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subtle modulation which comes of imaginative creation; and it is not Shelley, because he was essentially a singer, and many of the profoundest and delightfullest things absolutely refuse to be sung. It is Shakspeare par excellence, and it is Goethe par hasard. Historically speaking, however, it may be observed that the greatest Poets have not been those men who have used Verse habitually and necessarily ; and if we glance over the names of living men of genius, we shall perhaps not count those most poetic who call their productions openly "poems." Meanwhile, we wait on for the Miracle-worker who never comes, the Poet. We fail as yet to catch the tones of his voice; but we have no hesitation in deciding that his first proof of ministry will be dissatisfaction with the limitations of Verse as at present written.
No. VI.-SIR JOHN LUBBOCK.
Sir John LUBBOCK stands a better chance of immortality than thousands of more ambitious legislators. In the last debate on the great Kew and Hooker-Ayrton question, Mr. Bernal Osborne said that he had his fears that “the honourable member for Maidstone, being young and soft, had been got at by the Treasury bench.” But though Sir John Lubbock is not old, and in these days of vigorous perdurable old fellows may be called young, he is certainly not soft--neither in the modern sense of silly, nor in that in which Adam and Eve in the miracle-play plead that their wit being so “nesh” or “naish,” it was “hard hap” to be exposed to the apple test. Good-natured he, of course, is ; but he can hold his own and put in his left with decision, as he has shown in the House of Commons, and in, for example, his replies to the Duke of Argyll's “Primeval Man." But besides that, and much more, he has done, in the matter of the Bank holidays—which in time will be called the Lubbock holidays—he has done for himself a deed which provokes the question of policeman X in “ Jacob Homnium's Hoss"
“ Wasn' that a artful dodge ?”
Sir John is an archæologist, and his researches into the past history of the race have suggested to him that general holidays are longlived institutions. No traces of such things have as yet been discovered in the palæolithic age, or even later in the prehistoric times; nor would the owner of that Neanderthal skull, about which Sir John makes such loosely affiliated remarks, be pleasant company for Marshall & Snellgrove's men in his park; but nobody can deny that holidays are long-lived things. The man who connects one with his name may live at least as long as Bel, and as we have not yet got to the beginning of Bel, nobody can tell how many millions of ages
may mean. Young legislators are apt to fly their hawks at the most difficult of legislative games, and then they fail to inscribe their names on the statute book ; but Sir John Lubbock, by the simple device of getting Parliament to make new holidays, has inscribed his name on the minds of the people, and on the statute bouk also. He will probably be remembered with honour, even at a time when a skull as good as his own shall seem to the future man as low in type as the Neanderthal, and some future critic as acute as Sir John himself shall think it worth while to say “there is not the slightest reason for presuming this to have been the skull of an idiot.” (“Prehistoric Times,” p. 332.)
Sir John Lubbock would be the last man to flinch from looking
forward to such a time, for he lays it down in page 492 of the same book, that “the unselfish mind will find its highest gratification” in looking forward to a day when our descendants will have indefinitely improved upon the type we represent. The phrase “highest gratification ” is not applied with the author's usual caution. It has been said that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to feel much remorse for having killed a man in China by a ricochet of a bullet fired here; and we all know that the auditor who remained unmoved under a sermon which had set all the rest of the listeners crying, thought it a sufficient apology for his reticence that he was “not of the same parish.” There are many ways of looking at such matters :
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
A man must obviously make up his mind that life is of some value to himself before he can find his “highest,” or even a high, gratification in contemplating the extension of the gift of life to others. Sir John Lubbock is struck, as well he might be, with the intensity and frequent recurrence under diverse forms of the belief among savages in a future life. I am taking in our survey as wide a sweep of observatio
as Sir John himself could wish, omitting neither Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor Scythian; and putting the facts everywhere at their lowest, the facts persistently suggest that the tendency of human nature is to go outside of itself and the definitely known to find the value or significance of the present life. Your savage, or your Semitic half-savage, may be a bad logician, but the element which must logically expand itself into a living God and an endless life is there ; and it is in that element, that unutterable cypher of infinity, and not in the prospect of an indefinitely extended succession of poor units that human nature finds its “highest gratification.” When a man has got to such a pass as to be forced to say, “I would rather not have been born, if this life is all,” can he possibly care about wretched units like himself, to be born ten thousand years hence, in 80 “advanced” a condition as to look upon him as a savage? If I could only convey to others the intensity with which the absurdity of caring for “Humanity" on even the highest of agnostic principles strikes me, I believe I should do the world a far greater service than it will ever actually be my lot to perform. Few men can have had keener or more varied pleasures in life as it is, and none can be bound to it by stronger personal ties; and yet the statement that a man can find his “
highest gratification ” in looking forward to the indefinite progress of miserable worms like himself, reads to me like an atrocious mockery. I say nothing here of the chance that the
Great Being may, as Comte puts it, be some day “compromised” altogether by some unforeseen "cosmic" action-in which event there would be a pretty conclusion to the idiot's story, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing-I look simply to the utter paltriness of the climax, supposing it reached. And if the contemplation of such a climax were the “highest gratification” open to me, I would instantly devote myself to preaching up the discontinuation of the
The greatest service I could render to Humanity would in that case be to cut short its bead-roll if only by half a dozen items.
