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The danger which besets us in grass,” and although he said, accepting any plausible explana- furthermore, “A good Monograph tion of phenomena without sub- of Worms would afford much enjecting it to the most searching tertainment and information at criticism is not death or wounds, the same time, and would open to as in the case of a primitive hunter a new and large field on natural who formed a hasty and erroneous history,” it was not until more judgment, but it is one which than a century had elapsed that will certainly kill or cripple us Darwin's work on 'The Formation as naturalists.
of Vegetable Mould through the Self-contradictory as the state- Action of Worms' was published. ment may appear, what is common Yet all the time, in every field, and obvious is often much more abundant evidence of the influence mysterious and wonderful than of worms was displayed before the what is rare. We are so in the eyes of naturalists in the shape of habit of taking circumstances in hundreds of tons of earth raised to our everyday surroundings for the surface in the form of wormgranted, that a very great deal casts. entirely escapes notice which I make bold to say that, in like offers most fruitful ground for manner, most of the future disresearch. Do we not constantly coveries of great moment to the see, when some great invention naturalist will be made, not in the or discovery is announced, that remote and minute ramifications of the thing has all the time been science such as are occupying the almost before our eyes, and that attention of so many of our learned it is of the most ridiculously simple investigators, but among the everycharacter? Within the last few day phenomena which are open to years many of us learned with the eyes of all. It is in this truth astonishment that air contained a (for truth is scarcely too strong a new element in addition to nitrogen word when all past experience deand oxygen. Yet for generations clares and confirms the rule) that hundreds of able chemists have not the hope of the amateur naturalist only been breathing air, but have lies. been continually working upon it In spite of the immense stimulus in their laboratories. And further- which Darwinism has given to the more, when the facts and methods study of natural history, I am which led to the discovery of argon afraid that hitherto it has proved were announced, it seemed astonish- rather a stumbling-block than a ing to every student of chemistry help to a large number of people that since the time when Cavendish who take an interest in such first drew attention to “residual pursuits. nitrogen” not one of these experi- Most of these belong to the class menters had apprehended a truth who take up some branch of natwhich was all but naked before his ural history as a hobby for leisure eyes. Although in the year 1777 hours. One hardly likes to speak Gilbert White drew attention to of such students as amateurs, for the remarkable influence of earth- the term generally savours of conworms in "boring, perforating, and tempt when used in connection loosening the soil, and in throwing with the arts or sciences. We up such infinite number of lumps owe so much to observers, from of earth called worm-casts, which Gilbert White downwards, to is a fine manure for grain and whom the study of animated nature has been chiefly a source of and requires sterner stuff than recreation, that it would be a a spirit of dilettanteism, to wrestle great mistake either to hold their with dry bones and technicalities work cheap or to make their way in a stuffy library or museum. needlessly difficult. When, there. Again, the increased energy given fore, the word “amateur" occurs to research is rapidly using up in this article, it is merely em- a great deal of the material upon ployed to distinguish naturalists which our fathers busied themof this order from those who selves. Their happy huntinghave adopted the study of natural grounds have
have been surveyed, science as a profession.
mapped, and annexed by the specTo a certain extent the unto- ulative professor, and the fauna ward effect of the new doctrine and flora thereon catalogued with on many of the older order of business - like precision which naturalists was inevitable. Our would do credit to an auctioneer. ideas concerning nature have been The naturalist who is content so revolutionised during the last with merely collecting and classigeneration, that one can hardly fying natural objects now finds expect mature students to find that he must go very far afield themselves at home in their novel if he is to be more than an environment; while any attempts imitator of other men's labours. to patch the new doctrines on to Furthermore, it must, I fear, the damaged remnants of the old be admitted that some things, was like putting new cloth in an which are not roses, have been old garment. Although, as I shall strewed in the path of the amapoint out later, the amateurs have teur naturalist by certain of his themselves to blame to a certain professional associates. This was extent, their hindrances have come probably more true ten years ago largely from outside.
