Page images

have preferred anthropology, as the term used by Blumenbach and many early naturalists; the English have chiefly patronized ethnology, as introduced at a time when the subject had been invested with a broader interest, and had claimed the attention not only of the naturalist and anatomist, but also that of the traveller, the historian, the antiquarian, and the philologist. England and America, having a common literature, have moved together in this matter; while France has taken an intermediate position, being the first to adopt the word ethnology, though still using anthropology more freely than English writers have done.

This, in substance, is the answer which any well-informed student of the science of man would have given six years ago, nay, even three years ago, had such a question been put to him. But at that time no such question would have been put to him, unless by one quite unacquainted with the subject.

But now, within the brief space of two years and a half, all is changed. Now, we have suddenly learned that profound differences exist, and always have existed, between ethnology and anthropology: that ethnologists have always had one aim and anthropologists another, though both, somehow, have been quite unconscious of the fact. That, however, is their affair. If they did not know their own thoughts, they ought to have known them; but, at all events, we know them. A new exegesis has revealed the true meaning of the ancient records, and shown how wonderful is the harmony between yesterday and today. In all times, ethnologists, especially English ones, have been, as they still continue to be, a narrow-minded set of workers and thinkers; while, in all times, anthropologists of all nations and races, but particularly those of Germany and France, have had great and glorious aims, comprehensive and deep views, even when their modesty has left them wholly ignorant of the fact.

This great accession of knowledge, which is to revolutionize modern thought, and make brilliant discoveries in the thoughts of old, has come upon the world almost with the suddenness of magic. All is the immediate result of one fortunate event—the establishment of the Anthropological Society of London. Before this event, these things were wholly unknown, and but for it they would never have been heard of till the day of doom, when all secrets must be revealed. Now they are history, and, of course, like all history, true.

Now, the establishment of a scientific society is usually a very simple, and mostly a very meritorious affair, and we see nothing in the establishment of the new society to make it an exception to the rule. But it is well known that societies are apt to be very passive bodies, and that, as regards their public acts, they are just what their few governing members make them. The Anthropological Society of London has a long list of names, and among them many of high eminence, and most deserving of respect; but some, and possibly most of them, have as little to do with the great events which we are chronicling as the people of Timbuctoo or Cochin China. The body of the society is one thing, the soul quite another; and therefore this is one of those cases in which we may agree, with Professor Huxley, that there may be an immense gulf in function, where there is but a slight difference in structure. It is of the soul that we now speak. The body is, like any other decent body, moved hither and thither as its soul directs, and sometimes, we doubt not, is very much astonished at the queer positions in which it finds itself, and the queer antics it is made to play, and the wonderful things for which it becomes responsible. We sympathize with this body, and pity its high destiny, and could well wish it a fate more in consonance with our own lowly aspirations, but we cannot allow to it any of the credit due to the new discoveries. These belong exclusively to the ruling spirits, to the new race of anthropologists which has suddenly risen in our midst, a race not growing up slowly from youth into maturity, from the student into the master, but, like Minerva issuing from the brain of Jove, bursting upon us at once, as full-blown anthropologists, speaking ex cathedrá, legislating en maitre, and displaying an erudition ten times as great as it would have been possible for any one else to have acquired in ten times the time which, upon any calculation, they can have given to the subject.

In the midst of this riotous outburst of life, this rattle of new voices, this flood of unexpected light, old ethnologists, and old anthropologists too, have to rub their eyes and ask themselves whether they be awake or dreaming; for, if they are to enter into the spirit of the new era, they must look upon the past as Cimmerian darkness, and learn to forget their labours, their writings, their aims, their very consciousness, and come to the feet of these new masters, who, by the way, have been thus far so busily engaged in proclaiming their mission that they have not yet found time to prove it.

The principal exponent of these new lights, in fact the fons et origo malorum, is Dr. Hunt himself, the President and Founder of the new society, and the revelation has evidently come to him with the society itself. Before the formation of this body, no one, as far as we can see, had the least idea that either Dr. Hunt, or any other person in this country connected with the study of man, had ever complained of any narrow

ness of scope in ethnology, or supposed that any difference but that of name existed between it and anthropology, though narrowness of view, in the case of individual writers, has always been a subject of complaint, not only in the case of ethnology, but in that also of every other science, not even excepting anthropology, the last and best of them all. But, at the period in question, Dr. Hunt was known to us all simply as an energetic and zealous secretary of the Ethnological Society of London ; and, could he have infused into this body the kind of action which suited his own energies, we see no reason for imagining that any such idea as the superiority or distinctness of anthropology would ever have presented itself to his mind. Dr. Hunt, we think, mistakes himself: it is not science that is a necessity to him, but action.

