Autobiography and Selected Essays
Thomas Henry Huxley

Part 2 out of 3

ministrations--whether the most completely educated men are not as
open to reproach on this score as the workmen; and whether,
perchance, this may not indicate that it is not education which
lies at the bottom of the matter?

Once more, these people, whom there is no pleasing, venture to
doubt whether the glory which rests upon being able to undersell
all the rest of the world, is a very safe kind of glory--whether we
may not purchase it too dear; especially if we allow education,
which ought to be directed to the making of men, to be diverted
into a process of manufacturing human tools, wonderfully adroit in
the exercise of some technical industry, but good for nothing else.

And, finally, these people inquire whether it is the masses alone
who need a reformed and improved education. They ask whether the
richest of our public schools might not well be made to supply
knowledge, as well as gentlemanly habits, a strong class feeling,
and eminent proficiency in cricket. They seem to think that the
noble foundations of our old universities are hardly fulfilling
their functions in their present posture of half-clerical
seminaries, half racecourses, where men are trained to win a senior
wranglership,[51] or a double-first,[52] as horses are trained
to win a cup, with as little reference to the needs of after-life
in the case of a man as in that of the racer. And, while as zealous
for education as the rest, they affirm that, if the education of the
richer classes were such as to fit them to be the leaders and the
governors of the poorer; and, if the education of the poorer
classes were such as to enable them to appreciate really wise
guidance and good governance, the politicians need not fear mob-
law, nor the clergy lament their want of flocks, nor the
capitalists prognosticate the annihilation of the prosperity of the

Such is the diversity of opinion upon the why and the wherefore of
education. And my hearers will be prepared to expect that the
practical recommendations which are put forward are not less
discordant. There is a loud cry for compulsory education. We
English, in spite of constant experience to the contrary, preserve
a touching faith in the efficacy of acts of Parliament; and I
believe we should have compulsory education in the courses of next
session, if there were the least probability that half a dozen
leading statesmen of different parties would agree what that
education should be.

Some hold that education without theology is worse than none.
Others maintain, quite as strongly, that education with theology is
in the same predicament. But this is certain, that those who hold
the first opinion can by no means agree what theology should be
taught; and that those who maintain the second are in a small

At any rate "make people learn to read, write, and cipher," say a
great many; and the advice is undoubtedly sensible as far as it
goes. But, as has happened to me in former days, those who, in
despair of getting anything better, advocate this measure, are met
with the objection that it is very like making a child practise the
use of a knife, fork, and spoon, without giving it particle of
meat. I really don't know what reply is to be made to such an

But it would be unprofitable to spend more time in disentangling,
or rather in showing up the knots in, the ravelled skeins of our
neighbours. Much more to the purpose is it to ask if we possess
any clue of our own which may guide us among these entanglements.
And by way of a beginning, let us ask ourselves--What is education?
Above all things, what is our ideal of a thoroughly liberal
education?--of that education which, if we could begin life again,
we would give ourselves--of that education which, if we could mould
the fates to our own will, we would give our children? Well, I
know not what may be your conceptions upon this matter, but I will
tell you mine, and I hope I shall find that our views are not very

Suppose it were perfectly certain that the life and fortune of
every one of us would, one day or other, depend upon his winning or
losing a game of chess. Don't you think that we should all
consider it to be a primary duty to learn at least the names and
the moves of the pieces; to have a notion of a gambit, and a keen
eye for all the means of giving and getting out of check? Do you
not think that we should look with a disapprobation amounting to
scorn, upon the father who allowed his son, or the state which
allowed its members, to grow up without knowing a pawn from a

Yet it is a very plain and elementary truth, that the life, the
fortune, and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less,
of those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing
something of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and
complicated than chess. It is a game which has been played for
untold ages, every man and woman of us being one of the two players
in a game of his or her own. The chessboard is the world, the
pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are
what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is
hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and
patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a
mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man
who plays well, the highest stakes are paid, with that sort of
overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in
strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated--without haste, but
without remorse.

My metaphor will remind some of you of the famous picture in which
Retzsch [53] has depicted Satan playing at chess with man for his soul.
Substitute for the mocking fiend in that picture a calm, strong
angel who is playing for love, as we say, and would rather lose
than win--and I should accept it as an image of human life.

Well, what I mean by Education is learning the rules of this mighty
game. In other words, education is the instruction of the
intellect in the laws of Nature, under which name I include not
merely things and their forces, but men and their ways; and the
fashioning of the affections and of the will into an earnest and
loving desire to move in harmony with those laws. For me,
education means neither more nor less than this. Anything which
professes to call itself education must be tried by this standard,
and if it fails to stand the test, I will not call it education,
whatever may be the force of authority, or of numbers, upon the
other side.

It is important to remember that, in strictness, there is no such
thing as an uneducated man. Take an extreme case. Suppose that an
adult man, in the full vigour of his faculties, could be suddenly
placed in the world, as Adam is said to have been, and then left to
do as he best might. How long would he be left uneducated? Not
five minutes. Nature would begin to teach him, through the eye,
the ear, the touch, the properties of objects. Pain and pleasure
would be at his elbow telling him to do this and avoid that; and by
slow degrees the man would receive an education which, if narrow,
would be thorough, real, and adequate to his circumstances, though
there would be no extras and very few accomplishments.

And if to this solitary man entered a second Adam or, better still,
an Eve, a new and greater world, that of social and moral
phenomena, would be revealed. Joys and woes, compared with which
all others might seem but faint shadows, would spring from the new
relations. Happiness and sorrow would take the place of the
coarser monitors, pleasure and pain; but conduct would still be
shaped by the observation of the natural consequences of actions;
or, in other words, by the laws of the nature of man.

To every one of us the world was once as fresh and new as to Adam.
And then, long before we were susceptible of any other modes of
instruction, Nature took us in hand, and every minute of waking
life brought its educational influence, shaping our actions into
rough accordance with Nature's laws, so that we might not be ended
untimely by too gross disobedience. Nor should I speak of this
process of education as past for any one, be he as old as he may.
For every man the world is as fresh as it was at the first day, and
as full of untold novelties for him who has the eyes to see them.
And Nature is still continuing her patient education of us in that
great university, the universe, of which we are all members--Nature
having no Test-Acts.[54]

Those who take honours in Nature's university, who learn the laws
which govern men and things and obey them, are the really great and
successful men in this world. The great mass of mankind are the
"Poll,"[55] who pick up just enough to get through without much
discredit. Those who won't learn at all are plucked;[56] and then
you can't come up again. Nature's pluck means extermination.

Thus the question of compulsory education is settled so far as
Nature is concerned. Her bill on that question was framed and
passed long ago. But, like all compulsory legislation, that of
Nature is harsh and wasteful in its operation. Ignorance is
visited as sharply as wilful disobedience--incapacity meets with
the same punishment as crime. Nature's discipline is not even a
word and a blow, and the blow first; but the blow without the word.
It is left to you to find out why your ears are boxed.

The object of what we commonly call education--that education in
which man intervenes and which I shall distinguish as artificial
education--is to make good these defects in Nature's methods; to
prepare the child to receive Nature's education, neither incapably
nor ignorantly, nor with wilful disobedience; and to understand the
preliminary symptoms of her pleasure, without waiting for the box
on the ear. In short, all artificial education ought to be an
anticipation of natural education. And a liberal education is an
artificial education which has not only prepared a man to escape
the great evils of disobedience to natural laws, but has trained
him to appreciate and to seize upon the rewards, which Nature
scatters with as free a hand as her penalties.

That man, I think, has had a liberal education who has been so
trained in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will,
and does with ease and pleasure all the work that, as a mechanism,
it is capable of; whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine,
with all its parts of equal strength, and in smooth working order;
ready, like a steam engine, to be turned to any kind of work, and
spin the gossamers as well as forge the anchors of the mind; whose
mind is stored with a knowledge of the great and fundamental truths
of Nature and of the laws of her operations; one who, no stunted
ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained
to come to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender
conscience; who has learned to love all beauty, whether of Nature
or of art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others as himself.

Such an one and no other, I conceive, has had a liberal education;
for he is, as completely as a man can be, in harmony with Nature.
He will make the best of her, and she of him. They will get on
together rarely; she as his ever beneficent mother; he as her
mouthpiece, her conscious self, her minister and interpreter.


If a well were sunk at our feet in the midst of the city of
Norwich, the diggers would very soon find themselves at work in
that white substance almost too soft to be called rock, with which
we are all familiar as "chalk."

Not only here, but over the whole county of Norfolk, the well-
sinker might carry his shaft down many hundred feet without coming
to the end of the chalk; and, on the sea-coast, where the waves
have pared away the face of the land which breasts them, the
scarped faces of the high cliffs are often wholly formed of the
same material. Northward, the chalk may be followed as far as
Yorkshire; on the south coast it appears abruptly in the
picturesque western bays of Dorset, and breaks into the Needles of
the Isle of Wight;[58] while on the shores of Kent it supplies that
long line of white cliffs to which England owes her name of Albion.

Were the thin soil which covers it all washed away, a curved band
of white chalk, here broader, and there narrower, might be followed
diagonally across England from Lulworth in Dorset, to Flamborough
Head [59] in Yorkshire--a distance of over two hundred and eighty
miles as the crow flies.

From this band to the North Sea, on the east, and the Channel, on
the South, the chalk is largely hidden by other deposits; but,
except in the Weald [60] of Kent and Sussex, it enters into the
very foundation of all the south-eastern counties.

Attaining, as it does in some places, a thickness of more than a
thousand feet, the English chalk must be admitted to be a mass of
considerable magnitude. Nevertheless, it covers but an
insignificant portion of the whole area occupied by the chalk
formation of the globe, which has precisely the same general
characters as ours, and is found in detached patches, some less,
and others more extensive, than the English.

Chalk occurs in north-west Ireland; it stretches over a large part
of France,--the chalk which underlies Paris being, in fact, a
continuation of that of the London basin; it runs through Denmark
and Central Europe, and extends southward to North Africa; while
eastward, it appears in the Crimea and in Syria, and may be traced
as far as the shores of the Sea of Aral, in Central Asia.

If all the points at which true chalk occurs were circumscribed,
they would lie within an irregular oval about three thousand miles
in long diameter--the area of which would be as great as that of
Europe, and would many times exceed that of the largest existing
inland sea--the Mediterranean.

Thus the chalk is no unimportant element in the masonry of the
earth's crust, and it impresses a peculiar stamp, varying with the
conditions to which it is exposed, on the scenery of the districts
in which it occurs. The undulating downs and rounded coombs,
covered with sweet-grassed turf, of our inland chalk country, have
a peacefully domestic and mutton-suggesting prettiness, but can
hardly be called either grand or beautiful. But on our southern
coasts, the wall-sided cliffs, many hundred feet high, with vast
needles and pinnacles standing out in the sea, sharp and solitary
enough to serve as perches for the wary cormorant confer a
wonderful beauty and grandeur upon the chalk headlands. And, in
the East, chalk has its share in the formation of some of the most
venerable of mountain ranges, such as the Lebanon.

