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CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


No. 450. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, AUGUST 14, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2_d._




HINTS ON THE USEFUL-KNOWLEDGE MOVEMENT.


The advocates of the diffusion of useful knowledge among the great
body of the people, found one of their greatest difficulties to lie in
an inability on the part of the people themselves to see what benefit
they were to derive from the knowledge proposed to be imparted. This
knowledge consisted of such a huge mass of facts of all kinds, that
few could overcome a sense of hopelessness as attending every
endeavour to acquire it. Take botany alone, it was said. You have a
hundred thousand species of plants to become acquainted with - to learn
their names, and to what genera and orders they belong, besides
everything like a knowledge of their habitats, their properties, and
their physiology. Seeing that this is but one of the sciences, there
might well be a pause before admitting that the moral and intellectual
regeneration of our people was to be brought about by the
useful-knowledge movement.

There was here, however, a mistake on both hands, and one which we are
only now beginning to appreciate. It was not observed at first, that
there is a great distinction to be drawn between the relations of
science to its cultivators or investigators, and those which it bears
to the community at large. It is most important that a scientific
zoologist like Mr Waterhouse, or a profound physiologist like
Professor Owen, should determine and describe every species with the
minutest care, even to the slightest peculiarities in the markings of
a shell or the arrangements of a joint, because that exactness of
description is necessary in the foundations of the science. But it is
not necessary that every member of the public should follow the man of
science into all these minutiæ. It is not required of him, that he
should have the names of even the seventy families of plants at his
finger-ends, though that is not beyond the reach of most people. Some
summation of the facts, some adroit generalisation, if such be
attainable, is enough for him. The man of science is, as it were, a
workman employed in rearing up a structure for the man of the world to
look at or live in. The latter has no more necessary concern with the
processes of investigation and compilation, than a gentleman has with
the making of the mortar and hewing of the stones used in a house
which he has ordered to be built for his residence.

Were the facts of science thus generalised, it is surprising how
comprehensive a knowledge of the whole system of the universe every
person might have. Only generalise enough, and no one need to be
ignorant. Just in proportion as a man has little time to bestow on
learning, condense the more what you wish to impart, and the result,
where there is any fair degree of preparedness, will be all the
better. In the very last degree of exigency, explain that nature is a
system of fixed method and order, standing in a beneficial relation to
us, but requiring a harmonious conformity on our part, in order that
good may be realised and evil avoided, and you have taken your pupil
by one flight to the very summit of practical wisdom. The most
illustrious _savant_, while knowing some of the intermediate steps by
which that wisdom was attained, and having many delightful subjects of
reflection in the various phenomena involved in the generalisation,
cannot go an inch further.

This is putting the matter in its extreme form. We are entitled to
suppose that the bulk of mankind have some time to spend on the
acquirement of a knowledge of the natural system of things into which
their Maker has thrown them. Grant a little time to such a science,
for example, as botany; we would never attempt impressing a vast
nomenclature upon them. We would give them at once more pleasure and
more instruction in shewing some of the phenomena of vegetable
physiology: fundamental and profoundly interesting matters, of which
specific distinctions and external characters of all kinds are only
accidental results - that is, results determined by the outer phenomena
affecting the existence of plants. A single lesson on the profound
wonders of morphology would go further, we verily believe, in making
our pupil a man of science, than the committing of the whole Linnæan
system to memory. In zoology, again, we would leave the endless
details of minute description to the tomes of the scientific
naturalist, and be content to sketch animals in broad masses - first,
in regard to grades of organisation; and, second, in regard to family
types. The Feline Animal, we say, is one idea of the Creator - a
destructive creature of wonderful strength in comparison with its
bulk - of immense agility, furtive in its movements, furnished with
great powers for the destruction of others. Lion, tiger, panther,
ounce, lynx, jaguar, cat, are all essentially one creature - not the
slightest difference can be traced in their osteological structure,
hardly any in their habits. Why dwell, then, on minutiæ of external
appearances, if time presses, and there be much of more importance to
be learned? So, also, is the Cirrhopode one idea of the author of
nature. You may find a very respectable quarto account of the family,
tracing them in all their varieties; but a page might inform you of
all that is essential about the barnacle, curious as its history has
been, and you need not ponder on the quarto unless you have some
particular curiosity to gratify. The Types of nature, both in her
vegetable and animal departments are, after all, few. Describe each
comprehensively, group them all in correct relations to each other,
and display their various destinies and connections with the rest of
creation, and you enable your pupil to learn in a few weeks more than
Pliny mastered in a lifetime.

