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Ex Libris
C. K. OGDEN



LAY SEKMONS, ADDBESSES, AND EEYIEWS.



LAY SERMONS,



ADDRESSES, AND REVIEWS



THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY, LL.D., FJL&.

AUTHOR OF
'S PLACE IN NATURE," " ORIGIN OF SPECIES," ETC., ETC.



KEW YOKE:
D. APPLETON AND COMPAKY,

549 & 551 BROADWAY.

1872.



Stack
Anne)?



ill



A PREFATORY LETTER.



MY DEAR TYNDALL,

I should have liked to provide this collection
of "Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Keviews," with a
Dedication and a Preface. In the former, I should have
asked you to allow me to associate your name with the
book, chiefly on the ground that the oldest of the papers
in it is a good deal younger than our friendship. In
the latter, I intended to comment upon certain criticisms
with which some of these Essays have been met.

But, on turning the matter over in my mind, I began
to fear that a formal dedication at the beginning of such
a volume would look like a grand lodge in front of a set
of cottages ; while a complete defence of any of my old
papers would simply amount to writing a new one a
labour for which I am, at present, by no means fit.

The book must go forth, therefore, without any better
substitute for either Dedication, or Preface, than this
letter ; before concluding which it is necessary for me
to notify you, and any other reader, of two or three
matters.



vi A PREFATORY LETTER.

The first is, that the oldest Essay of the whole, that
"On the Educational Value of the Natural History
Sciences," contains a view of the nature of the differences
between liying and not-living bodies out of which I have
long since grown.

Secondly, in the same paper, there is a statement con-
cerning the method of the mathematical sciences, which,
repeated and expanded elsewhere, brought upon me,
during the meeting of the British Association at Exeter,
the artillery of our eminent friend Professor Sylvester.

No one knows better than you do, how readily I
should defer to the opinion of so great a mathematician
if the question at issue were really, as he seems to think
it is, a mathematical one. But I submit, that the dictum
of a mathematical athlete upon a difficult problem which
mathematics offers to philosophy, has no more special
weight, than the verdict of that great pedestrian Captain
Barclay would have had, in settling a disputed point in
the physiology of locomotion.

The genius which sighs for new worlds to conquer
beyond that surprising region in which "geometry,
algebra, and the theory of numbers melt into one another
like sunset tints, or the colours of a dying dolphin/' may
be of comparatively little service in the cold domain
(mostly lighted by the moon, some say) of philosophy.
And the more I think of it, the more does our friend
seem to me to fall into the position of one of those
" verstiindige Leute," about whom he makes so apt a
quotation from Goethe. Surely he has not duly con-
sidered two points. The first, that I am in no way



A PREFATORY LETTER. vii

answerable for the origination of the doctrine he criti-
cises : and the second, that if we are to employ the
terms observation, induction, and experiment, in the
sense in which he uses them, logic is as much an
observational, inductive, and experimental science as
mathematics; and that, I confess, appears to me to be
a reductio ad absurdum of his argument.

Thirdly, the Essay " On the Physical Basis of Life" was
intended to contain a plain and untechnical statement of
one of the great tendencies of modern biological thought,
accompanied by a protest, from the philosophical side,
against what is commonly called Materialism. The
result of my well-meant efforts I find to be, that I am
generally credited with having invented "protoplasm"
in the interests of "materialism." My unlucky "Lay
Sermon" has been attacked by microscopists, ignorant
alike of Biology and Philosophy ; by philosophers, not
very learned in either Biology or Microscopy ; by clergy-
men of several denominations ; and by some few writers
who have taken the trouble to understand the subject.
I trust that these last will believe that I leave the Essay
unaltered from no want of respectful attention to all they
have said.

Fourthly, I wish to refer all who are interested in
the topics discussed in my address on "Geological Ee-
form," to the reply with which Sir William Thomson has
honoured me.

And, lastly, let me say that I reprint the review of
"The Origin of Species" simply because it has been
cited as mine by a late President of the Geological Society.



ral A PREFATORY LETTER.

If you find its phraseology, in some places, to be more
vigorous than seems needful, recollect that it was written
in the heat of our first battles over the Novum Organon
of Biology ; that we were all ten years younger in those
days ; and last, but not least, that it was not published
until it had been submitted to the revision of a friend
for whose judgment I had then, as I have now, the
greatest respect.

Ever, my dear TYNDALL,

Yours very faithfully,

T. H. HUXLEY.

LONDON, June 1870.