What is this wide-spread component of the surface of the earth? and
whence did it come?

You may think this no very hopeful inquiry. You may not
unnaturally suppose that the attempt to solve such problems as
these can lead to no result, save that of entangling the inquirer
in vague speculations, incapable of refutation and of verification.

If such were really the case, I should have selected some other
subject than a "piece of chalk" for my discourse. But, in truth,
after much deliberation, I have been unable to think of any topic
which would so well enable me to lead you to see how solid is the
foundation upon which some of the most startling conclusions of
physical science rest.

A great chapter of the history of the world is written in the
chalk. Few passages in the history of man can be supported by such
an overwhelming mass of direct and indirect evidence as that which
testifies to the truth of the fragment of the history of the globe,
which I hope to enable you to read, with your own eyes, tonight.

Let me add, that few chapters of human history have a more profound
significance for ourselves. I weigh my words well when I assert,
that the man who should know the true history of the bit of chalk
which every carpenter carries about in his breeches-pocket, though
ignorant of all other history, is likely, if he will think his
knowledge out to its ultimate results, to have a truer, and
therefore a better, conception of this wonderful universe, and of
man's relation to it, than the most learned student who is deep-
read in the records of humanity and ignorant of those of Nature.

The language of the chalk is not hard to learn, not nearly so hard
as Latin, if you only want to get at the broad features of the
story it has to tell; and I propose that we now set to work to
spell that story out together.

We all know that if we "burn" chalk the result is quicklime.
Chalk, in fact, is a compound of carbonic acid gas, and lime, and
when you make it very hot the carbonic acid flies away and the lime
is left.

By this method of procedure we see the lime, but we do not see the
carbonic acid. If, on the other hand, you were to powder a little
chalk and drop it into a good deal of strong vinegar, there would
be a great bubbling and fizzing, and, finally, a clear liquid, in
which no sign of chalk would appear. Here you see the carbonic
acid in the bubbles; the lime, dissolved in the vinegar, vanishes
from sight. There are a great many other ways of showing that
chalk is essentially nothing but carbonic acid and quicklime.
Chemists enunciate the result of all the experiments which prove
this, by stating that chalk is almost wholly composed of "carbonate
of lime."

It is desirable for us to start from the knowledge of this fact,
though it may not seem to help us very far towards what we seek.
For carbonate of lime is a widely spread substance, and is met with
under very various conditions. All sorts of limestones are
composed of more or less pure carbonate of lime. The crust which
is often deposited by waters which have drained through limestone
rocks, in the form of what are called stalagmites and stalactites,
is carbonate of lime. Or, to take a more familiar example, the fur
on the inside of a tea-kettle is carbonate of lime; and, for
anything chemistry tells us to the contrary, the chalk might be a
kind of gigantic fur upon the bottom of the earth-kettle, which is
kept pretty hot below.

Let us try another method of making the chalk tell us its own
history. To the unassisted eye chalk looks simply like a very
loose and open kind of stone. But it is possible to grind a slice
of chalk down so thin that you can see through it--until it is thin
enough, in fact, to be examined with any magnifying power that may
be thought desirable. A thin slice of the fur of a kettle might be
made in the same way. If it were examined microscopically, it
would show itself to be a more or less distinctly laminated mineral
substance and nothing more.

But the slice of chalk presents a totally different appearance when
placed under the microscope. The general mass of it is made up of
very minute granules; but, imbedded in this matrix, are innumerable
bodies, some smaller and some larger, but, on a rough average, not
more than a hundredth of an inch in diameter, having a well-defined
shape and structure. A cubic inch of some specimens of chalk may
contain hundreds of thousands of these bodies, compacted together
with incalculable millions of the granules.

The examination of a transparent slice gives a good notion of the
manner in which the components of the chalk are arranged, and of
their relative proportions. But, by rubbing up some chalk with a
brush in water and then pouring off the milky fluid, so as to
obtain sediments of different degrees of fineness, the granules and
the minute rounded bodies may be pretty well separated from one
another, and submitted to microscopic examination, either as opaque
or as transparent objects. By combining the views obtained in
these various methods, each of the rounded bodies may be proved to
be a beautifully constructed calcareous fabric, made up of a number
of chambers, communicating freely with one another. The chambered
bodies are of various forms. One of the commonest is something
like a badly grown raspberry, being formed of a number of nearly
globular chambers of different sizes congregated together. It is
called Globigerina, and some specimens of chalk consist of little
else than Globigerina and granules.

Let us fix our attention upon the Globigerina. It is the spoor of
the game we are tracking. If we can learn what it is and what are
the conditions of its existence, we shall see our way to the origin
and past history of the chalk.

A suggestion which may naturally enough present itself is, that
these curious bodies are the result of some process of aggregation
which has taken place in the carbonate of lime; that, just as in
winter, the rime on our windows simulates the most delicate and
elegantly arborescent foliage--proving that the mere mineral water
may, under certain conditions, assume the outward form of organic
bodies--so this mineral substance, carbonate of lime, hidden away
in the bowels of the earth, has taken the shape of these chambered
bodies. I am not raising a merely fanciful and unreal objection.
Very learned men, in former days, have even entertained the notion
that all the formed things found in rocks are of this nature; and
if no such conception is at present held to be admissible, it is
because long and varied experience has now shown that mineral
matter never does assume the form and structure we find in fossils.
If any one were to try to persuade you that an oyster-shell (which
is also chiefly composed of carbonate of lime) had crystallized out
of sea-water, I suppose you would laugh at the absurdity. Your
laughter would be justified by the fact that all experience tends
to show that oyster-shells are formed by the agency of oysters, and
in no other way. And if there were no better reasons, we should be
justified, on like grounds, in believing that Globigerina is not
the product of anything but vital activity.

Happily, however, better evidence in proof of the organic nature of
the Globigerinae than that of analogy is forthcoming. It so
happens that calcareous skeletons, exactly similar to the
Globigerinae of the chalk, are being formed, at the present moment,
by minute living creatures, which flourish in multitudes, literally
more numerous than the sands of the sea-shore, over a large extent
of that part of the earth's surface which is covered by the ocean.

The history of the discovery of these living Globigerinae, and of
the part which they play in rock building, is singular enough. It
is a discovery which, like others of no less scientific importance,
has arisen, incidentally, out of work devoted to very different and
exceedingly practical interests.

When men first took to the sea, they speedily learned to look out
for shoals and rocks; and the more the burthen of their ships
increased, the more imperatively necessary it became for sailors to
ascertain with precision the depths of the waters they traversed.
Out of this necessity grew the use of the lead and sounding line;
and, ultimately, marine-surveying, which is the recording of the
form of coasts and of the depth of the sea, as ascertained by the
sounding-lead, upon charts.

At the same time, it became desirable to ascertain and to indicate
the nature of the sea-bottom, since this circumstance greatly
affects its goodness as holding ground for anchors. Some ingenious
tar, whose name deserves a better fate than the oblivion into which
it has fallen, attained this object by "arming" the bottom of the
lead with a lump of grease, to which more or less of the sand or
mud, or broken shells, as the case might be, adhered, and was
brought to the surface. But, however well adapted such an
apparatus might be for rough nautical purposes, scientific accuracy
could not be expected from the armed lead, and to remedy its
defects (especially when applied to sounding in great depths)
Lieut. Brooke,[61] of the American Navy, some years ago invented
a most ingenious machine, by which a considerable portion of the
superficial layer of the sea-bottom can be scooped out and brought
up from any depth to which the lead descends.

In 1853, Lieut. Brooke obtained mud from the bottom of the North
Atlantic, between Newfoundland and the Azores, at a depth of more
than ten thousand feet, or two miles, by the help of this sounding
apparatus. The specimens were sent for examination to Ehrenberg [62]
of Berlin, and to Bailey of West Point,[63] and those able
microscopists found that this deep-sea mud was almost entirely
composed of the skeletons of living organisms--the greater proportion
of these being just like the Globigerinae already known to occur
in the chalk.

Thus far, the work had been carried on simply in the interests of
science, but Lieut. Brooke's method of sounding acquired a high
commercial value, when the enterprise of laying down the telegraph-
cable [64] between this country and the United States was undertaken.
For it became a matter of immense importance to know, not only the
depth of the sea over the whole line along which the cable was to
be laid, but the exact nature of the bottom, so as to guard against
chances of cutting or fraying the strands of that costly rope. The
Admiralty consequently ordered Captain Dayman, an old friend and
shipmate of mine, to ascertain the depth over the whole line of the
cable, and to bring back specimens of the bottom. In former days,
such a command as this might have sounded very much like one of the
impossible things which the young prince in the Fairy Tales is
ordered to do before he can obtain the hand of the Princess.
However, in the months of June and July, 1857, my friend performed
the task assigned to him with great expedition and precision
without, so far as I know, having met with any reward of that kind.
The specimens of Atlantic mud which he procured were sent to me to
be examined and reported upon.*

* See Appendix to Captain Dayman's "Deep-sea Soundings in the North
Atlantic Ocean, between Ireland and Newfoundland, made in H.M.S.
Cyclops. Published by order of the Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty, 1858." They have since formed the subject of an
elaborate Memoir by Messrs. Parker and Jones, published in the
Philosophical Transactions for 1865.

The result of all these operations is, that we know the contours
and the nature of the surface-soil covered by the North Atlantic,
for a distance of seventeen hundred miles from east to west, as
well as we know that of any part of the dry land.

It is a prodigious plain--one of the widest and most even plains in
the world. If the sea were drained off, you might drive a wagon
all the way from Valentia, on the west coast of Ireland, to Trinity
Bay, in Newfoundland. And, except upon one sharp incline about two
hundred miles from Valentia, I am not quite sure that it would even
be necessary to put the skid on, so gentle are the ascents and
descents upon that long route. From Valentia the road would lie
down-hill for about 200 miles to the point at which the bottom is
now covered by 1700 fathoms of sea-water. Then would come the
central plain, more than a thousand miles wide, the inequalities of
the surface of which would be hardly perceptible, though the depth
of water upon it now varies from 10,000 to 15,000 feet; and there
are places in which Mont Blanc might be sunk without showing its
peak above water. Beyond this, the ascent on the American side
commences, and gradually leads, for about 300 miles, to the
Newfoundland shore.

Almost the whole of the bottom of this central plain (which extends
for many hundred miles in a north and south direction) is covered
by a fine mud, which, when brought to the surface, dries into a
greyish-white friable substance. You can write with this on a
blackboard, if you are so inclined; and, to the eye, it is quite
like very soft, greyish chalk. Examined chemically, it proves to
be composed almost wholly of carbonate of lime; and if you make a
section of it, in the same way as that of the piece of chalk was
made, and view it with the microscope, it presents innumerable
Globigerinae embedded in a granular matrix.

Thus this deep-sea mud is substantially chalk. I say
substantially, because there are a good many minor differences; but
as these have no bearing on the question immediately before us,--
which is the nature of the Globigerinae of the chalk,--it is
unnecessary to speak of them.

