Изображения страниц

us that counterpoise.” To the latter University also are we incidentally indebted for that luminous survey of Transmutation of Species which exhibits Mr. Darwin in direct antagonism to the authority of the first comparative anatomist in the world.3

3. From those head-quarters of learned leisure, the detailed scrutiny of the new views, and of the promised elucidation of them, will doubtless, in due time, come.4 To appraise aright observations and experiments in the more occult nooks of so vast a field, belongs to those who have made Mr. Darwin's speciality and the kindred branches of knowledge, the study and business of a lifetime. To them, in so far, we must defer ; on them, in so far, rely. Pending their decision, however, on points of minor interest, it is not to be forgotten that there are certain broad inductions and governing facts which may be grasped at a cost of study and reflection short of lifelong. “Origin of Species” is one of those subjects on which, if a man has no fixed belief, and no good reason to offer for such belief, he must have been neglecting a culture which lies, in these days, at his very door. This is not a question for savans merely ; it is a question for all men, in that they are men. As such let us look at

In the first place, let us endeavour to seize distinctly Mr. Darwin's meaning, and allow all due weight to his arguments. The bird that buries its own eyes dues not blind the hunters ; nor will all the prejudice or prepossession that ever lodged in the human breast alter the nature of physical truth, or strip facts of the least particle of reality. On the other hand, let us be clearly apprised whither these arguments, if they stand the test, must lead us, in order that we may appreciate to the full our interest in the issue raised. To prove the origin of the higher animals from the lower, and of man limself from both,--this, in all its sweep of inference, not attempted to be masked, save by the flimsiest and most transparent of veils, is the true drift and purport of Mr. Darwin's book. “Come,” the poet Rogers used to say, as he bent his steps to the monkey department of the Zoological Gardens,—“Come, let us see our poor relations.” The words might serve for a motto to the

Origin of Species.” What the poet meant in questionable jest, the naturalist means in downright earnest.

4. Reserving the mystery of the first spark of life, Creation, it seems, is its own Creator. . Animals, from the least to the greatest, and plants as well, from the fungus to the oak, and from the ant to the elephant, have not been made, but have simply grown. All living things have an immensely ancient, but a nearly, or, more probably, a strictly common ancestry. Descent with modification" is the clue to the whole. The dairymaid and the animal she milks, the angler and the trout he captures, are strictly consanguineous, and sprung from a single stock. Nay, these are comparatively near “ relations :" there is a cousinhood equally real, though more remote, between the angler and the tobacco he smokes, or the cow and the cowslip it is cropping5 The pedigree may not be recoverable, for its ramifications are prodigious; but a common pedigree there is. Lapse of ages, by the myriad, by the million, has left scope for innumerable divergent sproutings from the wide-spreading tree of Terrestrial Life; but these, diverse as they are, all spring from the stem, and are fed from the roots, of that one tree.

5. Seemingly a strain on faith ; but an illustration is at hand to help us. Certain forms of human speech are so palpably of kin that their common source is selfevident. The dialect of Aberdeenshire is not that of Ayrshire; but even its most salient and formidable peculiarities--a hopeless puzzle across the border-would be no enigma to a native of the west. At a wider remove, a Spaniard and a Portuguese might have harder

work in understanding one another ; but they could easily see that their sister tongues had each a mother in the Latin. So Latin and Greek may be likened to first cousins. And what if there be a more distant cousinhood between two such seemingly discordant forms of speech as Greek and Gaelic? Yet so it is. From the same ancestral cradle, beyond all doubt, have these languages sprung-that which lent winged words to the wrath of Achilles, and that which greeted the pilgrims to the clachan of Aberfoyle ; that which ministered to the rude requirements of Ranald of the Mist, and that which rolled sonorous, in golden periods, from the lips of Pericles, and from the pen of Plato.

6. If thus all languages are, or may be conceived of, as linked together, why not all living things ? If Gaelic and Week could spring from one root, why not, far enough back, :rą moth and a marsupial, or a marsupial and a main Take only the base-line of the pyramid of language, and what can be less like than the fornis

, represented by the extreme points a and b? Yet run the eye up the two lines of ascent, and suppose you find that these Gaelic and Greek--through a series of insensibly diminished divergences, converge at c the point of departure. May it not be so with the pyramid of life? Man and a moth, or even man and a marsupial, are, indeed, very far apart in the present; but may they not be brought to meet, and melt into one ancestry, along converging lines of minutely graduated transition produced into an indefinitely and almost infinitely remote past? The parallel looks plausible enough at first sight. Several months ago, in the course of a private conversation, I remarked that there could be no better illustration of Mr. Darwin's idea than what might be drawn froin Mr. Max Müller's exposition, in his essay on Comparative Mythology, of the mutual though in part broken affinities of the entire group of Indo-European languages. I added that, while nothing could be more apt as an illustration, nothing could be more vicious as an analogy, or more feeble and faulty as an argument. To my no small surprise, in glancing next day at the then current number of a popular periodical,? I found the self-same comparison, suggested from the self-same source, in a paper styled “Studies in Animal Life." But the writer has overlooked those things that vitiate the assumed parallel. Suppose the pyramid of universal language refuses to run up into a perfecting point. Greek and Gaelic have a common parentage; but the same cannot be said of Gaelic and Chinese. If the Indo-European

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »