Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/327

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323
LIFE AND WORKS OF DARWIN

could nurture such a man; whether a Darwin, were he entered at a Columbia, a Harvard, a Princeton, could develop mentally as Charles Darwin did at Cambridge in 1817. I believe that conditions for the favorable nurture of such a mind are not with us. They are, repose, time for continuous thought, respect for the man of brains and of individuality and of such peculiar tastes as Darwin displayed in his avidity for collecting beetles, freedom from mental convention, general sympathy for nature, and above all ardor in the world of ideas. If the genial mind can not find the kindred mind it can not develop. Many American school and college men are laughed out of the finest promptings of their natures. In short I believe our intellectual environment would be distinctly against a young Darwin to-day.

Thus event after event in Darwin's life was singularly propitious. None but a Darwin would have reflected these events as he did, but grand and rare they certainly were.

At the age of nineteen he entered Christ's of Cambridge, the small college which two hundred years before had sheltered John Milton, the great poet of "Paradise Lost," the epic of the special creation theory which it was Darwin's destiny to destroy. His passion for sport, shooting, hunting, cross country riding, his genial enjoyment of friends of his own age, did not prevent delightful excursions with older men. He was known as "the man who walks with Henslow"; and close personal intercourse with this learned and genial botanist (Eev. Wm. C. Henslow) affected him more than any other feature of his college life. After graduation this personal association extended through Henslow to the geologist Sedgwick, who prepared him for the next step in his career. It was Henslow who secured for him his place on the exploring ship Beagle and the voyage round the world (1831-1836), by far the most important experience in his life.

No graduate course in any university can compare for a moment with the glorious vision which passed before young Darwin on the Beagle, but here again fortune smiled upon him, for this vision required the very scientific spirit and point of view which came to him through the reading of the "Principles of Geology" of Lyell, the masterly teacher of the uniformitarian doctrine of Hutton. That nature worked slowly in past as in present time, and that the interpretation of the past is through observation of the present gave the note of Darwin's larger and more original interpretation, because the slow evolution which Lyell piously restricted to geology and the surface of the earth Darwin extended to biology and all living beings. If during the voyage Lyell's arguments convinced Darwin of the permanence of species, Lyell's way of looking at nature also gave him the means of seeing that species are not permanent. In his own words, he "saw through Lyell's eyes," and with the admiration of others