Globigerinae of every size, from the smallest to the largest, are
associated together in the Atlantic mud, and the chambers of many
are filled by a soft animal matter. This soft substance is, in
fact, the remains of the creature to which the Globigerina shell,
or rather skeleton, owes its existence--and which is an animal of
the simplest imaginable description. It is, in fact, a mere
particle of living jelly, without defined parts of any kind--
without a mouth, nerves, muscles, or distinct organs, and only
manifesting its vitality to ordinary observation by thrusting out
and retracting from all parts of its surface, long filamentous
processes, which serve for arms and legs. Yet this amorphous
particle, devoid of everything which, in the higher animals, we
call organs, is capable of feeding, growing and multiplying; of
separating from the ocean the small proportion of carbonate of lime
which is dissolved in sea-water; and of building up that substance
into a skeleton for itself, according to a pattern which can be
imitated by no other known agency.

The notion that animals can live and flourish in the sea, at the
vast depths from which apparently living Globigerinae have been
brought up, does not agree very well with our usual conceptions
respecting the conditions of animal life; and it is not so
absolutely impossible as it might at first appear to be, that the
Globigerinae of the Atlantic sea-bottom do not live and die where
they are found.

As I have mentioned, the soundings from the great Atlantic plain
are almost entirely made up of Globigerinae, with the granules
which have been mentioned and some few other calcareous shells; but
a small percentage of the chalky mud--perhaps at most some five per
cent of it--is of a different nature, and consists of shells and
skeletons composed of silex, or pure flint. These silicious bodies
belong partly to the lowly vegetable organisms which are called
Diatomaceae, and partly to the minute, and extremely simple,
animals, termed Radiolaria. It is quite certain that these
creatures do not live at the bottom of the ocean, but at its
surface--where they may be obtained in prodigious numbers by the
use of a properly constructed net. Hence it follows that these
silicious organisms, though they are not heavier than the lightest
dust, must have fallen, in some cases, through fifteen thousand
feet of water, before they reached their final resting-place on the
ocean floor. And, considering how large a surface these bodies
expose in proportion to their weight, it is probable that they
occupy a great length of time in making their burial journey from
the surface of the Atlantic to the bottom.

But if the Radiolaria and Diatoms are thus rained upon the bottom
of the sea, from the superficial layer of its waters in which they
pass their lives, it is obviously possible that the Globigerinae
may be similarly derived; and if they were so, it would be much
more easy to understand how they obtain their supply of food than
it is at present. Nevertheless, the positive and negative evidence
all points the other way. The skeletons of the full-grown, deep-
sea Globigerinae are so remarkably solid and heavy in proportion to
their surface as to seem little fitted for floating; and, as a
matter of fact, they are not to be found along with the Diatoms and
Radiolaria, in the uppermost stratum of the open ocean.

It has been observed, again, that the abundance of Globigerinae, in
proportion to other organisms, of like kind, increases with the
depth of the sea; and that deep-water Globigerinae are larger than
those which live in shallower parts of the sea; and such facts
negative the supposition that these organisms have been swept by
currents from the shallows into the deeps of the Atlantic.

It therefore seems to be hardly doubtful that these wonderful
creatures live and die at the depths in which they are found.

However, the important points for us are, that the living
Globigerinae are exclusively marine animals, the skeletons of which
abound at the bottom of deep seas; and that there is not a shadow
of reason for believing that the habits of the Globigerinae of the
chalk differed from those of the existing species. But if this be
true, there is no escaping the conclusion that the chalk itself is
the dried mud of an ancient deep sea.

In working over the soundings collected by Captain Dayman, I was
surprised to find that many of what I have called the "granules" of
that mud, were not, as one might have been tempted to think at
first, the mere powder and waste of Globigerinae, but that they had
a definite form and size. I termed these bodies "coccoliths," and
doubted their organic nature. Dr. Wallich [65] verified my
observation, and added the interesting discovery, that, not
unfrequently, bodies similar to these "coccoliths" were aggregated
together into spheroids, which he termed "coccospheres." So far
as we knew, these bodies, the nature of which is extremely puzzling
and problematical, were peculiar to the Atlantic soundings.

But, a few years ago, Mr. Sorby,[66] in making a careful examination
of the chalk by means of thin sections and otherwise, observed, as
Ehrenberg had done before him, that much of its granular basis
possesses a definite form. Comparing these formed particles with
those in the Atlantic soundings, he found the two to be identical;
and thus proved that the chalk, like the soundings, contains these
mysterious coccoliths and coccospheres. Here was a further and a
most interesting confirmation, from internal evidence, of the
essential identity of the chalk with modern deep-sea mud.
Globigerinae, coccoliths, and coccospheres are round as the chief
constituents of both, and testify to the general similarity of the
conditions under which both have been formed.

The evidence furnished by the hewing, facing, and superposition of
the stones of the Pyramids, that these structures were built by
men, has no greater weight than the evidence that the chalk was
built by Globigerinae; and the belief that those ancient pyramid-
builders were terrestrial and air-breathing creatures like
ourselves, is it not better based than the conviction that the
chalk-makers lived in the sea?

But as our belief in the building of the Pyramids by men is not
only grounded on the internal evidences afforded by these
structures, but gathers strength from multitudinous collateral
proofs, and is clinched by the total absence of any reason for a
contrary belief; so the evidence drawn from the Globigerinae that
the chalk is an ancient sea-bottom, is fortified by innumerable
independent lines of evidence; and our belief in the truth of the
conclusion to which all positive testimony tends, receives the like
negative justification from the fact that no other hypothesis has a
shadow of foundation.

It may be worth while briefly to consider a few of these collateral
proofs that the chalk was deposited at the bottom of the sea.

The great mass of the chalk is composed, as we have seen, of the
skeletons of Globigerinae, and other simple organisms, imbedded in
granular matter. Here and there, however, this hardened mud of the
ancient sea reveals the remains of higher animals which have lived
and died, and left their hard parts in the mud, just as the oysters
die and leave their shells behind them, in the mud of the present

There are, at the present day, certain groups of animals which are
never found in fresh waters, being unable to live anywhere but in
the sea. Such are the corals; those corallines which are called
Polycoa; those creatures which fabricate the lamp-shells, and are
called Brachiopoda; the pearly Nautilus, and all animals allied to
it; and all the forms of sea-urchins and star-fishes.

Not only are all these creatures confined to salt water at the
present day; but, so far as our records of the past go, the
conditions of their existence have been the same: hence, their
occurrence in any deposit is as strong evidence as can be obtained,
that that deposit was formed in the sea. Now the remains of
animals of all the kinds which have been enumerated, occur in the
chalk, in greater or less abundance; while not one of those forms
of shell-fish which are characteristic of fresh water has yet been
observed in it.

When we consider that the remains of more than three thousand
distinct species of aquatic animals have been discovered among the
fossils of the chalk, that the great majority of them are of such
forms as are now met with only in the sea, and that there is no
reason to believe that any one of them inhabited fresh water--the
collateral evidence that the chalk represents an ancient sea-bottom
acquires as great force as the proof derived from the nature of the
chalk itself. I think you will now allow that I did not overstate
my case when I asserted that we have as strong grounds for
believing that all the vast area of dry land, at present occupied
by the chalk, was once at the bottom of the sea, as we have for any
matter of history whatever; while there is no justification for any
other belief.

No less certain it is that the time during which the countries we
now call south-east England, France, Germany, Poland, Russia,
Egypt, Arabia, Syria, were more or less completely covered by a
deep sea, was of considerable duration.

We have already seen that the chalk is, in places, more than a
thousand feet thick. I think you will agree with me, that it must
have taken some time for the skeletons of animalcules of a
hundredth of an inch in diameter to heap up such a mass as that. I
have said that throughout the thickness of the chalk the remains of
other animals are scattered. These remains are often in the most
exquisite state of preservation. The valves of the shell-fishes
are commonly adherent; the long spines of some of the sea-urchins,
which would be detached by the smallest jar, often remain in their
places. In a word, it is certain that these animals have lived and
died when the place which they now occupy was the surface of as
much of the chalk as had then been deposited; and that each has
been covered up by the layer of Globigerina mud, upon which the
creatures imbedded a little higher up have, in like manner, lived
and died. But some of these remains prove the existence of
reptiles of vast size in the chalk sea. These lived their time,
and had their ancestors and descendants, which assuredly implies
time, reptiles being of slow growth.

There is more curious evidence, again, that the process of covering
up, or, in other words, the deposit of Globigerina skeletons, did
not go on very fast. It is demonstrable that an animal of the
cretaceous sea might die, that its skeleton might lie uncovered
upon the sea-bottom long enough to lose all its outward coverings
and appendages by putrefaction; and that, after this had happened,
another animal might attach itself to the dead and naked skeleton,
might grow to maturity, and might itself die before the calcareous
mud had buried the whole.

Cases of this kind are admirably described by Sir Charles Lyell.[67]
He speaks of the frequency with which geologists find in the chalk
a fossilized sea-urchin, to which is attached the lower valve of a
Crania. This is a kind of shell-fish, with a shell composed of two
pieces, of which, as in the oyster, one is fixed and the other

"The upper valve is almost invariably wanting, though occasionally
found in a perfect state of preservation in the white chalk at some
distance. In this case, we see clearly that the sea-urchin first
lived from youth to age, then died and lost its spines, which were
carried away. Then the young Crania adhered to the bared shell,
grew and perished in its turn; after which, the upper valve was
separated from the lower, before the Echinus [68] became enveloped
in chalky mud."

A specimen in the Museum of Practical Geology, in London, still
further prolongs the period which must have elapsed between the
death of the sea-urchin, and its burial by the Globigerinae. For
the outward face of the valve of a Crania, which is attached to a
sea-urchin (Micraster), is itself overrun by an incrusting
coralline, which spreads thence over more or less of the surface of
the sea-urchin. It follows that, after the upper valve of the
Crania fell off, the surface of the attached valve must have
remained exposed long enough to allow of the growth of the whole
corraline, since corallines do not live imbedded in mud.

The progress of knowledge may, one day, enable us to deduce from
such facts as these the maximum rate at which the chalk can have
accumulated, and thus to arrive at the minimum duration of the
chalk period. Suppose that the valve of the Crania upon which a
coralline has fixed itself in the way just described, is so
attached to the sea-urchin that no part of it is more than an inch
above the face upon which the sea-urchin rests. Then, as the
coralline could not have fixed itself, if the Crania had been
covered up with chalk mud, and could not have lived had itself been
so covered it follows, that an inch of chalk mud could not have
accumulated within the time between the death and decay of the soft
parts of the sea-urchin and the growth of the coralline to the full
size which it has attained. If the decay of the soft parts of the
sea-urchin; the attachment, growth to maturity, and decay of the
Crania; and the subsequent attachment and growth of the coralline,
took a year (which is a low estimate enough), the accumulation of
the inch of chalk must have taken more than a year: and the deposit
of a thousand feet of chalk must, consequently, have taken more
than twelve thousand years.

