Popular Science Monthly/Volume 22/March 1883/Literary Notices
|←Editor's Table||Popular Science Monthly Volume 22 March 1883 (1883)
The author has endeavored to describe, especially for the young, in simple language, the marvelous organization, the instinct, memory, sagacity, and inventive faculties of some of the more common animals and insects. He has also made a prominent presentation of the fidelity, love, affection, and other pleasing characteristics which all animals exhibit, more or less, one to another, in order to cultivate in his readers a higher regard for all animals, and to lessen the aversion with which some animals are contemplated. The whole is varied and illustrated with numerous anecdotes. The usefulness of animals and the services they render to man are discussed in a more general manner, and the considerations which should induce a kindly treatment of them are presented in the final chapters. The subject-matter of the work, its arrangement, even to the chapter-titles, the method of treatment, the anecdotes, the style, and the author's genial manner, are all adapted to excite and hold interest, and make the book an excellent one to put into the hands of children.
This is an interesting example of the influence of modern knowledge upon our estimate of character. Swift's life, as presented by his earlier biographers, has left the impression that he was so unlike the rest of the world that he could not be judged by ordinary rules; that the traits of his character were inharmonious and inexplicable. He has been set down as a sort of human monster, as made up of the rarest genius, the most unusual kindness, and the most abominable cruelty. But, when we rise from the perusal of this little volume, we find that our abhorrence has been changed to tender sympathy for the misfortunes of this extraordinary man.
Mr. Stephen does not think that Swift was a blameless man. In considering his conduct toward the women he loved, when he can no further unravel the threads of the story and consistently explain events, he closes with this sensible and kindly remark: "It is one of the cases in which, if the actors be our contemporaries, we hold that outsiders arc incompetent to form a judgment, as none but the principals can really know the facts."
As an example of Stephen's mode of treatment, take the following. After givingaccount of the poverty endured by Swift in his youth, the author remarks: "The misery of dependence was burned into his soul. To secure independence became his most cherished wish; and the first condition of independence was a rigid practice of economy. We shall see hereafter how deeply this principle became rooted in his mind; here I need only notice that it is the lesson which poverty teaches to none but men of strong character." This trait is again referred to in connection with Swift's behavior to Stella and Vanessa. He says: "Swift had very obvious motives for not marrying. In the first place, he became almost a monomaniac upon the question of money. His hatred of wasting a penny unnecessarily, began at Trinity College and is prominent in all his letters and journals. It colored even his politics, for a conviction that the nation was hopelessly ruined is one of his strongest prejudices. He kept accounts down to half-pence and rejoices at every saving of a shilling.
"The passion was not the vulgar desire for wealth of the ordinary miser. It sprang from the conviction stored up in all his aspirations that money meant independence. Like all Swift's prejudices, this became a fixed idea which was always gathering strength. He did not love money for its own sake. He was even magnificent in his generosity. He scorned to receive money for his writings; he abandoned the profit to his printers in compensation for the risks they ran, or gave it to his friends. His charity was splendid, relatively to his means. In later years he lived on a third of his income, gave away a third, and saved the remaining third for his posthumous charity, and posthumous charity, which involves present saving, is charity of the most un. questionable kind. His principle was that, by reducing his expenditure to the lowest possible point, he secured his independence, and could then make a generous use of the remainder. Until he received his deanery, however, he could only make both ends meet. Marriage would, therefore, have meant poverty, probably dependence, and the complete sacrifice of his ambition. If, under these circumstances, Swift had become engaged to Stella, he would have been doing what was regularly done by fellows of colleges under the old system. There is, however, no trace of such an engagement. It would be in keeping with Swift's character if we should suppose he shrank from the bondage of an engagement."
Egotism and love of dominion were also dominant traits of his character, which, along with his love of independence, his almost diseased sensitiveness, and his life-long ill health, enable his biographer to give, in most cases, a consistent view of his life. But, when psychology breaks down, medical science steps in and completes the rational account of this hitherto mysterious man.