CONTENTS.



BMP

Qs THE ADVISABLENESS OF IMPROVING NATURAL KNOWLEDGE.
(A Lay Sermon delivered in St. Martin's Hall, on the evening
of Sunday, the 7th of January, 1866, and subsequently published
in the fortnightly Review) .............. 1



II.

EMANCIPATION BLACK AND WHITE. (The Header, May 20th, 18G5) 20



III.

A LIBERAL EDUCATION : AND WHERE TO FIND IT. (An Address
to the South London Working Men's College, delivered on the
4th of January, 1868, and subsequently published in Macmillan's
Magazine) 27



IV.

SCIENTIFIC EDUCATION : NOTES OF AN AFTER-DINNER SPEECH. (De-
livered before the Liverpool Philomathic Society in April 1869,
and subsequently published in Macmillan's Magazine) ..... 54



V.

Ox THE EDUCATIONAL VALUE OF THE NATURAL HISTORY SCIENCES.
(An Address delivered at St. Martin's Hall, on the 22d July, 1854,
and published as a pamphlet in that year) .



x CONTENTS.

VI.

PAOI

Ox THE STUDY OF ZOOLOGY. (A Lecture delivered at the South
Kensington Museum, in 1861, and subsequently published by the
Department of Science and Art) 04



VII.

Ox THE PHYSICAL BASIS OP LIFE. (A Lay Sermon delivered in
Edinburgh, on Sunday, the 8th of November, 1868, at the request
of the late Eev. James Cranbrook ; subsequently published in the
Fortnightly Review) . 120



VIIL

THE SCIENTIFIC ASPECTS OF POSITIVISM. (A Reply to Mr. Congreve's
Attack upon the preceding Paper. Published lii the Fortnightly
Review, 1869) 147



IX.

ON A PIECE OF CHALK. (A Lecture delivered to the Working Men of
Norwich, during the Meeting of the British Association, in 1868.
Subsequently published in Macmillan's Magazine) ... 174



GEOLOGICAL CONTEMPORANEITY AND PERSISTENT TYPES OF LIFE. (The

Anniversary Address to the Geological Society for 1862) .... 202



XI.

GEOLOGICAL REFORM. (The Anniversary Address to the Geological
Society for 1869) .228



XII.

THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. (The Westminster Review, AprJ. I860) . , . 255



CONTENTS. xi

XIII.

AGK

CRITICISMS ON "THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES." (The Natural History
Review, 18G4) 299



XIV.

ON DESCARTES' "DISCOURSE TOUCHING THE METHOD OF USING ONE'S
EEASON RIGHTLY AND OF SEEKING SCIENTIFIC TRUTH." (An
Address to the Cambridge Young Men's Christian Society, delivered
on the 24th of March, 1870, and subsequently published in
Macmttfan's Magazine) S2C



XV.

SPONTANEOUS GENERATION. (An Address delivered before the British
Association for the Advancement of Science, at the Liverpool
meeting, September, 1870, and published in Nature) .... 345



ON THE ADVISABLENESS OF IMPROVING
NATUEAL KNOWLEDGE.

THIS time two hundred years ago in the beginning of
January, 1666 those of our forefathers who inhabited
this great and ancient city, took breath between the
shocks of two fearful calamities: one not quite past,
although its fury had abated ; the other to come.

Within a few yards of the very spot on which we
are assembled, so the tradition runs, that painful
and deadly malady, the plague, appeared in the latter
months of 1664 ; and, though no new visitor, smote the
people of England, and especially of her capital, with
a violence unknown before, in the course of the following
year. The hand of a master has pictured what happened
in those dismal months ; and in that truest of fictions,
" The History of the Plague Year," Defoe shows death,
with every accompaniment of pain and terror, stalking
through the narrow streets of old London, and changing
their busy hum into a silence broken only by the
wailing of the mourners of fifty thousand dead ; by the
woful denunciations and mad prayers of fanatics ; and
by the madder yells of despairing profligates.

But, about this time in 1666, the death-rate had
sunk to nearly its ordinary amount; a case of plague
occurred only' here and there, and the richer citizens



2 LAY SERMONS, ADDRESSES, AND REVIEWS. [L

who had flown from the pest had returned to their
dwellings. The remnant of the people began to toil
at the accustomed round of duty, or of pleasure ; and
the stream of city life bid fair to flow back along its
old bed, with renewed and uninterrupted vigour.