The foundation of all this calculation is, of course, a knowledge
of the length of time the Crania and the coralline needed to attain
their full size; and, on this head, precise knowledge is at present
wanting. But there are circumstances which tend to show, that
nothing like an inch of chalk has accumulated during the life of a
Crania; and, on any probable estimate of the length of that life,
the chalk period must have had a much longer duration than that
thus roughly assigned to it.

Thus, not only is it certain that the chalk is the mud of an
ancient sea-bottom; but it is no less certain, that the chalk sea
existed during an extremely long period, though we may not be
prepared to give a precise estimate of the length of that period in
years. The relative duration is clear, though the absolute
duration may not be definable. The attempt to affix any precise
date to the period at which the chalk sea began, or ended, its
existence, is baffled by difficulties of the same kind. But the
relative age of the cretaceous epoch may be determined with as
great ease and certainty as the long duration of that epoch.

You will have heard of the interesting discoveries recently made,
in various parts of Western Europe, of flint implements, obviously
worked into shape by human hands, under circumstances which show
conclusively that man is a very ancient denizen of these regions.

It has been proved that the old populations of Europe, whose
existence has been revealed to us in this way, consisted of
savages, such as the Esquimaux are now; that, in the country which
is now France, they hunted the reindeer, and were familiar with the
ways of the mammoth and the bison. The physical geography of
France was in those days different from what it is now--the river
Somme,[69] for instance, having cut its bed a hundred feet deeper
between that time and this; and, it is probable, that the climate
was more like that of Canada or Siberia, than that of Western

The existence of these people is forgotten even in the traditions
of the oldest historical nations. The name and fame of them had
utterly vanished until a few years back; and the amount of physical
change which has been effected since their day, renders it more
than probable that, venerable as are some of the historical
nations, the workers of the chipped flints of Hoxne or of Amiens [70]
are to them, as they are to us, in point of antiquity.

But, if we assign to these hoar relics of long-vanished generations
of men the greatest age that can possibly be claimed for them, they
are not older than the drift, or boulder clay, which, in comparison
with the chalk, is but a very juvenile deposit. You need go no
further than your own sea-board for evidence of this fact. At one
of the most charming spots on the coast of Norfolk, Cromer, you
will see the boulder clay forming a vast mass, which lies upon the
chalk, and must consequently have come into existence after it.
Huge boulders of chalk are, in fact, included in the clay, and have
evidently been brought to the position they now occupy, by the same
agency as that which has planted blocks of syenite from Norway side
by side with them.

The chalk, then, is certainly older than the boulder clay. If you
ask how much, I will again take you no further than the same spot
upon your own coasts for evidence. I have spoken of the boulder
clay and drift as resting upon the chalk. That is not strictly
true. Interposed between the chalk and the drift is a
comparatively insignificant layer, containing vegetable matter.
But that layer tells a wonderful history. It is full of stumps of
trees standing as they grew. Fir-trees are there with their cones,
and hazel-bushes with their nuts; there stand the stools of oak and
yew trees, beeches and alders. Hence this stratum is appropriately
called the "forest-bed."

It is obvious that the chalk must have been up-heaved and converted
into dry land, before the timber trees could grow upon it. As the
boles of some of these trees are from two to three feet in
diameter, it is no less clear that the dry land this formed
remained in the same condition for long ages. And not only do the
remains of stately oaks and well-grown firs testify to the duration
of this condition of things, but additional evidence to the same
effect is afforded by the abundant remains of elephants,
rhinoceroses, hippopotomuses and other great wild beasts, which it
has yielded to the zealous search of such men as the Rev. Mr. Gunn.[71]

When you look at such a collection as he has formed, and bethink
you that these elephantine bones did veritably carry their owners
about, and these great grinders crunch, in the dark woods of which
the forest-bed is now the only trace, it is impossible not to feel
that they are as good evidence of the lapse of time as the annual
rings of the tree-stumps.

Thus there is a writing upon the walls of cliffs at Cromer, and
whoso runs may read it. It tells us, with an authority which
cannot be impeached, that the ancient sea-bed of the chalk sea was
raised up, and remained dry land, until it was covered with forest,
stocked with the great game whose spoils have rejoiced your
geologists. How long it remained in that condition cannot be said;
but "the whirligig of time [72] brought its revenges" in those days
as in these. That dry land, with the bones and teeth of generations
of long-lived elephants, hidden away among the gnarled roots and
dry leaves of its ancient trees, sank gradually to the bottom of
the icy sea, which covered it with huge masses of drift and boulder
clay. Sea-beasts, such as the walrus, now restricted to the
extreme north, paddled about where birds had twittered among the
topmost twigs of the fir-trees. How long this state of things
endured we know not, but at length it came to an end. The upheaved
glacial mud hardened into the soil of modern Norfolk. Forests grew
once more, the wolf and the beaver replaced the reindeer and the
elephant; and at length what we call the history of England dawned.

Thus you have within the limits of your own county, proof that the
chalk can justly claim a very much greater antiquity than even the
oldest physical traces of mankind. But we may go further and
demonstrate, by evidence of the same authority as that which
testifies to the existence of the father of men, that the chalk is
vastly older than Adam himself.

The Book of Genesis informs us that Adam, immediately upon his
creation, and before the appearance of Eve, was placed in the
Garden of Eden. The problem of the geographical position of Eden
has greatly vexed the spirits of the learned in such matters, but
there is one point respecting which, so far as I know, no
commentator has ever raised a doubt. This is, that of the four
rivers which are said to run out of it, Euphrates and Hiddekel [73]
are identical with the rivers now known by the names of Euphrates
and Tigris.

But the whole country in which these mighty rivers take their
origin, and through which they run, is composed of rocks which are
either of the same age as the chalk, or of later date. So that the
chalk must not only have been formed, but, after its formation, the
time required for the deposit of these later rocks, and for their
upheaval into dry land, must have elapsed, before the smallest
brook which feeds the swift stream of "the great river, the river
of Babylon,"[74] began to flow.

Thus, evidence which cannot be rebutted, and which need not be
strengthened, though if time permitted I might indefinitely
increase its quantity, compels you to believe that the earth, from
the time of the chalk to the present day, has been the theatre of a
series of changes as vast in their amount, as they were slow in
their progress. The area on which we stand has been first sea and
then land, for at least four alternations; and has remained in each
of these conditions for a period of great length.

Nor have these wonderful metamorphoses of sea into land, and of
land into sea, been confined to one corner of England. During the
chalk period, or "cretaceous epoch," not one of the present great
physical features of the globe was in existence. Our great
mountain ranges, Pyrenees, Alps, Himalayas, Andes, have all been
upheaved since the chalk was deposited, and the cretaceous sea
flowed over the sites of Sinai and Ararat.

All this is certain, because rocks of cretaceous, or still later,
date have shared in the elevatory movements which gave rise to
these mountain chains; and may be found perched up, in some cases,
many thousand feet high upon their flanks. And evidence of equal
cogency demonstrates that, though, in Norfolk, the forest-bed rests
directly upon the chalk, yet it does so, not because the period at
which the forest grew immediately followed that at which the chalk
was formed, but because an immense lapse of time, represented
elsewhere by thousands of feet of rock, is not indicated at Cromer.

I must ask you to believe that there is no less conclusive proof
that a still more prolonged succession of similar changes occurred,
before the chalk was deposited. Nor have we any reason to think
that the first term in the series of these changes is known. The
oldest sea-beds preserved to us are sands, and mud, and pebbles,
the wear and tear of rocks which were formed in still older oceans.

But, great as is the magnitude of these physical changes of the
world, they have been accompanied by a no less striking series of
modifications in its living inhabitants.

All the great classes of animals, beasts of the field, fowls of the
air, creeping things, and things which dwell in the waters,
flourished upon the globe long ages before the chalk was deposited.
Very few, however, if any, of these ancient forms of animal life
were identical with those which now live. Certainly not one of the
higher animals was of the same species as any of those now in
existence. The beasts of the field, in the days before the chalk,
were not our beasts of the field, nor the fowls of the air such as
those which the eye of men has seen flying, unless his antiquity
dates infinitely further back than we at present surmise. If we
could be carried back into those times, we should be as one
suddenly set down in Australia before it was colonized. We should
see mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, snails, and the
like, clearly recognisable as such, and yet not one of them would
be just the same as those with which we are familiar, and many
would be extremely different.

From that time to the present, the population of the world has
undergone slow and gradual, but incessant changes. There has been
no grand catastrophe--no destroyer has swept away the forms of life
of one period, and replaced them by a totally new creation; but one
species has vanished and another has taken its place; creatures of
one type of structure have diminished, those of another have
increased, as time has passed on. And thus, while the differences
between the living creatures of the time before the chalk and those
of the present day appear startling, if placed side by side, we are
led from one to the other by the most gradual progress, if we
follow the course of Nature through the whole series of those
relics of her operations which she has left behind.

And it is by the population of the chalk sea that the ancient and
the modern inhabitants of the world are most completely connected.
The groups which are dying out flourish, side by side, with the
groups which are now the dominant forms of life.

Thus the chalk contains remains of those strange flying and
swimming reptiles, the pterodactyl, the ichthyosaurus, and the
plesiosaurus, which are found in no later deposits, but abounded in
preceding ages. The chambered shells called ammonites and
belemnites, which are so characteristic of the period preceding the
cretaceous, in like manner die with it.

But, amongst these fading remainders of a previous state of things,
are some very modern forms of life, looking like Yankee pedlars
among a tribe of Red Indians. Crocodiles of modern type appear;
bony fishes, many of them very similar to existing species almost
supplant the forms of fish which predominate in more ancient seas;
and many kinds of living shellfish first become known to us in the
chalk. The vegetation acquires a modern aspect. A few living
animals are not even distinguishable as species, from those which
existed at that remote epoch. The Globigerina of the present day,
for example, is not different specifically from that of the chalk;
and the same may be said of many other Foraminifera. I think it
probable that critical and unprejudiced examination will show that
more than one species of much higher animals have had a similar
longevity; but the only example, which I can at present give
confidently is the snake's-head lamp-shell (Terebratulina caput
serpentis), which lives in our English seas and abounded (as
Terebratulina striata of authors) in the chalk.

The longest line of human ancestry must hide its diminished head
before the pedigree of this insignificant shell-fish. We
Englishmen are proud to have an ancestor who was present at the
Battle of Hastings. The ancestors of Terebratulina caput serpentis
may have been present at a battle of Ichthyosauria in that part of
the sea which, when the chalk was forming, flowed over the site of
Hastings. While all around has changed, this Terebratulina has
peacefully propagated its species from generation to generation,
and stands to this day, as a living testimony to the continuity of
the present with the past history of the globe.

Up to this moment I have stated, so far as I know, nothing but
well-authenticated facts, and the immediate conclusions which they
force upon the mind.

But the mind is so constituted that it does not willingly rest in
facts and immediate causes, but seeks always after a knowledge of
the remoter links in the chain of causation.

