Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/391

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387
THE HALO OF A HUNDRED YEARS

marble, were born in 1809, like the philosophers Vacherot and Franck, in France; Tari, in Italy; Nielsen, in Denmark; and Bledsoe, in this country. In the arts of war it bore at least four leaders of distinction—Canrobert, marshal of France; Manteuffel, first governor of the Reichsland after the fall of Napoleon III.; Dahlgren, the American admiral, an authority on ordnance; and Menabrea, the Italian engineer, an eminent name in the science of fortification. Its most noted diplomatist was Rutherford Alcock, who saw some of the stress that accompanied the introduction of occidental civilization into Japan, and whose bread, cast upon the waters long ago, has returned to such consequence after many days. Finally, as if to round out the universe of human activity, 1809 brought to birth two immortal statesmen—Lincoln, who was born on the same day as Darwin, and Gladstone.

Now notwithstanding the multifarious activities, incalculable influence, and momentous events, connected with these fifty-four names—an extraordinary galaxy—there can be little doubt that, setting aside place and, in particular, nationality, Darwin has laid profoundest hold upon the universal imagination of mankind. And the obvious question arises, why? Let us look at this for a little; it is much easier to ask than to answer.

In this presence, it would be an impertinence on my part were I to wander into the problem of evolution as understood by students of natural science. But, possibly, I may be able to contribute my tiny mite from another standpoint.

We may take it as axiomatic that genius achieves supremacy very rarely against, or without, the cooperant "social mind," and that it pays the price for lone attainment by missing' highest rank. To adopt Matthew Arnold's phrase, the man and the moment must agree; or, as Goethe said, only he who unites with the many at the right moment ever becomes great. If I be not far wide of the mark, Darwin enjoyed peculiar fortune in this respect and, thanks to his extraordinary patience, backed by unusual perseverance and devotion, came to enthrone himself amid the master intellects typical of the nineteenth century.

To begin with, then, we must bear in mind that centuries are arbitrary divisions, that no break assails the onward movement of thought, and that every age serves itself upon its successor. The immense displacements, due to the Renascence in the fifteenth century, and to the Reformation in the sixteenth, carried over into the seventeenth; while the seventeenth lived on in the eighteenth, just as the eighteenth, thanks probably to political and social conditions, continued to rule the nineteenth to 1873 (death of John Stuart Mill), say, especially in the English-speaking countries. Indeed, much of the opposition encountered by evolution from the man in the street, and from pseudo-thinkers, may be traced to this simple fact. Nay, we can trace its potent influ-