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It is natural to compare Buckle's training, or want of training, with Rousseau's, and perhaps the reason it turned out so differently was, that it was conducted by a Calvinist mother instead of by a libertine father, and that the physical conditions were healthier. Rousseau when a child habitually turned night into day; it was an event when Buckle sat up to write to Sir Robert Peel. Entering life at eighteen his own master, with powers that had never been taxed, with an imagination ceaselessly stimulated, it is no wonder that he was enormously ambitious. He set to work at once to gratify his ambition. He traveled for more than a year on the Continent with his mother and an unmarried sister, studying the manners of different countries, and taking lessons in the languages from masters, who taught him to talk them fluently, but could never break him of his British accent; the grammar he found he could master more quickly and thoroughly by himself. At the same time he began a course of omnivorous reading, and his wonderful memory very soon made him seem a prodigy of information, especially as, like Dr. Johnson, he had the talent of tearing the heart out of a book.
The way he began his studies with a plan of the "History of Civilization" in his mind is exceedingly characteristic. He began the "History of the Middle Ages" in Lardner's "Cabinet Cyclopædia," finishing thirteen pages in two hours, during which he referred to Hallam and Hawkins's little work on Germany for verification of dates. "This brings me from the invasion of Clovis in 496 to the murder of Sigebert by Fredegonde in 575. I have at the same time made copious abstracts of the times referred to." This is from the first entry in his diary, October 15, 1843. Ten days later we read: "The sketch, then, of the history of France during the middle ages has occupied me just ten days, but then on one of those days I did not read at all (on account of a thick fog). And, besides that, I am
now in better train for reading than I was at first, so that I think, on an average, I may say eight days will suffice for each history." He was aware that this proceeding was hasty and superficial, and he looked forward to completing his knowledge by further study of larger and more elaborate works, such books as Sismondi's “Histoire des Français," and by reading in biographical dictionaries the lives of all the notabilities of the period he was studying, for he made it a rule to go through a period in many books, instead of going through many periods in one book. One can not say that his method of study was exactly uncritical; he found out the first day that Dr. Lardner quite deserved his reputation for inaccuracy, but he took no precaution against having to unlearn more important errors than a wrong name or date. A professional scholar does not feel that a fact is the foundation of an opinion till he is sure that he has reached the right point of view. In all but very exceptional cases this method leads to more questions than answers, and constructive effort has to restrict itself increasingly to monographs, and the largest speculation generally turns upon the application and extension of one or two conceptions, such as the primitive family or the survival of the fittest. Now Buckle, like Bacon, thought that it was possible to pick out facts from the best second-hand authorities, like Hallam, or even from authorities which were not the best, like the "History of Helvetia,” in two volumes, which he picked up for eighteenpence in a book-stall, and then to tabulate the facts picked out, and gradually sift them into a system.
Wherever he could he used translations, because he could go through them faster, but, as many works were not translated, he learned nineteen languages, seven of which he could write and speak serviceably (he introduced himself to Hallam by interpreting for him in Germany). At first he still found time for travel, and formed æsthetic preferences; he thought, till he saw Egypt and Petra, that he preferred beauty of form to beauty of color. He had a marked dislike to being bullied or cheated, which reminds us of Schopenhauer. At Naples, for instance, the boatmen threatened to leave him in a cave at Capri unless he would pay more than he had bargained for. He gave them his purse, but took care to stay and have them punished. At Dresden a chess-player gave out that Buckle was not good enough for him to play with; he placarded a challenge to play the braggart for five hundred thalers, with the result that he did not venture to show his face till Buckle left. Again, when he had bought a new carpet from a man who had promised him discount for cash, and then asked for the whole sum, Buckle quietly returned the
unpaid bill to his pocket, and told him to call for powers of explanation. payment that day two years.
At first chess was his favorite recreation, and by the time he was thirty he had some right to consider himself the champion player of the day, though with his customary independence he never studied printed games or openings, and had no chessboard at home which was not too small for his men. He had a special talent for giving odds, and knew by intuition what risks it was safe to run with a strange player, since the play of a giver of odds can never be perfectly sound. He was a pleasant antagonist, whether he won or lost, but he avoided exposing his temper to too great trials. One player, known as the telegraph," he would never engage, and at last gave the following explanation: "Well, sir, the slowness of genius is difficult to bear, but the slowness of mediocrity is intolerable." Even with this precaution chess was too exacting a game to be the sole relaxation of a student, and from 1850 onward he showed an increasing preference for the stimulus of society; he was beginning to
be known, and, as he refused to write except for immortality, it was natural he should talk.