It appears to us that the reason why science is so coldly received in
ordinary society is, that either by reason of its unripeness for
generalisation, or of the tendency of its cultivators to keep
continually analysing and multiplying facts, it has not in general
been presented in propositions which the ordinary mind can comprehend
or make use of. We should be loath to urge it into generalisations for
which it was not prepared; but while this is duly avoided, we would
have it to be somewhat more vigilant than it usually is, in taking
opportunities of proceeding with those synthetical clumpings of facts
which we conceive to be so essential, on mere grounds of convenience,
to its success with the multitude. Better be a little dogmatical, than
insupportably tedious. Better have your knowledge in some order,
though not perhaps beyond correction, than in no order at all. It is
to be feared, however, that the thing wanting is not the sufficiency
of particulars out of which to make general or comprehensive truths,
but that of the requisite intellectual power and habit on the part of
the men of science. The constant working towards separate facts seems
to disqualify the mind for grouping or clustering them. Hundreds can
detect a new sphinx or butterfly in the fauna of a country or a
county, and are content with such small results, for one who can lay a
few facts together, and make one truth out of all. One could almost
believe, that there is a greater want of comprehensive intellect in
the walks of science, than in some other fields of labour which make
less pretension to an exertion of the mental faculties: for example,
merchandise. And does not that very appearance of continual peddling
amongst trifles, in some degree prevent the highest kind of minds from
going into the fields of science? There is here, it appears to us, a
great error to be corrected.

Another cause why science makes little way with the multitude is, that
there is too little connection to be observed between the ordinary
proceedings of the scientific and learned, and the practical good of
the community. The British Association meets, and has its week of
notoriety, and when we look into the resulting volume, what do we
find? Doubtless, many ingenious speculations and many curious
investigations, which may in the long-run prove beneficial in some
indirect way. But it must be admitted, that there is hardly anything
bearing directly upon the great interests of contemporary humanity.
The crying social evils of our time and country obtain no notice from
the recognised students of science. To all appearance, the political
error which legitimated scarcity would have never been put an end to
by them. The sanitary evils which press so severely upon the health
and morals of the common people, would apparently go on for ever, for
anything that philosophers have to say to the contrary. What concern
have they taken in the question of education, either in promoting its
extension to the masses, or improving its quality? Our national
councils, and every deliberative public body throughout the country,
spend one half their time in wrangling about the most contemptible
puerilities, without drawing one word of indignant comment, or one
effort at correction, from the learned. The studious are like stars,
and dwell apart. Busying themselves in a world of their own,
exercising no visible influence on the current of ordinary things, is
it to be wondered at that the common people of the world put them and
their pursuits almost as entirely out of account as they do the
proceedings at Melton Mowbray? We grant it is not desirable that the
_cui bono_ should be the ruling consideration in matters of science;
but we at the same time feel, that it would be well for it if it gave
a little more attention to the social and moral questions affecting
living interests, or at least endeavoured to bring its results to
account in practical improvements of general utility.[1]

We must recur after all to the maxim which it is mainly the object of
this paper to impress - that judicious generalisation is the
indispensable pre-requisite to a more general diffusion of knowledge.
To bring it to an apothegm - Let the man of science in seeking to
enlighten himself, pursue analysis; in seeking to enlighten the outer
public, he has no chance but in synthesis.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] We have much pleasure in acknowledging one instance of a movement
in the right direction, in connection with the Museum of Economic
Geology in London. While nothing can exceed the beauty of the
arrangements in that institution, for enabling everybody that chooses
to study the science from the actual objects, the professors have,
during the last winter, come forward with supererogatory zeal to teach
the working-classes, and to illustrate in every possible way the
bearings of the subject upon the arts and economy of life.