The newly kindled hope was deceitful. The great
plague, indeed, returned no more ; {mt what it had
done for the Londoners, the great fire, which broke
out in the autumn of 1666, did for London ; and, in
September of that year, a heap of ashes and the inde-
structible energy of the people were all that remained
of the glory of five-sixths of the city within the walls.

Our forefathers had their own ways of accounting
for each of these calamities. They submitted to the
plague in humility and in penitence, for they believed
it to be the judgment of God. But, towards the fire
they were furiously indignant, interpreting it as the
effect of the malice of man, as the work of the
Eepublicans, or of the Papists, according as their pre-
possessions ran in favour of loyalty or of Puritanism.

It would, I fancy, have fared but ill with one who,
standing where I now stand, in what was then a thickly
peopled and fashionable part of London, should have
broached to our ancestors the doctrine which I now
propound to you that all their hypotheses were alike
wrong ; that the plague was no more, in their sense,
Divine judgment, than the fire was the work of any poli-
tical, or of any religious, sect ; but that they were them-
selves the authors of both plague and fire, and that they
must look to themselves to prevent the recurrence of
calamities, to all appearance so peculiarly beyond the
reach of human control so evidently the result of the
wrath of God, or of the craft and subtlety of an
enemy.



;.] AD7ISABLENESS OF IMPR07ING NATURAL KNOWLEDGE. 3

And one may picture to oneself how harmoniously
the holy cursing of the Puritan of that day would have
chimed in with the unholy cursing and the crackling
wit of the Eochesters and Sedleys, and with the revilings
of the political fanatics, if my imaginary plain dealer
had gone on to say that, if the return of such misfortunes
were ever rendered impossible, it would not be in virtue
of the victoiy of the faith of Laud, or of that of
Milton ; and, as little, by the triumph of republicanism,
as by that of monarchy. But that the one thing
needful for compassing this end was, that the people
of England should second the efforts of an insig-
nificant corporation, the establishment of which, a few
years before the epoch of the great plague and the
great fire, had been as little noticed, as they were
conspicuous.

Some twenty years before the outbreak of the plague
a few calm and thoughtful students banded themselves
together for the purpose, as they phrased it, of "im-
proving natural knowledge." The ends they proposed
to attain cannot be stated more clearly than in the
words of one of the founders of the organization :

" Our business was (precluding matters of theology
and state affairs) to discourse and consider of philo-
sophical enquiries, and such as related thereunto : as
Physick, Anatomy, Geometry, Astronomy, Navigation,
Staticks, Magneticks, Chymicks, Mechanicks, and
Natural Experiments ; with the state cf these studies
and their cultivation at home and abroad. We then
discoursed of the circulation of the blood, the valves
in the veins, the venae lactose, the lymphatic vessels,
the Copernican hypothesis, the nature of comets and
new stars, the satellites of Jupiter, the oval shape (as
it then appeared) of Saturn, the spots on the sun and



4 LAY SERMONS, ADDRESSES, AND REVIEWS. [i.

its turning on its own axis, the inequalities and seleno-
graphy of the moon, the several phases of Venus and
Mercury, the improvement of telescopes and grinding
of glasses for that purpose, the weight of air, the
possibility or impossibility of vacuities and nature's ab-
horrence thereof, the Torricellian experiment in quick-
silver, the descent of heavy bodies and the degree of
acceleration therein, with divers other things of like
nature, some of which were then but new discoveries,
and others not so generally known and embraced as
now they are ; with other things appertaining to what
hath been called the New Philosophy, which, from
the times of Galileo at Florence, and Sir Francis Bacon
(Lord Verulam) in England, hath been much cultivated
in Italy, France, Germany, and other parts abroad, as
well as with us in England."

The learned Dr. WalLis, writing in 1696, narrates, in
these words, what happened half a century before, or
about 1645. The associates met at Oxford, in the
rooms of Dr. Wilkins, who was destined to become a
bishop ; and subsequently coming together in London,
they attracted the notice of the king. And it is a
strange evidence of the taste for knowledge which the
most obviously worthless of the Stuarts shared with
his father and grandfather, that Charles the Second
was not content with saying witty things about his
philosophers, but did wise things with regard to them.
For he ,not only bestowed upon them such attention as
he could spare from his poodles and his mistresses, but,
being in his usual state of impecuniosity, begged for
them of the Duke of Ormond ; and, that step being
without effect, gave them Chelsea College, a charter, and
a mace : crowning his favours in the best way they could
be crowned, by burdening them no further with royal
patronage or state interference.



i.} AD7ISABLENESS OF IMPROVING NATURAL KNOWLEDGE. 5

Thus it was that? the half-dozen young men, studious
of the " New Philosophy," who met in one another's
lodgings in Oxford or in London, in. the middle of the
seventeenth century, grew in numerical and in real
strength, until, in its latter part, the " Eoyal Society for
the Improvement of Natural Knowledge" had already
become famous, and had acquired a claim upon the vene-
ration of Englishmen, which it has ever since retained,
as the principal focus of scientific activity in our islands,
and the chief champion of the cause it was formed to
support.