Taking the many changes of any given spot of the earth's surface,
from sea to land and from land to sea, as an established fact, we
cannot refrain from asking ourselves how these changes have
occurred. And when we have explained them--as they must be
explained--by the alternate slow movements of elevation and
depression which have affected the crust of the earth, we go still
further back, and ask, Why these movements?

I am not certain that any one can give you a satisfactory answer to
that question. Assuredly I cannot. All that can be said, for
certain, is, that such movements are part of the ordinary course of
nature, inasmuch as they are going on at the present time. Direct
proof may be given, that some parts of the land of the northern
hemisphere are at this moment insensibly rising and others
insensibly sinking; and there is indirect, but perfectly
satisfactory, proof, that an enormous area now covered by the
Pacific has been deepened thousands of feet, since the present
inhabitants of that sea came into existence.

Thus there is not a shadow of a reason for believing that the
physical changes of the globe, in past times have been effected by
other than natural causes.

Is there any more reason for believing that the concomitant
modifications in the forms of the living inhabitants of the globe
have been brought about in other ways?

Before attempting to answer this question, let us try to form a
distinct mental picture of what has happened, in some special case.

The crocodiles are animals which, as a group, have a very vast
antiquity. They abounded ages before the chalk was deposited; they
throng the rivers in warm climates, at the present day. There is a
difference in the form of the joints of the back-bone, and in some
minor particulars, between the crocodiles of the present epoch and
those which lived before the chalk; but in the cretaceous epoch, as
I have already mentioned, the crocodiles had assumed the modern
type of structure. Notwithstanding this, the crocodiles of the
chalk are not identically the same as those which lived in the
times called "older tertiary," which succeeded the cretaceous
epoch; and the crocodiles of the older tertiaries are not identical
with those of the newer tertiaries, nor are these identical with
existing forms. I leave open the question whether particular
species may have lived on from epoch to epoch. But each epoch has
had its peculiar crocodiles; though all, since the chalk, have
belonged to the modern type, and differ simply in their
proportions, and in such structural particulars as are discernible
only to trained eyes.

How is the existence of this long succession of different species
of crocodiles to be accounted for?

Only two suppositions seem to be open to us--Either each species of
crocodile has been specially created, or it has arisen out of some
pre-existing form by the operation of natural causes.

Choose your hypothesis; I have chosen mine. I can find no warranty
for believing in the distinct creation of a score of successive
species of crocodiles in the course of countless ages of time.
Science gives no countenance to such a wild fancy; nor can even the
perverse ingenuity of a commentator pretend to discover this sense,
in the simple words in which the writer of Genesis records the
proceedings of the fifth and sixth days of the Creation.

On the other hand, I see no good reason for doubting the necessary
alternative, that all these varied species have been evolved from
pre-existing crocodilian forms, by the operation of causes as
completely a part of the common order of nature, as those which
have effected the changes of the inorganic world.

Few will venture to affirm that the reasoning which applies to
crocodiles loses its force among other animals, or among plants.
If one series of species has come into existence by the operation
of natural causes, it seems folly to deny that all may have arisen
in the same way.

A small beginning has led us to a great ending. If I were to put
the bit of chalk with which we started into the hot but obscure
flame of burning hydrogen, it would presently shine like the sun.
It seems to me that this physical metamorphosis is no false image
of what has been the result of our subjecting it to a jet of
fervent, though nowise brilliant, thought to-night. It has become
luminous, and its clear rays, penetrating the abyss of the remote
past, have brought within our ken some stages of the evolution of
the earth. And in the shifting "without haste, but without rest"[75]
of the land and sea, as in the endless variation of the forms
assumed by living beings, we have observed nothing but the natural
product of the forces originally possessed by the substance of the


I know quite well that launching myself into this discussion [77] is
a very dangerous operation; that it is a very large subject, and one
which is difficult to deal with, however much I may trespass upon
your patience in the time allotted to me. But the discussion is so
fundamental, it is so completely impossible to make up one's mind
on these matters until one has settled the question, that I will
even venture to make the experiment. A great lawyer-statesman and
philosopher of a former age--I mean Francis Bacon [78]--said that truth
came out of error much more rapidly than it came out of confusion.
There is a wonderful truth in that saying. Next to being right in
this world, the best of all things is to be clearly and definitely
wrong, because you will come out somewhere. If you go buzzing
about between right and wrong, vibrating and fluctuating, you come
out nowhere; but if you are absolutely and thoroughly and
persistently wrong, you must, some of these days, have the extreme
good fortune of knocking your head against a fact, and that sets
you all straight again. So I will not trouble myself as to whether
I may be right or wrong in what I am about to say, but at any rate
I hope to be clear and definite; and then you will be able to judge
for yourselves whether, in following out the train of thought I
have to introduce, you knock your heads against facts or not.

I take it that the whole object of education is, in the first
place, to train the faculties of the young in such a manner as to
give their possessors the best chance of being happy [79] and useful
in their generation; and, in the second place, to furnish them with
the most important portions of that immense capitalised experience
of the human race which we call knowledge of various kinds. I am
using the term knowledge in its widest possible sense; and the
question is, what subjects to select by training and discipline, in
which the object I have just defined may be best attained.

I must call your attention further to this fact, that all the
subjects of our thoughts--all feelings and propositions (leaving
aside our sensations as the mere materials and occasions of
thinking and feeling), all our mental furniture--may be classified
under one of two heads--as either within the province of the
intellect, something that can be put into propositions and affirmed
or denied; or as within the province of feeling, or that which,
before the name was defiled, was called the aesthetic side of our
nature, and which can neither be proved nor disproved, but only
felt and known.

According to the classification which I have put before you, then,
the subjects of all knowledge are divisible into the two groups,
matters of science and matters of art; for all things with which
the reasoning faculty alone is occupied, come under the province of
science; and in the broadest sense, and not in the narrow and
technical sense in which we are now accustomed to use the word art,
all things feelable, all things which stir our emotions, come under
the term of art, in the sense of the subject-matter of the
aesthetic faculty. So that we are shut up to this--that the
business of education is, in the first place, to provide the young
with the means and the habit of observation; and, secondly, to
supply the subject-matter of knowledge either in the shape of
science or of art, or of both combined.

Now, it is a very remarkable fact--but it is true of most things in
this world--that there is hardly anything one-sided, or of one
nature; and it is not immediately obvious what of the things that
interest us may be regarded as pure science, and what may be
regarded as pure art. It may be that there are some peculiarly
constituted persons who, before they have advanced far into the
depths of geometry, find artistic beauty about it; but, taking the
generality of mankind, I think it may be said that, when they begin
to learn mathematics, their whole souls are absorbed in tracing the
connection between the premisses and the conclusion, and that to
them geometry is pure science. So I think it may be said that
mechanics and osteology are pure science. On the other hand,
melody in music is pure art. You cannot reason about it; there is
no proposition involved in it. So, again, in the pictorial art, an
arabesque, or a "harmony in grey,"[80] touches none but the aesthetic
faculty. But a great mathematician, and even many persons who are
not great mathematicians, will tell you that they derive immense
pleasure from geometrical reasonings. Everybody knows
mathematicians speak of solutions and problems as "elegant," and
they tell you that a certain mass of mystic symbols is "beautiful,
quite lovely." Well, you do not see it. They do see it, because
the intellectual process, the process of comprehending the reasons
symbolised by these figures and these signs, confers upon them a
sort of pleasure, such as an artist has in visual symmetry. Take a
science of which I may speak with more confidence, and which is the
most attractive of those I am concerned with. It is what we call
morphology, which consists in tracing out the unity in variety of
the infinitely diversified structures of animals and plants. I
cannot give you any example of a thorough aesthetic pleasure more
intensely real than a pleasure of this kind--the pleasure which
arises in one's mind when a whole mass of different structures run
into one harmony as the expression of a central law. That is where
the province of art overlays and embraces the province of
intellect. And, if I may venture to express an opinion on such a
subject, the great majority of forms of art are not in the sense
what I just now defined them to be--pure art; but they derive much
of their quality from simultaneous and even unconscious excitement
of the intellect.

When I was a boy, I was very fond of music, and I am so now; and it
so happened that I had the opportunity of hearing much good music.
Among other things, I had abundant opportunities of hearing that
great old master, Sebastian Bach. I remember perfectly well--
though I knew nothing about music then, and, I may add, know
nothing whatever about it now--the intense satisfaction and delight
which I had in listening, by the hour together, to Bach's fugues.
It is a pleasure which remains with me, I am glad to think; but, of
late years, I have tried to find out the why and wherefore, and it
has often occurred to me that the pleasure derived from musical
compositions of this kind is essentially of the same nature as that
which is derived from pursuits which are commonly regarded as
purely intellectual. I mean, that the source of pleasure is
exactly the same as in most of my problems in morphology--that you
have the theme in one of the old master's works followed out in all
its endless variations, always appearing and always reminding you
of unity in variety. So in painting; what is called "truth to
nature" is the intellectual element coming in, and truth to nature
depends entirely upon the intellectual culture of the person to
whom art is addressed. If you are in Australia, you may get credit
for being a good artist--I mean among the natives--if you can draw
a kangaroo after a fashion. But, among men of higher civilisation,
the intellectual knowledge we possess brings its criticism into our
appreciation of works of art, and we are obliged to satisfy it, as
well as the mere sense of beauty in colour and in outline. And so,
the higher the culture and information of those whom art addresses,
the more exact and precise must be what we call its "truth to

If we turn to literature, the same thing is true, and you find
works of literature which may be said to be pure art. A little
song of Shakespeare or of Goethe is pure art; it is exquisitely
beautiful, although its intellectual content may be nothing. A
series of pictures is made to pass before your mind by the meaning
of words, and the effect is a melody of ideas. Nevertheless, the
great mass of the literature we esteem is valued, not merely
because of having artistic form, but because of its intellectual
content; and the value is the higher the more precise, distinct,
and true is that intellectual content. And, if you will let me for
a moment speak of the very highest forms of literature, do we not
regard them as highest simply because the more we know the truer
they seem, and the more competent we are to appreciate beauty the
more beautiful they are? No man ever understands Shakespeare until
he is old, though the youngest may admire him, the reason being
that he satisfies the artistic instinct of the youngest and
harmonises with the ripest and richest experience of the oldest.

I have said this much to draw your attention to what, in my mind,
lies at the root of all this matter, and at the understanding of
one another by the men of science on the one hand, and the men of
literature, and history, and art, on the other. It is not a
question whether one order of study or another should predominate.
It is a question of what topics of education you shall select which
will combine all the needful elements in such due proportion as to
give the greatest amount of food, support, and encouragement to
those faculties which enable us to appreciate truth, and to profit
by those sources of innocent happiness which are open to us, and,
at the same time, to avoid that which is bad, and coarse, and ugly,
and keep clear of the multitude of pitfalls and dangers which beset
those who break through the natural or moral laws.

