Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/54

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44
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

In the first place, Mr. Spencer's work has been done under circumstances peculiarly unfavorable to the recognition of his rights as an original and independent thinker. Of the twenty-five articles prepared in the most active period of his life, and published between 1852 and 1860, which, as I have shown, are important contributions toward the development of the doctrine of Evolution in its various phases, most, if not all, appeared anonymously. They were printed in the different leading reviews, and many of them attracted marked attention at the time; but their author was unknown, and, of course, lost the advantage of having his ideas accredited to him. Up to the time when he had matured his system of thought, and was ready to enter upon its formal publication, he had been giving it out in fragments, as its several aspects had taken shape in his own mind. His articles, many of which were republished in this country, thus went far toward familiarizing the public mind with the general conception of Evolution, so that he was actually preparing his readers to discredit his subsequent claims to his own views, which, being reproduced and further diffused by others, were regarded as belonging to the common stock of current ideas. So far did this go, that he was ultimately exposed to the imputation of plagiarism for the restatement of opinions that he had first put forth, but which other men had appropriated and sent out as their own. Nor was the case much helped when he began to publish his System of Philosophy to subscribers, for so limited was its distribution that it might almost have been said that it was "printed for private circulation." Moreover, being the owner of his own works, the interests of publishers were not enlisted in their diffusion; while the assaults of the press were so malignant, and their representations so false, that for years he was constrained to withhold his series from the periodicals. All this was favorable to misconception, and left Mr. Spencer much at the mercy of dishonest authorship and unscrupulous criticism.

Again, it must be recognized that there were difficulties in appreciating his work which arose from its nature and extent. While a scientific discovery, or a single definite doctrine, is readily apprehended because the impression it makes is narrow and sharp, an extensive system of principles, which it requires power to grasp and time to master, can only be imperfectly received by the general mind. The very greatness of Mr. Spencer's work was thus an impediment to its recognition; and this, too, it must be acknowledged, on the part even of men of science. In the scientific world, the accumulation of facts has outstripped the work of valid generalization. For, while men of moderate ability can observe, experiment, and multiply details in special departments, it requires men of breadth to arrange them into groups, to educe principles and arrive at comprehensive laws. The great mass of scientific specialists, confined to their departments, and little trained to the work of generalization, are apt to regard lightly