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From The Spectator.
We cannot, of course, pretend to crit-
That devotion to abstract thought is, however, no proof that the Asiatie power of observation is in any way deficient. The men who without optical instruments discovered in Chaldæa so many of the secrets of astronomy, who ascertained to an hour the true length of the year, who learned how to predict accurately the recurrence of eclipses, and who had perceived without understanding that there was some process of acceleration in the moon's revolutions round the earth, could not have been without the faculty of intense observation, which is the first condition of success in scientific inquiry. We know by evidence which is irresistible that Asiatics had acquired a knowledge of hydraulics which was probably equal to our own, that they had mastered most of the secrets of agriculture, so that our efforts to teach them improved methods generally end in a failure, and that they had at least become aware that there were absolute laws which governed the science of numbers, and that it was possible by combinations of what they called essences to obtain startling results, both in the warfare with disease and in the modification of inanimate things. For instance, they—that is, a few savants among them-must have become aware of the diffusibility of gold in an inferior metal, which is the key to all the stories of alchemical quackeries. That they suffered inquiry to be arrested in this as in all other departments of thought is doubtless true, but we have yet to be certain that the reason was not indifference to what they considered, after all, a secondary or even worthless subject of thought-as indeed it would be if by intense thinking we could solve any of the greater spiritual problems-and to the high barrier placed before them by the imperfection of their means of transmitting recondite knowledge. When the savants of the early generations had discovered anything of moment they could only send it down as a sort of legend handed from teacher to catechumen through a long enduring priesthood, probably losing something of accuracy, certainly
gaining very little in volume, from every repetition. Lord Rayleigh gained much, it may be, as he listened to Professor Bose, but he would be reluctant to trust the transmission of what he had gained to the memory of a hundred successive professors, almost sarily selected without reference to their special ability or interest in the pursuit of knowledge.
The Asiatic has now the same means of accumulating and transmitting knowledge of physics as the European, and we have yet to be certified by experience that he will not care to make the necessary mental exertion. He may not, of course, for Professor Bose and his few colleagues, either in India or Japan, may be, for anything we can yet be sure of, mere accidents, as much "sports" among their countrymen as, for instance, was Michael Scott, the philosopher, chemist, and "wizard" of the Middle Ages among his countrymen north of the Tweed; but then he also may. If he does, he should bring to the task of mastering nature a great accession of force. The Asiatic is the subtlest reasoner on certain subjects in the world, the swiftest to follow a chain of abstract reasoning, the most certain to detect a lurking fallacy, and we at least cannot perceive why he Who founded most philosophies and can understand them all should be held incapable of perceiving that to know the secrets of nature we must regard induction as the best instrument. Bacon's thought cannot be above the comprehension, at all events, of the race which thought out the philosophy of illusion, the notion that "all that we see or seem is a dream within a dream," two thousand years ago. He has just the burning imagination which could extort a truth out of a mass of apparently disconnected facts; a habit of meditation without allowing the mind to dissipate itself, such as has belonged to the greatest mathematicians and engineers; and a power of persistence it is something a little different from patience-such as has hardly belonged to any European. We do not know Professor Bose, but if he is like
the thoughtful among his countrymen, as of course he must be, we venture to say that if he caught with his scientific imagination a glimpse of a wonderworking "ray" as yet unknown to man but always penetrating ether, and believed that experiment would reveal its properties and potentialities, he would go on experimenting ceaselessly through a long life, and, dying, hand on his task to some successor, be it son or be it disciple. That is how the early astronomers must have worked to make their discoveries, and it is essentially the Asiatic rather than the European method. Nothing would seem to him laborious in his inquiry, nothing insignificant, nothing painful, any more than it would seem to the true Sunyasee in the pursuit of his inquiry into the ultimate relation of his own spirit to that of the divine. Just think what kind of addition to the means of investigation would be made by the arrival within that sphere of inquiry of a thousand men with the Sunyasee mind, the mind which utterly controls the body and can meditate or inquire endlessiy while life remains, never for a moment losing sight of the object, never for a moment letting it be obscured by any terrestrial temptation. And what are a thousand men in Asia? Four-fifths of our readers, perhaps five-fifths, will think it the foolishest of dreams, but we can see no reason whatever why the Asiatic mind, turning from its absorption in insoluble problems, or problems soluble only by revelation, should betake itself ardently, thirstily, hungrily, to the research into nature which can never end, yet is always yielding results, often evil as well as good, upon which yet deeper inquiries can be based. If that happened—and Professor Bose is at all events a living evidence that it can happen, that we are not imagining an impossibility-that would be the greatest addition ever made to the sum of the mental force of mankind in that one especial and of course most profitable direction.