It was by the aid of the Eoyal Society that Newton
published his " Principia," If all the books in the world,
except the Philosophical Transactions, were destroyed, it
is safe to say that the foundations of physical science
would remain unshaken, and that the vast intellectual
progress of the last two centuries would be largely,
though incompletely, recorded. Nor have any signs
of halting or of decrepitude manifested themselves in
our own times. As in Dr. Wallis's days, so in these,
" our business is, precluding theology and state affairs,
to discourse and consider of philosophical enquiries."
But our " Mathematiek" is one which Newton would
have to go to school to learn ; our " Staticks, Mechanicks,
Magneticks, Chymicks, and Natural Experiments" con-
stitute a mass of physical and chemical knowledge,
a glimpse at which would compensate Galileo for
the doings of a score of inquisitorial cardinals; our
"Physick" and "Anatomy" have embraced such in-
finite varieties of being, have laid open such new
worlds in time and space, have grappled, not unsuc-
cessfully, with such complex problems, that the eyes
of Vesalius and of Harvey might be dazzled by the
sight of the tree that has grown out of their grain of
mustard seed.



6 LAY SERMONS, ADDRESSES, AND REVIEWS, [i.

The fact is perhaps rather too much, than too little,
forced upon one's notice, nowadays, that all this mar-
vellous intellectual growth has a no less wonderful
expression in practical life ; and that, in this respect, if
in no other, the movement symbolized by the progress
of the Royal Society stands without a parallel in the
history of mankind.

A series of volumes as bulky as the Transactions of
the Royal Society might possibly be filled with the
subtle speculations of the Schoolmen ; not improbably,
the obtaining a mastery over the products of mediaeval
thought might necessitate an even greater expenditure of
time and of energy than the acquirement of the " New
Philosophy;" but though such work engrossed the best
intellects of Europe for a longer time than has elapsed
since the great fire, its effects were " writ in water/' so
far as our social state is concerned.

On the other hand, if the noble first President of the
Royal Society could revisit the upper air and once more
gladden his eyes with a sight of the familiar mace, he
would find himself in the midst of a material civilization
more different from that of his day, than that of the
seventeenth, was from that of the first, century. And if
Lord Brouncker's native sagacity had not deserted his
ghost, he would need no long reflection to discover that
all these great ships, these railways, these telegraphs,
these factories, these printing-presses, without which the
whole fabric of modern English society would collapse
into a mass of stagnant and starving pauperism, that
all these pillars of our State are but the ripples and the
bubbles upon the surface of that great spiritual stream,
the springs of which, only, he and his fellows were
privileged to see ; and seeing, to recognise as that which
it behoved them above all things to keep pure and
undefiled.



I.] AD7ISARLENESS OF IMPROVING NATURAL KNOWLEDGE. 7

It may not be too great a flight of imagination to
conceive our noble revenant not forgetful of the great
troubles of his own day, and anxious to know how often
London had been burned down since his time, and how
often the plague had carried off its thousands. He would
have to learn that, although London contains tenfold the
inflammable matter that it did in 1666 ; though, not
content with filling our rooms with woodwork and light
draperies, we must needs lead inflammable and explosive
gases into every corner of our streets and houses, we
never allow even a street to burn down. And if he
asked how this had come about, we should have to
explain that the improvement of natural knowledge has
furnished us with dozens of machines for throwing water
upon fires, any one of which would have furnished the
ingenious Mr. Hooke, the first "curator and experi-
menter" of the Eoyal Society, with ample materials for
discourse before half a dozen meetings of that body ;
and that, to say truth, except for the progress of natural
knowledge, we should not have been able to make even
the tools by which these machines are constructed.
And, further, it would be necessary to add, that although
severe fires sometimes occur and inflict great damage,
the loss is very generally compensated by societies, the
operations of which have been rendered possible only
by the progress of natural knowledge in the direction of
mathematics, and the accumulation of wealth in virtue
of other natural knowledge.

