페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

What is the state of the case now, when, as we have seen, the amount of our knowledge respecting the mammalia of the Tertiary epoch is increased fifty-fold, and in some directions even approaches completeness?

Simply this, that, if the doctrine of evolution had not existed, palaeontologists must have invented it, so irresistibly is it forced upon the mind by the study of the remains of the Tertiary mammalia which have been brought to light since 1859.

Among the fossils of Pikermi, Gaudry found the successive stages by which the ancient civets passed into the more modern hyaenas; through the Tertiary deposits of Western America, Marsh tracked the successive forms by which the ancient stock of the horse has passed into its present form ; and innumerable less complete indications of the mode of evolution of other groups of the higher mammalia have been obtained. In the remarkable memoir on the phosphorites of Quercy, to which I have referred, M. Filhol describes no fewer than seventeen varieties of the genus Cynodictis, which fill up all the interval between the viverine animals and the bear-like dog Amphicyon ; nor do I know any solid ground of objection to the supposition that, in this Cynodictis-Amphicyon group, we have the stock whence all the Viveridae, Felidae, Hyaenidae, Canidae, and perhaps the Procyonidae and Ursidae, of the present fauna have been evolved. On the contrary, there is a great deal to be said in favour. In the course of summing up his results, M. Filhol observes:– “During the epoch of the phosphorites, great changes took place in animal forms, and almost the same types as those which now exist became defined from one another. “Under the influence of natural conditions of which we have no exact knowledge, though traces of them are discoverable, species have been modified in a thousand ways: races have arisen which, becoming fixed, have thus produced a corresponding number of secondary species.” In 1859, language of which this is an unintentional paraphrase, occurring in the “Origin of Species,” was scouted as wild speculation; at present, it is a sober statement of the conclusions to which an acute and critically-minded investigator is led by large and patient study of the facts of palaeontology. I venture to repeat what I have said before, that so far as the animal world is concerned, evolution is no longer a speculation, but a statement of historical fact. It takes its place alongside of those accepted truths which must be reckoned with by philosophers of all schools. Thus when, on the first day of October next, “The Origin of Species" comes of age, the promise of its youth will be amply fulfilled; and we

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

shall be prepared to congratulate the venerated author of the book, not only that the greatness of his achievement and its enduring influence upon the progress of knowledge have won him a place beside our Harvey; but, still more, that, like Harvey, he has lived long enough to outlast detraction and opposition, and to see the stone that the builders rejected become the head-stone of the corner.

[graphic]

VIII
CHARLES DARWIN
[Nature, April 27th, 1882]

VERY few, even among those who have taken the keenest interest in the progress of the revolution in natural knowledge set afoot by the publication of “The Origin of Species,” and who have watched, not without astonishment, the rapid and complete change which has been effected both inside and outside the boundaries of the scientific world in the attitude of men's minds towards the doctrines which are expounded in that great work, can have been prepared for the extraordinary manifestation of affectionate regard for the man, and of profound reverence for the philosopher, which followed the announcement, on Thursday last, of the death of Mr. Darwin. Not only in these islands, where so many have felt the fascination of personal contact with an intellect which had no superior, and with a character which was even nobler than the intellect; but, in all parts of the civilised world, it would seem that those whose business it is to feel the pulse of nations and to know what interests the masses of mankind, were well aware that thousands of their readers would think the world the poorer for Darwin's death, and would dwell with eager interest upon every incident of his history. In France, in Germany, in Austro-Hungary, in Italy, in the United States, writers of all shades of opinion, for once unanimous, have paid a willing tribute to the worth of our great countryman, ignored in life by the official representatives of the kingdom, but laid in death among his peers in Westminster Abbey by the will of the intelligence of the nation. It is not for us to allude to the sacred sorrows of the bereaved home at Down; but it is no secret that, outside that domestic group, there are many to whom Mr. Darwin's death is a wholly irreparable loss. And this not merely because of his wonderfully genial, simple, and generous nature; his cheerful and animated conversation, and the infinite variety and accuracy of his information; but because the more one knew of him, the more he seemed the incorporated ideal of a man of science. Acute as were his reasoning powers, vast as was his knowledge, marvellous as was his tenacious industry, under physical difficulties which would

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
« 이전계속 »