THE FALSE HAIR:

A TALE.


'Pray remember, Monsieur Lagnier, that I wish particularly to go out
this morning. It is now past one o'clock, and if you continue
endeavouring to do what is quite impossible, my hair will never be
dressed. You had much better plait it as usual.'

Adelaide de Varenne pronounced these words in a tone of pettishness
very unusual with her, as, giving vent to a long sigh of impatience
and weariness, she glanced hastily at the mirror on her toilet-table,
and saw there reflected the busy fingers of M. Lagnier, the
hairdresser, deliberately unfastening her hair, and preparing once
more to attempt the arrangement, which repeated failures had declared
to be an impossibility. He looked up, however, as he did so, and
seemed to read the expression of her features, for a comic mixture of
astonishment and dismay immediately overspread his own.

'Fifteen years,' he exclaimed, 'I have had the honour of daily
attending mademoiselle, and she never was angry with me before! What
can I have done to offend her?'

'Oh, nothing very serious,' replied the young girl, good-naturedly;
'but really I wish you would not dally so long. It is of very little
consequence, I think, how one's hair is worn.'

'Why, certainly every style is equally becoming to mademoiselle,' was
the old man's polite reply. 'Nevertheless, I had set my heart upon
arranging it to-day according to the last fashion: it would suit
mademoiselle _à ravir_.' Adelaide laughed.

'But you see it is impossible,' she said. 'I have so very little hair;
and I am sure it is not my fault - nor,' she added archly, 'the fault
of all those infallible pomades and essences recommended to me by
somebody I know.' M. Lagnier looked embarrassed.

'Mademoiselle is so gay, she finds amusement in everything,' he
replied. '_I_ cannot laugh upon so serious a subject.' Adelaide
laughed again more heartily than before, and M. Lagnier continued,
indignantly: 'Mademoiselle does not care for the loss of her beauty,
then?'

'Oh, I did not know there was any question of that!' and the young
girl suddenly resumed an expression of gravity, which completely
imposed upon the simple old man.

'You see, mademoiselle,' he continued earnestly, 'I have been
considering a long time what is best to be done. It is evident that my
pomades, usually so successful, have no effect upon _your_ hair;
owing, I suppose, to - to - - I can't say exactly what it is owing to.
It is very strange. I never knew them to fail before. Would
mademoiselle object to wearing a slight addition of false hair?' he
asked anxiously, after a moment's pause.

'Indeed, I should not like it,' was the reply. 'Besides, Monsieur
Lagnier, you have often told me that, in all Paris, it was impossible
to obtain any of the same shade as mine.'

'Ah, but I have succeeded at last!' exclaimed he; and as he spoke, he
drew triumphantly from his pocket a small packet, in which was
carefully enveloped a long lock of soft golden hair.

'How beautiful!' Adelaide involuntarily exclaimed. 'Oh, Monsieur
Lagnier, that is far finer and brighter than mine.'

'The difference is very slight indeed; it would be imperceptible when
both were braided together,' returned the hairdresser. 'Do, pray,
allow me, mademoiselle, to shew you the effect;' and without waiting
for a reply, he commenced the operation. In a few moments it was
completed, and the old man's delight was extreme. 'There!' he
exclaimed in ecstasy. 'I knew the style would suit you exactly. Oh,
mademoiselle, pray allow it to remain so; I should be _au désespoir_
were I obliged to unfasten it now.'

Adelaide hesitated: it was, however, no conscientious scruple which
occasioned her hesitation. She was a Frenchwoman, a beauty, and a
little - a very little - of a coquette. To add to her attractions by the
slight _supercheries_ of the toilet was, she thought, a very venial
sin; it was a thing which, in the society that surrounded her, was
looked upon as necessary, and sometimes even considered as a virtue.
She was a strange girl, a dreamer, an enthusiast, with a warm heart,
and a lively, but perhaps too easily-excited imagination. From her
infancy, she had been accustomed to reflect, to question, and to
reason; but left almost entirely to her own unguided judgment, the
habit was not in every respect favourable to the formation of her
character. It was, however, but little injured by it. She was one of
those favoured beings whom no prosperity can spoil, no education
entirely mislead, and whose very faults arise from the overflowings of
a good and generous nature. The thought which agitated her now was one
worthy of her gentle heart.

