RECORD: Anon. 1882. Charles Robert Darwin. The Times (21 and 24 April).
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed (single key) by AEL Data 11.2011. RN2
Yesterday, at his quiet Kentish home, one of the greatest of our countrymen passed away. Suddenly and almost without warning the long and noble life of CHARLES DARWIN came to an end. He had reached the age of seventy-three, and though his health, always delicate, had lately shown signs of giving way, he died almost literally in harness, working to the last. To-day, and for a long time to come, he will be mourned by all those in every land who can appreciate his vast services to knowledge and who honour a lifelong devotion to truth; but with the mourning there will be joined the thought that he was happy in living so long, surrounded by devoted friends, and spared not only to do the work that he had set himself to do, but to see it accepted on every side. The storm which howled around "The Origin of Species" at its first appearance has subsided. Even the orthodox are "adapting themselves to their environment," and are beginning to regard Evolution as a hypothesis which may in a measure be harmonized with their first principles. The story of such scenes as those which took place at the celebrated meeting of the British Association at Oxford, in 1860, and of the battle royal between BISHOP WILBERFORCE and the young and ardent MR. HUXLEY, reads at the present day like a scene from ancient history; like an episode in the persecution of GALILEO, or a preliminary to the excommunication of SPINOZA. The time has gone by when it was conceived possible to extinguish a scientific hypothesis by authority. Moreover, in little more than twenty years, that which is called the Darwinian hypothesis has established itself as, practically speaking, on of the accepted generalizations of science. It is not too much to say that there is no man of real scientific eminence in Europe of America who does not now hold to it in the main. In Germany in England, in the United States, all that even its former opponents now venture to do is to deny its applicability to certain cases and in France, though official science still struggles against it, the ttitude of the independent workers is rather that of accepting MR. DARWIN'S views, while giving as much as possible of the credit of them to the Frenchman LAMAROK. Nor is it only in the province of exact thought that this fertile idea has taken root. All the world now uses Darwinian phrase, which have passes into the language of every day. We talk familiarly of "development," of "the struggle for existence," of the "survival of the Attest." Those who would be at a loss to formulate the theory or to find any facts in support of it, still employ the terms of the new biology with a certain vague understanding of them, and are dimly conscious that what the naturalists have proved of plants and animals is equally true of all other spheres of existence and all other phenomena.
This rapid victory of an idea which at its first appearance was condemned by the unanimous voice of traditional opinion is in itself a very remarkable fact, and well deserves attention. What are the reasons of it? Do they lie in the inherent force of the idea itself, or in changed social conditions, or in the converging of many causes? The violent attacks on what is called Darwinism were not unnatural; on the contrary, the wonder is that they were not more prolonged and more determined. The professional theologians may be excused for the animosity which they displayed; for, on the one hand, it has always been their way, when they have fancied that the accepted views of the origin and destiny of man have been in danger, and, on the other hand, as those whose memory goes back to 1859 will recall, they were simultaneously threatened and exasperated by what they fancied to be a treacherous movement from their own camp, the publication of "Essays and Reviews." It is no wonder that they rallied vigorously to the defence of ideas and principles thus imperilled. They said many hard things and many unwise things; but, taken altogether, their utterances were moderate as compared with those of the champions of the same cause a little earlier. Not only did nobody propose the faggot and the stake of MR. DARWIN, but nobody of repute treated him with the brutal violence—no other words describe the fact—with which a few years before and mild and amiable PROFESSOR SEDGWICK had dealt with the author of the "Vestiges of Creation." Happily, great as were the improvements that had come over the spirit of controversy between the days of SEDGWICK and of the opponents of MR. DARWIN, the improvement during the past twenty years has been far greater. It would be too much to suppose that the spirit of theological odium has materially softened; but there is more caution and more decency in controversy, and somewhat more scruple either in imputing motives or in condemning a book unread and unconsidered. And, as far as concerns the judgment of the world at large, the growth of the scientific temper itself has wrought the change and has secured a fair hearing for