Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/20

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true aims and proper methods of education—all this made the period a most fruitful one for the peculiar work of such a teacher as Youmans. The intellectual atmosphere was charged with conceptions of evolution. Mr. Youmans had arrived at such conceptions in the course of his study of the separate lines of scientific speculation which were now about to be summed up and organized by Herbert Spencer into that system of philosophy which marks the highest point to which the progressive intelligence of mankind has yet attained. In the field of scientific generalization upon this great scale, Mr. Youmans was not an originator; but his broadly sympathetic and luminous mind moved on a plane so near to that of the originators that he seized at once upon the grand scheme of thought as it was developed, made it his own, and brought to its interpretation and diffusion such a happy combination of qualities as one seldom meets with. The ordinary popularizer of great and novel truths is a man who comprehends them but partially and illustrates them in a lame and fragmentary way. But it was the peculiarity of Mr. Youmans that, while on the one hand he could grasp the newest scientific thought so surely and firmly that he seemed to have entered into the innermost mind of its author, on the other hand he could speak to the general public in a convincing and stimulating way that had no parallel. This was the secret of his power, and there can be no question that his influence in educating the American people to receive the doctrine of evolution was great and wide-spread.

The years when Mr. Youmans was traveling and lecturing were the years when the old lyceum system of popular lectures was still in its vigor. The kind of life led by the energetic lecturer in those days was not that of a Sybarite, as may be seen from a passage in one of his letters: "I lectured in Sandusky, and had to get up at five o'clock to reach Elyria; I had had but very little sleep. To get from Elyria to Pittsburg I must take the five o'clock morning train, and the hotel darkey said he would try to awaken me. I knew what that meant, and so did not get a single wink of sleep that night. Rode all day to Pittsburg, and had to lecture in the great Academy of Music over foot-lights. . . . The train that left for Zanesville departed at two in the morning. I had been assured a hundred times (for I asked everybody I met) that I would get a sleeping-car to Zanesville, and, when I was all ready to start, I was informed that this morning there was no sleeping-car. By the time I reached here I was pretty completely used up."

Such a fatiguing life, however, has its compensations. It brings the lecturer into friendly contact with the brightest minds among his fellow-countrymen in many and many places, and en-