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´╗┐Title: Scientific Essays and Lectures
Author: Kingsley, Charles, 1819-1875
Language: English
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Scientific Lectures and Essays

Contents:  {0}
   On Bio-Geology
   The Study of Natural History
   Thoughts in a Gravel-Pit
   How to Study Natural History
   The Natural Theology of the Future


I am not sure that the subject of my address is rightly chosen.  I
am not sure that I ought not to have postponed a question of mere
natural history, to speak to you as scientific men, on the questions
of life and death, which have been forced upon us by the awful
warning of an illustrious personage's illness; of preventible
disease, its frightful prevalency; of the 200,000 persons who are
said to have died of fever alone since the Prince Consort's death,
ten years ago; of the remedies; of drainage; of sewage disinfection
and utilisation; and of the assistance which you, as a body of
scientific men, can give to any effort towards saving the lives and
health of our fellow-citizens from those unseen poisons which lurk
like wild beasts couched in the jungle, ready to spring at any
moment on the unsuspecting, the innocent, the helpless.  Of all this
I longed to speak; but I thought it best only to hint at it, and
leave the question to your common sense and your humanity; taking
for granted that your minds, like the minds of all right-minded
Englishmen, have been of late painfully awakened to its importance.
It seemed to me almost an impertinence to say more in a city of
whose local circumstances I know little or nothing.  As an old
sanitary reformer, practical, as well as theoretical, I am but too
well aware of the difficulties which beset any complete scheme of
drainage, especially in an ancient city like this; where men are
paying the penalty of their predecessors' ignorance; and dwelling,
whether they choose or not, over fifteen centuries of accumulated

And, therefore, taking for granted that there is energy and
intellect enough in Winchester to conquer these difficulties in due
time, I go on to ask you to consider, for a time, a subject which is
growing more and more important and interesting, a subject the study
of which will do much towards raising the field naturalist from a
mere collector of specimens--as he was twenty years ago--to a
philosopher elucidating some of the grandest problems.  I mean the
infant science of Bio-geology--the science which treats of the
distribution of plants and animals over the globe, and the cause of
that distribution.

I doubt not that there are many here who know far more about the
subject than I; who are far better read than I am in the works of
Forbes, Darwin, Wallace, Hooker, Moritz Wagner, and the other
illustrious men who have written on it.  But I may, perhaps, give a
few hints which will be of use to the younger members of this
Society, and will point out to them how to get a new relish for the
pursuit of field science.

Bio-geology, then, begins with asking every plant or animal you
meet, large or small, not merely--What is your name?  That is the
collector and classifier's duty; and a most necessary duty it is,
and one to be performed with the most conscientious patience and
accuracy, so that a sound foundation may be built for future
speculations.  But young naturalists should act not merely as
Nature's registrars and census-takers, but as her policemen and
gamekeepers; and ask everything they meet--How did you get there?
By what road did you come?  What was your last place of abode?  And
now you are here, how do you get your living?  Are you and your
children thriving, like decent people who can take care of
themselves, or growing pauperised and degraded, and dying out?  Not
that we have a fear of your becoming a dangerous class.  Madame
Nature allows no dangerous classes, in the modern sense.  She has,
doubtless for some wise reason, no mercy for the weak.  She rewards
each organism according to its works; and if anything grows too weak
or stupid to take care of itself, she gives it its due deserts by
letting it die and disappear.  So, you plant or you animal, are you
among the strong, the successful, the multiplying, the colonising?
Or are you among the weak, the failing, the dwindling, the doomed?

These questions may seem somewhat rude:  but you may comfort
yourself by the thought that plants and animals, though they deserve
all kindness, all admiration, deserve no courtesy--at least in this
respect.  For they are, one and all, wherever you find them,
vagrants and landlopers, intruders and conquerors, who have got
where they happen to be simply by the law of the strongest--
generally not without a little robbery and murder.  They have no
right save that of possession; the same by which the puffin turns
out the old rabbits, eats the young ones, and then lays her eggs in
the rabbit-burrow--simply because she can.

Now, you will see at once that such a course of questioning will
call out a great many curious and interesting answers, if you can
only get the things to tell you their story; as you always may if
you will cross-examine them long enough; and will lead you into many
subjects beside mere botany or entomology.  So various, indeed, are
the subjects which you will thus start, that I can only hint at them
now in the most cursory fashion.

At the outset you will soon find yourself involved in chemical and
meteorological questions; as, for instance, when you ask--How is it
that I find one flora on the sea-shore, another on the sandstone,
another on the chalk, and another on the peat-making gravelly
strata?  The usual answer would be, I presume--if we could work it
out by twenty years' experiment, such as Mr. Lawes, of Rothampsted,
has been making on the growth of grasses and leguminous plants in
different soils and under different manures--the usual answer, I
say, would be--Because we plants want such and such mineral
constituents in our woody fibre; again, because we want a certain
amount of moisture at a certain period of the year:  or, perhaps,
simply because the mechanical arrangement of the particles of a
certain soil happens to suit the shape of our roots and of their
stomata.  Sometimes you will get an answer quickly enough; sometimes
not.  If you ask, for instance, Asplenium viride how it contrives to
grow plentifully in the Craven of Yorkshire down to 600 or 800 feet
above the sea, while in Snowdon it dislikes growing lower than 2000
feet, and is not plentiful even there?--it will reply--Because in
the Craven I can get as much carbonic acid as I want from the
decomposing limestone; while on the Snowdon Silurian I get very
little; and I have to make it up by clinging to the mountain tops,
for the sake of the greater rainfall.  But if you ask Polypodium
calcareum--How is it you choose only to grow on limestone, while
Polypodium Dryopteris, of which, I suspect, you are only a variety,
is ready to grow anywhere?--Polypodium calcareum will refuse, as
yet, to answer a word.

Again--I can only give you the merest string of hints--you will find
in your questionings that many plants and animals have no reason at
all to show why they should be in one place and not in another, save
the very sound reason for the latter which was suggested to me once
by a great naturalist.  I was asking--Why don't I find such and such
a species in my parish, while it is plentiful a few miles off in
exactly the same soil?--and he answered--For the same reason that
you are not in America.  Because you have not got there.  Which
answer threw to me a flood of light on this whole science.  Things
are often where they are, simply because they happen to have got
there, and not elsewhere.  But they must have got there by some
means, and those means I want young naturalists to discover; at
least, to guess at.

A species, for instance--and I suspect it is a common case with
insects--may abound in a single spot, simply because, long years
ago, a single brood of eggs happened to hatch at a time when eggs of
other species, who would have competed against them for food, did
not hatch; and they may remain confined to that spot, though there
is plenty of food for them outside it, simply because they do not
increase fast enough to require to spread out in search of more
food.  Thus I should explain a case which I heard of lately of
Anthocera trifolii, abundant for years in one corner of a certain
field, and only there; while there was just as much trefoil all
round for its larvae as there was in the selected spot.  I can, I
say, only give hints:  but they will suffice, I hope, to show the
path of thought into which I want young naturalists to turn their

Or, again, you will have to inquire whether the species has not been
prevented from spreading by some natural barrier.  Mr. Wallace, whom
you all of course know, has shown in his "Malay Archipelago" that a
strait of deep sea can act as such a barrier between species.
Moritz Wagner has shown that, in the case of insects, a moderately-
broad river may divide two closely-allied species of beetles, or a
very narrow snow-range, two closely-allied species of moths.

Again, another cause, and a most common one, is:  that the plants
cannot spread because they find the ground beyond them already
occupied by other plants, who will not tolerate a fresh mouth,
having only just enough to feed themselves.  Take the case of
Saxifraga hypnoides and S. umbrosa, "London pride."  They are two
especially strong species.  They show that, S. hypnoides especially,
by their power of sporting, of diverging into varieties; they show
it equally by their power of thriving anywhere, if they can only get
there.  They will grow both in my sandy garden, under a rainfall of
only 23 inches, more luxuriantly than in their native mountains
under a rainfall of 50 or 60 inches.  Then how is it that S.
hypnoides cannot get down off the mountains; and that S. umbrosa,
though in Kerry it has got off the mountains and down to the sea-
level, exterminating, I suspect, many species in its progress, yet
cannot get across County Cork?  The only answer is, I believe, that
both species are continually trying to go ahead; but that the other
plants already in front of them are too strong for them, and
massacre their infants as soon as born.

And this brings us to another curious question:  the sudden and
abundant appearance of plants, like the foxglove and Epilobium
angustifolium, in spots where they have never been seen before.  Are
there seeds, as some think, dormant in the ground; or are the seeds
which have germinated, fresh ones wafted thither by wind or
otherwise, and only able to germinate in that one spot because there
the soil is clear?  General Monro, now famous for his unequalled
memoir on the bamboos, holds to the latter theory.  He pointed out
to me that the Epilobium seeds, being feathered could travel with
the wind; that the plant always made its appearance first on new
banks, landslips, clearings, where it had nothing to compete
against; and that the foxglove did the same.  True, and most
painfully true, in the case of thistles and groundsels:  but
foxglove seeds, though minute, would hardly be carried by the wind
any more than those of the white clover, which comes up so
abundantly in drained fens.  Adhuc sub judice lis est, and I wish
some young naturalists would work carefully at the solution; by
experiment, which is the most sure way to find out anything.

But in researches in this direction they will find puzzles enough.
I will give them one which I shall be most thankful to hear they
have solved within the next seven years--How is it that we find
certain plants, namely, the thrift and the scurvy grass, abundant on
the sea-shore and common on certain mountain-tops, but nowhere
between the two?  Answer me that.  For I have looked at the fact for
years--before, behind, sideways, upside down, and inside out--and I
cannot understand it.

But all these questions, and especially, I suspect, that last one,
ought to lead the young student up to the great and complex
question--How were these islands re-peopled with plants and animals,
after the long and wholesale catastrophe of the glacial epoch?

I presume you all know, and will agree, that the whole of these
islands, north of the Thames, save certain ice-clad mountain-tops,
were buried for long ages under an icy sea.  From whence did
vegetable and animal life crawl back to the land, as it rose again;
and cover its mantle of glacial drift with fresh life and verdure?

Now let me give you a few prolegomena on this matter.  You must
study the plants of course, species by species.  Take Watson's
"Cybele Britannica" and Moore's "Cybele Hibernica;" and let--as Mr.
Matthew Arnold would say--"your thought play freely about them."
Look carefully, too, in the case of each species, at the note on its
distribution, which you will find appended in Bentham's "Handbook,"
and in Hooker's "Student's Flora."  Get all the help you can, if you
wish to work the subject out, from foreign botanists, both European
and American; and I think that, on the whole, you will come to some
such theory as this for a general starling platform.  We do not owe
our flora--I must keep to the flora just now--to so many different
regions, or types, as Mr. Watson conceives, but to three, namely, an
European or Germanic flora, from the south-east; an Atlantic flora,
from the south-east; a Northern flora, from the north.  These three
invaded us after the glacial epoch; and our general flora is their

But this will cause you much trouble.  Before you go a step farther
you will have to eliminate from all your calculations most of the
plants which Watson calls glareal, i.e. found in cultivated ground
about habitations.  And what their limit may be I think we never
shall know.  But of this we may be sure; that just as invading
armies always bring with them, in forage or otherwise, some plants
from their own country--just as the Cossacks, in 1815, brought more
than one Russian plant through Germany into France--just as you have
already a crop of North German plants upon the battle-fields of
France--thus do conquering races bring new plants.  The Romans,
during their 300 or 400 years of occupation and civilisation, must
have brought more species, I believe, than I dare mention.  I
suspect them of having brought, not merely the common hedge elm of
the south, not merely the three species of nettle, but all our red
poppies, and a great number of the weeds which are common in our
cornfields; and when we add to them the plants which may have been
brought by returning crusaders and pilgrims; by monks from every
part of Europe, by Flemings or other dealers in foreign wool--we
have to cut a huge cantle out of our indigenous flora:  only, having
no records, we hardly know where and what to cut out; and can only,
we elder ones, recommend the subject to the notice of the younger
botanists, that they may work it out after our work is done.

Of course these plants introduced by man, if they are cut out, must
be cut out of only one of the floras, namely, the European; for
they, probably, came from the south-east, by whatever means they

That European flora invaded us, I presume, immediately after the
glacial epoch, at a time when France and England were united, and
the German Ocean a mere network of rivers, which emptied into the
deep sea between Scotland and Scandinavia.  And here I must add,
that endless questions of interest will arise to those who will
study, not merely the invasion of that truly European flora, but the
invasion of reptiles, insects, and birds, especially birds of
passage, which must have followed it as soon as the land was
sufficiently covered with vegetation to support life.  Whole volumes
remain to be written on this subject.  I trust that some of your
younger members may live to write one of them.  The way to begin
will be; to compare the flora and fauna of this part of England very
carefully with that of the southern and eastern counties; and then
to compare them again with the fauna and flora of France, Belgium,
and Holland.

As for the Atlantic flora, you will have to decide for yourselves
whether you accept or not the theory of a sunken Atlantic continent.
I confess that all objections to that theory, however astounding it
may seem, are outweighed in my mind by a host of facts which I can
explain by no other theory.  But you must judge for yourselves; and
to do so you must study carefully the distribution of heaths both in
Europe and at the Cape, and their non-appearance beyond the Ural
Mountains, and in America, save in Labrador, where the common ling,
an older and less specialised form, exists.  You must consider, too,
the plants common to the Azores, Portugal, the West of England,
Ireland, and the Western Hebrides.  In so doing young naturalists
will at least find proofs of a change in the distribution of land
and water, which will utterly astound them when they face it for the
first time.

As for the Northern flora, the question whence it came is puzzling
enough.  It seems difficult to conceive how any plants could have
survived when Scotland was an archipelago in the same ice-covered
condition as Greenland is now; and we have no proof that there
existed after the glacial epoch any northern continent from which
the plants and animals could have come back to us.  The species of
plants and animals common to Britain, Scandinavia, and North
America, must have spread in pre-glacial times when a continent
joining them did exist.

But some light has been thrown on this question by an article, as
charming as it is able, on "The Physics of the Arctic Ice," by Dr.
Brown of Campster.  You will find it in the "Quarterly Journal of
the Geological Society" for February, 1870.  He shows there that
even in Greenland peaks and crags are left free enough from ice to
support a vegetation of between three hundred or four hundred
species of flowering plants; and, therefore, he well says, we must
be careful to avoid concluding that the plant and animal life on the
dreary shores or mountain-tops of the old glacial Scotland was poor.
The same would hold good of our mountains; and, if so, we may look
with respect, even awe, on the Alpine plants of Wales, Scotland, and
the Lake mountains, as organisms, stunted it may be, and even
degraded by their long battle with the elements, but venerable from
their age, historic from their endurance.  Relics of an older
temperate world, they have lived through thousands of centuries of
frost and fog, to sun themselves in a temperate climate once more.
I can never pick one of them without a tinge of shame; and to
exterminate one of them is to destroy, for the mere pleasure of
collecting, the last of a family which God has taken the trouble to
preserve for thousands of centuries.

I trust that these hints--for I can call them nothing more--will at
least awaken any young naturalist who has hitherto only collected
natural objects, to study the really important and interesting
question--How did these things get here?

Now hence arise questions which may puzzle the mind of a Hampshire
naturalist.  You have in this neighbourhood, as you well know, two,
or rather three, soils, each carrying its peculiar vegetation.
First, you have the clay lying on the chalk, and carrying vast
woodlands, seemingly primeval.  Next, you have the chalk, with its
peculiar, delicate, and often fragrant crop of lime-loving plants;
and next, you have the poor sands and clays of the New Forest basin,
saturated with iron, and therefore carrying a moorland or peat-
loving vegetation, in many respects quite different from the others.
And this moorland soil, and this vegetation, with a few singular
exceptions, repeats itself, as I daresay you know, in the north of
the county, in the Bagshot basin, as it is called--the moors of
Aldershot, Hartford Bridge, and Windsor Forest.

Now what a variety of interesting questions are opened up by these
simple facts.  How did these three floras get each to its present
place?  Where did each come from?  How did it get past or through
the other, till each set of plants, after long internecine
competition, settled itself down in the sheet of land most congenial
to it?  And when did each come hither?  Which is the oldest?  Will
any one tell me whether the healthy floras of the moors, or the
thymy flora of the chalk downs, were the earlier inhabitants of
these isles?  To these questions I cannot get any answer; and they
cannot be answered without, first--a very careful study of the range
of each species of plant on the continent of Europe; and next,
without careful study of those stupendous changes in the shape of
this island which have taken place at a very late geological epoch.
The composition of the flora of our moorlands is as yet to me an
utter puzzle.  We have Lycopodiums--three species--enormously
ancient forms which have survived the age of ice:  but did they
crawl downward hither from the northern mountains or upward hither
from the Pyrenees?  We have the beautiful bog asphodel again--an
enormously ancient form; for it is, strange to say, common to North
America and to Northern Europe, but does not enter Asia--almost an
unique instance.  It must, surely, have come from the north; and
points--as do many species of plants and animals--to the time when
North Europe and North America were joined.  We have, sparingly, in
North Hampshire, though, strangely, not on the Bagshot moors, the
Common or Northern Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris); and also, in
the south, the New Forest part of the county, the delicate little
Pinguicula lusitanica, the only species now found in Devon and
Cornwall, marking the New Forest as the extreme eastern limit of the
Atlantic flora.  We have again the heaths, which, as I have just
said, are found neither in America nor in Asia, and must, I believe,
have come from some south-western land long since submerged beneath
the sea.  But more, we have in the New Forest two plants which are
members of the South Europe, or properly, the Atlantic flora; which
must have come from the south and south-east; and which are found in
no other spots in these islands.  I mean the lovely Gladiolus, which
grows abundantly under the ferns near Lyndhurst, certainly wild, but
it does not approach England elsewhere nearer than the Loire and the
Rhine; and next, that delicate orchid, the Spiranthes aestivalis,
which is known only in a bog near Lyndhurst and in the Channel
Islands, while on the Continent it extends from Southern Europe all
through France.  Now, what do these two plants mark?  They give us a
point in botany, though not in time, to determine when the south of
England was parted from the opposite shores of France; and whenever
that was, it was just after the Gladiolus and Spiranthes got hither.
Two little colonies of these lovely flowers arrived just before
their retreat was cut off.  They found the country already occupied
with other plants; and, not being reinforced by fresh colonists from
the south, have not been able to spread farther north than
Lyndhurst.  Thus, in the New Forest, and, I may say in the Bagshot
moors, you find plants which you do not expect, and do not find
plants which you do expect; and you are, or ought to be, puzzled,
and I hope also interested, and stirred up to find out more.

I spoke just now of the time when England was joined to France, as
bearing on Hampshire botany.  It bears no less on Hampshire zoology.
In insects, for instance, the presence of the purple emperor and the
white admiral in our Hampshire woods, as well as the abundance of
the great stag-beetle, point to a time when the two countries were
joined, at least as far west as Hampshire; while the absence of
these insects farther to the westward shows that the countries, if
ever joined, were already parted; and that those insects have not
yet had time to spread westward.  The presence of these two
butterflies, and partly of the stag-beetle, along the south-east
coast of England as far as the primeval forests of South
Lincolnshire, points, as do a hundred other facts, to a time when
the Straits of Dover either did not exist, or were the bed of a
river running from the west; and when, as I told you just now, all
the rivers which now run into the German Ocean, from the Humber on
the west to the Elbe on the east, discharged themselves into the sea
between Scotland and Norway, after wandering through a vast lowland,
covered with countless herds of mammoth, rhinoceros, gigantic ox,
and other mammals now extinct; while the birds, as far as we know,
the insects, the fresh-water fish, and even, as my friend Mr. Brady
has proved, the Entomostraca of the rivers, were the same in what is
now Holland as in what is now our Eastern counties.  I could dwell
long on this matter.  I could talk long about how certain species of
Lepidoptera--moths and butterflies--like Papilio Machaon and P.
Podalirius, swarm through France, reach up to the British Channel,
and have not crossed it, with the exception of one colony of Machaon
in the Cambridgeshire fens.  I could talk long about a similar
phenomenon in the case of our migratory and singing birds; how many
exquisite species--notably those two glorious songsters, the Orphean
Warbler and Hippolais, which delight our ears everywhere on the
other side of the Channel--follow our nightingales, blackcaps, and
warblers northward every spring almost to the Straits of Dover, but
dare not cross, simply because they have been, as it were, created
since the gulf was opened, and have never learnt from their parents
how to fly over it.

In the case of fishes, again, I might say much on the curious fact
that the Cyprinidae, or white fish--carp, etc.--and their natural
enemy, the pike, are indigenous, I believe, only to the rivers,
English or continental, on the eastern side of the Straits of Dover;
while the rivers on the western side were originally tenanted, like
our Hampshire streams, as now, almost entirely by trout, their only
Cyprinoid being the minnow--if it, too, be not an interloper; and I
might ask you to consider the bearing of this curious fact on the
former junction of England and France.

But I have only time to point out to you a few curious facts with
regard to reptiles, which should be specially interesting to a
Hampshire bio-geologist.  You know, of course, that in Ireland there
are no reptiles, save the little common lizard, Lacerta agilis, and
a few frogs on the mountain-tops--how they got there I cannot
conceive.  And you will, of course, guess, and rightly, that the
reason of the absence of reptiles is:  that Ireland was parted off
from England before the creatures, which certainly spread from
southern and warmer climates, had time to get there.  You know, of
course, that we have a few reptiles in England.  But you may not be
aware that, as soon as you cross the Channel, you find many more
species of reptiles than here, as well as those which you find here.
The magnificent green lizard which rattles about like a rabbit in a
French forest, is never found here; simply because it had not worked
northward till after the Channel was formed.  But there are three
reptiles peculiar to this part of England which should be most
interesting to a Hampshire zoologist.  The one is the sand lizard
(L. stirpium), found on Bourne-heath, and, I suspect, in the South
Hampshire moors likewise--a North European and French species.
Another, the Coronella laevis, a harmless French and Austrian snake,
which has been found about me, in North Hants and South Berks, now
about fifteen or twenty times.  I have had three specimens from my
own parish.  I believe it not to be uncommon; and most probably to
be found, by those who will look, both in the New Forest and
Woolmer.  The third is the Natterjack, or running toad (Bufo
Rubeta), a most beautifully-spotted animal, with a yellow stripe
down his back, which is common with us at Eversley, and common also
in many moorlands of Hants and Surrey; and, according to Fleming, on
heaths near London, and as far north-east as Lincolnshire; in which
case it will belong to the Germanic fauna.  Now, here again we have
cases of animals which have just been able to get hither before the
severance of England and France; and which, not being reinforced
from the rear, have been forced to stop, in small and probably
decreasing colonies, on the spots nearest the coast which were fit
for them.

I trust that I have not kept you too long over these details.  What
I wish to impress upon you is that Hampshire is a country specially
fitted for the study of important bio-geological questions.

To work them out, you must trace the geology of Hampshire, and
indeed, of East Dorset.  You must try to form a conception of how
the land was shaped in miocene times, before that tremendous
upheaval which reared the chalk cliffs at Freshwater upright,
lifting the tertiary beds upon their northern slopes.  You must ask-
-Was there not land to the south of the Isle of Wight in those ages,
and for ages after; and what was its extent and shape?  You must
ask--When was the gap between the Isle of Wight and the Isle of
Purbeck sawn through, leaving the Needles as remnants on one side,
and Old Harry on the opposite?  And was it sawn asunder merely by
the age-long gnawing of the waves?  You must ask--Where did the
great river which ran from the west, where Poole Harbour is now, and
probably through what is now the Solent, depositing brackish water-
beds right and left--where, I say, did it run into the sea?  Where
the Straits of Dover are now?  Or, if not there, where?  What, too,
is become of the land to the Westward, composed of ancient
metamorphic rocks, out of which it ran, and deposited on what are
now the Haggerstone Moors of Poole, vast beds of grit?  What was the
climate on its banks when it washed down the delicate leaves of
broad-leaved trees, akin to our modern English ones, which are found
in the fine mud-sand strata of Bournemouth?  When, finally, did it
dwindle down to the brook which now runs through Wareham town?  Was
its bed, sea or dry land, or under an ice sheet, during the long
ages of the glacial epoch?  And if you say--Who is sufficient for
these things?--Who can answer these questions?  I answer--Who but
you, or your pupils after you, if you will but try?

And if any shall reply--And what use if I do try?  What use, if I do
try?  What use if I succeed in answering every question which you
have propounded to-night?  Shall I be the happier for it?  Shall I
be the wiser?

My friends, whether you will be the happier for it, or for any
knowledge of physical science, or for any other knowledge
whatsoever, I cannot tell:  that lies in the decision of a Higher
Power than I; and, indeed, to speak honestly, I do not think that
bio-geology or any other branch of physical science is likely, at
first at least, to make you happy.  Neither is the study of your
fellow-men.  Neither is religion itself.  We were not sent into the
world to be happy, but to be right; at least, poor creatures that we
are, as right as we can be; and we must be content with being right,
and not happy.  For I fear, or rather I hope, that most of us are
not capable of carrying out Talleyrand's recipe for perfect
happiness on earth--namely, a hard heart and a good digestion.
Therefore, as our hearts are, happily, not always hard, and our
digestions, unhappily, not always good, we will be content to be
made wise by physical science, even though we be not made happy.

And we shall be made truly wise if we be made content; content, too,
not only with what we can understand, but, content with what we do
not understand--the habit of mind which theologians call--and
rightly--faith in God; the true and solid faith, which comes often
out of sadness, and out of doubt, such as bio-geology may well stir
in us at first sight.  For our first feeling will be--I know mine
was when I began to look into these matters--one somewhat of dread
and of horror.

Here were all these creatures, animal and vegetable, competing
against each other.  And their competition was so earnest and
complete, that it did not mean--as it does among honest shopkeepers
in a civilised country--I will make a little more money than you;
but--I will crush you, enslave you, exterminate you, eat you up.
"Woe to the weak," seems to be Nature's watchword.  The Psalmist
says:  "The righteous shall inherit the land."  If you go to a
tropical forest, or, indeed, if you observe carefully a square acre
of any English land, cultivated or uncultivated, you will find that
Nature's text at first sight looks a very different one.  She seems
to say:  Not the righteous, but the strong, shall inherit the land.
Plant, insect, bird, what not--Find a weaker plant, insect, bird,
than yourself, and kill it, and take possession of its little
vineyard, and no Naboth's curse shall follow you:  but you shall
inherit, and thrive therein, you, and your children after you, if
they will be only as strong and as cruel as you are.  That is
Nature's law:  and is it not at first sight a fearful law?
Internecine competition, ruthless selfishness, so internecine and so
ruthless that, as I have wandered in tropic forests, where this
temper is shown more quickly and fiercely, though not in the least
more evilly, than in our slow and cold temperate one, I have said:
Really these trees and plants are as wicked as so many human beings.

