페이지 이미지
PDF

have converted nine men out of ten into aimless invalids; it was not these qualities, great as they were, which impressed those who were admitted to his intimacy with involuntary veneration, but a certain intense and almost passionate honesty by which all his thoughts and actions were irradiated, as by a central fire. It was this rarest and greatest of endowments which kept his vivid imagination and great speculative powers within due bounds; which compelled him to undertake the prodigious labours of original investigation and of reading, upon which his published works are based; which made him accept criticisms and suggestions from anybody and everybody, not only without impatience, but with expressions of gratitude sometimes almost comically in excess of their value; which led him to allow neither himself nor others to be deceived by phrases, and to spare neither time nor pains in order to obtain clear and distinct ideas upon every topic with which he occupied himself. One could not converse with Darwin without being reminded of Socrates. There was the same desire to find some one wiser than himself; the same belief in the sovereignty of reason ; the same ready humour; the same sympathetic interest in all the ways and works of men. But instead of turning away from the problems of Nature as hopelessly insoluble, our modern philosopher devoted his whole life to attacking them in the spirit of Heraclitus and of Democritus, with results which are the substance of which their speculations were anticipatory shadows. The due appreciation, or even enumeration, of these results is neither practicable nor desirable at this moment. There is a time for all things—a time for glorying in our ever-extending conquests over the realm of Nature, and a time for mourning over the heroes who have led us to victory. None have fought better, and none have been more fortunate, than Charles Darwin. He found a great truth trodden underfoot, reviled by bigots, and ridiculed by all the world; he lived long enough to see it, chiefly by his own efforts, irrefragably established in science, inseparably incorporated with the common thoughts of men, and only hated and feared by those who would revile, but dare not. What shall a man desire more than this Once more the image of Socrates rises unbidden, and the noble peroration of the “Apology” rings in our ears as if it were Charles Darwin's farewell:— “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways—I to die and you to live. Which is the better, God only knows.” natural knowledge. For, whatever be the ultimate verdict of posterity upon this or that opinion which Mr. Darwin has propounded; whatever adumbrations or anticipations of his doctrines may be found in the writings of his predecessors; the broad fact remains that, since the publication and by reason of the publication, of “The Origin of Species” the fundamental conceptions and the aims of the students of living Nature have been completely changed. From that work has sprung a great renewal, a true “instauratio magna" of the zoological and botanical sciences. But the impulse thus given to scientific thought rapidly spread beyond the ordinarily recognised limits of biology. Psychology, Ethics, Cosmology were stirred to their foundations, and the “Origin of Species” proved itself to be the fixed point which the general doctrine of evolution needed in order to move the world. “Darwinism,” in one form or another, sometimes strangely distorted and mutilated, became an everyday topic of men's speech, the object of an abundance both of vituperation and of praise, more often than of serious study. It is curious now to remember how largely, at first, the objectors predominated; but considering the usual fate of new views, it is still more curious to consider for how short a time the phase of vehement opposition lasted. Before twenty years had passed, not only had the importance of

[graphic]
[graphic]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][graphic]
[graphic]

Mr. Darwin's work been fully recognised, but the world had discerned the simple, earnest, generous character of the man, that shone through every page of his writings. I imagine that reflections such as these swept through the minds alike of loving friends and of honourable antagonists when Mr. Darwin died; and that they were at one in the desire to honour the memory of the man who, without fear and without reproach, had successfully fought the hardest intellectual battle of these days. It was in satisfaction of these just and generous impulses that our great naturalist's remains were deposited in Westminster Abbey; and that, immediately afterwards, a public meeting, presided over by my lamented predecessor, Mr. Spottiswoode, was held in the rooms of the Royal Society, for the purpose of considering what further step should be taken towards the same end. It was resolved to invite subscriptions, with the view of erecting a statue of Mr. Darwin in some suitable locality; and to devote any surplus to the advancement of the biological sciences. Contributions at once flowed in from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and the British Colonies, no less than from all parts of the three kingdoms; and they came from all classes of the community. To mention one interesting case,

[graphic]
« 이전계속 »