any new doctrines, however unpalatable at first sight. The world is begininng to decide not by considerations of what a theory may possibly lead to, not by a calculation of what is to be gained or lost by believing, but by a comparison of the evidence for and against. Within a few weeks of the appearance of the "Origin of Species" there appeared in this journal a review of the work, which may now be admitted to have been written by one of the most able of the young men of science of that day, a man who has since that time risen to high eminence. In that review there occurred the sentence. "the sufficiency of a hypothesis must be tried by the tests of science alone, if we are to maintain our position as the heirs of BACON and the acquitters of GALILEO." The remark sounds almost a commonplace to-day; but even so recently as twenty-one years ago a professional defender of tradition, whether or not he admitted it in theory, would certainly have declined to act upon it in practice. But during these years the methods of the physical sciences have forced themselves into every branch of thought. In critical scholarship, in historical scholarship, in all the sciences which deal with man himself, a more exact, literal, and disinterested attention to the facts has come to be demanded. Positive truth is asked for more and more; and where it seems to be a question between rival hypotheses, neither of which is strictly demonstrable, that is sure to win which is best supported by the evidence. How the evidence in favour of MR. DARWIN'S theory has grown and multiplied is best shown in PROFESSOR HUXLEY'S Essay on "Coming of Age of the Origin of Species," a part of which we print to-day. In 1859, most geologist believed that "the past history of the earth was catastrophic"—that is, that frequent and sudden physical revolutions had taken place, and the ordinary course of nature had been to proceed by periodic destruction and re-creation of the whole animal world. Now, no one dreams of a theory of this kind. Scientific geology regards the history of the earth's crust and of the fossil remains which it conceals as a perfectly continuous history, and considers the animals now existing as the direct descendants of the fossil species. Again, many facts discovered since 1859 have justified the much-ridiculed assertion of MR. DARWIN that the gaps which we observe in Nature were once filled up with links now unknown. The gap between the bird and the reptile had been bridged over by the discoveries of the last ten years: and much the same may be said of the gaps between vertebrate and invertebrate animals, and flowering and flowerless plants. The astonishing revelations of recent research in palæontology have done still more to turn what twenty years ago was a brilliant speculation into an established and unquestionable truth.
With this truth MR. DARWIN'S name will in future be connected; and at least for the next century it may confidently to predicted that biological science will do little more than work upon his line. But for us who are his contemporaries, his life had other lessons that those left by one who has given a great and fertile idea to the world. Great as he was, wide as was the reach of his intelligence, what endeared him to his many friends and what charmed all those who were brought even into momentary contact with him, was the beauty of his character. There never was a more honest man. Not only was he superior to the ordinary pettinesses and jealousies of the discoverer— as is shown by the well-known story of his conduct with regard to MR. WALLACE'S simultaneous statement of the evolution hypothesis—but he was incredibly scrupulous in verifying all his facts, in listening to every objection, in balancing every consideration that was brought before him. The charm of his conversation was great, though his ill-health made it necessary for him to spare himself and to mix little in society, just as it prevented him from accepting some of those public marks of distinction which were his due. He was kindness itself, and many a young student keeps among his treasures some little note of encouragement that the veteran discoverer had sent him to help him on his way. He was forever observing, comparing, thinking, from the early days in South America when, as he himself tells us, the idea of the origin of species first struck his mind, down to the very end of his life. If the "Origin of Species" had never been written, if there had been no "Darwinian hypothesis," the actual work he did would have been enough to gain him a reputation among the highest. His books on coral reefs, on the voyage of the Beagle, on minute vegetable anatomy, on domestication, on climbing plants, on the movements of plants, and, lastly, that marvellous book on earthworms which he published only last winter, form a list that would of themselves adorn the name of any other man of science Joined to his great philosophical achievement they place him beyond rivalry among the men on to-day, and side by side with two or three great discoverers of the past whose names house words.
CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN.
