Imagens das páginas

marked an advance to be noted as in literary study.

Yet here, too, a new dawn is to be traced.

The monumental work of Gibbon (17761788) belongs, in spirit, to the preceding period. But in the amazing industry and insight which he brought to his sources—we may add, in his genius for massing facts and events in orderly array—he introduced a new ideal into historical research. And it was half a century before his example was adequately followed. From the nature of his material, throughout the bulk of his work, it was impossible that he should employ "sources," in the sense of original documents. For Roman history, Inscriptions are the only thing coming under that head; and Inscriptions were practically a sealed book till the days of Mommsen. We may note, however, that such writers as Schlozer (1737-1809) and Johannes Miiller (1752-1809) display a deeper sense of the crucial importance of such material than had previously been common: the former, in his edition of the Russian Chronicle of Nestor (1802); the latter, in his Schweizergeschichte (1786-1808). In the case of Miiller this is the more remarkable, as his main search was for the picturesque.

In theology likewise, it was an age rather of preparation than of absolute performance. Michaelis

(1727-1790) and Eichhorn (1752-1827),

both learned orientalists, may be said to have laid the foundation for much subsequent criticism of traditional beliefs; the latter especially, in his edition of the Apocalypse (1791). But the most original thinker in this field was undoubtedly Schleiet' macher (1768-1834), who combined a fearless criticism with the deepest piety and a heroic endeavour to disentangle the essence of Christianity from the historical forms in which it has been delivered. This was especially the aim of his Reden iiber die Religion (1799). His best known works, the edition of Saint Luke and Der Christliche Glaube, belong to a later date (1817, 1822). The criticism of earlier days had, in the main, been an unlearned criticism. That of our period, and still more of the following one, was profoundly learned. Schleiermacher at the close of the eighteenth century—Strauss, Baur, and Renan in the first three-quarters of the nineteenth—were at least as erudite as their orthodox opponents. The result of this, together with the popularisation of scientific theory, has been to change the whole fabric of current theology, from top to bottom.

Far more startling was the progress of Natural Science. Franklin's discoveries in Electricity, it is chrmutry true, fall before our period. But they were and Biology. ^^^ further, during these years, by Volta and Qalvani. It is, however, in two other sciences that the most astonishing results were attained. The last third of the eighteenth century saw the creation of modern Chemistry. It saw the first beginnings of evolutionary Biology. By the discovery of Oxygen (1774), Priestley, unknown to himself, gave the first shock to the dominant theory of the old Chemistry— that which assumed the existence of a specific element, phlogiston, the sole source of combustion. And the process of demolition was continued, with fuller consciousness of its significance, by Cavendish and, yet more, by Lavoisier (1743-1794), on whose pre-eminence in all the qualities that go to make scientific genius all authorities are agreed. To him we owe, moreover, the establishment of the indestructibility of matter, as well as the general application of quantitative methods. This was carried further by Dalton, in his theory of the atomic composition of bodies (1804). It may be added that Davy was the first to bring electrical into connection with chemical science (1806). So that, within the space of a generation, not only had the foundations of chemical doctrine been securely laid, but the methods of chemical research had been substantially fixed. Of Biology there is less need to speak. It must suffice to say that the theory of biological evolution was vaguely anticipated by Erasmus Darwin (1794), more definitely by Lamarck (1801-9); and, as we shall see in the next chapter, it was beaten out, it may well be in an exaggerated form, but with an extraordinary combination of observation and intuition, by Goethe, mainly during the ten or twelve years onwards from 1784. In this connection, it is well to refer to the work of Malthus. At the time of its publication (1798) the Essay on Population was naturally regarded as bearing solely on Economic Science. It was not until a generation and more had passed that its wider import was suspected. But both Charles Darwin and Mr Wallace have borne witness to the influence which it had on the formation of their opinions as to the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest—in other words, on the theory of biological evolution.

It is needless to dwell on the vast significance of all this. By such discoveries the world became at once more intelligible, and more mysterious, to man. His beliefs were profoundly modified. His imagination was deeply stirred. Even in the poetry of the time the effects of this may be traced. "Poetry," said Wordsworth, "is the breath and finer spirit of all science." He himself, it is true, did little to work out this pregnant idea in practice. But, for examples in abundance, we need only turn to the poetry of Goethe or of Shelley.

Consult, among other works, Dictionary of National Biography; Chambers's Encyclopedia of English Literature (new ed.), 1903; Saintsbury, A Short History of English Literature, 1898; Herford, The Age of Wordsworth, 1897; Southey, Life and Letters of William Cowper, 7 vols., 1836; Angellier, Robert Burns, 2 vols., 1895; Sampson, Blake's Poetical Works, 1905; Coleridge's Poetical Works (ed. J. F. Campbell), 1893; The Works of Wordsworth (with Introduction by J. Morley), 1889; Raleigh, Wordsworth, 1903 ; Legouis, La Jcunesse de Wordsworth, 1896; Grosart, The Prose Works of William Wordsworth, 3 vols., 1876; Lockhart, Life of Scott, 7 vols., 1837; Letters of Scott, 2 vols., 1894; Morley, Burke in English Men of Letters, also the earlier Study; Kegan Paul, William Godwin, his Friends and Contemporaries, 2 vols., 1876; Mill, Essays on Coleridge and Bentham in Dissertations and Ditcussions, vol. i.; The Modern Orator, 2 vols., 1845-48.



[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »