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BOOKS AND AUTHORS.
Frank T. Bullen, whose sketches of sea life have been widely popular, is busy upon an historical novel, the hero of which is Admiral Blake.
An English version of the Aeneid, in the Spenserian stanza, by Fairfax Taylor, is one of the forthcoming volumes in the Temple Classics.
A recent sale of drawings and letters by Thackeray in London realized the considerable sum of $6,800. A small, full-length drawing of himself lecturing, brought $390.
The inclusion of Fanny Burney in the Macmillan series of English Men of Letters, seems likely to stimulate reprints of her books. Already new editions of "Evelina" and "Cecilia", both illustrated and both edited by Mr. Brimley Johnson, have been published.
A Life of Robert Buchanan has been written by his sister-in-law, Miss Harriet Jay, and will soon be published. The volume includes correspondence with Herbert Spencer and other wellknown men.
Professor Woodberry's Life of Poe, in the American Men of Letters series, is to be published in a new edition in May by Houghton, Mifflin & Co. The author has availed himself of newlydiscovered material in the preparation of this revision, with the result of expanding it into two volumes.
A biography of the late Thomas Nast is to be written by Mr. A. B. Paine. It was authorized by the car
toonist himself, and it will probably treat of the public events with which Nast had to do as well as with the personal and professional career of the artist.
To the early astronomers the earth was the centre of the visible universe, sun, moon, planets, and stars all alike revolving around it in more or less eccentric and complex orbits; and all were naturally thought to exist as appendages to our globe, and for the sole use and enjoyment of man-"the sun to rule by day, the moon and the stars to rule by night." But when the Copernican system became established, and it was found that our earth was not specially distinguished from the other planets by any superiority of size or position, it was seen that our pride of place must be given up. And, later, when the discoveries of Newton and of the many brilliant astronomers who succeeded him, together with the everwidening knowledge derived from the growing power and perfection of the telescope and of improved astronomical instruments, showed us the utter insignificance even of our sun and solar system among the countless hosts of stars and the myriads of clusters and nebulæ, we seemed to be driven to the other extreme, and to be forced to recognize the fact that this vast stupendous universe could have no special relation to ourselves, any more than to any other of the millions of suns and systems, many of which were probably far grander and more important than ours, and perhaps fitted to be the
abode of more highly organized beings.
During the last half-century, and perhaps much longer, popular writers have often dealt with the problem of the habitability of the planets by intelligent beings and the probability of other suns being attended by other trains of planets similarly inhabited, and the most diverse and even opposing views have been held as to the inferences to be drawn from these supposed facts. Sir David Brewster held them to be almost essential to an adequate conception of the power and wisdom of the Deity and in some way bound up with the doctrines of Christianity, and this has been the view of many of the teachers of religion. On the other hand, the tendency of all recent astronomical research has been to give us wider views of the vastness, the variety, and the marvellous complexity of the stellar universe, and proportionally to reduce the importance of our little speck of earth almost to the vanishing point, and this has been made use of by the more aggressive among modern sceptics to hold up religious creeds and dogmas to scorn and contempt. They point out the irrationality and absurdity of supposing that the Creator of all this unimaginable vastness of suns and systems, filling, for all we know, endless space, should have any special interest in so pitiful
a creature as man, the degraded or imperfectly developed inhabitant of one of the smaller planets attached to a second or third-rate sun; while that He should have selected this little world for the scene of the tremendous and necessarily unique sacrifice of His Son, in order to save a portion of these "miserable sinners" from the natural consequences of their sins was, in their view, a crowning absurdity too incredible to be believed by any rational being. And it must be confessed that the theologians had no adequate reply to this rude attack; while many of them have felt their position to be untenable, and have renounced the idea of a special revelation and a supreme saviour for the exclusive benefit of so minute and insignificant a speck in the uni
But, during the last quarter of the past century, the rapidly increasing body of facts and observations, leading to a more detailed and accurate knowledge of stars and stellar systems, have thrown a new and somewhat unexpected light on this very interesting problem of our relation to the universe of which we form a part; and although these discoveries have of course no bearing upon the special theological dogmas of the Christian, or of any other religion, they do tend to show that our position in the material universe is special and probably unique, and that it is such as to lend support to the view, held by many great thinkers and writers to-day, that the supreme end and purpose of this vast universe was the production and development of the living soul in the perishable body of man.
The Agnostics and Materialists will no doubt object that the want of all proportion between the means and the end condemns this theory from its very foundation. But is there any such want of proportion? Given infinite space and infinite time, and there can
be no such thing as want of proportion, if the end to be reached were a great and a worthy one and if the particular mode of attaining that end were the best, or, perhaps, even the only possible one; and we may fairly presume that it was so by the fact that it has been used, and has succeeded. The development of man as a spiritual being, with all his intellectual powers and moral possibilities, is certainly a great end in itself, so great and so noble that if a universe of matter and ether as large as that of which we have now obtained some definite knowledge, were required for the work, why should it not be used? Of course, I am taking the view of those who believe in some Intelligent Cause at the back of this universe, some creator or creators, designer or designers. For those who take the other view, that matter and ether, with all the laws and forces without which they could not exist for a moment, are, in their essential nature, eternal and self-existent, no such objection is tenable. For the production of life and of man then becomes merely a question of chance of the right and exact combination of matter and its complex forces occurring after an almost infinite number of combinations that led to nothing. On this view the argument as to our unique position, derived from the discoveries of the New Astronomy, is even more forcible, though hardly so satisfactory, because it also teaches us that if man is a product of blind forces and unconscious laws acting upon non-living matter, then, as he has been produced by physical law, so he will die out by the continued operation of the same laws, against which there is no appeal. These laws of nature have been finely described in the late Grant Allen's striking philosophical poem, which he has entitled "Magdalen Towers," and which was written when he was an undergraduate at Oxford:—
They care not any whit for pain or pleasure,
That seems to us the sum and end of
all, Dumb force and barren number are their measure,
What shall be shall be though the great earth fall.
