out the
development of the fowl within the egg; and I know not on what ground it
should find more difficulty in unravelling the complexities of the
development of the earth. In fact, as Kant has well remarked,[48] the
cosmical process is really simpler than the biological.

This attempt to limit, at a particular point, the progress of inductive
and deductive reasoning from the things which are, to those which
were--this faithlessness to its own logic, seems to me to have cost
Uniformitarianism the place, as the permanent form of geological
speculation, which it might otherwise have held.

It remains that I should put before you what I understand to be the
third phase of geological speculation--namely, EVOLUTIONISM.

I shall not make what I have to say on this head clear, unless I
diverge, or seem to diverge, for a while, from the direct path of my
discourse, so far as to explain what I take to be the scope of geology
itself. I conceive geology to be the history of the earth, in precisely
the same sense as biology is the history of living beings; and I trust
you will not think that I am overpowered by the influence of a dominant
pursuit if I say that I trace a close analogy between these two

If I study a living being, under what heads does the knowledge I obtain
fall? I can learn its structure, or what we call its ANATOMY;
and its DEVELOPMENT, or the series of changes which it passes
through to acquire its complete structure. Then I find that the living
being has certain powers resulting from its own activities, and the
interaction of these with the activities of other things--the knowledge
of which is PHYSIOLOGY. Beyond this the living being has a
position in space and time, which is its DISTRIBUTION. All
these form the body of ascertainable facts which constitute the _status
quo_ of the living creature. But these facts have their causes; and the
ascertainment of these causes is the doctrine of ÆTIOLOGY.

If we consider what is knowable about the earth, we shall find that such
earth-knowledge--if I may so translate the word geology--falls into the
same categories.

What is termed stratigraphical geology is neither more nor less than the
anatomy of the earth; and the history of the succession of the
formations is the history of a succession of such anatomies, or
corresponds with development, as distinct from generation.

The internal heat of the earth, the elevation and depression of its
crust, its belchings forth of vapours, ashes, and lava, are its
activities, in as strict a sense, as are warmth and the movements and
products of respiration the activities of an animal. The phænomena of
the seasons, of the trade winds, of the Gulf-stream, are as much the
results of the reaction between these inner activities and outward
forces, as are the budding of the leaves in spring and their falling in
autumn the effects of the interaction between the organization of a
plant and the solar light and heat. And, as the study of the activities
of the living being is called its physiology, so are these phænomena the
subject-matter of an analogous telluric physiology, to which we
sometimes give the name of meteorology, sometimes that of physical
geography, sometimes that of geology. Again, the earth has a place in
space and in time, and relations to other bodies in both these
respects, which constitute its distribution. This subject is usually
left to the astronomer; but a knowledge of its broad outlines seems to
me to be an essential constituent of the stock of geological ideas.

All that can be ascertained concerning the structure, succession of
conditions, actions, and position in space of the earth, is the matter
of fact of its natural history. But, as in biology, there remains the
matter of reasoning from these facts to their causes, which is just as
much science as the other, and indeed more; and this constitutes
geological ætiology.

Having regard to this general scheme of geological knowledge and
thought, it is obvious that geological speculation may be, so to speak,
anatomical and developmental speculation, so far as it relates to points
of stratigraphical arrangement which are out of reach of direct
observation; or, it may be physiological speculation, so far as it
relates to undetermined problems relative to the activities of the
earth; or, it may be distributional speculation, if it deals with
modifications of the earth's place in space; or, finally, it will be
ætiological speculation, if it attempts to deduce the history of the
world, as a whole, from the known properties of the matter of the earth,
in the conditions in which the earth has been placed.

For the purposes of the present discourse I may take this last to be
what is meant by "geological speculation."

Now uniformitarianism, as we have seen, tends to ignore geological
speculation in this sense altogether.

The one point the catastrophists and the uniformitarians agreed upon,
when this Society was founded, was to ignore it. And you will find, if
you look back into our records, that our revered fathers in geology
plumed themselves a good deal upon the practical sense and wisdom of
this proceeding. As a temporary measure, I do not presume to challenge
its wisdom; but in all organized bodies temporary changes are apt to
produce permanent effects; and as time has slipped by, altering all the
conditions which may have made such mortification of the scientific
flesh desirable, I think the effect of the stream of cold water which
has steadily flowed over geological speculation within these walls, has
been of doubtful beneficence.

The sort of geological speculation to which I am now referring
(geological ætiology, in short) was created, as a science, by that
famous philosopher Immanuel Kant, when, in 1755, he wrote his "General
Natural History and Theory of the Celestial Bodies; or an Attempt to
account for the Constitution and the mechanical Origin of the Universe
upon Newtonian principles."[49]

In this very remarkable, but seemingly little-known treatise,[50] Kant
expounds a complete cosmogony, in the shape of a theory of the causes
which have led to the development of the universe from diffused atoms of
matter endowed with simple attractive and repulsive forces.

"Give me matter," says Kant, "and I will build the world;" and he
proceeds to deduce from the simple data from which he starts, a doctrine
in all essential respects similar to the well-known "Nebular Hypothesis"
of Laplace.[51] He accounts for the relation of the masses and the
densities of the planets to their distances from the sun, for the
eccentricities of their orbits, for their rotations, for their
satellites, for the general agreement in the direction of rotation among
the celestial bodies, for Saturn's ring, and for the zodiacal light. He
finds, in each system of worlds, indications that the attractive force
of the central mass will eventually destroy its organization, by
concentrating upon itself the matter of the whole system; but, as the
result of this concentration, he argues for the development of an amount
of heat which will dissipate the mass once more into a molecular chaos
such as that in which it began.

Kant pictures to himself the universe as once an infinite expansion of
formless and diffused matter. At one point of this he supposes a single
centre of attraction set up; and, by strict deductions from admitted
dynamical principles, shows how this must result in the development of a
prodigious central body, surrounded by systems of solar and planetary
worlds in all stages of development. In vivid language he depicts the
great world-mælstrom, widening the margins of its prodigious eddy in the
slow progress of millions of ages, gradually reclaiming more and more of
the molecular waste, and converting chaos into cosmos. But what is
gained at the margin is lost in the centre; the attractions of the
central systems bring their constituents together, which then, by the
heat evolved, are converted once more into molecular chaos. Thus the
worlds that are, lie between the ruins of the worlds that have been and
the chaotic materials of the worlds that shall be; and, in spite of all
waste and destruction, Cosmos is extending his borders at the expense of

Kant's further application of his views to the earth itself is to be
found in his "Treatise on Physical Geography"[52] (a term under which
the then unknown science of geology was included), a subject which he
had studied with very great care and on which he lectured for many
years. The fourth section of the first part of this Treatise is called
"History of the great Changes which the Earth has formerly undergone and
is still undergoing," and is, in fact, a brief and pregnant essay upon
the principles of geology. Kant gives an account first "of the gradual
changes which are now taking place" under the heads of such as are
caused by earthquakes, such as are brought about by rain and rivers,
such as are effected by the sea, such as are produced by winds and
frost; and, finally, such as result from the operations of man.

The second part is devoted to the "Memorials of the Changes which the
Earth has undergone in remote antiquity." These are enumerated as:--A.
Proofs that the sea formerly covered the whole earth. B. Proofs that the
sea has often been changed into dry land and then again into sea. C. A
discussion of the various-theories of the earth put forward by
Scheuchzer, Moro, Bonnet, Woodward, White, Leibnitz, Linnæus, and

The third part contains an "Attempt to give a sound explanation of the
ancient history of the earth."

I suppose that it would be very easy to pick holes in the details of
Kant's speculations, whether cosmological, or specially telluric, in
their application. But, for all that, he seems to me to have been the
first person to frame a complete system of geological speculation by
founding the doctrine of evolution.

With as much truth as Hutton, Kant could say, "I take things just as I
find them at present, and, from these, I reason with regard to that
which must have been." Like Hutton, he is never tired of pointing out
that "in Nature there is wisdom, system, and consistency." And, as in
these great principles, so in believing that the cosmos has a
reproductive operation "by which a ruined constitution may be repaired,"
he forestalls Hutton; while, on the other hand, Kant is true to science.
He knows no bounds to geological speculation but those of the intellect.
He reasons back to a beginning of the present state of things; he admits
the possibility of an end.

I have said that the three schools of geological speculation which I
have termed Catastrophism, Uniformitarianism, and Evolutionism are
commonly supposed to be antagonistic to one another; and I presume it
will have become obvious that, in my belief, the last is destined to
swallow up the other two. But it is proper to remark that each of the
latter has kept alive the tradition of precious truths.

CATASTROPHISM has insisted upon the existence of a practically
unlimited bank of force, on which the theorist might draw; and it has
cherished the idea of the development of the earth from a state in which
its form, and the forces which it exerted, were very different from
those we now know. That such difference of form and power once existed
is a necessary part of the doctrine of evolution.

UNIFORMITARIANISM, on the other hand, has with equal justice
insisted upon a practically unlimited bank of time, ready to discount
any quantity of hypothetical paper. It has kept before our eyes the
power of the infinitely little, time being granted, and has compelled us
to exhaust known causes, before flying to the unknown.

To my mind there appears to be no sort of necessary theoretical
antagonism between Catastrophism and Uniformitarianism. On the contrary,
it is very conceivable that catastrophes may be part and parcel of
uniformity. Let me illustrate my case by analogy. The working of a clock
is a model of uniform action; good time-keeping means uniformity of
action. But the striking of the clock is essentially a catastrophe; the
hammer might be made to blow up a barrel of gunpowder, or turn on a
deluge of water; and, by proper arrangement, the clock, instead of
marking the hours, might strike at all sorts of irregular periods, never
twice alike, in the intervals, force, or number of its blows.
Nevertheless, all these irregular, and apparently lawless, catastrophes
would be the result of an absolutely uniformitarian action; and we might
have two schools of clock-theorists, one studying the hammer and the
other the pendulum.

Still less is there any necessary antagonism between either of these
doctrines and that of Evolution, which embraces all that is sound in
both Catastrophism and Uniformitarianism, while it rejects the arbitrary
assumptions of the one and the, as arbitrary, limitations of the other.
Nor is the value of the doctrine of Evolution to the philosophic thinker
diminished by the fact that it applies the same method to the living and
the not-living world; and embraces, in one stupendous analogy, the
growth of a solar system from molecular chaos, the shaping of the earth
from the nebulous cubhood of its youth, through innumerable changes and
immeasurable ages, to its present form; and the development of a living
being from the shapeless mass of protoplasm we term a germ.

I do not know whether Evolutionism can claim that amount of currency
which would entitle it to be called British popular geology; but, more
or less vaguely, it is assuredly present in the minds of most

Such being the three phases of geological speculation, we are now in a
position to inquire which of these it is that Sir William Thomson calls
upon us to reform in the passages which I have cited.

It is obviously Uniformitarianism which the distinguished physicist
takes to be the representative of geological speculation in general. And
thus a first issue is raised, inasmuch as many persons (and those not
the least thoughtful among the younger geologists) do not accept strict
Uniformitarianism as the final form of geological speculation. We should
say, if Hutton and Playfair declare the course of the world to have been
always the same, point out the fallacy by all means; but, in so doing,
do not imagine that you are proving modern geology to be in opposition
to natural philosophy. I do not suppose that, at the present day, any
geologist would be found to maintain absolute Uniformitarianism, to deny
that the rapidity of the rotation of the earth _may_ be diminishing,
that the sun _may_ be waxing dim, or that the earth itself _may_ be
cooling. Most of us, I suspect, are Gallios, "who care for none of these
things," being of opinion that, true or fictitious, they have made no
practical difference to the earth, during the period of which, a record
is preserved in stratified deposits.

The accusation that we have been running counter to the _principles_ of
natural philosophy, therefore, is devoid of foundation. The only
question which can arise is whether we have, or have not, been tacitly
making assumptions which are in opposition to certain conclusions which
may be drawn from those principles. And this question subdivides itself
into two:--the first, are we really contravening such conclusions? the
second, if we are, are those conclusions so firmly based that we may not
contravene them? I reply in the negative to both these questions, and I
will give you my reasons for so doing. Sir William Thomson believes that
he is able to prove, by physical reasonings, "that the existing state of
things on the earth, life on the earth--all geological history showing
continuity of life--must be limited within some such period of time as
one hundred million years" (loc. cit. p. 25).

The first inquiry which arises plainly is, has it ever been denied that
this period _may_ be enough for the purposes of geology?

The discussion of this question is greatly embarrassed by the vagueness
with which the assumed limit is, I will not say defined, but
indicated,--"some such period of past time as one hundred million
years." Now does this mean that it may have been two, or three, or four
hundred million years? Because this really makes all the difference.[53]

I presume that 100,000 feet may be taken as a full allowance for the
total thickness of stratified rocks containing traces of life; 100,000
divided by 100,000,000 = 0.001. Consequently, the deposit of 100,000
feet of stratified rock in 100,000,000 years means that the deposit has
taken place at the rate of 1/1000 of a foot, or, say, 1/83 of an inch,
per annum.

Well, I do not know that any one is prepared to maintain that, even
making all needful allowances, the stratified rocks may not have been
formed, on the average, at the rate of 1/83 of an inch per annum. I
suppose that if such could be shown to be the limit of world-growth, we
could put up with the allowance without feeling that our speculations
had undergone any revolution. And perhaps, after all, the qualifying
phrase "some such period" may not necessitate the assumption of more
than 1/166, or 1/249, or 1/332 of an inch of deposit per year, which, of
course, would give us still more ease and comfort.

But, it may be said, that it is biology, and not geology, which asks for
so much time--that the succession of life demands vast intervals; but
this appears to me to be reasoning in a circle. Biology takes her time
from geology. The only reason we have for believing in the slow rate of
the change in living forms is the fact that they persist through a
series of deposits which, geology informs us, have taken a long while to
make. If the geological clock is wrong, all the naturalist will have to
do is to modify his notions of the rapidity of change accordingly. And I
venture to point out that, when we are told that the limitation of the
period during which living beings have inhabited this planet to one,
two, or three hundred million years requires a complete revolution in
geological speculation, the _onus probandi_ rests on the maker of the
assertion, who brings forward not a shadow of evidence in its support.

Thus, if we accept the limitation of time placed before us by Sir W.
Thomson, it is not obvious, on the face of the matter, that we shall
have to alter, or reform, our ways in any appreciable degree; and we may
therefore proceed with much calmness, and indeed much indifference, as
to the result, to inquire whether that limitation is justified by the
arguments employed in its support.

These arguments are three in number:--

I. The first is based upon the undoubted fact that the tides tend to
retard the rate of the earth's rotation upon its axis. That this must be
so is obvious, if one considers, roughly, that the tides result from the
pull which the sun and the moon exert upon the sea, causing it to act as
a sort of break upon the rotating solid earth.

Kant, who was by no means a mere "abstract philosopher," but a good
mathematician and well versed in the physical science of his time, not
only proved this in an essay of exquisite clearness and intelligibility,
now more than a century old,[54] but deduced from it some of its more
important consequences, such as the constant turning of one face of the
moon towards the earth.

But there is a long step from the demonstration of a tendency to the
estimation of the practical value of that tendency, which is all with
which we are at present concerned. The facts bearing on this point
appear to stand as follow:--

It is a matter of observation that the moon's mean motion is (and has
for the last 3,000 years been) undergoing an acceleration, relatively to
the rotation of the earth. Of course this may result from one of two
causes: the moon may really have been moving more swiftly in its orbit;
or the earth may have been rotating more slowly on its axis.

Laplace believed he had accounted for this phænomenon by the fact that
the eccentricity of the earth's orbit has been diminishing throughout
these 3,000 years. This would produce a diminution of the mean
attraction of the sun on the moon; or, in other words, an increase in
the attraction of the earth on the moon: and, consequently, an increase
in the rapidity of the orbital motion of the latter body. Laplace,
therefore, laid the responsibility of the acceleration upon the moon;
and if his views were correct, the tidal retardation must either be
insignificant in amount, or be counteracted by some other agency.

Our great astronomer, Adams, however, appears to have found a flaw in
Laplace's calculation, and to have shown that only half the observed
retardation could be accounted for in the way he had suggested. There
remains, therefore, the other half to be accounted for; and here, in the
absence of all positive knowledge, three sets of hypotheses have been

(a) M. Delaunay suggests that the earth is at fault, in consequence
of the tidal retardation. Messrs. Adams, Thomson, and Tait work out this
suggestion, and, "on a certain assumption as to the proportion of
retardations due to the sun and the moon," find the earth may lose
twenty-two seconds of time in a century from this cause.[55]

(b) But M. Dufour suggests that the retardation of the earth (which
is hypothetically assumed to exist) may be due in part, or wholly, to
the increase of the moment of inertia of the earth by meteors falling
upon its surface. This suggestion also meets with the entire approval of
Sir W. Thomson, who shows that meteor-dust, accumulating at the rate of
one foot in 4,000 years, would account for the remainder of

(c) Thirdly, Sir W. Thomson brings forward an hypothesis of his own
with respect to the cause of the hypothetical retardation of the earth's

"Let us suppose ice to melt from the polar regions (20° round each pole,
we may say) to the extent of something more than a foot thick, enough to
give 1.1 foot of water over those areas, or 0.006 of a foot of water if
spread over the whole globe, which would, in reality, raise the
sea-level by only some such undiscoverable difference as three-fourths
of an inch or an inch. This, or the reverse, which we believe might
happen any year, and could certainly not be detected without far more
accurate observations and calculations for the mean sea-level than any
hitherto made, would slacken or quicken the earth's rate as a timekeeper
by one-tenth of a second per year."[57]

I do not presume to throw the slightest doubt upon the accuracy of any
of the calculations made by such distinguished mathematicians as those
who have made the suggestions I have cited. On the contrary, it is
necessary to my argument to assume that they are all correct. But I
desire to point out that this seems to be one of the many cases in which
the admitted accuracy of mathematical processes is allowed to throw a
wholly inadmissible appearance of authority over the results obtained by
them. Mathematics may be compared to a mill of exquisite workmanship,
which grinds you stuff of any degree of fineness; but, nevertheless,
what you get out depends on what you put in; and as the grandest mill in
the world will not extract wheat-flour from peascods, so pages of
formulæ will not get a definite result out of loose data.

In the present instance it appears to be admitted:--

1. That it is not absolutely certain, after all, whether the moon's mean
motion is undergoing acceleration, or the earth's rotation
retardation.[58] And yet this is the key of the whole position.

2. If the rapidity of the earth's rotation is diminishing, it is not
certain how much of that retardation is due to tidal friction,--how much
to meteors,--how much to possible excess of melting over accumulation of
polar ice, during the period covered by observation, which amounts, at
the outside, to not more than 2,600 years.

3. The effect of a different distribution of land and water in modifying
the retardation caused by tidal friction, and of reducing it, under some
circumstances, to a minimum, does not appear to be taken into account.

4. During the Miocene epoch the polar ice was certainly many feet
thinner than it has been during, or since, the Glacial epoch. Sir W.
Thomson tells us that the accumulation of something more than a foot of
ice around the poles (which implies the withdrawal of, say, an inch of
water from the general surface of the sea) will cause the earth to
rotate quicker by one-tenth of a second per annum. It would appear,
therefore, that the earth may have been rotating, throughout the whole
period which has elapsed from the commencement of the Glacial epoch down
to the present time, one, or more, seconds per annum quicker than it
rotated during the Miocene epoch.

But, according to Sir W. Thomson's calculation, tidal retardation will
only account for a retardation of 22" in a century, or 22/100 (say 1/5)
of a second per annum.

Thus, assuming that the accumulation of polar ice since the Miocene
epoch has only been sufficient to produce ten times the effect of a coat
of ice one foot thick, we shall have an accelerating cause which covers
all the loss from tidal action, and leaves a balance of 4/5 a second per
annum in the way of acceleration.

If tidal retardation can be thus checked and overthrown by other
temporary conditions, what becomes of the confident assertion, based
upon the assumed uniformity of tidal retardation, that ten thousand
million years ago the earth must have been rotating more than twice as
fast as at present, and, therefore, that we geologists are "in direct
opposition to the principles of Natural Philosophy" if we spread
geological history over that time?

