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Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, No. CCCXXIX. by Various

Part 5 out of 5

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it were from the bottom of a well. Time, that exact observer, applies
his micrometer to every one of us, determining our rank among celestial
bodies without appeal and from time to time enrolling in his _ephemeris_
such new luminaries as may be vouchsafed to the long succession of ages.

If there is one thing that endears London to men of superior order--to
true aristocrats, no matter of what species, it is that universal
equality of outward condition, that republicanism of everyday life,
which pervades the vast multitudes who hum, and who drone, who gather
honey, and who, without gathering, consume the products of this gigantic
hive. Here you can never be extinguished or put out by any overwhelming

Neither are we in London pushed to the wall by the two or three hundred
great men of every little place. We are not invited to a main of small
talk with the cock of his own dung-hill; we are never told, as a great
favour, that Mr Alexander Scaldhead, the phrenologist, is to be there,
and that we can have our "bumps" felt for nothing; or that the Chevalier
Doembrownski (a London pickpocket in disguise) is expected to recite a
Polish ode, accompanying himself on the Jew's harp; we are not bored
with the misconduct of the librarian, who _never_ has the first volume
of the last new novel, or invited to determine whether Louisa Fitzsmythe
or Angelina Stubbsville deserves to be considered the heroine; we are
not required to be in raptures because Mrs Alfred Shaw or Clara Novello
are expected, or to break our hearts with disappointment because they
didn't come: the arrival, performances, and departure, of Ducrow's
horses, or Wombwell's wild beasts, affect us with no extraordinary
emotion; even Assizes time concerns most of us nothing.

Then, again, how vulgar, how commonplace in London is the aristocracy of
wealth; of Mrs Grub, who, in a provincial town, keeps her carriage, and
is at once the envy and the scandal of all the Ladies who have to
proceed upon their ten toes, we wot not the existence. Mr Bill Wright,
the banker, the respected, respectable, influential, twenty per cent
Wright, in London is merely a licensed dealer in money; he visits at
Camberwell Hill, or Hampstead Heath, or wherever other tradesmen of his
class delight to dwell; his wife and daughters patronize the Polish
balls, and Mr Bill Wright, jun., sports a stall at the (English) opera;
we are not overdone by Mr Bill Wright, overcome by Mrs Bill Wright, or
the Misses Bill Wright, nor overcrowed by Mr Bill Wright the younger: in
a word, we don't care a crossed cheque for the whole Bill Wrightish

What are carriages, or carriage-keeping people in London? It is not
here, as in the provinces, by their carriages shall you know them; on
the contrary, the carriage of a duchess is only distinguishable from
that of a _parvenu_, by the superior expensiveness and vulgarity of the

The vulgarity of ostentatious wealth with us, defeats the end it aims
at. That expense which is lavished to impress us with awe and
admiration, serves only as a provocative to laughter, and inducement to
contempt; where great wealth and good taste go together, we at once
recognize the harmonious adaptation of means and ends; where they do
not, all extrinsic and adventitious expenditure availeth its disbursers

What animal on earth was ever so inhumanly preposterous as a lord
mayor's footman, and yet it takes sixty guineas, at the least, to make
that poor lick-plate a common laughing-stock?

No, sir; in London we see into, and see through, all sorts of
pretension: the pretension of wealth or rank, whatever kind of quackery
and imposture. When I say _we_, I speak of the vast multitudes forming
the educated, discriminating, and thinking classes of London life. We
pass on to _what_ a man _is_, over _who_ he is, and what he _has_; and,
with one of the most accurate observers of human character and nature to
whom a man of the world ever sat for his portrait--the inimitable La
Bruyere--when offended with the hollow extravagance of vulgar riches, we
exclaim--"_Tu te trompes, Philemon, si avec ce carrosse brillant, ce
grand nombre de coquins qui te suivent, et ces six betes qui te
trainent, tu penses qu'on t'en estime d'avantage: ou ecarte tout cet
attirail qui t'est etranger, pour penetrer jusq'a toi qui n'es qu'un

In London, every man is responsible for himself, and his position is the
consequence of his conduct. If a great author, for example, or artist,
or politician, should choose to outrage the established rules of society
in any essential particular, he is neglected and even shunned in his
private, though he may be admired and lauded in his public capacity.
Society marks the line between the _public_ and the _social_ man; and
this line no eminence, not even that of premier minister of England,
will enable a public man to confound.

Wherever you are invited in London to be introduced to a great man, by
any of his parasites or hangers-on, you may be assured that your great
man is no such thing; you may make up your mind to be presented to some
quack, some hollow-skulled fellow, who makes up by little arts, small
tactics, and every variety of puff, for the want of that inherent
excellence which will enable him to stand alone. These gentlemen form
the Cockney school proper of art, literature, the drama, every thing;
and they go about seeking praise, as a goatsucker hunts insects, with
their mouths wide open; they pursue their prey in troops, like Jackals,
and like them, utter at all times a melancholy, complaining howl; they
imagine that the world is in a conspiracy not to admire them, and they
would bring an action against the world if they could. But as that is
impossible, they are content to rail against the world in good set
terms; they are always puffing in the papers, but in a side-winded way,
yet you can trace them always at work, through the daily, weekly,
monthly periodicals, in desperate exertion to attract public attention.
They have at their head one sublime genius, whom they swear by, and they
admire him the more, the more incomprehensible and oracular he appears
to the rest of mankind.

These are the men who cultivate extensive tracts of forehead, and are
deeply versed in the effective display of depending ringlets and
ornamental whiskers; they dress in black, with white _chokers_, and you
will be sure to find a lot of them at evening parties of the middling
sort of doctors, or the better class of boarding-houses.

This class numbers not merely literary men, but actors, artists,
adventuring politicians, small scientifics, and a thousand others, who
have not energy or endurance to work their way in solitary labour, or
who feel that they do not possess the power to go alone.

