|A STUDY OF BRITISH GENIUS.|
IV. HEREDITY AND PARENTAGE.
THE heredity of intellectual genius has been very fully discussed, with special reference to eminent persons of British birth, by Mr. Francis Galton. With, perhaps, even an excess of zeal—for persons of somewhat minor degrees of ability have sometimes been taken into account—Mr. Galton has shown that intellectual ability has frequently tended to run in families. If this hereditary tendency is by no means omnipresent, the present data prove conclusively that it is a very real factor. Notwithstanding that the effects of hereditary position have been so far as possible excluded, and that our lists only include persons of preeminent ability, distributed over fifteen centuries, it is yet found that among these 902 persons there are 31 groups, of two or three individuals in each group, who are closely related. These groups include 65 persons in all. The recognized relationships are father and son, brother and brother, brother and sister, sister and sister, uncle and nephew, aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, grandfather and grandson. Cousinship and more remote relationships also occur, but have not been included. In nineteen of these groups the ability shown may be said to be of a similar kind; in twelve it may be said to be of different kinds. There are only three cases in which the group consists of three persons: the Bacons, the Kembles, the Wordsworths. It is scarcely necessary to remark that in a very large number of cases the preeminent persons in our list were nearly related to other eminent persons who have not reached the degree of distinction entitling them to appear in the list. Of these no note has been taken.
I have, however, noted every case in which it is stated or implied that one or other, or both, of the parents possessed an unusual amount of intellectual ability, by no means necessarily involving any degree whatever of 'eminence.' These cases are very numerous, and as such ability may often have been displayed in very unobtrusive ways, it must frequently have escaped the attention of the national biographers. In
- See especially his 'Hereditary Genius.'
- It is quite possible, however, that such remote relationships are not without significance. One cannot but be struck by such a fact as the relationship of Shelley through his mother with the lyric poet Southwell, with whom he has so real an emotional affinity.