Exactly a year to a day has separated the des of two of the most powerful men of this century some have said of any century; and those w care for the task will find some very cur analogies between the progress and the ulti results of the work to the two men, totally d rent as were the spheres in which they their remarkable powers. On April 19, 1881, the civilized world held its breath at the new the death of Lord Beaconsfield; not less be the effect upon the most civilized part of civilized world when the announcement of death of Charles Darwin flashes over face of that earth whose secrets he has more than any other to reveal. All who anything of Mr. Darwin know that, sive as he seemed, its was only by the care and the simplest habits that he was able to maintain a moderate amount of health and Mr. Darwin had been suffering for some past from weakness of the heart, but had tinned to do a slight amount of experimental up to the last. He was taken ill on the nig Tuesday last, when he had an attack of pain chest with faintness and nausea. The latter with more or less intermission during Wed and culminated in his death, which took place about 4 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon remained fully conscious to within a quarter hour of his death. His wife and several of children were present at the closing scene. his illness he had been attended by Dr. N Moore, Dr. Andrew Clarke, Dr. Moxon, and Alfrey, so St. Mary Cray. Mr. Darwin besides his window a family of five son and daughters. It has not yet been decided who remains will be interred, but the place of will in the quiet churchyard of the villa Down, near which place Mr. Darwin spe last forty years of his life.
Fifteen volumes lie before us and need many memoirs large and small, the product year's work—a product which, in quantity, do credit to the most robust constitution when we consider Mr. Darwin's always health and his deliberately slow method of never hasting but rarely resting, the result marvellous. But wonderful as this is and circumstances, it is not by mere quantity, th Darwin's work will be judged; the quantity chief importance in respect of the mult channels through which his influence has
On the great principle of hereditariness, he himself was the prophet and expounded Darwin could not help being a remarkable Through his father descended from Darwin, one of the most remarkable and men of his age, and through his month Josiah Wedgwood, a man in his own scarcely less originality. Mr. Darwin was
under favourable surroundings, to develop powers far beyond the average. Charles Robert Darwin (he seldom used the second name) was the son of Robert Waring Darwin, the third son by his first marriage of Erasmus Darwin, best known to the general reader by his scientifico-poetic work "The Botanic Garden." The late Mr. Darwin's father was a physician at Shrewsbury. Who, although a man of considerable originality, devoted his powers almost entirely to his profession; his mother, as we have said, was a daughter of Josiah Wedgwood. He was born at Shrewsbury on February 12, 1809, so that he has died in his 74th year. Mr. Darwin was educated at Shrewsbury School under Dr. Butler, afterwards Bishop of Litchfield. In 1825, he went to Edinburgh University, therein following the example of his grandfather, where he spent to sessions. Here, among other subjects, he studied marine zoology, and at the close of 1826 read before the Pli ian Society of the University two short papers, probably his first, one of them on the Ova of Flustra. From Edinburgh Mr. Darwin went to Christ's College, Cambridge, where he took his Bachelor's degree in 1831, proceeding to M.A. in 1837. The interval was of epoch-marking importance. We believe that Darwin, like Murchison, was a keen fox-hunter in his youth, and that it was in the field that his great habits of observation were first awakened. In the autumn of 1831. Captain Fitzroy having offered to give up part of his own cabin to any naturalist who would accompany Her Majesty's ship Beagle in her surveying voyage, round the world, Mr. Darwin volunteered his services without salary, but on condition that he should have entire disposal of his collections, all of which he ultimately deposited in various public institutions. The Beagle sailed from England December 27, 1831, and returned October, 28, 1836, having thus been absent nearly five years. In more ways than one these five years were the most eventful of Mr. Darwin's life. During these five years the Beagle circumnavigated the world, and it is not too much to say that single-banded, Mr. Darwin during the voyage did more for natural history in all its varied departments than any expedition has done since; much more when we consider the momentous results that followed. No one can read the simple, yet intensely interesting "Naturalist's Voyage Round the World." without tracing in it the germs of all that Mr. Darwin had subsequently done in natural science. Simplicity and freedom from technicality have been the leading characteristics of all Mr. Darwin's best known and most influential works; and in this volume on the Voyage of the Beagle there is scarcely a page that will not interest any ordinarily intelligent man, and many pages that must claim the attention of the mere reader of stories of adventure. Full of incident it is, especially during the author's long sojourn in South America and in the vicinity of Magellan's Straits. Mr. Darwin's phenomenal genius as a scientific observer is seen throughout—when watching the method of catching and taming the wild horses of the Pampas, as when investigating the structure of the coral reefs of the Pacific. The first edition was published early in 1845, and the second was dedicated to Sir Charles Lyell, who with his usual acuteness, early perceived the remarkable originality of the young naturalist, and to whom the latter was indebted for much wise counsel and help, as is evident from the recently published Life and Letters of the great geologist. That was not the only immediate result of this great voyage; under