Public men in London appear naked at the bar of public opinion; laced
coats, ribands, embroidery, titles, avail nothing, because these things
are common, and have the common fate of common things, to be cheaply
estimated. The eye is satiated with them, they come like shadows, so
depart; but they do not feed the eye of the mind; the understanding is
not the better for such gingerbread; we are compelled to look out for
some more substantial nutriment, and we try the inward man, and test his
capacity. Instead of measuring his bumps, like a landsurveyor, we
dissect his brain, like an anatomist; we estimate him, whether he be
high or low, in whatever department of life, not by what he says he can
do, or means to do, but by what he _has_ done. By this test is every man
of talent tried in London; this is his grand, his formal difficulty, to
get the opportunity of showing what he can do, of being put into
circulation, of having the chance of being tested, like a shilling, by
the _ring_ of the customer and the _bite_ of the critic; for the
opportunity, the chance to edge in, the chink to _wedge_ in, the
_purchase_ whereon to work the length of his lever, he must be ever on
the watch; for the sunshine blink of encouragement, the April shower of
praise, he must await the long winter of "hope deferred" passing away.
Patience, the _courage_ of the man of talent, he must exert for many a
dreary and unrewarded day; he must see the quack and the pretender lead
an undiscerning public by the nose, and say nothing; nor must he exult
when the too-long enduring public at length kicks the pretender and the
quack into deserved oblivion. From many a door that will hereafter
gladly open for him, he must be content to be presently turned away.
Many a scanty meal, many a lonely and unfriended evening, in this vast
wilderness, must he pass in trying on his armour, and preparing himself
for the fight that he still believes _will_ come, and in which his
spirit, strong within him, tells him he must conquer. While the night
yet shrouds him he must labour, and with patient, and happily for him,
if, with religious hope, he watch the first faint glimmerings of the
dawning day; for his day, if he is worthy to behold it, will come, and
he will yet be recompensed "by that time and chance which happeneth to
all." And if his heart fails him, and his coward spirit turns to flee,
often as he sits, tearful, in the solitude of his chamber, will the
remembrance of the early struggles of the immortals shame that coward
spirit. The shade of the sturdy Johnson, hungering, dinnerless, will
mutely reproach him for sinking thus beneath the ills that the
"scholar's life assail." The kindly-hearted, amiable Goldsmith, pursued
to the gates of a prison by a mercenary wretch who fattened upon the
produce of that lovely mind, smiling upon him, will bid him be of good
cheer. A thousand names, that fondly live in the remembrance of our
hearts, will he conjure up, and all will tell the same story of early
want, and long neglect, and lonely friendlessness. Then will reproach
himself, saying, "What am I, that I should quail before the misery that
broke not minds like these? What am I, that I should be exempt from the
earthly fate of the immortals?"

Nor marvel, then, that men who have passed the fiery ordeal, whose power
has been tried and not found wanting, whose nights of probation,
difficulty, and despair are past, and with whom it is now noon, should
come forth, with deportment modest and subdued, exempt from the insolent
assumption of vulgar minds, and their yet more vulgar hostilities and
friendships: that such men as Campbell and Rogers, and a thousand others
in every department of life and letters, should partake of that quietude
of manner, that modesty of deportment, that compassion for the
unfortunate of their class, that unselfish admiration for men who,
successful, have deserved success, that abomination of cliques,
coteries, and _conversaziones_, and all the littleness of inferior fry:
that such men should have parasites, and followers, and hangers-on; or
that, since men like themselves are few and far between, they should
live for and with such men alone.

But thou, O Vanity! thou curse, thou shame, thou sin, with what tides of
_pseudo_ talent hast thou not filled this ambitious town? Ass, dolt,
miscalculator, quack, pretender, how many hast thou befooled, thou
father of multifarious fools? Serpent, tempter, evil one, how many hast
thou seduced from the plough tail, the carpenter's bench, the
schoolmaster's desk, the rural scene, to plunge them into misery and
contempt in this, the abiding-place of their betters, thou unhanged
cheat? Hence the querulous piping against the world and the times, and
the neglect of genius, and appeals to posterity, and damnation of
managers, publishers, and the public; hence cliques, and _claqueurs_,
and coteries, and the would-if-I-could-be aristocracy of letters; hence
bickerings, quarellings, backbitings, slanderings, and reciprocity of
contempt; hence the impossibility of literary union, and the absolute
necessity imposed upon the great names of our time of shunning, like a
pestilence, the hordes of vanity-struck individuals who would tear the
coats off their backs in desperate adherence to the skirts. Thou, too, O
Vanity! art responsible for greater evils:--Time misspent, industry
misdirected, labour unrequited, because uselessly or imprudently
applied: poverty and isolation, families left unprovided for, pensions,
solicitations, patrons, meannesses, subscriptions!

True talent, on the contrary, in London, meets its reward, if it lives
to be rewarded; but it has, of its own right, no _social_ pre-eminence,
nor is it set above or below any of the other aristocracies, in what we
may take the liberty of calling its private life. In this, as in all
other our aristocracies, men are regarded not as of their set, but as of
themselves: they are _individually_ admired, not worshipped as a
congregation: their social influence is not aggregated, though their
public influence may be. When a man, of whatever class, leaves his
closet, he is expected to meet society upon equal terms: the scholar,
the man of rank, the politician, the _millionaire_, must merge in the
gentleman: if he chooses to individualize his aristocracy in his own
person, he must do so at home, for it will not be understood or
submitted to any where else.

The rewards of intellectual labour applied to purposes of remote, or not
immediately appreciable usefulness, as in social literature, and the
loftier branches of the fine arts, are, with us, so few, as hardly to be
worth mentioning, and pity 'tis that it should be so. The law, the
church, the army, and the faculty of physic, have not only their fair
and legitimate remuneration for independent labour, but they have their
several prizes, to which all who excel, may confidently look forward
when the time of weariness and exhaustion shall come; when the pressure
of years shall slacken exertion, and diminished vigour crave some haven
of repose, or, at the least, some mitigated toil, with greater security
of income: some place of honour with repose--the ambition of declining
years. The influence of the great prize of the law, the church, and
other professions in this country, has often been insisted upon with
great reason: it has been said, and truly said, that not only do these
prizes reward merit already passed through its probationary stages, but
serve as inducements to all who are pursuing the same career. It is not
so much the example of the prize-holder, as the _prize_, that stimulates
men onward and upward: without the hope of reaching one of those
comfortable stations, hope would be extinguished, talent lie fallow,
energy be limited to the mere attainment of subsistence; great things
would not be done, or attempted, and we would behold only a dreary level
of indiscriminate mediocrity. If this be true of professions, in which,
after a season of severe study, a term of probation, the knowledge
acquired in early life sustains the professor, with added experience of
every day, throughout the rest of his career, with how much more force
will it apply to professions or pursuits, in which the mind is
perpetually on the rack to produce novelties, and in which it is
considered derogatory to a man to reproduce his own ideas, copy his own
pictures, or multiply, after the same model, a variety of characters and

A few years of hard reading, constant attention in the chambers of the
conveyancer, the equity craftsman, the pleader, and a few years more of
that disinterested observance of the practice of the courts, which is
liberally afforded to every young barrister, and indeed which many enjoy
throughout life, and he is competent, with moderate talent, to protect
the interests of his client, and with moderate mental labour to make a
respectable figure in his profession. In like manner, four or five years
sedulous attendance on lectures, dissections, and practice of the
hospitals, enables your physician to see how little remedial power
exists in his boasted art; knowing this, he feels pulses, and orders a
recognized routine of draughts and pills with the formality which makes
the great secret of his profession. When the patient dies, nature, of
course, bears the blame; and when nature, happily uninterfered with,
recovers his patient, the doctor stands on tiptoe. Henceforward his
success is determined by other than medical sciences: a pillbox and
pair, a good house in some recognized locality, Sunday dinners, a bit of
a book, grand power of head-shaking, shoulder-shrugging, bamboozling
weak-minded men and women, and, if possible, a religious connexion.

