Imagens das páginas


siastical disputes he has pretty plainly told in his Tale of a Tub," and still more plainly in those famous lines on the Last Judgment, which, although disputed, seem too pungent to have come from any other author. Such a man might have been expected to set less store by the contentions of Whig and Tory, and to tolerate Nonconformists in a petty allowance of power and preferment. Yet as a Tory and Churchman Swift may have been sincere. If little prone to glorify an established order, he was apt enough to cry down the capacity of mankind. Vicious and foolish as they are, he seems to say, it is odd that they should have been able to set up any civil or ecclesiastical polity. What they have set up may be a poor contrivance; but it is as good as could be expected from them. Why trouble yourself to alter mere mechanical arrangements of state when the men upon whom all depends and for whom all exists are naturally base and necessarily miserable? Why vex your soul with the interminable wrangle of theologians when the very little which we know, or need to know, about religion is plain to every man possessed of common sense, if not puffed up with vanity and presumption? Rather let everything be and possess your soul in patience; for wisdom and endurance lessen the evils which they cannot cure. Let knaves and enthusiasts bawl for reformation; they know not what they want, or if they do, they know that they want their own advantage, not the public good. Such, we may conjecture, was the real unaffected temper of Swift's mind. Expecting little from change, he was naturally conservative. Knowing how trivial are many of the subjects of political and ecclesiastical debate, he thought the disputants fools, and their noise a nuisance to be suppressed as speedily as possible. Sensitive to everything grotesque or frantic, he preferred a decent routine to the vagaries of enthusiasm. Constitutionally imperious and despotic, he followed his bent on taking the side of authority. Having chosen the clerical profession, he was confirmed in all those innate propensities. He took orders at a time when the Church was making her last effort to retain exclusive domination. He felt as a personal wrong the dissidence of the crowd, the unbelief of the fine gentlemen, and the mean estimation in which his

calling was held. Upon considering all these things, we shall be surprised rather at his so long remaining a Whig than at his finally becoming a Tory. Once engaged in a party conflict, he was carried by his fierce, overbearing disposition into every excess which his keen, sceptical intellect might have been expected to condemn. The inconsistency may point his own satire upon man, it should surprise only those who have been able to regulate their lives by strict syllogism.


The pamphlets of Burke are far more alive than the pamphlets of Milton or of Swift. Their peculiar freshness cannot be explained merely by their more recent date. The Letters of Junius" were written by a contemporary of Burke, and acquired a celebrity not inferior to that of Burke's best known writings; yet the "Letters of Junius" bave long since failed to find readers, and are steadily losing even reputation. Nor is the interest still felt in Burke's pamphlets the effect merely of excellence in style, although they possess that excellence in a very eminent degree. Burke, when discoursing of the greatest affairs at the highest pitch of his faculty, is magnificent indeed. But no more than Milton can Burke be held up as a faultless model of expression. Like other writers whose power of rhetoric is out of all proportion to their sense of humor, Burke is so uniformly elaborate and solemn as often to oppress the reader with a sense of fatigue, and now and then to force a smile at little things described in lofty terms. Nor was Burke defective merely in point of humor. He was not faultless in point of taste. Occasional extravagance in denunciation was a fault inseparable from his temperament and sanctioned by the usage of his time. Much less excusable were the physically offensive images in which he sometimes indulged. Take one instance, it is one too many. "That debt" (of the Nabob of Arcot to the East India Company) "forms the foul, putrid mucus, in which are engendered the whole brood of creeping ascarides, all the endless involutions, the eternal knot, added to a knot of those inexpugnable tape-worms which devour the nutriment and eat up the bowels of India." In point of sense as well as in point of refinement, nothing could be worse than this loathsome sentence.