II. The second argument is thus stated by Sir W. Thomson:--"An article,
by myself, published in 'Macmillan's Magazine' for March 1862, on the
age of the sun's heat, explains results of investigation into various
questions as to possibilities regarding the amount of heat that the sun
could have, dealing with it as you would with a stone, or a piece of
matter, only taking into account the sun's dimensions, which showed it
to be possible that the sun may have already illuminated the earth for
as many as one hundred million years, but at the same time rendered it
almost certain that he had not illuminated the earth for five hundred
millions of years. The estimates here are necessarily very vague; but
yet, vague as they are, I do not know that it is possible, upon any
reasonable estimate founded on known properties of matter, to say that
we can believe the sun has really illuminated the earth for five hundred
million years."[59]

I do not wish to "Hansardize" Sir William Thomson by laying much stress
on the fact that, only fifteen years ago, he entertained a totally
different view of the origin of the sun's heat, and believed that the
energy radiated from year to year was supplied from year to year--a
doctrine which would have suited Hutton perfectly. But the fact that so
eminent a physical philosopher has, thus recently, held views opposite
to those which he now entertains, and that he confesses his own
estimates to be "very vague," justly entitles us to disregard those
estimates, if any distinct facts on our side go against them. However, I
am not aware that such facts exist. As I have already said, for anything
I know, one, two, or three hundred millions of years may serve the needs
of geologists perfectly well.

III. The third line of argument is based upon the temperature of the
interior of the earth. Sir W. Thomson refers to certain investigations
which prove that the present thermal condition of the interior of the
earth implies either a heating of the earth within the last 20,000 years
of as much as 100° F., or a greater heating all over the surface at some
time further back than 20,000 years, and then proceeds thus:--

"Now, are geologists prepared to admit that, at some time within the
last 20,000 years, there has been all over the earth so high a
temperature as that? I presume not; no geologist--no _modern_
geologist--would for a moment admit the hypothesis that the present
state of underground heat is due to a heating of the surface at so late
a period as 20,000 years ago. If that is not admitted, we are driven to
a greater heat at some time more than 20,000 years ago. A greater
heating all over the surface than 100° Fahrenheit would kill nearly all
existing plants and animals, I may safely say. Are modern geologists
prepared to say that all life was killed off the earth 50,000, 100,000,
or 200,000 years ago? For the uniformity theory, the further back the
time of high surface-temperature is put the better; but the further back
the time of heating, the hotter it must have been. The best for those
who draw most largely on time is that which puts it furthest back; and
that is the theory that the heating was enough to melt the whole. But
even if it was enough to melt the whole, we must still admit some limit,
such as fifty million years, one hundred million years, or two or three
hundred million years ago. Beyond that we cannot go."[60]

It will be observed that the "limit" is once again of the vaguest,
ranging from 50,000,000 years to 300,000,000. And the reply is, once
more, that, for anything that can be proved to the contrary, one or two
hundred million years might serve the purpose, even of a thorough-going
Huttonian uniformitarian, very well.

But if, on the other hand, the 100,000,000 or 200,000,000 years appear
to be insufficient for geological purposes, we must closely criticise
the method by which the limit is reached. The argument is simple enough.
_Assuming_ the earth to be nothing but a cooling mass, the quantity of
heat lost per year, _supposing_ the rate of cooling to have been
uniform, multiplied by any given number of years, will be given the
minimum temperature that number of years ago.

But is the earth nothing but a cooling mass, "like a hot-water jar such
as is used in carriages," or "a globe of sandstone?" and has its cooling
been uniform? An affirmative answer to both these questions seems to be
necessary to the validity of the calculations on which Sir W. Thomson
lays so much stress.

Nevertheless it surely may be urged that such affirmative answers are
purely hypothetical, and that other suppositions have an equal right to

For example, is it not possible that, at the prodigious temperature
which would seem to exist at 100 miles below the surface, all the
metallic bases may behave as mercury does at a red heat, when it refuses
to combine with oxygen; while, nearer the surface, and therefore at a
lower temperature, they may enter into combination (as mercury does with
oxygen a few degrees below its boiling-point) and so give rise to a
heat totally distinct from that which they possess as cooling bodies?
And has it not also been proved by recent researches that the quality of
the atmosphere may immensely affect its permeability to heat; and,
consequently, profoundly modify the rate of cooling the globe as a

I do not think it can be denied that such conditions may exist, and may
so greatly affect the supply, and the loss, of terrestrial heat as to
destroy the value of any calculations which leave them out of sight.

My functions as your advocate are at an end. I speak with more than the
sincerity of a mere advocate when I express the belief that the case
against us has entirely broken down. The cry for reform which has been
raised without, is superfluous, inasmuch as we have long been reforming
from within, with all needful speed. And the critical examination of the
grounds upon which the very grave charge of opposition to the principles
of Natural Philosophy has been brought against us, rather shows that we
have exercised a wise discrimination in declining, for the present, to
meddle with our foundations.


[39] On Geological Time. By Sir W. Thomson, LL.D. Transactions of the
Geological Society of Glasgow, vol. iii.

[40] The Theory of the Earth, vol. i. p. 173, note.

[41] Ibid. p. 281.

[42] Ibid. p. 371.

[43] The Theory of the Earth, vol. i. p. 200.

[44] The Theory of the Earth, vol. i. pp. 16, 17.

[45] The Theory of the Earth, vol. i. p. 223.

[46] Principles of Geology, vol. ii. p. 211.

[47] Principles of Geology, vol. ii. p. 613.

[48] "Man darf es sich also nicht befremden lassen, wenn ich mich
unterstehe zu sagen, dass eher die Bildung aller Himmelskörper, die
Ursache ihrer Bewegungen, kurz der Ursprung der ganzen gegenwärtigen
Verfassung des Weltbaues werden können eingesehen werden, ehe die
Erzeugung eines einzigen Krautes oder einer Raupe aus mechanischen
Gründen, deutlich und vollständig kund werden wird."--KANT'S _Sämmtliche
Werke_, Bd. I. p. 220.

[49] Grant ("History of Physical Astronomy," p. 574) makes but the
briefest reference to Kant.

[50] "Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels; oder Versuch
von der Verfassung und dem mechanischen Ursprunge des ganzen
Weltgebäudes nach Newton'schen Grundsatzen abgehandelt."--KANT'S
_Sämmtliche Werke_, Bd. i. p. 207.

[51] Système du Monde, tome ii. chap. 6

[52] Kant's "Sämmtliche Werke," Bd. viii. p. 145.

[53] Sir William Thomson implies (loc. cit. p. 16), that the precise
time is of no consequence: "the principle is the same;" but, as the
principle is admitted, the whole discussion turns on its practical

[54] "Untersuchung der Frage ob die Erde in ihrer Umdrehung um die
Achse, wodurch sie die Abwechselung des Tages und der Nacht
hervorbringt, einige Veränderung seit den ersten Zeiten ihres Ursprunges
erlitten habe, &c."--KANT'S _Sämmtliche Werke_, Bd. i. p. 178.

[55] Sir W. Thomson, loc. cit., p. 14.

[56] Loc. cit., p. 27

[57] Ibid.

[58] It will be understood that I do not wish to deny that the earth's
rotation _may be_ undergoing retardation.

[59] Loc. cit., p. 20.

[60] Loc. cit., p. 24.



Mr. Darwin's long-standing and well-earned scientific eminence probably
renders him indifferent to that social notoriety which passes by the
name of success; but if the calm spirit of the philosopher have not yet
wholly superseded the ambition and the vanity of the carnal man within
him, he must be well satisfied with the results of his venture in
publishing the "Origin of Species." Overflowing the narrow bounds of
purely scientific circles, the "species question" divides with Italy and
the Volunteers the attention of general society. Everybody has read Mr.
Darwin's book, or, at least, has given an opinion upon its merits or
demerits; pietists, whether lay or ecclesiastic, decry it with the mild
railing which sounds so charitable; bigots denounce it with ignorant
invective; old ladies, of both sexes, consider it a decidedly dangerous
book, and even savans, who have no better mud to throw, quote antiquated
writers to show that its author is no better than an ape himself; while
every philosophical thinker hails it as a veritable Whitworth gun in the
armory of liberalism; and all competent naturalists and physiologists,
whatever their opinions as to the ultimate fate of the doctrines put
forth, acknowledge that the work in which they are embodied is a solid
contribution to knowledge and inaugurates a new epoch in natural

Nor has the discussion of the subject been restrained within the limits
of conversation. When the public is eager and interested, reviewers must
minister to its wants; and the genuine _littérateur_ is too much in the
habit of acquiring his knowledge from the book he judges--as the
Abyssinian is said to provide himself with steaks from the ox which
carries him--to be withheld from criticism of a profound scientific work
by the mere want of the requisite preliminary scientific acquirement;
while, on the other hand, the men of science who wish well to the new
views, no less than those who dispute their validity, have naturally
sought opportunities of expressing their opinions. Hence it is not
surprising that almost all the critical journals have noticed Mr.
Darwin's work at greater or less length; and so many disquisitions, of
every degree of excellence, from the poor product of ignorance, too
often stimulated by prejudice, to the fair and thoughtful essay of the
candid student of Nature, have appeared, that it seems an almost
hopeless task to attempt to say anything new upon the question.

But it may be doubted if the knowledge and acumen of prejudged
scientific opponents, or the subtlety of orthodox special pleaders, have
yet exerted their full force in mystifying the real issues of the great
controversy which has been set afoot, and whose end is hardly likely to
be seen by this generation; so that, at this eleventh hour, and even
failing anything new, it may be useful to state afresh that which is
true, and to put the fundamental positions advocated by Mr. Darwin in
such a form that they may be grasped by those whose special studies lie
in other directions. And the adoption of this course may be the more
advisable, because notwithstanding its great deserts, and indeed partly
on account of them, the "Origin of Species" is by no means an easy book
to read--if by reading is implied the full comprehension of an author's

We do not speak jestingly in saying that it is Mr. Darwin's misfortune
to know more about the question he has taken up than any man living.
Personally and practically exercised in zoology, in minute anatomy, in
geology; a student of geographical distribution, not on maps and in
museums only, but by long voyages and laborious collection; having
largely advanced each of these branches of science, and having spent
many years in gathering and sifting materials for his present work, the
store of accurately registered facts upon which the author of the
"Origin of Species" is able to draw at will is prodigious.

But this very superabundance of matter must have been embarrassing to a
writer who, for the present, can only put forward an abstract of his
views; and thence it arises, perhaps, that notwithstanding the clearness
of the style, those who attempt fairly to digest the book find much of
it a sort of intellectual pemmican--a mass of facts crushed and pounded
into shape, rather than held together by the ordinary medium of an
obvious logical bond: due attention will, without doubt, discover this
bond, but it is often hard to find.

Again, from sheer want of room, much has to be taken for granted which
might readily enough be proved; and hence, while the adept, who can
supply the missing links in the evidence from his own knowledge,
discovers fresh proof of the singular thoroughness with which all
difficulties have been considered and all unjustifiable suppositions
avoided, at every reperusal of Mr. Darwin's pregnant paragraphs, the
novice in biology is apt to complain of the frequency of what he fancies
is gratuitous assumption.

Thus while it may be doubted if, for some years, any one is likely to be
competent to pronounce judgment on all the issues raised by Mr. Darwin,
there is assuredly abundant room for him, who, assuming the humbler,
though perhaps as useful, office of an interpreter between the "Origin
of Species" and the public, contents himself with endeavouring to point
out the nature of the problems which it discusses; to distinguish
between the ascertained facts and the theoretical views which it
contains; and finally, to show the extent to which the explanation it
offers satisfies the requirements of scientific logic. At any rate, it
is this office which we propose to undertake in the following pages.

It may be safely assumed that our readers have a general conception of
the nature of the objects to which the word "species" is applied; but it
has, perhaps, occurred to few, even of those who are naturalists _ex
professo_, to reflect, that, as commonly employed, the term has a double
sense and denotes two very different orders of relations. When we call a
group of animals, or of plants, a species, we may imply thereby either,
that all these animals or plants have some common peculiarity of form
or structure; or, we may mean that they possess some common functional
character. That part of biological science which deals with form and
structure is called Morphology--that which concerns itself with
function, Physiology--so that we may conveniently speak of these two
senses, or aspects, of "species"--the one as morphological, the other as
physiological. Regarded from the former point of view, a species is
nothing more than a kind of animal or plant, which is distinctly
definable from all others, by certain constant, and not merely sexual,
morphological peculiarities. Thus horses form a species, because the
group of animals to which that name is applied is distinguished from all
others in the world by the following constantly associated characters.
They have 1. A vertebral column; 2. Mammæ; 3. A placental embryo; 4.
Four legs; 5. A single well-developed toe in each foot provided with a
hoof; 6. A bushy tail; and 7. Callosities on the inner sides of both the
fore and the hind legs. The asses, again, form a distinct species,
because, with the same characters, as far as the fifth in the above
list, all asses have tufted tails, and have callosities only on the
inner side of the fore legs. If animals were discovered having the
general characters of the horse, but sometimes with callosities only on
the fore legs, and more or less tufted tails; or animals having the
general characters of the ass, but with more or less bushy tails, and
sometimes with callosities on both pairs of legs, besides being
intermediate in other respects--the two species would have to be merged
into one. They could no longer be regarded as morphologically distinct
species, for they would not be distinctly definable one from the other.

However bare and simple this definition of species may appear to be, we
confidently appeal to all practical naturalists, whether zoologists,
botanists, or palæontologists, to say if, in the vast majority of cases,
they know, or mean to affirm, anything more of the group of animals or
plants they so denominate than what has just been stated. Even the most
decided advocates of the received doctrines respecting species admit

     "I apprehend," says Professor Owen,[61] "that few naturalists
     now-a-days, in describing and proposing a name for what they call
     'a new _species_,' use that term to signify what was meant by it
     twenty or thirty years ago; that is, an originally distinct
     creation, maintaining its primitive distinction by obstructive
     generative peculiarities. The proposer of the new species now
     intends to state no more than he actually knows; as, for example,
     that the differences on which he founds the specific character are
     constant in individuals of both sexes, so far as observation has
     reached; and that they are not due to domestication or to
     artificially superinduced external circumstances, or to any outward
     influence within his cognizance; that the species is wild, or is
     such as it appears by Nature."

If we consider, in fact, that by far the largest proportion of recorded
existing species are known only by the study of their skins, or bones,
or other lifeless exuvia; that we are acquainted with none, or next to
none, of their physiological peculiarities, beyond those which can be
deduced from their structure, or are open to cursory observation; and
that we cannot hope to learn more of any of those extinct forms of life
which now constitute no inconsiderable proportion of the known Flora and
Fauna of the world: it is obvious that the definitions of these species
can be only of a purely structural or morphological character. It is
probable that naturalists would have avoided much confusion of ideas if
they had more frequently borne these necessary limitations of our
knowledge in mind. But while it may safely be admitted that we are
acquainted with only the morphological characters of the vast majority
of species--the functional, or physiological, peculiarities of a few
have been carefully investigated, and the result of that study forms a
large and most interesting portion of the physiology of reproduction.

The student of Nature wonders the more and is astonished the less, the
more conversant he becomes with her operations; but of all the perennial
miracles she offers to his inspection, perhaps the most worthy of
admiration is the development of a plant or of an animal from its
embryo. Examine the recently laid egg of some common animal, such as a
salamander or a newt. It is a minute spheroid in which the best
microscope will reveal nothing but a structureless sac, enclosing a
glairy fluid, holding granules in suspension. But strange possibilities
lie dormant in that semi-fluid globule. Let a moderate supply of warmth
reach its watery cradle, and the plastic matter undergoes changes so
rapid and yet so steady and purposelike in their succession, that one
can only compare them to those operated by a skilled modeller upon a
formless lump of clay. As with an invisible trowel, the mass is divided
and subdivided into smaller and smaller portions, until it is reduced to
an aggregation of granules not too large to build withal the finest
fabrics of the nascent organism. And, then, it is as if a delicate
finger traced out the line to be occupied by the spinal column, and
moulded the contour of the body; pinching up the head at one end, the
tail at the other, and fashioning flank and limb into due salamandrine
proportions, in so artistic a way, that, after watching the process hour
by hour, one is almost involuntarily possessed by the notion, that some
more subtle aid to vision than an achromatic, would show the hidden
artist, with his plan before him, striving with skilful manipulation to
perfect his work.

As life advances, and the young amphibian ranges the waters, the terror
of his insect contemporaries, not only are the nutritious particles
supplied by its prey, by the addition of which to its frame growth takes
place, laid down, each in its proper spot, and in such due proportion to
the rest, as to reproduce the form, the colour and the size,
characteristic of the parental stock; but even the wonderful powers of
reproducing lost parts possessed by these animals are controlled by the
same governing tendency. Cut off the legs, the tail, the jaws,
separately or all together, and, as Spallanzani showed long ago, these
parts not only grow again, but the redintegrated limb is formed on the
same type as those which were lost. The new jaw, or leg, is a newt's,
and never by any accident more like that of a frog. What is true of the
newt is true of every animal and of every plant; the acorn tends to
build itself up again into a woodland giant such as that from whose twig
it fell; the spore of the humblest lichen reproduces the green or brown
incrustation which gave it birth; and at the other end of the scale of
life, the child that resembled neither the paternal nor the maternal
side of the house would be regarded as a kind of monster.

So that the one end to which, in all living beings, the formative
impulse is tending--the one scheme which the Archæus of the old
speculators strives to carry out, seems to be to mould the offspring
into the likeness of the parent. It is the first great law of
reproduction, that the offspring tends to resemble its parent or
parents, more closely than anything else.

Science will some day show us how this law is a necessary consequence of
the more general laws which govern matter; but for the present, more can
hardly be said than that it appears to be in harmony with them. We know
that the phænomena of vitality are not something apart from other
physical phænomena, but one with them; and matter and force are the two
names of the one artist who fashions the living as well as the lifeless.
Hence living bodies should obey the same great laws as other
matter--nor, throughout Nature, is there a law of wider application than
this, that a body impelled by two forces takes the direction of their
resultant. But living bodies may be regarded as nothing but extremely
complex bundles of forces held in a mass of matter, as the complex
forces of a magnet are held in the steel by its coercive force; and,
since the differences of sex are comparatively slight, or, in other
words, the sum of the forces in each has a very similar tendency, their
resultant, the offspring, may reasonably be expected to deviate but
little from a course parallel to either, or to both.

Represent the reason of the law to ourselves by what physical metaphor
or analogy we will, however, the great matter is to apprehend its
existence and the importance of the consequences deducible from it. For
things which are like to the same are like to one another, and if, in a
great series of generations, every offspring is like its parent, it
follows that all the offspring and all the parents must be like one
another; and that, given an original parental stock, with the
opportunity of undisturbed multiplication, the law in question
necessitates the production, in course of time, of an indefinitely large
group, the whole of whose members are at once very similar and are blood
relations, having descended from the same parent, or pair of parents.
The proof that all the members of any given group of animals, or plants,
had thus descended, would be ordinarily considered sufficient to entitle
them to the rank of physiological species, for most physiologists
consider species to be definable as "the offspring of a single primitive

But though it is quite true that all those groups we call species _may_,
according to the known laws of reproduction, have descended from a
single stock, and though it is very likely they really have done so, yet
this conclusion rests on deduction and can hardly hope to establish
itself upon a basis of observation. And the primitiveness of the
supposed single stock, which, after all, is the essential part of the
matter, is not only a hypothesis, but one which has not a shadow of
foundation, if by "primitive" be meant "independent of any other living
being." A scientific definition, of which an unwarrantable hypothesis
forms an essential part, carries its condemnation within itself; but
even supposing such a definition were, in form, tenable, the
physiologist who should attempt to apply it in Nature would soon find
himself involved in great, if not inextricable difficulties. As we have
said, it is indubitable that offspring _tend_ to resemble the parental
organism, but it is equally true that the similarity attained never
amounts to identity, either in form or in structure. There is always a
certain amount of deviation, not only from the precise characters of a
single parent, but when, as in most animals and many plants, the sexes
are lodged in distinct individuals, from an exact mean between the two
parents. And indeed, on general principles, this slight deviation seems
as intelligible as the general similarity, if we reflect how complex the
co-operating "bundles of forces" are, and how improbable it is that, in
any case, their true resultant shall coincide with any mean between the
more obvious characters of the two parents. Whatever be its cause,
however, the co-existence of this tendency to minor variation with the
tendency to general similarity, is of vast importance in its bearing on
the question of the origin of species.