For the clergyman, it is only necessary that he should be orthodox,
humble, and pious; that he should on no occasion, right or wrong, set
himself in opposition to his ecclesiastical superiors; that he should
preach unpretending sermons; that he should never make jokes, nor
understand the jokes of another: this is all that he wants to get on
respectably. If he is ambitious, and wishes one of the great prizes, he
must have been a free-thinking reviewer, have written pamphlets, or made
a fuss about the Greek particle, or, what will avail him more than all,
have been tutor to a minister of state.

Thus you perceive, for men whose education is _intellectual_, but whose
practice is more or less _mechanical_, you have many great,
intermediate, and little prizes in the lottery of life; but where, on
the contrary, are the prizes for the historian, transmitting to
posterity the events, and men, and times long since past; where the
prize of the analyst of mind, of the dramatic, the epic, or the lyric
poet, the essayist, and all whose works are likely to become the
classics of future times; where the prize of the public journalist, who
points the direction of public opinion, and, himself without place,
station, or even name, teaches Governments their duty, and prevents
Ministers of State becoming, by hardihood or ignorance, intolerable
evils; where the prize of the great artist, who has not employed himself
making faces for hire, but who has worked in loneliness and isolation,
living, like Barry, upon raw apples and cold water, that he might
bequeath to his country some memorial worthy the age in which he lived,
and the art _for_ which he lived? For these men, and such as these, are
no prizes in the lottery of life; a grateful country sets apart for them
no places where they can retire in the full enjoyment of their fame;
condemned to labour for their bread, not in a dull mechanical routine of
professional, official, or business-like duties, but in the most severe,
most wearing of all labour, _the labour of the brain_, they end where
they begun. With struggling they begin life, with struggling they make
their way in life, with struggling they end life; poverty drives away
friends, and reputation multiplies enemies. The man whose thoughts will
become the thoughts of our children, whose minds will be reflected in
the mirror of _his_ mind, who will store in their memories his household
words, and carry his lessons in their hearts, dies not unwillingly, for
he has nothing in life to look forward to; closes with indifference his
eyes on a prospect where no gleam of hope sheds its sunlight on the
broken spirit; he dies, is borne by a few humble friends to a lowly
sepulchre, and the newspapers of some days after give us the following

"We regret to be obliged to state that Dr ----, or ---- ----, Esq. (as
the case may be) died, on Saturday last at his lodgings two pair back in
Back Place, Pimlico, (or) at his cottage (a miserable cabin where he
retired to die) at Kingston-upon-Thames. It is our melancholy duty to
inform our readers that this highly gifted and amiable man, who for so
many years delighted and improved the town, and who was a most strenuous
supporter of the (Radical or Conservative) cause, (_it is necessary to
set forth this miserable statement to awaken the gratitude of faction
towards the family of the dead_,) has left a rising family totally
unprovided for. We are satisfied that it is only necessary to allude to
this distressing circumstance, in order to enlist the sympathies, &c.
&c., (in short, _to get up a subscription_)."

We confess we are at a loss to understand why the above advertisement
should be kept stereotyped, to be inserted with only the interpolation
of name and date, when any man dies who has devoted himself to pursuits
of a purely intellectual character. Nor are we unable to discover in the
melancholy, and, as it would seem, unavoidable fates of such men,
substantial grounds of that diversion of the aristocracy of talent to
the pursuit of professional distinction, accompanied by profit, of which
our literature, art, and science are now suffering, and will continue to
suffer, the consequences.

In a highly artificial state of society, where a command, not merely of
the essentials, but of some of the superfluities of life are requisite
as passports to society, no man will willingly devote himself to
pursuits which will render him an outlaw, and his family dependent on
the tardy gratitude of an indifferent world. The stimulus of fame will
be inadequate to maintain the energies even of _great_ minds, in a
contest of which the victories are wreaths of barren bays. Nor will any
man willingly consume the morning of his days in amassing intellectual
treasures for posterity, when his contemporaries behold him dimming with
unavailing tears his twilight of existence, and dying with the worse
than deadly pang, the consciousness that those who are nearest and
dearest to his heart must eat the bread of charity. Nor is it quite
clear to our apprehension, that the prevalent system of providing for
merely intellectual men, by a State annuity or pension, is the best that
can be devised: it is hard that the pensioned aristocracy of talent
should be exposed to the taunt of receiving the means of their
subsistence from this or that minister, upon suppositions of this or
that ministerial assistance which, whether true or false, cannot fail to
derogate from that independent dignity of mind which is never
extinguished in the breast of the true aristocrat of talent, save by
unavailing struggles, long-continued, with the unkindness of fortune.

We wish the aristocracy of power to think over this, and so very
heartily bid them farewell.

* * * * *



A shepherd laid upon his bed,
With many a sigh, his aching head,
For him--his favourite boy--on whom
Had fallen death, a sudden doom.
"But yesterday," with sobs he cried,
"Thou wert, with sweet looks, at my side,
Life's loveliest blossom, and to-day,
Woes me! thou liest a thing of clay!
It cannot be that thou art gone;
It cannot be, that now, alone,
A grey-hair'd man on earth am I,
Whilst thou within its bosom lie?
Methinks I see thee smiling there,
With beaming eyes, and sunny hair,
As thou were wont, when fondling me,
To clasp my neck from off my knee!
Was it thy voice? Again, oh speak,
My boy, or else my heart will break!"

Each adding to that father's woes,
A thousand bygone scenes arose;
At home--a field--each with its joy,
Each with its smile--and all his boy!
Now swell'd his proud rebellious breast,
With darkness and with doubt opprest;
Now sank despondent, while amain
Unnerving tears fell down like rain:
Air--air--he breathed, yet wanted breath--
It was not life--it was not death--
But the drear agony between,
Where all is heard, and felt, and seen--
The wheels of action set ajar;
The body with the soul at war.
'Twas vain, 'twas vain; he could not find
A haven for his shipwreck'd mind;
Sleep shunn'd his pillow. Forth he went--
The noon from midnight's azure tent
Shone down, and, with serenest light,
Flooded the windless plains of night;
The lake in its clear mirror show'd
Each little star that twinkling glow'd;
Aspens, that quiver with a breath,
Were stirless in that hush of death;
The birds were nestled in their bowers;
The dewdrops glitter'd on the flowers;
Almost it seem'd as pitying Heaven
A while its sinless calm had given
To lower regions, lest despair
Should make abode for ever there;
So tranquil--so serene--so bright--
Brooded o'er earth the wings of night.

