REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
By D. Appleton & Co., A. B., B. S., Adjunct Professor of Zoology in Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. New York :
WHEN all lower branches of Natural History have been finally exhausted, and we begin upon the Natural History of Scientific Men, we shall no doubt discover why it is necessary for each savant to season his mild pursuits by some desperate private feud with the nearest brother in the service. The world of scoffers no doubt revels in this particular weakness, and gladly omits all the rest of the book, in haste to get at the personalities. But to the sedate inquirer it only brings dismay. How painful, as one glides pleasantly on amid “concentric vesicles ” and “ albuminous specialization,” tracing the egg from the germinal dot to the very verge of the breakfast-table, to be suddenly interrupted, like Charles O’Malley’s pacific friend in Ireland, by the crack of a duelling-pistol and the fracture of all the teacups ! It makes it all the worse to know that the brother professor thus assailed is no mean antagonist, and certainly anything but a non-resistant; and that undoubtedly in his next book our joys will again be disturbed by an answering volley.
Yet it should be said, in justice to Professor Clark, that all this startling fusillade occurs at two or three points only, and that reading the rest of the book is like a peaceful vovage down the Mississippi alter the few guerilla-haunted spots are passed. The general tone of the book is eminently quiet, reasonable, and free from partisanship. Indeed, this studied moderation of statement sometimes mars even the clearness of the book, and the reader wishes for more emphasis. Professor Clark loves fact so much better than theory, that he sometimes leaves the theory rather obscure, and the precise bearing of the facts doubtful, To this is added the difficulty of a style, earnest and laborious indeed, but by no means luminous. In a treatise professedly popular, one has a right to ask a few more facilities for the general reader. It can hardly be expected of all scientific men to attain the singular success, in this direction, of Professor Huxley ; but the art of popularization is too important a thing to be ignored, and much may be done to cultivate the gift by literary training and by persistent effort. The new researches into the origin of life are awakening the interest of all ; and though the popular tendency is no doubt towards the views mainly held by Professor Clark, yet most men prefer an interesting speech on the wrong side of any question to a dull speech in behalf of the right.
When one takes the book piecemeal, however, the author’s statements of his own observations and analysis are so thorough and so admirable, his drawings so good, and the interest of many separate portions so great, that it seems hardly fair to complain of the rather fragmentary effect of their combination, and the rather obscure tenor of the whole. Professor Clark holds that the old doctrine, Omne vivum ex ovo, is now virtually abandoned by all, since all admit the origin of vast numbers of animated individuals by budding and self-division. There are, in fact, types of animals, as the Zoophyta, where these appear the normal modes of reproduction, and the egg only an exceptional process. From this he thinks it but a slight step to admit the possibility of spontaneous generation, and he accordingly does admit it. Touching the development theory, his conclusion is that the barriers between the five great divisions of the animal world are insurmountable, but “ that, by the multiplication and intensifying of individual differences, and the projection of these upon the branching lines of the courses of development from a lower to a higher life, the diverse and successively more elevated types among each grand division have originated upon this globe.” (p. 248.) This sentence, if any, gives the key-note of the book. To say that this is one of its clearest statements, may help to justify the above criticisms on the rest