Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/748

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
728
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

land to advance scientific knowledge than has ever been done in a like interval, at any time, in any country, I should think his inference less wide of the truth than that which, strange to say, Mr. Arnold draws from the same data.

And now to consider that which more immediately concerns us—the effect produced by the bias of anti-patriotism on sociological speculation. Whether in Mr. Arnold, whom I have ventured to take as a type, the leaning toward national self-depreciation was primary and the overvaluing of foreign institutions secondary, or whether his admiration of foreign institutions was the cause and his tendency to depreciatory estimates of our social state the effect, is a question which may be left open. For present purposes it suffices to observe that the two go together. Mr. Arnold is impatient with the unregulated, and, as he thinks, anarchic state of our society; and everywhere displays a longing for more administrative and controlling agencies. "Force till right is ready," is one of the sayings he emphatically repeats; apparently in the belief that there can be a sudden transition from a coercive system to a non-coercive one—ignoring the truth that there has to be a continually-changing compromise between force and right, during which force decreases step by step, as right increases step by step, and during which every step brings some temporary evil along with its ultimate good. Thinking more force needful for us, and lauding institutions which exercise it, Mr. Arnold holds that even in our literature we should benefit by being under authoritative direction. Though he is not of opinion that an academy would succeed here, he casts longing glances at the French Academy, and wishes we could have had over us an influence like that to which he ascribes certain excellences in French literature.

The French Academy was established, as he points out, "to work, with all the care and all the diligence possible, at giving sure rules to our language, and rendering it pure, eloquent, and capable of treating the arts and sciences." Let us consider whether it has fulfilled this intention, by removing the most conspicuous defects of the language. Down to the present time, there is in daily use the expression qu'est ce que c'est, and even qu'est ce que c'est que cela? If in some remote corner of England is heard the analogous expression—"What is that there here?" it is held to imply entire absence of culture: the use of two superfluous words proves a want of that close adjustment of language to thought which even partially-educated persons among us have reached. How is it, then, that though in this French there are five superfluous words (or six, if we take cela as two), the purifying criticism of the French Academy has not removed it from French speech—not even from the speech of the educated? Or why, again, has the Academy not condemned, forbidden, and so expelled from the language, the double negative? If among ourselves any one lets drop the sen-