O'ershadow'd by its ancient yew,
His sheep-cot met the shepherd's view;
And, placid, in that calm profound,
His silent flocks lay slumbering round:
With flowing mantle, by his side,
Sudden, a stranger he espied,
Bland was his visage, and his voice
Soften'd the heart, yet bade rejoice.--
"Why is thy mourning thus?" he said,
"Why thus doth sorrow bow thy head?
Why faltereth thus thy faith, that so
Abroad despairing thou dost go?
As if the God who gave thee breath,
Held not the keys of life and death!
When from the flocks that feed about,
A single lamb thou choosest out,
Is it not that which seemeth best
That thou dost take, yet leave the rest?
Yes! such thy wont; and, even so,
With his choice little ones below
Doth the Good Shepherd deal; he breaks
Their earthly bands, and homeward takes,
Early, ere sin hath render'd dim
The image of the seraphim!"

Heart-struck, the shepherd home return'd;
Again within his bosom burn'd
The light of faith; and, from that day,
He trode serene life's onward way.

* * * * *


_Cours de Philosophie Positive_, par M. Auguste Comte.

It is pleasant to find in some extreme, uncompromising, eccentric work,
written for the complete renovation of man, a new establishment of
truth, little else, after all its tempest of thought has swept over the
mind, than another confirmation of old, and long-settled, and temperate
views. Our sober philosophy, like some familiar landscape seen after a
thunder storm, comes out but the more distinct, the brighter, and the
more tranquil, for the bursting cloud and the windy tumult that had
passed over its surface. Some such experience have we just had. Our
Conservative principles, our calm and patient manner of viewing things,
have rarely received a stronger corroboration than from the perusal or
the extraordinary work of M. Comte--a work written, assuredly, for no
such comfortable purpose, but for the express object (so far as we can
at present state it to our readers) of re-organizing political society,
by means of an intellectual reformation amongst political thinkers.

We would not be thought to throw an idle sneer at those generous hopes
of the future destiny of society which have animated some of the noblest
and most vigorous minds. It is no part of a Conservative philosophy to
doubt on the broad question of the further and continuous improvement of
mankind. Nor will the perusal of M. Comte's work induce, or permit, such
a doubt. But while he leaves with his reader a strong impression of the
unceasing development of social man, he leaves a still stronger
impression of the futile or mischievous efforts of those--himself
amongst the number--who are thrusting themselves forward as the peculiar
and exclusive advocates of progress and improvement. He exhibits himself
in the attitude of an innovator, as powerless in effect as he is daring
to design; whilst, at the same time, he deals a _crashing_ blow (as upon
rival machinators) on that malignant party in European politics, whether
it call itself liberal or of the movement, whose most distinct aim seems
to be to unloose men from the bonds of civil government. We, too,
believe in the silent, irresistible progress of human society, but we
believe also that he is best working for posterity, as well as for the
welfare of his contemporaries, who promotes order and tranquil effort in
his own generation, by means of those elements of order which his own
generation supplies.

That which distinguishes M. Comte's work from all other courses of
philosophy, or treatises upon science, is the attempt to reduce to
the _scientific method_ of cogitation the affairs of human
society--morality, politics; in short, all those general topics which
occupy our solitary and perplexed meditation, or sustain the incessant
strife of controversy. These are to constitute a new science, to be
called _Social Physics_, or _Sociology_. To apply the Baconian, or, as
it is here called, the positive method, to man in all phases of his
existence--to introduce the same fixed, indissoluble, imperturbable
order in our ideas of morals, politics, and history, that we attain to
astronomy and mechanics, is the bold object of his labours. He does not
here set forth a model of human society based on scientific conclusions;
something of this kind is promised us in a future work; in the present
undertaking he is especially anxious to compel us to think on all such
topics in the scientific method, _and in no other_. For be it known,
that science is not only weak in herself, and has been hitherto
incompetent to the task of unravelling the complicate proceedings of
humanity, but she has also a great rival in the form of theologic
method, wherein the mind seeks a solution for its difficulties in a
power above nature. The human being has contracted an inveterate habit
of viewing itself as standing in a peculiar relation to a supreme
Architect and Governor of the world--a habit which in many ways, direct
and indirect, interferes, it seems, with the application of the positive
method. This habit is to be corrected; such supreme Architect and
Governor is to be dismissed from the imagination of men; science is to
supply the sole mode of thought, and humanity to be its only object.

We have called M. Comte's an extraordinary book, and this is an epithet
which our readers are already fully prepared to apply. But the book, in
our judgment, is extraordinary in more senses than one. It is as
remarkable for the great mental energy it displays, for its originality
and occasional profundity of thought, as it is for the astounding
conclusions to which it would conduct us, for its bold paradoxes, and
for what we can designate no otherwise than its egregious errors. As a
discipline of the mind, so far as a full appreciation is concerned of
the scientific method, it cannot be read without signal advantage. The
book is altogether an anomaly; exhibiting the strangest mixture that
ever mortal work betrayed of manifold blunder and great intellectual
power. The man thinks at times with the strength of a giant. Neither
does he fail, as we have already gathered, in the rebellious and
destructive propensities for which giants have been of old renowned.
Fable tells us how they could have no gods to reign over them, and how
they threatened to drive Jupiter himself from the skies. Our
intellectual representative of the race nourishes designs of equal
temerity. Like his earth-born predecessors, his rage, we may be sure,
will be equally vain. No thunder will be heard, neither will the hills
move to overwhelm him; but in due course of time he will lie down, and
be covered up with his own earth, and the heavens will be as bright and
stable as before, and still the abode of the same unassailable Power.

For the _style_ of M. Comte's work, it is not commendable. The
philosophical writers of his country are in general so distinguished for
excellence in this particular, their exposition of thought is so
remarkably felicitous, that a failure in a Frenchman in the mere art of
writing, appears almost as great an anomaly as any of the others which
characterize this production. During the earlier volumes, which are
occupied with a review of the recognized branches of science, the vices
of style are kept within bounds, but after he has entered on what is the
great subject of all his lucubrations, his social physics, they grow
distressingly conspicuous. The work extends to six volumes, some of them
of unusually large capacity; and by the time we arrive at the last and
the most bulky, the style, for its languor, its repetitions, its
prolixity, has become intolerable.