Readers of the "Monthly" will remember an article by Dr. Bucknill, in the April number of last year, giving an account of "Dean Swift's disease." We were there told of Ménière's recent discovery of a definite form of disease—labyrinthine vertigo, which is shown by conclusive evidence to have been the "cruel illness" to which Swift so often alludes in his journal and correspondence. From the age of twenty he suffered from this disease, whose characteristic symptoms are, that the patient is suddenly seized with vertigo and a feeling of nausea or positive sickness, with great constitutional depression and faintness.
"This fact," says Stephen, "requires to be remembered in every estimate of Swift's character. His life was passed under a Damocles's sword. . . . The references to his sufferings are frequent in all his writings. It tormented him for days, weeks, and months." Dr. Bucknill says that it was not necessarily connected with the brain disease which ultimately came upon him, but it accounts for the terrible anxiety always in the background, and for much in Swift's gloomy despondency.
We commend the book, as well for its intrinsic charm, as because it dispels a most painful feeling in regard to one of the greatest of men.
The late Dr. Beard, as is well known, has for some years made a professional study of nervous diseases, and has published a book, which was duly noticed in these pages, entitled "American Nervousness." As was natural, writing and publishing much upon the subject, he came to regard himself as a representative man who had made the field very much his own; and, as was equally natural, he grew somewhat sensitive in regard to the recognition of his claims.
The present pamphlet has its origin in this state of feeling. It is put forth as a reclamation of ideas which he regards as belonging to himself, and which have been used, he thinks, without due recognition of this fact. He is of the opinion that Mr. Herbert Spencer was to a very notable extent indebted to him, consciously or unconsciously, for the distinctive ideas of his speech at the late complimentary dinner in New York. Dr. Beard does not accuse Spencer of plagiarism; indeed, he repeatedly disclaims the accusation. Yet he declares that there is a "coincidence," both of thought and language, between what he had published and Mr. Spencer's expressions, that is so remarkable as to justify calling public attention to it by printing the respective statements in parallel columns. There is here, if not an insinuation of plagiarism, at least an oblique imputation of literary indebtedness not acknowledged.
Dr. Beard is at the pains to say that his action in this matter is not entirely of his own motion; he has been influenced in it by others. He remarks: "I have not been the first or only person to notice this parallelism; it has been the subject of independent comment by various individuals. The frequency of these comments led me to make the following detailed comparison." Dr. Beard was here stereotyped in universal usage than the term "gospel," as applied to views or doctrines which a party is engaged in propagating, from the gospels of the evangelists to Carlyle's "Gospel of Dirt," and the "gospel of dig" now discussed in the educational journals. The "coincidence" in the application of this word we should hold to be of a very innocent sort., both by his own bias and the bad judgment of his friends. There is nothing even remarkable in the similarity of passages quoted, letting alone all questionable implications—nothing more than that vague "coincidence" which is constantly arising when two thinkers happen to be running upon the same track. Dr. Beard puts his most pointed illustration first. He quotes Mr. Spencer as saying: "We have had somewhat too much of the gospel of work. It is time to preach the gospel of relaxation." He then quotes from "American Nervousness," p. 313, his own expression, "The gospel of work must make way for the gospel of rest," and this he offers as a remarkable "coincidence." But certainly no word is more
And here all coincidence ceases. The two gospels are not of the same kind. The two phrases "gospel of rest" and "gospel of relaxation" do not mean the same thing. Instead of being alike, their meanings are rather contrasted. We have simple passivity on the one hand, and activity of a given kind on the other. The "gospel of rest" is obeyed by inaction, by stopping work, or going to bed; while the "gospel of relaxation" implies rather a change of activity from work to play, and it connotes recreation, entertainment, and amusement. The "gospel of relaxation" means the substitution of agreeable diversion for tiresome labor. The Puritanical Sunday would answer to Dr. Beard's "gospel of rest," but it would not answer to Herbert Spencer's "gospel of relaxation." Dr. Beard's requirement was made into a gospel of duty by the ancient Jews; Mr. Spencer's requirement has as yet been made into a gospel of duty nowhere. The cases are, therefore, conspicuous for their lack of "coincidence," and the same thing will be observed in all the other counts.