While his mother was well enough, he gave dinners during the season of from eight to eighteen persons two or three times a week, and dined out himself frequently; indeed, he could not bear dining alone, and, if without any special invitation, he would drop in upon some of his relations or more intimate friends to spend the evening. Of his talk, Miss Shirreff truly observes: "The brilliancy of Mr. Buckle's conversation was too well known to need mention; but what the world did not know was how entirely it was the same among a few intimates with whom he felt at home as it was at a large party where success meant celebrity. This talk was the outpouring of a full and earnest mind, it had more matter than wit, more of book knowledge than of personal observation. The favorite maxim of many dinnertable talkers, 'Glissez, mais n'appuyez pas,' was certainly not his. He loved to go to the bottom of a subject, unless he found that his opponent and himself stood on ground so different, or started from such opposite principles, as to make ultimate agreement hopeless, and then he dropped or turned the subject. His manner of doing this, unfortunately, gave offense at times, while he not seldom wearied others by keeping up the ball, and letting conversation merge into discussion. He was simply bent on getting at the truth, and, if he believed himself to hold it, he could with difficulty be made to understand that others might be impatient while he set it forth. On the other hand, it is fair to mention that, if too fond of argument, and sometimes too prone to self-assertion, his temper in discussion was perfect; he was a most candid opponent and a most admirable listener." His memory was almost faultless, and always ready to assist and illustrate his wonderful
'Pages of our great prose
writers," says Miss Shirreff, were impressed on his memory. He could quote passage after passage with the same ease as others quote poetry; while of poetry itself he was wont to say, 'It stamps itself on the brain.' Truly did it seem that, without effort on his part, all that was grandest in English poetry had become, so to speak, a part of his mind. Shakespeare ever first, then Massinger, and Beaumont and Fletcher, were so familiar to him that he seemed ever ready to recall a passage, and often to recite it with an intense delight in its beauty which would have made it felt by others naturally indifferent." It was the same in all that was best in French literature, in Voltaire, Corneille, Racine, Boileau, and, above all, Molière. Captain Kennedy recalls an instance of this ready memory on an occasion when they were in company together. The conversation turned on telling points in the drama, and one of the party cited that scene in "Horace" which so struck Boileau, where Horace is lamenting the disgrace which he supposes has been brought upon him by the flight of his son in the combat with the
"Que vouliez-vous qu'il fît contre trois ?"
asks Julie; and the old man passionately exclaims, "Qu'il mourût." Buckle agreed that it was very fine, and immediately recited the whole scene from its commencement, giving the dialogue with much spirit and effect.
A more formidable feat was reciting Burke's peroration on the loss of the American colonies, to prove to Burke's biographer that it was Burke, not Sheridan, who applied the metaphor of shearing a wolf to the obstinacy of George III.