the superintendence of Mr. Darwin, and with abundant description and annotation by him, the Zoology of the expedition was published before the narrative, in 1840, with Professor Owen, Mr. Waterhouse, the Rev. L. Jenyns, and Mr. Bell as contributing specialists. Not only so, but still also before the general narrative, Mr. Darwin published his first original contribution to science in his "Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs" (1842). This work for the first time shed clear light upon the method of work of the tiny creatures whose exquisite fabrics are spread over the face of the Pacific. True, quite recently Mr. Murray has breached a new theory, or rather modification of Darwin's theory, which is beginning to find acceptance; but even it universally accepted it will not detract from the original estimate of the work of the Beagle naturalist. Still further, we have as direct result of the voyage in a volume, published in 1844, on the "Volcanic Islands visited during the Voyage of the Beagle." and in 1846, "Geological Observations in South America." Both these works are even now referred to by geologists as classical, and as having suggested lines of research of the highest fertility. In the Transactions of the Geological Society, moreover, other memoirs suggested by the results of the voyage will be found, on as early as 1838. But even that is not the earliest important paper of the great observer. Just a year after his return, in November, 1837. he read to the Geological Society a paper, to be found in its Transactions, "On the Formation Vegetable Mould." This paper gave the result of observations begun some time before, observations only completed in his latest published work, that on "Earthworms," reviewed in these columns only a few months ago. Experiments were arranged for, we then pointed out, which took 40 years to ripen. Such far-seeing deliberation can only be the attribute of the greatest minds, which can see the end from the beginning. Other results of the voyage in botany and entomology we could refer to were it needful.
But the greatest result of all was probably that on the mind of the naturalist himself. Passing over a generation, the spirit of his grandfather seems to have re-appeared in Charles Darwin with intensified power and precision. We need not here enter into the delicate distinctions which exist between the developmental theories of Erasmus, which were prematurely sown in unfruitful and unprepared soil, and those of his greater grandson, which have revolutionized research and thought in every department of human activity. The inherited germ was doubtless rapidly and fully developed during the splendid opportunities presented by the voyage of the Beagle. Throughout all his subsequent work the influence of this voyage is apparent, and continued reference is made to the stores of observation laid up during those eventful five years. Mr. Darwin's subsequent life was totally uneventful. Three years after his return, in the beginning of 1839, he married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, and in 1842 he took up his residence at Down, Beckenham, Kent, of which county he was a magistrate. There he has lived since, and there on Wednesday he died. It is known to his friends that Mr. Darwin never quite recovered from the evil effects of his long voyage. He himself tells us that during nearly the whole time he suffered from sea-sickness, an affliction which no constitution could altogether withstand. As we have said, it had only been by the quietest living and the greatest carefulness that Mr. Darwin was able to keep himself in moderate health and working order. His habits and manners were of childlike simplicity, his bearing of the most winning geniality, and his modesty and evident unconsciousness of his own greatness almost phenomenal. In sending a letter or contribution to a journal, he asked for its insertion with a doubting hesitancy, rare even in a tiro. His personal influence on young scientific men can with difficulty be calculated; his simple readiness to listen and suggest and help has won the gratitude of many an aspiring observer.
Since he took up his residence at Down, Mr. Darwin's life has been marked mainly by the successive publication of those works which have revolutionized modern thought. In 1859 was published what may be regarded as the most momentous of all his works, "The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection." No one who had not reached manhood at the time can have any idea of the consternation caused by the publication of this work. We need not repeat the anathemas that were hurled at the head of the simple-minded observer, and the prophecies of ruin to religion and morality if Mr. Darwin's doctrines were accepted. No one, we are sure, would be more surprised than the author himself at the results which followed. But all this has long passed. The work, slowly at first, but with increasing rapidity, made its way to general acceptance, and its anathematizers have been bound to find a modus vivendi between their creeds and the theories propounded in the "Origin of Species." The revolution in scientific doctrine and scientific method brought about by the publication of this work was ably pointed out by Professor Huxley two years ago in his lecture on "The Coming of Age of the Origin of Species." Mr. Huxley says:—
"In fact, those who have watched the progress of science within the last ten years will bear me out to the full when I assert that there is no field of biological inquiry in which the influence of the 'Origin of Species' is not traceable; the foremost men of science in every country are either avowed champions of its leading doctrines, or at any rate abstain from opposing them; a host of young and ardent investigators seek for and find inspiration and guidance in Mr. Darwin's great work; and the general doctrine of Evolution, to one side of which it gives expression, finds in the phenomena of biology a firm base of operations whence it may conduct its conquest of the whole realm of nature."