Of a work of this description, distinguished by such bold features,
remarkable for originality and subtlety, as well as for surprising
hardihood and eccentricity of thought, and bearing on its surface a
manner of exposition by no means attractive, we imagine that our readers
will not be indisposed to receive some notice. Its errors--supposing we
are capable of coping with them--are worthy of refutation. Moreover, as
we have hinted, the impression it conveys is, in relation to politics,
eminently Conservative; for, besides that he has exposed, with peculiar
vigour, the utter inadequacy of the movement, or liberal party, to
preside over the organization of society, there is nothing more
calculated to render us content with an _empirical_ condition of
tolerable well-being, than the exhibition (and such, we think, is here
presented to us) of a strong mind palpably at fault in its attempt to
substitute, out of its own theory of man, a better foundation for the
social structure than is afforded by the existing unphilosophical medley
of human thought. Upon that portion of the _Cours de Philosophie
Positive_ which treats of the sciences usually so called, we do not
intend to enter, nor do the general remarks we make apply to it. Our
limited object is to place our reader at the point of view which M.
Comte takes in his new science of Sociology; and to do this with any
justice to him or to ourselves, in the space we can allot to the
subject, will be a task of sufficient difficulty.

And first, as to the title of the work, _Philosophie Positive_, which
has, perhaps, all this while been perplexing the reader. The reasons
which induced M. Comte to adopt it, shall be given in his own words;
they could not have been appreciated until some general notion had been
given of the object he had in view.

"There is doubtless," he says, in his _Avertissement_, "a close
resemblance between my _Philosophie Positive_, and what the
English, especially since the days of Newton, understand by
_Natural Philosophy_. But I would not adopt this last
expression, any more than that of _Philosophy of the Sciences_,
which would have perhaps been still more precise, because
neither of these has yet been extended to all orders of
phenomena, whilst _Philosophie Positive_, in which I comprehend
the study of the social phenomena, as well as all others,
designs a uniform manner of reasoning applicable to all
subjects on which the human mind can be exerted. Besides which,
the expression _Natural Philosophy_ is employed in England to
denote the aggregate of the several sciences of observation,
considered even in their most minute details; whereas, by the
title of _Philosophie Positive_, I intimate, with regard to the
several positive sciences, a study of them only in their
generalities, conceiving them as submitted to a uniform method,
and forming the different parts of a general plan of research.
The term which I have been led to construct is, therefore, at
once more extended and more restricted than other
denominations, which are so far similar that they have
reference to the same fundamental class of ideas."

This very announcement of M. Comte's intention to comprehend in his
course of natural philosophy the study of the several phenomena, compels
us to enquire how far these are fit subjects for the strict application
of the scientific method. We waive the metaphysical question of the free
agency of man, and the theological question of the occasional
interference of the Divine Power; and presuming these to be decided in a
manner favourable to the project of our Sociologist, we still ask if it
be possible to make of the affairs of society--legislation and politics,
for instance--a department of science?

The mere multiplicity and complication of facts in this department of
enquiry, have been generally regarded as rendering such an attempt
hopeless. In any social problem of importance, we invariably feel that
to embrace the whole of the circumstances, with all their results and
dependencies, is really out of our power, and we are forced to content
ourselves with a judgment formed on what appear to us the principal
facts. Thus arise those limited truths, admitting of exceptions, of
qualification, of partial application, on which we are fain to rely in
the conduct of human affairs. In framing his measures, how often is the
statesman, or the jurist, made aware of the utter impossibility of
guarding them against every species of objection, or of so constructing
them that they shall present an equal front on every side! How still
more keenly is the speculative politician made to feel, when giving in
his adherence to some great line of policy, that he cannot gather in
under his conclusions _all_ the political truths he is master of! He
reluctantly resigns to his opponent the possession, or at least the
usufruct, of a certain class of truths which he is obliged to postpone
to others of more extensive or more urgent application.

But this multiplicity and complication of facts may merely render the
task of the Sociologist extremely difficult, not impossible; and the
half truths, and the perplexity of thought above alluded to, may only
prove that his scientific task has not yet been accomplished. Nothing is
here presented in the nature of the subject to exclude the strict
application of _the method_. There is, however, one essential,
distinctive attribute of human society which constitutes a difference in
the nature of the subject, so as to render impossible the same
scientific survey and appreciation of the social phenomena of the world
that we may expect to obtain of the physical. This is the gradual and
incessant _developement_ which humanity has displayed, and is still
displaying. Who can tell us that that _experience_ on which a fixed and
positive theory of social man is to be formed, is all before us? From
age to age that experience is enlarging.

In all recognized branches of science nature remains the same, and
continually repeats herself; she admits of no novelty; and what appears
new to us, from our late discovery of it, is as old as the most palpable
sequence of facts that, generation after generation, catches the eye of
childhood. The new discovery may disturb our theories, it disturbs not
the condition of things. All is still the same as it ever was. What we
possessed of real knowledge is real knowledge still. We sit down before
a maze of things bewildering enough; but the vast mechanism,
notwithstanding all its labyrinthian movements, is constant to itself,
and presents always the same problem to the observer. But in this
department of humanity, in this sphere of social existence, the case is
otherwise. The human being, with hand, with intellect, is incessantly at
work--has a progressive movement--_grows_ from age to age. He discovers,
he invents, he speculates; his own inventions react upon the inventor;
his own thoughts, creeds, speculations, become agents in the scene. Here
_new facts_ are actually from time to time starting into existence; new
elements are introduced into society, which science could not have
foreseen; for if they could have been foreseen, they would already have
been there. A new creed, even a new machine, may confound the wisest of
speculations. Man is, in relation to the science that would survey
society, a _creator_. In short, that stability in the order of events,
that invariable recurrence of the same linked series, on which science
depends for its very existence, here, in some measure, fails us. In such
degree, therefore, as humanity can be described as progressive, or
developing itself, in such degree is it an untractable subject for the
scientific method. We have but one world, but one humanity before us,
but one specimen of this self developing creature, and that perhaps but
half grown, but half developed. How can we know whereabouts _we are_ in
our course, and what is coming next? We want the history of some
extinguished world in which a humanity has run its full career; we need
to extend our observation to other planets peopled with similar but
variously developed inhabitants, in order scientifically to understand
such a race as ours.