Throughout the great republic of the organic world the motto of the
majority is, and always has been as far back as we can see, what it
is, and always has been, with the majority of human beings:
"Everyone for himself, and the devil take the hindmost."
Overreaching tyranny; the temper which fawns, and clings, and plays
the parasite as long as it is down, and when it has risen, fattens
on its patron's blood and life--these, and the other works of the
flesh, are the works of average plants and animals, as far as they
can practise them.  At least, so says at first sight the science of
bio-geology; till the naturalist, if he be also human and humane, is
glad to escape from the confusion and darkness of the universal
battle-field of selfishness into the order and light of Christmas-

For then there comes to him the thought--And are these all the
facts?  And is this all which the facts mean?  That mutual
competition is one law of Nature, we see too plainly.  But is there
not, besides that law, a law of mutual help?  True it is, as the
wise man has said, that the very hyssop on the wall grows there
because all the forces of the universe could not prevent its
growing.  All honour to the hyssop.  A brave plant, it has fought a
brave fight, and has its just deserts--as everything in Nature has--
and so has won.  But did all the powers of the universe combine to
prevent it growing?  Is not that a one-sided statement of facts?
Did not all the powers of the universe also combine to make it grow,
if only it had valour and worth wherewith to grow?  Did not the
rains feed it, the very mortar in the wall give lime to its roots?
Were not electricity, gravitation, and I know not what of chemical
and mechanical forces, busy about the little plant, and every cell
of it, kindly and patiently ready to help it if it would only help
itself?  Surely this is true; true of every organic thing, animal
and vegetable, and mineral too, for aught I know:  and so we must
soften our sadness at the sight of the universal mutual war by the
sight of an equally universal mutual help.

But more.  It is true--too true if you will--that all things live on
each other.  But is it not, therefore, equally true that all things
live for each other?--that self-sacrifice, and not selfishness, is
at the bottom the law of Nature, as it is the law of Grace; and the
law of bio-geology, as it is the law of all religion and virtue
worthy of the name?  Is it not true that everything has to help
something else to live, whether it knows it or not?--that not a
plant or an animal can turn again to its dust without giving food
and existence to other plants, other animals?--that the very tiger,
seemingly the most useless tyrant of all tyrants, is still of use,
when, after sending out of the world suddenly, and all but
painlessly, many an animal which would without him have starved in
misery through a diseased old age, he himself dies, and, in dying,
gives, by his own carcase, the means of life and of enjoyment to a
thousandfold more living creatures than ever his paws destroyed?

And so, the longer one watches the great struggle for existence, the
more charitable, the more hopeful, one becomes; as one sees that,
consciously or unconsciously, the law of Nature is, after all self-
sacrifice:  unconscious in plants and animals, as far as we know;
save always those magnificent instances of true self-sacrifice shown
by the social insects, by ants, bees, and others, which put to shame
by a civilisation truly noble--why should I not say divine, for God
ordained it?--the selfishness and barbarism of man.  But be that as
it may, in man the law of self-sacrifice--whether unconscious or not
in the animals--rises into consciousness just as far as he is a man;
and the crowning lesson of bio-geology may be, when we have worked
it out after all, the lesson of Christmas-tide--of the infinite
self-sacrifice of God for man; and Nature as well as religion may
say to us:

Ah, could you crush that ever craving lust
For bliss, which kills all bliss, and lose your life,
Your barren unit life, to find again
A thousand times in those for whom you die--
So were you men and women, and should hold
Your rightful rank in God's great universe,
Wherein, in heaven or earth, by will or nature,
Naught lives for self.  All, all, from crown to base--
The Lamb, before the world's foundation slain--
The angels, ministers to God's elect--
The sun, who only shines to light the worlds--
The clouds, whose glory is to die in showers--
The fleeting streams, who in their ocean graves
Flee the decay of stagnant self-content--
The oak, ennobled by the shipwright's axe--
The soil, which yields its marrow to the flower--
The flower, which feeds a thousand velvet worms
Born only to be prey to every bird--
All spend themselves on others:  and shall man,
Whose twofold being is the mystic knot
Which couples earth with heaven, doubly bound,
As being both, worm and angel, to that service
By which both worms and angels hold their life,
Shall he, whose every breath is debt on debt,
Refuse, forsooth, to be what God has made him?
No; let him show himself the creatures' Lord
By free-will gift of that self-sacrifice
Which they, perforce, by Nature's law's endure.

My friends, scientific and others, if the study of bio-geology shall
help to teach you this, or anything like this, I think that though
it may not make you more happy, it may yet make you more wise; and,
therefore, what is better than being more happy, namely, more


Gentlemen:  When I accepted the honour of lecturing here, I took for
granted that so select an audience would expect from me not mere
amusement, but somewhat of instruction; or, if that be too ambitious
a word for me to use, at least some fresh hint--if I were able to
give one--as to how they should fulfil the ideal of military men in
such an age as this.

To touch on military matters, even had I been conversant with them,
seemed to me an impertinence.  I am bound to take for granted that
every man knows his own business best; and I incline more and more
to the opinion that military men should be left to work out the
problems of their art for themselves, without the advice or
criticism of civilians.  But I hold--and I am sure that you will
agree with me--that if the soldier is to be thus trusted by the
nation, and left to himself to do his own work his own way, he must
be educated in all practical matters as highly as the average of
educated civilians.  He must know all that they know, and his own
art besides.  Just as a clergyman, being a man plus a priest, is
bound to be a man, and a good man; over and above his priesthood, so
is the soldier bound to be a civilian, and a highly-educated
civilian, plus his soldierly qualities and acquirements.

It seemed to me, therefore, that I might, without impertinence, ask
you to consider a branch of knowledge which is becoming yearly more
and more important in the eyes of well-educated civilians; of which,
therefore, the soldier ought at least to know something, in order to
put him on a par with the general intelligence of the nation.  I do
not say that he is to devote much time to it, or to follow it up
into specialities:  but that he ought to be well grounded in its
principles and methods; that he ought to be aware of its importance
and its usefulness; that so, if he comes into contact--as he will
more and more--with scientific men, he may understand them, respect
them, befriend them, and be befriended by them in turn; and how
desirable this last result is, I shall tell you hereafter.

There are those, I doubt not, among my audience who do not need the
advice which I shall presume to give to-night; who belong to that
fast-increasing class among officers of whom I have often said--and
I have found scientific men cordially agree with me--that they are
the most modest and the most teachable of men.  But even in their
case there can be no harm in going over deliberately a question of
such importance; in putting it, as it were, into shape; and
insisting on arguments which may perhaps not have occurred to some
of them.

Let me, in the first place, reassure those--if any such there be--
who may suppose, from the title of my lecture, that I am only going
to recommend them to collect weeds and butterflies, "rats and mice,
and such small deer."  Far from it.  The honourable title of Natural
History has, and unwisely, been restricted too much of late years to
the mere study of plants and animals.  I desire to restore the words
to their original and proper meaning--the History of Nature; that
is, of all that is born, and grows in time; in short, of all natural

If any one shall say--By that definition you make not only geology
and chemistry branches of natural history, but meteorology and
astronomy likewise--I cannot deny it.  They deal each of them, with
realms of Nature.  Geology is, literally, the natural history of
soils and lands; chemistry the natural history of compounds, organic
and inorganic; meteorology the natural history of climates;
astronomy the natural history of planetary and solar bodies.  And
more, you cannot now study deeply any branch of what is popularly
called Natural History--that is, plants and animals--without finding
it necessary to learn something, and more and more as you go deeper,
of those very sciences.  As the marvellous interdependence of all
natural objects and forces unfolds itself more and more, so the once
separate sciences, which treated of different classes of natural
objects, are forced to interpenetrate, as it were; and to supplement
themselves by knowledge borrowed from each other.  Thus--to give a
single instance--no man can now be a first-rate botanist unless he
be also no mean meteorologist, no mean geologist, and--as Mr. Darwin
has shown in his extraordinary discoveries about the fertilisation
of plants by insects--no mean entomologist likewise.

It is difficult, therefore, and indeed somewhat unwise and unfair,
to put any limit to the term Natural History, save that it shall
deal only with nature and with matter; and shall not pretend--as
some would have it to do just now--to go out of its own sphere to
meddle with moral and spiritual matters.  But, for practical
purposes, we may define the natural history of the causes which have
made it what it is, and filled it with the natural objects which it
holds.  And if any one would know how to study the natural history
of any given spot as the history of the causes which have made it
what it is, and filled it with the natural objects which it holds.
And if any one would know how to study the natural history of a
place, and how to write it, let him read--and if he has read its
delightful pages in youth, read once again--that hitherto unrivalled
little monograph, White's "Natural History of Selborne;" and let him
then try, by the light of improved science, to do for any district
where he may be stationed, what White did for Selborne nearly one
hundred years ago.  Let him study its plants, its animals, its soils
and rocks; and last, but not least, its scenery, as the total
outcome of what the soils, and plants, and animals, have made it.  I
say, have made it.  How far the nature of the soils, and the rocks
will affect the scenery of a district may be well learnt from a very
clever and interesting little book of Professor Geikie's, on "The
Scenery of Scotland as affected by its Geological Structure."  How
far the plants, and trees affect not merely the general beauty, the
richness or barrenness of a country, but also its very shape; the
rate at which the hills are destroyed and washed into the lowland;
the rate at which the seaboard is being removed by the action of
waves--all these are branches of study which is becoming more and
more important.

And even in the study of animals and their effects on the
vegetation, questions of really deep interest will arise.  You will
find that certain plants and trees cannot thrive in a district,
while others can, because the former are browsed down by cattle, or
their seeds eaten by birds, and the latter are not; that certain
seeds are carried in the coats of animals, or wafted abroad by
winds--others are not; certain trees destroyed wholesale by insects,
while others are not; that in a hundred ways the animal and
vegetable life of a district act and react upon each other, and that
the climate, the average temperature, the maximum and minimum
temperatures, the rainfall, act on them, and in the case of the
vegetation, are reacted on again by them.  The diminution of
rainfall by the destruction of forests, its increase by replanting
them, and the effect of both on the healthiness or unhealthiness of
a place--as in the case of the Mauritius, where a once healthy
island has become pestilential, seemingly from the clearing away of
the vegetation on the banks of streams--all this, though to study it
deeply requires a fair knowledge of meteorology, and even of a
science or two more, is surely well worth the attention of any
educated man who is put in charge of the health and lives of human

You will surely agree with me that the habit of mind required for
such a study as this, is the very same as is required for successful
military study.  In fact, I should say that the same intellect which
would develop into a great military man, would develop also into a
great naturalist.  I say, intellect.  The military man would
require--what the naturalist would not--over and above his
intellect, a special force of will, in order to translate his
theories into fact, and make his campaigns in the field and not
merely on paper.  But I am speaking only of the habit of mind
required for study; of that inductive habit of mind which works,
steadily and by rule, from the known to the unknown; that habit of
mind of which it has been said:  "The habit of seeing; the habit of
knowing what we see; the habit of discerning differences and
likenesses; the habit of classifying accordingly; the habit of
searching for hypotheses which shall connect and explain those
classified facts; the habit of verifying these hypotheses by
applying them to fresh facts; the habit of throwing them away
bravely if they will not fit; the habit of general patience,
diligence, accuracy, reverence for facts for their own sake, and
love of truth for its own sake; in one word, the habit of reverent
and implicit obedience to the laws of Nature, whatever they may be--
these are not merely intellectual, but also moral habits, which will
stand men in practical good stead in every affair of life, and in
every question, even the most awful, which may come before them as
rational and social beings."  And specially valuable are they,
surely, to the military man, the very essence of whose study, to be
successful, lies first in continuous and accurate observation, and
then in calm and judicious arrangement.

Therefore it is that I hold, and hold strongly, that the study of
physical science, far from interfering with an officer's studies,
much less unfitting for them, must assist him in them, by keeping
his mind always in the very attitude and the very temper which they

If any smile at this theory of mine, let them recollect one curious
fact:  that perhaps the greatest captain of the old world was
trained by perhaps the greatest philosopher of the old world--the
father of Natural History; that Aristotle was the tutor of Alexander
of Macedon.  I do not fancy, of course, that Aristotle taught
Alexander any Natural History.  But this we know, that he taught him
to use those very faculties by which Aristotle became a natural
historian, and many things besides; that he called out in his pupil
somewhat of his own extraordinary powers of observation,
extraordinary powers of arrangement.  He helped to make him a great
general:  but he helped to make him more--a great politician,
coloniser, discoverer.  He instilled into him such a sense of the
importance of Natural History, that Alexander helped him nobly in
his researches; and, if Athenaeus is to be believed, gave him eight
hundred talents towards perfecting his history of animals.  Surely
it is not too much to say that this close friendship between the
natural philosopher and the soldier has changed the whole course of
civilisation to this very day.  Do not consider me Utopian when I
tell you, that I should like to see the study of physical science an
integral part of the curriculum of every military school.  I would
train the mind of the lad who was to become hereafter an officer in
the army--and in the navy likewise--by accustoming him to careful
observation of, and sound thought about, the face of nature; of the
commonest objects under his feet, just as much as the stars above
his head; provided always that he learnt, not at second-hand from
books, but where alone ho can really learn either war or nature--in
the field; by actual observation, actual experiment.  A laboratory
for chemical experiment is a good thing, it is true, as far as it
goes; but I should prefer to the laboratory a naturalists' field-
club, such as are prospering now at several of the best public
schools, certain that the boys would get more of sound inductive
habits of mind, as well as more health, manliness, and cheerfulness,
amid scenes to remember which will be a joy for ever, than they ever
can by bending over retorts and crucibles, amid smells even to
remember which is a pain for ever.

But I would, whether a field-club existed or not, require of every
young man entering the army or navy--indeed of every young man
entering any liberal profession whatsoever--a fair knowledge, such
as would enable him to pass an examination, in what the Germans call
Erd-kunde--earth-lore--in that knowledge of the face of the earth
and of its products, for which we English have as yet cared so
little that we have actually no English name for it, save the clumsy
and questionable one of physical geography; and, I am sorry to say,
hardly any readable school books about it, save Keith Johnston's
"Physical Atlas"--an acquaintance with which last I should certainly
require of young men.

It does seem most strange--or rather will seem most strange a
hundred years hence--that we, the nation of colonists, the nation of
sailors, the nation of foreign commerce, the nation of foreign
military stations, the nation of travellers for travelling's sake,
the nation of which one man here and another there--as Schleiden
sets forth in his book, "The Plant," in a charming ideal
conversation at the Travellers' Club--has seen and enjoyed more of
the wonders and beauties of this planet than the men of any nation,
not even excepting the Germans--that this nation, I say, should as
yet have done nothing, or all but nothing, to teach in her schools a
knowledge of that planet, of which she needs to know more, and can
if she will know more, than any other nation upon it.

As for the practical utility of such studies to a soldier, I only
need, I trust, to hint at it to such an assembly as this.  All must
see of what advantage a rough knowledge of the botany of a district
would be to an officer leading an exploring party, or engaged in
bush warfare.  To know what plants are poisonous; what plants, too,
are eatable--and many more are eatable than is usually supposed;
what plants yield oleaginous substances, whether for food or for
other uses; what plants yield vegetable acids, as preventives of
scurvy; what timbers are available for each of many different
purposes; what will resist wet, salt-water, and the attacks of
insects; what, again, can be used, at a pinch, for medicine or for
styptics--and be sure, as a wise West Indian doctor once said to me,
that there is more good medicine wild in the bush than there is in
all the druggists' shops--surely all this is a knowledge not beneath
the notice of any enterprising officer, above all of an officer of
engineers.  I only ask any one who thinks that I may be in the
right, to glance through the lists of useful vegetable products
given in Lindley's "Vegetable Kingdom"--a miracle of learning--and
see the vast field open still to a thoughtful and observant man,
even while on service; and not to forget that such knowledge, if he
should hereafter leave the service and settle, as many do, in a
distant land, may be a solid help to his future prosperity.  So
strongly do I feel on this matter, that I should like to see some
knowledge at least of Dr. Oliver's excellent little "First Book of
Indian Botany" required of all officers going to our Indian Empire:
but as that will not be, at least for many a year to come, I
recommend any gentlemen going to India to get that book, and while
away the hours of the outward voyage by acquiring knowledge which
will be a continual source of interest, and it may be now and then
of profit, to them during their stay abroad.

And for geology, again.  As I do not expect you all, or perhaps any
of you, to become such botanists as General Monro, whose recent
"Monograph of the Bamboos" is an honour to British botanists, and a
proof of the scientific power which is to be found here and there
among British officers:  so I do not expect you to become such
geologists as Sir Roderick Murchison, or even to add such a grand
chapter to the history of extinct animals as Major Cautley did by
his discoveries in the Sewalik Hills.  Nevertheless, you can learn--
and I should earnestly advise you to learn--geology and mineralogy
enough to be of great use to you in your profession, and of use,
too, should you relinquish your profession hereafter.  It must be
profitable for any man, and specially for you, to know how and where
to find good limestone, building stone, road metal; it must be good
to be able to distinguish ores and mineral products; it must be good
to know--as a geologist will usually know, even in a country which
he sees for the first time--where water is likely to be found, and
at what probable depth; it must be good to know whether the water is
fit for drinking or not, whether it is unwholesome or merely muddy;
it must be good to know what spots are likely to be healthy, and
what unhealthy, for encamping.  The two last questions depend,
doubtless, on meteorological as well as geological accidents:  but
the answers to them will be most surely found out by the scientific
man, because the facts connected with them are, like all other
facts, determined by natural laws.  After what one has heard, in
past years, of barracks built in spots plainly pestilential; of
soldiers encamped in ruined cities, reeking with the dirt and poison
of centuries; of--but it is not my place to find fault; all I will
say is, that the wise and humane officer, when once his eyes are
opened to the practical value of physical science, will surely try
to acquaint himself somewhat with those laws of drainage and of
climate, geological, meteorological, chemical, which influence,
often with terrible suddenness and fury, the health of whole armies.
He will not find it beyond his province to ascertain the amount and
period of rainfalls, the maxima of heat and of cold which his troops
may have to endure, and many another point on which their health and
efficiency--nay, their very life may depend, but which are now too
exclusively delegated to the doctor, to whose province they do not
really belong.  For cure, I take the liberty of believing, is the
duty of the medical officer; prevention, that of the military.

Thus much I can say just now--and there is much more to be said--on
the practical uses of the study of Natural History.  But let me
remind you, on the other side, if Natural History will help you, you
in return can help her; and would, I doubt not, help her and help
scientific men at home, if once you looked fairly and steadily at
the immense importance of Natural History--of the knowledge of the
"face of the earth."  I believe that all will one day feel, more or
less, that to know the earth ON which we live, and the laws of it BY
which we live, is a sacred duty to ourselves, to our children after
us, and to all whom we may have to command and to influence; ay, and
a duty to God likewise.  For is it not a duty of common reverence
and faith towards Him, if He has put us into a beautiful and
wonderful place, and given us faculties by which we can see, and
enjoy, and use that place--is it not a duty of reverence and faith
towards Him to use these faculties, and to learn the lessons which
He has laid open for us?  If you feel that, as I think you all will
some day feel, then you will surely feel likewise that it will be a
good deed--I do not say a necessary duty, but still a good deed and
praiseworthy--to help physical science forward; and to add your
contributions, however small, to our general knowledge of the earth.
And how much may be done for science by British officers, especially
on foreign stations, I need not point out.  I know that much has
been done, chivalrously and well, by officers; and that men of
science owe them and give them hearty thanks for their labours.  But
I should like, I confess, to see more done still.  I should like to
see every foreign station what one or two highly-educated officers
might easily make it, an advanced post of physical science, in
regular communication with our scientific societies at home, sending
to them accurate and methodic details of the natural history of each
district--details ninety-nine hundredths of which might seem
worthless in the eyes of the public, but which would all be precious
in the eyes of scientific men, who know that no fact is really
unimportant; and more, that while plodding patiently through
seemingly unimportant facts, you may stumble on one of infinite
importance, both scientific and practical.  For the student of
nature, gentlemen, if he will be but patient, diligent, methodical,
is liable at any moment to the same good fortune as befell Saul of
old, when he went out to seek his father's asses, and found a

There are those, lastly, who have neither time nor taste for the
technicalities and nice distinctions of formal Natural History; who
enjoy Nature, but as artists or as sportsmen, and not as men of
science.  Let them follow their bent freely:  but let them not
suppose that in following it they can do nothing towards enlarging
our knowledge of Nature, especially when on foreign stations.  So
far from it, drawings ought always to be valuable, whether of
plants, animals, or scenery, provided only they are accurate; and
the more spirited and full of genius they are, the more accurate
they are certain to be; for Nature being alive, a lifeless copy of
her is necessarily an untrue copy.  Most thankful to any officer for
a mere sight of sketches will be the closest botanist, who, to his
own sorrow, knows three-fourths of his plants only from dried
specimens; or the closest zoologist, who knows his animals from
skins and bones.  And if any one answers--But I cannot draw.  I
rejoin.  You can at least photograph.  If a young officer, going out
to foreign parts, and knowing nothing at all about physical science,
did me the honour to ask me what he could do for science, I should
tell him--Learn to photograph; take photographs of every strange bit
of rock-formation which strikes your fancy, and of every widely-
extended view which may give a notion of the general lie of the
country.  Append, if you can, a note or two, saying whether a plain
is rich or barren; whether the rock is sandstone, limestone,
granitic, metamorphic, or volcanic lava; and if there be more rocks
than one, which of them lies on the other; and send them to be
exhibited at a meeting of the Geological Society.  I doubt not that
the learned gentlemen there will find in your photographs a valuable
hint or two, for which they will be much obliged.  I learnt, for
instance, what seemed to me most valuable geological lessons from
mere glances at drawings--I believe from photographs--of the
Abyssinian ranges about Magdala.

Or again, let a man, if he knows nothing of botany, not trouble
himself with collecting and drying specimens; let him simply
photograph every strange and new tree or plant he sees, to give a
general notion of its species, its look; let him append, where he
can, a photograph of its leafage, flower, fruit; and send them to
Dr. Hooker, or any distinguished botanist:  and he will find that,
though he may know nothing of botany, he will have pretty certainly
increased the knowledge of those who do know.

The sportsman, again--I mean the sportsman of that type which seems
peculiar to these islands, who loves toil and danger for their own
sakes; he surely is a naturalist, ipso facto, though he knows it
not.  He has those very habits of keen observation on which all
sound knowledge of nature is based; and he, if he will--as he may do
without interfering with his sport--can study the habits of the
animals among whom he spends wholesome and exciting days.  You have
only to look over such good old books as Williams's "Wild Sports of
the East," Campbell's "Old Forest Ranger," Lloyd's "Scandinavian
Adventures," and last, but not least, Waterton's "Wanderings," to
see what valuable additions to true zoology--the knowledge of live
creatures, not merely dead ones--British sportsmen have made, and
still can make.  And as for the employment of time, which often
hangs so heavily on a soldier's hands, really I am ready to say, if
you are neither men of science, nor draughtsmen, nor sportsmen, why,
go and collect beetles.  It is not very dignified, I know, nor
exciting:  but it will be something to do.  It cannot harm you, if
you take, as beetle-hunters do, an indiarubber sheet to lie on; and
it will certainly benefit science.  Moreover, there will be a noble
humility in the act.  You will confess to the public that you
consider yourself only fit to catch beetles; by which very
confession you will prove yourself fit for much finer things than
catching beetles; and meanwhile, as I said before, you will be at
least out of harm's way.  At a foreign barrack once, the happiest
officer I met, because the most regularly employed, was one who
spent his time in collecting butterflies.  He knew nothing about
them scientifically--not even their names.  He took them simply for
their wonderful beauty and variety; and in the hope, too--in which
he was really scientific--that if he carefully kept every form which
he saw, his collection might be of use some day to entomologists at
home.  A most pleasant gentleman he was; and, I doubt not, none the
worse soldier for his butterfly catching.  Commendable, also, in my
eyes, was another officer--whom I have not the pleasure of knowing--
who, on a remote foreign station, used wisely to escape from the
temptations of the world into an entirely original and most pleasant
hermitage.  For finding--so the story went--that many of the finest
insects kept to the tree-tops, and never came to ground at all, he
used to settle himself among the boughs of some tree in the tropic
forests, with a long-handled net and plenty of cigars, and pass his
hours in that airy flower-garden, making dashes every now and then
at some splendid monster as it fluttered round his head.  His
example need not be followed by every one; but it must be allowed
that--at least as long as he was in his tree--he was neither
dawdling, grumbling, spending money, nor otherwise harming himself,
and perhaps his fellow-creatures, from sheer want of employment.

One word more, and I have done.  If I was allowed to give one
special piece of advice to a young officer, whether of the army or
navy, I would say:  Respect scientific men; associate with them;
learn from them; find them to be, as you will usually, the most
pleasant and instructive of companions--but always respect them.
Allow them chivalrously, you who have an acknowledged rank, their
yet unacknowledged rank; and treat them as all the world will treat
them in a higher and truer state of civilisation.  They do not yet
wear the Queen's uniform; they are not yet accepted servants of the
State; as they will be in some more perfectly organised and
civilised land:  but they are soldiers nevertheless, and good
soldiers and chivalrous, fighting their nation's battle, often on
even less pay than you, and with still less chance of promotion and
of fame, against most real and fatal enemies--against ignorance of
the laws of this planet, and all the miseries which that ignorance
begets.  Honour them for their work; sympathise in it; give them a
helping hand in it whenever you have an opportunity--and what
opportunities you have, I have been trying to sketch for you to-
night; and more, work at it yourselves whenever and wherever you
can.  Show them that the spirit which animates them--the hatred of
ignorance and disorder, and of their bestial consequences--animates
you likewise; show them that the habit of mind which they value in
themselves--the habit of accurate observation and careful judgment--
is your habit likewise; show them that you value science, not merely
because it gives better weapons of destruction and of defence, but
because it helps you to become clear-headed, large-minded, able to
take a just and accurate view of any subject which comes before you,
and to cast away every old prejudice and every hasty judgment in the
face of truth and of duty:  and it will be better for you and for

But why?  What need for the soldier and the man of science to
fraternise just now?  This need:  the two classes which will have an
increasing, it may be a preponderating, influence on the fate of the
human race for some time, will be the pupils of Aristotle and those
of Alexander--the men of science and the soldiers.  In spite of all
appearances, and all declamations to the contrary, that is my firm
conviction.  They, and they alone, will be left to rule; because
they alone, each in his own sphere, have learnt to obey.  It is
therefore most needful for the welfare of society that they should
pull with, and not against each other; that they should understand
each other, respect each other, take counsel with each other,
supplement each other's defects, bring out each other's higher
tendencies, counteract each other's lower ones.  The scientific man
has something to learn of you, gentlemen, which I doubt not that he
will learn in good time.  You, again, have--as I have been hinting
to you to-night--something to learn of him, which you, I doubt not,
will learn in good time likewise.  Repeat, each of you according to
his powers, the old friendship between Aristotle and Alexander; and
so, from your mutual sympathy and co-operation, a class of thinkers
and actors may yet arise which can save this nation, and the other
civilised nations of the world, from that of which I had rather not
speak, and wish that I did not think too often and too earnestly.

I may be a dreamer; and I may consider, in my turn, as wilder
dreamers than myself, certain persons who fancy that their only
business in life is to make money, the scientific man's only
business is to show them how to make money, and the soldier's only
business to guard their money for them.  Be that as it may, the
finest type of civilised man which we are likely to see for some
generations to come, will be produced by a combination of the truly
military with the truly scientific man.  I say--I may be a dreamer;
but you at least, as well as my scientific friends, will bear with
me; for my dream is to your honour.