But it is not only in physical and natural science that the revolutionary influence of "Origin of Species" is seen. It is not too much to say that the doctrines propounded in this volume, on "The Descent of Man," and other subsequent works, have influenced thought and research in every direction. It has been said, perhaps prematurely, that one must seek back to Newton or even Copernicus, to find a man whose influence on human thought and methods of looking at the universe has been as radical as that of the naturalist who has just died. Of course Mr. Darwin's originality has been assailed. Kant, Laplace, Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, and others, and of course Lucretius, have been brought forward as the real originators of the fertile idea which has taken its name from Mr. Charles Darwin. Give these old-world worthies all the credit which is justly their due, and it is not little; let it be granted that Darwin received the first initiative in his fertile career of research from a study of what they had done by his predecessors; and yet how comes it that these old theories fell comparatively dead and bore no substantial fruit? One reason must be that, as propounded by Mr. Darwin, the theory of evolution had a mature vitality which compelled acceptance, and the phenomenal vigour of which is seen in the results. Mr. Darwin's great theory, in some of its parts, may require modification; he himself latterly, we believe, did not seek to maintain it in all its original integrity. As has been suggested, some greater law may yet be found which will cover Darwinism and take a wider sweep; but, whatever development science may assume, Mr. Darwin will in all the future stand out as one of the giants in scientific thought and scientific investigation.
All Mr. Darwin's subsequent works were developments in different directions of the great principles applied in the "Origin of Species." Between 1844 and 1854 he published through the Ray and other societies various monographs, which even his greatest admirers admit do not do him the highest credit as a minute anatomist. His next great work, published in 1862, was that on the "Fertilization of Orchids;" this, with the work on "Cross and Self-Fertilization of Plants" (1876), and that on the "Forms of Flowers" (1878). And various papers in scientific publications on the agency of insects in fertilization, opened up a new field which in his own hands and the hands of his numerous disciples have led to results of the greatest interest and the greatest influence on a knowledge of the ways of plants. Other works belonging to this category are those "On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants," "Insectivorous Plants," and "The Movements of Plants" (1881), all of which opened up perfectly fresh fields of investigation, and shed light on the most intimate working nature. Mr. Darwin's influence in these, as in others of his works, has acted like an inspiration, leading men to follow methods and attain results which a quarter of a century ago were beyond the scope of the most fantastic dream. But, perhaps, the works with which the name of Mr. Darwin is most intimately associated in popular estimation, and indeed the works which have had the deepest influence on the tendencies of modern thought and research in those departments in which humanity is most deeply interested, are those bearing on the natural history of man. Nine years after the publication of the "Origin of Species," appeared (1868), in two volumes, the great collection of instances and experiments bearing on the "Variation of Plants and Animals under Domestication." We have called this a collection of facts, and the same term might be applied, with greater of less exactness, to all the other works of Mr. Darwin. This is the characteristic Darwinian method. Years and years are spent in the accumulation of facts with open-minded watchfulness as to the tendency of the results. The expressed inferences in Mr. Darwin's works are few; he piles instance on instance and experiment on experiment, and almost invariably the conclusion to which he comes seems but the expression of the careful and unbiassed reader's own though. Nowhere is this more signally evident than in the work on Domesticated Animals and Plants. The results which were brought out in those volumes were full of significance, while at the same time they afforded abundant occasion for the opponents of Darwinism to scoff and pour harmless contempt on the whole line of inquiry; forgetting or wilfully shutting their eyes to the fact that the results which Mr. Darwin showed were possible in petto bore no proportion to the gigantic efforts of nature through untold ages. The chapters on Inheritance in this work were full of significance, and seemed a natural transition to the work which followed there years later (1871)—"The Descent of Man and Selection in relation to Sex." Even greater consternation was caused in many circles by the publication of this work than by "The Origin of Species." And the reason of this is obvious. Not only did it seem directly to assail the amour propre of humanity, but to imperil some of its most deeply cherished beliefs. With wonderful rapidity, however, did men of all shades of belief manage to reconcile themselves to the new and disturbing factor introduced into the sphere of scientific and philosophical speculation. All sorts of halfway refuges were sought for and found by those whose mental comfort was threatened, and, again, as before, there was little difficulty in finding a modus vivendi between two sets of doctrines that at first sight seemed totally irreconcilable. After all, what have the highest aspirations of mankind to fear