What, for example, could be more safely stated as an eternal law of
society than that of property?--a law which so justly governs all our
political reasonings, and determines the character of our political
measures the most prospective--a law which M. Comte has not failed
himself to designate as fundamental. And yet, by what right of
demonstration can we pronounce this law to be inherent in humanity, so
that it shall accompany the race during every stage of its progress?
That industry should be rewarded by a personal, exclusive property in
the fruits of industry, is the principle consecrated by our law of
property, and to which the spontaneous passions of mankind have in all
regions of the earth conducted. Standing where we do, and looking out as
far as our intellectual vision can extend, we pronounce it to be the
basis of society; but if we added that, as long as the world lasts, it
must continue to be the basis of society, that there are no elements in
man to furnish forth, if circumstances favoured their development, a
quite different principle for the social organization, we feel that we
should be overstepping the modest bounds of truth, and stating our
proposition in terms far wider and more absolute than we were warranted.
Experiments have been made, and a tendency has repeatedly been
manifested, to frame an association of men in which the industry of the
individual should have its immediate reward and motive in the
participated prosperity of the general body--where the good of the whole
should be felt as the interest of each. _How_ such a principle is to be
established, we confess ourselves utterly at a loss to divine; but that
no future events unforeseen by us, no unexpected modification of the
circumstances affecting human character, shall ever develop and
establish such a principle--this is what no scientific mind would
venture to assert. Our knowledge is fully commensurate to our sphere of
activity, nor need it, nor _can_ it, pass beyond that sphere. We know
that the law of property now forms the basis of society; we know that an
attempt to abrogate it would be the signal for war and anarchy, and we
know this also, that _at no time_ can its opposite principle be
established by force, because its establishment will require a wondrous
harmony in the social body; and a civil war, let the victory fall where
it may, must leave mankind full of dissension, rancour, and revenge. Our
convictions, therefore, for all practical purposes, can receive no
confirmation. If the far future is to be regulated by different
principles, of what avail the knowledge of them, or how can they be
intelligible to us, to whom are denied the circumstances necessary for
their establishment, and for the demonstration of their reasonableness?

"The great Aristotle himself," says M. Comte, speaking of the
impossibility of any man elevating himself above the circumstances of
his age--"The great Aristotle himself, the profoundest thinker of
ancient times, (_la plus forte tete de toute l'antiquite_,) could not
conceive of a state of society not based on slavery, the irrevocable
abolition of which commenced a few generations afterwards."--Vol. iv.
p.38. In the sociology of Aristotle, slavery would have been a
fundamental law.

There is another consideration, not unworthy of being mentioned, which
bears upon this matter. In one portion of M. Comte's work, (we cannot
now lay our hand upon the passage,) the question comes before him of the
comparative _happiness_ of the savage and the civilized man. He will not
entertain it, refuses utterly to take cognizance of the question, and
contents himself with asserting the fuller _development_ of his nature
displayed by the civilized man. M. Comte felt that science had no scale
for this thing happiness. It was not ponderable, nor measurable, nor was
there an uniformity of testimony to be collected thereon. How many of
our debates and controversies terminate in a question of this kind--of
the comparative happiness of two several conditions? Such questions are,
for the most part, practically decided by those who have to _feel_; but
to estimate happiness by and for the feelings of others, would be the
task of science. Some future Royal Society must be called upon to
establish a _standard measure_ for human felicity.

We are speaking, it will be remembered, of the production of a science.
A scientific discipline of mind is undoubtedly available in the
examination of social questions, and may be of eminent utility to the
moralist, the jurist, and the politician--though it is worthy of
observation that even the habit of scientific thought, if not in some
measure tempered to the occasion, may display itself very inconveniently
and prejudicially in the determination of such questions. Our author,
for instance, after satisfying himself that marriage is a fundamental
law of society, is incapable of tolerating any infraction whatever of
this law in the shape of a divorce. He would give to it the rigidity of
a law of mechanics; he finds there should be cohesion here, and he will
not listen to a single case of separation: forgetful that a law of
society may even be the more stable for admitting exceptions which
secure for it the affection of those by whom it is to be reverenced and

With relation to the _past_, and in one point of view--namely, so far as
regards the development of man in his speculative career--our
Sociologist has endeavoured to supply a law which shall meet the
peculiar exigencies of his case, and enable him to take a scientific
survey of the history of a changeful and progressive being. At the
threshold of his work we encounter the announcement of a _new law_,
which has regulated the development of the human mind from its rudest
state of intellectual existence. As this law lies at the basis of M.
Comte's system--as it is perpetually referred to throughout his work--as
it is by this law he proceeds to view history in a scientific
manner--as, moreover, it is by aid of this law that he undertakes to
explain the _provisional existence_ of all theology, explaining it in
the past, and removing it from the future--it becomes necessary to enter
into some examination of its claims, and we must request our readers'
attention to the following statement of it:--

"In studying the entire development of the human intelligence
in its different spheres of activity, from its first efforts
the most simple up to our own days, I believe I have discovered
a great fundamental law, to which it is subjected by an
invariable necessity, and which seems to me capable of being
firmly established, whether on those proofs which are furnished
by a knowledge of our organization, or on those historical
verifications which result from an attentive examination of the
past. The law consists in this--that each of our principal
conceptions, each branch of our knowledge, passes successively
through three different states of theory: the _theologic_, or
fictitious; the _metaphysic_, or abstract; the scientific, or
_positive_. In other terms, the human mind, by its nature,
employs successively, in each of its researches, three methods
of philosophizing, the character of which is essentially
different, and even radically opposed; at first the theologic
method, then the metaphysical, and last the positive method.
Hence three distinct philosophies, or general systems of
conceptions on the aggregate of phenomena, which mutually
exclude each other; the first is the necessary starting-point
of the human intelligence; the third is its fixed and definite
state; the second is destined to serve the purpose only of

"In the _theologic_ state, the human mind, directing its
researches to the intimate nature of things, the first causes
and the final causes of all those effects which arrest its
attention, in a word, towards an absolute knowledge of things,
represents to itself the phenomena as produced by the direct
and continuous action of supernatural agents, more or less
numerous, whose arbitrary intervention explains all the
apparent anomalies of the universe.

"In the _metaphysic_ state, which is, in its essence, a
modification of the former, the supernatural agents are
displaced by abstract forces, veritable entities (personified
abstractions) inherent in things, and conceived as capable of
engendering by themselves all the observed phenomena--whose
explanation, thenceforth, consists in assigning to each its
corresponding entity.

"At last, in the _positive_ state the human mind, recognizing
the impossibility of obtaining absolute notions, renounces the
search after the origin and destination of the universe, and
the knowledge of the intimate causes of phenomena, to attach
itself exclusively to the discovery, by the combined efforts of
ratiocination and observation, of their effective laws; that is
to say, their invariable relations of succession and of
similitude. The explanation of things, reduced now to its real
terms, becomes nothing more than the connexion established
between the various individual phenomena and certain general
facts, the number of which the progress of science tends
continually to diminish.

