Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Mechanical Science would himself hardly art and Greek literature can serve this say that our member of Parliament, by need. Women will again study Greek, concentrating himself upon geology and as Lady Jane Grey did; I believe that in mineralogy, and so on, and not attending that chain of forts, with which the fair to literature and history, had “chosen the host of the Amazons are now engirdling more useful alternative."

our English universities, I find that (1050 If then there is to be separation and here in America, in colleges like Smith option between humane letters on the College in Massachusetts, and Vassar one hand, and the natural sciences on College in the State of New York, and in the other, the great majority of man- (1000 the happy families of the mixed univerkind, all who have not exceptional and sities out West, they are studying it aloverpowering aptitudes for the study of ready. nature, would do well, I cannot but think, Defuit una mihi symmetria prisca,to choose to be educated in humane letters "The antique symmetry was the one rather than in the natural sciences. Let thing wanting to me,” said Leonardo da ters will call out their being at more Vinci; and he was an Italian. I will (1060 points, will make them live more.

not presume to speak for the Americans, I said that before I ended I would just but I am sure that, in the Englishman, touch on the question of classical educa- the want of this admirable symmetry of tion, and I will keep my word. Even (1010 | the Greeks is a thousand times more if literature is to retain a large place in great and crying than in any Italian. our education, yet Latin and Greek, say The results of the want show themselves the friends of progress, will certainly have most glaringly, perhaps, in our architecto go. Greek is the grand offender in the ture, but they show themselves, also, in eyes of these gentlemen. The attackers all our art. Fit details strictly combined, of the established course of study think | in view of a large general result nobly (1070 that against Greek, at any rate, they conceived; that is just the beautiful symhave irresistible arguments. Literature metria prisca of the Greeks, and it is may perhaps be needed in education, just where we English fail, where all our they say; but why on earth should it (1020 art fails. Striking ideas we have, and be Greek literature? Why not French or well-executed details we have; but that German? Nay, “has not an Englishman high symmetry which, with satisfying models in his own literature of every kind and delightful effect, combines them, we

, of excellence?” As before, it is not on seldom or

The glorious any weak pleadings of my own that I rely beauty of the Acropolis at Athens did for convincing the gainsayers; it is on not come from single fine things (1080 the constitution of human nature itself, stuck about on that hill, a statue here, and on the instinct of self-preservation a gateway there;-no, it arose from all in humanity. The instinct for beauty is things being perfectly combined for a set in human nature, as surely as the (1030 supreme total effect. What must not an instinct for knowledge is set there, or the Englishman feel about our deficiencies instinct for conduct. If the instinct for in this respect, as the sense for beauty, beauty is served by Greek literature and whereof this symmetry is an essential art as it is served by no other literature element, awakens and strengthens within and art, we may trust to the instinct of him! what will not one day be his reself-preservation in humanity for keeping spect and desire for Greece and its (1090 Greek as part of our culture. We may symmetria prisca, when the scales drop trust to it for even making the study of from his eyes as he walks the London Greek more prevalent than it is now. streets, and he sees such a lesson in meanGreek will come, I hope, some day (1040 ness as the Strand, for instance, in its true to be studied more rationally than at deformity! But here we are coming to present; but it will be increasingly studied our friend Mr. Ruskin's province, and I as men increasingly feel the need in them will not intrude upon it, for he is its very for beauty, and how powerfully Greek | sufficient guardian.

never have.

And so we at last find, it seems, we find flowing in favor of the humanities the (1100 THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY (1826–1896) natural and necessary stream of things, ON THE ADVISABLENESS OF IM

, which seemed against them when we

PROVING NATURAL KNOWLEDGE started. The “hairy quadruped furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably This time two hundred years ago-in arboreal in his habits," this good fellow the beginning of January, 1666-those carried hidden in his nature, apparently, of our forefathers who inhabited this great something destined to develop into a and ancient city, took breath between necessity for humane letters. Nay, more; the shocks of two fearful calamities: one we seem finally to be even led to the

not quite past, although its fury had further conclusion that our hairy an- (1110 abated; the other to come. cestor carried in his nature, also, a neces- Within a few yards of the very spot on sity for Greek.

