Popular Science Monthly/Volume 9/July 1876/Literary Notices
Although M. Taine has made his reputation as a literary man, he must be credited with a genuine feeling for philosophical inquiry, and if not a scientist in the thorough sense, he nevertheless aspires to carry on his inquiries by scientific method. The present work is written from this point of view. Its author takes the modern stand-point in the study of history, and recognizes the futility of polities, when not guided by the principles of national development. His attitude of mind, and the spirit which he has brought to his task, are so admirably presented in the following passage from his preface, that we transcribe his own words. After stating that in 1849 he was twenty-one years old, and was called upon to vote, he remarks:
From this point of view, M. Taine came to the conclusion that his country needed, first of all, to be studied systematically, and the present work is the first of a series which together are designed to constitute a philosophic study of modern France. The "Ancient Régime," the volume now published, is devoted to the pre-Revolutionary period, and is to be followed by a work on the French Revolution, which will in turn be preparatory to a third, on the "New Régime," designed to interpret recent and contemporary France. The enterprise will be executed with the undoubted ability that distinguishes this brilliant and versatile author, and will permanently identify his name with modern French history. At any rate, the present book is instructive and fascinating to a remarkable degree. It is at the same time a vivid and life-like picture of French society anterior to the Revolution, and a subtile and comprehensive analysis of the forces at work in it, that issued in the revolutionary outbreak. A marked characteristic of the work is the freshness of a large portion of its materials, resulting from the author's indefatigable researches among hitherto unexplored masses of original correspondence, documents, and records.
The admirable lecture of President White upon this subject, which was published in The Popular Science Monthly for February and March, is now issued in a separate form, with important additions, by the author. Although a small book, it covers broad ground, and treats the subject in a decisive way. The thesis maintained is this: "In all modern history, interference with science in the supposed interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils both to religion and to science, and invariably. And, on the other hand, all untrammeled scientific investigation, no matter how dangerous to religion some of its stages may have seemed, for the time, to be, has invariably resulted in the highest good of religion and of science." In working out the proof of these propositions, President White has traversed an extensive field of historical resources, dealing successively with the rise and progress of geography, astronomy, chemistry and physics, anatomy and medicine, geology, political economy, agriculture and engineering, and scientific instruction. The whole discussion has been carefully gone over, and much amplified in its present form. In his preface the author says: "I have now given it careful revision, correcting some errors, and extending it largely by presenting new facts and developing various points of interest in the general discussion. Among the subjects added or rewrought are: in astronomy, the struggle of Galileo and the retreat of the Church after its victory; in chemistry and physics, the compromise between science and theology made by Thomas Aquinas, and the unfortunate route taken by science in consequence; in anatomy and medicine, the earlier growth of ecclesiastical distrust of these sciences; in scientific education, the dealings of various European universities with scientific studies; in political and social science^ more complete statement of the opposition of the Church, on scriptural grounds, to the taking of interest for money; and in the conclusion, a more careful summing up."
The distinguishing feature of this little volume, and which will make it eminently valuable and useful at the present time, is its copious and careful notes, which give authoritative support to the argument. Nothing important is left to rest upon mere assertion. The battle that Science has had to fight from the beginning, and without remission, with ignorance, prejudice, and intolerance, inspired and directed by ecclesiastical influence, is vividly delineated in the text, and the positions taken are so fortified by citations from works of the highest character as to leave little room for further controversy. That the history of Science has been throughout a struggle with the theologians, and that the Bible has been used by devout believers in its infallible inspiration to crush out the results of scientific inquiry, are perfectly well known; while that science is still dreaded and denounced on religious grounds, and that the Bible is still extensively appealed to against its conclusions, are now so obvious that there is certainly no reason for doubting its employment in the same way, in less enlightened times. But there are so many who are inclined to forget, and belittle, and explain away the uglier features of the past conflict, that it becomes necessary to array the evidence of it in book and page, chapter and verse, as President White has done. Nothing is to be gained, at any rate, by ignoring historic truth, and bigotry and superstition still offer too vigorous a resistance to the advance of rational inquiry to make it desirable that we should quite forget the painful lessons of the past.
The author of the "Centennial Republic," during a sojourn of several years in the United States, was a critical observer of our social and political life. The result of his observations is a merciless exposure of all the vices and defects of republican institutions as they exist in this country. The work is in reality a pamphlet intended to influence the minds of Germans living at home, and to dissuade them from emigrating to the United States. Mr. Becker has three chapters on the condition of the working-class; several chapters on politics and government, rings, carpet-baggery, corruption, the lobby; finally, he treats of the family, education of children, and a number of other subjects. The author is an advocate, and does full justice to the cause he defends; the brighter side of American life is not his concern.