I address myself, in this spirit, to the consideration of the
question of the value of purely literary education. Is it good and
sufficient, or is it insufficient and bad? Well, here I venture to
say that there are literary educations and literary educations. If
I am to understand by that term the education that was current in
the great majority of middle-class schools, and upper schools too,
in this country when I was a boy, and which consisted absolutely
and almost entirely in keeping boys for eight or ten years at
learning the rules of Latin and Greek grammar, construing certain
Latin and Greek authors, and possibly making verses which, had they
been English verses, would have been condemned as abominable
doggerel,--if that is what you mean by liberal education, then I
say it is scandalously insufficient and almost worthless. My
reason for saying so is not from the point of view of science at
all, but from the point of view of literature. I say the thing
professes to be literary education that is not a literary education
at all. It was not literature at all that was taught, but science
in a very bad form. It is quite obvious that grammar is science
and not literature. The analysis of a text by the help of the
rules of grammar is just as much a scientific operation as the
analysis of a chemical compound by the help of the rules of
chemical analysis. There is nothing that appeals to the aesthetic
faculty in that operation; and I ask multitudes of men of my own
age, who went through this process, whether they ever had a
conception of art or literature until they obtained it for
themselves after leaving school? Then you may say, "If that is so,
if the education was scientific, why cannot you be satisfied with
it?" I say, because although it is a scientific training, it is of
the most inadequate and inappropriate kind. If there is any good
at all in scientific education it is that men should be trained, as
I said before, to know things for themselves at first hand, and
that they should understand every step of the reason of that which
they do.

I desire to speak with the utmost respect of that science--
philology--of which grammar is a part and parcel; yet everybody
knows that grammar, as it is usually learned at school, affords no
scientific training. It is taught just as you would teach the
rules of chess or draughts. On the other hand, if I am to
understand by a literary education the study of the literatures of
either ancient or modern nations--but especially those of
antiquity, and especially that of ancient Greece; if this
literature is studied, not merely from the point of view of
philological science, and its practical application to the
interpretation of texts, but as an exemplification of and
commentary upon the principles of art; if you look upon the
literature of a people as a chapter in the development of the human
mind, if you work out this in a broad spirit, and with such
collateral references to morals and politics, and physical
geography, and the like as are needful to make you comprehend what
the meaning of ancient literature and civilisation is,--then,
assuredly, it affords a splendid and noble education. But I still
think it is susceptible of improvement, and that no man will ever
comprehend the real secret of the difference between the ancient
world and our present time, unless he has learned to see the
difference which the late development of physical science has made
between the thought of this day and the thought of that, and he
will never see that difference, unless he has some practical
insight into some branches of physical science; and you must
remember that a literary education such as that which I have just
referred to, is out of the reach of those whose school life is cut
short at sixteen or seventeen.

But, you will say, all this is fault-finding; let us hear what you
have in the way of positive suggestion. Then I am bound to tell
you that, if I could make a clean sweep of everything--I am very
glad I cannot because I might, and probably should, make mistakes,--
but if I could make a clean sweep of everything and start afresh,
I should, in the first place, secure that training of the young in
reading and writing, and in the habit of attention and observation,
both to that which is told them, and that which they see, which
everybody agrees to. But in addition to that, I should make it
absolutely necessary for everybody, for a longer or shorter period,
to learn to draw. Now, you may say, there are some people who
cannot draw, however much they may be taught. I deny that in toto,
because I never yet met with anybody who could not learn to write.
Writing is a form of drawing; therefore if you give the same
attention and trouble to drawing as you do to writing, depend upon
it, there is nobody who cannot be made to draw, more or less well.
Do not misapprehend me. I do not say for one moment you would make
an artistic draughtsman. Artists are not made; they grow. You may
improve the natural faculty in that direction, but you cannot make
it; but you can teach simple drawing, and you will find it an
implement of learning of extreme value. I do not think its value
can be exaggerated, because it gives you the means of training the
young in attention and accuracy, which are the two things in which
all mankind are more deficient than in any other mental quality
whatever. The whole of my life has been spent in trying to give my
proper attention to things and to be accurate, and I have not
succeeded as well as I could wish; and other people, I am afraid,
are not much more fortunate. You cannot begin this habit too
early, and I consider there is nothing of so great a value as the
habit of drawing, to secure those two desirable ends.

Then we come to the subject-matter, whether scientific or
aesthetic, of education, and I should naturally have no question at
all about teaching the elements of physical science of the kind I
have sketched, in a practical manner; but among scientific topics,
using the word scientific in the broadest sense, I would also
include the elements of the theory of morals and of that of
political and social life, which, strangely enough, it never seems
to occur to anybody to teach a child. I would have the history of
our own country, and of all the influences which have been brought
to bear upon it, with incidental geography, not as a mere chronicle
of reigns and battles, but as a chapter in the development of the
race, and the history of civilisation.

Then with respect to aesthetic knowledge and discipline, we have
happily in the English language one of the most magnificent
storehouses of artistic beauty and of models of literary excellence
which exists in the world at the present time. I have said before,
and I repeat it here, that if a man cannot get literary culture of
the highest kind out of his Bible, and Chaucer, and Shakespeare,
and Milton, and Hobbes,[81] and Bishop Berkeley,[82] to mention
only a few of our illustrious writers--I say, if he cannot get it
out of those writers he cannot get it out of anything; and I would
assuredly devote a very large portion of the time of every English
child to the careful study of the models of English writing of such
varied and wonderful kind as we possess, and, what is still more
important and still more neglected, the habit of using that language
with precision, with force, and with art. I fancy we are almost the
only nation in the world who seem to think that composition comes
by nature. The French attend to their own language, the Germans
study theirs; but Englishmen do not seem to think it is worth their
while. Nor would I fail to include, in the course of study I am
sketching, translations of all the best works of antiquity, or of
the modern world. It is a very desirable thing to read Homer in
Greek; but if you don't happen to know Greek, the next best thing
we can do is to read as good a translation of it as we have
recently been furnished with in prose.[83] You won't get all you
would get from the original, but you may get a great deal; and to
refuse to know this great deal because you cannot get all, seems to
be as sensible as for a hungry man to refuse bread because he cannot
get partridge. Finally, I would add instruction in either music or
painting, or, if the child should be so unhappy, as sometimes
happens, as to have no faculty for either of those, and no
possibility of doing anything in any artistic sense with them, then
I would see what could be done with literature alone; but I would
provide, in the fullest sense, for the development of the aesthetic
side of the mind. In my judgment, those are all the essentials of
education for an English child. With that outfit, such as it might
be made in the time given to education which is within the reach of
nine-tenths of the population--with that outfit, an Englishman,
within the limits of English life, is fitted to go anywhere, to
occupy the highest positions, to fill the highest offices of the
State, and to become distinguished in practical pursuits, in
science, or in art. For, if he have the opportunity to learn all
those things, and have his mind disciplined in the various
directions the teaching of those topics would have necessitated,
then, assuredly, he will be able to pick up, on his road through
life, all the rest of the intellectual baggage he wants.

If the educational time at our disposition were sufficient, there
are one or two things I would add to those I have just now called
the essentials; and perhaps you will be surprised to hear, though I
hope you will not, that I should add, not more science, but one,
or, if possible, two languages. The knowledge of some other
language than one's own is, in fact, of singular intellectual
value. Many of the faults and mistakes of the ancient philosophers
are traceable to the fact that they knew no language but their own,
and were often led into confusing the symbol with the thought which
it embodied. I think it is Locke [84] who says that one-half of the
mistakes of philosophers have arisen from questions about words;
and one of the safest ways of delivering yourself from the bondage
of words is, to know how ideas look in words to which you are not
accustomed. That is one reason for the study of language; another
reason is, that it opens new fields in art and in science. Another
is the practical value of such knowledge; and yet another is this,
that if your languages are properly chosen, from the time of
learning the additional languages you will know your own language
better than ever you did. So, I say, if the time given to
education permits, add Latin and German. Latin, because it is the
key to nearly one-half of English and to all the Romance languages;
and German, because it is the key to almost all the remainder of
English, and helps you to understand a race from whom most of us
have sprung, and who have a character and a literature of a fateful
force in the history of the world, such as probably has been
allotted to those of no other people, except the Jews, the Greeks,
and ourselves. Beyond these, the essential and the eminently
desirable elements of all education, let each man take up his
special line--the historian devote himself to his history, the man
of science to his science, the man of letters to his culture of
that kind, and the artist to his special pursuit.

Bacon has prefaced some of his works with no more than this:
Franciscus Bacon sic cogitavit;[85] let "sic cogitavi" be the
epilogue to what I have ventured to address to you to-night.


The method of scientific investigation is nothing but the
expression of the necessary mode of working of the human mind. It
is simply the mode at which all phenomena are reasoned about,
rendered precise and exact. There is no more difference, but there
is just the same kind of difference, between the mental operations
of a man of science and those of an ordinary person, as there is
between the operations and methods of a baker or of a butcher
weighing out his goods in common scales, and the operations of a
chemist in performing a difficult and complex analysis by means of
his balance and finely graduated weights. It is not that the
action of the scales in the one case, and the balance in the other,
differ in the principles of their construction or manner of
working; but the beam of one is set on an infinitely finer axis
than the other, and of course turns by the addition of a much
smaller weight.

You will understand this better, perhaps, if I give you some
familiar example. You have all heard it repeated, I dare say, that
men of science work by means of induction and deduction, and that
by the help of these operations, they, in a sort of sense, wring
from Nature certain other things, which are called natural laws,
and causes, and that out of these, by some cunning skill of their
own, they build up hypotheses and theories. And it is imagined by
many, that the operations of the common mind can be by no means
compared with these processes, and that they have to be acquired by
a sort of special apprenticeship to the craft. To hear all these
large words, you would think that the mind of a man of science must
be constituted differently from that of his fellow men; but if you
will not be frightened by terms, you will discover that you are
quite wrong, and that all these terrible apparatus [87] are being
used by yourselves every day and every hour of your lives.

There is a well-known incident in one of Moliere's plays,[88]
where the author makes the hero express unbounded delight on being
told that he had been talking prose during the whole of his life.
In the same way, I trust, that you will take comfort, and be delighted
with yourselves, on the discovery that you have been acting on the
principles of inductive and deductive philosophy during the same
period. Probably there is not one here who has not in the course
of the day had occasion to set in motion a complex train of
reasoning, of the very same kind, though differing of course in
degree, as that which a scientific man goes through in tracing the
causes of natural phenomena.

A very trivial circumstance will serve to exemplify this. Suppose
you go into a fruiterer's shop, wanting an apple,--you take up one,
and, on biting it, you find it is sour; you look at it, and see
that it is hard and green. You take up another one, and that too
is hard, green, and sour. The shopman offers you a third; but,
before biting it, you examine it, and find that it is hard and
green, and you immediately say that you will not have it, as it
must be sour, like those that you have already tried.