than it is to-day, and it is to be In some directions the same hoped that advancing civilisation fate seems to have overtaken will remove such causes of offence. the pursuits of the naturalist But any one who has studied the which in these strenuous days habits of that uncompromising has overtaken various popular vertebrate the Learned Official, sports. Professionalism has seized when he deigns to mix with comthem for its own, and has estab- mon folk at British Association lished methods and standards meetings and elsewhere, will probwhich are beyond the reach of ably have observed that certain any but the professional. The members of the order treat their impetus given by the new doc- less exalted fellow-workers with trine has not only greatly multi- a somewhat disdainful patronage. plied the number of earnest Doubtless this is partly due to a professional workers, but it has temporary combination of youthalso increased the mass of our fulness and authority among some knowledge to such an extent that of the leaders of the new moveno little perseverance is necessary ment, which has resulted from to enable a beginner to master rapid progress. But there seems the initial details of any branch also a tendency on the part of a of natural history in which he larger number of professional nathopes to excel. It is one thing uralists to assume quasi-manorial to cull fresh knowledge in the rights in certain regions of Natopen fields, but it is quite another, ure's kingdom. It is apparently a natural law that wherever the knowledge of evolutionary laws members of a corporation become has been merely theoretical and the licensed exponents of a sub- superficial. There has been an ject, whether it be divinity, natural immense amount of literature upon science, or what you will, they the subject of Darwinism poured develop the spirit of the custodian, out during the last thirty years, if not of the proprietor, and tend much of it of a very speculative to regard all others who meddle and evanescent character. One with it with a certain amount of can hardly wonder, therefore, if jealousy.
many students are somewhat beBut it will be a disastrous day wildered as a result of trying for science if natural history ever to inform themselves from such becomes a close preserve of special- sources. If the amateur naturalists and professors. For a brief ist is to profit by the new doctrine review of the progress of know- his information must be thorough ledge in this direction shows that and based upon experience, even many of the most important dis- although it may not be extensive. coveries have been made by the When we are going to make use despised amateur. Furthermore, of knowledge for some practical it is from the ranks of these en- purpose, we generally find that it thusiastic volunteers that by far is necessary to have a much more the best material in the great thorough grip of our subject than army of regulars is recruited. can be gained from studying The true naturalist, like the verbal statements and formulae. poet, is born, not made. No It is often absolutely impossible amount of scholastic hammering, to obtain from books the kind of or Government patronage, or knowledge which is demanded in societies for the organisation of practice. What traveller about to research, can evolve a Cuvier or undertake an expedition in which a Darwin.
a knowledge of horsemanship or Yet if it be true that the old- cycling was necessary could expect fashioned amateur is trending to- to reach his goal if he contented wards extinction, he has chiefly himself with reading exhaustive himself to thank. Should he fail treatises on these arts ? The very to adapt himself to his changed act of walking, which we deem so environment, he must go the way simple, would, if taught in an abof all flesh which has proved stract and academic way, tax the its unfitness in the struggle for faculties of a Newton or a Kelvin. existence. His weakest point
But if there are a good many hitherto has been his lack of ver- amateur naturalists whose knowsatility. We shall find the cause ledge of evolution is too imperfect of many failures in attempts to to be of any practical value, there apply the principles of Darwinism are probably still more who may in this want of power to accord be said to possess none at all. If with new conditions.
any one doubts this statement, cases it is evident that efforts to let him commence a discussion keep pace with the times have on Darwinism with any average ended in confusion because there schoolboy, sportsman, or country has been an attempt to pile new parson, and it will meet with bricks upon an old and sapped abundant support.
I mention foundation. In many others fail- these three classes because from
has resulted because the them, probably more than from
any others one
Darwinism throws upon the everydrawn the people who make a day world about us. hobby of some branch of natural It will be a good way to show history. The failure of the school. how wonderfully the amateur stuboy is owing partly to the inveter- dent may gain both in pleasure and ate conservatism of our educational knowledge from the new philosmethods, and partly to the slovenly ophy—and at the same time will way in which science is still taught be consistent with the methods I in schools. To the sportsman, as a am recommending—if we briefly rule, reading is uncongenial, and discuss some points in the natural books bristling with new and tech- history of the naturalist himself. nical terms and full of half-digested Undoubtedly his passion for outtheories are an abomination. As door life, and for watching and reto the average country parson, he cording natural phenomena, dates still seems to think not only that back to the time when the existthe Darwinian Theory is a dis- ence of our forefathers depended putable doctrine, but that, unless upon success in hunting. We are filtered and diluted by ecclesiasti- all of us aware that only a few cal wisdom, it smacks of infidelity. thousand years ago the ancestors
By-and-by, when doctrines which of the modern European and are still novel to most people (al- American had only reached a though forty years old, and to many stage of culture still found among of us as much a matter of course as savages which depend entirely upon the laws of gravitation) find a place the chase. Plentiful evidences are in the elements of knowledge ab- discovered in limestone caves, in sorbed by every youth, we may the banks of ancient rivers, and in expect most of these difficulties to the shell-mounds around the Danish disappear. But in the meantime coast, that prehistoric Europeans they may be depriving us of some lived almost precisely the life now second Gilbert White, who from lived by the Fuegians or the Aushis country parsonage might send tralian blacks. But few of us, I us news of a thousand delightful imagine, have realised the enorand invaluable facts which would mous length of the epoch throughbe beyond the reach of any but a out which this stage of utter cultured observer who lives among savagery lasted. It is utterly imthe fields and woods.
