Page images

of dead men's souls might be unavailing, yet a defence of their work and memory, no matter against what odds, might avail the living, and resolved that I would do my utmost to make my countrymen aware of the spirit now ruling among those whom they delight to honour.

At first I thought I ought to continue the correspondence privately with Mr. Darwin, and explain to him that his letter was insufficient, but on reflection I felt that little good was likely to come of a second letter, if what I had already written was not enough. I therefore wrote to the Athenceum and gave a condensed account of the facts contained in the last ten or a dozen pages. My letter appeared January 31, 1880.1

The accusation was a very grave one; it was made in a very public place. I gave my name; I adduced the strongest prima facie grounds for the acceptance of my statements; but there was no rejoinder, and for the best of all reasons—that no rejoinder was possible. Besides, what is the good of having a reputation for candour if one may not stand upon it at a pinch? I never yet knew a person with an especial reputation for candour without finding sooner or later that he had developed it as

1 See Appendix A.

animals develop their organs, through "sense of need." Not only did Mr. Darwin remain perfectly quiet, but all reviewers and litterateurs remained perfectly quiet also. It seemed —though I do not for a moment believe that this is so—as if public opinion rather approved of what Mr. Darwin had done, and of his silence than otherwise. I saw the "Life of Erasmus Darwin" more frequently and more prominently advertised now than I had seen it hitherto—perhaps in the hope of selling off the adulterated copies, and being able to reprint the work with a corrected titlepage. Presently I saw Professor Huxley hastening to the rescue with his lecture on the coming of age of the "Origin of Species," and by May it was easy for Professor Ray Lankester to imply that Mr. Darwin was the greatest of living men. I have since noticed two or three other controversies raging in the Athenaum and Times; in each of these cases I saw it assumed that the defeated party, when proved to have publicly misrepresented his adversary, should do his best to correct in public the injury which he had publicly inflicted, but I noticed that in none of them had the beaten side any especial reputation for candour. This probably made all the difference.

But however this may be, Mr. Darwin left me in possession of the field, in the hope, doubtless, that the matter would blow over—which it apparently soon did. Whether it has done so in reality or no, is a matter which remains to be seen. My own belief is that people paid no attention to what I said, as believing it simply incredible, and that when they come to know that it is true, they will think as I do concerning it.

From ladies and gentlemen of science I admit that I have no expectations. There is no conduct so dishonourable that people will not deny it or explain it away, if it has been committed by one whom they recognise as of their own persuasion. It must be remembered that facts cannot be respected by the scientist in the same way as by other people. It is his business to familiarise himself with facts, and, as we all know, the path from familiarity to contempt is an easy one.

Here, then, I take leave of this matter for the present. If it appears that I have used language, such as is rarely seen in controversy, let the reader remember that the occasion is, so far as I know, unparalleled for the cynicism and audacity with which the wrong complained of was committed and persisted in. I trust, however, that, though not indifferent to this, my indignation has been mainly roused, as when I wrote " Evolution, Old and New," before Mr. Darwin had given me personal ground of complaint against him, by the wrongs he has inflicted on dead men, on whose behalf I now fight, as I trust that some one—whom I thank by anticipation—may one day fight on mine.



After I had finished "Evolution, Old and New," I wrote some articles for the Examiner, in which I carried out the idea put forward in "Life and Habit," that we are one person with our ancestors. It follows from this, that all living animals and vegetables, being — as appears likely if the theory of evolution is accepted—descended from a common ancestor, are in reality one person, and unite to form a body corporate, of whose existence, however, they are unconscious. There is an obvious analogy between this and the manner in which the component cells of our bodies unite to form our single individuality, of which it is not likely they have a conception, and with which they have probably only the same partial and imperfect sympathy as we, the body corporate, have with them. In the articles above alluded to I separated the organic from the inorganic, and when I came to rewrite them, I found that

« EelmineJätka »