These two volumes are numbered respectively III. and IV. in Putnam's series of "Brief Biographies," designed to acquaint the American public with the characters and services of eminent politicians and statesmen abroad. In vol. iii. we have sketches of twenty-three of the foremost political leaders of France, and in vol. iv. of nineteen men prominent in the political life of Germany. Both Mr. King and Mr. Tuttle have enjoyed the advantage of personal acquaintance with several of the subjects of their biographies; in all cases they have had the best opportunities for studying the men whose lives they describe. They are no transcribers of biographical notes and dates, their aim being rather to portray character than to inform the reader of the dry and impertinent details of a man's career.
This is beyond question the best manual of the. history of the United States that has yet been written. The style is plain and marked by directness; and the author usually assigns to events their true proportions, as viewed from the standpoint of the impartial historian. Four graphical maps exhibit—1. The changes in territory; and, 2. The distribution of population in 1790, 1830, and 1870.
The author of this book published, two or three years since, a little volume entitled "The Childhood of the World," in which he presented, in a familiar way, designed for perusal by the young, the modern doctrine of the antiquity of the world, and something of that which is now regarded as known concerning the primitive condition of man. The success that attended his former undertaking has led him to break into another and a kindred field, and to present, in a popular and readable form, what is considered to be known in relation to primitive religions. The author regards the two works as but parts of one argument, and the present volume as the natural and necessary outgrowth of the former. Of the need and purpose of such an exposition he remarks, at the opening:
The book is very plainly written, and gives a great deal of interesting information about myths and legends of the creation, religious beliefs of the Aryan or Indo-European nations, the religion of the ancient and modern Hindoos, Buddhism, and the ancient religions of Persia, China, and the Semitic nations. Much is said upon these subjects nowadays by learned men, and Mr. Clodd's volume is a good popular introduction to this field of literature.
This volume is an intrepid attempt to establish the doctrine of personal immortality on the scientific basis of modern physical theories. The indestructibility of matter and force, and the existence of atoms or units, are the principles Mrs. Blackwell employs as the foundation of her argument. We cannot here analyze it, but will give the author's standpoint in her own words:
We have long waited for a life of Dr. Whewell, and although we have not found it in these volumes, in the usual sense of the biography, yet we have here what may be called a history of his intellectual life, as disclosed in the informal and fragmentary passages of an extensive correspondence. Sir John Herschel has said of Dr. Whewell that "a more wonderful variety and amount of knowledge in almost every department of human inquiry was perhaps never in the same interval of time accumulated by any man." Of this, his numerous and learned publications bear ample witness, and it is of course from these that the intellectual character of the man is to be properly deduced. But our interest in him is greatly heightened by the glimpses of a strong personality, which these volumes reveal in his free and extensive intercourse with the intellectual celebrities of the time. We have no space for illustrations of the quality of these most readable books, but the following reference to Dr. Lardner will give a sample of their general spiciness:
The principal topics considered in this volume are, the influence of the Essenes and Therapeutæ on the development of the Christian system; the origin of the four Gospels; the influence of Irenæus on Christian beliefs; the dogma of the Trinity; the origin of the Episcopate and of the Papacy; the miracles attributed to Christ, the Apostles, and their successors.
In this paper the author strives to assign a philosophical reason for "the well-known fact" that, during all ages, cities, where topographical impediments do not interfere, extend, as a general rule, from east to west, and that the wealthiest people are always in the advance.
The title of this book is somewhat misleading. We should expect to find in its pages a cool, didactic statement of the result of observations and studies in natural history, perhaps, or in some of the familiar aspects of Nature. But, instead of simple lessons or inculcations from natural things, presented in a quiet and instructive form, we have a book full of rancorous controversy and bitter polemics. Mr. Mivart has achieved some reputation as an anatomist and biologist, and is by no means destitute of expository power, but the discussions in this volume show that he is more a theologian than a scientist, more a bigot than a philosopher, and more fond of fighting than teaching. He makes a series of vindictive assaults upon men with whom he does not agree, and then names the result "Lessons from Nature." A writer in the Quarterly Journal of Science administers to Mr. Mivart a well-merited castigation for his unscrupulous course in dealing with contemporary thinkers, and we publish a portion of the article under the title of "Bigotry and Scientific Controversy." The writer treats him unsparingly, but we think justly, and condemns in terms of merited severity the practice, not yet extinct, of appealing to the odium theologicum, which "in its most malignant form pervades the entire book."