They take no heed of man or man's deserving,
Reck not what happy lives they make
or mar, Work out their fatal will unswerv'd, unswerving,
And know not that they are!
It is the object of the present paper to set forth the nature of the evidence bearing upon man's position in the universe, and to summarize the various lines of research that converge to render it at least a thinkable and rational hypothesis. Although most of the facts and conclusions are well known separately, and have been set forth by both scientific and popular writers, I am not aware that they have been combined, as I now attempt to combine them, or the conclusions drawn from them which seem to me to be the obvious ones.
ARE THE STARS INFINI IN NUMBER?
It has often been suggested that the stars are infinite in number, and that the stellar universe is therefore infinite in extent; and if the preponderance of evidence pointed in this direction, our inquiry would be useless, because as regards infinity there can be no difference of position. In whatever part of it we may be situated, that part can be no nearer the centre than any other part. Infinite space has been well defined as a circle, or rather a sphere, whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere.
As the telescope increased in efficiency through the labors of Dollond and Herschel, it was found that every increase of power and of light, due to increased diameter of object-glass or mirror, greatly increased the number
of visible stars, and this increase went on with approximate equality of rate till the largest modern telescopes were nearly reached. But, latterly, increased size and power has revealed new stars in a smaller and smaller proportion, indicating that we are approaching the outer limits of the starry system. This conclusion is further enforced by the fact that the numerous dark patches in the heavens, where hardly any stars are visible, and those seen are projected on an intensely dark background, as in the "Coal-sacks" of the southern hemisphere and rifts and channels in the Milky Way itself, continue to present the same features in telescopes of the very highest powers as they do in those of very moderate size. This could not possibly happen if stars were infinite in number, or even if they extended in similar profusion into spaces very much greater than those to which our telescopes can reach, because, in that case, these dark backgrounds would be illuminated by the light of millions of stars so distant as to be separately invisible, as in the case of the Milky Way itself. The only other explanation would be that the star-system is penetrated in several directions by perfectly straight tunnels of enormous length, compared with their diameter, in which no stars ex ist, and this is considered to be s improbable as to be unworthy of consideration.
The same conclusion is reached by means of that powerful engine of research, the photographic plate. When this is exposed in the focus of a telescope for three hours, a much greater number of stars are revealed than any telescopic vision can detect, but longer exposures add less and less to the number, again indicating that the limit of stars in that direction is nearly reached.
Yet again, the method of counting the stars of the various astronomical
magnitudes gives a similar result. At each lesser magnitude the number of stars is about three times greater than that of the next higher magnitude, and this rule applies with tolerable accuracy down to those of the ninth magnitude. The total number of visible stars from the first to the ninth magnitude is about 200,000. Now if this rate of increase continued down to the seventeenth magnitude, the faintest visible in the best modern telescopes would be about 1,400 millions. But both telescopic observation and photographic charts show that there is nothing approaching this number, it being estimated that the total number thus visible does not exceed 100 millions-again proving that as our instruments reach further and further into space, they find a continuous diminution in the number of stars, thus indicating an approach to the outer limits of the stellar universe.
But perhaps the most striking proof of the limited extent of the universe of luminous stars is that dependent on the laws of light. This has been long known to physicists, and it has been very clearly and briefly stated by Professor Simon Newcomb, one of the profoundest
mers. He tells us to imagine a series of concentric spheres, each the same distance apart from the first, which includes only the stars visible to the naked eye. The space between each pair of these spheres will be in extent proportional to the squares of the diameters of the spheres that limit it; and as the light we receive from each star is inversely proportional to its distance from us, it follows that if each region were equally strewn with stars of the same average brightness, then we should receive the same amount of light from each region, the diminution of light from each star being exactly compensated by the vastly greater numbers in each successively
larger sphere. Hence it follows that if these concentric spheres were infinite we should receive an infinite amount of light from them, and even if we make an ample allowance for stoppage of light by intervening dark bodies, or by cosmic dust, or by imperfect transparency of the ether, we should at least receive quite as much light from them as the sun gives us at noonday. But the amount we actually receive is so immensely less than this as to prove that the concentric spheres of stars beyond those visible to the naked eye cannot be very numerous. For the total light of all the stars is estimated to be not more than about one-fortieth of moon-light, which is itself only about one five-hundred-thousandth of sun-light. This proof of the limited extent of the stellar universe is, therefore, a very forcible one, and taken in connection with that afforded by telescopic research, as already described, is altogether conclusive.
We have next to consider the facts known as to the distribution and arrangement of the stars, and the conclusions to be drawn therefrom.
THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE STARS IN
The first great fact bearing upon this subject is, that a large number of stars are not "fixed," as was universally believed down to the eighteenth century, but that many of them, and probably all, have proper motions of their own. These motions are very small, and can only be detected by observations continued for many years. The most rapid motion yet observed is that of a small star of 62 magnitude in the Constellation Ursa Major, which moves seven seconds of arc per annum, while others move only this amount in a century, and all but a few less than a second per annum. The proper motions of several thousand stars have now been determined. These motions are in every