from the investigations and speculations of a man who is capable of writing as Mr. Darwin does in the concluding pages of his "Descent of Man." "Important as the struggle for existence has been, and even still is, yet as far as the highest part of man's nature is concerned, there are other agencies more important. For the moral qualities are advanced either directly or indirectly, much more through the effects of habit, the reasoning powers, instruction, religion, &c., than through natural selection; through to this latter agency may be safely attributed the social instincts which afforded the basis for the development of the moral sense.… For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey who braved his dreaded enemy to save the life of his keeper, or from that old baboon who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstition. Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen instead of having been aboriginally placed there may give him hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or tears, only with the truth as far as our reason permits us to discern it; and I have given the evidence to the best of my ability. We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men, but to the humblest living creature, with his godlike intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system—with all these exalted powers, man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his low origin." Among scientific men themselves, among those who welcomed the Darwinian method and the distinctive doctrines of Darwinism, none of the master's works have probably met with more criticism than that on the Descent of Man. Not that the naturalists of the highest standing hare any hesitation in accepting the general principles illustrated in the "Descent of Man;" the ablest and most candid biologists admit that in that direction the truth seems to lie; but that the various stages are so incomplete, the record is so imperfect, that before stereotyping their beliefs it would be wise to wait for more light. The general conclusion is not doubted, but how it has been reached by nature is by no means evident. And in this connexion we cannot do better than quote the words of Professor Huxley in the lecture already alluded to, and which, we are, sure, Mr. Darwin himself would have endorsed with all his strength.
"History warns us, however, that it is the customary fats of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions; and, as matters now stand, it is hardly rash to anticipate that in another 20 years, the new generation, educated under the influences of the present day, will be in danger of accepting the main doctrines of the Origin of Species with as little reflection, and it may be with as little justification, as so many of our contemporaries 20 years ago, rejected them. Against any such a consummation let as all devoutly pray; for the scientific spirit is of more value than its products, and irrationally-held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors. Now, the essence of the scientific spirit is criticism. It tells us that to whatever doctrine claiming our assent we should reply, Take it if you can compel it. The struggle for existence holds as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist is co-extensive with its power of resisting extinction by its rivals."
As a sort of side issue of the "Descent of Man." and as throwing light upon the doctrines developed therein, with much more of independent interest and suggestiveness, "The Expression of the Emotions in Men and Animals" was published in 1872. This is, perhaps, the most amusing of Mr. Darwin's works, while at the same time it is one which evidently involved observation and research of the most minute and careful kind. It is one, moreover, which shows how continually and instinctively the author was on the watch for instances that were likely to have any bearing on the varied lines of his researches.
To attempt to reckon up the influence which Mr. Darwin's multifarious work has had upon modern thought and modern life in all its phases seems as difficult a task as it would be to count the number and trace the extent of the sound-waves from a park of artillery. The impetus he has given to science, not only in his own, but in other departments, can only find a parallel in Newton. Through his influence the whole method of seeking after knowledge has been changed, and the increasing rapidity with which the results are every day developed becomes more and more bewildering. To what remote corners in religion, in legislation, in education, in every-day life, from Imperial Assemblies and venerable Universities to humble board schools and remote Scotch manses, the impetus initiated on board the Beagle and developed at the quiet and comfortable home at Beckenham, has reached, those who are in the whirl and sweep of it we are not in a position to say. Under the immediate influence of the sad loss we can only state a few obvious facts and make a few quite as obvious reflections; in time we may be able to realize how great a man now belongs to the past. That Mr. Darwin's work was not done nor his capacity for work exhausted was well enough seen in his recently-published work on Worms; and with the help of his able and congenial sons, Mr. George and Mr. Francis Darwin, we might have hoped for one or two more of the familiar green-covered volumes.
