Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/666

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



ing fact we encounter is the extraordinary extent to which British men and women of genius have been produced by the highest and smallest social classes, and the minute part which has been played by the 'teeming masses' in building up British civilization. In the article above referred to it is shown that 'The nobility, the office-holding class and the liberal professions in no community form so much as a tenth part of the population, yet from this small minority seventy-eight per cent, of the primates of Italian and German literature, eighty per cent, of Spanish and sixty-nine per cent, of English were descended.' The fecundity of the different parts of French territory, like that of Great Britain, has been very unequal. "If we examine the nativity of French writers according to their geographical distribution. . . we find that the northern and eastern parts have been most prolific. (Is this the result of the comparatively large Teutonic intermixture?) Taking France by Provinces, Ile de France heads the list with 1,572 names out of a total of 5,617. Next in order comes Normandy with 413 names. The adjacent districts of Picardy and Artois furnish 373; Provence gives us a register of 295 names; Lorraine, 240; Touraine, Anjou and Maine, 207. All others fall below 200. Except in a general way, it cannot be known what relation these figures bear to the total population, as no census of France was taken until comparatively recent times. If we make an estimate on the present basis of inhabitants, the relation of the districts will be somewhat changed. Ile de France will still stand at the head, but the second place will be taken by French Switzerland, the third by Provence and the fourth by the Orleannais."

The religious milieu is a factor of very considerable importance. "It is well known that among French writers in all departments Geneva has produced a much larger proportion than would be expected from the number of its inhabitants. For more than four centuries it has been a Protestant city, while the rest of French territory has been for the most part Roman Catholic. It is worthy of remark, too, that in Germany, including by this designation its territory linguistically and not politically, the Catholic portions of Bavaria and Austria have given birth to a relatively small number of persons who are entitled to the highest rank in letters. It has already been shown that, in the product of men of science, the religion of a country seems to play an important part. We are justified in drawing the same inference in regard to literature."

One more quotation that bears on the preponderating influence of what may be called centers of civilization, and I have done: "Of fifty-five eminent Italian literati, twenty-three were born in large cities, and most of the remainder in small municipalities, though, strange to say, not one had Rome as his birthplace. Of the fifty Spaniards who are generally regarded as holding the highest rank in the literature of Spain, sixteen were born in Madrid, and a large proportion of the remainder in cities of the first rank, several of which contain universities. The coryphei of German literature seem at first sight to make an exception to the conclusions that naturally spring from the above stated facts. The great writers are quite evenly distributed over what now constitutes the empire and Switzerland. Three large cities are the birthplace of three great writers each; two. of two each; while the rest have produced but one each. This calculation embraces about thirty who stand confessedly at the head: yet if we increase the number the results are not widely different. Here again the importance of the environment is strikingly made prominent. During the last five centuries Germany has had a large number of capitals, many of which the reigning monarcha tried with more or less success to make centers of art and literature."

Chas. W. Super.
Athens, O.