Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/624

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be the founder of a school of zoölogy (for he has many pupils) of a high order. His enthusiasm is catching, especially when he has a good soil to work upon." Nor do his interests narrow at all with years. "I sat long before the Madonna di San Sisto to-day," he writes from Dresden, "and can feel its beauty." At Madeira, Teneriffe, the Grand Canary, and Palma, he enlarges his notions by new sub-tropical experiences. But the great scientific and philosophical revolution of the present century burst upon him, after all, half unprepared. He has long ago demolished the Mosaic cosmogony; he is deeply interested in Bishop Colenso; he has already strong views as to the antiquity of man; and yet Mr. Darwin's "Origin of Species" comes across his horizon at last almost like a thunder-clap. The truth is, he was committed to the opposite belief, and he was old for a sudden revulsion. He accepted the new creed, indeed, slowly and cautiously, but he had a struggle for it, and it cost him hard.

Lyell's attitude toward the grand theory of the origin of species by descent with modification was, indeed, in many ways a singular one; and these letters throw much light upon the evolution of his ideas with regard to it. Though his own views as to uniformitarianism and the antiquity of man might seem naturally to lead toward the acceptance of the development hypothesis—for it is much more difficult to imagine creation taking place in the midst of an ordinary physical series of events than to imagine it taking place in order to restock a world desolated by a divinely ordered cataclysm—he formally rejected the theory as broached by Lamarck, and he hesitated for some time to accept it as altered and amended by Darwin. Indeed, to the last he was but a lukewarm convert. Unless my memory misleads me, I have heard Mr. Herbert Spencer say that the true test whether a man was an evolutionist in fiber or not was to be found in the question whether he accepted evolution before Mr. Darwin had made its modus operandi intelligible. There are men who rejected the doctrine of special creation on evidence adduced; and there are men who never for a moment even entertained it as conceivable. These latter may not always have seen the πῶς of evolution, but they always saw the ὅτι. Judged by such a standard, Lyell occupies a middle position. From his earliest days he seems to have hankered after some such naturalistic explanation of life, and yet to have feared cordially to accept it. In 1827 Mantell sent him Lamarck, when he was on circuit at Dorchester. He writes back shortly after:

I devoured Lamarck en voyage, as you did Sismondi, and with equal pleasure. His theories delighted me more than any novel I ever read, and much in the same way, for they addressed themselves to the imagination, at least of geologists, who know the mighty inferences which would be deducible were they established by observations. But, though I admire even his flights, and feel none of the odium theologicum which some modern writers in this country have visited him with, I confess I read him rather as I hear an advocate on the wrong