Page images
PDF
EPUB

practical problems of politics ; but he was a journalist, and not a professor : yet his independence of mind and his keen faculty for probing the truth to the bottom give him rightly the reputation of a philosopher. The interesting personality of Arthur James Balfour (1848- ) also deserves commemoration in a handbook of literature for his Foundations of Belief (1895). This owes something to Sidgwick, especially in the detached and negative attitude of mind that it discloses. Mr. Balfour has the analytical habit of the true philosopher and is always interesting even when he is neither convincing nor satisfying.

The greatest English philosopher of the Victorian epoch however, was Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), the pbilosopher of evolution. His voluminous writings-from the Principles of Psychology (1855) and First Principles (1862) to the last volume of his Sociology in 1896—form an impressive unity that has no parallel in English. They are written in a dry and unattractive though perfectly clear style, and are always hard reading ; they appeal absolutely and only to the intellect ; but they contain the standard exposition of the evolutionary philosophy, and they can never be superseded. They are the work of a zealous lover of truth, a foe to superstition who would not permit sentiment to rule reason; a cosmic philosophy is for the first time based upon exact science, and in its net are caught all the faculties of man, from his appetites up to his religions, and all the phenomena of nature from the nebula to the philosopher. Ethics, psychology, sociology, politics, as well as biology, are all made to submit to the process of evolution. The various aspects of these doctrines were filled in by Spencer, so far as the state of knowledge permitted him. But the special knowledge of scientific investigators has been necessary to amplify and support the general position. One of the first to help was Darwin (p. 1074), whose Origin of Species (1859) illustrated the law of evolution in one department of nature. But a more combative assistant was Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) who brought a vigorous literary style to the warfare which arose around the evolutionists. His essays are marked by qualities of irony, lucidity and sincerity which raise them above mere polemics. Man's Place in Nature (1863) is an irresistible statement of the case for including man in the evolutionary scheme. Evolution and Ethics (1893) is a

SCIENCE AND RELIGION

1179

thoughtful statement of the light which evolution throws upon the higher aspects of life. Huxley's work, and that of the evolutionists generally, aroused strong antipathies among the orthodox sects; but it was always marked by a fine tone and temper, much humour and learning, a sincere love of truth and a firm belief in the high mission of science. In many ways, by lecture, lay sermon or essay, Huxley set forth the claims of science as an instrument of culture and education. In religion he was an agnostic-which term he invented—insisting on the proper boundary-line between exact knowledge and metaphysical speculation being respected. His essays on Science and Hebrew Tradition and Science and Christian Tradition are vigorous attacks on the association of bad science and superstition with real religion. Other good writers who have dealt with Darwinian and other biological problems are George John Romanes (1848-94); Grant Allen (1848-99), author of a number of novels, as well as of the Evolution of the Idea of God (1897 ); Edward Clodd (1840

), a lucid exponent of evolution ; Professor Edward B. Poulton, of Oxford (1856- ); and Professor J. Arthúr Thomson (1861- ), of Aberdeen, who, in a book on Heredity (1908), has shown that many fascinating and important biological problems still remain unsolved. Nor must we omit the friend of Huxley, and sharer with him of the prophetic mantle of science, Professor John Tyndall (1820-93), who did a

work similar to Huxley's from the standpoint of physics. Like Huxley, he did useful research work; but it was as a lecturer and writer that he became really famous. His text-books on Sound (1867), and on Heat: a Mode of Motion (1863) have a lucidity and charm which make them attractive even to the general reader. Perhaps his best piece of writing was the address which he gave to the British Association at Belfast in 1874. This is a masterly sketch of the part played by science in emancipating the human mind from superstition, and an eloquent plea on behalf of science as the necessary companion of a just philosophy.

Other branches of science have found fit interpreters, but literature has little to do with monographs or text-books. Men like Faraday (p. 996) and Tyndall have been followed by competent lecturers in chemistry and physics who have by no means reached their literary level. Sometimes a work of general scientific interest has a literary treatment as dignified as

the subject-matter; for example, Professor Silvanus Thompson's Life of Lord Kelvin (1910) is a fine piece of biography which unites the charm of literature with the learning of science. Men like W. C. D. Whetham, Sir Edward Thorpe, Sir Ray Lankester and others can make science readable, when it is not too technical. But no one except a specialist can follow the work of such masters as Lord Kelvin or Clerk Max. well. Even books like Sir Archibald Geikie's Geology (1882) and Sir Michael Foster's Physiology (1876) must be difficult for the unscientific reader to follow, in spite of their lucidity ; Sir Robert Ball's Story of the Heavens (1885) approaches nearer to literature in bringing the elements of astronomy home to the lay mind. But on the whole, science, except when it has some wide-sweeping philosophical subject to expound, does not lend itself to the methods of literature. The glow of imagination, the beauties of figurative language, are hostile to scientific accuracy. Pater and Darwin stand at opposite poles on the literary sphere—the latter satisfied with what is sufficient for his purpose, the former never satisfied because he tried to express an ideal and a vision.