The reader must not suppose, from the warmth with which I have expressed myself in this matter, that Sir John Lubbock has anywhere stated his conviction that there is no future life for the individual man, or no Divine Arbiter of the conditions of such a life. That he has such a conviction would be a fair inference from the language I have quoted, but a writer must not be held strictly to a casual phrase. Sir John Lubbock everywhere expresses himself cautiously and respectfully upon religious questions; and he may almost be said to rebuke the Duke of Argyll for saying, or seeming to say, that collective man may forfeit his religion. In fact, the readers of Sir John Lubbock cannot affirm that his books afford them any knowledge whatever of his religious belief. All we can certainly say is that opinions such as his upon human progress and the foundations of ethics are usually found affiliated-in my opinion they by necessity of reason affiliate themselves—to some form of agnosticism. Sir John Lubbock's assumed terminus a quo, so far as the natural history of man is concerned, is utter barbarism. His terminus ad quem is a Utopia of civilisation ; and I cannot see any way of associating Theism with these conditions,
But in this respect Sir John is simply a typical man, and one can only wish that all religious dogmatists were as candid, as fair to opponents, and as careful not to overdraw the bowstring as he is. That he is a typical man in the particulars I have instanced is certain, and he is so in others. A gentleman-a man of businessa man of science--a politician-a firm believer in the leading nineteenth century ideas—with strong convictions as to the duties of “the State ”—and remarkably moderate and sane (to use Mr. Matthew Arnold's phrase) through it all ; it would be difficult to single out a member of parliament more clearly representative of the “ most approved” tendencies of the hour than this cultivated and energetic Englishman. Unfortunately, my sympathy with those
approved" tendencies is too imperfect to admit of my doing him much more than negative justice. And some of the qualities of his writing are of the kind that do not attract me. I can heartily admire their clearness, their candour, their shrewdness, the command over detail which they exhibit, their occasional humour, their freedom from bitterness, and their evident good feeling, but I feel keenly the
want of colour, warmth, height, and ornament. Not a single sentence dwells on my mind by its own mere weight or beauty, and not a single eloquent touch can I recall. Now and then there is a hint of pathos, but it is exceedingly businesslike, and you are not allowed to dwell upon it. Of all this, taken by itself, no reasonable person could complain. Sir John is a man of science and a thinker, and we do not look for heat and colour where dry light is most wanted. But I am bound to note the facts as indications. The way in which he abstains from passing moral judgments is admirable, and his reasons are well assigned; but one is somewhat startled to find how little emotion he displays in going over his long story of misery and degradation. He stands fully excused by his own faith in the “cheering prospects” of our race, founded on “strictly scientific considerations," (“Origin of Civilisation," p. 323), but I am almost tempted to say that really a fellow ought to be a man of business, a rich baronet, a member of Parliament, and a man of science, to take all this so coolly, and to talk about "cheering prospects” at the end.
It has been said that “Don Quixote” is the most melancholy book that ever was written. It must, however, give way to Sir John Lubbock's two volumes; and yet they do not record a single fact which can be said to alter that estimate of savage man which one's fancy forms for itself before one has read travellers' tales. One thing that strikes me very forcibly on turning over these weary pages is the perpetual difficulty we are placed in by the want of psychological capacity in travellers. How is this to be got over ? You cannot expect a man to have the qualities of a philosopher along with those of a roaming adventurer, and yet the outcome of a want of psychological skill in an observer in such matters is simply-that you cannot trust his observations. Nor does the matter seem to me to be much mended by collating and comparing the travellers' tales as Sir John and others have done. Your first inclination on dipping into such books is to burst out crying, or dash your head against a wall; but, when you have a little recovered yourself, you say, “This is all my eye—what does it remind me of?” and, in a minute or two, the analogy comes—it is all just like the sham anecdotes of remarkable that
Punch : "Burke had such a horror of parsnips that if they came on table he instantly took refuge in a neighbouring mews. Jeremy Bentham invariably fainted at the sight of a veterinary surgeon in evening costume. Archbishop Tillotson asked every stranger to whom he was introduced whether he had any relations in the Excise ; if the answer was in the affirmative, the Prelate gazed at his chaplain, and instantly went out fishing." And
you exclaim with Hamlet, “I'll have grounds more relative than this.” At least I do. The persons who can report a fact properly are as few as those who can interpret one properly. And the instances in which I have with success ventured to correct the most positive