Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/640

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attest. The last aspirant for glory, in the Spencer-crushing line, is one Alexander Gibson, hitherto guiltless of fame, whose onslaught is contained in a late number of the London Academy. This periodical, it may be remarked, was started a few years ago, with an Oxford parentage, as an organ of old rubbishy scholarship and useless lore generally, and, having been knocked about among different publishers as a bad speculation, now turns up in new hands, and the transition is signalized by the present essay at the use of the critical scalping-knife.

Conscious, perhaps, of the trouble he has been causing to the critical fraternity, Mr. Spencer has lately changed his tactics. In his former works he expressed his own opinions very freely on various subjects, and it is these that have been the objects of attack by the increasing crowd of his assailants. They have shown, in a manner perfectly conclusive to themselves, that his views are weak, foolish, erroneous, false, absurd, dangerous, and wicked. And so he has now made a book containing no opinions of his own at all. It is a work simply of facts and authorities, and, as if scrupulously to avoid rousing the ire of his enemies, he hired a man to write out the facts and copy the authorities. His own agency was limited barely to drawing up a plan of presentation, which his assistant was to follow, and he indulges in not a word of comment upon the statements that are made. But all' in vain. Alexander Gibson hunts him out, even in this city of refuge, and is bound to crush him all the same. Let us gather up the fragments, and see what remains after this last assault.

In reviewing the "Descriptive Sociology" in the Academy, Mr. Gibson makes two points, which are—first, that the compilation of facts by Spencer's assistant, Mr. Collier, is badly done; and, second, that, if it had been well done, the work would still be good for nothing. Mr. Gibson begins by a representation that is quite misleading. He says: "It is clear at a glance that the work thus undertaken is one of great magnitude and difficulty; and, when one considers the high reputation Mr. Spencer has acquired by his sociological theories, it acquires a peculiar interest, as it will serve to show the nature and value of the material which he has used for constructing or testing his speculations." The implication here is, that Mr. Spencer has first theorized and speculated upon social questions, and then sought for facts to support his views. But Mr. Spencer's social philosophy has never yet been developed, and the collection of sociological data which was commenced five years ago is designed as the foundation for general principles yet to be derived from them. The relation of these materials to the uses for which Mr. Spencer himself proposes to employ them cannot therefore be judged until his principles of sociology are worked out. Mr. Gibson inverts the truth of the case, for Mr. Spencer's extensive collection and classification of facts were not made to sustain past speculations but as a guide to future theories.

In judging of his undertaking, it is important to remember that Mr. Spencer published first that division of it which is most open to criticism; that is, he deals first with the social elements of his own country, the history of which is generally familiar. It is also not to be forgotten that his aim was to bring forward just that order of facts for which historians have cared the least, and concerning which their statements have been most loose, careless, and conflicting. Added to this, the work of collection and arrangement had never before been attempted, and Mr. Spencer had to work as a pioneer in the field. It is also noteworthy that the plan of the work precluded all explanatory comment. That such a work—a work of "great magnitude and