In other ways his life was the reverse of ascetic: he "cultivated" his sense of taste, at one time actually seeing his steaks cut at the butcher's; insisting on having toast made before his eyes every Monday, when the bread was more than one day old; and teaching his womankind how to make tea, which ought, it seems, to stand rather longer when the caddy is full than when it is nearly empty, and the proportion of tea-dust which does not need to be uncurled by the steam is larger. The same spirit of minute forethought ran through his management of money matters. He had never more than fifteen hundred pounds a year to spend, and had made up his mind that three thousand pounds was the least he could marry on. (He never did marry; for one cousin whom he fell in love with at seventeen married some one else, and he was parted from another every way suitable because his family thought it wrong for cousins to marry.) He spent three hundred pounds a year on books, and it is not surprising that he taught his servant to bind the ragged ones in brown paper, and that he cherished comfortable old clothes. He could spend as well as spare; his books were luxuriously lodged in glass cases, and if a friend's family
needed rest or change, he was anxious to press a hundred pounds on them as a loan. He was kind, too, in immaterial ways, exercising the same minute forethought for others as for himself. From his first acquaintance with Miss Shirreff and her sister he was unwearied in his endeavors to assist them. Here are one or two fragments of his letters in 1854: "I feel it was very illnatured on my part not to press Comte upon you last night when you so considerately hesitated as to borrowing it. To make the only amends in my power I now send it you, and beg that you will keep it as long as you like, for I promise that if I have at any time occasion to refer to it I will ask to have it back, so that you need have no scruple on that head. The only thing I will beg of you is that when not reading it you would have it put into some cupboard, as on several grounds I value it very much, and I never leave it out at home. . . . You sent me the first three volumes of Comte as I happen to remember, for I put them away directly they came. I am sorry you should have missed taking them with you, as in the country one particularly needs some intellectual employment to prevent the mind from falling into those vacant raptures which the beauties of nature are apt to suggest." This is ten months later: "I am truly sorry to receive so indifferent an account of your health. To hear such things is enough to prevent one from being an optimist-how much more to you who feel them. I have often speculated on what you and Miss Shirreff could accomplish if you were made capable of real wear and tear; but this is a speculation I could never bring to maturity, because of the strong suspicion I have that with a certain mind there must and will be a certain physical structure of which we may modify the effects but never change the nature. Look at Miss Martineau! Give her delicacy as well as power, and I believe that she could never have gone through the work she has." He was ready to criticise the second work of the sisters in manuscript, while his own work was passing through the press.
The first volume was printed at his own expense, after negotiations with Mr. Parker, which showed a curious mixture of suspicion and generosity. Buckle would not consent to his MS. being submitted to any person whom he did not know; but he was sincerely anxious that Mr. Parker should have some independent opinion, when he was ready to dispense with it. He was willing that Mr. Parker should assess the estimated profits of the first edition, and to accept half for his share, but if he disposed of the copyright of the first edition he was determined to secure a sum down, and drew back when he found that the half profits, if any, were to be
contingent on the result of the sales. He actually received six hundred and sixty-five pounds for the first edition of fifteen hundred copies, and five hundred pounds for the copyright of the second edition of two thousand.
His immediate success was deserved by the industry with which he had studied a clear and popular style, reading and rereading the great masters, French and English, going through Johnson's dictionary and Milton's prose works to enlarge his vocabulary, writing out in his own words the substance of a passage of Hallam and Macaulay, to see where his own inferiority lay. Besides, his habit of never leaving a subject in conversation till he had made his meaning perfectly clear must have served him as valuable practice in exposition, even if part of the audience were wearied at the time.
The author's want of systematic training was itself an advantage for the immediate effect of his work; he knew nothing but the prejudices he had escaped, the facts he had accumulated, and the doctrines he had marshaled them to support; he addressed a public as ignorant as he had been, and as acute as his father had been. He had followed the scientific movement of his day, and observed with prophetic insight that the discussion of the transmutation of species was the weak point in Lyell's great work on geology, but he had not busied himself with the speculative movement then mainly political or theological. If he had done so he would have been in danger of losing himself in side issues. As it was he stated and illustrated clearly and weightily, so that the work will not have to be done again for any section of the Western world, the conception of an orderly movement of human affairs depending upon ascertained facts of all degrees of generality. This is his great service: his special theories were of value chiefly as they furnished headings under which facts could be classified. Such conceptions as the "principle of protection" and the "principle of skepticism" are not made for immortality; it is not a key to the history of France to be told that there the spirit of protection manifested itself in secular affairs, while in Spain it manifested itself in spiritual. Nor can we explain the difference between the history of Spain and Scotland by observing that a bigoted clergy opposed the crown in Scotland and supported the crown in Spain; or the difference between America and Germany by observing that the ablest minds of Germany devoted themselves to the deductive method and the accumulation of knowledge, and the ablest minds of America to the inductive method and the diffusion of knowledge.
