IF the International Scientific Series, which we owe to the disinterested labor of Dr. Youmans, proceeds as it has begun, it will more than fulfil the promise given to the reading public in its prospectus. The first volume, by Professor Tyndall, was a model of lucid and attractive scientific exposition ; and now we have a second,1 by Mr. Walter Bagehot, which is not only very lucid and charming, but also original and suggestive in the highest degree, Nowhere, perhaps, since the publication of Sir Henry Maine’s Ancient Law, have we seen so many fruitful thoughts suggested in the course of a couple of hundred pages.

The principal aim of Mr. Bagehot’s book is to point out some of the conditions essential to progress in civilization, and to show how it is that so small a portion of the human race has attained to permanent progressiveness. It has been customary to contrast man with inferior animals as alone capable of improving his condition from age to age ; the implication being that while none of the inferior animals show any capacity for progress, on the other hand all men, without distinction save as to degree, possess such capacity. And some metaphysical writers have gone so far as to describe progressiveness as a tendency inherent in humanity. The gulf between man and other animals, wide enough in any event, has in this way been unduly exaggerated. In reality it need not take a very long survey of human socieries, past and present, to assure us that beyond a certain point stagnation has been the rule, and progress the exception. Over a large part of the earth’s surface the slow progress painfully achieved during thousands of prehistoric ages has stopped short with the savage state, as exemplified by those African, Polynesian, and American tribes which can neither work out a civilization for themselves, nor appropriate the civilization of higher races wjth whom they are brought into contact. Half the human race, having surmounted savagery, have been arrested in an immobile type of civilization, as in ancient Egypt, modern China, and in the East generally. It is only in the Aryan race, with the Jews and Magyars, that we can find evidences of a persistent tendency to progress ; and that there is no inherent race-tendency at work in this is shown by the fact that some of the Aryans, as the Hindus and Persians, are among the most unprogressive of men. The progress of the European Aryans, like the evolution of higher forms of life, has been due only to a concurrence of favorable circumstances.

It is one of the puzzles of sociology that the very state of things which is pre-eminently useful in bringing men out of savagery is also likely to be pre-eminently in the way of their attaining to a persistently progressive civilization. “No one,” says Mr. Bagehot,“ will ever comprehend the arrested civilizations unless he sees the stricbdilemma of early scciety. Either men had no law at all, and lived in confused tribes, hardly hanging together, or they had to obtain a fixed law by processes of incredible difficulty. Those who surmounted that difficulty soon destroyed all those that lay in their way who did not. And then they themselves were caught in their own yoke. The customary discipline, which could only be imposed on any early men by terrible sanctions, continued with those sanctions, and killed out of the whole society the propensities to variation which arc the principle of progress.”

A word to the wise will suffice to show that Mr. Bagehot has here struck nearer to the explanation of the arrested civilizations than any previous writer. Among numerous tribal groups of primitive men, those will prevail in the struggle for existence in which the lawless tendencies of individuals arc most thoroughly subordinated by the yoke of tyrannical custom, — the only yoke which uncivilized men can be made to wear. These communities will grow at the expense of less law-abiding tribes until the result is a strong nation ruled by immovable custom, as in the case of Egypt or China or India. The problem now is how to get beyond this stage, and to relax the despotism of custom without entailing a retrogression toward primeval lawlessness. This problem has never been successfully solved except where a race, rendered organically law-abiding through some discipline of the foregoing kind, has been thrown into emulative conflict with other races similarly disciplined. And this condition has been completely fulfilled only in the case of the migrating Aryans who settled Europe.

This is but one of Mr. Bagehot’s many bright thoughts. We have barely room to hint at another. It was formerly assumed that, instead of mankind having arisen out of primeval savagery, modern savages have fallen from a primeval civilization, having lost the arts, the morals, and the intelligence which they originally possessed; and in our time some such thesis as this has been overtly maintained by the Duke of Argyll. Mr. Bagchot shows that in every way such a falling off is incompatible with the principle of natural selection. Take, for example, the ability to anticipate future contingencies, — to abstain to-day that we may enjoy to-morrow. This is the most fundamental of the differences between civilization and savagery. Now, obviously, the ability to postpone present to future enjoyment is, in a mere material, economic, or military aspect, such an important acquisition to any race or group of men, that when once acquired it could never be lost. The race possessing this capacity could by no possibility yield ground to the races lacking it. Or take the ready belief in omens by which the life of the savage is so terribly hampered. Could a single tribe in old Australia have surmounted the necessity of searching for omens before undertaking any serious business, it would inevitably have subjugated all the other tribes on the continent. So, because the men who possess the attributes of civilization must necessarily prevail over the men who lack these attributes (and this is always true in the long run, though now and then a great multitude of barbarians may temporarily overthrow a handful of civilized men ), because this is so, it follows that there cannot have been, in prehistoric times, a general loss of the attributes of civilization.

To do justice to Mr. Bagehot’s fertile book would require a long article. With the best of intentions, we are conscious of having given but a sorry account of it in these brief paragraphs. But we hope we have said enough to recommend it to the attention of the thoughtful reader. We are glad to see that the young science of sociology has received such an early and satisfactory treatment in Dr. Youmans’s series of popular books.

Among the new books in the older departments of science, M. Figuier’s Insect World 2 deserves some notice. Whatever M. Figuier’s short-comings may be, — and they are certainly very great, — he must at least have the credit which belongs to an industrious writer. As an authority on scientific matters, he is far beneath contempt. He has no merit whatever which should make him, on his own account, worthy of mention even in such gossip about scientific matters as ours. Nevertheless, among his many crude and uncritical compilations from the works of better men, he has once or twice produced a readable book which is fairly serviceable. His Vegetable World was such a book ; and the present work is another. The reader who wishes to obtain, without too much trouble, some rudimentary acquaintance with the structure and habits of the various orders of insects, may find this book useful.

Thermic Fever, or Sunstroke, by H. C. Wood, Jr., is a well-arranged account of the clinical history, character, and treatment of this formidable disease. To rank it with such books as Dr. Wyman’s on Autumnal Catarrh is to give it high praise ; yet front a cursory examination of it, we are inclined to regard it as a book of like merit with the latter.

Johnson’s Natural Philosophy! is a work which meets a popular desideratum. It contains an excellent account of the phenomena and laws of mechanics, heat, light, sound, and electricity ; with a chapter on physical astronomy. It is an anachronism, however, to entitle such a book Natural Philosophy. Hegel’s sneer at the Englishman who called a barometer a “philosophical ” instrument ought, by this time, to he heeded. The science which deals with the various subjects just enumerated is already well known as “ Physics,” and an adherence to the old style of nomenclature can only serve to help perpetuate an old confusion of ideas which cannot too soon be cleared up.

  1. Physics and Politics : or, Thoughts on the Application of the Principles of “ Natural Selection ” and “ Inheritance ” to Political Society. By WALTER BAGEHOT. New York : D. Appleton & Co. 1873.
  2. The Insect World, by LOUIS FIGUSIR. D. Appleton & Co : New York. 1872.
  3. Johnson’s Natural Philosophy, and Key to Philosophical Charts. J. W. Schermerhorn & Co. : New York 1872.