Nothing can be more simple than that, you think; but if you will
take the trouble to analyse and trace out into its logical elements
what has been done by the mind, you will be greatly surprised. In
the first place you have performed the operation of induction. You
found that, in two experiences, hardness and greenness in apples
went together with sourness. It was so in the first case, and it
was confirmed by the second. True, it is a very small basis, but
still it is enough to make an induction from; you generalise the
facts, and you expect to find sourness in apples where you get
hardness and greenness. You found upon that a general law that all
hard and green apples are sour; and that, so far as it goes, is a
perfect induction. Well, having got your natural law in this way,
when you are offered another apple which you find is hard and
green, you say, "All hard and green apples are sour; this apple is
hard and green, therefore this apple is sour." That train of
reasoning is what logicians call a syllogism, and has all its
various parts and terms,--its major premiss, its minor premiss and
its conclusion. And, by the help of further reasoning, which, if
drawn out, would have to be exhibited in two or three other
syllogisms, you arrive at your final determination, "I will not
have that apple." So that, you see, you have, in the first place,
established a law by induction, and upon that you have founded a
deduction, and reasoned out the special particular case. Well now,
suppose, having got your conclusion of the law, that at some time
afterwards, you are discussing the qualities of apples with a
friend: you will say to him, "It is a very curious thing,--but I
find that all hard and green apples are sour!" Your friend says to
you, "But how do you know that?" You at once reply, "Oh, because I
have tried them over and over again, and have always found them to
be so." Well, if we were talking science instead of common sense,
we should call that an experimental verification. And, if still
opposed, you go further, and say, "I have heard from the people in
Somersetshire and Devonshire, where a large number of apples are
grown, that they have observed the same thing. It is also found to
be the case in Normandy, and in North America. In short, I find it
to be the universal experience of mankind wherever attention has
been directed to the subject." Whereupon, your friend, unless he
is a very unreasonable man, agrees with you, and is convinced that
you are quite right in the conclusion you have drawn. He believes,
although perhaps he does not know he believes it, that the more
extensive verifications are,--that the more frequently experiments
have been made, and results of the same kind arrived at,--that the
more varied the conditions under which the same results are
attained, the more certain is the ultimate conclusion, and he
disputes the question no further. He sees that the experiment has
been tried under all sorts of conditions, as to time, place, and
people, with the same result; and he says with you, therefore, that
the law you have laid down must be a good one, and he must believe

In science we do the same thing;--the philosopher exercises
precisely the same faculties, though in a much more delicate
manner. In scientific inquiry it becomes a matter of duty to
expose a supposed law to every possible kind of verification, and
to take care, moreover, that this is done intentionally, and not
left to a mere accident, as in the case of the apples. And in
science, as in common life, our confidence in a law is in exact
proportion to the absence of variation in the result of our
experimental verifications. For instance, if you let go your grasp
of an article you may have in your hand, it will immediately fall
to the ground. That is a very common verification of one of the
best established laws of nature--that of gravitation. The method
by which men of science establish the existence of that law is
exactly the same as that by which we have established the trivial
proposition about the sourness of hard and green apples. But we
believe it in such an extensive, thorough, and unhesitating manner
because the universal experience of mankind verifies it, and we can
verify it ourselves at any time; and that is the strongest possible
foundation on which any natural law can rest.

So much, then, by way of proof that the method of establishing laws
in science is exactly the same as that pursued in common life. Let
us now turn to another matter (though really it is but another
phase of the same question), and that is, the method by which, from
the relations of certain phenomena, we prove that some stand in the
position of causes towards the others.

I want to put the case clearly before you, and I will therefore
show you what I mean by another familiar example. I will suppose
that one of you, on coming down in the morning to the parlor of
your house, finds that a tea-pot and some spoons which had been
left in the room on the previous evening are gone,--the window is
open, and you observe the mark of a dirty hand on the window-frame,
and perhaps, in addition to that, you notice the impress of a hob-
nailed shoe on the gravel outside. All these phenomena have struck
your attention instantly, and before two seconds have passed you
say, "Oh, somebody has broken open the window, entered the room,
and run off with the spoons and the tea-pot!" That speech is out
of your mouth in a moment. And you will probably add, "I know
there has; I am quite sure of it!" You mean to say exactly what
you know; but in reality you are giving expression to what is, in
all essential particulars, an hypothesis. You do not KNOW it at
all; it is nothing but an hypothesis rapidly framed in your own
mind. And it is an hypothesis founded on a long train of
inductions and deductions.

What are those inductions and deductions, and how have you got at
this hypothesis? You have observed in the first place, that the
window is open; but by a train of reasoning involving many
inductions and deductions, you have probably arrived long before at
the general law--and a very good one it is--that windows do not
open of themselves; and you therefore conclude that something has
opened the window. A second general law that you have arrived at
in the same way is, that tea-pots and spoons do not go out of a
window spontaneously, and you are satisfied that, as they are not
now where you left them, they have been removed. In the third
place, you look at the marks on the windowsill, and the shoe-marks
outside, and you say that in all previous experience the former
kind of mark has never been produced by anything else but the hand
of a human being; and the same experience shows that no other
animal but man at present wears shoes with hob-nails in them such
as would produce the marks in the gravel. I do not know, even if
we could discover any of those "missing links" that are talked
about, that they would help us to any other conclusion! At any
rate the law which states our present experience is strong enough
for my present purpose. You next reach the conclusion that, as
these kind [89] of marks have not been left by any other animal than
man, or are liable to be formed in any other way than a man's hand
and shoe, the marks in question have been formed by a man in that
way. You have, further, a general law, founded on observation and
experience, and that, too, is, I am sorry to say, a very universal
and unimpeachable one,--that some men are thieves; and you assume
at once from all these premisses--and that is what constitutes your
hypothesis--that the man who made the marks outside and on the
window-sill, opened the window, got into the room, and stole your
tea-pot and spoons. You have now arrived at a vera causa;--you
have assumed a cause which, it is plain, is competent to produce
all the phenomena you have observed. You can explain all these
phenomena only by the hypothesis of a thief. But that is a
hypothetical conclusion, of the justice of which you have no
absolute proof at all; it is only rendered highly probable by a
series of inductive and deductive reasonings.

I suppose your first action, assuming that you are a man of
ordinary common sense, and that you have established this
hypothesis to your own satisfaction, will very likely be to go off
for the police, and set them on the track of the burglar, with the
view to the recovery of your property. But just as you are
starting with this object, some person comes in, and on learning
what you are about, says, "My good friend, you are going on a great
deal too fast. How do you know that the man who really made the
marks took the spoons? It might have been a monkey that took them,
and the man may have merely looked in afterwards." You would
probably reply, "Well, that is all very well, but you see it is
contrary to all experience of the way tea-pots and spoons are
abstracted; so that, at any rate, your hypothesis is less probable
than mine." While you are talking the thing over in this way,
another friend arrives, one of the good kind of people that I was
talking of a little while ago. And he might say, "Oh, my dear sir,
you are certainly going on a great deal too fast. You are most
presumptuous. You admit that all these occurrences took place when
you were fast asleep, at a time when you could not possibly have
known anything about what was taking place. How do you know that
the laws of Nature are not suspended during the night? It may be
that there has been some kind of supernatural interference in this
case." In point of fact, he declares that your hypothesis is one
of which you cannot at all demonstrate the truth, and that you are
by no means sure that the laws of Nature are the same when you are
asleep as when you are awake.

Well, now, you cannot at the moment answer that kind of reasoning.
You feel that your worthy friend has you somewhat at a
disadvantage. You will feel perfectly convinced in your own mind,
however, that you are quite right, and you say to him, "My good
friend, I can only be guided by the natural probabilities of the
case, and if you will be kind enough to stand aside and permit me
to pass, I will go and fetch the police." Well, we will suppose
that your journey is successful, and that by good luck you meet
with a policeman; that eventually the burglar is found with your
property on his person, and the marks correspond to his hand and to
his boots. Probably any jury would consider those facts a very
good experimental verification of your hypothesis, touching the
cause of the abnormal phenomena observed in your parlor, and would
act accordingly.

Now, in this supposititious case, I have taken phenomena of a very
common kind, in order that you might see what are the different
steps in an ordinary process of reasoning, if you will only take
the trouble to analyse it carefully. All the operations I have
described, you will see, are involved in the mind of any man of
sense in leading him to a conclusion as to the course he should
take in order to make good a robbery and punish the offender. I
say that you are led, in that case, to your conclusion by exactly
the same train of reasoning as that which a man of science pursues
when he is endeavouring to discover the origin and laws of the most
occult phenomena. The process is, and always must be, the same;
and precisely the same mode of reasoning was employed by Newton [90]
and Laplace [91] in their endeavours to discover and define the causes
of the movements of the heavenly bodies, as you, with your own common
sense, would employ to detect a burglar. The only difference is,
that the nature of the inquiry being more abstruse, every step has
to be most carefully watched, so that there may not be a single
crack or flaw in your hypothesis. A flaw or crack in many of the
hypotheses of daily life may be of little or no moment as affecting
the general correctness of the conclusions at which we may arrive;
but, in a scientific inquiry, a fallacy, great or small, is always
of importance, and is sure to be in the long run constantly
productive of mischievous if not fatal results.

Do not allow yourselves to be misled by the common notion that an
hypothesis is untrustworthy simply because it is an hypothesis. It
is often urged, in respect to some scientific conclusion, that,
after all, it is only an hypothesis. But what more have we to
guide us in nine-tenths of the most important affairs of daily life
than hypotheses, and often very ill-based ones? So that in
science, where the evidence of an hypothesis is subjected to the
most rigid examination, we may rightly pursue the same course. You
may have hypotheses, and hypotheses. A man may say, if he likes,
that the moon is made of green cheese: that is an hypothesis. But
another man, who has devoted a great deal of time and attention to
the subject, and availed himself of the most powerful telescopes
and the results of the observations of others, declares that in his
opinion it is probably composed of materials very similar to those
of which our own earth is made up: and that is also only an
hypothesis. But I need not tell you that there is an enormous
difference in the value of the two hypotheses. That one which is
based on sound scientific knowledge is sure to have a corresponding
value; and that which is a mere hasty random guess is likely to
have but little value. Every great step in our progress in
discovering causes has been made in exactly the same way as that
which I have detailed to you. A person observing the occurrence of
certain facts and phenomena asks, naturally enough, what process,
what kind of operation known to occur in Nature applied to the
particular case, will unravel and explain the mystery? Hence you
have the scientific hypothesis; and its value will be proportionate
to the care and completeness with which its basis had been tested
and verified. It is in these matters as in the commonest affairs
of practical life: the guess of the fool will be folly, while the
guess of the wise man will contain wisdom. In all cases, you see
that the value of the result depends on the patience and
faithfulness with which the investigator applies to his hypothesis
every possible kind of verification.