As a general rule, the extent to which an offspring differs from its
parent is slight enough; but, occasionally, the amount of difference is
much more strongly marked, and then the divergent offspring receives the
name of a Variety. Multitudes, of what there is every reason to believe
are such varieties, are known, but the origin of very few has been
accurately recorded, and of these we will select two as more especially
illustrative of the main features of variation. The first of them is
that of the "Ancon," or "Otter" sheep, of which a careful account is
given by Colonel David Humphreys, F.R.S., in a letter to Sir Joseph
Banks, published in the Philosophical Transactions for 1813. It appears
that one Seth Wright, the proprietor of a farm on the banks of the
Charles River, in Massachusetts, possessed a flock of fifteen ewes and a
ram of the ordinary kind. In the year 1791, one of the ewes presented
her owner with a male lamb, differing, for no assignable reason, from
its parents by a proportionally long body and short bandy legs, whence
it was unable to emulate its relatives in those sportive leaps over the
neighbours' fences, in which they were in the habit of indulging, much
to the good farmer's vexation.

The second case is that detailed by a no less unexceptionable authority
than Réaumur in his "Art de faire éclore les Poulets." A Maltese couple,
named Kelleia, whose hands and feet were constructed upon the ordinary
human model, had born to them a son, Gratio, who possessed six perfectly
moveable fingers on each hand and six toes, not quite so well formed, on
each foot. No cause could be assigned for the appearance of this unusual
variety of the human species.

Two circumstances are well worthy of remark in both these cases. In
each, the variety appears to have arisen in full force, and, as it were,
_per saltum_; a wide and definite difference appearing, at once, between
the Ancon ram and the ordinary sheep; between the six-fingered and
six-toed Gratio Kelleia and ordinary men. In neither case is it possible
to point out any obvious reason for the appearance of the variety.
Doubtless there were determining causes for these as for all other
phænomena; but they do not appear, and we can be tolerably certain that
what are ordinarily understood as changes in physical conditions, as in
climate, in food, or the like, did not take place and had nothing to do
with the matter. It was no case of what is commonly called adaptation to
circumstances; but, to use a conveniently erroneous phrase, the
variations arose spontaneously. The fruitless search after final causes
leads their pursuers a long way; but even those hardy teleologists, who
are ready to break through all the laws of physics in chase of their
favourite will-o'-the-wisp, may be puzzled to discover what purpose
could be attained by the stunted legs of Seth Wright's ram or the
hexadactyle members of Gratio Kelleia.

Varieties then arise we know not why; and it is more than probable that
the majority of varieties have arisen in this "spontaneous" manner,
though we are, of course, far from denying that they may be traced, in
some cases, to distinct external influences; which are assuredly
competent to alter the character of the tegumentary covering, to change
colour, to increase or diminish the size of muscles, to modify
constitution, and, among plants, to give rise to the metamorphosis of
stamens into petals, and so forth. But however they may have arisen,
what especially interests us at present is, to remark that, once in
existence, varieties obey the fundamental law of reproduction that like
tends to produce like, and their offspring exemplify it by tending to
exhibit the same deviation from the parental stock as themselves.
Indeed, there seems to be, in many instances, a pre-potent influence
about a newly-arisen variety which gives it what one may call an unfair
advantage over the normal descendants from the same stock. This is
strikingly exemplified by the case of Gratio Kelleia, who married a
woman with the ordinary pentadactyle extremities, and had by her four
children, Salvator, George, André, and Marie. Of these children
Salvator, the eldest boy, had six fingers and six toes, like his father;
the second and third, also boys, had five fingers and five toes, like
their mother, though the hands and feet of George were slightly
deformed; the last, a girl, had five fingers and five toes, but the
thumbs were slightly deformed. The variety thus reproduced itself purely
in the eldest, while the normal type reproduced itself purely in the
third, and almost purely in the second and last: so that it would seem,
at first, as if the normal type were more powerful than the variety. But
all these children grew up and intermarried with normal wives and
husband, and then, note what took place: Salvator had four children,
three of whom exhibited the hexadactyle members of their grandfather and
father, while the youngest had the pentadactyle limbs of the mother and
grandmother; so that here, notwithstanding a double pentadactyle
dilution of the blood, the hexadactyle variety had the best of it. The
same pre-potency of the variety was still more markedly exemplified in
the progeny of two of the other children, Marie and George. Marie (whose
thumbs only were deformed) gave birth to a boy with six toes, and three
other normally formed children; but George, who was not quite so pure a
pentadactyle, begot, first, two girls, each of whom had six fingers and
toes; then a girl with six fingers on each hand and six toes on the
right foot, but only five toes on the left; and lastly, a boy with only
five fingers and toes. In these instances, therefore, the variety, as it
were, leaped over one generation to reproduce itself in full force in
the next. Finally, the purely pentadactyle André was the father of many
children, not one of whom departed from the normal parental type.

If a variation which approaches the nature of a monstrosity can strive
thus forcibly to reproduce itself, it is not wonderful that less
aberrant modifications should tend to be preserved even more strongly;
and the history of the Ancon sheep is, in this respect, particularly
instructive. With the "'cuteness" characteristic of their nation, the
neighbours of the Massachusetts farmer imagined it would be an excellent
thing if all his sheep were imbued with the stay-at-home tendencies
enforced by Nature upon the newly-arrived ram; and they advised Wright
to kill the old patriarch of his fold, and install the Ancon ram in his
place. The result justified their sagacious anticipations, and coincided
very nearly with what occurred to the progeny of Gratio Kelleia. The
young lambs were almost always either pure Ancons, or pure ordinary
sheep.[62] But when sufficient Ancon sheep were obtained to interbreed
with one another, it was found that the offspring was always pure Ancon.
Colonel Humphreys, in fact, states that he was acquainted with only "one
questionable case of a contrary nature." Here, then, is a remarkable and
well-established instance, not only of a very distinct race being
established _per saltum_, but of that race breeding "true" at once, and
showing no mixed forms, even when crossed with another breed.

By taking care to select Ancons of both sexes, for breeding from, it
thus became easy to establish an extremely well-marked race; so peculiar
that, even when herded with other sheep, it was noted that the Ancons
kept together. And there is every reason to believe that the existence
of this breed might have been indefinitely protracted; but the
introduction of the Merino sheep, which were not only very superior to
the Ancons in wool and meat, but quite as quiet and orderly, led to the
complete neglect of the new breed, so that, in 1813, Colonel Humphreys
found it difficult to obtain the specimen, whose skeleton was presented
to Sir Joseph Banks. We believe that, for many years, no remnant of it
has existed in the United States.

Gratio Kelleia was not the progenitor of a race of six-fingered men, as
Seth Wright's ram became a nation of Ancon sheep, though the tendency of
the variety to perpetuate itself appears to have been fully as strong,
in the one case as in the other. And the reason of the difference is not
far to seek. Seth Wright took care not to weaken the Ancon blood by
matching his Ancon ewes with any but males of the same variety, while
Gratio Kelleia's sons were too far removed from the patriarchal times to
intermarry with their sisters; and his grandchildren seem not to have
been attracted by their six-fingered cousins. In other words, in the one
example a race was produced, because, for several generations, care was
taken to _select_ both parents of the breeding stock, from animals
exhibiting a tendency to vary in the same direction; while, in the
other, no race was evolved, because no such selection was exercised. A
race is a propagated variety; and as, by the laws of reproduction,
offspring tend to assume the parental form, they will be more likely to
propagate a variation exhibited by both parents than that possessed by
only one.

There is no organ of the body of an animal which may not, and does not,
occasionally, vary more or less from the normal type; and there is no
variation which may not be transmitted, and which, if selectively
transmitted, may not become the foundation of a race. This great truth,
sometimes forgotten by philosophers, has long been familiar to practical
agriculturists and breeders: and upon it rest all the methods of
improving the breeds of domestic animals, which, for the last century,
have been followed with so much success in England. Colour, form, size,
texture of hair or wool, proportions of various parts, strength or
weakness of constitution, tendency to fatten or to remain lean, to give
much or little milk, speed, strength, temper, intelligence, special
instincts; there is not one of these characters whose transmission is
not an every-day occurrence within the experience of cattle-breeders,
stock-farmers, horse-dealers, and dog and poultry fanciers. Nay, it is
only the other day that an eminent physiologist, Dr. Brown-Séquard,
communicated to the Royal Society his discovery that epilepsy,
artificially produced in guinea-pigs, by a means which he has
discovered, is transmitted to their offspring.

But a race, once produced, is no more a fixed and immutable entity than
the stock whence it sprang; variations arise among its members, and as
these variations are transmitted like any others, new races may be
developed out of the pre-existing ones _ad infinitum_, or, at least,
within any limit at present determined. Given sufficient time and
sufficiently careful selection, and the multitude of races which may
arise from a common stock is as astonishing as are the extreme
structural differences which they may present. A remarkable example of
this is to be found in the rock-pigeon, which Mr. Darwin has, in our
opinion, satisfactorily demonstrated to be the progenitor of all our
domestic pigeons, of which there are certainly more than a hundred
well-marked races. The most noteworthy of these races are, the four
great stocks known to the "fancy" as tumblers, pouters, carriers, and
fantails; birds which not only differ most singularly in size, colour,
and habits, but in the form of the beak and of the skull: in the
proportions of the beak to the skull; in the number of tail-feathers; in
the absolute and relative size of the feet; in the presence or absence
of the uropygial gland; in the number of vertebræ in the back; in short,
in precisely those characters in which the genera and species of birds
differ from one another.

And it is most remarkable and instructive to observe, that none of these
races can be shown to have been originated by the action of changes in
what are commonly called external circumstances, upon the wild
rock-pigeon. On the contrary, from time immemorial, pigeon fanciers have
had essentially similar methods of treating their pets, which have been
housed, fed, protected and cared for in much the same way in all
pigeonries. In fact, there is no case better adapted than that of the
pigeons, to refute the doctrine which one sees put forth on high
authority, that "no other characters than those founded on the
development of bone for the attachment of muscles" are capable of
variation. In precise contradiction of this hasty assertion, Mr.
Darwin's researches prove that the skeleton of the wings in domestic
pigeons has hardly varied at all from that of the wild type; while, on
the other hand, it is in exactly those respects, such as the relative
length of the beak and skull, the number of the vertebræ, and the number
of the tail-feathers, in which muscular exertion can have no important
influence, that the utmost amount of variation has taken place.

We have said that the following out of the properties exhibited by
physiological species would lead us into difficulties, and at this point
they begin to be obvious; for, if, as a result of spontaneous variation
and of selective breeding, the progeny of a common stock may become
separated into groups distinguished from one another by constant, not
sexual, morphological characters, it is clear that the physiological
definition of species is likely to clash with the morphological
definition. No one would hesitate to describe the pouter and the tumbler
as distinct species, if they were found fossil, or if their skins and
skeletons were imported, as those of exotic wild birds commonly
are--and, without doubt, if considered alone, they are good and distinct
morphological species. On the other hand, they are not physiological
species, for they are descended from a common stock, the rock-pigeon.

Under these circumstances, as it is admitted on all sides that races
occur in Nature, how are we to know whether any apparently distinct
animals are really of different physiological species, or not, seeing
that the amount of morphological difference is no safe guide? Is there
any test of a physiological species? The usual answer of physiologists
is in the affirmative. It is said that such a test is to be found in the
phænomena of hybridization--in the results of crossing races, as
compared with the results of crossing species.

So far as the evidence goes at present, individuals, of what are
certainly known to be mere races produced by selection, however distinct
they may appear to be, not only breed freely together, but the offspring
of such crossed races are only perfectly fertile with one another. Thus,
the spaniel and the greyhound, the dray-horse and the Arab, the pouter
and the tumbler, breed together with perfect freedom, and their
mongrels, if matched with other mongrels of the same kind, are equally

On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the individuals of many
natural species are either absolutely infertile, if crossed with
individuals of other species, or, if they give rise to hybrid offspring,
the hybrids so produced are infertile when paired together. The horse
and the ass, for instance, if so crossed, give rise to the mule, and
there is no certain evidence of offspring ever having been produced by a
male and female mule. The unions of the rock-pigeon and the ring-pigeon
appear to be equally barren of result. Here, then, says the
physiologist, we have a means of distinguishing any two true species
from any two varieties. If a male and a female, selected from each
group, produce offspring, and that offspring is fertile with others
produced in the same way, the groups are races and not species. If, on
the other hand, no result ensues, or if the offspring are infertile with
others produced in the same way, they are true physiological species.
The test would be an admirable one, if, in the first place, it were
always practicable to apply it, and if, in the second, it always
yielded results susceptible of a definite interpretation. Unfortunately,
in the great majority of cases, this touchstone for species is wholly

The constitution of many wild animals is so altered by confinement that
they will not breed even with their own females, so that the negative
results obtained from crosses are of no value; and the antipathy of wild
animals of different species for one another, or even of wild and tame
members of the same species, is ordinarily so great, that it is hopeless
to look for such unions in Nature. The hermaphrodism of most plants, the
difficulty in the way of ensuring the absence of their own, or the
proper working of other pollen, are obstacles of no less magnitude in
applying the test to them. And in both, animals and plants is superadded
the further difficulty, that experiments must be continued over a long
time for the purpose of ascertaining the fertility of the mongrel or
hybrid progeny, as well as of the first crosses from which they spring.

Not only do these great practical difficulties lie in the way of
applying the hybridization test, but even when this oracle can be
questioned, its replies are sometimes as doubtful as those of Delphi.
For example, cases are cited by Mr. Darwin, of plants which are more
fertile with the pollen of another species than with their own; and
there are others, such as certain _fuci_, whose male element will
fertilize the ovule of a plant of distinct species, while the males of
the latter species are ineffective with the females of the first. So
that, in the last-named instance, a physiologist, who should cross the
two species in one way, would decide that they were true species; while
another, who should cross them in the reverse way, would, with equal
justice, according to the rule, pronounce them to be mere races. Several
plants, which there is great reason to believe are mere varieties, are
almost sterile when crossed; while both animals and plants, which have
always been regarded by naturalists as of distinct species, turn out,
when the test is applied, to be perfectly fertile. Again, the sterility
or fertility of crosses seems to bear no relation to the structural
resemblances or differences of the members of any two groups.

Mr. Darwin has discussed this question with singular ability and
circumspection, and his conclusions are summed up as follow, at page 276
of his work:--

     "First crosses between forms sufficiently distinct to be ranked as
     species, and their hybrids, are very generally, but not
     universally, sterile. The sterility is of all degrees, and is often
     so slight that the two most careful experimentalists who have ever
     lived have come to diametrically opposite conclusions in ranking
     forms by this test. The sterility is innately variable in
     individuals of the same species, and is eminently susceptible of
     favourable and unfavourable conditions. The degree of sterility
     does not strictly follow systematic affinity, but is governed by
     several curious and complex laws. It is generally different, and
     sometimes widely different, in reciprocal crosses between the same
     two species. It is not always equal in degree in a first cross, and
     in the hybrid produced from this cross.

     "In the same manner as in grafting trees, the capacity of one
     species or variety to take on another is incidental on generally
     unknown differences in their vegetative systems; so in crossing,
     the greater or less facility of one species to unite with another
     is incidental on unknown differences in their reproductive systems.
     There is no more reason to think that species have been specially
     endowed with various degrees of sterility to prevent them crossing
     and breeding in Nature, than to think that trees have been
     specially endowed with various and somewhat analogous degrees of
     difficulty in being grafted together, in order to prevent them
     becoming inarched in our forests.

     "The sterility of first crosses between pure species, which have
     their reproductive systems perfect, seems to depend on several
     circumstances; in some cases largely on the early death of the
     embryo. The sterility of hybrids which have their reproductive
     systems imperfect, and which have had this system and their whole
     organization disturbed by being compounded of two distinct species,
     seems closely allied to that sterility which so frequently affects
     pure species when their natural conditions of life have been
     disturbed. This view is supported by a parallelism of another kind;
     namely, that the crossing of forms, only slightly different, is
     favourable to the vigour and fertility of the offspring; and that
     slight changes in the conditions of life are apparently favourable
     to the vigour and fertility of all organic beings. It is not
     surprising that the degree of difficulty in uniting two species,
     and the degree of sterility of their hybrid offspring, should
     generally correspond, though due to distinct causes; for both
     depend on the amount of difference of some kind between the species
     which are crossed. Nor is it surprising that the facility of
     effecting a first cross, the fertility of hybrids produced from it,
     and the capacity of being grafted together--though this latter
     capacity evidently depends on widely different
     circumstances--should all run to a certain extent parallel with the
     systematic affinity of the forms which are subjected to experiment;
     for systematic affinity attempts to express all kinds of
     resemblance between all species.

     "First crosses between forms known to be varieties, or sufficiently
     alike to be considered as varieties, and their mongrel offspring,
     are very generally, but not quite universally, fertile. Nor is this
     nearly general and perfect fertility surprising, when we remember
     how liable we are to argue in a circle with respect to varieties in
     a state of Nature; and when we remember that the greater number of
     varieties have been produced under domestication by the selection
     of mere external differences, and not of differences in the
     reproductive system. In all other respects, excluding fertility,
     there is a close general resemblance between hybrids and
     mongrels."--Pp. 276-8.

We fully agree with the general tenor of this weighty passage; but
forcible as are these arguments, and little as the value of fertility or
infertility as a test of species may be, it must not be forgotten that
the really important fact, so far as the inquiry into the origin of
species goes, is, that there are such things in Nature as groups of
animals and of plants, whose members are incapable of fertile union with
those of other groups; and that there are such things as hybrids, which
are absolutely sterile when crossed with other hybrids. For if such
phænomena as these were exhibited by only two of those assemblages of
living objects, to which the name of species (whether it be used in its
physiological or in its morphological sense) is given, it would have to
be accounted for by any theory of the origin of species, and every
theory which could not account for it would be, so far, imperfect.

Up to this point we have been dealing with matters of fact, and the
statements which we have laid before the reader would, to the best of
our knowledge, be admitted to contain a fair exposition of what is at
present known respecting the essential properties of species, by all who
have studied the question. And whatever may be his theoretical views, no
naturalist will probably be disposed to demur to the following summary
of that exposition:--

Living beings, whether animals or plants, are divisible into multitudes
of distinctly definable kinds, which are morphological species. They are
also divisible into groups of individuals, which breed freely together,
tending to reproduce their like, and are physiological species. Normally
resembling their parents, the offspring of members of these species are
still liable to vary, and the variation may be perpetuated by selection,
as a race, which race, in many cases, presents all the characteristics
of a morphological species. But it is not as yet proved that a race ever
exhibits, when crossed with another race of the same species, those
phænomena of hybridization which are exhibited by many species when
crossed with other species. On the other hand, not only is it not
proved that all species give rise to hybrids infertile _inter se_, but
there is much reason to believe that, in crossing, species exhibit every
gradation from perfect sterility to perfect fertility.

Such are the most essential characteristics of species. Even were man
not one of them--a member of the same system and subject to the same
laws--the question of their origin, their causal connexion, that is,
with the other phænomena of the universe, must have attracted his
attention, as soon as his intelligence had raised itself above the level
of his daily wants.

Indeed history relates that such was the case, and has embalmed for us
the speculations upon the origin of living beings, which were among the
earliest products of the dawning intellectual activity of man. In those
early days positive knowledge was not to be had, but the craving after
it needed, at all hazards, to be satisfied, and according to the
country, or the turn of thought of the speculator, the suggestion that
all living things arose from the mud of the Nile, from a primeval egg,
or from some more anthropomorphic agency, afforded a sufficient
resting-place for his curiosity. The myths of Paganism are as dead as
Osiris or Zeus, and the man who should revive them, in opposition to the
knowledge of our time, would be justly laughed to scorn; but the coeval
imaginations current among the rude inhabitants of Palestine, recorded
by writers whose very name and age are admitted by every scholar to be
unknown, have unfortunately not yet shared their fate, but, even at this
day, are regarded by nine-tenths of the civilized world as the
authoritative standard of fact and the criterion of the justice of
scientific conclusions, in all that relates to the origin of things,
and, among them, of species. In this nineteenth century, as at the dawn
of modern physical science, the cosmogony of the semi-barbarous Hebrew
is the incubus of the philosopher and the opprobrium of the orthodox.
Who shall number the patient and earnest seekers after truth, from the
days of Galileo until now, whose lives have been embittered and their
good name blasted by the mistaken zeal of Bibliolaters? Who shall count
the host of weaker men whose sense of truth has been destroyed in the
effort to harmonize impossibilities--whose life has been wasted in the
attempt to force the generous new wine of Science into the old bottles
of Judaism, compelled by the outcry of the same strong party?