He was never too far in advance of his day; he thought women ought to be educated, but not
for careers in which they would compete with men. He made instinctively all the reserves for which the orthodox are fighting more or less hopefully now; he took over without discussion the sharp dualism between body and mind transmitted through Locke from Descartes. Even such a phrase as mental disease displeased him. Disease could only consistently be thought of in connection with a material organism. After this it is not surprising that he held that in another life there would be no difference between the genius and the idiot of this: they differed because their brains differed. At the same time, the difference between learning and ignorance might be more permanent, for it is by its own action that the mind acquires learning. He understood, and was half inclined to adopt, Kant's distinction between transcendental freedom and empirical necessity, although he was fully convinced by his statistical studies that any limited power of selfdetermination the individual might imaginably possess could safely be neglected in the scientific study of masses. Most important of all, he recognized as clearly as Pascal the logic of the heart. Instead of treating the convictions as a mere disturbing force warping the action of the pure reason, he dwelt eloquently upon their character as an orderly independent factor in our deepest convictions. This combination of fundamental conservatism, with revolutionary energy upon two or three large yet definite questions, is not unlike Mr. Bright—a politician who is, or was, unpopular with just the critics who depreciated Buckle as a thinker.
One can hardly think that the literary class were so much to blame for their hostility as Mr. Huth supposes. They had emancipated themselves as far as they cared to be emancipated; they held implicitly a great deal that Buckle proclaimed emphatically; they held it with all sorts of qualifications which they felt not unreasonably it was easier to apply in practice than to formulate beforehand; they found plenty of crudity in Buckle's special theories, and were angry with him for not advancing knowledge upon special matters in the way in which Sainte-Beuve or even Macaulay did. It was not their fault that in their eyes individual facts, which Buckle made a point of despising, were more interesting as well as less uncertain than the general facts, which no doubt are more important. Besides, it was quite true, if not exactly relevant, that they might have found whatever they were inclined to accept in Buckle, in Comte, or Quetelet before. Their justification is complete when we remember that Buckle's method and generalizations have been quite unfruitful. Mr. Darwin and Mr. Herbert Spencer and Sir H. S. Maine have had followers; Buckle had only readers. At the time criticism
did not hurt him, as he said himself he throve on it. His superiority to his critics was too evident. He was the lion of the literary season; he was elected a member of the Athenæum, after some ineffectual threats of clerical opposition; he lectured at the Royal Institution on the "Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge," and Faraday, Owen, and Murchison severally thanked him for the great treat they had enjoyed.
In the midst of his great success the great sorrow of his life came upon him; his mother's health had been failing since 1852, and in 1856 she feared that she should not live to see the reception of his work, and the fame that her coun⚫ sel and sympathy had done so much to prepare. When at last her son showed her the first volume, with its magnificent dedication, he was frightened at her agitation. On the 11th of August, 1857, he writes: "Month after month she is now altering for the worse, at times slightly better, but perceptibly losing ground. Her mind is changed even since I was here last; she is unable to read; she confuses one idea with another; and nothing remains of her as she once was, except her smile, and the exquisite tenderness of her affections. I while away my days here doing nothing, and caring for nothing, because I feel I have no future." "For the last six months of her life she was from time to time delirious, but such was her strength of mind that always when her son entered the room she became perfectly rational." He was no longer able to write except after the stimulus of conversation; and at last the sight of her "slowly but incessantly degenerating, mind and body both going," brought his work to a standstill, and Mr. Capel suggested that he should try the distraction of reviewing Mill's "Essay on Liberty." On the 1st of April, 1859, he entered in his diary, "At 9.15 my angel mother died peacefully, without pain." When all was over he sat down, “in the dull and dreary house, once so full of light and love," to write his proof of the immortality of the soul. It is very like St. Anselm's proof of the being of a God. It is a weak feeling that can believe that it adds to or creates its object; a strong feeling is sure that its object is eternal.
The next twelve days were spent upon his review of Mill's "Liberty," which is still momorable for the grotesque, pathetic, eloquent philippic on Pooley's case. It is never clear what we are to be indignant at; no doubt it was a miscarriage of justice that the judge did not find out that Pooley was mad; perhaps the law under which he was sentenced was getting rather rusty; still poachers are sentenced more severely, and Pooley was as great a nuisance as a poacher in a respectable neighborhood. But Buckle was in a state of exaltation where he had too little sense
of the proportion of things to measure the personal responsibility of the judge, or the importance of the case, but he saw correctly that while damaging his own position he was doing some thing to make further prosecutions for blasphemy difficult, and he had the sense to turn a deaf ear to the many letters from people with grievances that poured in upon him.