The burden of Dr. Beard's pamphlet, as we have intimated, is to show that he was first in the field in the systematic treatment of "American nervousness"; and, as he entitles his pamphlet "Herbert Spencer on American Nervousness," the impression is sought to be conveyed that Mr. Spencer has recently entered upon a definite field of inquiry which Dr. Beard had made his own long ago. But in the first place the views of the two men are far from being of the same character, and, in the next place, Spencer's views are much older than those of Dr. Beard. As regards priority, it is only necessary to say that we heard Mr. Spencer give expression to the main ideas of his address long before the name of Dr. Beard was ever publicly heard of. It was an early outcome of his evolution studies, that, as in social progress the fighting dispensation of society gave way to the working dispensation, so the working dispensation must in turn give way and become subordinate to the higher objects to which work and wealth are tributary. The stage beyond, to which he maintains we are tending, will be characterized by a more perfect organization of the means of human enjoyment. That life is for pleasure in its largest sense is a cardinal idea of the Spencerian philosophy, and that the social fulfillment of this supreme end must come in practical forms, by giving larger and more systematic play to our pleasure-loving impulses and varied capacities of enjoyment, is an explicit and leading inculcation of Mr. Spencer's works. That completer living is to be attained by a multiplication of pleasurable satisfactions, and the perfected art of enjoyment was taught; for example, in his "Education," written twenty-five years ago, and the doctrine is at the basis of the "Data of Ethics," the most advanced treatise of his philosophical system. Mr. Spencer took up this cherished and long-familiar topic, in his New York address, simply because he was freshly and forcibly reminded of its importance by what he saw in this country.
This volume, the sixth in the great series of historical works by Mr. Bancroft, gives the history of the southernmost section of North America which borders on the Pacific, during the period of discovery and colonization previous to 1530. The first chapter, of a hundred and fifty pages, is introductory; half of it being devoted to "Spain and Civilization at the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century," and the rest to a "Summary of Geographical Knowledge and Discovery from the Earliest Records to the Year 1540." The summary includes a series of voyages by the Northmen to the northeastern shores of America, extending over five centuries; and mentions many expeditions both eastward and westward by travelers from Southern Europe, the earliest of these being made in 1096. The value of this account is increased by copies of fifteen maps drawn by the geographers of this period. In the second chapter, the continuous narrative of exploration and conquest begins with the first voyage of Columbus.
The author shows that the princes and navigators of this period had plenty of faults. The sovereigns of Spain joined to their zeal in increasing geographical knowledge, and in extending the domain of the holy Roman Church, a lively solicitude for their own power and revenue. The author finds, both from his study of Spanish authorities and from the admissions of Prescott, that Queen Isabella has been far too highly lauded by both Prescott and Irving. Even Columbus, who generally gets so much pity for the ungrateful treatment he received, is shown to have had weaknesses and faults which brought many of his misfortunes upon him.
The American natives do not suffer much from a comparison with their white conquerors. If they sometimes showed a thirst for Spanish blood, it was because the means employed to make them good Catholics andwere, to say the least, no gentler than those in use in the Old World. "They were more children than wild beasts. . . . . Seldom was the Indian treacherous until he had been deceived."
Mr. Bancroft has consulted many books and manuscripts in preparing this work, and the list of authorities quoted, which occupies forty-eight octavo pages, together with the references in the foot-notes on special topics, give the volume great bibliographical value. The numerous foot-notes give interesting details in regard to ships, trading, methods of administration, of dividing land, and of locating towns. The volume is well supplied with maps, and the chronicle is enlivened by many amusing and illustrative anecdotes.
The observatory has enjoyed for four years the revenue derived from an annual subscription of five thousand dollars. The last installments of the subscription expire in the present month, and an effort is now making to replace it with a permanent endowment of one hundred thousand dollars. The director calls attention to the fact that the increased amount of work made possible by the increased income is quite out of proportion to the augmentation of funds, because the expenses are largely the same in either case, and the increase is, therefore, directly available for scientific results. Fifteen assistants are attached to the observatory, and, by the division of labor rendered possible by so large a force, each man may be assigned the kind of work to which he is peculiarly adapted. In this way researches can be carried out in a few years which are beyond the reach of observatories where the corps of assistants is small.