The literature which we have rapidly reviewed in this supplement is obviously very great in quantity; and when we recall the names of Swinburne and Stevenson, Meredith and Hardy, to name no other writers, it cannot be regarded as deficient in quality either. Yet the tendencies of the present time are not encouraging to those who study books from what we may name the literary point of view—to those, that is, who regard literature as the representation of the spirit of a people in a permanent and appropriate style. Readers are far more numerous, and books—the best books-far cheaper than ever before ; but the wide public is also a busy public, and asks for its literature in small doses which can be easily assimilated. Literature is becoming but the means of filling up an idle hour; it is ceasing to be the companion of our highest moods. Hence the poverty of our present-day poetry ; hence the mass of ephemeral fiction ; hence also the multiplication of cheap and superficial little books providing short-cuts to meretricious knowledge.

This, however, may be but a passing phase, the sign of a transition. Our literature has passed through its lean and un

[blocks in formation]

worthy periods before this, but the seer has again appeared. The age of Swinburne and Meredith has been left behind ; a literary synthesis of the new forces and problems that have arisen since they ceased to write is in the making, and awaits the man of genius to give it immortal form. So much of our intellectual effort is nowadays expended in business and science that we cannot look with particular confidence for the immediate appearance of the really great man of letters. When he does appear, however, we may be sure that he will be no dilettante or cloistered anchorite, but one who knows well the world of men and has faced for himself all the conflicts and perplexities of modern life.

INDEX

À BECKET, Thomas, see Becket Anglo-Saxons, 11, 12
Absalom and Achitophel, 715-19

Annuals, 959
Academy, The, 983

Annus Mirabilis, 648-53
Academy, the French, 631

Anselm, 43
Acton, Lord, 1168, 1171

Anstey, F.," 1151
Actors, 330, 383-7, 414, 440, 505, 635 Apollo Club, Ben Jonson's, 536
Addison, Joseph, 753, 754-6, 769-71, Apologie for Poetrie, Sidney's, 394
779-85, 791, 796-8

Appleton, Charles, 983
Advancement of Learning, The, 517 Aquinas, 92
Ælfric, 37

Arabs, influence of the, 45-7
Æneid, Pranslations of, see Virgil Arber, Edward, 1175
Aidan, 16

Arbuthnot, John, 801
Aikin, Lucy, 940, 941

Arcades, Milton's, 555
Ailred of Rievaulx, 64

Arcadia, 278, 392-4, 629
Ainger, Canon Alfred, 1172

Archer, William, 1173
Ainsworth, William Harrison, 1038 Areopagitica, 581-3
Airy, Sir George Biddell, 1050 Argyropoulos, John, 193
Akenside, Mark, 836

Ariosto, 200, 279-81, 91, 449, 469
Alain de l'Isle, 120

Arminius, 514, 738
Alamanni, 288, 289

Armstrong, John, 823
Alcestis, in Chaucer, m, 148

Arnim, Countess von, 1159
Alcuin, 24-6

Arnold, Sir Edwin, 1118
Aldhelm, 21

Matthew, 985, 1077, 1089-91, 1996,
Alexander, William, Earl of Stir-

1101, 1113, 1173, 1174
ling, 504

Dr. Thomas, 985. 1008
Alexander Romances, The, 77

Arraignment of Paris, The, 413
Alexander's Feast, 764

“Art for art's sake," 1094, 1102, 1173
Alford, Henry, 1070

Arthur, King, 7, 30, 61-4, 440, 562,
Alfred, King, 31-5

765, 1086, 1101
of Beverley, 48

Ascham, Roger, 305-7, 351
Alison, Sir Archibald, 985, 991

Ashe, Thomas, 1107
Allegory, Development of, 46, 87, 119, Ashmole, Elias, 621
121, 211, 215, 218-20, 376, 406

Assembly of Foules, The, 119-21
Allegro, L', 553

Asser's Life of Alfred, 35
Allen, Grant, 1179

A strea, D'Urfé's, 629
Ralph, 820, 822, 833

" Astræa, the Divine," 683
Allingham, William, 1114

Astrolabe, Chaucer on the, 155
Almanac, The British, 960

Astrophel and Stella, 422
Amadis of Gaul, 281, 392, 899, 900

Atalanta in Calydon, 1098, 1103, 1105
Amazing Marriage, The, 1138, 1143,

Athelard of Bath, 45-7
1144

Atheneum, The, 982, 1104
America, discovery of: its effect on Atterbury, Francis, 773

English Literature, 198, 230, 422-7 Aubrey, John, 653
Amyntas, 413

Augustine, St., 15
Amyot, Jacques, 379

Aungervyle, Richard, 93-7
Ancient Mariner, The Rime of the, Austen, Jane, 912
878

Austin, Alfred, 1917
Ancren Riwle, The, 76

Authority, the limitation of, 52-4, 735
Anderson, Robert, 883

Ayenbite of Inwit, The, 138
André, Bernard, 221

Aylmer, John, 321, 374
Andrew, Legend of St., 28

Aytoun, William Edmondstoune, 1073
Andrew of Wintoun, 183
Andrewes, Lancelot, 511

BABBAGE, Charles, 997
Aneurin, 6

Bacon, Francis, 381-3, 399, 432, 461,
Angel in the House, The, 1105

463-8, 517-24, 584
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, The, 34

Roger, 80, 8:
Anglo-Saxon writings, study of the, Bagehot, Walter, 1177
1095

Bailey, Philip James, 1077
1182

« PreviousContinue »