"The _theologic_ system has reached the highest state of
perfection of which it is susceptible, when it has substituted
the providential action of one only being for the capricious
agency of the numerous independent divinities who had
previously been imagined. In like manner, the last term of the
_metaphysic_ system consists in conceiving, instead of the
different special entities, one great general entity, _nature_,
considered as the only source of all phenomena. The perfection
of the _positive_ system, towards which it unceasingly tends,
though it is not probable it can ever attain to it, would be
the ability to represent all observable phenomena as particular
cases of some one general fact; such, for instance, as that of
gravitation."--Vol. I. p. 5.

After some very just, and indeed admirable, observations on the
necessity, or extreme utility, of a theologic hypothesis at an early
period of mental development, in order to promote any systematic thought
whatever, he proceeds thus:--

"It is easily conceivable that our understanding, compelled to
proceed by degrees almost imperceptible, could not pass
abruptly, and without an intermediate stage, from the
_theologic_ to the _positive_ philosophy. Theology and physics
are so profoundly incompatible, their conceptions have a
character so radically opposed, that before renouncing the one
to employ exclusively the other, the mind must make use of
intermediate conceptions of a bastard character, fit, for that
very reason, gradually to operate the transition. Such is the
natural destination of metaphysical conceptions; they have no
other real utility. By substituting, in the study of phenomena,
for supernatural directive agency an inseparable entity
residing in things, (although this be conceived at first merely
as an emanation from the former,) man habituates himself, by
degrees, to consider only the facts themselves, the notion of
these metaphysical agents being gradually subtilized, till they
are no longer in the eyes of men of intelligence any thing but
the names of abstractions. It is impossible to conceive by what
other process our understanding could pass from considerations
purely supernatural, to considerations purely natural, from the
theologic to the positive _regime_."--P. 13.

We need hardly say that we enter our protest against the supposition
that theology is not the _last_, as well as the _first_, of our forms of
thought--against the assertion that is here, and throughout the work,
made or implied, that the scientific method, rigidly applied in its
appropriate field of enquiry, would be found incompatible with the great
argument of an intelligent Cause, and would throw the whole subject of
theology out of the range of human knowledge. It would be superfluous
for us to re-state that argument; and our readers would probably be more
displeased to have presented before them a hostile view of this subject,
though for the purpose only of controversy, than they would be edified
by a repetition of those reasonings which have long since brought
conviction to their minds. We will content ourselves, therefore, with
this protest, and with adding--as a fact of experience, which, in
estimating a law of development, may with peculiar propriety be insisted
on--that hitherto no such incompatibility has made itself evident.
Hitherto science, or the method of thinking, which its cultivation
requires and induces, has not shown itself hostile to the first great
article of religion--that on which revelation proceeds to erect all the
remaining articles of our faith. If it is a fact that, in rude times,
men began their speculative career by assigning individual phenomena to
the immediate causation of supernatural powers, it is equally a fact
that they have hitherto, in the most enlightened times, terminated their
inductive labours by assigning that _unity_ and _correlation_ which
science points out in the universe of things to an ordaining
intelligence. We repeat, as a matter of experience, it is as rare in
this age to find a reflective man who does not read _thought_ in this
unity and correlation of material phenomena, as it would have been, in
some rube superstitious period, to discover an individual who refused to
see, in any one of the specialities around him, the direct interference
of a spirit or demon. In our own country, men of science are rather to
blame for a too detailed, a puerile and injudicious, manner of treating
this great argument, than for any disposition to desert it.

Contenting ourselves with this protest, we proceed to the consideration
of the _new law_. That there is, in the statement here made of the
course pursued in the development of speculative thought, a measure of
truth; and that, in several subjects, the course here indicated may be
traced, will probably, by every one who reads the foregoing extracts, be
at once admitted. But assuredly very few will read it without a feeling
of surprise at finding what (under certain limitations) they would have
welcomed in the form of a general observation, proclaimed to them as a
_law_--a scientific law--which from its nature admits of no exception;
at finding it stated that every branch of human knowledge must of
necessity pass through these three theoretic stages. In the case of some
branches of knowledge, it is impossible to point out what can be
understood as its several theologic and metaphysic stages; and even in
cases where M. Comte has himself applied these terms, it is extremely
difficult to assign to them a meaning in accordance with that which they
bear in this statement of his law; as, for instance, in his application
of them to his own science of social physics. But we need not pause on
this. What a palpable fallacy it is to suppose, because M. Comte find
the positive and theologic methods incompatible, that, historically
speaking, and in the minds of men, which certainly admit of stranger
commixtures than this, they should "mutually exclude each other"--that,
in short, men have not been all along, in various degrees and
proportions, both _theologic_ and _positive_.

What is it, we ask, that M. Comte means by the _succession_ of these
several stages or modes of thinking? Does he mean that what is here
called the positive method of thought is not equally _spontaneous_ to
the human mind as the theological, but depends on it for its
development? Hardly so. The predominance of the positive method, or its
complete formation, may be postponed; but it clearly has an origin and
an existence independent of the theological. No barbarian ever deified,
or supernaturalized, every process around him; there must always have
been a portion of his experience entertained merely _as experience_. The
very necessity man has to labour for his subsistence, brings him into a
practical acquaintance with the material world, which induces
observation, and conducts towards a natural philosophy. If he is a
theologian the first moment he gives himself up to meditation, he is on
the road to the Baconian method the very day he begins to labour. The
rudest workman uses the lever; the mathematician follows and calculates
the law which determines the power it bestows; here we have industry and
then science, but what room for the intervention of theology?

Or does M. Comte mean this only--which we presume to be the case--that
these methods of thought are, in succession, predominant and brought to
maturity? If so, what necessity for this _metaphysic_ apparatus for the
sole purpose of _transition_? If each of these great modes, the positive
and theological, has its independent source, and is equally
spontaneous--if they have, in fact, been all along contemporary, though
in different stages of development, the function attributed to the
metaphysic mode is utterly superfluous; there can be no place for it;
there is no transition for it to operate. And what can be said of _a law
of succession_ in which there is no relation of cause and effect, or of
invariable sequence, between the phenomena?

Either way the position of M. Comte is untenable. If he intends that his
two great modes of thought, the theologic and the positive, (between
which the metaphysic performs the function of transition,) are _not_
equally spontaneous, but that the one must in the order of nature
precede the other; then, besides that this is an unfounded supposition,
it would follow--since the mind, or _organization_, of man remains from
age to age the same in its fundamental powers--that, at this very time,
no man could be inducted into the positive state of any branch of
knowledge, without first going through its theologic and metaphysic.
Truth must be expounded through a course of errors. Science must be
eternally postponed, in every system of education, to theology, and a
theology of the rudest description--a result certainly not contemplated
by M. Comte. If, on the other hand, he intends that they _are_ equally
spontaneous in their character, equally native to the mind, then, we
repeat, what becomes of the elaborate and "indispensable" part ascribed
to the _metaphysic_ of effectuating a transition between them? And how
can we describe that as a scientific _law_ in which there is confessedly
no immediate relation of cause and effect, or sequency, established? The
statement, if true, manifestly requires to be resolved into the law, or
laws, capable of explaining it.