We certainly heard complaints of the “slowness” of the ethnological body in this country, and of the too great preference given in the Ethnological Society to certain sections of the subject, to the comparative exclusion of others of greater importance; but such complaints, whether just or unjust, touch individuals and not the science itself; and such was the view then universally taken of them, as far as we are aware of. When the idea of a new society was proposed, those asked to join in the undertaking were not given to understand that the object of this society was to found a new science, or to cultivate one new in this country, or anything of that kind; on the contrary, they were asked to co-operate in the establishment of an Ethnological Society which should carry out certain objects not sufficiently attended to in the existing society. To some the new society was chiefly presented as a publishing body, to others as one which would devote great attention to the anatomical aspects of ethnology, and to others, again, as an arena for the free discussion of the various exciting questions which current events were bringing into prominence. But, so far was any idea of a new or distinct science from being thought of, that the society was determined upon before any name for it had been settled, and, when the matter was discussed, the word anthropological was adopted simply for three reasons: first, as being sufficiently appropriate ; secondly, as not liable to be deemed invidious to the old society, by interfering in any manner with its name; and, thirdly, as sanctioned by the example of the Anthropological Society of Paris. Under these aspects the word was not only countenanced, but positively recommended by those who would not for a moment have admitted the idea of its involving any scientific distinction.

Subsequently, indeed, this idea was thrown out as a matter of discussion ; but it was based simply on definition, and the discussion

reasons were

turned not upon what actually was, but rather on what ought to be. As ethnos means a nation, it was contended that ethnology ought to be the science of nations merely ; while, as anthropos means a man, anthropology ought to be the science of man generally. Th opposed, as altogether superficial and untenable, and were only offered in the light of suggestions, or of individual opinions, and not in any manner as regulating the action of the society. Had it been otherwise, we do not see how the society could have come into existence at all, under the circumstances. When still later, however, these views were formally broached in Dr. Hunt's Inaugural Address, the society was then formed, and it could not be contested that the president had as much right to express his individual opinions as any other member; but the manner in which the affair was managed gave serious dissatisfaction.

In this address anthropology is defined as “the science of the whole nature of man;'

;"1 and to this definition we have not the least objection, for we are not quarrelling with anthropology, but simply defending its synonym, ethnology. Perhaps we may be asked if any such definition had ever before been given of ethnology. We answer, Yes; and even a broader one; but, if definition constituted a science, the science of anthropology would now be more than three hundred years old, since we learn, in Dr. Hunt's third address, that the word is defined in the modern sense by Galeazzo Capella, in 1535, and has been similarly used by Blumenbach and other writers. If, on the other hand, a science is just what its facts and its laws make it, how can its limits be in any manner dependent on the accident of its technical name, or on the early definitions given of it? Yet Dr. Hunt sees nothing beyond these accidents. According to the whole tenor of his argument, a science is just what the original meaning of its name implies, and nothing more nor less. According to this formula, geometry would be strictly limited to the business of land-surveying, biography would be the descriptive portion of biology, or the latter would be the science of Insurance companies, or of Cookery, or of Medicine, or of all four together, while physiology, instead of confining itself to the study of vital functions, would have to encounter the additional burden of universal Cosmology. Dr. Hunt's argument forgets that language was made to be the servant of thought, not the mistress, and that man is "the interpreter of nature," the discoverer of the sciences, not the legislator, nor the arbiter of limits.

1 Introductory Address, 1863, p. 2. ? Anniversary Address, 1865, pp. 9–12.

The Inaugural Address next proceeds to deal with ethnology and ethnography as follows:-"While ethnology treats of the history or science of nations or races, we have to deal with the origin and development of humanity. So, while ethnography traces the position and arts of the different races of man, it is our business to investigate the laws regulating the distribution of mankind” (p. 2.) But how we are to form a science of races without studying their origin and development, or how study these individually without thereby studying them aggregately, and thus studying the origin and development of humanity itself, are matters on which no light is thrown by Dr. Hunt, either here or elsewhere; neither are we shown the utility or practicality of having one science for the study of races, another for the study of their position, and a third for the study of the laws of that position! It is clear that Dr. Hunt, as we have said, is here confounding the original meaning of words with their technical uses, and confounding the subject of terminology altogether with the inherent necessities of science itself.

In the Anniversary Address of 1864, p. 2, Dr. Hunt writes :-“We are indeed trying to do something more than founding a new society : we are endeavouring to found a new science. I make bold to assert that no society has ever before attempted in this country to found a science of man or mankind.” Here Dr. Hunt is clearly making a confusion of ideas between societies and sciences. As if any society ever did or could create or found a science! As if sciences were not the creations of individual workers, often of ignored and persecuted workers, and by none more ignored than by scientific bodies! As if, in fact, the existence of this very society could have been in the least possible, if anthropology had not already been a fully recognised science in this country-a science which had largely enlisted the sympathies of the intellectual public, and numbered a considerable body of special workers, whether under this particular name or under that of ethnology! Had Dr, Hunt come forward with a really new science, or with views or aims in any important degree original, or even seriously enlarged, he would have stood alone, until he had slowly and painfully made converts by his eloquence or his arguments. But no; he came before us with familiar views and aims; he collected together prepared minds; he added to these numbers of others who had no special knowledge of the subject, but who were willing to aid in forwarding a study which they saw was in high honour, and of which they could readily appreciate many of the advantages; and to call a proceeding like this an endeavour to found a new science in England

« EelmineJätka »