Having accepted the very great honour of being allowed to deliver
here two lectures, I have chosen as my subject Superstition and
Science.  It is with Superstition that this first lecture will deal.

The subject seems to me especially fit for a clergyman; for he
should, more than other men, be able to avoid trenching on two
subjects rightly excluded from this Institution; namely, Theology--
that is, the knowledge of God; and Religion--that is, the knowledge
of Duty.  If he knows, as he should, what is Theology, and what is
Religion, then he should best know what is not Theology, and what is
not Religion.

For my own part, I entreat you at the outset to keep in mind that
these lectures treat of matters entirely physical; which have in
reality, and ought to have in our minds, no more to do with Theology
and Religion than the proposition that theft is wrong, has to do
with the proposition that the three angles of a triangle are equal
to two right angles.

It is necessary to premise this, because many are of opinion that
superstition is a corruption of religion; and though they would
agree that as such, "corruptio optimi pessima," yet they would look
on religion as the state of spiritual health, and superstition as
one of spiritual disease.

Others again, holding the same notion, but not considering that
"corruptio optimi pessima," have been in all ages somewhat inclined
to be merciful to superstition, as a child of reverence; as a mere
accidental misdirection of one of the noblest and most wholesome
faculties of man.

This is not the place wherein to argue with either of these parties:
and I shall simply say that superstition seems to me altogether a
physical affection, as thoroughly material and corporeal as those of
eating or sleeping, remembering or dreaming.

After this, it will be necessary to define superstition, in order to
have some tolerably clear understanding of what we are talking
about.  I beg leave to define it as--Fear of the unknown.

Johnson, who was no dialectician, and, moreover, superstitious
enough himself, gives eight different definitions of the word; which
is equivalent to confessing his inability to define it at all:

"1.  Unnecessary fear or scruples in religion; observance of
unnecessary and uncommanded rites or practices; religion without

"2.  False religion; reverence of beings not proper objects of
reverence; false worship.

" 3.  Over nicety; exactness too scrupulous."

Eight meanings; which, on the principle that eight eighths, or
indeed eight hundred, do not make one whole, may be considered as no
definition.  His first thought, as often happens, is the best--
"Unnecessary fear."  But after that he wanders.  The root-meaning of
the word is still to seek.  But, indeed, the popular meaning, thanks
to popular common sense, will generally be found to contain in
itself the root-meaning.

Let us go back to the Latin word Superstitio.  Cicero says that the
superstitious element consists in "a certain empty dread of the
gods"--a purely physical affection, if you will remember three

1.  That dread is in itself a physical affection.

2.  That the gods who were dreaded were, with the vulgar, who alone
dreaded them, merely impersonations of the powers of nature.

3.  That it was physical injury which these gods were expected to

But he himself agrees with this theory of mine; for he says shortly
after, that not only philosophers, but even the ancient Romans, had
separated superstition from religion; and that the word was first
applied to those who prayed all day ut liberi sui sibi superstites
essent, might survive them.  On the etymology no one will depend who
knows the remarkable absence of any etymological instinct in the
ancients, in consequence of their weak grasp of that sound inductive
method which has created modern criticism.  But if it be correct, it
is a natural and pathetic form for superstition to take in the minds
of men who saw their children fade and die; probably the greater
number of them beneath diseases which mankind could neither
comprehend nor cure.

The best exemplification of what the ancients meant by superstition
is to be found in the lively and dramatic words of Aristotle's great
pupil Theophrastus.

The superstitious man, according to him, after having washed his
hands with lustral water--that is, water in which a torch from the
altar had been quenched--goes about with a laurel-leaf in his mouth,
to keep off evil influences, as the pigs in Devonshire used, in my
youth, to go about with a withe of mountain ash round their necks to
keep off the evil eye.  If a weasel crosses his path, he stops, and
either throws three pebbles into the road, or, with the innate
selfishness of fear, lets someone else go before him, and attract to
himself the harm which may ensue.  He has a similar dread of a
screech-owl, whom he compliments in the name of its mistress, Pallas
Athene.  If he finds a serpent in his house, he sets up an altar to
it.  If he pass at a four-cross-way an anointed stone, he pours oil
on it, kneels down, and adores it.  If a rat has nibbled one of his
sacks he takes it for a fearful portent--a superstition which Cicero
also mentions.  He dare not sit on a tomb, because it would be
assisting at his own funeral.  He purifies endlessly his house,
saying that Hecate--that is, the moon--has exercised some malign
influence on it; and many other purifications he observes, of which
I shall only say that they are by their nature plainly, like the
last, meant as preservatives against unseen malarias or contagions,
possible or impossible.  He assists every month with his children at
the mysteries of the Orphic priests; and finally, whenever he sees
an epileptic patient, he spits in his own bosom to avert the evil

I have quoted, I believe, every fact given by Theophrastus; and you
will agree, I am sure, that the moving and inspiring element of such
a character is mere bodily fear of unknown evil.  The only
superstition attributed to him which does not at first sight seem to
have its root in dread is that of the Orphic mysteries.  But of them
Muller says that the Dionusos whom they worshipped "was an infernal
deity, connected with Hades, and was the personification, not merely
of rapturous pleasure, but of a deep sorrow for the miseries of
human life."  The Orphic societies of Greece seem to have been
peculiarly ascetic, taking no animal food save raw flesh from the
sacrificed ox of Dionusos.  And Plato speaks of a lower grade of
Orphic priests, Orpheotelestai, "who used to come before the doors
of the rich, and promise, by sacrifices and expiatory songs, to
release them from their own sins, and those of their forefathers;"
and such would be but too likely to get a hearing from the man who
was afraid of a weasel or an owl.

Now, this same bodily fear, I verily believe, will be found at the
root of all superstition whatsoever.

But be it so.  Fear is a natural passion, and a wholesome one.
Without the instinct of self-preservation, which causes the sea-
anemone to contract its tentacles, or the fish to dash into its
hover, species would be extermined wholesale by involuntary suicide.

Yes; fear is wholesome enough, like all other faculties, as long as
it is controlled by reason.  But what if the fear be not rational,
but irrational?  What if it be, in plain homely English, blind fear;
fear of the unknown, simply because it is unknown?  Is it not
likely, then, to be afraid of the wrong object? to be hurtful,
ruinous to animals as well as to man?  Any one will confess that,
who has ever seen, a horse inflict on himself mortal injuries, in
his frantic attempts to escape from a quite imaginary danger.  I
have good reasons for believing that not only animals here and
there, but whole flocks and swarms of them, are often destroyed,
even in the wild state, by mistaken fear; by such panics, for
instance, as cause a whole herd of buffaloes to rush over a bluff,
and be dashed to pieces.  And remark that this capacity of panic,
fear--of superstition, as I should call it--is greatest in those
animals, the dog and the horse for instance, which have the most
rapid and vivid fancy.  Does not the unlettered Highlander say all
that I want to say, when he attributes to his dog and his horse, on
the strength of these very manifestations of fear, the capacity of
seeing ghosts and fairies before he can see them himself?

But blind fear not only causes evil to the coward himself:  it makes
him a source of evil to others; for it is the cruellest of all human
states.  It transforms the man into the likeness of the cat, who,
when she is caught in a trap, or shut up in a room, has too low an
intellect to understand that you wish to release her:  and, in the
madness of terror, bites and tears at the hand which tries to do her
good.  Yes; very cruel is blind fear.  When a man dreads he knows
not what, he will do he cares not what.  When he dreads desperately,
he will act desperately.  When he dreads beyond all reason, he will
behave beyond all reason.  He has no law of guidance left, save the
lowest selfishness.  No law of guidance:  and yet his intellect,
left unguided, may be rapid and acute enough to lead him into
terrible follies.  Infinitely more imaginative than the lowest
animals, he is for that very reason capable of being infinitely more
foolish, more cowardly, more superstitious.  He can--what the lower
animals, happily for them, cannot--organise his folly; erect his
superstitions into a science; and create a whole mythology out of
his blind fear of the unknown.  And when he has done that--Woe to
the weak!  For when he has reduced his superstition to a science,
then he will reduce his cruelty to a science likewise, and write
books like the "Malleus Maleficarum," and the rest of the witch
literature of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries;
of which Mr. Lecky has of late told the world so much, and told it
most faithfully and most fairly.

But, fear of the unknown?  Is not that fear of the unseen world?
And is not that fear of the spiritual world?  Pardon me:  a great
deal of that fear--all of it, indeed, which is superstition--is
simply not fear of the spiritual, but of the material; and of
nothing else.

The spiritual world--I beg you to fix this in your minds--is not
merely an invisible world which may become visible, but an invisible
world which is by its essence invisible; a moral world, a world of
right and wrong.  And spiritual fear--which is one of the noblest of
all affections, as bodily fear is one of the basest--is, if properly
defined, nothing less or more than the fear of doing wrong; of
becoming a worse man.

But what has that to do with mere fear of the unseen?  The fancy
which conceives the fear is physical, not spiritual.  Think for
yourselves.  What difference is there between a savage's fear of a
demon, and a hunter's fear of a fall?  The hunter sees a fence.  He
does not know what is on the other side, but he has seen fences like
it with a great ditch on the other side, and suspects one here
likewise.  He has seen horses fall at such, and men hurt thereby.
He pictures to himself his horse falling at that fence, himself
rolling in the ditch, with possibly a broken limb; and he recoils
from the picture he himself has made; and perhaps with very good
reason.  His picture may have its counterpart in fact; and he may
break his leg.  But his picture, like the previous pictures from
which it was compounded, is simply a physical impression on the
brain, just as much as those in dreams.

Now, does the fact of the ditch, the fall, and the broken leg, being
unseen and unknown, make them a spiritual ditch, a spiritual fall, a
spiritual broken leg?  And does the fact of the demon and his
doings, being as yet unseen and unknown, make them spiritual, or the
harm that he may do, a spiritual harm?  What does the savage fear?
Lest the demon should appear; that is, become obvious to his
physical senses, and produce an unpleasant physical effect on them.
He fears lest the fiend should entice him into the bog, break the
hand-bridge over the brook, turn into a horse and ride away with
him, or jump out from behind a tree and wring his neck--tolerably
hard physical facts, all of them; the children of physical fancy,
regarded with physical dread.  Even if the superstition proved true;
even if the demon did appear; even if he wrung the traveller's neck
in sound earnest, there would be no more spiritual agency or
phenomenon in the whole tragedy than there is in the parlour-table,
when spiritual somethings make spiritual raps upon spiritual wood;
and human beings, who are really spirits--and would to heaven they
would remember that fact, and what it means--believe that anything
has happened beyond a clumsy juggler's trick.

You demur?  Do you not see that the demon, by the mere fact of
having produced physical consequences, would have become himself a
physical agent, a member of physical Nature, and therefore to be
explained, he and his doings, by physical laws?  If you do not see
that conclusion at first sight, think over it till you do.

It may seem to some that I have founded my theory on a very narrow
basis; that I am building up an inverted pyramid; or that,
considering the numberless, complex, fantastic shapes which
superstition has assumed, bodily fear is too simple to explain them

But if those persons will think a second time, they must agree that
my base is as broad as the phenomena which it explains; for every
man is capable of fear.  And they will see, too, that the cause of
superstition must be something like fear, which is common to all
men:  for all, at least as children, are capable of superstition;
and that it must be something which, like fear, is of a most simple,
rudimentary, barbaric kind; for the lowest savage, of whatever he is
not capable, is still superstitious, often to a very ugly degree.
Superstition seems, indeed, to be, next to the making of stone-
weapons, the earliest method of asserting his superiority to the
brutes which has occurred to that utterly abnormal and fantastic
lusus naturae called man.

Now let us put ourselves awhile, as far as we can, in the place of
that same savage; and try whether my theory will not justify itself;
whether or not superstition, with all its vagaries, may have been,
indeed must have been, the result of that ignorance and fear which
he carried about with him, every time he prowled for food through
the primeval forest.

A savage's first division of nature would be, I should say, into
things which he can eat and things which can eat him:  including, of
course, his most formidable enemy, and most savoury food--his
fellow-man.  In finding out what he can eat, we must remember, he
will have gone through much experience which will have inspired him
with a serious respect for the hidden wrath of nature; like those
Himalayan folk, of whom Hooker says, that as they know every
poisonous plant, they must have tried them all--not always with

So he gets at a third class of objects--things which he cannot eat,
and which will not eat him; but will only do him harm, as it seems
to him, out of pure malice, like poisonous plants and serpents.
There are natural accidents, too, which fall into the same category,
stones, floods, fires, avalanches.  They hurt him or kill him,
surely for ends of their own.  If a rock falls from the cliff above
him, what more natural than to suppose that there is some giant up
there who threw it at him?  If he had been up there, and strong
enough, and had seen a man walking underneath, he would certainly
have thrown the stone at him and killed him.  For first, he might
have eaten the man after; and even if he were not hungry, the man
might have done him a mischief; and it was prudent to prevent that
by doing him a mischief first.  Besides, the man might have a wife;
and if he killed the man, then the wife would, by a very ancient law
common to man and animals, become the prize of the victor.  Such is
the natural man, the carnal man, the soulish man, the [Greek] of St.
Paul, with five tolerably acute senses, which are ruled by five very
acute animal passions--hunger, sex, rage, vanity, fear.  It is with
the working of the last passion, fear, that this lecture has to do.

So the savage concludes that there must be a giant living in the
cliff, who threw stones at him, with evil intent; and he concludes
in like wise concerning most other natural phenomena.  There is
something in them which will hurt him, and therefore likes to hurt
him; and if he cannot destroy them, and so deliver himself, his fear
of them grows quite boundless.  There are hundreds of natural
objects on which he learns to look with the same eyes as the little
boys of Teneriffe look on the useless and poisonous Euphorbia
canariensis.  It is to them--according to Mr. Piazzi Smyth--a demon
who would kill them, if it could only run after them; but as it
cannot, they shout Spanish curses at it, and pelt it with volleys of
stones, "screeching with elfin joy, and using worse names than ever,
when the poisonous milk spurts out from its bruised stalks."

And if such be the attitude of the uneducated man towards the
permanent terrors of nature, what will it be towards those which are
sudden and seemingly capricious?--towards storms, earthquakes,
floods, blights, pestilences?  We know too well what it has been--
one of blind, and therefore often cruel, fear.  How could it be
otherwise?  Was Theophrastus's superstitious man so very foolish for
pouring oil on every round stone?  I think there was a great deal to
be said for him.  This worship of Baetyli was rational enough.  They
were aerolites, fallen from heaven.  Was it not as well to be civil
to such messengers from above?--to testify by homage to them due awe
of the being who had thrown them at men, and who though he had
missed his shot that time might not miss it the next?  I think if
we, knowing nothing of either gunpowder, astronomy, or Christianity,
saw an Armstrong bolt fall within five miles of London, we should be
inclined to be very respectful to it indeed.  So the aerolites, or
glacial boulders, or polished stone weapons of an extinct race,
which looked like aerolites, were the children of Ouranos the
heaven, and had souls in them.  One, by one of those strange
transformations in which the logic of unreason indulges, the image
of Diana of the Ephesians, which fell down from Jupiter; another was
the Ancile, the holy shield which fell from the same place in the
days of Numa Pompilius, and was the guardian genius of Rome; and
several more became notable for ages.

Why not?  The uneducated man of genius, unacquainted alike with
metaphysics and with biology, sees, like a child, a personality in
every strange and sharply-defined object.  A cloud like an angel may
be an angel; a bit of crooked root like a man may be a man turned
into wood--perhaps to be turned back again at its own will.  An
erratic block has arrived where it is by strange unknown means.  Is
not that an evidence of its personality?  Either it has flown hither
itself, or some one has thrown it.  In the former case, it has life,
and is proportionally formidable; in the latter, he who had thrown
it is formidable.

I know two erratic blocks of porphyry--I believe there are three--in
Cornwall, lying one on serpentine, one, I think, on slate, which--so
I was always informed as a boy--were the stones which St. Kevern
threw after St. Just when the latter stole his host's chalice and
paten, and ran away with them to the Land's End.  Why not?  Before
we knew anything about the action of icebergs and glaciers, that is,
until the last eighty years, that was as good a story as any other;
while how lifelike these boulders are, let a great poet testify; for
the fact has not escaped the delicate eye of Wordsworth:

As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie
Couched on the bald top of an eminence;
Wonder to all who do the same espy,
By what means it could thither come, and whence,
So that it seems a thing endued with sense;
Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf
Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself.

To the civilised poet, the fancy becomes a beautiful simile; to a
savage poet, it would have become a material and a very formidable
fact.  He stands in the valley, and looks up at the boulder on the
far-off fells.  He is puzzled by it.  He fears it.  At last he makes
up his mind.  It is alive.  As the shadows move over it, he sees it
move.  May it not sleep there all day, and prowl for prey all night?
He had been always afraid of going up those fells; now he will never
go.  There is a monster there.

Childish enough, no doubt.  But remember that the savage is always a
child.  So, indeed, are millions, as well clothed, housed, and
policed as ourselves--children from the cradle to the grave.  But of
them I do not talk; because, happily for the world, their
childishness is so overlaid by the result of other men's manhood; by
an atmosphere of civilisation and Christianity which they have
accepted at second-hand as the conclusions of minds wiser than their
own, that they do all manner of reasonable things for bad reasons,
or for no reason at all, save the passion of imitation.  Not in
them, but in the savage, can we see man as he is by nature, the
puppet of his senses and his passions, the natural slave of his own

But has the savage no other faculties, save his five senses and five
passions?  I do not say that.  I should be most unphilosophical if I
said it; for the history of mankind proves that he has infinitely
more in him than that.  Yes:  but in him that infinite more, which
is not only the noblest part of humanity, but, it may be, humanity
itself, is not to be counted as one of the roots of superstition.
For in the savage man, in whom superstition certainly originates,
that infinite more is still merely in him; inside him; a faculty:
but not yet a fact.  It has not come out of him into consciousness,
purpose, and act; and is to be treated as non-existent:  while what
has come out, his passions and senses, is enough to explain all the
vagaries of superstition; a vera causa for all its phenomena.  And
if we seem to have found a sufficient explanation already, it is
unphilosophical to look farther, at least till we have tried whether
our explanation fits the facts.

Nevertheless, there is another faculty in the savage, to which I
have already alluded, common to him and to at least the higher
vertebrates--fancy; the power of reproducing internal images of
external objects, whether in its waking form of physical memory--if,
indeed, all memory be not physical--or in its sleeping form of
dreaming.  Upon this last, which has played so very important a part
in superstition in all ages, I beg you to think a moment.  Recollect
your own dreams during childhood; and recollect again that the
savage is always a child.  Recollect how difficult it was for you in
childhood, how difficult it must be always for the savage, to decide
whether dreams are phantasms or realities.  To the savage, I doubt
not, the food he eats, the foes he grapples with, in dreams, are as
real as any waking impressions.  But, moreover, these dreams will be
very often, as children's dreams are wont to be, of a painful and
terrible kind.  Perhaps they will be always painful; perhaps his
dull brain will never dream, save under the influence of
indigestion, or hunger, or an uncomfortable attitude.  And so, in
addition to his waking experience of the terrors of nature, he will
have a whole dream-experience besides, of a still more terrific
kind.  He walks by day past a black cavern mouth, and thinks, with a
shudder--Something ugly may live in that ugly hole:  what if it
jumped out upon me?  He broods over the thought with the intensity
of a narrow and unoccupied mind; and a few nights after, he has
eaten--but let us draw a veil before the larder of a savage--his
chin is pinned down on his chest, a slight congestion of the brain
comes on; and behold he finds himself again at that cavern's mouth,
and something ugly does jump out upon him:  and the cavern is a
haunted spot henceforth to him and to all his tribe.  It is in vain
that his family tell him that he has been lying asleep at home all
the while.  He has the evidence of his senses to prove the contrary.
He must have got out of himself, and gone into the woods.  When we
remember that certain wise Greek philosophers could find no better
explanation of dreaming than that the soul left the body, and
wandered free, we cannot condemn the savage for his theory.

Now, I submit that in these simple facts we have a group of "true
causes" which are the roots of all the superstitions of the world.

And if any one shall complain that I am talking materialism:  I
shall answer, that I am doing exactly the opposite.  I am trying to
eliminate and get rid of that which is material, animal, and base;
in order that that which is truly spiritual may stand out, distinct
and clear, in its divine and eternal beauty.

To explain, and at the same time, as I think, to verify my
hypothesis, let me give you an example--fictitious, it is true, but
probable fact nevertheless; because it is patched up of many
fragments of actual fact:  and let us see how, in following it out,
we shall pass through almost every possible form of superstition.

Suppose a great hollow tree, in which the formidable wasps of the
tropics have built for ages.  The average savage hurries past the
spot in mere bodily fear; for if they come out against him, they
will sting him to death; till at last there comes by a savage wiser
than the rest, with more observation, reflection, imagination,
independence of will--the genius of his tribe.

The awful shade of the great tree, added to his terror of the wasps,
weighs on him, and excites his brain.  Perhaps, too, he has had a
wife or a child stung to death by these same wasps.  These wasps, so
small, yet so wise, far wiser than he:  they fly, and they sting.
Ah, if he could fly and sting; how he would kill and eat, and live
right merrily.  They build great towns; they rob far and wide; they
never quarrel with each other:  they must have some one to teach
them, to lead them--they must have a king.  And so he gets the fancy
of a Wasp-King; as the western Irish still believe in the Master
Otter; as the Red Men believe in the King of the Buffaloes, and find
the bones of his ancestors in the Mammoth remains of Big-bone Lick;
as the Philistines of Ekron--to quote a notorious instance--actually
worshipped Baal-zebub, lord of the flies.

If they have a king, he must be inside that tree, of course.  If he,
the savage, were a king, he would not work for his bread, but sit at
home and make others feed him; and so, no doubt, does the wasp-king.

And when he goes home he will brood over this wonderful discovery of
the wasp-king; till, like a child, he can think of nothing else.  He
will go to the tree, and watch for him to come out.  The wasps will
get accustomed to his motionless figure, and leave him unhurt; till
the new fancy will rise in his mind that he is a favourite of this
wasp-king:  and at last he will find himself grovelling before the
tree, saying--"Oh great wasp-king, pity me, and tell your children
not to sting me, and I will bring you honey, and fruit, and flowers
to eat, and I will flatter you, and worship you, and you shall be my

And then he would gradually boast of his discovery; of the new
mysterious bond between him and the wasp-king; and his tribe would
believe him, and fear him; and fear him still more when he began to
say, as he surely would, not merely--"I can ask the wasp-king, and
he will tell his children not to sting you:" but--"I can ask the
wasp-king, and he will send his children, and sting you all to
death."  Vanity and ambition will have prompted the threat:  but it
will not be altogether a lie.  The man will more than half believe
his own words; he will quite believe them when he has repeated them
a dozen times.

And so he will become a great man, and a king, under the protection
of the king of the wasps; and he will become, and it may be his
children after him, priest of the wasp-king, who will be their
fetish, and the fetish of their tribe.

And they will prosper, under the protection of the wasp-king.  The
wasp will become their moral ideal, whose virtues they must copy.
The new chief will preach to them wild eloquent words.  They must
sting like wasps, revenge like wasps, hold altogether like wasps,
build like wasps, work hard like wasps, rob like wasps; then, like
the wasps, they will be the terror of all around, and kill and eat
all their enemies.  Soon they will call themselves The Wasps.  They
will boast that their king's father or grandfather, and soon that
the ancestor of the whole tribe was an actual wasp; and the wasp
will become at once their eponym hero, their deity, their ideal,
their civiliser; who has taught them to build a kraal of huts, as he
taught his children to build a hive.

Now, if there should come to any thinking man of this tribe, at this
epoch, the new thought--Who made the world? he will be sorely
puzzled.  The conception of a world has never crossed his mind
before.  He never pictured to himself anything beyond the nearest
ridge of mountains; and as for a Maker, that will be a greater
puzzle still.  What makers or builders more cunning than those wasps
of whom his foolish head is full?  Of course, he sees it now.  A
Wasp made the world; which to him entirely new guess might become an
integral part of his tribe's creed.  That would be their cosmogony.
And if, a generation or two after, another savage genius should
guess that the world was a globe hanging in the heavens, he would,
if he had imagination enough to take the thought in at all, put it
to himself in a form suited to his previous knowledge and
conceptions.  It would seem to him that The Wasp flew about the
skies with the world in his mouth, as he carries a bluebottle fly;
and that would be the astronomy of his tribe henceforth.  Absurd
enough:  but--as every man who is acquainted with old mythical
cosmogonies must know--no more absurd than twenty similar guesses on
record.  Try to imagine the gradual genesis of such myths as the
Egyptian scarabaeus and egg, or the Hindoo theory that the world
stood on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise, the tortoise on
that infinite note of interrogation which, as some one expresses it,
underlies all physical speculations, and judge:  must they not have
arisen in some such fashion as that which I have pointed out?

This, I say, would be the culminating point of the wasp-worship,
which had sprung up out of bodily fear of being stung.

But times might come for it in which it would go through various
changes, through which every superstition in the world, I suppose,
has passed or is doomed to pass.

The wasp-men might be conquered, and possibly eaten, by a stronger
tribe than themselves.  What would be the result?  They would fight
valiantly at first, like wasps.  But what if they began to fail?
Was not the wasp-king angry with them?  Had not he deserted them?
He must be appeased; he must have his revenge.  They would take a
captive, and offer him to the wasps.  So did a North American tribe,
in their need, some forty years ago; when, because their maize-crops
failed, they roasted alive a captive girl, cut her to pieces, and
sowed her with their corn.  I would not tell the story, for the
horror of it, did it not bear with such fearful force on my
argument.  What were those Red Men thinking of?  What chain of
misreasoning had they in their heads when they hit on that as a
device for making the crops grow?  Who can tell?  Who can make the
crooked straight, or number that which is wanting?  As said Solomon
of old, so must we--"The foolishness of fools is folly."  One thing
only we can say of them, that they were horribly afraid of famine,
and took that means of ridding themselves of their fear.

But what if the wasp tribe had no captives?  They would offer
slaves.  What if the agony and death of slaves did not appease the
wasps?  They would offer their fairest, their dearest, their sons
and their daughters, to the wasps; as the Carthaginians, in like
strait, offered in one day 200 noble boys to Moloch, the volcano-
god, whose worship they had brought out of Syria; whose original
meaning they had probably forgotten; of whom they only knew that he
was a dark and devouring being, who must be appeased with the
burning bodies of their sons and daughters.  And so the veil of
fancy would be lifted again, and the whole superstition stand forth
revealed as the mere offspring of bodily fear.

But more:  the survivors of the conquest might, perhaps, escape, and
carry their wasp-fetish into a new land.  But if they became poor
and weakly, their brains and imagination, degenerating with their
bodies, would degrade their wasp-worship till they knew not what it
meant.  Away from the sacred tree, in a country the wasps of which
were not so large or formidable, they would require a remembrancer
of the wasp-king; and they would make one--a wasp of wood, or what
not.  After a while, according to that strange law of fancy, the
root of all idolatry, which you may see at work in every child who
plays with a doll, the symbol would become identified with the thing
symbolised; they would invest the wooden wasp with all the terrible
attributes which had belonged to the live wasps of the tree; and
after a few centuries, when all remembrance of the tree, the wasp-
prophet and chieftain, and his descent from the divine wasp--ay,
even of their defeat and flight--had vanished from their songs and
legends, they would be found bowing down in fear and trembling to a
little ancient wooden wasp, which came from they knew not whence,
and meant they knew not what, save that it was a very "old fetish,"
a "great medicine," or some such other formula for expressing their
own ignorance and dread.  Just so do the half-savage natives of
Thibet, and the Irishwomen of Kerry, by a strange coincidence--
unless the ancient Irish were Buddhists, like the Himalayans--tie
just the same scraps of rag on the bushes round just the same holy
wells, as do the Negros of Central Africa upon their "Devil's
Trees;" they know not why, save that their ancestors did it, and it
is a charm against ill-luck and danger.

