Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/48

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ion that those studies afford the best discipline, in which the mind is brought into contact with outward realities—a view which has lately been put forth with new force by my friend Canon Kingsley. You know that Canon Kingsley has acquired great reputation as an historian. He held the Professorship of History at the University of Cambridge for many years, and, in fact, has only recently withdrawn from it. Canon Kingsley also early acquired a considerable amount of scientific culture, and he has always been particularly fond of Natural History. Now, he lately said to the working-men of Bristol that he strongly recommended them to cultivate Science, rather than study History; having himself almost withdrawn from the study of history, for this reason, that he found it more and more difficult to satisfy himself about the truth of any past event; while, on the other hand, in the study of science, he felt that we were always approaching nearer to the truth. A few days ago I was looking through a magazine article on the old and disputed question of Mary Queen of Scots, which crops up every now and then. She is once more put upon her trial. Was Mary Queen of Scots a vicious or a virtuous woman? The question will be variously answered by her enemies and by her advocates; and I believe it will crop up to the day of doom, without ever being settled. Now, on the other hand, as we study scientific truth, we gain a certain point, and may feel satisfied we are right up to that point, though there may be something beyond; while the elevation we have gained enables us to look higher still. It is like ascending a mountain; the nearer we get to the top, the clearer and more extensive is the view. I think this is a far better discipline to the mind than that of digging down into the dark depths of the past, in the search for that which we cannot hope ever thoroughly to bring to light. It so happened that only a fortnight ago I had the opportunity of asking another of our great historians, Mr. Froude, what he thought of Canon Kingsley's remark. He said, "I entirely agree with it;" and, in some further conversation I had with him on the subject, I was very much struck with finding how thoroughly his own mind had been led, by the very important and profound researches he has made into our history, to the same conclusion—the difficulty of arriving at absolute truth upon any historical subject. Now, we do hope and believe that there is absolute truth in Science, which, if not at present in our possession, is within our reach; and that, the nearer we are able to approach to it, the clearer will be our habitual perception of the difference between the real and the unreal, the firmer will be our grasp of all the questions that rise in the ordinary course of our lives, and the sounder will be the judgment we form as to great political events and great social changes. Especially will this gain be apparent in our power of resisting the contagious influence of "Mental Epidemics."