'Monsieur Lagnier,' she said earnestly, 'such beautiful hair could
only have belonged to a young person. She must have been in great
distress to part with it. Do you know her? Did she sell it to you?
What is her name? I cannot bear to wear it: I shall be thinking of her
continually.'

'Ah, Mademoiselle Adelaide, that is so like you! Why, I have provided
half the young ladies in Paris with false tresses, and not one has
ever asked me the slightest question as to how or where they were
obtained. Indeed, I should not often have been able to reply. In this
case, however, it is different. I bought it myself, and consequently
can give you a little information respecting it. Yesterday evening, I
was standing at my door in the Rue St Honoré, when a young girl,
attracted no doubt by the general appearance of my window, stopped to
admire the various articles exhibited there. She had a pretty face,
but I scarcely looked at that; I only saw her hair, her beautiful,
rich, golden hair. It was pushed carelessly behind her ears, and half
concealed beneath a little white cap. "Mademoiselle," I said,
accosting her - for I could not bear that she should pass the door - "is
there anything that you would like to buy? a pair of combs, for
instance. I have some very cheap; although," I added, with a sigh, as
she appeared about to move on, "such lovely hair as yours requires no
ornament." At these words, she returned quickly, and looking into my
face, exclaimed: "Will you buy my hair, monsieur?" "Willingly, my
child," I replied; and in another instant she was seated in my shop,
and the bright scissors were gleaming above her head. Then my heart
failed me, and I felt half inclined to refuse the offer. "Are you not
sorry, child, to part with your hair?" I asked. "No," she answered
abruptly; and gathering it all together in her hand, she put it into
mine. The temptation was too great; besides, I saw that she herself
was unwilling that we should break the contract. Her countenance never
changed once during the whole time, and when all was over, she
stooped, and picking up a lock which had fallen upon the ground, asked
in an unfaltering voice: "May I keep this, monsieur?" I said yes, and
paid her; and then she went away, smiling, and looking quite happy,
poor little thing. After all, mademoiselle, what is the use of beauty
to girls in her class of life? She is better without it.'

'And her name - did you not ask her name?' inquired Adelaide
reproachfully.

'Why, yes, mademoiselle, I did. She told me that it was Lucille
Delmont, and that she was by trade a _fleuriste_. It was all the
information she would give me.'

'What could she have wanted with the money? Perhaps she was starving:
there is so much misery in Paris!' continued Mademoiselle de Varenne,
after a pause.

'She was very pale and thin,' said the hairdresser; 'but then so are
the generality of our young citizens. Do not make yourself unhappy
about it, mademoiselle; I shall see her again, probably, and shall
endeavour to find out every circumstance respecting her.' With these
words, M. Lagnier respectfully took leave, having by one more
expressive glance testified his delighted approval of the alteration
which had taken place in the young lady's appearance.

Adelaide, having summoned her maid, continued her toilet in a listless
and absent manner. Her thoughts were fixed upon the young girl whose
beauty had been sacrificed for hers, and an unconquerable desire to
learn her fate took possession of her mind. Her intended disposal of
the morning seemed quite to be forgotten; and she was on the point of
forming new plans, very different from the first, when the lady to
whose care she had been confided during the absence of her father from
town, entered the apartment, and aroused her from her reverie by
exclaiming: 'Ah, you naughty girl! I have been waiting for you this
half hour. Was not the carriage ordered to take us to the Tuileries?'