There is another and much more concrete reason for wishing that this may occur, and that some millionaire with
an imagination may yet found a University of Physics in India, and it is this. Europe is suddenly developing the Asiatic mind in a dozen different countries without giving it anything to exert itself upon, the result being the unsettlement and almost savage discontent which puzzle European observers. It is supposed to be a mere hunger for salaries; but that, though true, is only part of the truth. Asiatic who has been trained in the European method wants besides a living, something absorbing to think about. The Russian, the Frenchman, and the Englishman refuse him political freedom-there is a partial exception in Japan-they despise him with almost unintelligible injustice as engineer, architect, and agriculturist-Asiatics built Luxor, Jeypore, the Alhambra, and the Taj, opened the magnificent tanks of Ceylon and Tanjore, and founded the peerless system of agriculture which, probably in Babylon, certainly in China and Bengal, has fully fed a population, in places, of eight hundred to the square mile-they cannot give him full employment as soldier or administrator, and practically they leave him little except landowning and some difficult branches of commercial enterprise. His intellect, unless he is a doctor, is left to consume itself, and the result is fret, leading to the curious phenomenon we see, that while the peasantry are content with the white man's rule, and the educated admire the white man, the latter chafe furiously under what we have ourselves heard them describe as the "sceptre of lead." There could be no vent for this useless energy, which, be it observed, Europe is incessantly developing an increasing, like the pursuit of scientific truth, which can never end. If all Asia devoted a century to the study of butterflies' wings, there would remain powers of motion in the butterfly which were still unrecorded or misunderstood. Merely to know the geology of India as we know that of some corners of Scotland would be to double the wealth of a continent, and that is but a feeble illustration of what
a race of Indian physicists might learn. Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff while governor of Madras pointed out this road in the most instructive speech he ever delivered, and though, being governor, the temptation he held out was naturally the multiplication of careers, the Asiatic in Persia, in India, in IndoChina, would feel at least equally drawn towards new careers for his mental energy. He has got it somewhere hidden, though Europe is so sceptical, or if not, how does it happen that Lord Kelvin and Lord Rayleigh would frankly admit that they had at least a hope of learning somewhat from Professor Bose?
From The Speaker.
THE ENIGMATIC CHILD. Is childhood still a mystery to our literary artists? Professor Sully, in the Fortnightly Review, rebukes some of them-Mrs. Meynell, Mr. Barrie. and Mr. Kenneth Grahame-for grave misconception of the real child. Mr. Meynell has reinforced artistic vision with maternal solicitude, and still she is in gross error. Sentimental Tommy is a creation of "farcical exaggeration," and Mr. Kenneth Grahame's urchins in "The Golden Age" are mere projections of cynical humor. The professor's criticism may be a little overdone; but do any of us ever read a story about children without a sense of puzzled misgiving? They are so strange to us, these enigmatical little beings, even when they are nearest and dearest, and when their original sayings are reported to our friends with all the pride of parental authorship. It is a queer, shame-faced sentiment, that same pride, rejoicing furtively in the childish prodigy as a chip of the old block, and yet a little abashed by the independence of the chip, its freedom from grown-up convention, which compels the block to conform to the usages and prejudices of society. So we repeat the sayings of our youngsters, duplicates of ourselves
with unaccountable variations, and discipline. Could we but return to that wonder vaguely whether at the same ante-chamber, peopling it again with age we were equally original, piquant, our earliest fancies, tremors, and inand audacious. It is as if we cherished articulate convictions of right, how in our bosoms healthy young anarchists much easier it would be to enter into the who set all codes of propriety at de- thoughts of the small creatures whose fiance, and present to our daily contem- dependence on our judgment so often plation, and to the admiring envy of our makes their absolute detachment of soul neighbors, that astonishing mixture of a pathetic problem! earth and heaven, the mind of a child just opening on the world.
Hence, perhaps, the popularity of the child as a theme of imaginative art. To this we turn with a wistful hope that it may lift a corner of the veil and show us the inexplicable little one as he really is. Mere dissertations upon him, however subtle, are unsatisfying. We want a dramatic presentment of the child in his habit as he lives, an actual, tangible embodiment of this elusive compound of angelic simplicity and preternatural insight. Is there such a thing in literature? Shakespeare has done wonders with Prince Arthur. There is nothing more exquisite in art than the boy's appeal to Hubert:
What is at the root of the embarrassed gratification with which we watch this marvel? There are parents, no doubt, who profess to have a complete understanding of their offspring. This is a form of vanity specially marked in some wise young mothers. Though desperately ill-acquainted with themselves, their own characters and temperaments, they will give you a thorough synopsis of the first-born, his nature and ultimate development, while he is sucking a thumb with sphinx-like absorption. Two young people who are still strangers to each other in spite of marriage, and whose intimacy in future years will be no closer than corresponding attitudes of uneasy vigilance, are nevertheless assured that the child, who is the mental outcome of this imperfect blend, with a dash of some unheard-of ancestor on either side, is as clear as dawn to them in all his characteristics and possibilities. You near of the divination of maternal love. Poets are fond of singing it amongst the beati- Or, What good love may I perform for tudes. If a mother does not understand her own child, what helpfulness is there in the process of the suns? So we disguise our ignorance in a formula of parental duty, watching the new phe- So much as frown on you?