It is true that if philosophers have suffered, their cause has been
amply avenged. Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every
science as the strangled snakes beside that of Hercules; and history
records that whenever science and orthodoxy have been fairly opposed,
the latter has been forced to retire from the lists, bleeding and
crushed, if not annihilated; scotched, if not slain. But orthodoxy is
the Bourbon of the world of thought. It learns not, neither can it
forget; and though, at present, bewildered and afraid to move, it is as
willing as ever to insist that the first chapter of Genesis contains the
beginning and the end of sound science; and to visit, with such petty
thunderbolts as its half-paralysed hands can hurl, those who refuse to
degrade Nature to the level of primitive Judaism.

Philosophers, on the other hand, have no such aggressive tendencies.
With eyes fixed on the noble goal to which "per aspera et ardua" they
tend, they may, now and then, be stirred to momentary wrath by the
unnecessary obstacles with which the ignorant, or the malicious,
encumber, if they cannot bar, the difficult path; but why should their
souls be deeply vexed? The majesty of Fact is on their side, and the
elemental forces of Nature are working for them. Not a star comes to the
meridian at its calculated time but testifies to the justice of their
methods--their beliefs are "one with the falling rain and with the
growing corn." By doubt they are established, and open inquiry is their
bosom friend. Such men have no fear of traditions however venerable, and
no respect for them when they become mischievous and obstructive; but
they have better than mere antiquarian business in hand, and if dogmas,
which ought to be fossil but are not, are not forced upon their notice,
they are too happy to treat them as non-existent.

The hypotheses respecting the origin of species which profess to stand
upon a scientific basis, and, as such, alone demand serious attention,
are of two kinds. The one, the "special creation" hypothesis, presumes
every species to have originated from one or more stocks, these not
being the result of the modification of any other form of living
matter--or arising by natural agencies--but being produced, as such, by
a supernatural creative act.

The other, the so-called "transmutation" hypothesis, considers that all
existing species are the result of the modification of pre-existing
species, and those of their predecessors, by agencies similar to those
which at the present day produce varieties and races, and therefore in
an altogether natural way; and it is a probable, though not a necessary
consequence of this hypothesis, that all living beings have arisen from
a single stock. With respect to the origin of this primitive stock, or
stocks, the doctrine of the origin of species is obviously not
necessarily concerned. The transmutation hypothesis, for example, is
perfectly consistent either with the conception of a special creation of
the primitive germ, or with the supposition of its having arisen, as a
modification of inorganic matter, by natural causes.

The doctrine of special creation owes its existence very largely to the
supposed necessity of making science accord with the Hebrew cosmogony;
but it is curious to observe that, as the doctrine is at present
maintained by men of science, it is as hopelessly inconsistent with the
Hebrew view as any other hypothesis.

If there be any result which has come more clearly out of geological
investigation than another, it is, that the vast series of extinct
animals and plants is not divisible, as it was once supposed to be, into
distinct groups, separated by sharply marked boundaries. There are no
great gulfs between epochs and formations--no successive periods marked
by the appearance of plants, of water animals, and of land animals, _en
masse_. Every year adds to the list of links between what the older
geologists supposed to be widely separated epochs: witness the crags
linking the drift with the older tertiaries; the Maestricht beds linking
the tertiaries with the chalk; the St. Cassian beds exhibiting an
abundant fauna of mixed mesozoic and palæozoic types, in rocks of an
epoch once supposed to be eminently poor in life; witness, lastly, the
incessant disputes as to whether a given stratum shall be reckoned
devonian or carboniferous, silurian or devonian, cambrian or silurian.

This truth is further illustrated in a most interesting manner by the
impartial and highly competent testimony of M. Pictet, from whose
calculations of what percentage of the genera of animals, existing in
any formation, lived during the preceding formation, it results that in
no case is the proportion less than _one-third_, or 33 per cent. It is
the triassic formation, or the commencement of the mesozoic epoch, which
has received this smallest inheritance from preceding ages. The other
formations not uncommonly exhibit 60, 80, or even 94 per cent. of genera
in common with those whose remains are imbedded in their predecessor.
Not only is this true, but the subdivisions of each formation exhibit
new species characteristic of, and found only in, them; and, in many
cases, as in the lias for example, the separate beds of these
subdivisions are distinguished by well-marked and peculiar forms of
life. A section, a hundred feet thick, will exhibit, at different
heights, a dozen species of ammonite, none of which passes beyond its
particular zone of limestone, or clay, into the zone below it or into
that above it; so that those who adopt the doctrine of special creation
must be prepared to admit that at intervals of time, corresponding with
the thickness of these beds, the Creator thought fit to interfere with
the natural course of events for the purpose of making a new ammonite.
It is not easy to transplant oneself into the frame of mind of those who
can accept such a conclusion as this, on any evidence short of absolute
demonstration; and it is difficult to see what is to be gained by so
doing, since, as we have said, it is obvious that such a view of the
origin of living beings is utterly opposed to the Hebrew cosmogony.
Deserving no aid from the powerful arm of bibliolatry, then, does the
received form of the hypothesis of special creation derive any support
from science or sound logic? Assuredly not much. The arguments brought
forward in its favour all take one form: If species were not
supernaturally created, we cannot understand the facts _x_, or _y_, or
_z_; we cannot understand the structure of animals or plants, unless we
suppose they were contrived for special ends; we cannot understand the
structure of the eye, except by supposing it to have been made to see
with; we cannot understand instincts, unless we suppose animals to have
been miraculously endowed with them.

As a question of dialectics, it must be admitted that this sort of
reasoning is not very formidable to those who are not to be frightened
by consequences. It is an _argumentum ad ignorantiam_--take this
explanation or be ignorant. But suppose we prefer to admit our ignorance
rather than adopt a hypothesis at variance with all the teachings of
Nature? Or, suppose for a moment we admit the explanation, and then
seriously ask ourselves how much the wiser are we; what does the
explanation explain? Is it any more than a grandiloquent way of
announcing the fact, that we really know nothing about the matter? A
phenomenon is explained when it is shown to be a case of some general
law of Nature; but the supernatural interposition of the Creator can, by
the nature of the case, exemplify no law, and if species have really
arisen in this way, it is absurd to attempt to discuss their origin.

Or, lastly, let us ask ourselves whether any amount of evidence which
the nature of our faculties permits us to attain, can justify us in
asserting that any phænomenon is out of the reach of natural causation.
To this end it is obviously necessary that we should know all the
consequences to which all possible combinations, continued through
unlimited time, can give rise. If we knew these, and found none
competent to originate species, we should have good ground for denying
their origin by natural causation. Till we know them, any hypothesis is
better than one which involves us in such miserable presumption.

But the hypothesis of special creation is not only a mere specious mask
for our ignorance; its existence in Biology marks the youth and
imperfection of the science. For what is the history of every science
but the history of the elimination of the notion of creative, or other
interferences, with the natural order of the phænomena which are the
subject-matter of that science? When Astronomy was young "the morning
stars sang together for joy," and the planets were guided in their
courses by celestial hands. Now, the harmony of the stars has resolved
itself into gravitation according to the inverse squares of the
distances, and the orbits of the planets are deducible from the laws of
the forces which allow a schoolboy's stone to break a window. The
lightning was the angel of the Lord; but it has pleased Providence, in
these modern times, that science should make it the humble messenger of
man, and we know that every flash that shimmers about the horizon on a
summer's evening is determined by ascertainable conditions, and that its
direction and brightness might, if our knowledge of these were great
enough, have been calculated.

The solvency of great mercantile companies rests on the validity of the
laws which have been ascertained to govern the seeming irregularity of
that human life which the moralist bewails as the most uncertain of
things; plague, pestilence, and famine are admitted, by all but fools,
to be the natural result of causes for the most part fully within human
control, and not the unavoidable tortures inflicted by wrathful
Omnipotence upon his helpless handiwork.

Harmonious order governing eternally continuous progress--the web and
woof of matter and force interweaving by slow degrees, without a broken
thread, that veil which lies between us and the Infinite--that universe
which alone we know or can know; such is the picture which science draws
of the world, and in proportion as any part of that picture is in unison
with the rest, so may we feel sure that it is rightly painted. Shall
Biology alone remain out of harmony with her sister sciences?

Such arguments against the hypothesis of the direct creation of species
as these are plainly enough deducible from general considerations; but
there are, in addition, phænomena exhibited by species themselves, and
yet not so much a part of their very essence as to have required earlier
mention, which are in the highest degree perplexing, if we adopt the
popularly accepted hypothesis. Such are the facts of distribution in
space and in time; the singular phænomena brought to light by the study
of development; the structural relations of species upon which our
systems of classification are founded; the great doctrines of
philosophical anatomy, such as that of homology, or of the community of
structural plan exhibited by large groups of species differing very
widely in their habits and functions.

The species of animals which inhabit the sea on opposite sides of the
isthmus of Panama are wholly distinct;[63] the animals and plants which
inhabit islands are commonly distinct from those of the neighbouring
mainlands, and yet have a similarity of aspect. The mammals of the
latest tertiary epoch in the Old and New Worlds belong to the same
genera, or family groups, as those which now inhabit the same great
geographical area. The crocodilian reptiles which existed in the
earliest secondary epoch were similar in general structure to those now
living, but exhibit slight differences in their vertebræ, nasal
passages, and one or two other points. The guinea-pig has teeth which
are shed before it is born, and hence can never subserve the masticatory
purpose for which they seem contrived, and, in like manner, the female
dugong has tusks which never cut the gum. All the members of the same
great group run through similar conditions in their development, and all
their parts, in the adult state, are arranged according to the same
plan. Man is more like a gorilla than a gorilla is like a lemur. Such
are a few, taken at random, among the multitudes of similar facts which
modern research has established; but when the student seeks for an
explanation of them from the supporters of the received hypothesis of
the origin of species, the reply he receives is, in substance, of
Oriental simplicity and brevity--"Mashallah! it so pleases God!" There
are different species on opposite sides of the isthmus of Panama,
because they were created different on the two sides. The pliocene
mammals are like the existing ones, because such was the plan of
creation; and we find rudimental organs and similarity of plan, because
it has pleased the Creator to set before himself a "divine exemplar or
archetype," and to copy it in his works; and somewhat ill, those who
hold this view imply, in some of them. That such verbal hocus-pocus
should be received as science will one day be regarded as evidence of
the low state of intelligence in the nineteenth century, just as we
amuse ourselves with the phraseology about Nature's abhorrence of a
vacuum, wherewith Torricelli's compatriots were satisfied to explain the
rise of water in a pump. And be it recollected that this sort of
satisfaction works not only negative but positive ill, by discouraging
inquiry, and so depriving man of the usufruct of one of the most fertile
fields of his great patrimony, Nature.

The objections to the doctrine of the origin of species by special
creation which have been detailed, must have occurred, with more or less
force, to the mind of every one who has seriously and independently
considered the subject. It is therefore no wonder that, from time to
time, this hypothesis should have been met by counter hypotheses, all as
well, and some better, founded than itself; and it is curious to remark
that the inventors of the opposing views seem to have been led into them
as much by their knowledge of geology, as by their acquaintance with
biology. In fact, when the mind has once admitted the conception of the
gradual production of the present physical state of our globe, by
natural causes operating through long ages of time, it will be little
disposed to allow that living beings have made their appearance in
another way, and the speculations of De Maillet and his successors are
the natural complement of Scilla's demonstration of the true nature of

A contemporary of Newton and of Leibnitz, sharing therefore in the
intellectual activity of the remarkable age which witnessed the birth of
modern physical science, Benoît de Maillet spent a long life as a
consular agent of the French Government in various Mediterranean ports.
For sixteen years, in fact, he held the office of Consul-General in
Egypt, and the wonderful phænomena offered by the valley of the Nile
appear to have strongly impressed his mind, to have directed his
attention to all facts of a similar order which came within his
observation, and to have led him to speculate on the origin of the
present condition of our globe and of its inhabitants. But, with all his
ardour for science, De Maillet seems to have hesitated to publish views
which, notwithstanding the ingenious attempts to reconcile them with the
Hebrew hypothesis contained in the preface to "Telliamed," were hardly
likely to be received with favour by his contemporaries.

But a short time had elapsed since more than one of the great anatomists
and physicists of the Italian school had paid dearly for their
endeavours to dissipate some of the prevalent errors; and their
illustrious pupil, Harvey, the founder of modern physiology, had not
fared so well, in a country less oppressed by the benumbing influences
of theology, as to tempt any man to follow his example. Probably not
uninfluenced by these considerations, his Catholic majesty's
Consul-General for Egypt kept his theories to himself throughout a long
life, for "Telliamed," the only scientific work which is known to have
proceeded from his pen, was not printed till 1735, when its author had
reached the ripe age of seventy-nine; and though De Maillet lived three
years longer, his book was not given to the world before 1748. Even then
it was anonymous to those who were not in the secret of the anagramatic
character of its title; and the preface and dedication are so worded as,
in case of necessity, to give the printer a fair chance of falling back
on the excuse that the work was intended for a mere _jeu d'esprit_.

The speculations of the supposititious Indian sage, though quite as
sound as those of many a "Mosaic Geology," which sells exceedingly well,
have no great value if we consider them by the light of modern science.
The waters are supposed to have originally covered the whole globe; to
have deposited the rocky masses which compose its mountains by processes
comparable to those which are now forming mud, sand, and shingle; and
then to have gradually lowered their level, leaving the spoils of their
animal and vegetable inhabitants embedded in the strata. As the dry land
appeared, certain of the aquatic animals are supposed to have taken to
it, and to have become gradually adapted to terrestrial and aërial modes
of existence. But if we regard the general tenor and style of the
reasoning in relation to the state of knowledge of the day, two
circumstances appear very well worthy of remark. The first, that De
Maillet had a notion of the modifiability of living forms (though
without any precise information on the subject), and how such
modifiability might account for the origin of species; the second, that
he very clearly apprehended the great modern geological doctrine, so
strongly insisted upon by Hutton, and so ably and comprehensively
expounded by Lyell, that we must look to existing causes for the
explanation of past geological events. Indeed, the following passage of
the preface, in which De Maillet is supposed to speak of the Indian
philosopher Telliamed, his _alter ego_, might have been written by the
most philosophical uniformitarian of the present day:--

     "Ce qu'il y a d'étonnant, est que pour arriver à ces connoissances
     il semble avoir perverti l'ordre naturel, pui-qu'au lieu de
     s'attacher d'abord à rechercher l'origine de notre globe il a
     commencé par travailler à s'instruire de la nature. Mais à
     l'entendre, ce renversement de l'ordre a été pour lui l'effet d'un
     génie favorable qui l'a conduit pas à pas et comme par la main aux
     découvertes les plus sublimes. C'est en décomposant la substance de
     ce globe par une anatomie exacte de toutes ses parties qu'il a
     premièrement appris de quelles matières il etait composé et quels
     arrangemens ces mêmes matières observaient entre elles. Ces
     lumières jointes à l'esprit de comparaison toujours nécessaire à
     quiconque entreprend de percer les voiles dont la nature aime à se
     cacher, ont servi de guide à notre philosophe pour parvenir à des
     connoissances plus intéressantes. Par la matière et l'arrangement
     de ces compositions il prétend avoir reconnu quelle est la
     véritable origine de ce globe que nous habitons, comment et par qui
     il a été formé."--Pp. xix. xx.

But De Maillet was before his age, and as could hardly fail to happen to
one who speculated on a zoological and botanical question before
Linnæus, and on a physiological problem before Haller, he fell into
great errors here and there; and hence, perhaps, the general neglect of
his work. Robinet's speculations are rather behind, than in advance of,
those of De Maillet; and though Linnæus may have played with the
hypothesis of transmutation, it obtained no serious support until
Lamarck adopted it, and advocated it with great ability in his
"Philosophie Zoologique."

Impelled towards the hypothesis of the transmutation of species, partly
by his general cosmological and geological views; partly by the
conception of a graduated, though irregularly branching, scale of being,
which had arisen out of his profound study of plants and of the lower
forms of animal life, Lamarck, whose general line of thought often
closely resembles that of De Maillet, made a great advance upon the
crude and merely speculative manner in which that writer deals with the
question of the origin of living beings, by endeavouring to find
physical causes competent to effect that change of one species into
another, which De Maillet had only supposed to occur. And Lamarck
conceived that he had found in Nature such causes, amply sufficient for
the purpose in view. It is a physiological fact, he says, that organs
are increased in size by action, atrophied by inaction; it is another
physiological fact that modifications produced are transmissible to
offspring. Change the actions of an animal, therefore, and you will
change its structure, by increasing the development of the parts newly
brought into use and by the diminution of those less used; but by
altering the circumstances which surround it you will alter its actions,
and hence, in the long run, change of circumstance must produce change
of organization. All the species of animals, therefore, are, in
Lamarck's view, the result of the indirect action of changes of
circumstance upon those primitive germs which he considered to have
originally arisen, by spontaneous generation, within the waters of the
globe. It is curious, however, that Lamarck should insist so
strongly[64] as he has done, that circumstances never in any degree
directly modify the form or the organization of animals, but only
operate by changing their wants and consequently their actions; for he
thereby brings upon himself the obvious question, how, then, do plants,
which cannot be said to have wants or actions, become modified? To this
he replies, that they are modified by the changes in their nutritive
processes, which are effected by changing circumstances; and it does not
seem to have occurred to him that such changes might be as well supposed
to take place among animals.

When we have said that Lamarck felt that mere speculation was not the
way to arrive at the origin of species, but that it was necessary, in
order to the establishment of any sound theory on the subject, to
discover by observation or otherwise, some _vera causa_, competent to
give rise to them; that he affirmed the true order of classification to
coincide with the order of their development one from another; that he
insisted on the necessity of allowing sufficient time, very strongly;
and that all the varieties of instinct and reason were traced back by
him to the same cause as that which has given rise to species, we have
enumerated his chief contributions to the advance of the question. On
the other hand, from his ignorance of any power in Nature competent to
modify the structure of animals, except the development of parts, or
atrophy of them, in consequence of a change of needs, Lamarck was led to
attach infinitely greater weight than it deserves to this agency, and
the absurdities into which he was led have met with deserved
condemnation. Of the struggle for existence, on which, as, we shall
see, Mr. Darwin lays such great stress, he had no conception; indeed, he
doubts whether there really are such things as extinct species, unless
they be such large animals as may have met their death at the hands of
man; and so little does he dream of there being any other destructive
causes at work, that, in discussing the possible existence of fossil
shells, he asks, "Pourquoi d'ailleurs seroient-ils perdues dès que
l'homme n'a pu opérer leur destruction?" (Phil. Zool., vol. i. p. 77.)
Of the influence of selection Lamarck has as little notion, and he makes
no use of the wonderful phænomena which are exhibited by domesticated
animals, and illustrate its powers. The vast influence of Cuvier was
employed against the Lamarckian views, and, as the untenability of some
of his conclusions was easily shown, his doctrines sank under the
opprobium of scientific, as well as of theological, heterodoxy. Nor have
the efforts made of late years to revive them tended to re-establish
their credit in the minds of sound thinkers acquainted with the facts of
the case; indeed it may be doubted whether Lamarck has not suffered more
from his friends than from his foes.

Two years ago, in fact, though we venture to question if even the
strongest supporters of the special creation hypothesis had not, now and
then, an uneasy consciousness that all was not right, their position
seemed more impregnable than ever, if not by its own inherent strength,
at any rate by the obvious failure of all the attempts which had been
made to carry it. On the other hand, however much the few, who thought
deeply on the question of species, might be repelled by the generally
received dogmas, they saw no way of escaping from them, save by the
adoption of suppositions, so little justified by experiment or by
observation, as to be at least equally distasteful.

The choice lay between two absurdities and a middle condition of uneasy
scepticism; which last, however unpleasant and unsatisfactory, was
obviously the only justifiable state of mind under the circumstances.

