Page images
PDF
EPUB

home with vigour and directness, and the little book is well calculated to assist in the formation of sound views upon the urgent question of which it treats.” The Beacon (Boston, U.S.A.) termed it “a very important little book," and gave it a wholly favourable review ; but the notice that pleased me most was that in Knowledge, then edited by Richard Proctor, a man of originality and genius. He declared that my book was remarkable as being the application of scientific method to a complex problem of political economy, which, of course, rendered it impossible for the official representatives of that science to accept its conclusions. The book, however, had very little sale, and after a few years the publishers sent me about a hundred copies, which remained an incumbrance to their shelves, and which I gave away. It is, therefore, at present, one of the rarest of my books. In the same year I wrote my first small contribution to the literature of anti-vaccination, entitled “Forty-five Years of Registration Statistics, proving Vaccination to be both Useless and Dangerous ;” but this subject will be referred to in a future chapter.

Towards the close of the year I received an invitation from the Lowell Institute of Boston, U.S.A., to deliver a course of lectures in the autumn and winter of 1886. After some consideration I accepted this, and began their preparation, taking for my subject those portions of the theory of evolution with which I was most familiar. At this time I had made the acquaintance of the Rev. J. G. Wood, the well-known writer of many popular works on natural history. He had been twice on lecturing tours to America, and gave me some useful information, besides recommending an agent he had employed, and who had arranged lectures for him at various schools and colleges. I had already lectured in many English towns on the permanence of the great oceans, on oceanic and continental islands, and on various problems of geographical distribution. To these subjects I now added one on “The Darwinian Theory," illustrated by a set of original diagrams of variation. I also wrote three lectures on the “ Colours of Animals (and Plants),” dwelling especially on protective

colours, warning colours, and mimicry, and for these I had to obtain a series of lantern slides coloured from nature, so as to exhibit the most striking examples of these curious and beautiful phenomena. All this took a great deal of time, and the maps and diagrams forming a large package, about six feet long in a waterproof canvas case, caused me much trouble, as some of the railways refused to take it by passenger trains, and I had to send it as goods; and in one case it got delayed nearly a week, and I had to give my lectures with hastily made rough copies from recollection.

The lectures I finally arranged for the Lowell course were eight in number, to be given twice a week in November and December. As these lectures formed the groundwork for my book on Darwinism, I will here give their titles

1. The Darwinian Theory: what it is, and how it has been demonstrated.

2. The Origin and Uses of the Colours of Animals.

3. Mimicry, and other exceptional modes of Animal Coloration.

4. The Origin and Uses of the Colours of Plants.

5. The Permanence of Oceans, and the relations of Islands and Continents.

6. Oceanic Islands and their Biological History.

7. Continental Islands: their Past History and Biological Relations.

8. The Physical and Biological Relations of New Zealand and Australia.

Shortly before I left England I gave the lecture on "Darwinism” to the Essex Field Club in order to see how my diagrams of variation struck an intelligent audience, and was fairly satisfied with the result.

I left London on October 9 in a rather slow steamer in order to have a cabin to myself at a moderate price, and landed at New York on the 23rd, after a cold and disagreeable passage. A sketch of my American tour will be given in the following chapters.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XXX

AN AMERICAN LECTURE TOUR-BOSTON TO WASHINGTON

WHEN I left home I had some idea of extending my journey across the Pacific, lecturing in New Zealand and Australia, perhaps also in South Africa, on my way home. But my voyage out was so disagreeable, making me sick and unwell almost the whole time, that I concluded it would not be wise to extend my sea voyages except under very favourable conditions, which did not occur. One of these was the success of my American tour, but owing to my agent not being a good one, or, perhaps, to my not being sufficiently known in America, I was kept throughout the winter in Washington waiting for lecture engagements, which did not come till March and April.