The meeting of the society was held at Elmira, New York, August 10th to 17th last, under the presidency of George E. Blackham, F. R. M. S. The record contains a considerable number of papers of interest to specialists and students of microscopy, many of them well illustrated, of which two or three relating to organisms in Lake Erie and the water-supply of Buffalo and a memoir of Charles A. Spencer, the eminent maker of microscopes, deserve especial notice and are of more general interest.
This monograph is also embodied in the twelfth annual report of Professor Hayden's "Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories," from which it is extracted. It contains descriptions, abundantly illustrated, of the osteology of the Speotyto, or burrowing owl; the Eremophila Alpestris, or horned lark; the Tetraonidæ, or grouse family; the Lanius, or Shrike; and the Cathartidæ, or buzzards.
Mr. Sayage sings his unpinioned thought and free religion as well as preaches it. Not that he has made a hymn-book for his Boston society, or can not pretermit, if need be, the professional function. Quite the contrary. There are many quiet poems in this collection pervaded by genuine humor, or with fine touches of feeling for nature and human life, which show that the author writes from the inspiration of true poetic art. But the poems that most interest us are those marked by the strong poetic expression of ideas and emotions with which the author's mind is "possessed." The poems entitled "Where is God?" "The Age's Unrest," "Infidelity," "Galileo," "Vanini," "Magellan," "Darwin," "Kepler," and many other pieces, although making up but a small part of the book, would well justify the title, "Songs of Modern Thought."
This is an instructive book—instructive not because of the value of its information, but because it is an excellent representation of a certain phase of mind peculiar to these times, which springs out of the conflict of great adverse systems of thought. In the struggle of religion and science, which has been long developing, and is precipitated upon this age with much intensity, the fundamental question is, Which order of ideas—theological or scientific—shall predominate, and which take the subordinate place? It is now universally held that all truth is one. But, in the palpable issues that arise, unity can only be secured by some latitude of interpretation on one side or the other. Though all truth is one, the systems of belief are two, and there has got to be a yielding somewhere before the alleged unity can become a real unity. Men of science start with nature as it exists around them, and is open to exploration and the demonstration of its truths. And, when any system of thought is offered for acceptance, the men of science insist that it must be brought into conformity by interpretation with the order of truth established by science. Religious teachers, on the other hand—most of them, at least—start from theology, hold its doctrines to be in the ascendant, and demand that nature shall be interpreted in conformity with them aw a subordinate system.
The work of Dr. Seiss is a thorough-going example of the dominance of theological ideas over scientific ideas. He, too, is engaged in the laudable work of reconciliation, but, like Hood's butcher, who "conciliated" his sheep by main force, our author reconciles science to theology by no little violence of interpretation. Its lesser details he knocks about without ceremony, and its larger conceptions he waves aside as illusions of not the slightest moment. Evolution, he declares, "is a lie" and, as this sufficiently illustrates, scientific truth has no weight with him. Steeped through and through with theological ideas, he can see nothing in the universe but his own system of divinity, while science is only useful as furnishing material to be twisted into conformity with theology, as he understands it. His book is pervaded with Scripture, and, both from the titles of the works he has formerly written and from the whole quality of this, it is seen that his mind is drawn to the mystical, the obscure, the enigmatic, cabalistic, and transcendental.
