Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/253

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A GREAT LESSON.

A GREAT LESSON.
By THE DUKE OF ARGYLL.

THE most delightful of all Mr. Darwin's works is the first he ever wrote. It is his "Journal" as the Naturalist of H. M. S. Beagle in her exploring voyage round the world from the beginning of 1832 to nearly the end of 1836. It was published in 1842, and a later edition appeared in 1845. Celebrated as this book once was, few probably read it now. Yet in many respects it exhibits Darwin at his best, and if we are ever inclined to rest our opinions upon authority, and to accept without doubt what a remarkable man has taught, I do not know any work better calculated to inspire confidence than Darwin's "Journal." It records the observations of a mind singularly candid and unprejudiced—fixing upon Nature a gaze keen, penetrating, and curious, but yet cautious, reflective, and almost reverent. The thought of how little we know—of how much there is to be known, and of how hardly we can learn it—is the thought which inspires the narrative as with an abiding presence. There is, too, an intense love of Nature and an intense admiration of it, the expression of which is carefully restrained and measured, but which seems often to overflow the limits which are self-imposed. And when man, the highest work of Nature, but not always its happiest or its best, comes across his path, Darwin's observations are always noble. "A kindly man moving among his kind" seems to express his spirit. He appreciates every high calling, every good work, however far removed it may be from that to which he was himself devoted. His language about the missionaries of Christianity is a signal example, in striking contrast with the too common language of lesser men. His indignant denunciation of slavery presents the same high characteristics of a mind eminently gentle and humane. In following him we feel that not merely the intellectual but the moral atmosphere in which we move is high and pure. And then, besides these great recommendations, there is another which must not be overlooked. We have Darwin here before he was a Darwinian. He embarked on that famous voyage with no preconceived theories to maintain. Yet he was the grandson of Dr. Erasmus Darwin—a man very famous in his day, who was the earliest popular exponent of evolution as explaining the creative work, and who, both in prose and verse, had made it familiar as at least a dream and a poetic speculation. Charles Darwin in his "Journal" seems as unconscious of that speculation as if he had never heard of it, or was as desirous to forget it as if he concurred in the ridicule of it which had amused the readers of the "Anti-Jacobin." Only once in the "Journal" is there any allusion to such speculations, and then only to the form in which they had been more scientifically clothed by the French naturalist La-