Mr. Darwin's elder brother, the faithful friend of Mrs. Carlyle, died about a year ago, leaving his younger brother his principal heir; the latter, how ever, has all along been in comfortable circumstances It goes without saying that honours and medals were showered upon Mr. Darwin by learned societies all the world over: from Germany, where his disciples led by Häckel, have out-Darwined Darwin, he received a Knighthood of the Prussian Order of Merit.
From respect to the memory of Mr. Darwin, the Linnean Society yesterday adjourned after transacting formal business only. Sir John Lubbock, the president, addressing the meeting, said they would, no doubt, all have heard the sad news of the irreparable loss which science, the country, and their society had experienced in the death of Mr. Darwin. Only a few days ago they had the pleasure of hearing a paper of his—unhappily, his last—which showed no sign of any abatement of vigour. That was not the occasion to speak of the value of his scientific work, but he might say that while the originality and profound character of his researches had revolutionized natural history, he had also added enormously to its interest, and given, if he might so say, new life to biological science. Many of them, and no one more than himself, had also to mourn one of the kindest and best of friends. He begged to propose, as a small mark of respect to the memory of their late illustrious countryman, the greatest—alas, that he could no longer say of living naturalists, that, after the formal business was concluded, the society should adjourn.
Times, 24 April 1882
Canon Liddon preaching in St. Paul's Cathedral yesterday afternoon to a large congregation gathered under the dome, took for his subject the words of Christ to the doubting St. Thomas. When on the day of his rising from the dead our Lord first appeared to the assembled disciples, St. Thomas was absent. The disciples informed Thomas, on meeting him, that they had seen their master; and he answered them in terms which would not have been unbecoming in an advanced disciple of the modern philosophy of experience. "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." A week passed; the disciples were again assembled and now Thomas was with them. "Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then said he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger and behold my hand, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing." A first object, the preacher said, of our Lord's words was to place the truth of his resurrection from the dead beyond doubt in the mind of St. Thomas, but Our Lord saw in St. Thomas as the typical representative of a class of minds that would be found among men to the end of time. A second lesson to be learnt from these words of Our Lord was the true value of the bodily senses in investigating truth. St. Thomas made the satisfaction of two senses, those of sight and touch, a preliminary condition to his believing that Our Lord had really risen. Our Lord in His condescending charity yielded to the demand, thus affording, a recognition of the rights and duties of the senses. There are certain truths, said the preacher, which they and they only can ascertain and in verifying which they may and must be trusted. It is a false spiritualism which would cast discredit on the senses, acting within their own province: it is false to the constitution of nature and to the interests of truth. For, if the bodily senses are untrustworthy, how can we assume the trustworthiness of the spiritual senses; if hearing and eyesight and smell and taste and touch make no true reports of external objects, how shall we be certain that the moral perceptions do not report a series of sublime illusions? To cast doubt upon the trustworthiness of a bodily sense is at first sight to enhance the preciousness of the supersensuous and of our methods of reaching it; but only at first sight. Religion does touch the material world at certain points, and the reality of its contact is to be decided, like other material facts, by the experiment of bodily sense. Whether Our Lord really rose with His wounded body from the grave, or not, was a question to be settled by the bodily senses; and Our Lord therefore submitted Himself to the exacting terms which St. Thomas laid down as conditions of faith. But the senses cannot test the reality of anything which lies properly beyond their ken. They have to do with matter; they cannot touch spirit; and if any inference is drawn from their very limited capacity as against the reality of that vast world of spiritual existences which is confessedly beyond their reach, it is, beyond all question, a worthless inference. Here is the great mistake of Materialism. Materialism is on strong ground from which it cannot be dislodged so long as it insists that the senses so far as they reach are trustworthy reporters of truth; its mistake lies in saying that they are the only reporters of truth, and that nothing is to be held for truth which they cannot verify; that the whole world of mental and spiritual facts, with which the senses have no relation whatever, is, therefore, an imaginary and non-existent world; that in short, matter, in whatever state, is alone real. But this gigantic and fatal error is not to be met by discrediting the senses in their own province. To do so is to invite the ravages of a scepticism which is even deeper than that of the Materialists, since it denies the reality of matter as well as that of spirit, and it is clearly opposed to that high sanction to the evidence of sense which Our Lord gave when He bade Thomas "Beach hither thy finger." These