In order to make the title of this discourse generally
intelligible, I have translated the term "Protoplasm," which is the
scientific name of the substance of which I am about to speak, by
the words "the physical basis of life." I suppose that, to many,
the idea that there is such a thing as a physical basis, or matter,
of life may be novel--so widely spread is the conception of life as
a something which works through matter, but is independent of it;
and even those who are aware that matter and life are inseparably
connected, may not be prepared for the conclusion plainly suggested
by the phrase, "THE physical basis or matter of life," that there
is some one kind of matter which is common to all living beings,
and that their endless diversities are bound together by a
physical, as well as an ideal, unity. In fact, when first
apprehended, such a doctrine as this appears almost shocking to
common sense.

What, truly, can seem to be more obviously different from one
another, in faculty, in form, and in substance, than the various
kinds of living beings? What community of faculty can there be
between the bright-coloured lichen, which so nearly resembles a
mere mineral incrustation of the bare rock on which it grows, and
the painter, to whom it is instinct with beauty, or the botanist,
whom it feeds with knowledge?

Again, think of the microscopic fungus--a mere infinitesimal ovoid
particle, which finds space and duration enough to multiply into
countless millions in the body of a living fly; and then of the
wealth of foliage, the luxuriance of flower and fruit, which lies
between this bald sketch of a plant and the giant pine of
California, towering to the dimensions of a cathedral spire, or the
Indian fig, which covers acres with its profound shadow, and
endures while nations and empires come and go around its vast
circumference. Or, turning to the other half of the world of life,
picture to yourselves the great Finner whale,[93] hugest of beasts
that live, or have lived, disporting his eighty or ninety feet of bone,
muscle and blubber, with easy roll, among waves in which the
stoutest ship that ever left dockyard would flounder hopelessly;
and contrast him with the invisible animalcules--mere gelatinous
specks, multitudes of which could, in fact, dance upon the point of
a needle with the same ease as the angels of the Schoolmen could,
in imagination. With these images before your minds, you may well
ask, what community of form, or structure, is there between the
animalcule and the whale; or between the fungus and the fig-tree?
And, a fortiori,[94] between all four?

Finally, if we regard substance, or material composition, what
hidden bond can connect the flower which a girl wears in her hair
and the blood which courses through her youthful veins; or, what is
there in common between the dense and resisting mass of the oak, or
the strong fabric of the tortoise, and those broad disks of glassy
jelly which may be seen pulsating through the waters of a calm sea,
but which drain away to mere films in the hand which raises them
out of their element?

Such objections as these must, I think, arise in the mind of every
one who ponders, for the first time, upon the conception of a
single physical basis of life underlying all the diversities of
vital existence; but I propose to demonstrate to you that,
notwithstanding these apparent difficulties, a threefold unity--
namely, a unity of power or faculty, a unity of form, and a unity
of substantial composition--does pervade the whole living world.

No very abstruse argumentation is needed, in the first place to
prove that the powers, or faculties, of all kinds of living matter,
diverse as they may be in degree, are substantially similar in

Goethe has condensed a survey of all powers of mankind into the
well-known epigram:--[95]

"Warum treibt sich das Volk so und schreit? Es will sich ernahren
Kinder zeugen, und die nahren so gut es vermag.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Weiter bringt es kein Mensch, stell' er sich wie er auch will."

In physiological language this means, that all the multifarious and
complicated activities of man are comprehensible under three
categories. Either they are immediately directed towards the
maintenance and development of the body, or they effect transitory
changes in the relative positions of parts of the body, or they
tend towards the continuance of the species. Even those
manifestations of intellect, of feeling, and of will, which we
rightly name the higher faculties, are not excluded from this
classification, inasmuch as to every one but the subject of them,
they are known only as transitory changes in the relative positions
of parts of the body. Speech, gesture, and every other form of
human action are, in the long run, resolvable into muscular
contraction, and muscular contraction is but a transitory change in
the relative positions of the parts of a muscle. But the scheme
which is large enough to embrace the activities of the highest form
of life, covers all those of the lower creatures. The lowest
plant, or animalcule, feeds, grows, and reproduces its kind. In
addition, all animals manifest those transitory changes of form
which we class under irritability and contractility; and, it is
more than probable, that when the vegetable world is thoroughly
explored, we shall find all plants in possession of the same
powers, at one time or other of their existence.

I am not now alluding to such phaenomena, at once rare and
conspicuous, as those exhibited by the leaflets of the sensitive
plants, or the stamens of the barberry, but to much more widely
spread, and at the same time, more subtle and hidden,
manifestations of vegetable contractility. You are doubtless aware
that the common nettle owes its stinging property to the
innumerable stiff and needle-like, though exquisitely delicate,
hairs which cover its surface. Each stinging-needle tapers from a
broad base to a slender summit, which, though rounded at the end,
is of such microscopic fineness that it readily penetrates, and
breaks off in, the skin. The whole hair consists of a very
delicate outer case of wood, closely applied to the inner surface
of which is a layer of semi-fluid matter, full of innumerable
granules of extreme minuteness. This semi-fluid lining is
protoplasm, which thus constitutes a kind of bag, full of a limpid
liquid, and roughly corresponding in form with the interior of the
hair which it fills. When viewed with a sufficiently high
magnifying power, the protoplasmic layer of the nettle hair is seen
to be in a condition of unceasing activity. Local contractions of
the whole thickness of its substance pass slowly and gradually from
point to point, and give rise to the appearance of progressive
waves, just as the bending of successive stalks of corn by a breeze
produces the apparent billows of a cornfield.

But, in addition to these movements, and independently of them, the
granules are driven, in relatively rapid streams, through channels
in the protoplasm which seem to have a considerable amount of
persistence. Most commonly, the currents in adjacent parts of the
protoplasm take similar directions; and, thus, there is a general
stream up one side of the hair and down the other. But this does
not prevent the existence of partial currents which take different
routes; and sometimes trains of granules may be seen coursing
swiftly in opposite directions within a twenty-thousandth of an
inch of one another; while, occasionally, opposite streams come
into direct collision, and, after a longer or shorter struggle, one
predominates. The cause of these currents seems to lie in
contractions of the protoplasm which bounds the channels in which
they flow, but which are so minute that the best microscopes show
only their effects, and not themselves.

The spectacle afforded by the wonderful energies prisoned within
the compass of the microscopic hair of a plant, which we commonly
regard as a merely passive organism, is not easily forgotten by one
who has watched its display, continued hour after hour, without
pause or sign of weakening. The possible complexity of many other
organic forms, seemingly as simple as the protoplasm of the nettle,
dawns upon one; and the comparison of such a protoplasm to a body
with an internal circulation, which has been put forward by an
eminent physiologist, loses much of its startling character.
Currents similar to those of the hairs of the nettle have been
observed in a great multitude of very different plants, and weighty
authorities have suggested that they probably occur, in more or
less perfection, in all young vegetable cells. If such be the
case, the wonderful noonday silence of a tropical forest is, after
all, due only to the dulness of our hearing; and could our ears
catch the murmur of these tiny Maelstroms, [96] as they whirl in the
innumerable myriads of living cells which constitute each tree, we
should be stunned, as with the roar of a great city.

Among the lower plants, it is the rule rather than the exception,
that contractility should be still more openly manifested at some
periods of their existence. The protoplasm of Algae and Fungi
becomes, under many circumstances, partially, or completely, freed
from its woody case, and exhibits movements of its whole mass, or
is propelled by the contractility of one, or more, hair-like
prolongations of its body, which are called vibratile cilia. And,
so far as the conditions of the manifestation of the phaenomena of
contractility have yet been studied, they are the same for the
plant as for the animal. Heat and electric shocks influence both,
and in the same way, though it may be in different degrees. It is
by no means my intention to suggest that there is no difference in
faculty between the lowest plant and the highest, or between plants
and animals. But the difference between the powers of the lowest
plant, or animal, and those of the highest, is one of degree, not
of kind, and depends, as Milne-Edwards [97] long ago so well pointed
out, upon the extent to which the principle of the division of
labour is carried out in the living economy. In the lowest
organism all parts are competent to perform all functions, and one
and the same portion of protoplasm may successfully take on the
function of feeding, moving, or reproducing apparatus. In the
highest, on the contrary, a great number of parts combine to
perform each function, each part doing its allotted share of the
work with great accuracy and efficiency, but being useless for any
other purpose.

On the other hand, notwithstanding all the fundamental resemblances
which exist between the powers of the protoplasm in plants and in
animals, they present a striking difference (to which I shall
advert more at length presently), in the fact that plants can
manufacture fresh protoplasm out of mineral compounds, whereas
animals are obliged to procure it ready made, and hence, in the
long run, depend upon plants. Upon what condition this difference
in the powers of the two great divisions of the world of life
depends, nothing is at present known.

With such qualifications as arises [98] out of the last-mentioned
fact, it may be truly said that the acts of all living things are
fundamentally one. Is any such unity predicable of their forms?
Let us seek in easily verified facts for a reply to this question.
If a drop of blood be drawn by pricking one's finger, and viewed
with proper precautions, and under a sufficiently high microscopic
power, there will be seen, among the innumerable multitude of
little, circular, discoidal bodies, or corpuscles, which float in
it and give it its colour, a comparatively small number of
colourless corpuscles, of somewhat larger size and very irregular
shape. If the drop of blood be kept at the temperature of the
body, these colourless corpuscles will be seen to exhibit a
marvellous activity, changing their forms with great rapidity,
drawing in and thrusting out prolongations of their substance, and
creeping about as if they were independent organisms.

The substance which is thus active is a mass of protoplasm, and its
activity differs in detail, rather than in principle, from that of
the protoplasm of the nettle. Under sundry circumstances the
corpuscle dies and becomes distended into a round mass, in the
midst of which is seen a smaller spherical body, which existed, but
was more or less hidden, in the living corpuscle, and is called its
nucleus. Corpuscles of essentially similar structure are to be
found in the skin, in the lining of the mouth, and scattered
through the whole framework of the body. Nay, more; in the
earliest condition of the human organism, in that state in which it
has but just become distinguishable from the egg in which it
arises, it is nothing but an aggregation of such corpuscles, and
every organ of the body was, once, no more than such an

Thus a nucleated mass of protoplasm turns out to be what may be
termed the structural unit of the human body. As a matter of fact,
the body, in its earliest state, is a mere multiple of such units;
and in its perfect condition, it is a multiple of such units,
variously modified.

But does the formula which expresses the essential structural
character of the highest animal cover all the rest, as the
statement of its powers and faculties covered that of all others?
Very nearly. Beast and fowl, reptile and fish, mollusk, worm, and
polype, are all composed of structural units of the same character,
namely, masses of protoplasm with a nucleus. There are sundry very
low animals, each of which, structurally, is a mere colourless
blood-corpuscle, leading an independent life. But, at the very
bottom of the animal scale, even this simplicity becomes
simplified, and all the phaenomena of life are manifested by a
particle of protoplasm without a nucleus. Nor are such organisms
insignificant by reason of their want of complexity. It is a fair
question whether the protoplasm of those simplest forms of life,
which people an immense extent of the bottom of the sea, would not
outweigh that of all the higher living beings which inhabit the
land put together. And in ancient times, no less than at the
present day, such living beings as these have been the greatest of


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