And the sacred tree?  That, too, might undergo a metamorphosis in
the minds of men.  The conquerors would see their aboriginal slaves
of the old race still haunting the tree, making stealthy offerings
to it by night:  and they would ask the reason.  But they would not
be told.  The secret would be guarded; such secrets were guarded, in
Greece, in Italy, in medieval France, by the superstitious awe, the
cunning, even the hidden self-conceit, of the conquered race.  Then
the conquerors would wish to imitate their own slaves.  They might
be in the right.  There might be something magical, uncanny, in the
hollow tree, which might hurt them; might be jealous of them as
intruders.  They, too, would invest the place with sacred awe.  If
they were gloomy, like the Teutonic conquerors of Europe and the
Arabian conquerors of the East, they would invest it with unseen
terrors.  They would say, like them, a devil lives in the tree.  If
they were of a sunny temper, like the Hellenes, they would invest it
with unseen graces.  What a noble tree!  What a fair fountain hard
by its roots!  Surely some fair and graceful being must dwell
therein, and come out to bathe by night in that clear wave.  What
meant the fruit, the flowers, the honey, which the slaves left there
by night?  Pure food for some pure nymph.  The wasp-gods would be
forgotten; probably smoked out as sacrilegious intruders.  The lucky
seer or poet who struck out the fancy would soon find imitators; and
it would become, after a while, a common and popular superstition
that Hamadryads haunted the hollow forest trees, Naiads the wells,
and Oreads the lawns.  Somewhat thus, I presume, did the more
cheerful Hellenic myths displace the darker superstitions of the
Pelasgis and those rude Arcadian tribes who offered, even as late as
the Roman Empire, human sacrifices to gods whose original names were

But even the cultus of nymphs would be defiled after awhile by a
darker element.  However fair, they might be capricious and
revengeful, like other women.  Why not?  And soon, men going out
into the forest would be missed for awhile.  They had eaten narcotic
berries, got sun-strokes, wandered till they lost their wits.  At
all events, their wits were gone.  Who had done it?  Who but the
nymphs?  The men had seen something they should not have seen; done
something they would not have done; and the nymphs had punished the
unconscious rudeness by that frenzy.  Fear, everywhere fear, of
Nature--the spotted panther as some one calls her, as fair as cruel,
as playful as treacherous.  Always fear of Nature, till a Divine
light arise, and show men that they are not the puppets of Nature,
but her lords; and that they are to fear God, and fear naught else.

And so ends my true myth of the wasp-tree.  No, it need not end
there; it may develop into a yet darker and more hideous form of
superstition, which Europe has often seen; which is common now among
the Negros; {223} which we may hope, will soon be exterminated.

This might happen.  For it, or something like it, has happened too
many times already.

That to the ancient women who still kept up the irrational remnant
of the wasp-worship, beneath the sacred tree, other women might
resort; not merely from curiosity, or an excited imagination, but
from jealousy and revenge.  Oppressed, as woman has always been
under the reign of brute force; beaten, outraged, deserted, at best
married against her will, she has too often gone for comfort and
help--and those of the very darkest kind--to the works of darkness;
and there never were wanting--there are not wanting, even now, in
remote parts of these isles--wicked old women who would, by help of
the old superstitions, do for her what she wished.  Soon would
follow mysterious deaths of rivals, of husbands, of babes; then
rumours of dark rites connected with the sacred tree, with poison,
with the wasp and his sting, with human sacrifices; lies mingled
with truth, more and more confused and frantic, the more they were
misinvestigated by men mad with fear:  till there would arise one of
those witch-manias, which are too common still among the African
Negros, which were too common of old among the men of our race.

I say, among the men.  To comprehend a witch-mania, you must look at
it as--what the witch-literature confesses it unblushingly to be--
man's dread of Nature excited to its highest form, as dread of

She is to the barbarous man--she should be more and more to the
civilised man--not only the most beautiful and precious, but the
most wonderful and mysterious of all natural objects, if it be only
as the author of his physical being.  She is to the savage a miracle
to be alternately adored and dreaded.  He dreads her more delicate
nervous organisation, which often takes shapes to him demoniacal and
miraculous; her quicker instincts, her readier wit, which seem to
him to have in them somewhat prophetic and superhuman, which
entangled him as in an invisible net, and rule him against his will.
He dreads her very tongue, more crushing than his heaviest club,
more keen than his poisoned arrows.  He dreads those habits of
secrecy and falsehood, the weapons of the weak, to which savage and
degraded woman always has recourse.  He dreads the very medicinal
skill which she has learnt to exercise, as nurse, comforter, and
slave.  He dreads those secret ceremonies, those mysterious
initiations which no man may witness, which he has permitted to her
in all ages, in so many--if not all--barbarous and semi-barbarous
races, whether Negro, American, Syrian, Greek, or Roman, as a homage
to the mysterious importance of her who brings him into the world.
If she turns against him--she, with all her unknown powers, she who
is the sharer of his deepest secrets, who prepares his very food day
by day--what harm can she not, may she not, do?  And that she has
good reason to turn against him, he knows too well.  What
deliverance is there from this mysterious house-fiend, save brute
force?  Terror, torture, murder, must be the order of the day.
Woman must be crushed, at all price, by the blind fear of the man.

I shall say no more.  I shall draw a veil, for very pity and shame,
over the most important and most significant facts of this, the most
hideous of all human follies.  I have, I think, given you hints
enough to show that it, like all other superstitions, is the child--
the last born and the ugliest child--of blind dread of the unknown.


I said, that Superstition was the child of Fear, and Fear the child
of Ignorance; and you might expect me to say antithetically, that
Science was the child of Courage, and Courage the child of

But these genealogies--like most metaphors--do not fit exactly, as
you may see for yourselves.

If fear be the child of ignorance, ignorance is also the child of
fear; the two react on, and produce each other.  The more men dread
Nature, the less they wish to know about her.  Why pry into her
awful secrets?  It is dangerous; perhaps impious.  She says to them,
as in the Egyptian temple of old--"I am Isis, and my veil no mortal
yet hath lifted."  And why should they try or wish to lift it?  If
she will leave them in peace, they will leave her in peace.  It is
enough that she does not destroy them.  So as ignorance bred fear,
fear breeds fresh and willing ignorance.

And courage?  We may say, and truly, that courage is the child of
knowledge.  But we may say as truly, that knowledge is the child of
courage.  Those Egyptian priests in the temple of Isis would have
told you that knowledge was the child of mystery, of special
illumination, of reverence, and what not; hiding under grand words
their purpose of keeping the masses ignorant, that they might be
their slaves.  Reverence?  I will yield to none in reverence for
reverence.  I will all but agree with the wise man who said that
reverence is the root of all virtues.  But which child reverences
his father most?  He who comes joyfully and trustfully to meet him,
that he may learn his father's mind, and do his will; or he who at
his father's coming runs away and hides, lest he should be beaten
for he knows not what?  There is a scientific reverence, a reverence
of courage, which is surely one of the highest forms of reverence.
That, namely, which so reveres every fact, that it dare not overlook
or falsify it, seem it never so minute; which feels that because it
is a fact it cannot be minute, cannot be unimportant; that it must
be a fact of God; a message from God; a voice of God, as Bacon has
it, revealed in things; and which therefore, just because it stands
in solemn awe of such paltry facts as the Scolopax feather in a
snipe's pinion, or the jagged leaves which appear capriciously in
certain honeysuckles, believes that there is likely to be some deep
and wide secret underlying them, which is worth years of thought to
solve.  That is reverence; a reverence which is growing, thank God,
more and more common; which will produce, as it grows more common
still, fruit which generations yet unborn shall bless.

But as for that other reverence, which shuts its eyes and ears in
pious awe--what is it but cowardice decked out in state robes,
putting on the sacred Urim and Thummim, not that men may ask counsel
of the Deity, but that they may not?  What is it but cowardice, very
pitiable when unmasked; and what is its child but ignorance as
pitiable, which would be ludicrous were it not so injurious?  If a
man comes up to Nature as to a parrot or a monkey, with this
prevailing thought in his head--Will it bite me?--will he not be
pretty certain to make up his mind that it may bite him, and had
therefore best be left alone?  It is only the man of courage--few
and far between--who will stand the chance of a first bite, in the
hope of teaching the parrot to talk, or the monkey to fire off a
gun.  And it is only the man of courage--few and far between--who
will stand the chance of a first bite from Nature, which may kill
him for aught he knows--for her teeth, though clumsy, are very
strong--in order that he may tame her and break her in to his use by
the very same method by which that admirable inductive philosopher,
Mr. Rarey, used to break in his horses; first, by not being afraid
of them; and next, by trying to find out what they were thinking of.
But after all, as with animals, so with Nature; cowardice is
dangerous.  The surest method of getting bitten by an animal is to
be afraid of it; and the surest method of being injured by Nature is
to be afraid of it.  Only as far as we understand Nature are we safe
from it; and those who in any age counsel mankind not to pry into
the secrets of the universe, counsel them not to provide for their
own life and well-being, or for their children after them.

But how few there have been in any age who have not been afraid of
Nature.  How few have set themselves, like Rarey, to tame her by
finding out what she is thinking of.  The mass are glad to have the
results of science, as they are to buy Mr. Rarey's horses after they
are tamed; but for want of courage or of wit, they had rather leave
the taming process to someone else.  And therefore we may say that
what knowledge of Nature we have--and we have very little--we owe to
the courage of those men--and they have been very few--who have been
inspired to face Nature boldly; and say--or, what is better, act as
if they were saying--"I find something in me which I do not find in
you; which gives me the hope that I can grow to understand you,
though you may not understand me; that I may become your master, and
not as now, you mine.  And if not, I will know; or die in the

It is to those men, the few and far between, in a very few ages and
very few countries, who have thus risen in rebellion against Nature,
and looked it in the face with an unquailing glance, that we owe
what we call Physical Science.

There have been four races--or rather a very few men of each four
races--who have faced Nature after this gallant wise.

First, the old Jews.  I speak of them, be it remembered, exclusively
from an historical, and not a religious point of view.

These people, at a very remote epoch, emerged from a country highly
civilised, but sunk in the superstitions of nature-worship.  They
invaded and mingled with tribes whose superstitions were even more
debased, silly, and foul than those of the Egyptians from whom they
escaped.  Their own masses were for centuries given up to nature-
worship.  Now, among those Jews arose men--a very few--sages--
prophets--call them what you will, the men were inspired heroes and
philosophers--who assumed towards nature an attitude utterly
different from the rest of their countrymen and the rest of the then
world; who denounced superstition and the dread of nature as the
parent of all manner of vice and misery; who for themselves said
boldly that they discerned in the universe an order, a unity, a
permanence of law, which gave them courage instead of fear.  They
found delight and not dread in the thought that the universe obeyed
a law which could not be broken; that all things continued to that
day according to a certain ordinance.  They took a view of Nature
totally new in that age; healthy, human, cheerful, loving, trustful,
and yet reverent--identical with that which happily is beginning to
prevail in our own day.  They defied those very volcanic and
meteoric phenomena of their land, to which their countrymen were
slaying their own children in the clefts of the rocks, and, like
Theophrastus's superstitious man, pouring their drink-offerings on
the smooth stones of the valley; and declared that, for their part,
they would not fear, though the earth was moved, and though the
hills were carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters
raged and swelled, and the mountains shook at the tempest.

The fact is indisputable.  And you must pardon me if I express my
belief that these men, if they had felt it their business to found a
school of inductive physical science, would, owing to that temper of
mind, have achieved a very signal success.  I ground that opinion on
the remarkable, but equally indisputable fact, that no nation has
ever succeeded in perpetuating a school of inductive physical
science, save those whose minds have been saturated with this same
view of Nature, which they have--as an historic fact--slowly but
thoroughly learnt from the writings of these Jewish sages.

Such is the fact.  The founders of inductive physical science were
not the Jews; but first the Chaldaeans, next the Greeks, next their
pupils the Romans--or rather a few sages among each race.  But what
success had they?  The Chaldaean astronomers made a few discoveries
concerning the motions of the heavenly bodies, which, rudimentary as
they were, still prove them to have been men of rare intellect.  For
a great and a patient genius must he have been, who first
distinguished the planets from the fixed stars, or worked out the
earliest astronomical calculation.  But they seem to have been
crushed, as it were, by their own discoveries.  They stopped short.
They gave way again to the primeval fear of Nature.  They sank into
planet-worship.  They invented, it would seem, that fantastic
pseudo-science of astrology, which lay for ages after as an incubus
on the human intellect and conscience.  They became the magicians
and quacks of the old world; and mankind owed them thenceforth
nothing but evil.  Among the Greeks and Romans, again, those sages
who dared face Nature like reasonable men, were accused by the
superstitious mob as irreverent impious atheists.  The wisest of
them all, Socrates, was actually put to death on that charge; and
finally, they failed.  School after school, in Greece and Rome,
struggled to discover, and to get a hearing for, some theory of the
universe which was founded on something like experience, reason,
common sense.  They were not allowed to prosecute their attempt.
The mud-ocean of ignorance and fear in which they struggled so
manfully was too strong for them; the mud-waves closed over their
heads finally, as the age of the Antonines expired; and the last
effort of Graeco-Roman thought to explain the universe was
Neoplatonism--the muddiest of the muddy--an attempt to apologise
for, and organise into a system, all the nature-dreading
superstitions of the Roman world.  Porphyry, Plotinus, Proclus, poor
Hypatia herself, and all her school--they may have had themselves no
bodily fear of Nature; for they were noble souls.  Yet they spent
their time in justifying those who had; in apologising for the
superstitions of the very mob which they despised:  just as--it
sometimes seems to me--some folk in these days are like to end in
doing; begging that the masses might be allowed to believe in
anything, however false, lest they should believe in nothing at all:
as if believing in lies could do anything but harm to any human
being.  And so died the science of the old world, in a true second
childhood, just where it began.

The Jewish sages, I hold, taught that science was probable; the
Greeks and Romans proved that it was possible.  It remained for our
race, under the teaching of both, to bring science into act and

Many causes contributed to give them this power.  They were a
personally courageous race.  This earth has yet seen no braver men
than the forefathers of Christian Europe, whether Scandinavian or
Teuton, Angle or Frank.  They were a practical hard-headed race,
with a strong appreciation of facts, and a strong determination to
act on them.  Their laws, their society, their commerce, their
colonisation, their migrations by land and sea, proved that they
were such.  They were favoured, moreover, by circumstances, or--as I
should rather put it--by that divine Providence which determined
their times, and the bounds of their habitation.  They came in as
the heritors of the decaying civilisation of Greece and Rome; they
colonised territories which gave to man special fair play, but no
more, in the struggle for existence, the battle with the powers of
Nature; tolerably fertile, tolerably temperate; with boundless means
of water communication; freer than most parts of the world from
those terrible natural phenomena, like the earthquake and the
hurricane, before which man lies helpless and astounded, a child
beneath the foot of a giant.  Nature was to them not so inhospitable
as to starve their brains and limbs, as it has done for the
Esquimaux or Fuegian; and not so bountiful as to crush them by its
very luxuriance, as it has crushed the savages of the tropics.  They
saw enough of its strength to respect it; not enough to cower before
it:  and they and it have fought it out; and it seems to me,
standing either on London Bridge or on a Holland fen-dyke, that they
are winning at last.

But they had a sore battle:  a battle against their own fear of the
unseen.  They brought with them, out of the heart of Asia, dark and
sad nature-superstitions, some of which linger among our peasantry
till this day, of elves, trolls, nixes, and what not.  Their Thor
and Odin were at first, probably, only the thunder and the wind:
but they had to be appeased in the dark marches of the forest, where
hung rotting on the sacred oaks, amid carcases of goat and horse,
the carcases of human victims.  No one acquainted with the early
legends and ballads of our race, but must perceive throughout them
all the prevailing tone of fear and sadness.  And to their own
superstitions they added those of the Rome which they conquered.
They dreaded the Roman she-poisoners and witches, who, like Horace's
Canidia, still performed horrid rites in graveyards and dark places
of the earth.  They dreaded as magical the delicate images engraved
on old Greek gems.  They dreaded the very Roman cities they had
destroyed.  They were the work of enchanters.  Like the ruins of St.
Albans here in England, they were all full of devils, guarding the
treasures which the Romans had hidden.  The Caesars became to them
magical man-gods.  The poet Virgil became the prince of
necromancers.  If the secrets of Nature were to be known, they were
to be known by unlawful means, by prying into the mysteries of the
old heathen magicians, or of the Mohammedan doctors of Cordova and
Seville; and those who dared to do so were respected and feared, and
often came to evil ends.  It needed moral courage, then, to face and
interpret fact.  Such brave men as Pope Gerbert, Roger Bacon,
Galileo, even Kepler, did not lead happy lives; some of them found
themselves in prison.  All the medieval sages--even Albertus Magnus-
-were stigmatised as magicians.  One wonders that more of them did
not imitate poor Paracelsus, who, unable to get a hearing for his
coarse common sense, took--vain and sensual--to drinking the
laudanum which he himself had discovered, and vaunted as a priceless
boon to men; and died as the fool dieth, in spite of all his wisdom.
For the "Romani nominis umbra," the shadow of the mighty race whom
they had conquered, lay heavy on our forefathers for centuries.  And
their dread of the great heathens was really a dread of Nature, and
of the powers thereof.  For when the authority of great names has
reigned unquestioned for many centuries, those names become, to the
human mind, integral and necessary parts of Nature itself.  They
are, as it were, absorbed into it; they become its laws, its canons,
its demiurges, and guardian spirits; their words become regarded as
actual facts; in one word, they become a superstition, and are
feared as parts of the vast unknown; and to deny what they have said
is, in the minds of the many, not merely to fly in the face of
reverent wisdom, but to fly in the face of facts.  During a great
part of the Middle Ages, for instance, it was impossible for an
educated man to think of nature itself, without thinking first of
what Aristotle had said of her.  Aristotle's dicta were Nature; and
when Benedetti, at Venice, opposed in 1585 Aristotle's opinions on
violent and natural motion, there were hundreds, perhaps, in the
universities of Europe--as there certainly were in the days of the
immortal "Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum"--who were ready, in spite of
all Benedetti's professed reverence for Aristotle, to accuse him of
outraging not only the father of philosophy, but Nature itself and
its palpable and notorious facts.  For the restoration of letters in
the fifteenth century had not at first mended matters, so strong was
the dread of Nature in the minds of the masses.  The minds of men
had sported forth, not toward any sound investigation of facts, but
toward an eclectic resuscitation of Neoplatonism; which endured, not
without a certain beauty and use--as let Spenser's "Faerie Queen"
bear witness--till the latter half of the seventeenth century.

After that time a rapid change began.  It is marked by--it has been
notably assisted by--the foundation of our own Royal Society.  Its
causes I will not enter into; they are so inextricably mixed, I
hold, with theological questions, that they cannot be discussed
here.  I will only point out to you these facts:  that, from the
latter part of the seventeenth century, the noblest heads and the
noblest hearts of Europe concentrated themselves more and more on
the brave and patient investigation of physical facts, as the source
of priceless future blessings to mankind; that the eighteenth
century which it has been the fashion of late to depreciate, did
more for the welfare of mankind, in every conceivable direction,
than the whole fifteen centuries before it; that it did this good
work by boldly observing and analysing facts; that this boldness
towards facts increased in proportion as Europe became indoctrinated
with the Jewish literature; and that, notably, such men as Kepler,
Newton, Berkeley, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Descartes, in whatsoever else
they differed, agreed in this, that their attitude towards Nature
was derived from the teaching of the Jewish sages.  I believe that
we are not yet fully aware how much we owe to the Jewish mind, in
the gradual emancipation of the human intellect.  The connection may
not, of course, be one of cause and effect; it may be a mere
coincidence.  I believe it to be a cause; one of course of very many
causes:  but still an integral cause.  At least the coincidence is
too remarkable a fact not to be worthy of investigation.

I said, just now--The emancipation of the human intellect.  I did
not say--Of science or of the scientific intellect; and for this

That the emancipation of science is the emancipation of the common
mind of all men.  All men can partake of the gains of free
scientific thought, not merely by enjoying its physical results, but
by becoming more scientific men themselves.

Therefore it was, that though I began my first lecture by defining
superstition, I did not begin my second by defining its antagonist,
science.  For the word "science" defines itself.  It means simply
knowledge; that is, of course, right knowledge, or such an
approximation as can be obtained; knowledge of any natural object,
its classification, its causes, its effects; or in plain English,
what it is, how it came where it is, and what can be done with it.

And scientific method, likewise, needs no definition; for it is
simply the exercise of common sense.  It is not a peculiar, unique,
professional, or mysterious process of the understanding:  but the
same which all men employ, from the cradle to the grave, in forming
correct conclusions.

Every one who knows the philosophic writings of Mr. John Stuart
Mill, will be familiar with this opinion.  But to those who have no
leisure to study him, I should recommend the reading of Professor
Huxley's third lecture on the origin of species.

In that he shows, with great logical skill, as well as with some
humour, how the man who, on rising in the morning finds the parlour-
window open, the spoons and teapot gone, the mark of a dirty hand on
the window-sill, and that of a hob-nailed boot outside, and comes to
the conclusion that someone has broken open the window, and stolen
the plate, arrives at that hypothesis--for it is nothing more--by a
long and complex train of inductions and deductions of just the same
kind as those which, according to the Baconian philosophy, are to be
used for investigating the deepest secrets of Nature.

This is true, even of those sciences which involve long mathematical
calculations.  In fact, the stating of the problem to be solved is
the most important element in the calculation; and that is so
thoroughly a labour of common sense that an utterly uneducated mart
may, and often does, state an abstruse problem clearly and
correctly; seeing what ought to be proved, and perhaps how to prove
it, though he may be unable to work the problem out for want of
mathematical knowledge.

But that mathematical knowledge is not--as all Cambridge men are
surely aware--the result of any special gift.  It is merely the
development of those conceptions of form and number which every
human being possesses; and any person of average intellect can make
himself a fair mathematician if he will only pay continuous
attention; in plain English, think enough about the subject.

There are sciences, again, which do not involve mathematical
calculation; for instance, botany, zoology, geology, which are just
now passing from their old stage of classificatory sciences into the
rank of organic ones.  These are, without doubt, altogether within
the scope of the merest common sense.  Any man or woman of average
intellect, if they will but observe and think for themselves,
freely, boldly, patiently, accurately, may judge for themselves of
the conclusions of these sciences, may add to these conclusions
fresh and important discoveries; and if I am asked for a proof of
what I assert, I point to "Rain and Rivers," written by no professed
scientific man, but by a colonel in the Guards, known to fame only
as one of the most perfect horsemen in the world.

Let me illustrate my meaning by an example.  A man--I do not say a
geologist, but simply a man, squire or ploughman--sees a small
valley, say one of the side-glens which open into the larger valleys
in the Windsor forest district.  He wishes to ascertain its age.

He has, at first sight, a very simple measure--that of denudation.
He sees that the glen is now being eaten out by a little stream, the
product of innumerable springs which arise along its sides, and
which are fed entirely by the rain on the moors above.  He finds, on
observation, that this stream brings down some ten cubic yards of
sand and gravel, on an average, every year.  The actual quantity of
earth which has been removed to make the glen may be several million
cubic yards.  Here is an easy sum in arithmetic.  At the rate of ten
cubic yards a-year, the stream has taken several hundred thousand
years to make the glen.

You will observe that this result is obtained by mere common sense.
He has a right to assume that the stream originally began the glen,
because he finds it in the act of enlarging it; just as much right
as he has to assume, if he find a hole in his pocket, and his last
coin in the act of falling through it, that the rest of his money
has fallen through the same hole.  It is a sufficient cause, and the
simplest.  A number of observations as to the present rate of
denudation, and a sum which any railroad contractor can do in his
head, to determine the solid contents of the valley, are all that
are needed.  The method is that of science:  but it is also that of
simple common sense.  You will remember, therefore, that this is no
mere theory or hypothesis, but a pretty fair and simple conclusion
from palpable facts; that the probability lies with the belief that
the glen is some hundreds of thousands of years old; that it is not
the observer's business to prove it further, but other persons' to
disprove it, if they can.

But does the matter end here?  No.  And, for certain reasons, it is
good that it should not end here.

The observer, if he be a cautious man, begins to see if he can
disprove his own conclusions; moreover, being human, he is probably
somewhat awed, if not appalled, by his own conclusion.  Hundreds of
thousands of years spent in making that little glen!  Common sense
would say that the longer it took to make, the less wonder there was
in its being made at last:  but the instinctive human feeling is the
opposite.  There is in men, and there remains in them, even after
they are civilised, and all other forms of the dread of Nature have
died out in them, a dread of size, of vast space, of vast time; that
latter, mind, being always imagined as space, as we confess when we
speak instinctively of a space of time.  They will not understand
that size is merely a relative, not an absolute term; that if we
were a thousand times larger than we are, the universe would be a
thousand times smaller than it is; that if we could think a thousand
times faster than we do, time would be a thousand times longer than
it is; that there is One in whom we live, and move, and have our
being, to whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years
as one day.  I believe this dread of size to be merely, like all
other superstitions, a result of bodily fear; a development of the
instinct which makes a little dog run away from a big dog.  Be that
as it may, every observer has it; and so the man's conclusion seems
to him strange, doubtful:  he will reconsider it.

Moreover, if he be an experienced man, he is well aware that first
guesses, first hypotheses, are not always the right ones; and if he
be a modest man, he will consider the fact that many thousands of
thoughtful men in all ages, and many thousands still, would say,
that the glen can only be a few thousand, or possibly a few hundred,
years old.  And he will feel bound to consider their opinion; as far
as it is, like his own, drawn from facts, but no further.

So he casts about for all other methods by which the glen may have
been produced, to see if any one of them will account for it in a
shorter time.

1.  Was it made by an earthquake?  No; for the strata on both sides
are identical, at the same level, and in the same plane.

2.  Or by a mighty current?  If so, the flood must have run in at
the upper end, before it ran out at the lower.  But nothing has run
in at the upper end.  All round above are the undisturbed gravel-
beds of the horizontal moor, without channel or depression.

3.  Or by water draining off a vast flat as it was upheaved out of
the sea?  That is a likely guess.  The valley at its upper end
spreads out like the fingers of a hand, as the gullies in tide-muds

But that hypothesis will not stand.  There is no vast unbroken flat
behind the glen.  Right and left of it are other similar glens,
parted from it by long narrow ridges:  these also must be explained
on the same hypothesis; but they cannot.  For there could not have
been surface-drainage to make them all, or a tenth of them.  There
are no other possible hypotheses; and so he must fall back on the
original theory--the rain, the springs, the brook; they have done it
all, even as they are doing it this day.