reflections may naturally lead us to think of the eminent man whose death during the past week is an event of European importance, since his works, beside producing something like a revolution in the modern way of regarding a large district thought, have shed confessedly so much distinction upon English science. It may be admitted that when Professor Darwin's books on the "Origin of Species" and on the "Descent of Man" first appeared they were largely regarded by religious men as containing a theory necessarily hostile to fundamental truths of religion. A closer study has greatly modified any such impression. It is seen that, whether the creative activity of God is manifested through catastrophes, as the phrase goes, or in progressive evolution, it is still His creative activity, and the really great questions beyond remain untouched. The evolutionary process supposing it to exist, must have had a beginning: who began it? it? It must have mad material to work with: who furnished it? It is itself a law or system of laws: who them? Even supposing that the theory represents absolute truth, and is not merely a provisional way of looking at things incidental to the present stage of knowledge, these great questions are just as little to be decided by physical science now as they were when Moses wrote the Pentateuch; but there are apparently these important gape in the evolutionary sequence which it is well to bear in mind. There is the great gap between the highest animal instinct and the reflective, self-measuring, self-analyzing thought of man. There is the greater gap between life and the most highly organized matter. There is the greatest gap of all between matter and nothing. At these three points, as far as we can see, the Creative Will must have intervened otherwise than by way of evolution out of existing materials—to create mind, to create life, to create matter. But, beyond all question, it is our business to respect in science, as in other things, every clearly ascertained report of the senses; for every such report represents a fact, and a fact is sacred as having its place in the Temple of Universal Truth. Professor Darwin's greatness is not least conspicuous in the patience and care with which he observed and registered minute single facts as well as groups of facts. Who that has read his book on Earthworms can forget the experiments by which be set himself to discover whether a worm processes the faculty of hearing? But a fact is one thing, while theories, hypotheses, doctrines—like that of evolution itself—framed by men of genius so as to include or account for facts, are quite another. These theories may or may not be true, even if they are brilliant and imposing; they may for a generation or for a century carry everything before them in the world of thought; but science know no finality, and while theories pass and are forgotten, facts—like God's revelation of Himself in Christ—remain. The bodily senses reports facts; of theories about facts they know nothing; it is on their report of a fact that Our Lord set His seal, when he bade Thomas thrust hand and finger into His sacred wounds and be not faithless but believing. In the third and last division of his sermon Canon Liddon showed that we learned from Our Lord's words how to deal with doubts of the truth of religion, whether in ourselves of in other people.
Preaching yesterday afternoon at Westminster Abbey, Canon Prothero, in the course of a sermon mainly directed against bigotry and superstition, took occasion to praise the late Mr. Darwin's pure and earnest love of truth and his patient industry in its pursuit. The greatest man of science of his day, Mr. Darwin possessed a sweet and gentle disposition, and was so entirely a stranger to intellectual pride and arrogance that he stated with the utmost modesty opinions of the truth of which he was himself convinced, but which, he was aware, could not be universally agreeable or acceptable. Surely such a man lived that charity which is the very essence of the true spirit of Christ.
Canon Barry, who preached at Westminster in the evening, also referred to Mr. Darwin as a leader of scientific thought, observing that the fruitful doctrine of evolution, with which the late Professor's name would always be associated, lent itself at least as readily to the old promise of God as to more modern, but less complete explanations of the universe. The principle of selection was by no means ali to the Christian religion, but it was selection exercises under the Divine intelligence and-determined by the spiritual fitness of each man for life hereafter. And to man was accorded the privilege of free will, which enabled him to be a fellow-worker with God in the great scheme of Providence. In the natural life of the brute creation the struggle for existence was the constant and dominant otive; but the spiritual life of mankind was refreshed and intensified by obedience to the contrary doctrine of self-sacrifice, which lay at the root of all the teaching of the Gospel.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir,—It may interest your readers to knew that on the day on which the illustrious philosopher Charles Darwin died I received from him a most graceful letter enclosing a subscription for the portrait of the Duke of Devonshire, Chancellor of the University.
This letter was dated April 18, and was probably the last letter which he wrote.
I am, Sir, your obedient-servant,
JAMES PORTER, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.
Peterhouse Lodge, Cambridge, April 21.
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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