Such being the general ferment in the minds of naturalists, it is no
wonder that they mustered strong in the rooms of the Linnæan Society, on
the 1st of July of the year 1858, to hear two papers by authors living
on opposite sides of the globe, working out their results independently,
and yet professing to have discovered one and the same solution of all
the problems connected with species. The one of these authors was an
able naturalist, Mr. Wallace, who had been employed for some years in
studying the productions of the islands of the Indian Archipelago, and
who had forwarded a memoir embodying his views to Mr. Darwin, for
communication to the Linnæan Society. On perusing the essay, Mr. Darwin
was not a little surprised to find that it embodied some of the leading
ideas of a great work which he had been preparing for twenty years, and
parts of which, containing a development of the very same views, had
been perused by his private friends fifteen or sixteen years before.
Perplexed in what manner to do full justice both to his friend and to
himself, Mr. Darwin placed the matter in the hands of Dr. Hooker and Sir
Charles Lyell, by whose advice he communicated a brief abstract of his
own views to the Linnæan Society, at the same time that Mr. Wallace's
paper was read. Of that abstract, the work on the "Origin of Species" is
an enlargement; but a complete statement of Mr. Darwin's doctrine is
looked for in the large and well-illustrated work which he is said to be
preparing for publication.

The Darwinian hypothesis has the merit of being eminently simple and
comprehensible in principle, and its essential positions may be stated
in a very few words: all species have been produced by the development
of varieties from common stocks by the conversion of these first into
permanent races and then into new species, by the process of _natural
selection_, which process is essentially identical with that artificial
selection by which man has originated the races of domestic animals--the
_struggle for existence_ taking the place of man, and exerting, in the
case of natural selection, that selective action which he performs in
artificial selection.

The evidence brought forward by Mr. Darwin in support of his hypothesis
is of three kinds. First, he endeavours to prove that species may be
originated by selection; secondly, he attempts to show that natural
causes are competent to exert selection; and thirdly, he tries to prove
that the most remarkable and apparently anomalous phænomena exhibited by
the distribution, development, and mutual relations of species, can be
shown to be deducible from the general doctrine of their origin, which
he propounds, combined with the known facts of geological change; and
that, even if all these phænomena are not at present explicable by it,
none are necessarily inconsistent with it.

There cannot be a doubt that the method of inquiry which Mr. Darwin has
adopted is not only rigorously in accordance with the canons of
scientific logic, but that it is the only adequate method. Critics
exclusively trained in classics or in mathematics, who have never
determined a scientific fact in their lives by induction from experiment
or observation, prate learnedly about Mr. Darwin's method, which is not
inductive enough, not Baconian enough, forsooth, for them. But even if
practical acquaintance with the process of scientific investigation is
denied them, they may learn, by the perusal of Mr. Mill's admirable
chapter "On the Deductive Method," that there are multitudes of
scientific inquiries, in which the method of pure induction helps the
investigator but a very little way.

     "The mode of investigation," says Mr. Mill, "which, from the proved
     inapplicability of direct methods of observation and experiment,
     remains to us as the main source of the knowledge we possess, or
     can acquire, respecting the conditions and laws of recurrence of
     the more complex phænomena, is called, in its most general
     expression, the deductive method, and consists of three operations:
     the first, one of direct induction; the second, of ratiocination;
     and the third, of verification."

Now, the conditions which have determined the existence of species are
not only exceedingly complex, but, so far as the great majority of them
are concerned, are necessarily beyond our cognizance. But what Mr.
Darwin has attempted to do is in exact accordance with the rule laid
down by Mr. Mill; he has endeavoured to determine certain great facts
inductively, by observation and experiment; he has then reasoned from
the data thus furnished; and lastly, he has tested the validity of his
ratiocination by comparing his deductions with the observed facts of
Nature. Inductively, Mr. Darwin endeavours to prove that species arise
in a given way. Deductively, he desires to show that, if they arise in
that way, the facts of distribution, development, classification, &c.,
may be accounted for, _i.e._ may be deduced from their mode of origin,
combined with admitted changes in physical geography and climate, during
an indefinite period. And this explanation, or coincidence of observed
with deduced facts, is, so far as it extends, a verification of the
Darwinian view.

There is no fault to be found with Mr. Darwin's method, then; but it is
another question whether he has fulfilled all the conditions imposed by
that method. Is it satisfactorily proved, in fact, that species may be
originated by selection? that there is such a thing as natural
selection? that none of the phænomena exhibited by species are
inconsistent with the origin of species in this way? If these questions
can be answered in the affirmative, Mr. Darwin's view steps out of the
ranks of hypotheses into those of proved theories; but, so long as the
evidence at present adduced falls short of enforcing that affirmation,
so long, to our minds, must the new doctrine be content to remain among
the former--an extremely valuable, and in the highest degree probable,
doctrine, indeed the only extant hypothesis which is worth anything in a
scientific point of view; but still a hypothesis, and not yet the theory
of species.

After much consideration, and with assuredly no bias against Mr.
Darwin's views, it is our clear conviction that, as the evidence stands,
it is not absolutely proven that a group of animals, having all the
characters exhibited by species in Nature, has ever been originated by
selection, whether artificial or natural. Groups having the
morphological character of species, distinct and permanent races in
fact, have been so produced over and over again; but there is no
positive evidence, at present, that any group of animals has, by
variation and selective breeding, given rise to another group which was
even in the least degree infertile with the first. Mr. Darwin is
perfectly aware of this weak point, and brings forward a multitude of
ingenious and important arguments to diminish the force of the
objection. We admit the value of these arguments to their fullest
extent; nay, we will go so far as to express our belief that
experiments, conducted by a skilful physiologist, would very probably
obtain the desired production of mutually more or less infertile breeds
from a common stock, in a comparatively few years; but still, as the
case stands at present, this "little rift within the lute" is not to be
disguised nor overlooked.

In the remainder of Mr. Darwin's argument our own private ingenuity has
not hitherto enabled us to pick holes of any great importance; and
judging by what we hear and read, other adventurers in the same field do
not seem to have been much more fortunate. It has been urged, for
instance, that in his chapters on the struggle for existence and on
natural selection, Mr. Darwin does not so much prove that natural
selection does occur, as that it must occur; but, in fact, no other sort
of demonstration is attainable. A race does not attract our attention in
Nature until it has, in all probability, existed for a considerable
time, and then it is too late to inquire into the conditions of its
origin. Again, it is said that there is no real analogy between the
selection which takes place under domestication, by human influence, and
any operation which can be effected by Nature, for man interferes
intelligently. Reduced to its elements, this argument implies that an
effect produced with trouble by an intelligent agent must, _à fortiori_,
be more troublesome, if not impossible, to an unintelligent agent. Even
putting aside the question whether Nature, acting as she does according
to definite and invariable laws, can be rightly called an unintelligent
agent, such a position as this is wholly untenable. Mix salt and sand,
and it shall puzzle the wisest of men, with his mere natural appliances,
to separate all the grains of sand from all the grains of salt; but a
shower of rain will effect the same object in ten minutes. And so, while
man may find it tax all his intelligence to separate any variety which
arises, and to breed selectively from it, the destructive agencies
incessantly at work in Nature, if they find one variety to be more
soluble in circumstances than the other, will inevitably, in the long
run, eliminate it.

A frequent and a just objection to the Lamarckian hypothesis of the
transmutation of species is based upon the absence of transitional forms
between many species. But against the Darwinian hypothesis this argument
has no force. Indeed, one of the most valuable and suggestive parts of
Mr. Darwin's work is that in which he proves, that the frequent absence
of transitions is a necessary consequence of his doctrine, and that the
stock whence two or more species have sprung, need in no respect be
intermediate between these species. If any two species have arisen from
a common stock in the same way as the carrier and the pouter, say, have
arisen from the rock-pigeon, then the common stock of these two species
need be no more intermediate between the two than the rock-pigeon is
between the carrier and pouter. Clearly appreciate the force of this
analogy, and all the arguments against the origin of species by
selection, based on the absence of transitional forms, fall to the
ground. And Mr. Darwin's position might, we think, have been even
stronger than it is if he had not embarrassed himself with the aphorism,
"_Natura non facit saltum_," which turns up so often in his pages. We
believe, as we have said above, that Nature does make jumps now and
then, and a recognition of the fact is of no small importance in
disposing of many minor objections to the doctrine of transmutation.

But we must pause. The discussion of Mr. Darwin's arguments in detail
would lead us far beyond the limits within which we proposed, at
starting, to confine this article. Our object has been attained if we
have given an intelligible, however brief, account of the established
facts connected with species, and of the relation of the explanation of
those facts offered by Mr. Darwin to the theoretical views held by his
predecessors and his contemporaries, and, above all, to the requirements
of scientific logic. We have ventured to point out that it does not, as
yet, satisfy all those requirements; but we do not hesitate to assert
that it is as superior to any preceding or contemporary hypothesis, in
the extent of observational and experimental basis on which it rests, in
its rigorously scientific method, and in its power of explaining
biological phænomena, as was the hypothesis of Copernicus to the
speculations of Ptolemy. But the planetary orbits turned out to be not
quite circular after all, and, grand as was the service Copernicus
rendered to science, Kepler and Newton had to come after him. What if
the orbit of Darwinism should be a little too circular? What if species
should offer residual phænomena, here and there, not explicable by
natural selection? Twenty years hence naturalists may be in a position
to say whether this is, or is not, the case; but in either event they
will owe the author of "The Origin of Species" an immense debt of
gratitude. We should leave a very wrong impression on the reader's mind
if we permitted him to suppose that the value of that work depends
wholly on the ultimate justification of the theoretical views which it
contains. On the contrary, if they were disproved to-morrow, the book
would still be the best of its kind--the most compendious statement of
well-sifted facts bearing on the doctrine of species that has ever
appeared. The chapters on Variation, on the Struggle for Existence, on
Instinct, on Hybridism, on the Imperfection of the Geological Record, on
Geographical Distribution, have not only no equals, but, so far as our
knowledge goes, no competitors, within the range of biological
literature. And viewed as a whole, we do not believe that, since the
publication of Von Baer's Researches on Development, thirty years ago,
any work has appeared calculated to exert so large an influence, not
only on the future of Biology, but in extending the domination of
Science over regions of thought into which she has, as yet, hardly


[61] On the Osteology of the Chimpanzees and Orangs: Transactions of the
Zoological Society, 1858.

[62] Colonel Humphreys' statements are exceedingly explicit on this
point:--"When an Ancon ewe is impregnated by a common ram, the increase
resembles wholly either the ewe or the ram. The increase of the common
ewe impregnated by an Ancon ram follows entirely the one or the other,
without blending any of the distinguishing and essential peculiarities
of both. Frequent instances have happened where common ewes have had
twins by Ancon rams, when one exhibited the complete marks and features
of the ewe, the other of the ram. The contrast has been rendered
singularly striking, when one short-legged and one long-legged lamb,
produced at a birth, have been seen sucking the dam at the same
time."--_Philosophical Transactions_, 1813, Pt. I., pp. 89, 90.

[63] Recent investigations tend to show that this statement is not
strictly accurate.--1870.

[64] See Phil. Zoologique, vol. i. p. 222, et seq.



     KÖLLIKER. Leipzig, 1864.

     PAR P. FLOURENS. Paris, 1864.

In the course of the present year [1864] several foreign commentaries
upon Mr. Darwin's great work have made their appearance. Those who have
perused that remarkable chapter of the "Antiquity of Man," in which Sir
Charles Lyell draws a parallel between the development of species and
that of languages, will be glad to hear that one of the most eminent
philologers of Germany, Professor Schleicher, has, independently,
published a most instructive and philosophical pamphlet (an excellent
notice of which is to be found in the _Reader_, for February 27th of
this year) supporting similar views with all the weight of his special
knowledge and established authority as a linguist. Professor Haeckel, to
whom Schleicher addresses himself, previously took occasion, in his
splendid monograph on the _Radiolaria_,[65] to express his high
appreciation of, and general concordance with, Mr. Darwin's views.

But the most elaborate criticisms of the "Origin of Species" which have
appeared are two works of very widely different merit, the one by
Professor Kölliker, the well-known anatomist and histologist of
Würzburg; the other by M. Flourens, Perpetual Secretary of the French
Academy of Sciences.

Professor Kölliker's critical essay "Upon the Darwinian Theory" is, like
all that proceeds from the pen of that thoughtful and accomplished
writer, worthy of the most careful consideration. It comprises a brief
but clear sketch of Darwin's views, followed by an enumeration of the
leading difficulties in the way of their acceptance; difficulties which
would appear to be insurmountable to Professor Kölliker, inasmuch as he
proposes to replace Mr. Darwin's Theory by one which he terms the
"Theory of Heterogeneous Generation." We shall proceed to consider first
the destructive, and secondly, the constructive portion of the essay.

We regret to find ourselves compelled to dissent very widely from many
of Professor Kölliker's remarks; and from none more thoroughly than from
those in which he seeks to define what we may term the philosophical
position of Darwinism.

     "Darwin," says Professor Kölliker, "is, in the fullest sense of the
     Word, a Teleologist. He says quite distinctly (First Edition, pp.
     199, 200) that every particular in the structure of an animal has
     been created for its benefit, and he regards the whole series of
     animal forms only from this point of view."

And again:

     "7. The teleological general conception adopted by Darwin is a
     mistaken one.

     "Varieties arise irrespectively of the notion of purpose, or of
     utility, according to general laws of Nature, and may be either
     useful, or hurtful, or indifferent.

     "The assumption that an organism exists only on account of some
     definite end in view, and represents something more than the
     incorporation of a general idea, or law, implies a one-sided
     conception of the universe. Assuredly, every organ has, and every
     organism fulfils, its end, but its purpose is not the condition of
     its existence. Every organism is also sufficiently perfect for the
     purpose it serves, and in that, at least, it is useless to seek for
     a cause of its improvement."

It is singular how differently one and the same book will impress
different minds. That which struck the present writer most forcibly on
his first perusal of the "Origin of Species" was the conviction that
Teleology, as commonly understood, had received its deathblow at Mr.
Darwin's hands. For the teleological argument runs thus: an organ or
organism (A) is precisely fitted to perform a function or purpose (B);
therefore it was specially constructed to perform that function. In
Paley's famous illustration, the adaptation of all the parts of the
watch to the function, or purpose, of showing the time, is held to be
evidence that the watch was specially contrived to that end; on the
ground, that the only cause we know of, competent to produce such an
effect as a watch which shall keep time, is a contriving intelligence
adapting the means directly to that end.

Suppose, however, that any one had been able to show that the watch had
not been made directly by any person, but that it was the result of the
modification of another watch which kept time but poorly; and that this
again had proceeded from a structure which could hardly be called a
watch at all--seeing that it had no figures on the dial and the hands
were rudimentary; and that going back and back in time we came at last
to a revolving barrel as the earliest traceable rudiment of the whole
fabric. And imagine that it had been possible to show that all these
changes had resulted, first, from a tendency of the structure to vary
indefinitely; and secondly, from something in the surrounding world
which helped all variations in the direction of an accurate time-keeper,
and checked all those in other directions; then it is obvious that the
force of Paley's argument would be gone. For it would be demonstrated
that an apparatus thoroughly well adapted to a particular purpose might
be the result of a method of trial and error worked by unintelligent
agents, as well as of the direct application of the means appropriate to
that end, by an intelligent agent.

Now it appears to us that what we have here, for illustration's sake,
supposed to be done with the watch, is exactly what the establishment of
Darwin's Theory will do for the organic world. For the notion that every
organism has been created as it is and launched straight at a purpose,
Mr. Darwin substitutes the conception of something which may fairly be
termed a method of trial and error. Organisms vary incessantly; of these
variations the few meet with surrounding conditions which suit them and
thrive; the many are unsuited and become extinguished.

According to Teleology, each organism is like a rifle bullet fired
straight at a mark; according to Darwin, organisms are like grapeshot of
which one hits something and the rest fall wide.

For the teleologist an organism exists because it was made for the
conditions in which it is found; for the Darwinian an organism exists
because, out of many of its kind, it is the only one which has been
able to persist in the conditions in which it is found.

Teleology implies that the organs of every organism are perfect and
cannot be improved; the Darwinian theory simply affirms that they work
well enough to enable the organism to hold its own against such
competitors as it has met with, but admits the possibility of indefinite
improvement. But an example may bring into clearer light the profound
opposition between the ordinary teleological, and the Darwinian,

Cats catch mice, small birds and the like, very well. Teleology tells us
that they do so because they were expressly constructed for so
doing--that they are perfect mousing apparatuses, so perfect and so
delicately adjusted that no one of their organs could be altered,
without the change involving the alteration of all the rest. Darwinism
affirms, on the contrary, that there was no express construction
concerned in the matter; but that among the multitudinous variations of
the Feline stock, many of which died out from want of power to resist
opposing influences, some, the cats, were better fitted to catch mice
than others, whence they throve and persisted, in proportion to the
advantage over their fellows thus offered to them.

Far from imagining that cats exist _in order_ to catch mice well,
Darwinism supposes that cats exist _because_ they catch mice
well--mousing being not the end, but the condition, of their existence.
And if the cat-type has long persisted as we know it, the interpretation
of the fact upon Darwinian principles would be, not that the cats have
remained invariable, but that such varieties as have incessantly
occurred have been, on the whole, less fitted to get on in the world
than the existing stock.

If we apprehend the spirit of the "Origin of Species" rightly, then,
nothing can be more entirely and absolutely opposed to Teleology, as it
is commonly understood, than the Darwinian Theory. So far from being a
"Teleologist in the fullest sense of the word," we should deny that he
is a Teleologist in the ordinary sense at all; and we should say that,
apart from his merits as a naturalist, he has rendered a most remarkable
service to philosophical thought by enabling the student of Nature to
recognise, to their fullest extent, those adaptations to purpose which
are so striking in the organic world, and which Teleology has done good
service in keeping before our minds, without being false to the
fundamental principles of a scientific conception of the universe. The
apparently diverging teachings of the Teleologist and of the
Morphologist are reconciled by the Darwinian hypothesis.

But leaving our own impressions of the "Origin of Species," and turning
to those passages specially cited by Professor Kölliker, we cannot admit
that they bear the interpretation he puts upon them. Darwin, if we read
him rightly, does _not_ affirm that every detail in the structure of an
animal has been created for its benefit. His words are (p. 199):--

     "The foregoing remarks lead me to say a few words on the protest
     lately made by some naturalists against the utilitarian doctrine
     that every detail of structure has been produced for the good of
     its possessor. They believe that very many structures have been
     created for beauty in the eyes of man, or for mere variety. This
     doctrine, if true, would be absolutely fatal to my theory--yet I
     fully admit that many structures are of no direct use to their

And after sundry illustrations and qualifications, he concludes (p.

     "Hence every detail of structure in every living creature (making
     some little allowance for the direct action of physical conditions)
     may be viewed either as having been of special use to some
     ancestral form, or as being now of special use to the descendants
     of this form--either directly, or indirectly, through the complex
     laws of growth."

But it is one thing to say, Darwinically, that every detail observed in
an animal's structure is of use to it, or has been of use to its
ancestors; and quite another to affirm, teleologically, that every
detail of an animal's structure has been created for its benefit. On the
former hypothesis, for example, the teeth of the foetal _Balæna_ have
a meaning; on the latter, none. So far as we are aware, there is not a
phrase in the "Origin of Species," inconsistent with Professor
Kölliker's position, that "varieties arise irrespectively of the notion
of purpose, or of utility, according to general laws of Nature, and may
be either useful, or hurtful, or indifferent."

On the contrary, Mr. Darwin writes (Summary of Chap. V.):--

     "Our ignorance of the laws of variation is profound. Not in one
     case out of a hundred can we pretend to assign any reason why this
     or that part varies more or less from the same part in the
     parents.... The external conditions of life, as climate and food,
     &c. seem to have induced some slight modifications. Habit, in
     producing constitutional differences, and use, in strengthening,
     and disuse, in weakening and diminishing organs, seem to have been
     more potent in their effects."