And like the watchful minutes to the hour,
nomenon in the household meanwhile with a fine affectation of superior wisdom, and with secret gropings back into the darkened past of our own childhood. To very few of us is it given to remember exactly how we viewed life in the dusky interval between infantine petticoats and the beginning of the Marble Age. It is the time when the first ethical concept is evolved in the child's mindthe elementary sense of justice, often so poignant that the whole nature may be warped by some error of parental over-idealizing the child which makes
This is not all artless tenderness, for the child has a cunning knowledge of the innate gentleness of the man. That is fitting enough; but when Arthur is made to use the image of the red-hot iron, drinking his tears, and quenching its "fiery indignation" in "mine innocence," the conceit passes out of the childlike sphere, and the wondrous spell of the passage loses its natural magic in a literary device. It is this defect of
When your head did but ake,
I knit my handkercher about your brows, (The best I had a princess wrought it
And I did never ask it you again;
Will you put out mine eyes?
These eyes that never did, nor never
us pursue our quest of him in literature with yearning yet dubious steps. We may not agree with Professor Sully that Sentimental Tommy is "farcical;" but is he a boy, or a fantasy on the artistic temperament? Is Tom Sawyer anything more than a fascinating piece of extravagance? Charles Lamb's "dream children," to whom he expounded the virtues of their great-grandmother, while they listened with delicious commentary of gesture and eyebrows, are provokingly near us, though they explained to him that they were waiting to be born. But then Lamb did not trace their adventures through several hundred pages. If you sketch the child in fiction with a swift and delicate touch, there seems to be more of his essence than in elaborate portraiture; but it is not a point for dogma. Stevenson's infantine philosopher in "the pleasant land of counterpane" has his illuminating moments. His determination to be very haughty when he grows
And bid the other girls and boys Not to meddle with my toys
-savors of the true individualism of childhood. Thackeray's Betsinda, in "The Rose and the Ring," when she cannot comprehend the absence of her nurse at dinner-time, and plaintively exclaims, "My Royal Highness is very hungry," seems to have a proper appreciation of her own neglected dignity. Arthur does not hesitate to remind Hubert that the "handkercher" was wrought by a princess, and that it is a prince who has been nursing a rather gloomy gaoler. These touches look like nature; and, after all, despite our suspicion of fantasia in the child life of literature, we may remember that had Scott's Marjorie been a creation of art instead of an actual prodigy, we should have shaken our heads over so audacious a figment.
Still, here is Professor Sully with the warning that in recent fiction childhood is not treated with "adequate respect;" and we begin to fear that joking about the infant enigma belongs to the intoler
able license of maturity. Those stories we have all told with delight-the child who prayed for a bicycle, and finding a tricycle in the hall next morning, remarked, "Oh Lord, I did think you knew the difference between a bicycle and a tricycle!" the child who, when told by his mother that children who died were taken to heaven by angels, said, "Mummy, if an angel should call after I'm gone to bed, please say I'm out!"— those stories must not be retailed with mirth as if they were anecdotes of "grown-ups." The grave sagacity of the child is not meant for our sport. He is neither of this world nor of Elfland; and the strange twilight in which he dwells will one day be as incomprehensible to him as it is to us who also lived in it once upon a time.
From Chambers's Journal. VISITING-CARDS.
The visiting-card as we now know it is barely a century old. Like most other every-day articles of use and ornament, it is the result of a gradual process of evolution; and the form which the card now universally takes is by no means so attractive as those which it took in some of the earlier stages of its history. Of late years, indeed, there have been whispers of a new departure in cards. A revolt from the prevailing monotony in "pasteboards" has more than once been threatened; and the great army of those who suffer from collector-mania have been tantalized with the prospect of new worlds to conquer, in the shape of visiting-cards ornamented with elaborately engraved devices. The idea of those who mooted the change was to give to the visiting card a touch of individuality, so that each card, like a book-plate, should be a witness to its owner's individual taste and inclinations, and not a mere machine-made reproduction of a universal pattern. But nothing came of the proposal, and the present-day visiting-card still wears its uniform of plain black and white.