possible to measure its length in For the latter-day Gilbert White years. Probably it would be no must be an evolutionist down to exaggeration to say that if you the tips of his toes. The Dar- took the last line of this article as winian way must be as familiar representing the era of civilisation, to him as the footpath from his you might take all the other lines rectory to his church.
as representing, in equal proporspectacles must be tinged with the tion, different stages of the epoch doctrine, and his mind must em- of pristine savagery. Now since ploy its methods as easily as his man had to live by the chase, and lungs breathe the air. There is by the chase only, throughout the every reason to hope that the greater part of this period, it is future will bring us seers of this no wonder that all his faculties type, and it is with the desire of mind and body became moulded that I may in some slight measure to the environment of the hunter. hasten their advent that I here To such primitive savages the invite attention to the light which habits of taking note of every
VOL, CLXI.—NO. DCCCCLXXVIII.
thing around them, and of draw. once arrests his attention. Next ing conclusions from what they he must have acquired, in addition observed, were as essential from to his general knowledge, & coma strictly business point of view plete mastery of the complex arts as are any modern habits which of tracking and stalking, so that lead to commercial success. In- he may approach near enough to deed they were even more so, for his wary game for his rude weanowadays if one becomes bankrupt pons to take effect. If we go no there are many mitigating circum- further than this we find that the stances; but in prehistoric times untutored savage in his native there were no poor laws or chari- wilds almost comes up to that forties, and failure in business meant mula which defines culture as extinction. Even the miscarriage “knowing something of everything of a single enterprise, such as the and everything of something. throwing of a spear at a cave-bear But other gifts are required beor a bison, often involved a death- yond mere knowledge and skill. penalty.
There must be an infinite capacity We owe our instinctive liking for taking pains (which has been and aptitude for naturalising in given as a definition of genius), the open air to the fact that the and also, and above all, there must practical study of natural history be a power to reason accurately was at one time of saving value to from the facts observed. I think
Not only did such ac- that many people who have spoken complishments stave off imminent with contempt of the mental capadeath—as when the recognition of city of the Bosjesman and the a footprint or a faint sound in the Black Fellow can never have estiforest told of the presence of some
mated the mental resources terrible enemy - but they acted quired for ordinary "spooring.” surely if slowly in many other Each minute item of evidenceways to the advantage of their often so faint that civilised senses possessor. Among the Esquimaux can no more apprehend it than the the hunter who could be depended unassisted eye can detect the miupon to bring home his seal at the crobes in a drop of water — has end of a day's business on the ice- not only to be observed but to be floe could not only have the pick weighed, and given its exact value of the girls in marriage, but gained in a long and intricate argument. other privileges which tend to make If I may be allowed to digress a family prosperous.
from the “spoor” of our present Now let us inquire somewhat argument for a moment, I should more in detail as to the faculties like to point out what seems to which every savage hunter must have been one exceedingly importpossess in order to be successful. ant factor in the development of First of all he must have a general the human intellect. On a future knowledge of natural phenomena, occasion 1 I shall discuss, in comaccurate and inconceivably ex- paring a man's mental processes tensive; so that, when he is afield, with a dog's, the probable psychic every item among his innumerable effect of the comparative size of surroundings is so familiar that the olfactory lobe.
the olfactory lobe. I mean by the the least unusual circumstance at olfactory lobe that part of the brain
1 Wild Traits in Tame Animals (shortly to be published by W. Blackwood & Sons).