which we are assembled, so the tradition And therefore, to say the truth, I can- runs, that painful and deadly malady, (10 not really think that humane letters are the plague, appeared in the latter months in much actual danger of being thrust of 1664; and, though no new visitor, out from their leading place in education, smote the people of England, and esin spite of the array of authorities against pecially of her capital, with a violence them at this moment. So long as human unknown before, in the course of the nature is what it is, their attractions will following year. The hand of a master remain irresistible. As with Greek, (1120 has pictured what happened in those so with letters generally: they will some dismal months; and in that truest of day come, we may hope, to be studied fictions, The History of the Plague Year, more rationally, but they will not lose Defoe shows death, with every accom- (20 their place. What will happen will rather paniment of pain and terror, stalking be that there will be crowded into educa- through the narrow streets of old London, tion other matters besides, far too many; and changing their busy hum into a

; there will be, perhaps, a period of un- silence broken only by the wailing of the settlement and confusion and false ten- mourners of fifty thousand dead; by the dency; but letters will not in the end woful denunciations and mad prayers of lose their leading place. If they lose (1130 fanatics; and by the madder yells of it for a time, they will get it back again. despairing profligates. We shall be brought back to them by our But, about this time, in 1666, the deathwants and aspirations.

And a poor

rate had sunk to nearly its ordinary 130 humanist may possess his soul in patience, amount; a case of plague occurred only neither strive nor cry, admit the energy here and there, and the richer citizens and brilliancy of the partisans of physical who had flown from the pest had returned science, and their present favor with the to their dwellings. The remnant of the public, to be far greater than his own, people began to toil at the accustomed and still have a happy faith that the round of duty, or of pleasure; and the nature of things works silently on (1140 stream of city life bid fair to flow back behalf of the studies which he loves, along its old bed, with renewed and unand that, while we shall all have to ac- interrupted vigor. quaint ourselves with the great results The newly-kindled hope was deceit- (40 reached by modern science, and to give ful. The great plague, indeed, returned ourselves as much training in its dis- no more; but what it had done for the ciplines as we can conveniently carry, Londoners, the great fire, which broke out yet the majority of men will always re- in the autumn of 1666, did for London; quire humane letters; and so much the and, in September of that year, a heap more, as they have the more and the of ashes and the indestructible energy greater results of science to relate (1150 of the people were all that remained of to the need in man for conduct, and to the glory of five-sixths of the city within the need in him for beauty.

the walls,

Our forefathers had their own ways (50 together for the purpose, as they phrased of accounting for each of these calamities. it, of “improving natural knowledge.” They submitted to the plague in humility The ends they proposed to attain cannot and in penitence, for they believed it to be stated more clearly than in the words of be the judgment of God. But towards one of the founders of the organisation : the fire they were furiously indignant, “Our business was (precluding matters interpreting it as the effect of the malice of of theology and state affairs) to discourse man, as the work of the Republicans, and consider of philosophical en- (110 or of the Papists, according as their pre- quiries, and such as related thereunto: possessions ran in favor of loyalty or of as Physick, Anatomy, Geometry, AsPuritanism.

(60 tronomy, Navigation, Staticks, MagnetIt would, I fancy, have fared but ill icks, Chymicks, Mechanicks, and Natwith one who, standing where I now ural Experiments; with the state of these stand, in what was then a thickly-peopled studies and their cultivation at home and and fashionable part of London, should abroad. We then discoursed of the circuhave broached to our ancestors the doc- lation of the blood, the valves in the trine which I now propound to you, veins, the venæ lacteæ, the lymphatic

, that all their hypotheses were alike vessels, the Copernican hypothesis, (120 wrong; that the plague was no more, in the nature of comets and new stars, the their sense, Divine judgment, than the satellites of Jupiter, the oval shape (as fire was the work of any political, or (70 it then appeared) of Saturn, the spots on of any religious, sect; but that they were the sun and its turning on its own axis, themselves the authors of both plague the inequalities and selenography of the and fire, and that they must look to them- moon, the several phases of Venus and selves to prevent the recurrence of calami- Mercury, the improvement of telescopes ties, to all appearance so peculiarly be- and grinding of glasses for that purpose, yond the reach of human control-so the weight of air, the possibility or im

evidently the result of the wrath of God, possibility of vacuities and nature's (130 or of the craft and subtlety of an enemy. abhorrence thereof, the Torricellian ex