'Yes, indeed, it was; but I hope you will excuse me: I had almost
forgotten it.' And Adelaide immediately related to her friend the
circumstance which had occurred, and begged her aid in the discovery
of Lucille. Madame d'Héranville laughed - reasoned, but in vain; and,
finding Adelaide resolved, she at length consented to accompany her
upon the search, expressing as she did so her entire conviction that
it would prove useless and unsatisfactory.

The day was spent in visits to the principal _modistes_ of Paris; but
from none could any information be gained concerning the young
flower-girl. None had ever even heard her name. Adelaide was returning
home, disappointed, but not discouraged. Still resolved to continue
her endeavours, she had just announced to Madame d'Héranville her
intention of visiting upon the following day the shops of an inferior
class, when the carriage was suddenly arrested in its course by the
crowd of vehicles which surrounded it, and they found themselves
exactly before the door of a small warehouse of the description she
alluded to. She was about to express a wish to enter, it being still
early, when her attention was attracted by two persons who stood
conversing near the door, and whose voices, slightly raised, were
distinctly audible. They had excited the interest and curiosity of
both Adelaide and her companion by the earnestness of their manner,
and by the expression of sorrow depicted upon the countenance of the
elder speaker, a young man of about twenty-five years of age, who,
from his costume, as well as accent, appeared to be a stranger in
Paris.

'I have promised - will you not trust me?' he said in a
half-reproachful tone; and Adelaide bent eagerly forward to catch a
glimpse of the young girl to whom these words were addressed; but her
face was turned away, and the large hood of a woollen cloak was drawn
over her head, almost completely concealing her features.

'I do trust you,' she said in reply to the young man's words - 'I do
indeed. And now, good-by, dear André; we shall meet again soon - in our
own beautiful Normandie.' And she held out her hand, which he took and
held for an instant without speaking.

'May I not conduct you home?' he asked at length.

'No, André; it is better that we should part here. We must not trust
too much to our courage, it has failed us so often already.' And as
she spoke, she raised her head, and looked up tearfully at her
companion, disclosing as she did so a face of striking beauty,
although worn and pallid to a painful degree, and appearing even more
so than it really was from the total absence of her hair. The tears
sprang to Adelaide's eyes. In the careworn countenance before her she
read a bitter tale. Almost instinctively, she drew forth her purse,
and leaning over the side of the carriage, called 'Lucille! Lucille!'
But the young girl did not hear her; she had already turned, and was
hastening rapidly away, while André stood gazing after her, as if
uncertain of the reality of what had just occurred. He was so deeply
engrossed in his reflections, that he did not hear his name repeatedly
pronounced by both Adelaide and her friend. The latter at length
directed the servant to accost him, and the footman was alighting for
that purpose, when two men turned quickly the corner of the street,
and perceiving André, stopped suddenly, and one of them exclaimed:
'Ah, good-evening, Bernard; you are just the very fellow we want;' and
taking André by the arm, he drew him under the shade of a _porte
cochère_, and continued, as he placed a small morocco case in his
hand: 'Take care of this for me, André, till I return: I shall be at
your lodgings in an hour. Giraud and I are going to the Cité, and as
this pocket-book contains valuables, we are afraid of losing it. _Au
revoir_!'

André made no reply. He placed the pocket-book carelessly in his
bosom, and his two friends continued hastily their way. He was himself
preparing to depart, when the footman touched him gently on the
shoulder, and told him of Mademoiselle de Varenne's wish to speak to
him. André approached the carriage, surprised and half abashed at the
unlooked-for honour; then taking off his cap, waited respectfully for
one of the ladies to address him. At the same instant, a
police-officer seized him roughly by the arm, and exclaimed: 'Here is
one of them! I saw them all three together not two hours ago!' And
calling to a comrade who stood near, he was about to lead André away.
At first, the young man made no resistance; but his face grew deadly
pale, and his lip trembled violently.

'What do you want? What have I done?' he demanded at length, turning
suddenly round to face his accuser; but the latter only replied by a
laugh, and an assurance that he would know all about it presently. A
slight struggle ensued, in the midst of which the pocket-book fell to
the ground, and a considerable number of bank-notes bestrewed the
pavement. At this sight, André seemed suddenly to understand the cause


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