On reaching New York (October 23), I had my first experience of American prices by having to pay two dollars for a cab to the American Hotel, not a mile off, where I was obliged to go for the night. The next morning (Sunday) I went to stay for a few days with Mr. A. G. Browne, a gentleman on one of the New York daily papers who had called on me at Godalming in the summer. On the way to his house we drove to the picturesque Central Park, in the company of Henry George, the well-known author of "Progress and Poverty," who was then a candidate for the important post of Mayor of New York, and who had been invited by Mr. Browne to meet me. The next evening I attended one of his meetings, and was called upon to say a few words to an American audience. I tried my best to be forcible, praised George, and said a few words about what we were doing

in England, but I could see that I did not impress them much.

As Mr. Browne's occupation was to summarize all the evening papers for the morning's issue, his work was from midnight till four in the morning. Then all the forenoon he had to do the same thing with the morning papers for the evening issue, getting his sleep in the early morning and afternoon. One day he got free in order to take me up the Hudson river as far as West Point, passing the celebrated “Palisades”-a continuous row of cliffs about two hundred feet high, and extending for nearly twenty miles on the south bank of the river. They look exactly like a huge fence of enormous split trees, placed vertically, side by side, but are really basaltic columns like those at the Giant's Causeway, crowning a slope of fallen rock. In places the well-wooded country was very beautiful, with the autumnal tints of bright red, purple, and yellow, though we were a little late to see them in perfection. Where we landed, I was delighted to see wild vines clambering over the trees, as well as the Virginia creeper, and there were also sumachs and other characteristic American plants. The situation of the great American Military College is splendid, on an elevated promontory in a bend of the Hudson, surrounded by rugged wooded hills, and with magnificent views up and down the river.

On the 28th I went to Boston to be ready for my first lecture on November 1. I had been recommended by Mr. J. G. Wood to go to the Quincy House, as being moderate in charges, and celebrated for its excellent table. I stayed there nearly two months, and was, on the whole, very comfortable ; but it was essentially a business man's hotel, and I made no interesting acquaintances there. My scientific friends told me I ought to have gone to a better hotel, but as these were all four or five dollars a day, with no better accommodation than I had at three dollars, I did not care to change. As I never had better meals at any hotel I stayed at in America (except, perhaps, in San Francisco), I may quote my description of them in a letter to my daughter while they were new to me. "You ought to see the meals at

this hotel! The bill of fare at dinner (1 to 3 o'clock) has generally two kinds of soup, two of fish, about twenty to thirty different dishes of meat, poultry, and game, a dozen sorts of pastry, a dozen of vegetables, besides ices, and whatever fruits are in season. You can order anything you like in any combination, and they are brought in little dishes, which are arranged around your plate. Everything is good and admirably cooked. The pies and puddings are equally good. At breakfast and supper there is about half the number of dishes."

During the whole time I was in America I had a wonderful appetite, and ate much more than I did at home, and enjoyed excellent health. I imputed this at the time to the more bracing air, the novelty, and the excitement. But from subsequent events I am inclined to think that I really did not eat enough nourishing food at home, although I had what I liked best, and seemed to eat plenty of it.

At my first lecture on “The Darwinian Theory," I had a crowded and very attentive audience, and the newspaper notices the next morning showed that it was a success. One of the shortest and best of these was in The Transcript, and was as follows:

“The first Darwinian, Wallace, did not leave a leg for anti-Darwinism to stand on when he had got through his first Lowell lecture last evening. It was a masterpiece of condensed statement-as clear and simple as compact-a most beautiful specimen of scientific work. Mr. Wallace, though not an orator, is likely to become a favourite as a lecturer, his manner is so genuinely modest and straightforward.”

During the time my lectures were going on I occupied myself at the museums, libraries, and institutions of Boston, and paid a few visits in the country. I soon made the acquaintance of Dr. Asa Gray, the first American botanist, General Walker, the political economist, Messrs. Hyatt, Scudder, Morse, and other biologists; while Mr. Houghton, the publisher, who was very polite, asked me to call at his office to read whenever I liked, and invited me to dinner to meet Oliver Wendell Holmes. I met the Autocrat of the

« EelmineJätka »