But the plague ? My Lord Brouncker's observation
would not, I fear, lead him to think that Englishmen of
the nineteenth century are purer in life, or more fer-
vent in religious faith, than the generation which could
produce a Boyle, an Evelyn, and a Milton. He might
find the mud of society at the bottom, instead of at the
top, but I fear that the sum total would be as deserving



8 LAY SERMONS, ADDRESSES, AND REVIEWS. [L

of swift judgment as at the time of the Kestoration.
And it would be our duty to explain once more, and
this time not without shame, that we have no reason
to believe that it is the improvement of our faith, nor
that of our morals, which keeps the plague from our
city ; but, again, that it is the improvement of our
natural knowledge.

We have learned that pestilences will only take up
their abode among those who have prepared unswept
and ungarnished residences for them. Their cities must
have narrow, unwatered streets, foul with accumulated
garbage. Their houses must be ill-drained, ill-lighted,
ill-ventilated. Their subjects must be ill-washed, ill-
fed, ill-clothed. The London of 1665 was such a city.
The cities of the East, where plague has an enduring
dwelling, are such cities. We, in later times, have
learned somewhat of Nature, and partly obey her.
Because of this partial improvement of our natural
knowledge and of that fractional obedience, we have
no plague ; because that knowledge is still very imper-
fect and that obedience yet incomplete, typhus is our
companion and cholera our visitor. But it is not
presumptuous to express the belief that, when our
knowledge is more complete and our obedience the
expression of our knowledge, London will count her
centuries of freedom from typhus and cholera, as she
now gratefully reckons her two hundred years of
ignorance of that plague which swooped upon her
thrice in the first half of the seventeenth century.

Surely, there is nothing in these explanations which
is not fully borne out by the facts ? Surely, the prin-
ciples involved in them are now admitted among the
fixed beliefs of all thinking men? Surely, it is true
that our countrymen are less subject to fire, famine,
pestilence, and all the evils which result from a want



I.] ADVISABLENESS OF IMPROVING NATURAL KNOWLEDGE. 9

of command over and due anticipation of the course of
Nature, than were the countrymen of Milton ; and health,
wealth, and well-being are more abundant with us than
with them ? But no less certainly is the difference due
to the improvement of our knowledge of Nature, and
the extent to which that improved knowledge has been
incorporated with the household words of men, and has
supplied the springs of their daily actions.

Granting for a moment, then, the truth of that which
the depreciators of natural knowledge are so fond of
urging, that its improvement can only add to the resources
of our material civilization ; admitting it to be possible that
the founders of the Koyal Society themselves looked for
no other reward than this, I cannot confess that I was
guilty of exaggeration when I hinted, that to him who
had the gift of distinguishing between prominent events
and important events, the origin of a combined effort
on the part of mankind to improve natural knowledge
might have loomed larger than the Plague and have out-
shone the glare of the Fire ; as a something fraught with
a wealth of beneficence to mankind, in comparison with
which the damage done by those ghastly evils would
shrink into insignificance.

It is very certain that for every victim slain by
the plague, hundreds of mankind exist and find a fair
share of happiness in the world, by the aid of the
spinning jenny. And the great fire, at its worst, could
not have burned the supply of coal, the daily working
of which, in the bowels of the earth, made possible by the
steam pump, gives rise to an amount of wealth to which
the millions lost in old London are but as an old song.

But spinning jenny and steam pump are, after all, but
toys, possessing an accidental value ; and natural know-
ledge creates multitudes of more subtle contrivances, tho



'10 I AY SERMONS, ADDRESSES, AND REVIEWS. [i.

praises of which do not happen to be sung because they
are not directly convertible into instruments for creating
wealth. "When I contemplate natural knowledge squan-
dering such gifts among men, the only appropriate
comparison I can find for her is, to liken her to such a
peasant woman as one sees in the Alps, striding ever
upward, heavily burdened, and with mind bent only on
her home ; but yet, without effort and without thought,
knitting for her children. Now stockings are good and
comfortable things, and the children will undoubtedly
be much the better for them ; but surely it would be
short-sighted, to say the least of it, to depreciate this
toiling mother as a mere stocking-machine a mere
provider of physical comforts?



Online LibraryThomas Henry HuxleyLay sermons, addresses, and reviews → online text (page 1 of 30)