The special object of the present work is to show that "the true explanation of the origin and meaning of the constellations of the heavens, their figures and their names, as they have come down to us from the earliest ages of the human race," are only to be found in connection with Christian theology. It is commonly supposed that those fanciful celestial groupings of the stars into resemblances of animals, men, and other objects were devices of primitive times, before astronomical science had arisen. Herschel characterizes "those uncouth figures and outlines of men and monsters usually scribbled over celestial globes and maps" as "puerile and absurd." Dr. Seiss declares all this to be mere "rationalist conjecture," and solemnly maintains, on the other hand, that the constellations are pious intimations, illustrations, and witnesses of the scheme of salvation. The breadth of his view of the Christian system in the present year of grace is indicated by the following passage: "The gospel is chiefly made up of the story of the serpent and the cross—the doctrine of the fall and depravity of man through the subtlety of 'the dragon, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world,' and the recovery of fallen man through a still mightier One, who comes from heaven, assumes human nature, and, by suffering, death, and exaltation to the right band of supreme dominion, vanquishes the dragon, and becomes the author of eternal salvation. The preaching of this is the preaching of the gospel."
But the rubbishy erudition that seems necessary to understand this gospel, according to the present commentator, is something frightful. Certainly, if such a performance as this can pass muster, and the "Pastor of the Church of the Holy Communion, Philadelphia," has a rightful place in the Episcopal Church, Heber Newton has no business in the organization.
Although this work, by its title, is limited to one phase of the great subject of education, and although the moral idea prevails throughout the exposition, yet the book is far from being a mere homiletic essay in the ordinary sense. The moral conception is dealt with in connection with many practical questions, so that there is a good deal of generality in the instructiveness of the treatise. Indeed, it is chiefly valuable from the breadth of the author's preparation for dealing with radical educational questions. Dr. Buchanan is an unfettered thinker, and his work is stamped with the individuality of his studies. He is, first of all, a physiologist—a student of man as a corporeal being, and he assigns to the subject of organization that fundamental place which it must hold in every rational system of culture, and which is beginning to be more clearly recognized in our own times than ever before. Yet the work is by no means and in no sense a physiological one, and the author is far enough from being a materialist. The truths of organic science are assumed rather than expounded, and on its basis and under its limitations the author deals with a whole range of the higher educational problems. No person interested in education can read the book without being helped by its information and its suggestions. It contains much of the philosophy of life, and many special problems that are now beginning to press upon teachers and educational managers are discussed with acuteness, ability, and much freedom from the restraints of tradition. It is impossible to enter here into any of the particular inquiries opened by Dr. Buchanan, and we have to confine ourselves to a general estimate of the character of the book. But, while very cordially commending it, the reader will not infer our agreement with all its views. We are all in that inquiring stage in regard to education which implies incompleteness of knowledge and a resulting diversity of opinion. We are working, it is to be hoped, toward a higher agreement, and such contributions as this of Dr. Buchanan are unquestionably valuable as means to this important end.
The trustees of the museum, in an appeal to the public last year, called attention to the fact that it is the only institution in the country especially for the preservation of collections and the study of American archæology, and that its income (the interest of $90,000) is only $4,500 a year. Its rooms, reasonably commodious and containing larger or smaller collections from different parts of the world—several hundred thousand specimens in all—are open free to visitors during business hours, and are supplemented with free descriptive lectures by the curator. The additions during the year include a valuable series of objects from the Ainos of Yesso (Japan), by Professor Penhallow; more than two thousand stone implements from Delaware, by Mr. H. R. Bennet; new objects, by Dr. C. C. Abbott, from his own collections in New Jersey, and exchanges from Ohio, Kentucky, and England; new specimens of the Wakefield (Massachusetts) stone implements in every stage of manufacture; potteries from Southeastern Missouri and Southern New Mexico, by Mrs. S. B. Schlesinger; M. Bandelier's collections from the Pueblos and from Cholula, and Mr. Fred A. Ober's collection of copper implements from Oajaca, Mexico; specimens from English caves, and casts, by Mr. Dawkins; articles illustrating the making of pottery by the Caribs of British Guiana, from Professor H. A. Ward; soapstone pots from Northern Italy, by Dr. Emil Schmidt; and a cast of the "Endicott Rock" of New Hampshire. The curator carried on field-work at Madisonville, Ohio, and Indian Hill, Kentucky. More was done to make the museum and its objects known to the public, and more use was made of its collections for instruction and research, than in any previous year.