But is not that still a hasty assumption?  May not their denuding
power have been far greater in old times than now?

Why should it?  Because there was more rain then than now?  That he
must put out of court; there is no evidence of it whatsoever.

Because the land was more friable originally?  Well, there is a
great deal to be said for that.  The experience of every countryman
tells him that bare or fallow land is more easily washed away than
land under vegetation.  And no doubt, when these gravels and sands
rose from the sea, they were barren for hundreds of years.  He has
some measure of the time required, because he can tell roughly how
long it takes for sands and shingles left by the sea to become
covered with vegetation.  But he must allow that the friability of
the land must have been originally much greater than now, for
hundreds of years.

But again, does that fact really cut off any great space of time
from his hundreds of thousands of years?  For when the land first
rose from the sea, that glen was not there.  Some slight bay or bend
in the shore determined its site.  That stream was not there.  It
was split up into a million little springs, oozing side by side from
the shore, and having each a very minute denuding power, which kept
continually increasing by combination as the glen ate its way
inwards, and the rainfall drained by all these little springs was
collected into the one central stream.  So that when the ground
being bare was most liable to be denuded, the water was least able
to do it; and as the denuding power of the water increased, the
land, being covered with vegetation, became more and more able to
resist it.  All this he has seen, going on at the present day in the
similar gullies worn in the soft strata of the South Hampshire
coast; especially round Bournemouth.

So the two disturbing elements in the calculation may be fairly set
off against each other, as making a difference of only a few
thousands or tens of thousands of years either way; and the age of
the glen may fairly be, if not a million years, yet such a length of
years as mankind still speak of with bated breath, as if forsooth it
would do them some harm.

I trust that every scientific man in this room will agree with me,
that the imaginary squire or ploughman would have been conducting
his investigation strictly according to the laws of the Baconian
philosophy.  You will remark, meanwhile, that he has not used a
single scientific term, or referred to a single scientific
investigation; and has observed nothing and thought nothing, which
might not have been observed and thought by any one who chose to use
his common sense, and not to be afraid.

But because he has come round, after all this further investigation,
to something very like his first conclusion, was all that further
investigation useless?  No--a thousand times, no.  It is this very
verification of hypotheses which makes the sound ones safe, and
destroys the unsound.  It is this struggle with all sorts of
superstitions which makes science strong and sure, and her march
irresistible, winning ground slowly, but never receding from it.  It
is this buffeting of adversity which compels her not to rest
dangerously upon the shallow sand of first guesses, and single
observations; but to strike her roots down, deep, wide, and
interlaced, into the solid ground of actual facts.

It is very necessary to insist on this point.  For there have been
men in all past ages--I do not say whether there are any such now,
but I am inclined to think that there will be hereafter--men who
have tried to represent scientific method as something difficult,
mysterious, peculiar, unique, not to be attained by the unscientific
mass; and this not for the purpose of exalting science, but rather
of discrediting her.  For as long as the masses, educated or
uneducated, are ignorant of what scientific method is, they will
look on scientific men, as the middle age looked on necromancers, as
a privileged, but awful and uncanny caste, possessed of mighty
secrets; who may do them great good, but may also do them great
harm.  Which belief on the part of the masses will enable these
persons to instal themselves as the critics of science, though not
scientific men themselves:  and--as Shakespeare has it--to talk of
Robin Hood, though they never shot in his bow.  Thus they become
mediators to the masses between the scientific and the unscientific
worlds.  They tell them--You are not to trust the conclusions of men
of science at first hand.  You are not fit judges of their facts or
of their methods.  It is we who will, by a cautious eclecticism,
choose out for you such of their conclusions as are safe for you;
and them we will advise you to believe.  To the scientific man, on
the other hand, as often as anything is discovered unpleasing to
them, they will say, imperiously and e cathedra--Your new theory
contradicts the established facts of science.  For they will know
well that whatever the men of science think of their assertion, the
masses will believe it; totally unaware that the speakers are by
their very terms showing their ignorance of science; and that what
they call established facts scientific men call merely provisional
conclusions, which they would throw away to-morrow without a pang
were the known facts explained better by a fresh theory, or did
fresh facts require one.

This has happened too often.  It is in the interest of superstition
that it should happen again; and the best way to prevent it surely
is to tell the masses--Scientific method is no peculiar mystery,
requiring a peculiar initiation.  It is simply common sense,
combined with uncommon courage, which includes uncommon honesty and
uncommon patience; and if you will be brave, honest, patient, and
rational, you will need no mystagogues to tell you what in science
to believe and what not to believe; for you will be just as good
judges of scientific facts and theories as those who assume the
right of guiding your convictions.  You are men and women:  and more
than that you need not be.

And let me say that the man of our days whose writings exemplify
most thoroughly what I am going to say is the justly revered Mr.
Thomas Carlyle.

As far as I know he has never written on any scientific subject.
For aught I am aware of, he may know nothing of mathematics or
chemistry, of comparative anatomy or geology.  For aught I am aware
of, he may know a great deal about them all, and, like a wise man,
hold his tongue, and give the world merely the results in the form
of general thought.  But this I know:  that his writings are
instinct with the very spirit of science; that he has taught men,
more than any living man, the meaning and end of science; that he
has taught men moral and intellectual courage; to face facts boldly,
while they confess the divineness of facts; not to be afraid of
Nature, and not to worship Nature; to believe that man can know
truth; and that only in as far as he knows truth can he live
worthily on this earth.  And thus he has vindicated, as no other man
in our days has done, at once the dignity of Nature and the dignity
of spirit.  That he would have made a distinguished scientific man,
we may be as certain from his writings as we may be certain, when we
see a fine old horse of a certain stamp, that he would have made a
first-class hunter, though he has been unfortunately all his life in
harness.  Therefore, did I try to train a young man of science to be
true, devout, and earnest, accurate and daring, I should say--Read
what you will:  but at least read Carlyle.  It is a small matter to
me--and I doubt not to him--whether you will agree with his special
conclusions:  but his premises and his method are irrefragable; for
they stand on the "voluntatem Dei in rebus revelatam"--on fact and
common sense.

And Mr. Carlyle's writings, if I am correct in my estimate of them,
will afford a very sufficient answer to those who think that the
scientific habit of mind tends to irreverence.

Doubtless this accusation will always be brought against science by
those who confound reverence with fear.  For from blind fear of the
unknown, science does certainly deliver man.  She does by man as he
does by an unbroken colt.  The colt sees by the road side some quite
new object--a cast-away boot, an old kettle, or what not.  What a
fearful monster!  What unknown terrific powers may it not possess!
And the colt shies across the road, runs up the bank, rears on end;
putting itself thereby, as many a man does, in real danger.  What
cure is there?  But one:  experience.  So science takes us, as we
should take the colt, gently by the halter; and makes us simply
smell at the new monster; till after a few trembling sniffs, we
discover, like the colt, that it is not a monster, but a kettle.
Yet I think, if we sum up the loss and gain, we shall find the
colt's character has gained, rather than lost, by being thus
disabused.  He learns to substitute a very rational reverence for
the man who is breaking him in, for a totally irrational reverence
for the kettle; and becomes thereby a much wiser and more useful
member of society, as does the man when disabused of his

From which follows one result.  That if science proposes--as she
does--to make men brave, wise, and independent, she must needs
excite unpleasant feelings in all who desire to keep men cowardly,
ignorant, and slavish.  And that too many such persons have existed
in all ages is but too notorious.  There have been from all time,
goetai, quacks, powwow men, rain-makers, and necromancers of various
sorts, who having for their own purposes set forth partial, ill-
grounded, fantastic, and frightful interpretations of nature, have
no love for those who search after a true, exact, brave, and hopeful
one.  And therefore it is to be feared, or hoped, that science and
superstition will to the world's end remain irreconcilable and
internecine foes.

Conceive the feelings of an old Lapland witch, who has had for the
last fifty years all the winds in a sealskin bag, and has been
selling fair breezes to northern skippers at so much a puff,
asserting her powers so often, poor old soul, that she has got to
half believe them herself--conceive, I say, her feelings at seeing
her customers watch the Admiralty storm-signals, and con the weather
reports in The Times.  Conceive the feelings of Sir Samuel Baker's
African friend, Katchiba, the rain-making chief, who possessed a
whole houseful of thunder and lightning--though he did not, he
confessed, keep it in a bottle as they do in England--if Sir Samuel
had had the means, and the will, of giving to Katchiba's Negros a
course of lectures on electricity, with appropriate experiments, and
a real bottle full of real lightning among the foremost.

It is clear that only two methods of self-defence would have been
open to the rain-maker:  namely, either to kill Sir Samuel, or to
buy his real secret of bottling the lightning, that he might use it
for his own ends.  The former method--that of killing the man of
science--was found more easy in ancient times; the latter in these
modern ones.  And there have been always those who, too good-natured
to kill the scientific man, have patronised knowledge, not for its
own sake, but for the use which may be made of it; who would like to
keep a tame man of science, as they would a tame poet, or a tame
parrot; who say--Let us have science by all means, but not too much
of it.  It is a dangerous thing; to be doled out to the world, like
medicine, in small and cautious doses.  You, the scientific man,
will of course freely discover what you choose.  Only do not talk
too loudly about it:  leave that to us.  We understand the world,
and are meant to guide and govern it.  So discover freely:  and
meanwhile hand over your discoveries to us, that we may instruct and
edify the populace with so much of them as we think safe, while we
keep our position thereby, and in many cases make much money by your
science.  Do that, and we will patronise you, applaud you, ask you
to our houses; and you shall be clothed in purple and fine linen,
and fare sumptuously with us every day.  I know not whether these
latter are not the worst enemies which science has.  They are often
such excellent, respectable, orderly, well-meaning persons.  They
desire so sincerely that everyone should be wise:  only not too
wise.  They are so utterly unaware of the mischief they are doing.
They would recoil with horror if they were told they were so many
Iscariots, betraying Truth with a kiss.

But science, as yet, has withstood both terrors and blandishments.
In old times she endured being imprisoned and slain.  She came to
life again.  Perhaps it was the will of Him in whom all things live,
that she should live.  Perhaps it was His spirit which gave her

She can endure, too, being starved.  Her votaries have not as yet
cared much for purple and fine linen, and sumptuous fare.  There are
a very few among them who, joining brilliant talents to solid
learning, have risen to deserved popularity, to titles, and to
wealth.  But even their labours, it seems to me, are never rewarded
in any proportion to the time and the intellect spent on them, nor
to the benefits which they bring to mankind; while the great
majority, unpaid and unknown, toil on, and have to find in science
her own reward.  Better, perhaps, that it should be so.  Better for
science that she should be free, in holy poverty, to go where she
will and say what she knows, than that she should be hired out at so
much a year to say things pleasing to the many, and to those who
guide the many.  And so, I verily believe, the majority of
scientific men think.  There are those among them who have obeyed
very faithfully St. Paul's precept:  "No man that warreth entangleth
himself with the affairs of this life."  For they have discovered
that they are engaged in a war--a veritable war--against the rulers
of darkness, against ignorance and its twin children, fear and
cruelty.  Of that war they see neither the end nor even the plan.
But they are ready to go on; ready, with Socrates, "to follow reason
whithersoever it leads;" and content, meanwhile, like good soldiers
in a campaign, if they can keep tolerably in a line, and use their
weapons, and see a few yards ahead of them through the smoke and the
woods.  They will come out somewhere at last; they know not where
nor when:  but they will come out at last, into the daylight and the
open field; and be told then--perhaps to their own astonishment--as
many a gallant soldier has been told, that by simply walking
straight on, and doing the duty which lay nearest them, they have
helped to win a great battle, and slay great giants, earning the
thanks of their country and of mankind.

And, meanwhile, if they get their shilling a-day of fighting-pay,
they are content.  I had almost said, they ought to be content.  For
science is, I verily believe, like virtue, its own exceeding great
reward.  I can conceive few human states more enviable than that of
the man to whom, panting in the foul laboratory, or watching for his
life under the tropic forest, Isis shall for a moment lift her
sacred veil, and show him, once and for ever, the thing he dreamed
not of; some law, or even mere hint of a law, explaining one fact;
but explaining with it a thousand more, connecting them all with
each other and with the mighty whole, till order and meaning shoots
through some old Chaos of scattered observations.

Is not that a joy, a prize, which wealth cannot give, nor poverty
take away?  What it may lead to, he knows not.  Of what use it may
become, he knows not.  But this he knows, that somewhere it must
lead; of some use it will be.  For it is a truth; and having found a
truth, he has exorcised one more of the ghosts which haunt humanity.
He has left one object less for man to fear; one object more for man
to use.  Yes, the scientific man may have this comfort, that
whatever he has done, he has done good; that he is following a
mistress who has never yet conferred aught but benefits on the human

What physical science may do hereafter I know not; but as yet she
has done this:

She has enormously increased the wealth of the human race; and has
therefore given employment, food, existence, to millions who,
without science, would either have starved or have never been born.
She has shown that the dictum of the early political economists,
that population has a tendency to increase faster than the means of
subsistence, is no law of humanity, but merely a tendency of the
barbaric and ignorant man, which can be counteracted by increasing
manifold by scientific means his powers of producing food.  She has
taught men, during the last few years, to foresee and elude the most
destructive storms; and there is no reason for doubting, and many
reasons for hoping, that she will gradually teach men to elude other
terrific forces of nature, too powerful and too seemingly capricious
for them to conquer.  She has discovered innumerable remedies and
alleviations for pains and disease.  She has thrown such light on
the causes of epidemics, that we are able to say now that the
presence of cholera--and probably of all zymotic diseases--in any
place, is usually a sin and a shame, for which the owners and
authorities of that place ought to be punishable by law, as
destroyers of their fellow-men; while for the weak, for those who,
in the barbarous and semi-barbarous state--and out of that last we
are only just emerging--how much has she done; an earnest of much
more which she will do?  She has delivered the insane--I may say by
the scientific insight of one man, more worthy of titles and
pensions than nine-tenths of those who earn them--I mean the great
and good Pinel--from hopeless misery and torture into comparative
peace and comfort, and at least the possibility of cure.  For
children, she has done much, or rather might do, would parents read
and perpend such books as Andrew Combe's and those of other writers
on physical education.  We should not then see the children, even of
the rich, done to death piecemeal by improper food, improper
clothes, neglect of ventilation and the commonest measures for
preserving health.  We should not see their intellects stunted by
Procrustean attempts to teach them all the same accomplishments, to
the neglect, most often, of any sound practical training of their
faculties.  We should not see slight indigestion, or temporary
rushes of blood to the head, condemned and punished as sins against
Him who took up little children in His arms and blessed them.

But we may have hope.  When we compare education now with what it
was even forty years ago, much more with the stupid brutality of the
monastic system, we may hail for children, as well as for grown
people, the advent of the reign of common sense.

And for woman--What might I not say on that point?  But most of it
would be fitly discussed only among physicians and biologists:  here
I will say only this:  Science has exterminated, at least among
civilised nations, witch-manias.  Women--at least white women--are
no longer tortured or burnt alive from man's blind fear of the
unknown.  If science had done no more than that, she would deserve
the perpetual thanks and the perpetual trust, not only of the women
whom she has preserved from agony, but the men whom she has
preserved from crime.

These benefits have already accrued to civilised men, because they
have lately allowed a very few of their number peaceably to imitate
Mr. Rarey, and find out what nature--or rather, to speak at once
reverently and accurately, He who made nature--is thinking of, and
obey the "voluntatem Dei in rebus revelatam."  This science has
done, while yet in her infancy.  What she will do in her maturity,
who dare predict?  At least, in the face of such facts as these,
those who bid us fear, or restrain, or mutilate science, bid us
commit an act of folly, as well as of ingratitude, which can only
harm ourselves.  For science has as yet done nothing but good.  Will
any one tell me what harm it has ever done?  When any one will show
me a single result of science, of the knowledge of and use of
physical facts, which has not tended directly to the benefit of
mankind, moral and spiritual, as well as physical and economic--then
I shall be tempted to believe that Solomon was wrong when he said
that the one thing to be sought after on earth, more precious than
all treasure, she who has length of days in her right hand, and in
her left hand riches and honour, whose ways are ways of pleasantness
and all her paths are peace, who is a tree of life to all who lay
hold on her, and makes happy every one who retains her, is--as you
will see if you will yourselves consult the passage--that very
Wisdom--by which God has founded the earth; and that very
Understanding--by which He has established the heavens.


Ladies and gentlemen, we may of course think of anything which we
choose in a gravel-pit, as we may anywhere else.  Thought is free:
at least so we fancy.

But the most right sort of thought, after all, is thought about what
lies nearest us; not always, but surely once in a way, that we may
understand something of everyday objects.  And therefore it may be
well worth our while to go once into a gravel-pit, and think about
it, till we have learnt what a gravel-pit is.

Learnt what a gravel-pit is?  Everybody knows.

If it be so, everybody knows more than I know.  We all know a
gravel-pit when we see one; but we do not all know what we see.  I
do not know.  I know a little; a few scraps of fact about these pits
round here, though about no others.  Were I to go into a pit a
hundred miles, even fifty miles off, I could tell you nothing
certain about it; perhaps might make a dozen mistakes.  But what I
know, with tolerable certainty, about the pits round here, I wish to
tell you to-night.

But why?  You do not need, one in ten of you, to know anything about
gravel, unless you be highway surveyor, or have a garden-walk to
make; and then someone will easily tell you where the best gravel is
to be got, at so much a load.

Very true; but you come here to-night to instruct yourselves; that
is, to learn, if you can, something more about the world you live
in; something more about God who made the world.

And you come here to educate yourselves; to educe and bring out your
own powers of perceiving, judging, reasoning; to improve yourselves
in the art of all arts, which is, the art of learning.  That is
mental education.

Now if a gravel-pit will teach you a little about these things, you
will surely call it a rich gravel-pit.  If it helps you to wisdom,
which is worth more than gold; which is the only way to get gold
wisely, and spend it wisely; then we will call our pit no more a
gravel-pit, but a wisdom-pit, a mine of wisdom.

Let us go out, then, in fancy (for it is too cold to go out in
person) to Hook Common, scramble down into the first gravel-pit we
come to, and see what we can see.

The first thing we see is a quantity of stones, more or less
rounded, lying in gravel and poor clay.

Well--what do those stones tell us?

These stones, as I told you when I addressed you last, are ancient
and venerable worthies.  They have seen a great deal in their time.
They have had a great deal of knocking about, and have stood it
manfully.  They have stood the knocking about of three worlds
already; and have done their duty therein; and they are ready (if
you choose to mend the road with them) to stand the knocking about
of this fourth world, and being most excellent gravel, to do their
duty in this world likewise; which is more, I fear, than either you
or I can say for ourselves.

Three worlds?

Yes.  Standing there in the gravel-pit, I see three old worlds, in
each of which these stones played their part; and this world of man
for the fourth, and the best of all--for man if not for the stones.
I speak sober truth.  Let me explain it step by step.

You know the chalk-hills to the south; and the sands of Crooksbury
and the Hind Head beyond them.  There is one world.

You know the clays and sands of Hook and Newnham, Dogmersfield and
Shapley Heath, and all the country to the north as far as Reading.
There is a second world.

You know the gravel-pit itself; and all the upper soils and gravels,
which are spread over the length and breadth of the country to the
north.  There is a third world.

Let us take them one by one.

First, the chalk.

The chalk-hills rise much higher than the surrounding country; but
you must not therefore suppose that they were made after it, and
laid on the top of it.  That guess would be true, if you went south-
east from here toward the Hind Head.  The chalk lies on the top of
the sands of Crooksbury Hill, and the clays of Holt Forest; but it
dips underneath the sands of Shapley Heath, and the clays of
Dogmersfield, and reappears from underneath them again at Reading.

Thus you at Odiham stand on the edge of a chalk basin; of what was
once a sea, or estuary, with shores of chalk, which begins at the
foot of the High Clere Hills, and runs eastward, widening as it
goes, past London, into the Eastern Sea.  Everywhere under this
great basin is the floor of chalk, covered with clays and sands,
which, for certain reasons, are called by geologists Tertiary

But what has this to do with a gravel-pit?

This first.  That all the flints in this pit have come out of the
chalk.  They are coloured, most of them, with iron, which has turned
them brown; but they are exactly the same flints as those gray ones
in the chalk-pit on the other side of the town.

How do I know that?

I think our own eyes will prove it:  they are the same shapes, and
of the same substance; but as a still surer proof, we find exactly
the same fossils in them; sponges, choanites (which were something
like our modern sea-anemones), corals, and "shepherds' crowns" as
the boys call the fossil sea-urchins.  The species of all these, and
of other fossils, in the chalk-pit and in the gravel-pit, are
absolutely identical.  The natural conclusion is, then, that the
gravel has been formed from the washings of the chalk.  The white
lime of the chalk has been carried away in water by some flood or
floods; the heavier flints have been left behind.

Stop now one moment, and think.  You all know how very few flints
there are in the chalk-pit, in proportion to the mass of chalk.  You
all know what vast gravel-beds cover the country to the north, and
often to the thickness of many feet.  Try and conceive, then, what a
much more vast mass of chalk must have been washed away, to leave
that vast mass of gravel behind it.--Conceive?  It is past
conception.  I will but give you two hints as to its probable size.

The chalk to the eastward, between here and Farnham, is a far
narrower and shallower band than anywhere else in England.  Its
narrowest point is, I believe, beneath the bishop's palace at
Farnham, where it may be a hundred feet thick, instead of several
hundred, as it usually is in other parts of England.  The cause of
this is, that the whole of the upper chalk has been washed away, to
form the gravel-beds to the north and east of us.

Again.  Some of you may have been on the Hind Head or on Leith Hill,
and have looked southward over the glorious prospect of the rich
Weald, spread out five hundred feet below--a sight to make an
Englishman proud of his native land.  Now, the mass of chalk which
has been carried away began behind you, at the Hogsback, and the
line of chalk-hills which runs to Boxhill, and stretched hundreds of
feet above your head as you stand on Hind Head or Leith Hill, right
over the old Weald of Sussex to the chalk of the South Downs.  And
out of the scourings of that vast mass of chalk was our gravel-pit

Of that, and also of the Hind Head sands below it.

For you will find a great deal of sharp sand in our gravel-pits,
which has not, I believe, come from the grinding of chalk flints;
for if it had been ground, it would not be the sharp sand it is; the
particles would be rounded off at the edges.  This is probably sand
from the Hind Head; from what geologists term the greensands, below
the chalk.

And I have a better proof of this--at least I should have in every
gravel-pit at Eversley--in a few pieces of a stone which is not
chalk-flint at all; flattish and oblong, not more than two or three
inches in diameter; of a grayish colour, and a porous worm-eaten
surface, which no chalk-flint ever has.  They are chert, which
abound in the greensand formation; and insignificant as they look,
are a great token of a most important fact; that the currents which
formed our sands and gravels set from the south during a long series
of ages, first till they had washed away all the chalk off the
Weald, and next till they had washed away a great part of the sands,
which then became exposed, the remains whereof form great commons
over a wide tract of Surrey.

Now let me pause, and ask you to observe one thing.  How, in
inductive science, we arrive, by patient and simple observation of
the things around us, at the most grand and surprising results.  Of
course I am not giving you the whole of the facts which have made
this argument certain.  I am only giving you enough to make it
probable to you.  Its certainty has been proved by many different
men, labouring in many different parts of England, and of the
Continent also, and then comparing their discoveries together;
often, of course, making mistakes; but each working on patiently,
and correcting their early mistakes by fresh facts, till they have
at last got hold of the true key to the mystery, and are as certain
of the existence of the great island of the Weald, and its gradual
destruction by the waves and currents of an ancient sea, as if they
had seen it with their bodily eyes.  You must take all this, of
course, as truth from me to-night; but you may go and examine for
yourselves; and see how far your own common sense and observations
agree with those of learned geologists.

The history of this great Wealden island to the south-east of us is
obscure enough; but a few general facts, which bear upon our gravel-
pit, I can give you.

I must begin, however, ages before the Wealden island existed; when
the chalk of which its mass was composed was at the bottom of a deep

We know now what chalk is, and how it was made.  We know that it was
deposited as white lime mud, at a vast sea-depth, seemingly
undisturbed by winds or currents.  We know that not only the flint,
but the chalk itself, is made up of shells; the shell of little
microscopic animalcules smaller than a needle's point, in millions
of millions, some whole, some broken, some in powder, which lived,
and died, and decayed for ages in the great chalk sea.

We know this, I say.  We had suspected it long ago, and become more
and more certain of it as the years went on.  But now we seem to
have a proof of it which is past gainsaying.

In the late survey of the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, with a view
to laying down the electric telegraph between England and America,
by Lieutenant Maury of the American navy, a great discovery was
made.  It was found that the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, after you
have left the land a few hundred miles, is one vast plain of mud, of
some thirteen hundred miles in breadth.  But here is the wonder; it
was found that at a depth, averaging 1,600 fathoms--9,600 feet--in
utter darkness, the sea floor is covered with countless millions of
animalcule-shells, of the same families, though not of the same
species, as those which compose the chalk.

At the bottom of a still ocean, then, the chalk was deposited.  But
it took many an age to raise it to where Odiham chalk-pit now

But how was it raised?

By the upheaving force of earthquakes.  Or rather, by the upheaving
force which causes earthquakes, when it acts in a single shock,
cracking the earth's crust by an explosion; but which acts, too,
slowly and quietly, uplifting day by day, and year by year, some
portions of the earth's surface, and letting others sink down; as in
the case of the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, which is now
1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean.

That these upheaving forces were much more violent than now, in the
earlier epochs of our planet, we have some reason to believe:  but
the subject is too long a one to enter on now; and all I can say is,
that you must conceive for yourself the chalk gradually brought up
to the surface, worn away along a shifting shoreline by the waves of
the sea, and covered in shallow water by the clays and sands on
which Odiham stands; and which compose the earliest part of our
second world.

A second world; a new world.  We can use no weaker expression.  When
we compare the chalk with the strata which lie upon it, we can only
call them a complete new creation.

For not only were they deposited in shallow water; a great deal of
them, probably, near river-mouths, and by the force of violent
currents, as the irregularity of their lower bed proves:  but there
is hardly a plant or animal found in the chalk itself, which is
found in the gravels, sands, or clays above it.  The shells are all
new species; unseen before in this planet.  The vegetables, as far
as we know them, are all different from anything found in the chalk,
or in the beds below it.  God Almighty, for His own good pleasure,
has made all things new.  It is a very awful fact; but it is a very
certain one.  Several times, in the history of our planet, has the
Lord God fulfilled the words of the Psalmist:

"Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return again to their

"Thou sendest forth thy breath, they are made:  and thou renewest
the face of the earth."

But in no instance, perhaps, is the gulf so vast; is the leap from
one world to another so sheer, as that between the chalk and the
London clay above it.

But how do I know that there was a shore-line here?  And how do I
know that the chalk was covered with sand-beds?