He said himself about this time, "Only they are wise who can harden their hearts." His health was failing. Even before his first volume appeared he fainted in crossing the park; though his hours of work were not immoderate, seldom exceeding eight a day, his recreations, chess and conversation, were equally exhausting. He was only able to work very fitfully upon his second volume, and before long he lost his nephew, a very promising boy, who could appreciate him, saying, "When you talk to me, uncle, it is like being in a dream." Children were always fond of him. A little girl whom he met in his walks at Blackheath could conceive no consolation for his leaving except the hope of being "his little girl." His landlady, who read his works, took charge of some children from India, and one of these soon found what liberties she could take with the philosopher.
When he visited Mr. Capel's pupils at Carshalton, he romped with them and got them holidays; they followed him about like a pack of dogs, and wrote home, "When he was here, he was a jolly chap." "He is a very nice fellow, and never talks philosophy to us." His theories of education were simple; he was very much afraid of children being overworked, and thought that if moral suasion failed the cane was the safest punishment; keeping children in only
made them dull.
But his forbearance was inexhaustible. When he fainted, after a discussion on political economy with Mr. Huth, he went up stairs to try to sleep for two hours. At the end of the time Mr. Huth heard the landlady's children singing loudly and jumping violently as it seemed just over Mr. Buckle's room. He stopped the noise and then went to inquire if he had slept. Mr. Buckle said, "No, the noise had prevented it." Why did he not ring the bell? "Oh, no, poor little things! it was their time for singing and jumping, not their sleeping-time." When Mr. Huth's sons were traveling with Buckle in the peninsula of Sinai they told him how they had been amusing themselves by knocking off the tails of lizards to see how these jumped, while the lizards ran away as if nothing had happened. Mr. Glennie remarked that it was very cruel, and ought to be put a stop to, which made the boys angry; Buckle quietly said that it was the nature of boys to be cruel, and that they would know
better when they grew older; they were ashamed of what they had done, and did so no more.
His growing friendship with the Huths was the chief interest and consolation of his later years in spite of its rather unpromising commencement, which we will leave Mrs. Huth to describe:
It was in 1857 that we became acquainted with Henry Thomas Buckle. Long before, we had heard him talked of by an enthusiastic friend, who told us that Buckle was then writing the "History of Civilization." Our friend Mr. Capel would not borrow a book from us to read without first asking "my friend Buckle" whether it was worth reading, as he knew all books. If I praised a favorite author, I was told that my admiration was misplaced, as "my friend Buckle" saw imperfections in him. "But would not Mr. Huth like to call on my friend Buckle?" Mr. Huth decidedly objected, saying that if that gentleman's library contained twenty-two thousand volumes, and he had read them all, as Mr. Capel assured us, it would be an impertinence, for a man who had not anything very extraordinary to recommend him, to intrude upon him. I was very glad of this answer, for I hated that "friend Buckle," whose name was constantly in Mr. Capel's mouth, and bored me intensely; who was always put forward to contradict me; who was said to know
everything, and who had seemingly done nothing. We were therefore considerably surprised when Mr. Capel came one day and said, "I have told my friend Buckle that you wish very much to make his acquaintance, and he will be glad to see you if you like to call upon him." My husband looked very black, but he had nothing for it but to go to 59 Oxford Terrace, where he was told Mr. Buckle was not at home, and he left his card. Later, when our dear friend made his last stay with us, I told him
how we had been forced into our acquaintance with
him; and he explained that he had only agreed to see us, as he thought it would be of advantage to Mr. Capel, who was going to have a son of ours at his school. At that time he had never expected our acquaintance to develop into a friendship.
Mrs. Huth soon found there were two Mr. Buckles, one who lived among cold abstractions, and took the highest and the widest view. "The other Buckle was tender, and capable of feeling every vibration of a little child's heart; selfsacrificing, to a degree which he would have blamed in another, and habitually concentrating his great intellect on the consequences of individual actions to the actor." His calm and cheerfulness were but rarely interrupted. Once Mr. Capel surprised him in a flood of tears. "You don't know how I miss my mother." He could never bear to go into his drawing-room after her death. An old lady, neither handsome nor clever, as she said herself, with neither rank nor title, "bore witness to his great sympathy;