And one may picture to one's self how periment in quicksilver, the descent of harmoniously the holy cursing of the (80 heavy bodies and the degree of acceleraPuritan of that day would have chimed tion therein, with divers other things of in with the unholy cursing and the crack- like nature, some of which were then but ling wit of the Rochesters and Sedleys, new discoveries, and others not so genand with the revilings of the political fa- erally known and embraced as now they natics, if my imaginary plain dealer had are; with other things appertaining to gone on to say that, if the return of such what hath been called the New Philosmisfortunes were ever rendered impos- ophy, which from the times of Galileo (140 sible, it would not be in virtue of the vic- at Florence, and Sir Francis Bacon (Lord tory of the faith of Laud, or of that of Verulam) in England, hath been much Milton; and, as little, by the triumph (90 cultivated in Italy, France, Germany, of republicanism, as by that of monarchy. and other parts abroad, as well as with But that the one thing needful for com- us in England." passing this end was, that the people of The learned Dr. Wallis, writing in 1696, England should second the efforts of an narrates in these words what happened insignificant corporation, the establish- half a century before, or about 1645. ment of which, a few years before the The associates met at Oxford, in the rooms epoch of the great plague and the great of Dr. Wilkins, who was destined to (150 fire, had been as little noticed, as they become a bishop; and subsequently comwere conspicuous.

ing together in London, they attracted

the notice of the king. And it is a Some twenty years before the out- (100 strange evidence of the taste for knowledge break of the plague a few calm and which the most obviously worthless of the thoughtful students banded themselves Stuarts shared with his father and grand

a

father, that Charles the Second was not infinite varieties of being, have laid open content with saying witty things about such new worlds in time and space, have his philosophers, but did wise things with grappled, not unsuccessfully, with such regard to them. For he not only be- (160 complex problems, that the eyes of Vesastowed upon them such attention as he lius and of Harvey might be dazzled by could spare from his poodles and his the sight of the tree that has grown out mistresses, but, being in his usual state of their grain of mustard seed. of impecuniosity, begged for them of the The fact is perhaps rather too much, Duke of Ormond; and, that step being than too little, forced upon one's notice, without effect, gave them Chelsea Col- nowadays, that all this marvellous (220 lege, a charter, and a mace: crowning his intellectual growth has a no less wonder

, favors in the best way they could be ful expression in practical life; and that, crowned, by burdening them no further in this respect, if in no other, the movewith royal patronage or state inter- (170 ment symbolized by the progress of the ference.

Royal Society stands without a parallel Thus it was that the half-dozen young in the history of mankind. men, studious of the “New Philosophy, A series of volumes as bulky as the who met in one another's lodgings in Transactions of the Royal Society might Oxford or in London, in the middle of possibly be filled with the subtle speculathe seventeenth century, grew in numer- tions of the Schoolmen; not improb- (230 ical and in real strength, until, in its latter ably the obtaining a mastery over the part, the “Royal Society for the Improve products of mediæval thought might ment of Natural Knowledge" had already necessitate an even greater expenditure become famous, and had acquired a (180 of time and of energy than the acquireclaim upon the veneration of English- ment of the “New Philosophy"; but men, which it has ever since retained, as though such work engrossed the best the principal focus of scientific activity intellects of Europe for a longer time than in our islands, and the chief champion of has elapsed since the great fire, its effects the cause it was formed to support. were “writ in water,” so far as our social It was by the aid of the Royal Society state is concerned.

(240 that Newton published his Principia. If On the other hand, if the noble first all the books in the world, except the Phil- President of the Royal Society could reosophical Transactions, were destroyed, | visit the upper air and once more gladden it is safe to say that the founda- (190 his eyes with a sight of the familiar mace, tions of physical science would remain he would find himself in the midst of a unshaken, and that the vast intellectual material civilization more different from progress of the last two centuries would that of his day, than that of the sevenbe largely, though incompletely, recorded. teenth was from that of the first century. Nor have any signs of halting or of de- And if Lord Brouncker's native sagacrepitude manifested themselves in our city had not deserted his ghost, he (250

( own times.