If Burke's art was sometimes at fault, his matter was too often unmanageable. That this was so infers no reproach against him. The publicist, who insists upon doing his duty, must work up masses of material at once intractable and perishable, quantities of administrative financial and statistical detail which cannot be made attractive to any readers except those whose persons or property are immediately concerned. Burke was too much in earnest not to make free use of such dry knowledge, which in his speeches and pamphlets lies mingled with arguments appealing to the reason of every age, and with outbursts of pathetic or indignant eloquence able to stir the passions of every feeling heart. Thus, out of the seventy pages filled by Burke's "Speech on the Debts of the Nabob of Arcot," ten perhaps belong to our classical literature, while the remaining sixty belong merely to the politics of that day. The crowd of light and hasty readers will not step to crush all this quartz in order to win these few ounces of gold. Even the patient and serious reader will feel that his sense of what is truly precious has been dulled by all the toil of extraction. For these treasures one must extract oneself; one cannot really master a great author in a book of excerpts. In the upshot, the student of Burke comes to limit himself more and more to the few works, such as the Reflections on the Revolution in France," in which general reasoning predominates over particular data.


What really gives immortal life to these writings often hastily thrown off, is their peculiar strain of wise and suggestive thought, the wisdom of a man who has been deeply versed in public affairs, yet has never been so much immersed in business as to have no time for meditation. Destined by nature for a literary life, Burke received from circumstances a practical discipline. He was not like Milton, an enthusiastic student destitute of knowledge of the world, or like Swift, a journalist tied to the defence of measures in which he had no share. Burke was a veteran member of Parliament, and a leader of a great political party. Yet he was not like the younger Pitt, or like Sir Robert Walpole, absorbed in the toils of office and of the House of Commons. He was generally in opposition, and never in the Cabinet. He escaped the drudgery

[ocr errors]


of success and the slavery of power. had leisure to continue those noble studies which enlarge the intellect and enliven the imagination. Thus he preserved what Matthew Arnold finely styles, a just sense of the greatness of great affairs." He never fell into the besetting sin of public life, the impiety of regarding the government of a mighty people as a mere exercise of low cunning. He never forgot that politics means something more than the tricks of politicians. He never confused the wisdom of the statesman with the artifice of the debater or party manager. He could give lasting life and power to his studies of passing political questions, because, with a working knowledge of mankind and a remarkable mastery of detail, he blended an ideal elevation of sentiment and a philosophical breadth of conception.

It would be absurd, however, to hold up Burke as invariably and inevitably wise. His actions often and sometimes his writings were marred by the extravagance of a sensitive nature. As an Irishman and a man of letters, Burke was initable and overstrung. Beyond all other callings, public life requires a firm, cheerful and placid temperament. Beyond all other wisdom, political wisdom is liable to to be made useless by excitability. Burke's feelings were habitually in excess. He loved with passionate adoration, and hated with intense bitterness. While yet young, strong and happy, he was able to govern his temperament and so to repress his inward fire, that it made itself felt only in a steady glow, giving warmth and color to all that he wrote or said. But when old and weary, and laden with many sorrows, he too often failed to master the passion which waxed wild within him, and burst into that shrieking rhetoric which gives pain rather than conviction. judging what Burke wrote upon the French Revolution, we must indeed remember the immensity of the interests at stake, and the horror which many of the incidents occurring in France could not fail to inspire, and if we take these things into ac count, we shall not condemn many passages in the "Reflections;" but in the "Letters on a Regicide Peace" we shall still find much that is intolerable. judging Burke's speeches on the impeachment of Warren Hastings, we must acknowledge the uprightness of his intention



and the service which he did in awakening the national conscience to the duties of Eastern Empire; but we cannot quite condone the readiness with which he adopted every charge, however improba ble, and we must altogether condemn the temper in which he conducted the prosecution, the temper of a Stuart judge, a temper which defeated his purpose by awakening public sympathy for the man so savagely assailed.

From this brief comparison of the political writings of Milton, Swift, and Burke, we may conclude how hard it is to write a perfect pamphlet. We may also be led to regret that any fine genius should spend his powers on work which, however well done, can hardly be lasting. We may regret that Milton should for twenty years have preferred the use of his left hand to the use of his right. We may regret that Swift should so often have emptied upon Whigs and Dissenters the vials of a wrath too capacious for any object less than the whole human race and its destiny. And even if we allow that instinct guided Burke into the course of industry most honorable for himself as well as most useful for his country, we must remember that some of his writing has been antiquated in the course of one hundred years, and that we cannot tell how little of it a thousand years will spare. Yet we must not indulge our regret too far. A certain waste of power is inseparable from exuberant life. Litera ture divorced from action is apt to lan

guish ar 1 to pass through triviality into nothingness. If closely allied with action, literature must concern itself largely with things of transitory import, and must in some degree share their perishable nature. Before we can say, therefore, how much literary genius has been wasted in England, we must judge English literature as a whole. Under no circumstances could Milton have written many works like Paradise Lost," or Swift many works like Gulliver's Travels," or Burke many works like the "Reflections on the Revolution in France.' But the one living character in Paradise Lost," "the character of Satan, owes much of its heroic reality to the experience of the vanquished Puritan.