I know that there was a shore-line here, from this fact.  If you
will look at the surface of the chalk, where the sands and clays lie
on it, you will find that it is not smooth; that the beds do not
rest conformably on each other, as if they had been laid down
quietly by successive tides, while the chalk below was still soft
mud.  So far from it, the chalk must have become hard rock, and have
been exposed to the action of the sea waves, for centuries, perhaps,
before the sands began to cover it.  For you find the surface of the
chalk furrowed, worn into deep pits, which are often filled with
sand, and gravel, and rounded lumps of chalk.  You may see this for
yourselves, in the topmost layer of any chalk-pit round here.  You
may see, even, in some places, the holes which boring shells, such
as work now close to the tide-level, have made in it; all the signs,
in fact, of the chalk having been a rocky sea-beach for ages.

The first bed which you will generally find upon the water-worn
surface of the chalk is a layer of green-sand and green-coated
flints.  Among these are met with in many places beds of a great
oyster, now unknown in life.  I cannot say whether there are any
here; but at Reading, to the east of Farnham, at Croydon, and under
London, they are abundant.  There must have been miles and miles of
oyster-bed at the bottom of that Eocene sea; among the oyster-beds,
beds of a peculiar pebble, which we shall see in our gravel-pit.

They are flints; but very small, dark, often almost black, and quite
round and polished.  Compare them with the average flints of the
pit, and you see that while the average flints are fresh from the
chalk, these have plainly been rolled and rounded for years.  They
are (except in their dark colour) exactly such shingle as forms the
south-coast beach about Hastings and Brighton.  They are the shingle
beaches of the Eocene sea, part of which are preserved under the
London clay.  To the north a vast bed of them remains in its
original place, on Blackheath near London; while part, in the
district to the south, which the London clay has not covered, have
been washed away, and carried into our gravel-pit, to mingle with
other flints fresh from the chalk.

I said just now that I had proof that a great tract of the chalk-
hills which are now bare, was once covered with sand and gravel.
Here, in the presence of these dark pebbles, is a proof.  But I have
another, and a yet more curious one.

For our gravel-pit, if it be, will possibly yield us another, and a
more curious object.  You most of you have seen, I dare say, large
stones, several feet long, taken out of these pits.  In the gravels
and sands at Pirbright they are so plentiful that they are quarried
for building-stone.  And good building-stone they make; being
exceedingly hard, so that no weather will wear them away.  They are
what is called saccharine (that is, sugary) sandstone.  If you chip
off a bit, you find it exactly like fine whity-brown sugar, only
intensely hard.  Now these stones have become very famous; for two
reasons.  First, the old Druids used them to build their temples.
Second, it is a most puzzling question where they came from.

First.  They were used to build Druid temples.

If you go to the further lodge of Dogmersfield Park, which opens
close to the Barley-mow Inn, you will see there several of them,
about five feet high each, set up on end.  They run in a line
through the plantation past the lodge, along the park palings; one
or two are in an adjoining field.  They are the remains of a double
line; an avenue of stones, which has formed part of an ancient
British temple.

I know no more than that:  of that I am certain.

But if you go to the Chalk Downs of Wiltshire, you see these temples
in their true grandeur.  You have all heard of Stonehenge on
Salisbury Plain.  Some of you may have heard of the great Druid
temple at Abury in Wilts, which, were it not all but destroyed,
would be even grander than Stonehenge.  These are made of this same

But where did the sandstone come from?  You may say, it "grew" of
itself in our sands and gravels; but it certainly did not "grow" on
the top of a bare chalk down.  The Druids must have brought the
stones thither, then, from neighbouring gravel-pits.  They brought
them, no doubt:  but not from gravel-pits.  The stones are found
loose on the downs on the top of the bare chalk, in places where
they plainly have not been put by man.

For instance, near Marlborough is a long valley in the chalk, which,
for perhaps half a mile, is full of huge blocks of this sandstone,
lying about on the turf.  The "gray wethers" the shepherds call
them.  One look at them would show you that no man's hand had put
them there.  They look like a river of stone, if I may so speak; as
if some mighty flood had rolled them along down the valley, and
there left them behind as it sunk.

Now, whence did they come?

Many answers have been given to that question.  It was supposed by
many learned men that they had been brought from the sandstone
mountains of Wales, like the rolled pebbles of which I spoke just
now.  But the answer to that was, that these great stones are not
rolled:  they are all squarish, more or less; their edges are often
sharp and fresh, instead of being polished almost into balls, as
they would have been in rolling two hundred miles along a sea-
bottom, before such a tremendous current as would have been needed
to carry them.

Then rose a very clever guess.  They must have been carried by
icebergs, as much silt and stones (we know) has been carried, and
have dropped, like them, to the bottom, when the icebergs melted.

There is great reason in that; but we have cause now to be certain
that they did not come from Wales.  That they are not pieces of a
rock older than the chalk, but much younger; that they were very
probably formed close to where they now lie.

Now--how do we know that?

If you are not tired with all this close reasoning, I will tell
you.--If you are, say so:  but as I said at first, I want to show
you what steady and sharp head-work this same geology requires, even
in the nearest gravel-pit.

Well, then.  I do not think our gravel-pit will tell us what we
want:  but I know one which will.

You have all heard of Lady Grenville's lovely place, Dropmore,
beyond Maidenhead; where the taste of that good and great man, the
late Lord Grenville, converted into a paradise of landscape-
gardening art a barren common, full of clay and gravel-pits.  Lord
Grenville wanted stones for rockwork; in those pits he found some
blocks, of the same substance as those of Stonehenge or Pirbright.
And they contain the answer.  The upper surface of most of them is
the usual clear sugar-sandstone:  but the under surface of many has
round pebbles imbedded in it, looking just like plums in a pudding;
the smaller above and the larger below, as if they had sunk slowly
through the fluid sand, before the whole mass froze, as it were,
suddenly together.  And these pebbles are nothing else than rolled
chalk flints.

That settles the matter.  The pebbles could not come from Wales;
there are no flints there.  They could not have been made before the
chalk; for out of the chalk they came; and the only explanation
which is left to us, I believe, is, that over the tops of the chalk
downs; over our heads where we stand now, there once stretched
layers of sand and gravel, "Tertiary strata" as I have been calling
them to you; and among them layers of this same hard sandstone.

When the floods came they must have swept away all these soft sands
and gravels (possibly to make the Bagshot sands, of which I shall
speak presently), and left the chalk downs bare; but while they had
strength to move the finer particles, they had not generally
strength to move these sandstone blocks, but let them drop through,
and remain upon the freshly-bared floor of chalk, as the only relics
of a tertiary land long since swept away; while some were carried
off, possibly by icebergs, as far as Pirbright, and dropped, as the
icebergs melted, both there, at Dogmersfield, and also, though few
and small, in Eversley and the neighbourhood.

But how came these tertiary sandstones to be so very hard, while the
strata around them are so soft?

Ladies and gentlemen, I know no more than you.  Experience seems to
say that stone will not harden into that sugary crystalline state,
save under the influence of great heat:  but I do not know how the
heat should have got to that layer in particular.  Possibly there
may have been eruptions of steam, of boiling water holding silex
(flint) in solution--a very rare occurrence:  but something similar
is still going on in the famous Geysers or boiling springs of
Iceland.  However, I have no proof that this was the cause.  I
suppose we shall find out some day how it happened; for we must
never despair of finding out anything which depends on facts.

Part of the town of Odiham, and of North Warnborough, stands, I
believe, upon these lower beds, which are called by geologists the
Woolwich and Reading beds, and the Plastic clays, from the good
brick earth which is so often found among them.  But as soon as you
get to Hook Common, and to Dogmersfield Park, you enter on a fresh
deposit; the great bed of the London clay.

I give you a rough section, from a deep well at Dogmersfield House;
from which you may see how steeply the chalk dips down here under
the clay, so that Odiham stands, as it were, on the chalk beach of
the clay sea.

In boring that well there were pierced:

Forty feet of the upper sands (the Bagshot sands), of which I shall
speak presently.

Three hundred and thirty feet of London clay.

Then about forty feet of mottled clays and sands.

Whether the chalk was then reached, I do not know.  It must have
been close below.  But these mottled clays and sands abound in water
(being indeed the layer which supplies the great breweries in
London, and those soda-water bottles on dumb-waiters which squirt in
Trafalgar Square); and (I suppose) the water being reached, the
boring ceased.

Now, this great bed of London clay, even more than the sands below
it, deserves the title of a new creation.

As a proof--some of you may recollect, when the South-Western
Railway was in making, seeing shells--some of them large and
handsome ones--Nautili, taken out of the London clay cutting near

Nautili similar to them (but not the same) are now only found in the
hottest parts of the Indian seas; and what is more, not one of those
shells is the same as the shells you find in the chalk.  Throughout
this great bed of London clay, the shells, the remains of plants and
animals, are altogether a new creation.  If you look carefully at
the London clay shells, you will be struck with their general
likeness to fresh East Indian shells; and rightly so.  They do
approach our modern live shells in form, far more than any which
preceded them; and indeed, a few of the London clay shells exist
still in foreign seas; in the beds, again, above the clay, you will
meet with still more species which are yet alive; while in the
chalk, and below the chalk, you never meet, I believe, with a single
recent shell.  It is for this reason that the London clay is said to
be Eocene, that is, the dawn of the new creation.

The chalk, I told you, seems to have been deposited at the bottom of
a still and deep ocean.  But the London clay, we shall find, was
deposited in a comparatively shallow sea, least in depth toward High
Clere on the west, and deepening towards London and the mouth of the

For not only is the clay deeper as you travel eastward, but--and
this is a matter to which geologists attach great importance--the
character of the shells differs in different parts of the clay.

You must know that certain sorts of shells live in deep water, and
certain in shallow.  You may prove this to yourselves, on a small
scale, whenever you go to the seaside.  You will find that the shell
which crawl on the rocks about high-water mark are different from
those which you find at low-tide mark; and those again different
from the shells which are brought up by the oyster-dredgers from the
sea outside.  Now, the lower part of the clay, near here, contains
shallow-water shells:  but if you went forty miles to the eastward,
you would find in the corresponding lower beds of the clay, deep-
water shells, and far above them, shallow-water shells such as you
find here:  a fact which shows plainly that this end of the clay sea
was shallowest, and therefore first filled up.

But again--and this is a very curious fact--between the time of the
Plastic clays and sands, with their oyster-beds and black pebbles,
and that of the London clay, great changes had taken place.  The
Plastic clay and sands were deposited during a period of earthquake,
of upheaval and subsidence of ancient lands; and therefore of
violent currents and flood waves, seemingly rushing down from, or
round the shores of that Wealden island to the south of us, on the
shore of which island Odiham once stood.  We know this from the
great irregularity of the beds:  while the absence of that
irregularity proves to us that the London clay was deposited in a
quiet sea.

But more.  A great change in the climate of this country had taken
place meanwhile; slowly perhaps:  but still it had taken place.

In the lowest clay above the chalk are found at Reading many leaves,
and buds, and seeds of trees, showing that there was dry land near;
and these trees, as far as the best botanists can guess, were trees
like those we have in England now.  Not of the same species, of
course:  but still trees belonging to a temperate climate, which had
its regular warm summer and cold winter.

But before the London clay had been all deposited, this temperate
climate had changed to a tropical one; and the plants and animals of
the upper part of the London clay had begun to resemble rather those
of the mouths of the African slave-rivers.

Extraordinary as this is, it is certainly true.

We know that the country near the mouth of the Thames, and probably
the land round us here, was low rich soil, some half under water,
some overflowed by rivers; some by fresh or brackish pools.  We know
all this; for we find the shells which belong to a shallow sea,
mixed with fresh-water ones.  We know, too, that the climate of this
rich lowland was a tropical one.  We know that the neighbourhood of
the Isle of Sheppey, at the mouth of the Thames, was covered with
rich tropic vegetation; with screw pines and acacias, canes and
gourds, tenanted by opossums, bats, and vultures:  that huge snakes
twined themselves along the ground, tortoises dived in the pools,
and crocodiles basked on the muds, while the neighbouring seas
swarmed with sharks as huge and terrible as those of a West Indian

It is all very wonderful, ladies and gentlemen:  but be it is:  and
all we can say is, with the Mussulman--"God is great."

And then--when, none knows but God--there came a time in which some
convulsion of nature changed the course of the sea currents, and
probably destroyed a vast tract of land between England and France,
and probably also, that sunken island of Atlantis of which old Plato
dreamed--the vast tract which connected for ages Ireland, Cornwall,
Brittany, and Portugal.  That convulsion covered up the rich clays
with those barren sands and gravels, which now rise in flat and
dreary steppes, on the Beacon Hill, Aldershot Moors, Hartford Bridge
Flat, Frimley ridges, and Windsor Forest.  That rich old world was
all swept away, and instead of it desolation and barrenness, piling
up slowly on its ruins a desert of sand and shingle, rising inch by
inch out of a lifeless sea.  There is something very awful to me in
the barrenness of those Bagshot sands, after the rich tropic life of
the London clay.  Not a fossil is to be found in them for miles.
Save a few shells, I believe, near Pirbright, there is not a hint
that a living being inhabited that doleful sea.

But do not suppose, gentlemen and ladies, that we have yet got our
gravel-pit made, or that the way-worn pebbles of which it is
composed are near the end of their weary journey.  Poor old stones!
Driven out of their native chalk, rolled for ages on a sea-beach,
they have tried to get a few centuries' sleep in the Eocene sands on
the top of the chalk hills behind us, while the London clay was
being deposited peacefully in the tropic sea below; and behold, they
are swept out, once more, and hurled pell-mell upon the clay, two
hundred feet over our heads.

Over our heads, remember.  We have come now to a time when Hartford
Bridge Flats stretched away to the Beacon Hill, and many a mile to
the south-eastward--even down into Kent, and stretched also over
Winchfield and Dogmersfield hither.

What broke them up?  What furrowed out their steep side-valleys?
What formed the magnificent escarpment of the Beacon Hill, or the
lesser one of Finchamstead Ridges?  What swept away all but a thin
cap of them on the upper part of Dogmersfield Park, another under
Winchfield House; another at Bearwood, and so forth?

The convulsions of a third world; more fertile in animal life than
those which preceded it:  but also, more terrible and rapid, if
possible, in its changes.

Of this third world, the one which (so to speak) immediately
preceded our own, we know little yet.  Its changes are so
complicated that geologists have as yet hardly arranged them.  But
what we can see, I will sketch for you shortly.

A great continent to the south--England, probably an island at the
beginning of the period, united to the continent by new beds--the
Mammoth ranging up to where we now stand.

Then a period of upheaval.  The German Ocean becomes dry land.  The
Thames, a far larger river than now, runs far eastward to join the
Seine, and the Rhine, and other rivers, which altogether flow
northward, in one enormous stream, toward the open sea between
Scotland and Norway.

And with this, a new creation of enormous quadrupeds, as yet
unknown.  Countless herds of elephants pastured by the side of that
mighty river, where now the Norfolk fisherman dredges their teeth
and bones far out in open sea.  The hippopotamus floundered in the
Severn, the rhinoceros ranged over the south-western counties;
enormous elk and oxen, of species now extinct, inhabited the vast
fir and larch forests which stretched from Norfolk to the farthest
part of Wales; hyenas and bears double the size of our modern ones,
and here and there the sabre-toothed tiger, now extinct, prowled out
of the caverns in the limestone hills, to seek their bulky prey.

We see, too, a period--whether the same as this, or after it, I know
not yet--in which the mountains of Wales and Cumberland rose to the
limits of eternal frost, and Snowdon was indeed Snowdon, an alp down
whose valleys vast glaciers spread far and wide; while the reindeer
of Lapland, the marmot of the Alps, and the musk ox of Hudson's Bay,
fed upon alpine plants, a few of whose descendants still survive, as
tokens of the long past age of ice.  And at every successive
upheaval of the western mountains the displaced waters of the ocean
swept over the lower lands, filling the valley of the Thames and of
the Wey with vast beds of drift gravel, containing among its chalk
flints, fragments of stone from every rock between here and Wales,
teeth of elephants, skulls of ox and musk ox; while icebergs,
breaking away from the glaciers of the Welsh Alps, sailed down over
the spot where we now are, dropping their imbedded stones and silt,
to confuse more utterly than before the records of a world rocking
and throbbing above the shocks of the nether fire.

At last the convulsions get weak.  The German Ocean becomes sea once
more; the north-western Alps sink again to a level far lower even
than their present one; only to rise again, but not so high as
before; sea-beaches and sea-shells fill many of our lower valleys;
whales by hundreds are stranded (as in the Farnham vale) where is
now dry land.  Gradually the sunken land begins to rise again, and
falls perhaps again, and rises again after that, more and more
gently each time, till as it were the panting earth, worn out with
the fierce passions of her fiery youth, has sobbed herself to sleep
once more, and this new world of man is made.  And among it, I know
not when, or by what diluvial wave out of hundreds which swept the
Pleistocene earth, was deposited our little gravel-pit, from which
we started on our journey through three worlds.


Enough for us that He knows when, in whose hand are the times and
the seasons--God the Father of the spirits of all flesh.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, take from hence a lesson.  I have
brought you a long and a strange road.  Starting from this seemingly
uninteresting pit, we have come upon the records of three older
worlds, and on hints of worlds far older yet.  We have come to them
by no theories, no dreams of the fancy, but by plain honest
reasoning, from plain honest facts.  That wonderful things had
happened, we could see:  but why they had happened, we saw not.
When we began to ask the reason of this thing or of that, remember
how we had to stop, and laying our hands upon our mouths, only say
with the Mussulman:  "God is great."  We pick our steps, by lanthorn
light indeed, and slowly, but still surely and safely, along a dark
and difficult road:  but just as we are beginning to pride ourselves
on having found our way so cleverly, we come to an edge of darkness;
and see before our feet a bottomless abyss, down which our feeble
lanthorn will not throw its light a yard.

Such is true science.  Is it a study to make men conceited and self-
sufficient?  Believe it not.  If a scientific man, or one who calls
himself so, be conceited, the conceit was there before the science;
part of his natural defects:  and if it stays there long after he
has really given himself to the patient study of nature, then is he
one of those of whom Solomon has said:  "Though you pound a fool in
a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his folly depart
from him."

For what more fit to knock the conceit out of a student, than being
pounded by these same hard facts--which tell him just enough to let
him know--how little he knows?  What more fit to make a man patient,
humble, reverent, than being stopped short, as every man of science
is, after each half-dozen steps, by some tremendous riddle which he
cannot explain--which he may have to wait years to get explained--
which as far as he can see will never be explained at all?

The poet says:  "An undevout astronomer is mad," and he says truth.
It is only those who know a little of nature, who fancy that they
know much.  I have heard a young man say, after hearing a few
popular chemical lectures, and seeing a few bottle and squirt
experiments:  Oh, water--water is only oxygen and hydrogen!--as if
he knew all about it.  While the true chemist would smile sadly
enough at the youth's hasty conceit, and say in his heart:  "Well,
he is a lucky fellow.  If he knows all about it, it is more than I
do.  I don't know what oxygen IS, or hydrogen, either.  I don't even
know whether there are any such things at all.  I see certain
effects in my experiments which I must attribute to some cause, and
I call that cause oxygen, because I must call it something; and
other effects which I must attribute to another cause, and I call
that hydrogen.  But as for oxygen, I don't know whether it really
exists.  I think it very possible that it is only an effect of
something else--another form of a something, which seems to make
phosphorus, iodine, bromine, and certain other substances:  and as
for hydrogen--I know as little about it.  I don't know but what all
the metals, gold, silver, iron, tin, sodium, potassium, and so
forth, are not different forms of hydrogen, or of something else
which is the parent of hydrogen.  In fact, I know but very little
about the matter; except this, that I do know very little; and that
the more I experiment, and the more I analyse, the more unexpected
puzzles and wonders I find, and the more I expect to find till my
dying day.  True, I know a vast number of facts and laws, thank God;
and some very useful ones among them:  but as to the ultimate and
first causes of those facts and laws, I know no more than the
shepherd-boy outside; and can say no more than he does, when he
reads in the Psalms at school:  "I, and all around me, are fearfully
and wonderfully made; marvellous are Thy works, and that my soul
knoweth right well."

And so, my friends, though I have seemed to talk to you of great
matters this night; of the making and the destruction of world after
world:  yet what does all I have said come to?  I have not got one
step beyond what the old Psalmist learnt amid the earthquakes and
volcanoes of the pastures and the forests of Palestine, three
thousand years ago.  I have not added to his words; I have only
given you new facts to prove that he had exhausted the moral lesson
of the subject, when he said:

These all wait upon thee, that thou mayest give them their meat in
due season.

Thou givest, and they gather:  thou openest thy hand, and they are
filled with good.

Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; thou takest away their
breath; they die and return to their dust.

Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and thou renewest
the face of the earth.

But--The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever.  The Lord shall
rejoice in his works.  Amen.


Ladies and gentlemen, I speak to you to-night as to persons
assembled, somewhat, no doubt, for amusement, but still more for
instruction.  Institutions such as this were originally founded for
the purpose of instruction; to supply to those who wish to educate
themselves some of the advantages of a regular course of scholastic
or scientific training, by means of classes and of lectures.

I myself prize classes far higher than I do lectures.  From my own
experience, a lecture is often a very dangerous method of teaching;
it is apt to engender in the mind of men ungrounded conceit and
sciolism, or the bad habit of knowing about subjects without really
knowing the subject itself.  A young man hears an interesting
lecture, and carries away from it doubtless a great many new facts
and results:  but he really must not go home fancying himself a much
wiser man; and why?  Because he has only heard the lecturer's side
of the story.  He has been forced to take the facts and the results
on trust.  He has not examined the facts for himself.  He has had no
share in the process by which the results were arrived at.  In
short, he has not gone into the real scientia, that is, the
"knowing" of the matter.  He has gained a certain quantity of
second-hand information:  but he has gained nothing in mental
training, nothing in the great "art of learning," the art of finding
out things for himself, and of discerning truth from falsehood.  Of
course, where the lecture is a scientific one, illustrated by
diagrams, this defect is not so extreme:  but still the lecturer who
shows you experiments, is forced to choose those which shall be
startling and amusing, rather than important; he is seldom or never
able, unless he is a man of at once the deepest science and the most
extraordinary powers of amusing, to give you those experiments in
the proper order which will unfold the subject to you step by step;
and after all, an experiment is worth very little to you, unless you
perform it yourself, ask questions about it, or vary it a little to
solve difficulties which arise in your own mind.

Now mind--I do not say all this to make you give up attending
lectures.  Heaven forbid.  They amuse, that is, they turn the mind
off from business; they relax it, and as it were bathe and refresh
it with new thoughts, after the day's drudgery or the day's
commonplaces; they fill it with pleasant and healthful images for
afterthought.  Above all, they make one feel what a fair, wide,
wonderful world one lives in; how much there is to be known, and how
little one knows; and to the earnest man suggest future subjects of
study.  I only ask you not to expect from lectures what they can
never give; but as to what they can give, I consider, I assure you,
the lecturer's vocation a most honourable one in the present day,
even if we look on him as on a mere advertiser of nature's wonders.
As such I appear here to-night; not to teach you natural history;
for that you can only teach yourselves:  but to set before you the
subject and its value, and if possible, allure some of you to the
study of it.

I have said that lectures do not supply mental training; that only
personal study can do that.  The next question is, What study?  And
that is a question which I do not answer in a hurry, when I say, The
study of natural history.  It is not, certainly, a study which a
young man entering on the business of self-education would be likely
to take up.  To him, naturally, man is the most important subject.
His first wish is to know the human world; to know what men are,
what they have thought, what they have done.  And therefore, you
find that poetry, history, politics, and philosophy are the matters
which most attract the self-guided student.  I do not blame him, but
he seems to me to be beginning at the middle, rather than at the
beginning.  I fell into the same fault myself more than once, when I
was younger, and meddled in matters too high for me, instead of
refraining my soul, and keeping it low; so I can sympathise with
others who do so.  But I can assure them that they will find such
lofty studies do them good only in proportion as they have first
learnt the art of learning.  Unless they have learnt to face facts
manfully, to discriminate between them skilfully, to draw
conclusions from them rigidly; unless they have learnt in all things
to look, not for what they would like to be true, but for what is
true, because God has done it, and it cannot be undone--then they
will be in danger of taking up only the books which suit their own
prejudices--and every one has his prejudices--and using them, not to
correct their own notions, but to corroborate and pamper them; to
confirm themselves in their first narrow guesses, instead of
enlarging those guesses into certainty.  The son of a Tory turn will
read Tory books, the son of a Radical turn Radical books; and the
green spectacles of party and prejudice will be deepened in hue as
he reads on, instead of being thrown away for the clear white glass
of truth, which will show him reason in all honest sides, and good
in all honest men.

But, says the young man, I wish to be wide-minded and wide-hearted--
I study for that very purpose.  I will be fair, I will be patient, I
will hear all sides ere I judge.  And I doubt not that he speaks
honestly.  But (I quote with all reverence) though the spirit be
willing, the flesh is weak.  Studies which have to do with man's
history, man's thoughts, man's feelings, are too exciting, too
personal, often, alas, too tragical, to allow us to read them calmly
at first.  The men and women of whom we read are so like ourselves
(for the human heart is the same in every age), that we
unconsciously begin to love or hate them in the first five minutes,
and read history as we do a novel, hurrying on to see when the
supposed hero and heroine get safely married, and the supposed
villain safely hanged, at the end of the chapter, having forgotten
all the while, in our haste, to ascertain which is the hero and
which is the villain.  Mary Queen of Scots was "beautiful and
unfortunate"--what heart would not bleed for a beautiful woman in
trouble?  Why stop to ask whether she brought it on herself?  She
was seventeen years in prison.  Why stop to ascertain what sort of a
prison it was?  And as for her guilt, the famous Casket Letters
were, of course, a vile forgery.  Impossible that they could be
true.  Hoot down the cold-hearted, and disagreeable, and troublesome
man of facts, who will persist in his stupid attempt to disenchant
you, and repeat--But the Casket Letters were not a forgery, and we
can prove it, if you will but listen to the facts.  Her prison, as
we will show you (if you will be patient and listen to facts),
consisted in greater pomp and luxury than that of most noblemen,
with horses, hounds, books, music, liberty to hunt and amuse herself
in every way, even in intriguing with every court of Europe, as we
can show you again, if you will be patient and listen to facts.  And
she herself was a very wicked and false woman, an adulteress and a
murderess (though fearfully ill-trained in early youth), who sowed
the wind, poor wretch, from girlhood to old age, and therefore
reaped the whirlwind, receiving the just reward of her deeds.
Catherine of Russia, meanwhile, instead of being beautiful and
unfortunate, was only handsome and successful.  Brand her as a
disgrace to human nature.  The morals and ways of the two were
pretty much on a par, with these exceptions in Catherine's favour--
that she had strong passions, Mary none; that she lived in outer
darkness and practical heathendom, while Mary had the light shining
all round her, and refused it deliberately again and again.  What
matter to the sentimentalist?  Hiss the stupid hard-hearted man of
facts, by all means.  What if he be right?  He has no business to be
right; we will consider him wrong accordingly, of our own sovereign
will and pleasure.  For after all, if we had the facts put before us
(says the conscience of many a hearer), we could not judge of them;
we read to be amused and instructed, not to study cases like so many
barristers.  So is history read.  And so, alas, is history written,
too often, for want of a steady and severe training which would
enable people to judge dispassionately of facts.  In politics the
case is the same.  In poetry, which appeals more directly to the
feelings, it must needs be still worse; as has been shown sadly
enough of late by the success of several poems, in which every
possible form of bad taste has only met with unbounded admiration
from the many who have not had their senses exercised to discern
between good and evil.

