Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/351

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COMING OF AGE OF THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.

is but little scandal, after all, if we come to think of it, in supposing that action which we call moral may be a developed form of action to which the name can not be applied; but there is great edification in the thought, now brought home to our understandings, that, by every truly moral act, we help to build up and improve the life of the world and make ourselves coworkers with the principle of life everywhere.

 

COMING OF AGE OF THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.[1]
By Professor T. H. HUXLEY.

MANY of you will be familiar with the aspect of this small, green-covered book. It is a copy of the first edition of the "Origin of Species," and bears the date of its production—the 1st of October, 1859. Only a few months, therefore, are needed to complete the full tale of twenty-one years since its birthday.

Those whose memories carry them back to this time will remember that the infant was remarkably lively, and that a great number of excellent persons mistook its manifestations of a vigorous individuality for mere naughtiness; in fact, there was a very pretty turmoil about its cradle. My recollections of the period are particularly vivid; for, having conceived a tender affection for a child of what appeared to me to be such remarkable promise, I acted for some time in the capacity of a sort of under-nurse, and thus came in for my share of the storms which threatened even the very life of the young creature. For some years it was undoubtedly warm work, but, considering how exceedingly unpleasant the apparition of the newcomer must have been to those who did not fall in love with him at first sight, I think it is to the credit of our age that the war was not fiercer, and that the more bitter and unscrupulous forms of opposition died away as soon as they did.

I speak of this period as of something past and gone, possessing merely an historical, I had almost said an antiquarian interest. For, during the second decade of the existence of the "Origin of Species," opposition, though by no means dead, assumed a different aspect. On the part of all those who had any reason to respect themselves, it assumed a thoroughly respectful character. By this time the dullest began to perceive that the child was not likely to perish of any congenital weakness or infantile disorder, but was growing into a stalwart personage, upon whom mere goody scoldings and threatenings with the birch-rod were quite thrown away.

In fact, those who have watched the progress of science within the last ten years will bear me out to the full when I assert that there is no field of biological inquiry in which the influence of the "Origin of

  1. A lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, Friday, March 19, 1880.