[ocr errors]


"What though the field be lost,
All is not lost; the unconquerable will
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome."

So, too, the very soul of the baffled politician and exiled courtier animates those wonderful pictures of human folly and baseness, which at once fascinate and repel the reader of Gulliver's adventures. So, too, the best passages of the "Reflections on the Revolution in France" express the wisdom gathered in a long life of action as well as of study, of converse with living men and with public affairs as well as with letters and with philosophy. These treasures are ours. Could we have had them at a cheaper rate! knows?-- Murray's Magazine.




WITHIN quite recent times we have learned that such seemingly trivial things as nursery rhymes and fairy tales are of the greatest importance in illustrating some points of the history and affinities of the human race, and also, in a less degree, in indicating the character of the ideas of our early ancestors concerning the forces and phenomena of Nature,

The value of the intense conservatism of the nursery in thus preserving for us, in an almost unchanged form (like ants in the resin of the tertiary epoch or mammoths in the frozen tundra of the quater

nary), relics of the thoughts and customs of long ago has only begun to be appreciated; and doubtless if the nursery were less of a close preserve to the poachers and priers of science, and, like the beehive and the anthill, were available for purposes of investigation or experiment, we might considerably add to our knowledge concerning the history and habits of primitive man. At present there is a gap between embryology and anthropology which has never been filled up; and, oddly enough, with one or two exceptions, there have been hitherto no attempts

to make use of the abundant material close at hand for the purpose of filling it. In this essay I propose to bring forward a few results of researches that have been carried out during several years under rather unusually favorable circumstances, in the hope that in some humble degree I may contribute to this end.

Some of the results obtained have been extraordinary, and the hesitation with which they have been received by some of my friends well versed in physiology and anthropology shows that hitherto the facts have escaped attention. They are, however, easily verified, and in several instances a single experiment performed in presence of a sceptic has cut short the controversy in a satisfactory manner. Many of the inferences drawn are no doubt much more open to question, and they are here put forward chiefly with the purpose of drawing the attention of those much better able to judge of the value and bearing of the facts than the present writer.

It is curious how little has been written on the natural history of the human infant in its normal state. We have of course an abundant medical literature on the ailments and care of young children, but the many eminent physicians who have written on the subject have confined their attention almost entirely to abnormal or diseased conditions. Even in studying the healthy physiological processes the primary idea has been to gain the kind of knowledge which would be available in the treatment of disease rather than that which might illustrate the history of the development of the race, and this may easily account for many facts of very considerable value for the latter purpose being overlooked or not appreciated at their proper value.

It is plain that a typically healthy infant, in which Nature's processes go on without the interference of medical art, will, after the first crisis of its entry on an independent existence is over, scarcely come under the notice of the physican at all

The three classes of persons who are brought into close enough contact with the objects under discussion to study their habits and characteristics are medical men, nurses, and parents. The first have been already dealt with. Of the second class we may say that their knowledge,

although doubtless profound, and derived both from tradition and observation, does not seem very available for the purposes of science. This has hitherto been my experience, for although in nearly every case where questions were asked there was every assumption and appearance of superior erudition, yet it seemed almost impossible to tap the supply.

Parents, as a rule, from the very nature of their relationship to their offspring are obviously unable to look on thein with the cold impartial gaze of the scientific investigator. At any rate experience has proved that very little has resulted from their observations. The parental bias must, more or less, vitiate results; and the average mother, in spite of many unquestioned merits, is about as competent to take an unprejudiced view of the facts bearing on the natural history of her infant as a West African negro would do to carry out an investigation of the anatomy and physiology of a fetich.