And finally, as if to prevent all possible misconception, Mr. Darwin
concludes his Chapter on Variation with these pregnant words:--

     "Whatever the cause may be of each slight difference in the
     offspring from their parents--and a cause for each must exist--it
     is the steady accumulation, through natural selection of such
     differences, when beneficial to the individual, that gives rise to
     all the more important modifications of structure, by which the
     innumerable beings on the face of the earth are enabled to struggle
     with each other, and the best adapted to survive."

We have dwelt at length upon this subject, because of its great general
importance, and because we believe that Professor Kölliker's criticisms
on this head are based upon a misapprehension of Mr. Darwin's
views--substantially they appear to us to coincide with his own. The
other objections which Professor Kölliker enumerates and discusses are
the following:[66]--

     "1. No transitional forms between existing species are known; and
     known varieties, whether selected or spontaneous, never go so far
     as to establish new species."

To this Professor Kölliker appears to attach some weight. He makes the
suggestion that the short-faced tumbler pigeon may be a pathological

     "2. No transitional forms of animals are met with among the organic
     remains of earlier epochs."

Upon this, Professor Kölliker remarks that the absence of transitional
forms in the fossil world, though not necessarily fatal to Darwin's
views, weakens his case.

     "3. The struggle for existence does not take place."

To this objection, urged by Pelzeln, Kölliker, very justly, attaches no

     "4. A tendency of organisms to give rise to useful varieties, and a
     natural selection, do not exist.

     "The varieties which are found arise in consequence of manifold
     external influences, and it is not obvious why they all, or
     partially, should be particularly useful. Each animal suffices for
     its own ends, is perfect of its kind, and needs no further
     development. Should, however, a variety be useful and even maintain
     itself, there is no obvious reason why it should change any
     further. The whole conception of the imperfection of organisms and
     the necessity of their becoming perfected is plainly the weakest
     side of Darwin's Theory, and a _pis aller_ (Nothbehelf) because
     Darwin could think of no other principle by which to explain the
     metamorphoses which, as I also believe, have occurred."

Here again we must venture to dissent completely from Professor
Kölliker's conception of Mr. Darwin's hypothesis. It appears to us to be
one of the many peculiar merits of that hypothesis that it involves no
belief in a necessary and continual progress of organisms.

Again, Mr. Darwin, if we read him aright, assumes no special tendency of
organisms to give rise to useful varieties, and knows nothing of needs
of development, or necessity of perfection. What he says is, in
substance: All organisms vary. It is in the highest degree improbable
that any given variety should have exactly the same relations to
surrounding conditions as the parent stock. In that case it is either
better fitted (when the variation may be called useful), or worse
fitted, to cope with them. If better, it will tend to supplant the
parent stock; if worse, it will tend to be extinguished by the parent

If (as is hardly conceivable) the new variety is so perfectly adapted to
the conditions that no improvement upon it is possible,--it will
persist, because, though it does not cease to vary, the varieties will
be inferior to itself.

If, as is more probable, the new variety is by no means perfectly
adapted to its conditions, but only fairly well adapted to them, it will
persist, so long as none of the varieties which it throws off are
better adapted than itself.

On the other hand, as soon as it varies in a useful way, _i.e._ when the
variation is such as to adapt it more perfectly to its conditions, the
fresh variety will tend to supplant the former.

So far from a gradual progress towards perfection forming any necessary
part of the Darwinian creed, it appears to us that it is perfectly
consistent with indefinite persistence in one state, or with a gradual
retrogression. Suppose, for example, a return of the glacial epoch and a
spread of polar climatal conditions over the whole globe. The operation
of natural selection under these circumstances would tend, on the whole,
to the weeding out of the higher organisms and the cherishing of the
lower forms of life. Cryptogamic vegetation would have the advantage
over Phanerogamic; _Hydrozoa_ over Corals; _Crustacea_ over _Insecta_,
and _Amphipoda_ and _Isopoda_ over the higher _Crustacea_; Cetaceans and
Seals over the _Primates_; the civilization of the Esquimaux over that
of the European.

     "5. Pelzeln has also objected that if the later organisms have
     proceeded from the earlier, the whole developmental series, from
     the simplest to the highest, could not now exist; in such a case
     the simpler organisms must have disappeared."

To this Professor Kölliker replies, with perfect justice, that the
conclusion drawn by Pelzeln does not really follow from Darwin's
premises, and that, if we take the facts of Palæontology as they stand,
they rather support than oppose Darwin's theory.

     "6. Great weight must be attached to the objection brought forward
     by Huxley, otherwise a warm supporter of Darwin's hypothesis, that
     we know of no varieties which are sterile with one another, as is
     the rule among sharply distinguished animal forms.

     "If Darwin is right, it must be demonstrated that forms may be
     produced by selection, which, like the present sharply
     distinguished animal forms, are infertile when coupled with one
     another, and this has not been done."

The weight of this objection is obvious; but our ignorance of the
conditions of fertility and sterility, the want of carefully conducted
experiments extending over long series of years, and the strange
anomalies presented by the results of the cross-fertilization of many
plants, should all, as Mr. Darwin has urged, be taken into account in
considering it.

The seventh objection is that we have already discussed (_suprà_, p.

The eighth and last stands as follows:--

     "8. The developmental theory of Darwin is not needed to enable us
     to understand the regular harmonious progress of the complete
     series of organic forms from the simpler to the more perfect.

     "The existence of general laws of Nature explains this harmony,
     even if we assume that all beings have arisen separately and
     independent of one another. Darwin forgets that inorganic nature,
     in which there can be no thought of a genetic connexion of forms,
     exhibits the same regular plan, the same harmony, as the organic
     world; and that, to cite only one example, there is as much a
     natural system of minerals as of plants and animals."

We do not feel quite sure that we seize Professor Kölliker's meaning
here, but he appears to suggest that the observation of the general
order and harmony which pervade inorganic nature, would lead us to
anticipate a similar order and harmony in the organic world. And this is
no doubt true, but it by no means follows that the particular order and
harmony observed among them should be that which we see. Surely the
stripes of dun horses, and the teeth of the foetal _Balæna_, are not
explained by the "existence of general laws of Nature." Mr. Darwin
endeavours to explain the exact order of organic nature which exists;
not the mere fact that there is some order.

And with regard to the existence of a natural system of minerals; the
obvious reply is that there may be a natural classification of any
objects--of stones on a sea-beach, or of works of art; a natural
classification being simply an assemblage of objects in groups, so as to
express their most important and fundamental resemblances and
differences. No doubt Mr. Darwin believes that those resemblances and
differences upon which our natural systems or classifications of animals
and plants are based, are resemblances and differences which have been
produced genetically, but we can discover no reason for supposing that
he denies the existence of natural classifications of other kinds.

And, after all, is it quite so certain that a genetic relation may not
underlie the classification of minerals? The inorganic world has not
always been what we see it. It has certainly had its metamorphoses, and,
very probably, a long "Entwickelungsgeschichte" out of a nebular
blastema. Who knows how far that amount of likeness among sets of
minerals, in virtue of which they are now grouped into families and
orders, may not be the expression of the common conditions to which that
particular patch of nebulous fog, which may have been constituted by
their atoms, and of which they may be, in the strictest sense, the
descendants, was subjected?

It will be obvious from what has preceded, that we do not agree with
Professor Kölliker in thinking the objections which he brings forward
so weighty as to be fatal to Darwin's view. But even if the case were
otherwise, we should be unable to accept the "Theory of Heterogeneous
Generation" which is offered as a substitute. That theory is thus

     "The fundamental conception of this hypothesis is, that, under the
     influence of a general law of development, the germs of organisms
     produce others different from themselves. This might happen (1) by
     the fecundated ova passing, in the course of their development,
     under particular circumstances, into higher forms; (2) by the
     primitive and later organisms producing other organisms without
     fecundation, out of germs or eggs (Parthenogenesis)."

In favour of this hypothesis, Professor Kölliker adduces the well-known
facts of Agamogenesis, or "alternate generation;" the extreme
dissimilarity of the males and females of many animals; and of the
males, females, and neuters of those insects which live in colonies: and
he defines its relations to the Darwinian theory as follows:--

     "It is obvious that my hypothesis is apparently very similar to
     Darwin's, inasmuch as I also consider that the various forms of
     animals have proceeded directly from one another. My hypothesis of
     the creation of organisms by heterogeneous generation, however, is
     distinguished very essentially from Darwin's by the entire absence
     of the principle of useful variations and their natural selection;
     and my fundamental conception is this, that a great plan of
     development lies at the foundation of the origin of the whole
     organic world, impelling the simpler forms to more and more complex
     developments. How this law operates, what influences determine the
     development of the eggs and germs, and impel them to assume
     constantly new forms, I naturally cannot pretend to say; but I can
     at least adduce the great analogy of the alternation of
     generations. If a _Bipinnaria_, a _Brachialaria_, a _Pluteus_, is
     competent to produce the Echinoderm, which is so widely different
     from it; if a hydroid polype can produce the higher Medusa; if the
     vermiform Trematode 'nurse' can develop within itself the very
     unlike _Cercaria_, it will not appear impossible that the egg, or
     ciliated embryo, of a sponge, for once, under special conditions,
     might become a hydroid polype, or the embryo of a Medusa, an

It is obvious, from these extracts, that Professor Kölliker's hypothesis
is based upon the supposed existence of a close analogy between the
phænomena of Agamogenesis and the production of new species from
pre-existing ones. But is the analogy a real one? We think that it is
not, and, by the hypothesis, cannot be.

For what are the phænomena of Agamogenesis, stated generally? An
impregnated egg develops into an asexual form, A; this gives rise,
asexually, to a second form or forms, B, more or less different from A.
B may multiply asexually again; in the simpler cases, however, it does
not, but, acquiring sexual characters, produces impregnated eggs from
whence A once more arises.

No case of Agamogenesis is known in which, _when A differs widely from
B_, it is itself capable of sexual propagation. No case whatever is
known in which the progeny of B, by sexual generation, is other than a
reproduction of A.

But if this be a true statement of the nature of the process of
Agamogenesis, how can it enable us to comprehend the production of new
species from already existing ones? Let us suppose Hyænas to have
preceded Dogs, and to have produced the latter in this way. Then the
Hyæna will represent A, and the Dog, B. The first difficulty that
presents itself is that the Hyæna must be asexual, or the process will
be wholly without analogy in the world of Agamogenesis. But passing over
this difficulty, and supposing a male and female Dog to be produced at
the same time from the Hyæna stock, the progeny of the pair, if the
analogy of the simpler kinds of Agamogenesis[67] is to be followed,
should be a litter, not of puppies, but of young Hyænas. For the
Agamogenetic series is always, as we have seen, A: B: A: B, &c.;
whereas, for the production of a new species, the series must be A: B:
B: B, &c. The production of new species, or genera, is the extreme
permanent divergence from the primitive stock. All known Agamogenetic
processes, on the other hand, end in a complete return to the primitive
stock. How then is the production of new species to be rendered
intelligible by the analogy of Agamogenesis?

The other alternative put by Professor Kölliker--the passage of
fecundated ova in the course of their development into higher
forms--would, if it occurred, be merely an extreme case of variation in
the Darwinian sense, greater in degree than, but perfectly similar in
kind to, that which occurred when the well-known Ancon Ram was developed
from an ordinary Ewe's ovum. Indeed we have always thought that Mr.
Darwin has unnecessarily hampered himself by adhering so strictly to his
favourite "Natura non facit saltum." We greatly suspect that she does
make considerable jumps in the way of variation now and then, and that
these saltations give rise to some of the gaps which appear to exist in
the series of known forms.

Strongly and freely as we have ventured to disagree with Professor
Kölliker, we have always done so with regret, and we trust without
violating that respect which is due, not only to his scientific eminence
and to the careful study which he has devoted to the subject, but to the
perfect fairness of his argumentation, and the generous appreciation of
the worth of Mr. Darwin's labours which he always displays. It would be
satisfactory to be able to say as much for M. Flourens.

But the Perpetual Secretary of the French Academy of Sciences deals with
Mr. Darwin as the first Napoleon would have treated an "idéologue;" and
while displaying a painful weakness of logic and shallowness of
information, assumes a tone of authority, which always touches upon the
ludicrous, and sometimes passes the limits of good breeding.

For example (p. 56):--

     "M. Darwin continue: 'Aucune distinction absolue n'a été et ne peut
     être établie entre les espèces et les variétés.' Je vous ai déjà
     dit que vous vous trompiez; une distinction absolue sépare les
     variétés d'avec les espèces."

"_Je vous ai déjà dit_; moi, M. le Secrétaire perpétuel de l'Académie
des Sciences: et vous

     'Qui n'êtes rien,
     Pas même Académicien;'

what do you mean by asserting the contrary?" Being devoid of the
blessings of an Academy in England, we are unaccustomed to see our
ablest men treated in this fashion even by a "Perpetual Secretary."

Or again, considering that if there is any one quality of Mr. Darwin's
work to which friends and foes have alike borne witness, it is his
candour and fairness in admitting and discussing objections, what is to
be thought of M. Flourens' assertion, that

     "M. Darwin ne cite que les auteurs qui partagent ses opinions." (P.

Once more (p. 65):

     "Enfin l'ouvrage de M. Darwin a paru. On ne peut qu'être frappé du
     talent de l'auteur. Mais que d'idées obscures, que d'idées fausses!
     Quel jargon métaphysique jeté mal à propos dans l'histoire
     naturelle, qui tombe dans le galimatias dès qu'elle sort des idées
     claires, des idées justes! Quel langage prétentieux et vide!
     Quelles personifications puériles et surannées! O lucidité! O
     solidité de l'esprit Français, que devenez-vous?"

"Obscure ideas," "metaphysical jargon," "pretentious and empty
language," "puerile and superannuated personifications." Mr. Darwin has
many and hot opponents on this side of the Channel and in Germany, but
we do not recollect to have found precisely these sins in the long
catalogue of those hitherto laid to his charge. It is worth while,
therefore, to examine into these discoveries effected solely by the aid
of the "lucidity and solidity" of the mind of M. Flourens.

According to M. Flourens, Mr. Darwin's great error is that he has
personified Nature (p. 10), and further that he has

     "imagined a natural selection: he imagines afterwards that this
     power of selecting (_pouvoir d'élire_) which he gives to Nature is
     similar to the power of man. These two suppositions admitted,
     nothing stops him: he plays with Nature as he likes, and makes her
     do all he pleases." (P. 6.)

And this is the way M. Flourens extinguishes natural selection:

     "Voyons donc encore une fois, ce qu'il peut y avoir de fondé dans
     ce qu'on nomme _élection naturelle_.

     "_L'élection naturelle_ n'est sous un autre nom que la nature. Pour
     un être organísé, la nature n'est que l'organisation, ni plus ni

     "Il faudra donc aussi personnifier _l'organisation_, et dire que
     _l'organisation_ choisit _l'organisation_. _L'election naturelle_
     est cette _forme substantielle_ dont on jonait autrefois avec tant
     de facilité. Aristote disait que 'Si l'art de bâtir était dans le
     bois, cet art agirait comme la nature.' A la place de _l'art de
     bâtir_ M. Darwin met _l'election naturelle_, et c'est tout un: l'un
     n'est pas plus chimérique que l'autre." (P. 31.)

And this is really all that M. Flourens can make of Natural Selection.
We have given the original, in fear lest a translation should be
regarded as a travesty; but with the original before the reader, we may
try to analyse the passage. "For an organized being, Nature is only
organization, neither more nor less."

Organized beings then have absolutely no relation to inorganic nature: a
plant does not depend on soil or sunshine, climate, depth in the ocean,
height above it; the quantity of saline matters in water have no
influence upon animal life; the substitution of carbonic acid for oxygen
in our atmosphere would hurt nobody! That these are absurdities no one
should know better than M. Flourens; but they are logical deductions
from the assertion just quoted, and from the further statement that
natural selection means only that "organization chooses and selects

For if it be once admitted (what no sane man denies) that the chances of
life of any given organism are increased by certain conditions (A) and
diminished by their opposites (B), then it is mathematically certain
that any change of conditions in the direction of (A) will exercise a
selective influence in favour of that organism, tending to its increase
and multiplication, while any change in the direction of (B) will
exercise a selective influence against that organism, tending to its
decrease and extinction.

Or, on the other hand, conditions remaining the same, let a given
organism vary (and no one doubts that they do vary) in two directions:
into one form (a) better fitted to cope with these conditions than the
original stock, and a second (b) less well adapted to them. Then it is
no less certain that the conditions in question must exercise a
selective influence in favour of (a) and against (b), so that (a)
will tend to predominance, and (b) to extirpation.

That M. Flourens should be unable to perceive the logical necessity of
these simple arguments, which lie at the foundation of all Mr. Darwin's
reasoning; that he should confound an irrefragable deduction from the
observed relations of organisms to the conditions which lie around them,
with a metaphysical "forme substantielle," or a chimerical
personification of the powers of Nature, would be incredible, were it
not that other passages of his work leave no room for doubt upon the

     "On imagine une _élection naturelle_ que, pour plus de ménagement,
     on me dit être _inconsciente_, sans s'apercevoir que le contre-sens
     littéral est précisément là: _élection inconsciente_." (P. 52.)

     "J'ai déjà dit ce qu'il faut penser de _l'élection naturelle_. Ou
     _l'élection naturelle_ n'est rien, ou c'est la nature: mais la
     nature douée _d'élection_, mais la nature personnifiée: dernière
     erreur du dernier siècle: Le xix^e ne fait plus de
     personnifications." (P. 53.)

M. Flourens cannot imagine an unconscious selection--it is for him a
contradiction in terms. Did M. Flourens ever visit one of the prettiest
watering-places of "la belle France," the Baie d'Arcachon? If so, he
will probably have passed through the district of the Landes, and will
have had an opportunity of observing the formation of "dunes" on a grand
scale. What are these "dunes?" The winds and waves of the Bay of Biscay
have not much consciousness, and yet they have with great care
"selected," from among an infinity of masses of silex of all shapes and
sizes, which have been submitted to their action, all the grains of sand
below a certain size, and have heaped them by themselves over a great
area. This sand has been "unconsciously selected" from amidst the gravel
in which it first lay with as much precision as if man had "consciously
selected" it by the aid of a sieve. Physical Geology is full of such
selections--of the picking out of the soft from the hard, of the soluble
from the insoluble, of the fusible from the infusible, by natural
agencies to which we are certainly not in the habit of ascribing

But that which wind and sea are to a sandy beach, the sum of influences,
which we term the "conditions of existence," is to living organisms. The
weak are sifted out from the strong. A frosty night "selects" the hardy
plants in a plantation from among the tender ones as effectually as if
it were the wind, and they, the sand and pebbles, of our illustration;
or, on the other hand, as if the intelligence of a gardener had been
operative in cutting the weaker organisms down. The thistle, which has
spread over the Pampas, to the destruction of native plants, has been
more effectually "selected" by the unconscious operation of natural
conditions than if a thousand agriculturists had spent their time in
sowing it.

It is one of Mr. Darwin's many great services to Biological science that
he has demonstrated the significance of these facts. He has shown
that--given variation and given change of conditions--the inevitable
result is the exercise of such an influence upon organisms that one is
helped and another is impeded; one tends to predominate, another to
disappear; and thus the living world bears within itself, and is
surrounded by, impulses towards incessant change.

But the truths just stated are as certain as any other physical laws,
quite independently of the truth, or falsehood, of the hypothesis which
Mr. Darwin has based upon them; and that M. Flourens, missing the
substance and grasping at a shadow, should be blind to the admirable
exposition of them, which Mr. Darwin has given, and see nothing there
but a "dernière erreur du dernier siècle"--a personification of
Nature--leads us indeed to cry with him: "O lucidité! O solidité de
l'esprit Français, que devenez-vous?"

M. Flourens has, in fact, utterly failed to comprehend the first
principles of the doctrine which he assails so rudely. His objections to
details are of the old sort, so battered and hackneyed on this side of
the Channel, that not even a Quarterly Reviewer could be induced to pick
them up for the purpose of pelting Mr. Darwin over again. We have Cuvier
and the mummies; M. Roulin and the domesticated animals of America; the
difficulties presented by hybridism and by Palæontology; Darwinism a
_rifacciamento_ of De Maillet and Lamarck; Darwinism a system without a
commencement, and its author bound to believe in M. Pouchet, &c. &c. How
one knows it all by heart, and with what relief one reads at p. 65--

     "Je laisse M. Darwin!"

