Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/616

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with time, till after his first American trip he comes back, say his friends, "ipsis Americanis Americanior."

Lyell's was a life of smooth success. It is wholly wanting in anything like plot-interest, because all honors came so easily to him. In the year in which he took his degree he was made a fellow of the Linnæan and Geological Societies. In 1823 he became secretary of the latter. Already he is a fast friend with Buckland and Mantell; and his sisters are his helpers in keeping his museum and the confidantes of his scientific theories or discoveries. About this time he makes many journeys to Paris, becoming familiar not only with French as a language, but with such men as Cuvier, Humboldt, Brongniart, and Constant Prevost. He mixes in all the best salons of that shameful period. Some of his letters are guarded, lest he should be "treated like Bowring, with the Bastile"; but, when he gets a chance of sending a sheet or two otherwise than by post, his pictures of the faithless, cynical, bigoted, irreligious Paris of the Restoration are vivid and graphic in every line. Humboldt confides to him his notions about Cuvier, who has dabbled in "the dirty pool of politics":

His soirées are mostly attended by English (says Humboldt); the truth is the French savants have in general cut him. His continual changing over to each new party that came into power at length disgusted almost all, and you know it has been long a charge against men of science that they were pliant tools in the hands of princes and ministers, and might be turned which way they pleased. That such a man as Cuvier should have given a sanction to such an accusation was felt by all as a deep wound to the whole body. And what on earth was Cuvier to gain by intermeddling with politics?. . . You well know with what contempt the old aristocracy of all countries are apt to regard all new men of whatever abilities. We feel that but too much in Germany; but here it is a principle of party to carry such prejudices to the utmost length. Cuvier's situation was a proud one while he stood in the very foremost rank of men of science in France; but when he betrayed the weakness of coveting ribbons, crosses, titles, and court favor, he fell down to the lowest among his new competitors.

However, after saying so much at second-hand, Lyell adds his own opinion that Cuvier is more liberal and independent than most Frenchmen. He dares to speak well of Napoleon, the sun that has set:

We must not forget (he says) that Baron Humboldt and he are the two great rivals in science, for Laplace and the mathematicians do not come in contact with them. Humboldt's birth places him on the vantage-ground; and Cuvier perhaps tries to compensate this by a little political power. As for his ratting so often, defendit numerus; what French politician could throw the first stone at him? Humboldt's family is noble and ancient in Germany; his elder brother a man now in great power there. His talents entitle him to regard with the contempt which he expresses, and I have no doubt feels, mere rank; but we may say of him, as Chateaubriand said of our English peers, that he is well aware that, while he gets too liberal, he is in no danger of losing the station and the advantages which his birth insures for him.