There are some illustrious exceptions, and Darwin himself, in his Expression of the Emotions and Descent of Man, gives an account of some very interesting observations on several of his own children when infants. Several salient traits seem, however, to have completely escaped him, and some of these, which will be dealt with in this paper, have a most important bearing on the argument on which he was then laying most stress, viz. that man is descended from an arboreal quadrumanous ancestor. The fact that such important and easily ascertained characteristics as those alluded to should have been passed over by one so keenly observant of all phenomena bearing upon his theory might suggest that the great man was scarcely so supreme in his own nursery as he was in the wider field of research, and that his opportunities for investigation were to some extent limited by the arbitrary and inflexible rules of this household department. In fact, the supposed interests of the Darwinian race, when conflicting with the interests of the Darwinian theory, appear to have become paramount somewhat to the detriment of the latter.

It has been well said that the development of the individual from the single germ cell to maturity is an epitome of the infinitely longer development of the race from the simplest form of life to its present condition. No branch of science, not


even paleontology, has thrown so much light on the evolution theory as the study of the structure and progress of the embryo up to the time of birth. There seems, however, no reason why embryology should stop here. An animal until independent of parental care, and even beyond that point, until the bodily structure and functions are those of an adult, is still, strictly speaking, an embryo; and we may learn much of its racial history by observing the peculiarities of its anatomy and habits of life.

to the wild state, and often in a single generation become as acute in powers of scent and vision, and other means of escaping from their enemies, as animals which have never been tamed. There are at present probably no animals so alert and difficult to approach as the "brumbies" of Australia. In no way could more eloquently be shown the immense stretch of time during which these qualities were formed and became ingrained in the very nature and structure of their possessors than by comparing them with the trivial. and evanescent effects of many centuries of domestication.

For instance, among our domestic animals, horses and cattle live very much in the same manner, and thrive equally well In the case of our own race it has often grazing in open pastures. Yet a brief exbeen observed that schoolboys present amination of the young of each shows that many points of resemblance to savages the habits and habitats of their respective both in their methods of thinking-espewild ancestors were widely different. A cially about abstract subjects and in their foal from birth is conspicuous for the de- actions. Younger children without a velopment of its legs, and when a few doubt also reflect some of the traits of days old can gallop almost as fast as ever their remote progenitors. If, as in the it will in its life. It makes no attempt at case of the calf and the foal, we look for concealment beyond retiring behind its traces of habits of self preservation that dam, and it carries its head high, evi- for incalculably long periods were most dently on the alert to see danger and flee necessary for the safety of the individual from it. A young calf, on the contrary, (and therefore for the preservation of the is not much longer in the leg in propor- race), we shall find that such habits exist, tion than its parents (I exclude, of course, and are impossible to explain on any other the breeds artificially produced within hypothesis than that they were once of quite recent times), and has but an indif- essential service. ferent turn of speed, and it is slow and stupid in noticing its surroundings. It has, however, one powerful and efficient instinct of self-preservation; for if, as is often the case in a bushy pasture, the mother leaves it under cover while she goes to graze, it will lie as still as death and allow itself to be trodden on rather than betray its hiding-place. Hence we

see that the ancestors of our domestic horses inhabited open plains where there was little or no cover, and that they escaped by quickly observing the approach of a foe and by speed. Wild cattle, on the contrary, as is still seen in some parts of Texas and Australia, never from choice stray far from the shelter of the woods; and their ancestors, when threatened, lay crouched among the bushes like deer, in the hope of escaping observation. It is very remarkable how quickly horses and cattle, though domesticated for thousands of generations, during which long period many of their wild instincts and habits have been entirely in abeyance, regain all the old power of self-preservation proper

Take, for instance, the shyness of very young children and their evident terror and distress at the approach of a stranger. At first sight it seems quite unaccountable that an infant a few months old, who has experienced nothing but the utmost kindness and tender care from every human being that it has seen, should eling to its nurse and show every sign of alarm when some person new to it approaches. Infants vary much in this respect, and the habit is not by any means universal, though it is far more often present than absent. This would suggest that, whatever its origin, it was not for any very long period (in the evolutionary sense) absolutely necessary to preserve the species from extinction. Darwin merely alludes to the shyness of children as probably a remnant of a habit common to all wild

creatures. We need not, however, go back to any remote ancestral form to find a state of affairs in which it might prove of the greatest service. We know that the cave-dwellers of the Dordogne Valley were cannibals, and that much later, when

« AnteriorContinuar »