"Lessons from Nature" is a discussion of the tendencies of modern theories which are associated with the names of Darwin, Spencer, Mill, Helmholtz, Huxley, Lewes, and others, which are variously characterized by this author as immoral, irreligious, materialistic, and atheistic. The course of thought is more metaphysical than physical, and the volume derives but little value from the scientific acquirements of the writer. Indeed, he had already told us in his "Genesis of Species" all that he has to say in opposition to the views of Darwin, and here it is only restated with the garnish of abuse and invective. But, although himself committed in the "Genesis of Species" to the doctrine of Evolution, and saying, as he does at page 16, "the prevalence of this theory need alarm no one, for it is, without any doubt, perfectly consistent with the strictest and most orthodox Christian theology," yet his present book is a battle with the Evolutionists, and the consequences of the theory, and in the interest of Catholic orthodoxy. And the champion proves to be not a whit too good for the cause he represents. In the survivals from savagery the same spirit only changes its instruments—the tomahawk is replaced by the pen. Those who delight in vicious polemics will find Mr. Mivart's volume an unusual treat.
We have received five numbers of this work, which promises to be valuable and exhaustive. It is constructed upon the basis of the elaborate work, "Chemistry as applied to the Arts and Manufactures," by the late Dr. Muspratt, which was published twenty years ago. But twenty years antiquates a chemical book, especially when it deals with the application of science to the arts. Numerous and important improvements in chemical manufacture have been made within the last quarter of a century, which make new statements indispensable to those who are concerned with practical processes. The thoroughness of treatment adopted in this work is illustrated by the fact that nearly the whole of the first part is devoted to acetic acid and its salts. Alcohol occupies the second part; and alum, ammonia, aniline dyes, antimony, and arsenic, are treated with a corresponding fullness. In their prospectus the publishers remark: "Convinced that the infinite variety of subjects now embraced in such a work could be adequately treated by no one writer, however learned or painstaking, the assistance of the leading chemists of the present day has been secured, as well as of writers who are practically acquainted with all the details of our great manufactures." But no names are given, either of editor or collaborators. Something would, no doubt, be gained by knowing to whom the execution of so large an enterprise has been intrusted, but we admire the pluck that puts the work forth—and a subscription-book at that—without the parade of names, and lets it go squarely upon its merits. It deserves to succeed.
We have not seen lately a more thoroughly interesting and instructive book of travels than this. The author spent several years in the country he describes, and his travels extended from the Congo River on the north, down the coast through about 10° of latitude. Most of his time was spent among the trading-towns at the mouths of rivers and along the coast, but be had frequent opportunities of studying the simpleminded savages of the interior. He found the natives kindly disposed if well treated. He was accompanied by his wife in his journeys, to whom the book is dedicated in a few touching and appropriate words. His travels seem to have been connected with a discovery made by himself in 1858, that the bark of the baobab-tree is of value in the making of paper. Many parts of the regions visited were covered by forests of this tree.
Among the natives fetichism prevails everywhere. Anything, as a tree, or animal, or an old rag, may be a fetich. No body dies a natural death, but is fetiched.
These people are not degraded, but represent a low stage of culture. They are undeveloped—not distinguished so much by the presence of positively bad as by the absence of good qualities. They are strangely wanting in the feelings:
"The negro knows not love, affection, or jealousy. I have never seen a negro manifest the least tenderness to a negress. They have no words or expressions in their language indicative of affection or love. Their passion is purely of an animal description, without affection. Mothers rarely play with or fondle their babies; as for kissing them, such a thing is not known; yet I have never seen a woman grossly neglect her child."
The book abounds with information concerning the climate, productions, physical geography, and general natural history of the region, and is a treasure equally to the general reader and to the student of this part of the vast African wilderness.
A much-needed and most excellent little manual. There is no better measure of civilization than the state of the highways in city or country, and judged by that standard the American people are not much advanced. Bad roads prevail—roads badly laid out, badly constructed, and kept in bad order—and, while this general badness is an enormous burden upon the community, involving waste of horse-flesh, vehicles, time, and obstruction of business, there is still a degree of ignorance concerning the mechanics of the subject that is surprising among a people who make such large pretensions to enterprise. There are well-established principles in road-laying, road-making, and road-management, the violation or neglect of which entails such serious losses that it is a matter of public economy to wake up any community to the importance of the subject. General Gillmore's book gives the latest information regarding it, within moderate limits, and he thus states the leading objects that have been kept in view in its preparation:
The uses of a topographical survey of the State, as set forth in this paper, are as follows: 1. Such survey is a necessary basis for equalizing taxation; 2. It will establish imperishably every property boundary in the State; 3. It will make it possible to describe correctly the area of real estate conveyed by a deed; 4. It will afford facilities for proper plans of suburban drainage and water-supply, and extensions of village streets and country roads; 5. It will furnish a basis for a scientific survey of the State's resources.
