Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/424

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

THE BANQUET TO HERBERT SPENCER.

ALTHOUGH the visit of Mr. Spencer to this country has been in some respects painfully unsatisfactory, yet in other and the most important respects it has been most gratifying and successful. His state of health was such that he was good for nothing for social purposes. He has been long an invalid, and compelled much to restrict his social life at home. He left England in a bad condition, which was aggravated by his voyage, and then made worse by the exciting experiences of a new country, where he found many things very different from those he had been used to. Social intercourse was so exciting and exhausting that he was compelled to abstain from it, and many of his friends were sadly disappointed that they could not meet, welcome, and converse with him, as is the habit with other eminent strangers. This was a serious drawback upon his visit, equally to himself and to others, and will be a source of lasting regret.

But now that Mr. Spencer is gone, and has got home safely, everybody is glad he came. They are pleased that he has seen something of the country, if but little, and that he will have more correct and adequate ideas of what is going on here than if he had never come. It will be a fact of no small import, perhaps, in his mental history. But the chief significance and the most gratifying feature of his visit will be the way he has been received by the American public. If he has not been seen, he has been heard; and the wide effect is that he is both better known and more highly regarded by friends and enemies alike.

It had been determined by those interested in Mr. Spencer that some expression of public feeling should be made before he left, but it was long uncertain whether the state of his health would allow him to accept it. And, when at length he decided to do so, he at the same time found it necessary to shorten the time of his stay. This gave but a very limited opportunity to make the preparations for a banquet that should be at all adequate to express the interest of the occasion. Excellent dinners are, of course, very easy things to get up, and there are always plenty of fluent and sparkling speakers to add to them the pleasure of oratory. But there was something of seriousness in this affair that was not to be overlooked. We had with us, perhaps, the most eminent thinker in the world, and one whose name has now become identified with the greatest movement of thought in this age. It was every way desirable, therefore, that the demonstration should be made sincerely and even gravely expressive of American appreciation of Mr. Spencer's character, position, and work; and this was felt to be the more necessary as a bare act of justice, because his quiet and unobtrusive life has called forth no signal opportunities for the declaration of the profound regard entertained for him by many men of the highest intelligence. Representing no party or sect, supported by none of those associations that are so efficacious for the encouragement of talent, representing rather all that is most objectionable and unpopular in modern opinion, he has been left to the quietude of his solitary studies, and, while stamping himself deeply upon the mind of the period, he has been at the same time regarded as the most impersonal of men. This has undoubtedly had its advantages, and is not to be complained of. But it was very properly thought that, when he came to this country, where he is admired and venerated by multitudes who