But we cannot leave M. Flourens without calling our readers' attention
to his wonderful tenth chapter, "De la Préexistence des Germes et de
l'Epigénèse," which opens thus:--

     "Spontaneous generation is only a chimæra. This point established,
     two hypotheses remain: that of _pre-existence_ and that of
     _epigenesis_. The one of these hypotheses has as little foundation
     as the other." (P. 163.)

     "The doctrine of _epigenesis_ is derived from Harvey: following by
     ocular inspection the development of the new being in the Windsor
     does, he saw each part appear successively, and taking the moment
     of _appearance_ for the moment of _formation_ he imagined
     _epigenesis_." (P. 165.)

On the contrary, says M. Flourens (p. 167),

     "The new being is formed at a stroke (_tout d'un coup_), as a
     whole, instantaneously; it is not formed part by part, and at
     different times. It is formed at once; it is formed at the single
     _individual_ moment at which the conjunction of the male and female
     elements takes place."

It will be observed that M. Flourens uses language which cannot be
mistaken. For him, the labours of Von Baer, of Rathke, of Coste, and
their contemporaries and successors in Germany, France, and England, are
non-existent; and, as Darwin "_imagina_" natural selection, so Harvey
"_imagina_" that doctrine which gives him an even greater claim to the
veneration of posterity than his better known discovery of the
circulation of the blood.

Language such as that we have quoted is, in fact, so preposterous, so
utterly incompatible with anything but absolute ignorance of some of the
best established facts, that we should have passed it over in silence
had it not appeared to afford some clue to M. Flourens' unhesitating, _à
priori_, repudiation of all forms of the doctrine of the progressive
modification of living beings. He whose mind remains uninfluenced by an
acquaintance with the phænomena of development, must indeed lack one of
the chief motives towards the endeavour to trace a genetic relation
between the different existing forms of life. Those who are ignorant of
Geology, find no difficulty in believing that the world was made as it
is; and the shepherd, untutored in history, sees no reason to regard the
green mounds which indicate the site of a Roman camp, as aught but part
and parcel of the primæval hill-side. So M. Flourens, who believes that
embryos are formed "tout d'un coup," naturally finds no difficulty in
conceiving that species came into existence in the same way.


[65] "Die Radiolarien: eine Monographie," p. 231.

[66] Space will not allow us to give Professor Kölliker's arguments in
detail; our readers will find a full and accurate version of them in the
_Reader_ for August 13th and 20th, 1864.

[67] If, on the contrary, we follow the analogy of the more complex
forms of Agamogenesis, such as that exhibited by some _Trematoda_ and by
the _Aphides_, the Hyæna must produce, asexually, a brood of asexual
Dogs, from which other sexless Dogs must proceed. At the end of a
certain number of terms of the series, the Dogs would acquire sexes and
generate young; but these young would be, not Dogs, but Hyænas. In fact,
we have _demonstrated_, in Agamogenetic phænomena, that inevitable
recurrence to the original type, which is _asserted_ to be true of
variations in general, by Mr. Darwin's opponents; and which, if the
assertion could be changed into a demonstration, would, in fact, be
fatal to his hypothesis.



It has been well said that "all the thoughts of men, from the beginning
of the world until now, are linked together into one great chain;" but
the conception of the intellectual filiation of mankind which is
expressed in these words may, perhaps, be more fitly shadowed forth by a
different metaphor. The thoughts of men seem rather to be comparable to
the leaves, flowers, and fruit upon the innumerable branches of a few
great stems, fed by commingled and hidden roots. These stems bear the
names of the half-a-dozen men, endowed with intellects of heroic force
and clearness, to whom we are led, at whatever point of the world of
thought the attempt to trace its history commences; just as certainly as
the following up the small twigs of a tree to the branchlets which bear
them, and tracing the branchlets to their supporting branches, brings
us, sooner or later, to the bole.

It seems to me that the thinker who, more than any other, stands in the
relation of such a stem towards the philosophy and the science of the
modern world is René Descartes. I mean, that if you lay hold of any
characteristic product of modern ways of thinking, either in the region
of philosophy, or in that of science, you find the spirit of that
thought, if not its form, to have been present in the mind of the great

There are some men who are counted great because they represent the
actuality of their own age, and mirror it as it is. Such an one was
Voltaire, of whom it was epigrammatically said, "he expressed
everybody's thoughts better than anybody."[68] But there are other men
who attain greatness because they embody the potentiality of their own
day, and magically reflect the future. They express the thoughts which
will be everybody's two or three centuries after them. Such an one was

Born, in 1596, nearly three hundred years ago, of a noble family in
Touraine, René Descartes grew up into a sickly and diminutive child,
whose keen wit soon gained him that title of "the Philosopher," which,
in the mouths of his noble kinsmen, was more than, half a reproach. The
best schoolmasters of the day, the Jesuits, educated him as well as a
French boy of the seventeenth century could be educated. And they must
have done their work honestly and well, for, before his schoolboy days
were over, he had discovered that the most of what he had learned,
except in mathematics, was devoid of solid and real value.

     "Therefore," says he, in that "Discourse"[69] which I have taken
     for my text, "as soon as I was old enough to be set free from the
     government of my teachers, I entirely forsook the study of letters;
     and determining to seek no other knowledge than that which I could
     discover within myself, or in the great book of the world, I spent
     the remainder of my youth in travelling; in seeing courts and
     armies; in the society of people of different humours and
     conditions; in gathering varied experience; in testing myself by
     the chances of fortune; and in always trying to profit by my
     reflections on what happened.... And I always had an intense desire
     to learn how to distinguish truth from falsehood, in order to be
     clear about my actions, and to walk surefootedly in this life."

But "learn what is true, in order to do what is right," is the summing
up of the whole duty of man, for all who are unable to satisfy their
mental hunger with the east wind of authority; and to those of us
moderns who are in this position, it is one of Descartes' great claims
to our reverence as a spiritual ancestor, that, at three-and-twenty, he
saw clearly that this was his duty, and acted up to his conviction. At
two-and-thirty, in fact, finding all other occupations incompatible with
the search after the knowledge which leads to action, and being
possessed of a modest competence, he withdrew into Holland; where he
spent nine years in learning and thinking, in such retirement that only
one or two trusted friends knew of his whereabouts.

In 1637 the firstfruits of these long meditations were given to the
world in the famous "Discourse touching the Method of using Reason
rightly and of seeking scientific Truth," which, at once an
autobiography and a philosophy, clothes the deepest thought in language
of exquisite harmony, simplicity, and clearness.

The central propositions of the whole "Discourse" are these. There is a
path that leads to truth so surely, that if any one who will follow it
must needs reach the goal, whether his capacity be great or small. And
there is one guiding rule by which a man may always find this path, and
keep himself from straying when he has found it. This golden rule
is--give unqualified assent to no propositions but those the truth of
which is so clear and distinct that they cannot be doubted.

The enunciation of this great first commandment of science consecrated
Doubt. It removed Doubt from the seat of penance among the grievous sins
to which it had long been condemned, and enthroned it in that high place
among the primary duties, which is assigned to it by the scientific
conscience of these latter days. Descartes was the first among the
moderns to obey this commandment deliberately; and, as a matter of
religious duty, to strip off all his beliefs and reduce himself to a
state of intellectual nakedness, until such time as he could satisfy
himself which were fit to be worn. He thought a bare skin healthier than
the most respectable and well-cut clothing of what might, possibly, be
mere shoddy.

When I say that Descartes consecrated doubt, you must remember that it
was that sort of doubt which Goethe has called "the active scepticism,
whose whole aim is to conquer itself;"[70] and not that other sort which
is born of flippancy and ignorance, and whose aim is only to perpetuate
itself, as an excuse for idleness and indifference. But it is impossible
to define what is meant by scientific doubt better than in Descartes'
own words. After describing the gradual progress of his negative
criticism, he tells us:--

     "For all that, I did not imitate the sceptics, who doubt only for
     doubting's sake, and pretend to be always undecided; on the
     contrary, my whole intention was to arrive at certainty, and to dig
     away the drift and the sand until I reached the rock or the clay

And further, since no man of common sense, when he pulls down his house
for the purpose of rebuilding it, fails to provide himself with some
shelter while the work is in progress; so, before demolishing the
spacious, if not commodious, mansion of his old beliefs, Descartes
thought it wise to equip himself with what he calls "_une morale par
provision_," by which he resolved to govern his practical life until
such time as he should be better instructed. The laws of this
"provisional self-government" are embodied in four maxims, of which one
binds our philosopher to submit himself to the laws and religion in
which he was brought up; another, to act, on all those occasions which
call for action, promptly and according to the best of his judgment, and
to abide, without repining, by the result: a third rule is to seek
happiness in limiting his desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy
them; while the last is to make the search after truth the business of
his life.

Thus prepared to go on living while he doubted, Descartes proceeded to
face his doubts like a man. One thing was clear to him, he would not lie
to himself--would, under no penalties, say, "I am sure" of that of which
he was not sure; but would go on digging and delving until he came to
the solid adamant; or, at worst, made sure there was no adamant. As the
record of his progress tells us, he was obliged to confess that life is
full of delusions; that authority may err; that testimony may be false
or mistaken; that reason lands us in endless fallacies; that memory is
often as little trustworthy as hope; that the evidence of the very
senses may be misunderstood; that dreams are real as long as they last,
and that what we call reality may be a long and restless dream. Nay, it
is conceivable that some powerful and malicious being may find his
pleasure in deluding us, and in making us believe the thing which is
not, every moment of our lives. What, then, is certain? What even, if
such a being exists, is beyond the reach of his powers of delusion? Why,
the fact that the thought, the present consciousness, exists. Our
thoughts may be delusive, but they cannot be fictitious. As thoughts,
they are real and existent, and the cleverest deceiver cannot make them

Thus, thought is existence. More than that, so far as we are concerned,
existence is thought, all our conceptions of existence being some kind
or other of thought. Do not for a moment suppose that these are mere
paradoxes or subtleties. A little reflection upon the commonest facts
proves them to be irrefragable truths. For example, I take up a marble,
and I find it to be a red, round, hard, single body. We call the
redness, the roundness, the hardness, and the singleness, "qualities" of
the marble; and it sounds, at first, the height of absurdity to say that
all these qualities are modes of our own consciousness, which cannot
even be conceived to exist in the marble. But consider the redness, to
begin with. How does the sensation of redness arise? The waves of a
certain very attenuated matter, the particles of which are vibrating
with vast rapidity, but with very different velocities, strike upon the
marble, and those which vibrate with one particular velocity are thrown
off from its surface in all directions. The optical apparatus of the eye
gathers some of these together, and gives them such a course that they
impinge upon the surface of the retina, which is a singularly delicate
apparatus, connected with the termination of the fibres of the optic
nerve. The impulses of the attenuated matter, or ether, affect this
apparatus and the fibres of the optic nerve in a certain way; and the
change in the fibres of the optic nerve produces yet other changes in
the brain; and these, in some fashion unknown to us, give rise to the
feeling, or consciousness, of redness. If the marble could remain
unchanged, and either the rate of vibration of the ether, or the nature
of the retina, could be altered, the marble would seem not red, but some
other colour. There are many people who are what are called colourblind,
being unable to distinguish one colour from another. Such an one might
declare our marble to be green; and he would be quite as right in saying
that it is green, as we are in declaring it to be red. But then, as the
marble cannot, in itself, be both green and red, at the same time, this
shows that the quality "redness" must be in our consciousness and not in
the marble.

In like manner, it is easy to see that the roundness and the hardness
are forms of our consciousness, belonging to the groups which we call
sensations of sight and touch. If the surface of the cornea were
cylindrical, we should have a very different notion of a round body from
that which we possess now; and if the strength of the fabric, and the
force of the muscles, of the body were increased a hundredfold, our
marble would seem to be as soft as a pellet of bread crumbs.

Not only is it obvious that all these qualities are in us, but, if you
will make the attempt, you will find it quite impossible to conceive of
"blueness," "roundness," and "hardness" as existing without reference to
some such consciousness as our own. It may seem strange to say that even
the "singleness" of the marble is relative to us; but extremely simple
experiments will show that such is veritably the case, and that our two
most trustworthy senses may be made to contradict one another on this
very point. Hold the marble between the finger and thumb, and look at it
in the ordinary way. Sight and touch agree that it is single. Now
squint, and sight tells you that there are two marbles, while touch
asserts that there is only one. Next, return the eyes to their natural
position, and, having crossed the forefinger and the middle finger, put
the marble between their tips. Then touch will declare that there are
two marbles, while sight says that there is only one; and touch claims
our belief, when we attend to it, just as imperatively as sight does.

But it may be said, the marble takes up a certain space which could not
be occupied, at the same time, by anything else. In other words, the
marble has the primary quality of matter, extension. Surely this quality
must be in the thing, and not in our minds? But the reply must still be;
whatever may, or may not, exist in the thing, all that we can know of
these qualities is a state of consciousness. What we call extension is a
consciousness of a relation between two, or more, affections of the
sense of sight, or of touch. And it is wholly inconceivable that what
we call extension should exist independently of such consciousness as
our own. Whether, notwithstanding this inconceivability, it does so
exist, or not, is a point on which I offer no opinion.

Thus, whatever our marble may be in itself, all that we can know of it
is under the shape of a bundle of our own consciousnesses.

Nor is our knowledge of anything we know or feel more, or less, than a
knowledge of states of consciousness. And our whole life is made up of
such states. Some of these states we refer to a cause we call "self;"
others to a cause or causes which may be comprehended under the title of
"not-self." But neither of the existence of "self," nor of that of
"not-self," have we, or can we by any possibility have, any such
unquestionable and immediate certainty as we have of the states of
consciousness which we consider to be their effects. They are not
immediately observed facts, but results of the application of the law of
causation to those facts. Strictly speaking, the existence of a "self"
and of a "not-self" are hypotheses by which we account for the facts of
consciousness. They stand upon the same footing as the belief in the
general trustworthiness of memory, and in the general constancy of the
order of nature--as hypothetical assumptions which cannot be proved, or
known with that highest degree of certainty which is given by immediate
consciousness; but which, nevertheless, are of the highest practical
value, inasmuch as the conclusions logically drawn from them are always
verified by experience.

This, in my judgment, is the ultimate issue of Descartes' argument; but
it is proper for me to point out that we have left Descartes himself
some way behind us. He stopped at the famous formula, "I think,
therefore I am." But a little consideration will show this formula to be
full of snares and verbal entanglements. In the first place, the
"therefore" has no business there. The "I am" is assumed in the "I
think," which is simply another way of saying "I am thinking." And, in
the second place, "I think" is not one simple proposition, but three
distinct assertions rolled into one. The first of these is, "something
called I exists;" the second is, "something called thought exists;" and
the third is, "the thought is the result of the action of the I."

Now, it will be obvious to you, that the only one of these three
propositions which can stand the Cartesian test of certainty is the
second. It cannot be doubted, for the very doubt is an existent thought.
But the first and third, whether true or not, may be doubted, and have
been doubted. For the assertor may be asked, How do you know that
thought is not self-existent; or that a given thought is not the effect
of its antecedent thought, or of some external power? And a diversity of
other questions, much more easily put than answered. Descartes,
determined as he was to strip off all the garments which the intellect
weaves for itself, forgot this gossamer shirt of the "self;" to the
great detriment, and indeed ruin, of his toilet when he began to clothe
himself again.

But it is beside my purpose to dwell upon the minor peculiarities of the
Cartesian philosophy. All I wish to put clearly before your minds thus
far, is that Descartes, having commenced by declaring doubt to be a
duty, found certainty in consciousness alone; and that the necessary
outcome of his views is what may properly be termed Idealism; namely,
the doctrine that, whatever the universe may be, all we can know of it
is the picture presented to us by consciousness. This picture may be a
true likeness--though how this can be is inconceivable; or it may have
no more resemblance to its cause than one of Bach's fugues has to the
person who is playing it; or than a piece of poetry has to the mouth and
lips of a reciter. It is enough for all the practical purposes of human
existence if we find that our trust in the representations of
consciousness is verified by results; and that, by their help, we are
enabled "to walk surefootedly in this life."

Thus the method, or path which leads to truth, indicated by Descartes,
takes us straight to the Critical Idealism of his great successor Kant.
It is that Idealism which declares the ultimate fact of all knowledge to
be a consciousness, or, in other words, a mental phenomenon; and
therefore affirms the highest of all certainties, and indeed the only
absolute certainty, to be the existence of mind. But it is also that
Idealism which refuses to make any assertions, either positive or
negative, as to what lies beyond consciousness. It accuses the subtle
Berkeley of stepping beyond the limits of knowledge when he declared
that a substance of matter does not exist; and of illogicality, for not
seeing that the arguments which he supposed demolished the existence of
matter were equally destructive to the existence of soul. And it refuses
to listen to the jargon of more recent days about the "Absolute," and
all the other hypostatized adjectives, the initial letters of the names
of which are generally printed in capital letters; just as you give a
Grenadier a bearskin cap, to make him look more formidable than he is by

I repeat, the path indicated and followed by Descartes which we have
hitherto been treading, leads through doubt to that critical Idealism
which lies at the heart of modern metaphysical thought. But the
"Discourse" shows us another, and apparently very different, path, which
leads, quite as definitely, to that correlation of all the phænomena of
the universe with matter and motion, which lies at the heart of modern
physical thought, and which most people call Materialism.

The early part of the seventeenth century, when Descartes reached
manhood, is one of the great epochs of the intellectual life of mankind.
At that time, physical science suddenly strode into the arena of public
and familiar thought, and openly challenged, not only Philosophy and the
Church, but that common ignorance which passes by the name of Common
Sense. The assertion of the motion of the earth was a defiance to all
three, and Physical Science threw down her glove by the hand of Galileo.

It is not pleasant to think of the immediate result of the combat; to
see the champion of science, old, worn, and on his knees before the
Cardinal Inquisitor, signing his name to what he knew to be a lie. And,
no doubt, the Cardinals rubbed their hands as they thought how well they
had silenced and discredited their adversary. But two hundred years have
passed, and however feeble or faulty her soldiers, Physical Science sits
crowned and enthroned as one of the legitimate rulers of the world of
thought. Charity children would be ashamed not to know that the earth
moves; while the Schoolmen are forgotten; and the Cardinals--well, the
Cardinals are at the oecumenical Council, still at their old business
of trying to stop the movement of the world.

As a ship, which having lain becalmed with every stitch of canvas set,
bounds away before the breeze which springs up astern, so the mind of
Descartes, poised in equilibrium of doubt, not only yielded to the full
force of the impulse towards physical science and physical ways of
thought, given by his great contemporaries, Galileo and Harvey, but shot
beyond them; and anticipated, by bold speculation, the conclusions,
which could only be placed upon a secure foundation by the labours of
generations of workers.

Descartes saw that the discoveries of Galileo meant that the remotest
parts of the universe were governed by mechanical laws; while those of
Harvey meant that the same laws presided over the operations of that
portion of the world which is nearest to us, namely, our own bodily
frame. And crossing the interval between the centre and its vast
circumference by one of the great strides of genius, Descartes sought to
resolve all the phænomena of the universe into matter and motion, or
forces operating according to law.[71] This grand conception, which is
sketched in the "Discours," and more fully developed in the "Principes"
and in the "Traité de l'Homme," he worked out with extraordinary power
and knowledge; and with the effect of arriving, in the last-named essay,
at that purely mechanical view of vital phænomena towards which modern
physiology is striving.

Let us try to understand how Descartes got into this path, and why it
led him where it did. The mechanism of the circulation of the blood had
evidently taken a great hold of his mind, as he describes it several
times, at much length. After giving a full account of it in the
"Discourse," and erroneously describing the motion of the blood, not to
the contraction of the walls of the heart, but to the heat which he
supposes to be generated there, he adds:--

     "This motion, which I have just explained, is as much the necessary
     result of the structure of the parts which one can see in the
     heart, and of the heat which one may feel there with one's fingers,
     and of the nature of the blood, which may be experimentally
     ascertained; as is that of a clock of the force, the situation, and
     the figure, of its weight and of its wheels."

But if this apparently vital operation were explicable as a simple
mechanism, might not other vital operations be reducible to the same
category? Descartes replies without hesitation in the affirmative.