Now what seems to me to be wanted for young minds, is a study in
which no personal likes or dislikes shall tempt them out of the path
of mental honesty; a study in which they shall be free to look at
facts exactly as they are, and draw their conclusions patiently and
dispassionately.  And such a study I have found in that of natural

Do not fancy it, I beg you, an easy thing to judge fairly of facts;
even to discover the facts at all, when they are staring you in the
face; and to see what it is that you do see.  Any lawyer will tell
you, that if you ask three honest men to bear testimony concerning
an event which happened but yesterday, none of them, if he be at all
an interested party, will give you exactly the same account of it:
not that he wishes to say what is untrue; but that different parts
of the whole matter having struck each man with different force, a
different picture has been left on each man's memory.  I have been
utterly astounded of late, in investigating these strange stories of
table-turning and spirit-rapping, to find how even clear-headed and
well-instructed persons (as one had fancied them) become unable to
examine fairly into a thing, the moment the desire to believe has
entered the heart; and how no amount of mere cultivation, if the
scientific habit of mind be wanting, can prevent people from finding
(as in table-turning) miracles in the most simple mechanical
accidents; or from becoming (as in spirit-rapping) the dupes of the
most clumsy, palpable, and degrading impostures, even after they
have been exposed over and over again in print.  Humiliating,
indeed, it is, in this so self-confident and boastful nineteenth
century, amid steam-engines, railroads, electric telegraphs, and all
the wonders of our inductive science, to find exploded superstitions
leaping back into life even more monstrous and irrational than in
past ages, and to see our modern Pharisees and Sadducees, like those
in Judea of old, seeking after a sign of an unseen world; and being
unable to find one either in the heaven above or in the earth
beneath, discovering it at last (I am almost ashamed to speak the
words) under the parlour-table.

Against such extravagances, and against the loose sentimental tone
of mind which begets them, hardly anything would be a better
safeguard than the habitual study of nature.  The chemist, the
geologist, the botanist, the zoologist, has to deal with facts which
will make him master of them, and of himself, only in proportion as
he obeys them.  Many of you doubtless know Lord Bacon's famous
apothegm, Nature is only conquered by obeying her; and will
understand me when I say, that you cannot understand, much less use
for scientific purposes, the meanest pebble, unless you first obey
that pebble.  Paradoxical; but true.

See this pebble which I hold in my hand, picked up out of the street
as I came along; it shall be my only object to-night.  There the
thing is; and is as it is, and in no other way; and such it will be,
and so it will behave and act, in spite of me, and all my fancies
about it, and notions of what it ought to have been like, and what
it ought to have done.  It is a thought of God's; and strong by the
eternal laws of matter, which are the will of God.  It has the whole
universe, sun, and stars, and all, backing it by God's appointment,
to keep it where it is and what it is; and till (as Lord Bacon has
it) I have discovered and obeyed the will of God revealed in that
pebble, it is to me a riddle more insoluble than the Sphinx's, a
fortress more impregnable than Sevastopol.  I may crush it:  but
destroying is not conquering:  but I cannot even mend the road with
it prudently, until I have discovered whether Almighty God has made
it fit to mend roads with.  I may have the genius of a Plato or of a
Shakespeare, but all my genius will not avail to penetrate that
pebble, or see anything in it but a little round dirty stone, until
I have treated the pebble with reverence, as a thing independent of
my likes and dislikes, fancies, and aspirations; and have asked it
humbly to tell me its story, taking counsel meanwhile of hundreds of
kindred pebbles, each as silent and reserved as this one; and
watched and listened patiently, through many mistakes and
misreadings, to what it has to say for itself, and what God has made
it to be.  And then at last that little black rounded pebble, from
the street outside, may, and will surely, if I be patient and honest
enough, tell me a tale wilder and grander than any which I could
have dreamed for myself; will shame the meanness of my imagination,
by the awful magnificence of God's facts, and say to me:

"Ages and AEons since, thousands on thousands of years before there
was a man to till the ground, I the little pebble was a living
sponge, in the milky depths of the great chalk ocean; and hundreds
of living atomies, each more fantastic than a ghost-painter's
dreams, swam round me, and grew on me, and multiplied, till I became
a tiny hive of wonders, each one of which would take you a life to
understand.  And then, I cannot yet tell you how, and till I tell
you you will never know, the delicate flint-needles in my skin
gathered other particles of flint to them, and I and all my
inhabitants became a stone; and the chalk-mud settled round us, I
know not how, and covered us in; and for ages on ages I lay buried
in the nether dark, and felt the glow of the nether fires, and was
cracked and tossed by a hundred earthquakes.  Again and again I have
been part of an island, and then again sunk beneath the sea, to be
upheaved again after long centuries, till I saw the light once more,
and dropped from the face of some chalk cliff far away among high
hills which have long since been swept off the face of the earth,
and was tossed by currents till I became a pebble on the beach,
while Reading was a sand-bank in a shallow sea.  There I lay and
rolled till I was rounded, for many a century more; till flood after
flood past over me, and a new earth was made; and I was mixed up
with fresh flints from wasting chalk-hills, and with freestones from
the Gloucestershire wolds, and with quartz-boulders from the
mountains of Wales, while over me swept the carcases of drowned
elephants and bisons, and many a monstrous beast; and above me
floated uprooted palms, and tropic fruits and seeds, and the wrecks
of a dying world.  And then there came another age--

And it grew wondrous cold;
And ice mast-high came floating by,
As green as emerald;

and as the icebergs melted in the sun, the stones and the silt fell
out of them, and covered me up; and I was in darkness once more,
vexed by many an earthquake, till I became part of this brave
English land.  And now I am a pebble here in Reading street, to be
ground beneath the wheels of busy men:  and yet you cannot kill me,
or hinder my fulfilling the law which cannot be broken.  This year I
am a pebble in the street; and next year I shall be dust upon the
fields above; and the year after that I shall be alive again, and
rise from the ground as fair green wheat-stems, bearing up food for
the use of man.  And even after that you cannot kill me.  The
trampled and sodden straw will rot only to enter into a new life;
and I shall pass through a fresh cycle of strange adventures, age
after age, till time shall be no more; doing my work in my
generation, and fulfilling to the last the will of God, as
faithfully as when I was the water-breathing sponge in the abysses
of the old chalk sea."  All this and more, gentlemen and ladies, the
pebble could tell to you, and will:  but he is old and venerable,
and like old men, he wishes to be approached with respect, and does
not like to be questioned too much or too rapidly; so that you must
not be offended if you meet with more than one rebuff from him; or
if he keeps stubborn silence, till he has seen that you are a modest
and attentive person, to whom it is worth while to open a little of
his forty or fifty thousand years' experience.

Second only to the good effect of this study on the logical faculty,
seems to me to be its effect on the imagination.  Not merely in such
objects as the pebble, whose history I have so hastily, but I must
add faithfully, sketched; but in the tiniest piece of mould on a
decayed fruit, the tiniest animalcule from the stagnant pool, will
imagination find inexhaustible wonders, and fancy a fairy-land.  And
I beg my elder hearers not to look on this as light praise.
Imagination is a valuable thing; and even if it were not, it is a
thing, a real thing, a faculty which every one has, and with which
you must do something.  You cannot ignore it; it will assert its own
existence.  You will be wise not to neglect it in young children;
for if you do not provide wholesome food for it, it will find
unwholesome food for itself.  I know that many, especially men of
business, are inclined to sneer at it, and ask what is the use of
it?  The simple answer is, God has made it; and He has made nothing
in vain.  But you will find that in practice, in action, in
business, imagination is a most useful faculty, and is so much
mental capital, whensoever it is properly trained.  Consider but
this one thing, that without imagination no man can possibly invent
even the pettiest object; that it is one of the faculties which
essentially raises man above the brutes, by enabling him to create
for himself; that the first savage who ever made a hatchet must have
imagined that hatchet to himself ere he began it; that every new
article of commerce, every new opening for trade, must be arrived at
by acts of imagination; by the very same faculty which the poet or
the painter employs, only on a different class of objects; remember
that this faculty is present in some strength in every mind of any
power, in every mind which can do more than follow helplessly in the
beaten track, and do nothing but what it has seen others do already:
and then see whether it be not worth while to give the young a study
which above all others is fitted to keep this important and
universal faculty in health.  Now, from fifty to five-and-twenty
years ago, under the influence of the Franklin and Edgeworth school
of education, imagination was at a discount.  That school was a good
school enough:  but here was one of its faults.  It taught people to
look on imagination as quite a useless, dangerous, unpractical, bad
thing, a sort of mental disease.  And now, as is usual after an
unfair depreciation of anything, has come a revolution; and an
equally unfair glorifying of the imagination; the present generation
have found out suddenly that the despised faculty is worth
something, and therefore are ready to believe it worth everything;
so that nowadays, to judge from the praise heaped on some poets, the
mere possession of imagination, however ill regulated, will atone
for every error of false taste, bad English, carelessness for truth;
and even for coarseness, blasphemy, and want of common morality; and
it is no longer charity, but fancy, which is to cover the multitude
of sins.

The fact is, that youth will always be the period of imagination;
and the business of a good education will always be to prevent that
imagination from being thrown inward, and producing a mental fever,
diseasing itself and the whole character by feeding on its own
fancies, its own day dreams, its own morbid feelings, its likes and
dislikes; even if it do not take at last to viler food, to French
novels, and lawless thoughts, which are but too common, alas! though
we will not speak of them here.

To turn the imagination not inwards, but outwards; to give it a
class of objects which may excite wonder, reverence, the love of
novelty and of discovering, without heating the brain or exciting
the passions--this is one of the great problems of education; and I
believe from experience that the study of natural history supplies
in great part what we want.  The earnest naturalist is pretty sure
to have obtained that great need of all men, to get rid of self.  He
who, after the hours of business, finds himself with a mind relaxed
and wearied, will not be tempted to sit at home dreaming over
impossible scenes of pleasure, or to go for amusement to haunts of
coarse excitement, if he have in every hedge-bank, and wood land,
and running stream, in every bird among the boughs, and every cloud
above his head, stores of interest which will enable him to forget
awhile himself, and man, and all the cares, even all the hopes of
life, and to be alone with the inexhaustible beauty and glory of
Nature, and of God who made her.  An hour or two every day spent
after business-hours in botany, geology, entomology, at the
telescope or the microscope, is so much refreshment gained for the
mind for to-morrow's labour, so much rest for irritated or anxious
feelings, often so much saved from frivolity or sin.  And how easy
this pursuit.  How abundant the subjects of it!  Look round you
here.  Within the reach of every one of you are wonders beyond all
poets' dreams.  Not a hedge-bank but has its hundred species of
plants, each different and each beautiful; and when you tire of
them--if you ever can tire--a trip into the meadows by the Thames,
with the rich vegetation of their dikes, floating flower-beds of
every hue, will bring you as it were into a new world, new forms,
new colours, new delight.  You ask why this is?  And you find
yourself at once involved in questions of soil and climate, which
lead you onward, step by step, into the deepest problems of geology
and chemistry.  In entomology, too, if you have any taste for the
beauties of form and colour, any fondness for mechanical and
dynamical science, the insects, even to the smallest, will supply
endless food for such likings; while their instincts and their
transformations, as well as the equally wondrous chemical
transformation of salts and gases into living plants, which
agricultural chemistry teaches you, will tempt you to echo every day
Mephistopheles's magic song, when he draws wine out of the table in
Auersbach's cellar:

Wine is grapes, and grapes are wood--
The wooden board yields wine as good:
It is but a deeper glance
Into Nature's countenance.
All is plain to him who seeth;
Lift the veil and look beneath,
And behold, the wise man saith,
Miracles, if you have faith.

Believe me you need not go so far to find more than you will ever
understand.  An hour's summer walk, in the company of some one who
knows what to look for and how to look for it, by the side of one of
those stagnant dikes in the meadows below, would furnish you with
subjects for a month's investigation, in the form of plants, shells,
and animalcules, on each of which a whole volume might be written.
And even at this seemingly dead season of the year, fancy not that
nature is dead--not even that she sleeps awhile.  Every leaf which
drops from the bough, to return again into its gases and its dust,
is working out chemical problems which have puzzled a Boyle and a
Lavoisier, and about which a Liebig and a Faraday will now tell you
that they have but some dim guess, and that they stand upon the
threshold of knowledge like (as Newton said of himself) children
gathering a few pebbles, upon the shore of an illimitable sea.  In
every woodland, too, innumerable fungi are at work, raising from the
lower soil rich substances, which, strewed on the surface by quick
decay, will form food for plants higher than themselves; while they,
by their variety and beauty, both of form and colour, might well
form studies for any painter, and by the obscure laws of their
reproduction, studies for any philosopher.  Why, there is not a heap
of dead leaves among which by picking it through carefully you might
not find some twenty species of delicate and elegant land-shells;
hardly a tree-foot at which, among the moss and mould, you might not
find the chrysalides of beautiful moths, where caterpillars have
crawled down the trunk in autumn, to lie there self-buried and die
to live again next spring in a new and fairer shape.  And if you
cannot reach even there, go to the water-but in the nearest yard,
and there, in one pinch of green scum, in one spoonful of water,
behold a whole "Divina Commedia" of living forms, more fantastic a
thousand times than those with which Dante peopled his unseen world:
and then feel, as you should feel, abashed at the ignorance and
weakness of mortal man; abashed still more at that rash conceit of
his, which makes him fancy himself the measure of all things; and
say with me:  "Oh Lord, thy works are manifold; thy ways are very
deep.  In wisdom hast thou made them all, the earth is full of thy
riches.  Thou openest thy hand, and fillest all things living with
plenteousness; they continue this day according to thine ordinance,
for all things serve thee.  Thou hast made them fast for ever and
ever; thou hast given them a law which shall not be broken.  Let
them praise the name of the Lord; for he spake the word and they
were made, he commanded, and they were created."

This I shall say, but little more than this, on the religious effect
of the study of natural history.  I do not wish to preach a sermon
to you.  I can trust God's world to bear better witness than I can,
of the Loving Father who made it.  I thank him from my own
experience for the testimony of His Creation, only next to the
testimony of His Bible.  I have watched scientific discoveries which
were supposed in my boyhood to be contrary to revelation, found out
one by one to confirm and explain revelation, as crude and hasty
theories were corrected by more abundant facts, and men saw more
clearly what both the Bible and Nature really did say; and I can
trust that the same process will go on for ever, and that God's
earth and God's word will never contradict each other.  I have found
the average of scientific men, not less, but more, godly and
righteous men than the average of their neighbours; and I can trust
that this will be more and more the case as science deepens and
widens.  And therefore I can trust that every patient, truthful, and
healthful mind will, the more it contemplates the works of God, re-
echo St. Paul's great declaration that the Invisible things of God
are clearly seen from the foundation of the world, being understood
by the things which are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.
And so trusting, I pass on to a lower view of the subject, and yet
not an unnecessary one.

In an industrial country like this, the practical utility of any
study must needs be always thrown into the scale; and natural
history seems at first sight somewhat unpractical.  What money will
it earn for a man in after life?--is a question which will be asked;
and which it is folly to despise.  For if the only answer be:  "None
at all," a man has a right to rejoin:  "Then let me take up some
pursuit which will train and refresh my mind as much as this one,
and yet be of pecuniary benefit to me some day."  If you can find
such a study, by all means follow it:  but I say that this study too
may be of great practical benefit in after life.  How much money
have I, young as I am, seen wasted for want of a little knowledge of
botany, geology, or chemistry.  How many a clever man becomes the
dupe of empirics for want of a little science.  How many a mine is
sought for where no mine could be; or crop attempted to be grown,
where no such crop could grow.  How many a hidden treasure, on the
other hand, do men walk over unheeding.  How many a new material,
how many an improved process in manufacture is possible, yet is
passed over, for want of a little science.  And for the man who
emigrates, and comes in contact with rude nature teeming with
unsuspected wealth, of what incalculable advantage to have if it be
but the rudiments of those sciences, which will tell him the
properties, and therefore the value, of the plants, the animals, the
minerals, the climates with which he meets?  True--home-learnt
natural history will not altogether teach him about these things,
because most of them must needs be new:  but it will teach him to
compare and classify them as he finds them, and so by analogy with
things already known to him, to discover their intrinsic worth.

For natural history stands to man's power over Nature, that is, to
his power of being useful to himself and to mankind, in the same
relation as do geography, grammar, arithmetic, geometry, political
economy; none of them, perhaps, bearing directly on his future
business in life; but all training his mind for his business, all
giving him the rudiments of laws which he will hereafter work out
and apply to his profession.  And even at home, be sure that such
studies will bear fruit in after life.  The productive wealth of
England is not exhausted, doubt it not; our grandchildren may find
treasures in this our noble island of which we never dreamed, even
as we have found things of which our forefathers dreamed not.
Recollect always that a great market town like this is not merely a
commercial centre; not perhaps even a commercial centre at all:  but
that she is an agricultural centre, and one of the most important in
England; that the increase of science here will be sure more or less
to extend itself to the neighbourhood:  and then lay to heart this
one fact.  A friend of mine, and one whom I am proud to call my
friend, succeeding to an estate, thought good to cultivate it
himself.  And being a man of common sense, he thought good to know
something of what he was doing.  And he said to himself:  The soil,
and the rain, and the air are my raw materials.  I ought surely then
to find out what soil, and rain, and air are; so I must become a
geologist and a meteorologist.  Vegetable substances are what I am
to make.  And I ought surely to know what it is that I am making; so
I must become a botanist.  The raw material does somehow or other
become manufactured into the produce; the soil into the vegetable.
I ought surely to know a little about the processes of my own
manufacture; so I must learn chemistry.  Chance and blind custom are
not enough for me.  At best they can but leave me where they found
me, at their mercy.  Science I need; and science I will acquire.
What was the result?  After many a mistake and disappointment, he
succeeded in discovering on his own estate a mine of unsuspected
wealth--not of gold indeed, but of gold's worth--the elements of
human food.  He discovered why some parts of his estate were
fertile, while others were barren; and by applying the knowledge
thus gained, he converted some of his most barren fields into his
most fertile ones; he preserved again and again his crops from
blight, while those of others perished all around him; he won for
himself wealth, and the respect and honour of men of science; while
those around him, slowly opening their eyes to his improvements,
followed his lessons at second-hand, till the whole agriculture of
an important district has become gradually but permanently improved,
under the auspices of one patient and brave man, who knew that
knowledge was power, and that only by obeying nature can man conquer

Bear in mind both these last great proverbs; and combine them in
your mind.  Remember that while England is, and ever will be,
behindhand in metaphysical and scholastic science, she is the nation
which above all others has conquered nature by obeying her; that as
it pleased God that the author of that proverb, the father of
inductive science, Bacon Lord Verulam, should have been an
Englishman, so it has pleased Him that we, Lord Bacon's countrymen,
should improve that precious heirloom of science, inventing,
producing, exporting, importing, till it seems as if the whole human
race, and every land from the equator to the pole must henceforth
bear the indelible impress and sign manual of English science.

And bear in mind, as I said just now, that this study of natural
history is the grammar of that very physical science which has
enabled England thus to replenish the earth and subdue it.  Do you
not see, then, that by following these studies you are walking in
the very path to which England owes her wealth; that you are
training in yourselves that habit of mind which God has approved as
the one which He has ordained for Englishmen, and are doing what in
you lies toward carrying out, in after life, the glorious work which
God seems to have laid on the English race, to replenish the earth
and subdue it?

One word more, and I have done.  Unless you are already tired of
hearing me, I would suggest a few practical hints before we part.
The best way of learning these matters is by classes, in which men
may combine and interchange their thoughts and observations.  The
greatest savants find this; and have their Microscopic Society,
Linnaean, Royal, Geological Societies, British Associations, and
what not, in which all may know what each has done, and each share
in the learning of all; for as iron sharpeneth iron, so a man
sharpens the face of his friend.  I have nothing to say against
debating societies:  perhaps it was my own fault that whenever I
belonged to one as a young man, I found them inclined to make me
conceited, dictatorial, hasty in my judgments, trying to state a
case before I had investigated it, to teach others before I had
taught myself, to make a fine speech, not to find out the truth;
till in, I think, a wise moment for me, I vowed at twenty never to
set foot in one again, and kept my vow.  Be that as it may, I wish
that side by side with the debating society, I could see young men
joining in natural history societies; going out in company on
pleasant evenings to search together after the hidden treasures of
God's world, and read the great green book which lies open alike to
peasant and to peer; and then meeting, say once a week, to debate,
not of opinions but of facts; to show each what they had found, to
classify and explain, to learn and to wonder together.  In such a
class many appliances would be possible.  A microscope, for
instance, or chemical apparatus, might belong to the society, which
each individual by himself would not be able to afford; while as for
books--books on these subjects are now published at a marvellous
cheapness, which puts them within the reach of every one, and of an
excellence which twenty years ago was impossible.  Any working man
in this town might now, especially in a class, consult scientific
books, for which I, as a lad, twenty years ago, was sighing in vain;
nay, many of which, twenty years ago, the richest nobleman could not
have purchased; for the simple reason, that, dear or cheap, they did
not exist.  Such classes, too, would be the easiest, cheapest, and
pleasantest way of establishing what ought to exist, I think, in
connection with every institution like this, namely, a museum.  If
the young men were really ready and willing to collect objects of
interest, I doubt not that public-spirited men would be found, who
would undertake the expense of mounting them in a museum.  And you
cannot imagine, I assure you, how large and how interesting a museum
might be formed of the natural curiosities of a neighbourhood like
this, I may say, indeed, of any neighbourhood or of any parish:  but
your museum need not be confined to the neighbourhood.  Societies
now exist in every part of England, who will be happy to exchange
their duplicates for yours.  As your collection increased in
importance, old members abroad would gladly contribute foreign
curiosities to your stock.  Neighbouring gentlemen would send you
valuable objects which had been lumbering their houses, uncared for,
because they stood alone, and formed no part of a collection; and I,
for one, would be happy to add something from the fauna and flora of
those moorlands, where I have so long enjoyed the wonders of nature;
never, I can honestly say, alone; because when man was not with me,
I had companions in every bee, and flower, and pebble; and never
idle, because I could not pass a swamp, or a tuft of heather,
without finding in it a fairy tale of which I could but decipher
here and there a line or two, and yet found them more interesting
than all the books, save one, which were ever written upon earth.


Read at Sion College, January 10th, 1871.

When I accepted the unexpected and undeserved honour of being
allowed to lecture here, the first subject which suggested itself to
me was Natural Theology.

It is one which has taken up much of my thought for some years past,
{313} which seems to me more and more important, and which is just
now somewhat forgotten; I therefore determined to say a few words on
it to-night.  I do not pretend to teach but only to suggest; to
point out certain problems of Natural Theology, the further solution
of which ought, I think, to be soon attempted.

I wish to speak, remember, not on natural religion, but on natural
theology.  By the first, I understand what can be learned from the
physical universe of man's duty to God and to his neighbour; by the
latter, I understand what can be learned concerning God Himself.  Of
natural religion I shall say nothing.  I do not even affirm that a
natural religion is possible:  but I do very earnestly believe that
a natural theology is possible; and I earnestly believe also that it
is most important that natural theology should, in every age, keep
pace with doctrinal or ecclesiastical theology.

Bishop Butler certainly held this belief.  His "Analogy of Religion,
Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature"--a
book for which I entertain the most profound respect--is based on a
belief that the God of Nature and the God of Grace are one; and
that, therefore, the God who satisfies our conscience ought more or
less to satisfy our reason also.  To teach that was Butler's
mission, and he fulfilled it well.  But it is a mission which has to
be re-filled again and again, as human thought changes and human
science develops; for if in any age or country the God who seems to
be revealed by Nature seems different from the God who is revealed
by the then popular religion, then that God, and the religion which
tells of that God, will gradually cease to be believed in.

For the demands of Reason (as none knew better than good Bishop
Butler) must be and ought to be satisfied.  And when a popular war
arises between the reason of a generation and its theology, it
behoves the ministers of religion to inquire, with all humility and
godly fear, on which side lies the fault:  whether the theology
which they expound is all that it should be, or whether the reason
of those who impugn it is all that it should be.

For me, as (I trust) an orthodox priest of the Church of England, I
believe the theology of the National Church of England, as by law
established, to be eminently rational as well as scriptural.  It is
not, therefore, surprising to me that the clergy of the Church of
England, since the foundation of the Royal Society in the
seventeenth century, have done more for sound physical science than
the clergy of any other denomination; or that the three greatest
natural theologians with which I, at least, am acquainted--Berkeley,
Butler, and Paley--should have belonged to our Church.  I am not
unaware of what the Germans of the eighteenth century have done.  I
consider Goethe's claims to have advanced natural theology very much
over-rated:  but I do recommend to young clergymen Herder's
"Outlines of the Philosophy of the History of Man" as a book (in
spite of certain defects) full of sound and precious wisdom.  But it
seems to me that English natural theology in the eighteenth century
stood more secure than that of any other nation, on the foundation
which Berkeley, Butler, and Paley had laid; and that if our orthodox
thinkers for the last hundred years had followed steadily in their
steps, we should not be deploring now a wide, and as some think
increasing, divorce between Science and Christianity.

But it was not so to be.  The impulse given by Wesley and Whitfield
turned (and not before it was needed) the earnest mind of England
almost exclusively to questions of personal religion; and that
impulse, under many unexpected forms, has continued ever since.  I
only state the fact--I do not deplore it; God forbid!  Wisdom is
justified of all her children, and as, according to the wise
American, "it takes all sorts to make a world," so it takes all
sorts to make a living Church.  But that the religious temper of
England for the last two or three generations has been unfavourable
to a sound and scientific development of natural theology, there can
be no doubt.

We have only, if we need proof, to look at the hymns--many of them
very pure, pious, and beautiful--which are used at this day in
churches and chapels by persons of every shade of opinion.  How
often is the tone in which they speak of the natural world one of
dissatisfaction, distrust, almost contempt.  "Disease, decay, and
death around I see," is their key-note, rather than "O all ye works
of the Lord, bless Him, praise Him, and magnify Him together."
There lingers about them a savour of the old monastic theory, that
this earth is the devil's planet, fallen, accursed, goblin-haunted,
needing to be exorcised at every turn before it is useful or even
safe for man.  An age which has adopted as its most popular hymn a
paraphrase of the mediaeval monk's "Hic breve vivitur," and in which
stalwart public-school boys are bidden in their chapel worship to
tell the Almighty God of Truth that they lie awake weeping at night
for joy at the thought that they will die and see Jerusalem the
Golden--is doubtless, a pious and devout age; but not--at least as
yet--an age in which natural theology is likely to attain a high, a
healthy, or a scriptural development.