The six lectures are by five authors, each of whom has devoted particular attention to the study of the subject he presents. The lecturers and their subjects are—Reginald Stuart Poole, on "The Egyptian Tomb and the Future State"; Professor W. B. Richmond, on "Monumental Painting"; Edward J. Poynter, R. A., on "Ancient Decorative Art"; J. T. Micklethwaite, on "English Parish Churches"; and William Morris, on "The History of Pattern Designing," and "The Lesser Arts of Life." The lectures are, one and all, interesting and instructive.
The whole work is to be in three volumes, of which the second precedes the first in time of publication. It treats of the subjects of more immediate and practical importance than those to be discussed in the first volume. The author maintains that man naturally inclines to goodness, and that all vice and misery arise from the operation of theological causes, bad government, ignorance, and poverty; or that the structure of society is defective because of defective institutions. Man, he holds, has a vital impulse to do implanted within him, which only requires that the institutions of society shall permit of its development, to create a growth "as grand in results as the magnificent oak bears in comparison to the insignificant acorn." The political economical factors of civilization arc considered in this volume under the heads of "The Unhappiness arising from Poverty" and "The Unhappiness arising from Uncongenial Pursuits and Labor." The theological, governmental, and educational factors will be considered in the first volume; and the third volume will be devoted to "The Analysis of Happiness."
This volume is an endeavor to present in a critically correct fight some of the fundamental conceptions which are found in the native beliefs of the tribes of America. The author does not consider it creditable that so little has been done in this field, and is disposed to be severe, but hardly too much so, on those who have had opportunities to investigate the subject, and have not used them. He rejects the idea that the native myths are distorted historical reminiscences and exaggerated statements respecting persons that ever really existed, and has been guided by the principle that "when the same, and that a very extraordinary, story is told by several tribes wholly apart in language and location, then the probabilities are enormous that it is not a legend, but a myth, and must be explained as such." The myths of the lower races, he believes, "express, in image and incident, the opinions of these races on the mightiest topics of human thought, on the origin and destiny of man, his motives for duty, and his grounds for hope, and the source, history, and fate of all external nature. Certainly, the sincere expressions on these subjects of even humble members of the human race deserve our most respectful heed." With these views and in this spirit, Dr. Brinton presents the results of his studies, from the most authentic, accessible sources, of the hero-gods of the Algonquins, the Iroquois, the Aztec tribes, the Mayas, and the Quichas.
The increasing frequency with which notices of tornadoes appear, as the list approaches the present time, is to be taken as a sign, not of more tornadoes, but of better observations. The season in which tornadoes appear most frequent is summer, and the month June. Spring is the next most frequent season, then autumn, then winter. The region most often visited includes the States of Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska, of which Kansas suffers the most. Outside of this region New York has the most tornadoes, and next, Georgia. Suggestions are given for avoiding the violence of tornadoes; many other lessons are derived from the study, and further ones are anticipated from further studies.
The December (or Christmas) number of "Wide Awake" is a noble magazine of 136 pages, with a supplement of 60 pages, filled with articles of high literary character and unexceptionable tendency. It is adorned with a profusion of illustrations, which, though executed in the best style of the present fashion in wood-engraving, can not be considered equal to the illustrations in the same magazine ten years ago, when a purer taste and a better style prevailed.
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Iowa Weather-Service Annual for 1883. Gustavus Hinrichs. Central Station, Iowa City. Pp. 40.
Should American Colleges be open to Women as well as to Men? Frederick A. P. Barnard, President of Columbia College, New York City. Pp. 17.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Eighteenth Annual Catalogue, etc. Francis A. Walker, Ph. D., LL. D., President. Pp. 102.
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Report of an Exploration of Parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, in August and September. 1882, made by Lieutenant-General Sheridan. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 69.
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The Place of Original Research in College Education. J. H. Wright, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. Pp. 29.
Mutual Relations of Intellectual and Moral Culture. Joseph Le Conte. Berkeley, California. Pp. 7.
General Weather-Service, United States. "Monthly Weather Review," November, 1882. Washington, D. C.: Office of the Chief Signal-Officer. Pp. 21, with Maps.
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