Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/802

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rules and methods of proceeding and operating with this so collected and qualified Supellex," remained in embryo. Hooke, like Bacon, set out with a classification of the errors incidental to humanity in its actual condition; but his mode of rectifying them was a more patient and practical process than the "expurgation of the intellect," preached by the philosophic Chancellor. The senses are to be helped, he tells us, by skillfully constructed instruments, whereby their sphere of action may be enlarged, and their untutored impressions brought to the test of exact measurement and rigid calculation. The report of one sense must be corrected by comparison with that of the others, until "sensation is reduced to a standard," and the mind is gradually informed with true notions of "things, as they are part of, and actors or patients in the universe, not only as they have this or that peculiar relation or influence on our own senses or selves."

The next step in the "Preparation" consisted in the compilation of a "Philosophical History," comprising—

A brief and plain account of a great store of choice and significant natural and artificial operations, actions, and effects, ranged in a convenient order, and interwoven here and there with some short hints of accidental remarks or theories, of corresponding or disagreeing received opinions, of doubts and queries, and the like; and, indeed, until this repository be pretty well stored with choice and sound materials, the work of raising new axioms or theories is not to be attempted, lest beginning without materials the whole design be given over in the middle.[1]

The matter of such a history, he says further, is no less than the world; "for there is no body or operation in the universe that is not some way or other to be taken notice of in this great work." And the programme which he proceeds to lay down in no way belies his promise. Fire, air, earth, and water, light and darkness, heat and cold, gravity and levity, all the "prime sensible qualities" of nature, find each its place in this stupendous magazine of knowledge. From ether to anthracite, from a man to a mite or a mushroom, from dreams and influences to arts and sciences, from the starry firmament to the costermonger's cart or the cobbler's stall, no substance, quality, or accident is excluded. No natural process, no commercial product, but has its separate "History." The despised handicraftsman is to yield up his obscure secrets as well as the scientific artisan. A Dollond or a Steinheil is not more stimulating to the catholic curiosity of the natural historian than a Quince, a Bottom, or a Snug. Yet all this encyclopedic mass of information, infinite in its subject, indefinite in its extent, expansive in its nature, Hooke tells us he "has very good reason to believe may be contained in much fewer words than the writings of divers single authors!"[2] This would, indeed, have been to imprison the liberated genius of knowledge within narrower limits than those

  1. "Posthumous Works," p. 18.
  2. Ibid., p. 21.