Not a scriptural development.  Let me press on you, my clerical
brethren, most earnestly this one point.  It is time that we should
make up our minds what tone Scripture does take toward Nature,
natural science, natural theology.  Most of you, I doubt not, have
made up your minds already, and in consequence have no fear of
natural science, no fear for natural theology.  But I cannot deny
that I find still lingering here and there certain of the old views
of nature of which I used to hear but too much here in London some
five-and-thirty years ago; not from my own father, thank God! for
he, to his honour, was one of those few London clergy who then faced
and defended advanced physical science; but from others--better men
too than I shall ever hope to be--who used to consider natural
theology as useless, fallacious, impossible, on the ground that this
Earth did not reveal the will and character of God, because it was
cursed and fallen; and that its facts, in consequence, were not to
be respected or relied on.  This, I was told, was the doctrine of
Scripture, and was therefore true.  But when, longing to reconcile
my conscience and my reason on a question so awful to a young
student of natural science, I went to my Bible, what did I find?  No
word of all this.  Much--thank God, I may say one continuous
undercurrent--of the very opposite of all this.  I pray you bear
with me, even though I may seem impertinent.  But what do we find in
the Bible, with the exception of that first curse?  That, remember,
cannot mean any alteration in the laws of nature by which man's
labour should only produce for him henceforth thorns and thistles.
For, in the first place, any such curse is formally abrogated in the
eighth chapter and twenty-first verse of the very same document--"I
will not again curse the earth any more for man's sake.  While the
earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and
winter, day and night shall not cease."  And next, the fact is not
so; for if you root up the thorns and thistles, and keep your land
clean, then assuredly you will grow fruit-trees and not thorns,
wheat and not thistles, according to those laws of Nature which are
the voice of God expressed in facts.

And yet the words are true.  There is a curse upon the earth, though
not one which, by altering the laws of nature, has made natural
facts untrustworthy.  There is a curse on the earth; such a curse as
is expressed, I believe, in the old Hebrew text, where the word
"adamah" (correctly translated in our version "the ground")
signifies, as I am told, not this planet; but simply the soil from
whence we get our food; such a curse as certainly is expressed by
the Septuagint and the Vulgate versions:  "Cursed is the earth"--
[Greek]; "in opere tuo," as the Vulgate has it--"in thy works."
Man's work is too often the curse of the very planet which he
misuses.  None should know that better than the botanist, who sees
whole regions desolate, and given up to sterility and literal thorns
and thistles, on account of man's sin and folly, ignorance and
greedy waste.  Well said that veteran botanist, the venerable Elias
Fries, of Lund:

"A broad band of waste land follows gradually in the steps of
cultivation.  If it expands, its centre and its cradle dies, and on
the outer borders only do we find green shoots.  But it is not
impossible, only difficult, for man, without renouncing the
advantage of culture itself, one day to make reparation for the
injury which he has inflicted:  he is appointed lord of creation.
True it is that thorns and thistles, ill-favoured and poisonous
plants, well named by botanists rubbish plants, mark the track which
man has proudly traversed through the earth.  Before him lay
original Nature in her wild but sublime beauty.  Behind him he
leaves the desert, a deformed and ruined land; for childish desire
of destruction, or thoughtless squandering of vegetable treasures,
has destroyed the character of nature; and, terrified, man himself
flies from the arena of his actions, leaving the impoverished earth
to barbarous races or to animals, so long as yet another spot in
virgin beauty smiles before him.  Here again, in selfish pursuit of
profit, and consciously or unconsciously following the abominable
principle of the great moral vileness which one man has expressed--
'Apres nous le Deluge'--he begins anew the work of destruction.
Thus did cultivation, driven out, leave the East, and perhaps the
deserts formerly robbed of their coverings; like the wild hordes of
old over beautiful Greece, thus rolls this conquest with fearful
rapidity from East to West through America; and the planter now
often leaves the already exhausted land, and the eastern climate,
become infertile through the demolition of the forests, to introduce
a similar revolution into the Far West." {320}

As we proceed, we find nothing in the general tone of Scripture
which can hinder our natural theology being at once scriptural and

If it is to be scientific, it must begin by approaching Nature at
once with a cheerful and reverent spirit, as a noble, healthy, and
trustworthy thing:  and what is that, save the spirit of those who
wrote the 104th, 147th, and 148th Psalms--the spirit, too, of him
who wrote that Song of the Three Children, which is, as it were, the
flower and crown of the Old Testament, the summing up of all that is
most true and eternal in the old Jewish faith; and which, as long as
it is sung in our churches, is the charter and title-deed of all
Christian students of those works of the Lord, which it calls on to
bless Him, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever?

What next will be demanded of us by physical science?  Belief,
certainly, just now, in the permanence of natural laws.  Why, that
is taken for granted, I hold, throughout the Bible.  I cannot see
how our Lord's parables, drawn from the birds and the flowers, the
seasons and the weather, have any logical weight, or can be
considered as aught but capricious and fanciful illustrations--which
God forbid--unless we look at them as instances of laws of the
natural world, which find their analogues in the laws of the
spiritual world, the kingdom of God.  I cannot conceive a man's
writing that 104th Psalm who had not the most deep, the most earnest
sense of the permanence of natural law.  But more:  the fact is
expressly asserted again and again.  "They continue this day
according to Thine ordinance, for all things serve Thee."  "Thou
hast made them fast for ever and ever.  Thou hast given them a law
which shall not be broken--"

Let us pass on, gentlemen.  There is no more to be said about this

But next, it will be demanded of us that natural theology shall set
forth a God whose character is consistent with all the facts of
nature, and not only with those which are pleasant and beautiful.
That challenge was accepted, and I think victoriously, by Bishop
Butler as far as the Christian religion is concerned.  As far as the
Scripture is concerned, we may answer thus:

It is said to us--I know that it is said:  You tell us of a God of
love, a God of flowers and sunshine, of singing birds and little
children.  But there are more facts in nature than these.  There is
premature death, pestilence, famine.  And if you answer:  Man has
control over these; they are caused by man's ignorance and sin, and
by his breaking of natural laws--what will you make of those
destructive powers over which he has no control; of the hurricane
and the earthquake; of poisons, vegetable and mineral; of those
parasitic Entozoa whose awful abundance, and awful destructiveness
in man and beast, science is just revealing--a new page of danger
and loathsomeness?  How does that suit your conception of a God of

We can answer:  Whether or not it suits our conception of a God of
love, it suits Scripture's conception of Him.  For nothing is more
clear--nay, is it not urged again and again, as a blot on
Scripture?--that it reveals a God not merely of love, but of
sternness--a God in whose eyes physical pain is not the worst of
evils, nor animal life (too often miscalled human life) the most
precious of objects--a God who destroys, when it seems fit to Him,
and that wholesale, and seemingly without either pity or
discrimination, man, woman and child, visiting the sins of the
fathers on the children, making the land empty and bare, and
destroying from off it man and beast!  This is the God of the Old
Testament.  And if any say (as is often too rashly said):  This is
not the God of the New:  I answer, but have you read your New
Testament?  Have you read the latter chapters of St. Matthew?  Have
you read the opening of the Epistle to the Romans?  Have you read
the Book of Revelations?  If so, will you say that the God of the
New Testament is, compared with the God of the Old, less awful, less
destructive, and therefore less like the Being--granting always that
there is such a Being--who presides over nature and her destructive
powers?  It is an awful problem.  But the writers of the Bible have
faced it valiantly.  Physical science is facing it valiantly now.
Therefore natural theology may face it likewise.  Remember Carlyle's
great words about poor Francesca in the Inferno:  "Infinite pity,
yet also infinite rigour of law.  It is so Nature is made.  It is so
Dante discerned that she was made."

There are two other points on which I must beg leave to say a few
words.  Physical science will demand of our natural theologians that
they should be aware of their importance, and let (as Mr. Matthew
Arnold would say) their thoughts play freely round them.  I mean
questions of Embryology and questions of Race.

On the first there may be much to be said, which is for the present
best left unsaid, even here.  I only ask you to recollect how often
in Scripture those two plain old words, beget and bring forth,
occur, and in what important passages.  And I ask you to remember
that marvellous essay on Natural Theology, if I may so call it in
all reverence, the 139th Psalm, and judge for yourself whether he
who wrote that did not consider the study of Embryology as
important, as significant, as worthy of his deepest attention, as an
Owen, a Huxley, or a Darwin.  Nay, I will go farther still, and say,
that in those great words--"Thine eyes did see my substance, yet
being imperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which
in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them,"-
-in those words, I say, the Psalmist has anticipated that realistic
view of embryological questions to which our most modern
philosophers are, it seems to me, slowly, half unconsciously, but
still inevitably, returning.

Next, as to Race.  Some persons now have a nervous fear of that
word, and of allowing any importance to difference of races.  Some
dislike it, because they think that it endangers the modern notions
of democratic equality.  Others because they fear that it may be
proved that the negro is not a man and a brother.  I think the fears
of both parties groundless.  As for the negro, I not only believe
him to be of the same race as myself, but that--if Mr. Darwin's
theories are true--science has proved that he must be such.  I
should have thought, as a humble student of such questions, that the
one fact of the unique distribution of the hair in all races of
human beings, was full moral proof that they had all had one common
ancestor.  But this is not matter of natural theology.  What is
matter thereof, is this:

Physical science is proving more and more the immense importance of
Race; the importance of hereditary powers, hereditary organs,
hereditary habits, in all organised beings, from the lowest plant to
the highest animal.  She is proving more and more the omnipresent
action of the differences between races; how the more favoured race
(she cannot avoid using the epithet) exterminates the less favoured,
or at least expels it, and forces it, under penalty of death, to
adapt itself to new circumstances; and, in a word, that competition
between every race and every individual of that race, and reward
according to deserts, is (as far as we can see) an universal law of
living things.  And she says--for the facts of history prove it--
that as it is among the races of plants and animals, so it has been
unto this day among the races of men.

The natural theology of the future must take count of these
tremendous and even painful facts:  and she may take count of them.
For Scripture has taken count of them already.  It talks
continually--it has been blamed for talking so much--of races, of
families; of their wars, their struggles, their exterminations; of
races favoured, of races rejected, of remnants being saved to
continue the race; of hereditary tendencies, hereditary excellences,
hereditary guilt.  Its sense of the reality and importance of
descent is so intense, that it speaks of a whole tribe or a whole
family by the name of its common ancestor, and the whole nation of
the Jews is Israel, to the end.  And if I be told this is true of
the Old Testament, but not of the New, I must answer:  What! does
not St. Paul hold the identity of the whole Jewish race with Israel
their forefather, as strongly as any prophet of the Old Testament?
And what is the central historic fact, save One, of the New
Testament, but the conquest of Jerusalem--the dispersion, all but
destruction of a race, not by miracle, but by invasion, because
found wanting when weighed in the stern balances of natural and
social law?

Gentlemen, think of this.  I only suggest the thought; but I do not
suggest it in haste.  Think over it--by the light which our Lord's
parables, His analogies between the physical and social constitution
of the world, afford--and consider whether those awful words,
fulfilled then and fulfilled so often since--"The kingdom of God
shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the
fruits hereof"--may not be the supreme instance, the most complex
development of a law which runs through all created things, down to
the moss which struggles for existence on the rock!

Do I say that this is all?  That man is merely a part of Nature, the
puppet of circumstances and hereditary tendencies?  That brute
competition is the one law of his life?  That he is doomed for ever
to be the slave of his own needs, enforced by an internecine
struggle for existence?  God forbid.  I believe not only in Nature,
but in Grace.  I believe that this is man's fate only as long as he
sows to the flesh, and of the flesh reaps corruption.  I believe
that if he will

Strive upward, working out the beast,
And let the ape and tiger die;

if he will be even as wise as the social animals; as the ant and the
bee, who have risen, if not to the virtue of all-embracing charity,
at least to the virtues of self-sacrifice and patriotism, {326} then
he will rise towards a higher sphere; toward that kingdom of God of
which it is written:  "He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God,
and God in him."

Whether that be matter of natural theology, I cannot tell as yet.
But as for all the former questions--all that St. Paul means when he
talks of the law, and how the works of the flesh bring men under the
law, stern and terrible and destructive, though holy and just and
good,--they are matter of natural theology; and I believe that on
them, as elsewhere, Scripture and science will be ultimately found
to coincide.

But here we have to face an objection which you will often hear now
from scientific men, and still oftener from non-scientific men; who
will say:  It matters not to us whether Scripture contradicts or
does not contradict a scientific natural theology; for we hold such
a science to be impossible and naught.  The old Jews put a God into
Nature, and therefore of course they could see, as you see, what
they had already put there.  But we see no God in Nature.  We do not
deny the existence of a God; we merely say that scientific research
does not reveal Him to us.  We see no marks of design in physical
phenomena.  What used to be considered as marks of design can be
better explained by considering them as the results of evolution
according to necessary laws; and you and Scripture make a mere
assumption when you ascribe them to the operation of a mind like the
human mind.

Now, on this point I believe we may answer fearlessly:  If you
cannot see it we cannot help you.  If the heavens do not declare to
you the glory of God, nor the firmament show you His handy-work,
then our poor arguments about them will not show it.  "The eye can
only see that which it brings with it the power of seeing."  We can
only reassert that we see design everywhere, and that the vast
majority of the human race in every age and clime has seen it.
Analogy from experience, sound induction (as we hold) from the works
not only of men but of animals, has made it an all but self-evident
truth to us, that wherever there is arrangement, there must be an
arranger; wherever there is adaptation of means to an end, there
must be an adapter; wherever an organisation, there must be an
organiser.  The existence of a designing God is no more demonstrable
from Nature than the existence of other human beings independent of
ourselves, or, indeed, the existence of our own bodies.  But, like
the belief in them, the belief in Him has become an article of our
common sense.  And that this designing mind is, in some respects,
similar to the human mind, is proved to us (as Sir John Herschel
well puts it) by the mere fact that we can discover and comprehend
the processes of Nature.

But here again, if we be contradicted, we can only reassert.  If the
old words, "He that made the eye, shall He not see?  He that planted
the ear, shall He not hear?" do not at once commend themselves to
the intellect of any person, we shall never convince that person by
any arguments drawn from the absurdity of conceiving the invention
of optics by a blind race, or of music by a deaf one.

So we will assert our own old-fashioned notion boldly; and more:  we
will say, in spite of ridicule, that if such a God exists, final
causes must exist also.  That the whole universe must be one chain
of final causes.  That if there be a Supreme Reason, He must have a
reason, and that a good reason, for every physical phenomenon.

We will tell the modern scientific man--You are nervously afraid of
the mention of final causes.  You quote against them Bacon's saying,
that they are barren virgins; that no physical fact was ever
discovered or explained by them.  You are right as far as regards
yourselves; you have no business with final causes, because final
causes are moral causes, and you are physical students only.  We,
the natural theologians, have business with them.  Your duty is to
find out the How of things; ours, to find out the Why.  If you
rejoin that we shall never find out the Why, unless we first learn
something of the How, we shall not deny that.  It may be most
useful, I had almost said necessary, that the clergy should have
some scientific training.  It may be most useful, I sometimes dream
of a day when it will be considered necessary, that every candidate
for ordination should be required to have passed creditably in at
least one branch of physical science, if it be only to teach him the
method of sound scientific thought.  But our having learnt the How,
will not make it needless, much less impossible, for us to study the
Why.  It will merely make more clear to us the things of which we
have to study the Why; and enable us to keep the How and the Why
more religiously apart from each other.

But if it be said:  After all, there is no Why; the doctrine of
evolution, by doing away with the theory of creation, does away with
that of final causes--let us answer, boldly:  Not in the least.  We
might accept all that Mr. Darwin, all that Professor Huxley, has so
learnedly and so acutely written on physical science, and yet
preserve our natural theology on exactly the same basis as that on
which Butler and Paley left it.  That we should have to develop it,
I do not deny.  That we should have to relinquish it, I do.

Let me press this thought earnestly on you.  I know that many wiser
and better men than I have fears on this point.  I cannot share in

All, it seems to me, that the new doctrines of Evolution demand is
this.  We all agree, for the fact is patent, that our own bodies,
and indeed the body of every living creature, are evolved from a
seemingly simple germ by natural laws, without visible action of any
designing will or mind, into the full organisation of a human or
other creature.  Yet we do not say, on that account:  God did not
create me; I only grew.  We hold in this case to our old idea, and
say:  If there be evolution, there must be an evolver.  Now the new
physical theories only ask us, it seems to me, to extend this
conception to the whole universe:  to believe that not individuals
merely, but whole varieties and races, the total organised life on
this planet, and it may be the total organisation of the universe,
have been evolved just as our bodies are, by natural laws acting
through circumstance.  This may be true, or may be false.  But all
its truth can do to the natural theologian will be to make him
believe that the Creator bears the same relation to the whole
universe as that Creator undeniably bears to every individual human

I entreat you to weigh these words, which have not been written in
haste; and I entreat you also, if you wish to see how little the new
theory, that species may have been gradually created by variation,
natural selection, and so forth, interferes with the old theory of
design, contrivance, and adaptation, nay, with the fullest admission
of benevolent final causes--I entreat you, I say, to study Darwin's
"Fertilisation of Orchids"--a book which (whether his main theory be
true or not) will still remain a most valuable addition to natural

For suppose, gentlemen, that all the species of Orchids, and not
only they, but their congeners--the Gingers, the Arrowroots, the
Bananas--are all the descendants of one original form, which was
most probably nearly allied to the Snowdrop and the Iris.  What
then?  Would that be one whit more wonderful, more unworthy of the
wisdom and power of God, than if they were, as most believe, created
each and all at once, with their minute and often imaginary shades
of difference?  What would the natural theologian have to say, were
the first theory true, save that God's works are even more wonderful
than he always believed them to be?  As for the theory being
impossible:  we must leave the discussion of that to physical
students.  It is not for us clergymen to limit the power of God.
"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" asked the prophet of old:  and
we have a right to ask it as long as time shall last.  If it be said
that natural selection is too simple a cause to produce such
fantastic variety:  that, again, is a question to be settled
exclusively by physical students.  All we have to say on the matter
is, that we always knew that God works by very simple, or seemingly
simple, means; that the whole universe, as far as we could discern
it, was one concatenation of the most simple means; that it was
wonderful, yea, miraculous in our eyes, that a child should resemble
its parents, that the raindrops should make the grass grow, that the
grass should become flesh, and the flesh sustenance for the thinking
brain of man.  Ought God to seem less or more august in our eyes,
when we are told that His means are even more simple than we
supposed?  We held Him to be Almighty and Allwise.  Are we to
reverence Him less or more, if we hear that His might is greater,
His wisdom deeper, than we ever dreamed?  We believed that His care
was over all His works; that His Providence watched perpetually over
the whole universe.  We were taught--some of us at least--by Holy
Scripture, to believe that the whole history of the universe was
made up of special Providences.  If, then, that should be true which
Mr. Darwin writes:  "It may be metaphorically said that natural
selection is daily and hourly scrutinising throughout the world,
every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad,
preserving and adding up that which is good, silently and
incessantly working whenever and wherever opportunity offers at the
improvement of every organic being"--if that, I say, were proven to
be true, ought God's care and God's providence to seem less or more
magnificent in our eyes?  Of old it was said by Him without whom
nothing is made:  "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."  Shall
we quarrel with Science if she should show how those words are true?
What, in one word, should we have to say but this?--We knew of old
that God was so wise that He could make all things; but behold, He
is so much wiser than even that, that He can make all things make

But it may be said:  These notions are contrary to Scripture.  I
must beg very humbly, but very firmly, to demur to that opinion.
Scripture says that God created.  But it nowhere defines that term.
The means, the How of Creation, is nowhere specified.  Scripture,
again, says that organised beings were produced each according to
their kind.  But it nowhere defines that term.  What a kind
includes, whether it includes or not the capacity of varying (which
is just the question in point), is nowhere specified.  And I think
it a most important rule in scriptural exegesis, to be most cautious
as to limiting the meaning of any term which Scripture itself has
not limited, lest we find ourselves putting into the teaching of
Scripture our own human theories or prejudices.  And consider, Is
not man a kind?  And has not mankind varied, physically,
intellectually, spiritually?  Is not the Bible, from beginning to
end, a history of the variations of mankind, for worse or for
better, from their original type?

Let us rather look with calmness, and even with hope and good will,
on these new theories; for, correct or incorrect, they surely mark a
tendency toward a more, not a less, scriptural view of nature.  Are
they not attempts, whether successful or unsuccessful, to escape
from that shallow mechanical notion of the universe and its Creator
which was too much in vogue in the eighteenth century among divines
as well as philosophers; the theory which Goethe (to do him
justice), and after him Mr. Thomas Carlyle, have treated with such
noble scorn; the theory, I mean, that God has wound up the universe
like a clock, and left it to tick by itself till it runs down, never
troubling Himself with it, save possibly--for even that was only
half believed--by rare miraculous interferences with the laws which
He Himself had made?  Out of that chilling dream of a dead universe
ungoverned by an absent God, the human mind, in Germany especially,
tried during the early part of this century to escape by strange
roads; roads by which there was no escape, because they were not
laid down on the firm ground of scientific facts.  Then, in despair,
men turned to the facts which they had neglected, and said:  We are
weary of philosophy; we will study you, and you alone.  As for God,
who can find Him?  And they have worked at the facts like gallant
and honest men; and their work, like all good work, has produced, in
the last fifty years, results more enormous than they even dreamed.
But what are they finding, more and more, below their facts, below
all phenomena which the scalpel and the microscope can show?  A
something nameless, invisible, imponderable, yet seemingly
omnipresent and omnipotent, retreating before them deeper and
deeper, the deeper they delve:  namely, the life which shapes and
makes--that which the old school-men called "forma formativa," which
they call vital force and what not--metaphors all, or rather
counters to mark an unknown quantity, as if they should call it x or
y.  One says:  It is all vibrations; but his reason, unsatisfied,
asks:  And what makes the vibrations vibrate?  Another:  It is all
physiological units; but his reason asks:  What is the "physis," the
nature and "innate tendency" of the units?  A third:  It may be all
caused by infinitely numerous "gemmules;" but his reason asks him:
What puts infinite order into those gemmules, instead of infinite
anarchy?  I mention these theories not to laugh at them.  No man has
a deeper respect for those who have put them forth.  Nor would it
interfere with my theological creed, if any or all of them were
proven to be true to-morrow.  I mention them only to show that
beneath all these theories--true or false--still lies the unknown x.
Scientific men are becoming more and more aware of it; I had almost
said ready to worship it.  More and more the noblest-minded of them
are engrossed by the mystery of that unknown and truly miraculous
element in Nature, which is always escaping them, though they cannot
escape it.  How should they escape it?  Was it not written of old:
"Whither shall I go from Thy presence, or whither shall I flee from
Thy spirit?"

Ah that we clergy would summon up courage to tell them that!
Courage to tell them--what need not hamper for a moment the freedom
of their investigations, what will add to them a sanction, I may say
a sanctity--that the unknown x which lies below all phenomena, which
is for ever at work on all phenomena, on the whole and on every part
of the whole, down to the colouring of every leaf and the curdling
of every cell of protoplasm, is none other than that which the old
Hebrews called--(by a metaphor, no doubt--for how can man speak of
the unseen, save in metaphors drawn from the seen?--but by the only
metaphor adequate to express the perpetual and omnipresent miracle)-
-The Breath of God; The Spirit who is The Lord and Giver of Life.

In the rest, gentlemen, let us think, and let us observe.  For if we
are ignorant, not merely of the results of experimental science, but
of the methods thereof, then we and the men of science shall have no
common ground whereon to stretch out kindly hands to each other.

But let us have patience and faith; and not suppose in haste, that
when those hands are stretched out it will be needful for us to
leave our standing-ground, or to cast ourselves down from the
pinnacle of the temple to earn popularity; above all, from earnest
students who are too high-minded to care for popularity themselves.

True, if we have an intelligent belief in those Creeds and those
Scriptures which are committed to our keeping, then our philosophy
cannot be that which is just now in vogue.  But all we have to do, I
believe, is to wait.  Nominalism, and that "Sensationalism" which
has sprung from nominalism, are running fast to seed; Comtism seems
to me its supreme effort:  after which the whirligig of Time may
bring round its revenges; and Realism, and we who own the Realist
creeds, may have our turn.  Only wait.  When a grave, able, and
authoritative philosopher explains a mother's love of her newborn
babe, as Professor Bain has done, in a really eloquent passage of
his book on the "Emotions and the Will" (Second Edition, pp. 78,
79), then the end of that philosophy is very near; and an older,
simpler, more human, and, as I hold, more philosophic explanation of
that natural phenomenon, and of all others, may get a hearing.

Only wait; and fret not yourselves, else shall you be moved to do
evil.  Remember the saying of the wise man:  "Go not after the
world.  She turns on her axis; and if thou stand still long enough
she will turn round to thee."


{0}  The Macmillan and Co. book from which this eBook was
transcribed ("Scientific Lectures and Essays") also contains "Town
Geology".  However, as Charles Kingsley published that as a separate
book it is not included here.  It is available from Project

{1}  An Address given to the Scientific Society of Winchester, 1871.

{181}  A Lecture delivered to the Officers of the Royal Artillery,
Woolwich, 1872.

{201}  A Lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, London, 1867.

{223}  For an account of Sorcery and Fetishism among the African
Negros, see Burton's "Lake Regions of Central Africa," vol. ii. pp.

{229}  A Lecture delivered at the Royal Institution.

{262}  A Lecture delivered at the Mechanics' Institute, Odiham,

{290}  Lecture delivered at Reading, 1846.

{313}  Novalis, I think, says that one's own thought gains quite
infinitely in value as soon as one finds it shared by even one other
human being.  The saying has proved true, at least, to me.  The
morning after this paper was read, I received a book, "The Genesis
of Species, by St. George Mivart, F.R.S."  The name of the author
demanded all attention and respect; and as I read on, I found him,
to my exceeding pleasure, advocating views which I had long held,
with a learning and ability to which I have no pretensions.  The
book will, doubtless, excite much useful criticism and discussion in
the scientific world.  I hope that it may do the same in the
clerical world; and I earnestly beg those clergymen who heard me
with so much patience and courtesy at Sion College, to ponder well
Mr. Mivart's last chapter, on "Theology and Evolution."

{320}  Quoted from Schleiden's "The Plant, a Biography."--Lecture
XI. in fine.

{326}  I am well aware what a serious question is opened up in these
words.  The fact that the great majority of workers among the social
insects are barren females or nuns, devoting themselves to the care
of other individuals' offspring, by an act of self-sacrifice, and
that by means of that self-sacrifice these communities grow large
and prosperous, ought to be well weighed just now; both by those who
hold that morality has been evolved from perceptions of what was
useful or pleasurable, and by those who hold as I do that morality
is one, immutable and eternal.  Those who take the former view
(confounding, as Mr. Mivart well points out in his Genesis of
Species, "material" and "formal" morality) have no difficulty in
tracing the germs of the highest human morality in animals; for
self-interest is, in their eyes, the ultimate ground of morality,
and the average animal is utterly selfish.  But certain animals
perform acts, as in the case of working bees and ants, and (as I
hold) in the case of mothers working for and protecting their
offspring, which at least seem formally moral; because they seem
founded on self-sacrifice.  I am well aware, I say again, of the
very serious admissions which we clergymen should have to make if we
confessed that these acts really are that which they seem to be.
But I do not see why we should not be as just to an ant as to a
human being; I am ready, with Socrates, to follow the Logos
whithersoever it leads; and I hope that Mr. Mivart will reconsider
the two latter paragraphs of p. 196, and let his "thoughts play
freely" round this curious subject.  Perhaps, in so doing, he may
lay his hand on an even sharper weapon than those which he has
already used against the sensationalist theory of morals.

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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.