     "The animal spirits," says he, "resemble a very subtle fluid, or a
     very pure and vivid flame, and are continually generated in the
     heart, and ascend to the brain as to a sort of reservoir. Hence
     they pass into the nerves and are distributed to the muscles,
     causing contraction, or relaxation, according to their quantity."

Thus, according to Descartes, the animal body is an automaton, which is
competent to perform all the animal functions in exactly the same way as
a clock or any other piece of mechanism. As he puts the case himself:--

     "In proportion as these spirits [the animal spirits] enter the
     cavities of the brain, they pass thence into the pores of its
     substance, and from these pores into the nerves; where, according
     as they enter, or even only tend to enter, more or less, into one
     than into another, they have the power of altering the figure of
     the muscles into which the nerves are inserted, and by this means
     of causing all the limbs to move. Thus, as you may have seen in the
     grottoes and the fountains in royal gardens, the force with which
     the water issues from its reservoir is sufficient to move various
     machines, and even to make them play instruments, or pronounce
     words according to the different disposition of the pipes which
     lead the water.

     "And, in truth, the nerves of the machine which I am describing may
     very well be compared to the pipes of these waterworks; its muscles
     and its tendons to the other various engines and springs which seem
     to move them; its animal spirits to the water which impels them, of
     which the heart is the fountain; while the cavities of the brain
     are the central office. Moreover, respiration and other such
     actions as are natural and usual in the body, and which depend on
     the course of the spirits, are like the movements of a clock, or of
     a mill, which may be kept up by the ordinary flow of the water.

     "The external objects which, by their mere presence, act upon the
     organs of the senses; and which, by this means, determine the
     corporal machine to move in many different ways, according as the
     parts of the brain are arranged, are like the strangers who,
     entering into some of the grottoes of these waterworks,
     unconsciously cause the movements which take place in their
     presence. For they cannot enter without treading upon certain
     planks so arranged that, for example, if they approach a bathing
     Diana, they cause her to hide among the reeds; and if they attempt
     to follow her, they see approaching a Neptune, who threatens them
     with his trident; or if they try some other way, they cause some
     monster who vomits water into their faces, to dart out; or like
     contrivances, according to the fancy of the engineers who have made
     them. And lastly, when the _rational soul_ is lodged in this
     machine, it will have its principal seat in the brain, and will
     take the place of the engineer, who ought to be in that part of the
     works with which all the pipes are connected, when he wishes to
     increase, or to slacken, or in some way to alter, their

And again still more strongly:--

     "All the functions which I have attributed to this machine (the
     body), as the digestion of food, the pulsation of the heart and of
     the arteries; the nutrition and the growth of the limbs;
     respiration, wakefulness, and sleep; the reception of light,
     sounds, odours, flavours, heat, and such like qualities, in the
     organs of the external senses; the impression of the ideas of these
     in the organ of common sense and in the imagination; the retention,
     or the impression, of these ideas on the memory; the internal
     movements of the appetites and the passions; and lastly, the
     external movements of all the limbs, which follow so aptly, as well
     the action of the objects which are presented to the senses, as the
     impressions which meet in the memory, that they imitate as nearly
     as possible those of a real man:[73] I desire, I say, that you
     should consider that these functions in the machine naturally
     proceed from the mere arrangement of its organs, neither more nor
     less than do the movements of a clock, or other automaton, from
     that of its weights and its wheels; so that, so far as these are
     concerned, it is not necessary to conceive any other vegetative or
     sensitive soul, nor any other principle of motion, or of life, than
     the blood and the spirits agitated by the fire which burns
     continually in the heart, and which is no wise essentially
     different from all the fires which exist in inanimate bodies."[74]

The spirit of these passages is exactly that of the most advanced
physiology of the present day; all that is necessary to make them
coincide with our present physiology in form, is to represent the
details of the working of the animal machinery in modern language, and
by the aid of modern conceptions.

Most undoubtedly, the digestion of food in the human body is a purely
chemical process; and the passage of the nutritive parts of that food
into the blood, a physical operation. Beyond all question, the
circulation of the blood is simply a matter of mechanism, and results
from the structure and arrangement of the parts of the heart and
vessels, from the contractility of those organs, and from the
regulation of that contractility by an automatically acting nervous
apparatus. The progress of physiology has further shown, that the
contractility of the muscles and the irritability of the nerves are
purely the results of the molecular mechanism of those organs; and that
the regular movements of the respiratory, alimentary, and other internal
organs are governed and guided, as mechanically, by their appropriate
nervous centres. The even rhythm of the breathing of every one of us
depends upon the structural integrity of a particular region of the
medulla oblongata, as much as the ticking of a clock depends upon the
integrity of the escapement. You may take away the hands of a clock and
break up its striking machinery, but it will still tick; and a man may
be unable to feel, speak, or move, and yet he will breathe.

Again, in entire accordance with Descartes' affirmation, it is certain
that the modes of motion which constitute the physical basis of light,
sound, and heat, are transmuted into affections of nervous matter by the
sensory organs. These affections are, so to speak, a kind of physical
ideas, which are retained in the central organs, constituting what might
be called physical memory, and may be combined in a manner which answers
to association and imagination, or may give rise to muscular
contractions, in those "reflex actions" which are the mechanical
representatives of volitions.

Consider what happens when a blow is aimed at the eye.[75] Instantly,
and without our knowledge or will, and even against the will, the
eyelids close. What is it that happens? A picture of the rapidly
advancing fist is made upon the retina at the back of the eye. The
retina changes this picture into an affection of a number of the fibres
of the optic nerve; the fibres of the optic nerve affect certain parts
of the brain; the brain, in consequence, affects those particular fibres
of the seventh nerve which go to the orbicular muscle of the eyelids;
the change in these nerve-fibres causes the muscular fibres to change
their dimensions, so as to become shorter and broader; and the result is
the closing of the slit between the two lids, round which these fibres
are disposed. Here is a pure mechanism, giving rise to a purposive
action, and strictly comparable to that by which Descartes supposes his
waterwork Diana to be moved. But we may go further, and inquire whether
our volition, in what we term voluntary action, ever plays any other
part than that of Descartes' engineer, sitting in his office, and
turning this tap or the other, as he wishes to set one or another
machine in motion, but exercising no direct influence upon the movements
of the whole.

Our voluntary acts consist of two parts: firstly, we desire to perform a
certain action; and, secondly, we somehow set a-going a machinery which
does what we desire. But so little do we directly influence that
machinery, that nine-tenths of us do not even know its existence.

Suppose one wills to raise one's arm and whirl it round. Nothing is
easier. But the majority of us do not know that nerves and muscles are
concerned in this process; and the best anatomist among us would be
amazingly perplexed, if he were called upon to direct the succession,
and the relative strength, of the multitudinous nerve-changes, which are
the actual causes of this very simple operation.

So again in speaking. How many of us know that the voice is produced in
the larynx, and modified by the mouth? How many among these instructed
persons understand how the voice is produced and modified? And what
living man, if he had unlimited control over all the nerves supplying
the mouth and larynx of another person, could make him pronounce a
sentence? Yet, if one has anything to say, what is easier than to say
it? We desire the utterance of certain words: we touch the spring of the
word-machine, and they are spoken. Just as Descartes' engineer, when he
wanted a particular hydraulic machine to play, had only to turn a tap,
and what he wished was done. It is because the body is a machine that
education is possible. Education is the formation of habits, a
superinducing of an artificial organization upon the natural
organization of the body; so that acts, which at first required a
conscious effort, eventually became unconscious and mechanical. If the
act which primarily requires a distinct consciousness and volition of
its details, always needed the same effort, education would be an

According to Descartes, then, all the functions which are common to man
and animals are performed by the body as a mere mechanism, and he looks
upon consciousness as the peculiar distinction of the "_chose
pensante_," of the "rational soul," which in man (and in man only, in
Descartes' opinion) is superadded to the body. This rational soul he
conceived to be lodged in the pineal gland, as in a sort of central
office; and, here, by the intermediation of the animal spirits, it
became aware of what was going on in the body, or influenced the
operations of the body. Modern physiologists do not ascribe so exalted
a function to the little pineal gland, but, in a vague sort of way, they
adopt Descartes' principle, and suppose that the soul is lodged in the
cortical part of the brain--at least this is commonly regarded as the
seat and instrument of consciousness.

Descartes has clearly stated what he conceived to be the difference
between spirit and matter. Matter is substance which has extension, but
does not think; spirit is substance which thinks, but has no extension.
It is very hard to form a definite notion of what this phraseology
means, when it is taken in connexion with the location of the soul in
the pineal gland; and I can only represent it to myself as signifying
that the soul is a mathematical point, having place but not extension,
within the limits of the pineal gland. Not only has it place, but it
must exert force; for, according to the hypothesis, it is competent,
when it wills, to change the course of the animal spirits, which consist
of matter in motion. Thus the soul becomes a centre of force. But, at
the same time, the distinction between spirit and matter vanishes;
inasmuch as matter, according to a tenable hypothesis, may be nothing
but a multitude of centres of force. The case is worse if we adopt the
modern vague notion that consciousness is seated in the grey matter of
the cerebrum, generally; for, as the grey matter has extension, that
which is lodged in it must also have extension. And thus we are led, in
another way, to lose spirit in matter.

In truth, Descartes' physiology, like the modern physiology of which it
anticipates the spirit, leads straight to Materialism, so far as that
title is rightly applicable to the doctrine that we have no knowledge
of any thinking substance, apart from extended substance; and that
thought is as much a function of matter as motion is. Thus we arrive at
the singular result that, of the two paths opened up to us in the
"Discourse upon Method," the one leads, by way of Berkeley and Hume, to
Kant and Idealism; while the other leads, by way of De La Mettrie and
Priestley, to modern physiology and Materialism.[76] Our stem divides
into two main branches, which grow in opposite ways, and bear flowers
which look as different as they can well be. But each branch is sound
and healthy, and has as much life and vigour as the other.

If a botanist found this state of things in a new plant, I imagine that
he might be inclined to think that his tree was monoecious--that the
flowers were of different sexes, and that, so far from setting up a
barrier between the two branches of the tree, the only hope of fertility
lay in bringing them together. I may be taking too much of a
naturalist's view of the case, but I must confess that this is exactly
my notion of what is to be done with metaphysics and physics. Their
differences are complementary, not antagonistic; and thought will never
be completely fruitful until the one unites with the other. Let me try
to explain what I mean. I hold, with the Materialist, that the human
body, like all living bodies, is a machine, all the operations of which
will, sooner or later, be explained on physical principles. I believe
that we shall, sooner or later, arrive at a mechanical equivalent of
consciousness, just as we have arrived at a mechanical equivalent of
heat. If a pound weight falling through a distance of a foot gives rise
to a definite amount of heat, which may properly be said to be its
equivalent; the same pound weight falling through a foot on a man's hand
gives rise to a definite amount of feeling, which might with equal
propriety be said to be its equivalent in consciousness.[77] And as we
already know that there is a certain parity between the intensity of a
pain and the strength of one's desire to get rid of that pain; and
secondly, that there is a certain correspondence between the intensity
of the heat, or mechanical violence, which gives rise to the pain, and
the pain itself; the possibility of the establishment of a correlation
between mechanical force and volition becomes apparent. And the same
conclusion is suggested by the fact that, within certain limits, the
intensity of the mechanical force we exert is proportioned to the
intensity of our desire to exert it.

Thus I am prepared to go with the Materialists wherever the true pursuit
of the path of Descartes may lead them; and I am glad, on all occasions,
to declare my belief that their fearless development of the
materialistic aspect of these matters has had an immense, and a most
beneficial, influence upon physiology and psychology. Nay more, when
they go farther than I think they are entitled to do--when they
introduce Calvinism into science and declare that man is nothing but a
machine, I do not see any particular harm in their doctrines, so long as
they admit that which is a matter of experimental fact--namely, that it
is a machine capable of adjusting itself within certain limits.

I protest that if some great Power would agree to make me always think
what is true and do what is right, on condition of being turned into a
sort of clock and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I
should instantly close with the offer. The only freedom I care about is
the freedom to do right; the freedom to do wrong I am ready to part with
on the cheapest terms to any one who will take it of me. But when the
Materialists stray beyond the borders of their path and begin to talk
about there being nothing else in the universe but Matter and Force and
Necessary Laws, and all the rest of _their_ "grenadiers," I decline to
follow them. I go back to the point from which we started, and to the
other path of Descartes. I remind you that we have already seen clearly
and distinctly, and in a manner which admits of no doubt, that all our
knowledge is a knowledge of states of consciousness. "Matter" and
"Force" are, so far as we can know, mere names for certain forms of
consciousness. "Necessary" means that of which we cannot conceive the
contrary. "Law" means a rule which we have always found to hold good,
and which we expect always will hold good. Thus it is an indisputable
truth that what we call the material world is only known to us under the
forms of the ideal world; and, as Descartes tells us, our knowledge of
the soul is more intimate and certain than our knowledge of the body.
If I say that impenetrability is a property of matter, all that I can
really mean is that the consciousness I call extension, and the
consciousness I call resistance, constantly accompany one another. Why
and how they are thus related is a mystery. And if I say that thought is
a property of matter, all that I can mean is that, actually or possibly,
the consciousness of extension and that of resistance accompany all
other sorts of consciousness. But, as in the former case, why they are
thus associated is an insoluble mystery.

From all this it follows that what I may term legitimate materialism,
that is, the extension of the conceptions and of the methods of physical
science to the highest as well as the lowest phenomena of vitality, is
neither more nor less than a sort of shorthand Idealism; and Descartes'
two paths meet at the summit of the mountain, though they set out on
opposite sides of it.

The reconciliation of physics and metaphysics lies in the acknowledgment
of faults upon both sides; in the confession by physics that all the
phænomena of nature are, in their ultimate analysis, known to us only as
facts of consciousness; in the admission by metaphysics, that the facts
of consciousness are, practically, interpretable only by the methods and
the formulæ of physics: and, finally, in the observance by both
metaphysical and physical thinkers of Descartes' maxim--assent to no
proposition the matter of which is not so clear and distinct that it
cannot be doubted.

When you did me the honour to ask me to deliver this address, I confess
I was perplexed what topic to select. For you are emphatically and
distinctly a _Christian_ body; while science and philosophy, within the
range of which lie all the topics on which I could venture to speak, are
neither Christian, nor Unchristian, but are Extrachristian, and have a
world of their own, which, to use language which will be very familiar
to your ears just now, is not only "unsectarian," but is altogether
"secular." The arguments which I have put before you to-night, for
example, are not inconsistent, so far as I know, with any form of

After much consideration, I thought that I might be most useful to you,
if I attempted to give you some vision of this Extrachristian world, as
it appears to a person who lives a good deal in it; and if I tried to
show you by what methods the dwellers therein try to distinguish truth
from falsehood, in regard to some of the deepest and most difficult
problems that beset humanity, "in order to be clear about their actions,
and to walk surefootedly in this life," as Descartes says.

It struck me that if the execution of my project came anywhere near the
conception of it, you would become aware that the philosophers and the
men of science are not exactly what they are sometimes represented to
you to be; and that their methods and paths do not lead so
perpendicularly downwards as you are occasionally told they do. And I
must admit, also, that a particular and personal motive weighed with
me,--namely, the desire to show that a certain discourse, which brought
a great storm about my head some time ago, contained nothing but the
ultimate development of the views of the father of modern philosophy. I
do not know if I have been quite wise in allowing this last motive to
weigh with me. They say that the most dangerous thing one can do in a
thunderstorm is to shelter oneself under a great tree, and the history
of Descartes' life shows how narrowly he escaped being riven by the
lightnings, which were more destructive in his time than in ours.

Descartes lived and died a good Catholic, and prided himself upon having
demonstrated the existence of God and of the soul of man. As a reward
for his exertions, his old friends the Jesuits put his works upon the
"Index," and called him an Atheist; while the Protestant divines of
Holland declared him to be both a Jesuit and an Atheist. His books
narrowly escaped being burned by the hangman; the fate of Vanini was
dangled before his eyes; and the misfortunes of Galileo so alarmed him,
that he well-nigh renounced the pursuits by which the world has so
greatly benefited, and was driven into subterfuges and evasions which
were not worthy of him.

"Very cowardly," you may say; and so it was. But you must make allowance
for the fact that, in the seventeenth century, not only did heresy mean
possible burning, or imprisonment, but the very suspicion of it
destroyed a man's peace, and rendered the calm pursuit of truth
difficult or impossible. I fancy that Descartes was a man to care more
about being worried and disturbed, than about being burned outright;
and, like many other men, sacrificed for the sake of peace and
quietness, what he would have stubbornly maintained against downright

However this may be, let those who are sure they would have done better
throw stones at him. I have no feelings but those of gratitude and
reverence for the man who did what he did, when he did; and a sort of
shame that any one should repine against taking a fair share of such
treatment as the world thought good enough for him.

Finally, it occurs to me that, such being my feeling about the matter,
it may be useful to all of us if I ask you, "What is yours? Do you think
that the Christianity of the seventeenth century looks nobler and more
attractive for such treatment of such a man?" You will hardly reply that
it does. But if it does not, may it not be well if all of you do what
lies within your power to prevent the Christianity of the nineteenth
century from repeating the scandal?

There are one or two living men, who, a couple of centuries hence, will
be remembered as Descartes is now, because they have produced great
thoughts which will live and grow as long as mankind lasts.

If the twenty-first century studies their history, it will find that the
Christianity of the middle of the nineteenth century recognised them
only as objects of vilification. It is for you and such as you,
Christian young men, to say whether this shall be as true of the
Christianity of the future as it is of that of the present. I appeal to
you to say "No," in your own interest, and in that of the Christianity
you profess.

In the interest of Science, no appeal is needful; as Dante sings of

     "Quest' è colei, ch'è tanto posta in croce
       Pur da color, che le dovrian dar lode
     Dandole biasmo a torto e mala voce.
       Ma ella s' è beata, e ciò non ode:
     Con l' altre prime creature lieta
       Volve sua spera, e beata si gode:"[78]

so, whatever evil voices may rage, Science, secure among the powers that
are eternal, will do her work and be blessed.


[68] I forget who it was said of him: "Il a plus que personne l'esprit
que tout le monde a."

[69] "Discours de la Méthode pour bien conduire sa Raison et chercher la
Vérité dans les Sciences."

[70] "Eine thätige Skepsis ist die, welche unablässig bemüht ist sich
selbst zu überwinden, und durch geregelte Erfahrung zu einer Art von
bedingtrer Zuverlässigkeit zu gelangen."--_Maximen und Reflexionen_, 7

[71] "Au milieu de toutes ses erreurs, il ne faut pas méconnaître une
grande idée, qui consiste à avoir tenté pour la première fois de ramener
tous les phénomènes naturels à n'être qu'un simple dévelloppement des
lois de la mécanique," is the weighty judgment of Biot, cited by
Bouillier (_Histoire de la Philosophie Cartésienne_, t. i. p. 196).

[72] "Traité de l'Homme" (Cousin's Edition), p. 347.

[73] Descartes pretends that he does not apply his views to the human
body, but only to an imaginary machine which, if it could be
constructed, would do all that the human body does; throwing a sop to
Cerberus unworthily; and uselessly, because Cerberus was by no means
stupid enough to swallow it.

[74] "Traité de l'Homme," p. 427.

[75] Compare "Traité des Passions," Art. XIII. and XVI.

[76] Bouillier, into whose excellent "History of the Cartesian
Philosophy" I had not looked when this passage was written, says, very
justly, that Descartes "a merité le titre de pére de la physique, aussi
bien que celui de pére de la métaphysique moderne" (t. i. p. 197). See
also Kuno Fischer's "Geschichte der neuen Philosophie," Bd. i.; and the
very remarkable work of Lange, "Geschichte des Materialismus."--A good
translation of the latter would be a great service to philosophy in

[77] For all the qualifications which need to be made here, I refer the
reader to the thorough discussion of the nature of the relation between
nerve-action and consciousness in Mr. Herbert Spencer's "Principles of
Psychology," p. 115 _et seq._

         "And this is she who's put on cross so much,
         Even by them who ought to give her praise,
         Giving her wrongly ill repute and blame.
         But she is blessed, and she hears not this:
         She, with the other primal creatures, glad
         Revolves her sphere, and blessed joys herself."

         _Inferno_, vii. 90-95 (W.M. Rossetti's Translation).

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.