In his preface the author asks the question, "Have we not been trying to get along somehow for nearly a hundred years without any principle of government?" If so, it is full time to discover a principle of some kind. From the titles of two or three chapters, such as "Christianity the Inspirer of Nations," "America a Christian Power," "Materialism the Curse of America," it would appear that the author's prescription for all our political ills is Christian statesmanship. And, when the nation has been saved, we must head a grand crusade against Mohammedan sovereignty in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa!
These are tracts published by the Free Religious Association, Boston. They are intended to popularize the ideas and aims of a body of thoughtful men and women, and are sold at the low price of $3.00 per hundred copies. The tracts already published are four in number, including, besides the two named above, one on "Taxation of Church Property," by James Parton, and one on "Transcendentalism," by the late Theodore Parker.
The roots or subterranean trunks of yuccas are often found to be hollowed' out along the axis; this tunneling is the work of the yucca-borer (Megathymus yuccœ). In the paper before us, Prof. Riley gives the results of his studies upon this insect. He is inclined to regard the yucca-borer as the representative of an ancient type from which are derived on the one hand the Castnians, on the other the Hesperians.
This little manual is intended for the use of students commencing a course of laboratory practice, or preparing themselves for actual work in connection with electric telegraphy. The author employs almost exclusively the nomenclature and system of units approved by the committee of the British Association, but he also gives exercises in the conversion of these units into the units of various other systems, and vice versa.
This Report contains the Statement of the Trustees, the Report of the President of the University, Daniel C. Gilman, a letter from P. R. Uhler on Collections in Geology and Natural History, and a Preliminary Announcement of courses of study, fellowships, scholarships, etc.
The Wages Question. By Francis A. Walker. New York: Holt & Co. Pp. 428. Price, $3.50.
Geological and Geographical Survey. Report of F. V. Hayden for the Year 1874. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 515.
Annual Record of Science and Industry for 1875. By Spencer F. Baird. New York: Harpers. Pp. 946. Price, $2.
Elements of Psychology. By H. N. Day. New York: Putnams. Pp. 248. Price, $1.50.
Spirit Invocations. By P. A. Putnam. Boston: Colby & Rich. Pp. 256. Price, $1.25.
The Historical Jesus of Nazareth. By M. Schlesinger, Ph. D. New York: Somerby. Pp. 98. Price, $1.
High Masonry Dams. By J. B. McMaster, C. E. New York: Van Nostrand. Pp. 132. Price, 50 cents.
Geology of Portions of our Western Territory. By G. K. Gilbert. Pp. 342.
The Geology of Route from St. George, Utah, to Gila River, Arizona. By A. R. Marvine. Pp. 30.
The Geology of Portions of our Western Territory. By E. E. Howell. Pp. 70.
Oxidation Product of Glycogen. By R. H. Chittenden. New Haven: Tuttle & Co., Printers. Pp. 10.
A Gigantic Bird. Pp. 5. Also, Vertebrate Fauna of the Eocene of New Mexico. By E. D. Cope. Pp. 3.
The Public-School Question. Two Lectures. Boston: Free Religious Association. Pp. 100. Price, 20 cents.
Inauguration of President Gilman. Baltimore: John Murphy & Co. Pp. 64.
Valedictory Address of Medical Faculty. By Dr. T. A. Atchison. Nashville University. Pp. 15.
International Medical Congress, 1875. By Dr. G. W. Wells. New York. Pp. 12.
Proceedings of the Kings County Medical Society, Brooklyn. Pp. 40.
Natural History of Kerguelen Island. By Dr. J. H. Kidder. Part II. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 122.
Poughkeepsie Society of Natural Science. Pp. 41.
Report of the Overseers of the Poor of Lowell. Pp. 49.
Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, Cambridge, Mass.: H. B. Bailey, 13 Exchange Place, Boston. Pp. 28. Quarterly, $1 per year.
Manual of the Apiary. Pp. 59. Also, Injurious Insects of Michigan. Pp. 48. By Prof. A. J. Cook, Michigan Agricultural College.
Supposed Changes in the Nebula M17 = h. 2008 = G. C. 4403. By E. S. Holden. Pp. 20. From American Journal of Science.
Eozoön Canadense at Côte St. Pierre. By J. W. Dawson. Pp. 10. From Journal of the Geological Society.
Fundamental Principles of Science. By L. Hyneman. Boston: Colby & Rich. Pp. 29.
Fishes of the Bermudas. By G. Brown Goode. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 82.
Tracts on Labor and Money Questions. Nos. III. and VI. By William Brown.