As in Dr. Wallis's days, so would need no long reflection to discover in these, "our business is, precluding that all these great ships, these railways, theology and state affairs, to discourse these telegraphs, these factories, these and consider of philosophical en- (200 printing-presses, without which the whole quiries. But our "Mathematick” is fabric of modern English society would one which Newton would have to go to collapse into mass of stagnant and school to learn; our “Staticks, Mechan- starving pauperism,—that all these pillars icks, Magneticks, Chymicks, and Nat- of our State are but the ripples and the ural Experiments” constitute a mass of bubbles upon the surface of that great physical and chemical knowledge, a spiritual stream, the springs of which [260

( glimpse at which would compensate only, he and his fellows were privileged to Galileo for the doings of a score of in- see; and seeing, to recognize as that quisitorial cardinals, our “Physick” and which it behoved them above all things

Anatomy” have embraced such (210 | to keep pure and undefiled.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

64

It may not be too great a flight of im- our faith, nor that of our morals, which agination to conceive our noble revenant keeps the plague from our city; but, 1320 not forgetful of the great troubles of his again, that it is the improvement of our own day, and anxious to know how often natural knowledge. London had been burned down since his We have learned that pestilences will time, and how often the plague had (270 only take up their abode among those carried off its thousands. He would have who have prepared unswept and ungarto learn that, although London contains nished residences for them. Their cities tenfold the inflammable matter that it must have narrow, unwatered streets, did in 1666; though, not content with foul with accumulated garbage. Their filling our rooms with woodwork and houses must be ill-drained, ill-lighted, light draperies, we must needs lead in- ill-ventilated. Their subjects must (330 flammable and explosive gases into every be ill-washed, ill-fed, ill-clothed. The corner of our streets and houses, we never London of 1655 was such a city. The allow even a street to burn down. And cities of the East, where plague has an if he asked how this had come about, (280 enduring dwelling, are such cities. We, we should have to explain that the im- in later times, have learned somewhat of provement of natural knowledge has fur- Nature, and partly obey her. Because nished us with dozens of machines for of this partial improvement of our natuthrowing water upon fires, any one of ral knowledge and of that fractional which would have furnished the ingenious obedience, we have no plague; because Mr. Hooke, the first “curator and ex- that knowledge is still very imperfect (340 perimenter” of the Royal Society, with and that obedience yet incomplete, tyample materials for discourse before half phoid is our companion and cholera our a dozen meetings of that body; and that, visitor. But it is not presumptuous to to say truth, except for the progress (290 express the belief that, when our knowlof natural knowledge, we should not have edge is more complete and our obedience been able to make even the tools by which the expression of our knowledge, London these machines are constructed. And, will count her centuries of freedom from further, it would be necessary to add, typhoid and cholera, as she now gratethat although severe fires sometimes oc- fully reckons her two hundred years of igcur and inflict great damage, the loss is norance of that plague which swooped (350 very generally compensated by societies, upon her thrice in the first half of the the operations of which have been ren- seventeenth century. dered possible only by the progress of Surely, there is nothing in these exnatural knowledge in the direction of (300 planations which is not fully borne out mathematics, and the accumulation of by the facts? Surely, the principles wealth in virtue of other natural knowl- involved in them are now admitted among edge.

the fixed beliefs of all thinking men? But the plague? My Lord Brouncker's Surely, it is true that our countrymen observation would not, I fear, lead him are less subject to fire, famine, pestilence, to think that Englishmen of the nine- and all the evils which result from a (360 teenth century are purer in life, or more want of command over and due anticifervent in religious faith, than the genera- pation of the course of Nature, than tion which could produce a Boyle, an were the countrymen of Milton; and Evelyn, and a Milton. He might [310 health, wealth, and well-being are more find the mud of society at the bottom, abundant with us than with them? But instead of at the top, but I fear that the no less certainly is the difference due to sum total would be as deserving of swift the improvement of our knowledge of judgment as at the time of the Restora- Nature, and the extent to which that tion. And it would be our duty to ex- improved knowledge has been incorplain once more, and this time not with- porated with the household words of (370 out shame, that we have no reason to men, and has supplied the springs of their believe that it is the improvement of daily actions.

« AnteriorContinuar »