Perhaps our readers have all this while suspected that we are acting in
a somewhat captious manner towards M. Comte; they have, perhaps,
concluded that this author could not have here required their assent,
strictly speaking, to a _law_, but that he used the term vaguely, as
many writers have done--meaning nothing more by it than a course of
events which has frequently been observed to take place; and under this
impression they may be more disposed to receive the measure of truth
contained in it than to cavil at the form of the statement. But indeed
M. Comte uses the language of science in no such vague manner; he
requires the same assent to this law that we give to any one of the
recognized laws of science--to that of gravitation for instance, to
which he himself likens it, pronouncing it, in a subsequent part of his
work, to have been as incontrovertibly established. Upon this law, think
what we may of it, M. Comte leans throughout all his progress; he could
not possibly dispense with it; on its stability depends his whole social
science; by it, as we have already intimated, he becomes master of the
past and of the future; and an appreciation of its necessity to him, at
once places us at that point of view from which M. Comte contemplates
our mundane affairs.

It is his object to put the scientific method in complete possession of
the whole range of human thought, especially of the department, hitherto
unreduced to subjection, of social phenomena. Now there is a great rival
in the field--theology--which, besides imparting its own supernatural
tenets, influences our modes of thinking on almost all social questions.
Theology cannot itself be converted into a branch of science; all those
tenets by which it sways the hopes and fears of men are confessedly
above the sphere of science: if science, therefore, is to rule
absolutely, it must remove theology. But it can only remove by
explaining; by showing how it came there, and how, in good time, it is
destined to depart. If the scientific method is entirely to predominate,
it must explain religion, as it must explain every thing that exists, or
has existed; and it must also reveal the law of its departure--otherwise
it cannot remain sole mistress of the speculative mind. Such is the
office which the law of development we have just considered is intended
to fulfil; how far it is capable of accomplishing its purpose we must
now leave our readers to decide.

Having thus, as he presumes, cleared the ground for the absolute and
exclusive dominion of the positive method, M. Comte proceeds to erect
the _hierarchy_, as he very descriptively calls it, of the several
sciences. His classification of these is based on the simplest and most
intelligible principle. We think that we rather add to, than diminish
from, the merits of this classification, when we say, that it is such as
seems spontaneously to arise to any reflective mind engaged in a review
of human knowledge. Commencing with the most simple, general, and
independent laws, it proceeds to those which are more complicated, which
presume the existence of other laws; in such manner that at every stage
of our scientific progress we are supporting ourselves on the knowledge
acquired in the one preceding.

"The positive philosophy," he tells us, "falls naturally into
five divisions, or five fundamental sciences, whose order of
succession is determined by the necessary or invariable
subordination (estimated according to no hypothetical opinions)
of their several phenomena; these are, astronomy, mechanics,
(_la physique_,) chemistry, physiology, and lastly, social
physics. The first regards the phenomena the most general, the
most abstract, the most remote from humanity; they influence
all others, without being influenced by them. The phenomena
considered by the last are, on the contrary, the most
complicated, the most concrete, the most directly interesting
to man; they depend more or less on all the preceding
phenomena, without exercising on them any influence. Between
these two extremes, the degrees of speciality, of complication
and personality, of phenomena, gradually increase, as well as
their successive dependence."--Vol. I. p. 96.

The principle of classification is excellent, but is there no rank dropt
out of this _hierarchy_? The metaphysicians, or psychologists, who are
wont to consider themselves as standing at the very summit--where are
they? They are dismissed from their labours--their place is occupied by
others--and what was considered as having substance and reality in their
proceedings, is transferred to the head of physiology. The phrenologist
is admitted into the hierarchy of science as an honest, though hitherto
an unpractised, and not very successful labourer; the metaphysician,
with his class of internal observations, is entirely scouted. M. Comte
considers the _mind_ as one of those abstract entities which it is the
first business of the positive philosophy to discard. He speaks of man,
of his organization, of his thought, but not, scientifically, of his
_mind_. This entity, this occult cause, belongs to the _metaphysic_
stage of theorizing. "There is no place," he cries, "for this illusory
psychology, the last transformation of theology!"--though, by the way,
so far as a belief in this abstract entity of mind is concerned, the
_metaphysic_ condition of our knowledge appears to be quite as old,
quite as primitive, as any conception whatever of theology. Now, whether
M. Comte be right in this preference of the phrenologist, we will not
stay to discuss--it were too wide a question; but thus much we can
briefly and indisputably show, that he utterly misconceives, as well as
underrates, the _kind of research_ to which psychologists are addicted.
As M. Comte's style is here unusually vivacious, we will quote the whole
passage. Are we uncharitable in supposing that the prospect of
demolishing, at one fell swoop, the brilliant reputations of a whole
class of Parisian _savans_, added something to the piquancy of the

"Such has gradually become, since the time of Bacon, the
preponderance of the positive philosophy; it has at present
assumed indirectly so great an ascendant over those minds even
which have been most estranged from it, that metaphysicians
devoted to the study of our intelligence, can no longer hope to
delay the fall of their pretended science, but by presenting
their doctrines as founded also upon the observation of facts.
For this purpose they have, in these later times, attempted to
distinguish, by a very singular subtilty, two sorts of
observations of equal importance, the one external, the other
internal; the last of which is exclusively destined for the
study of intellectual phenomena. This is not the place to enter
into the special discussion of this sophism. I will limit
myself to indicate the principal consideration, which clearly
proves that this pretended direct contemplation of the mind by
itself, is a pure illusion.

"Not a long while ago men imagined they had explained vision by
saying that the luminous action of bodies produces on the
retina pictures representative of external forms and colours.
To this the physiologists [query, the _physiologists_] have
objected, with reason, that if it was _as images_ that the
luminous impressions acted, there needed another eye within the
eye to behold them. Does not a similar objection hold good
still more strikingly in the present case?

"It is clear, in fact, from an invincible necessity, that the
human mind can observe directly all phenomena except its own.
For by whom can the observation be made? It is conceivable
that, relatively to moral phenomena, man can observe himself in
regard to the passions which animate him, from this anatomical
reason, that the organs which are the seat of them are distinct
from those destined to the function of observation. Though each
man has had occasion to make on himself such observations, yet
they can never have any great scientific importance; and the
best means of knowing the passions will be always to observe
them without; [_indeed_!] for every state of passion very
energetic--that is to say, precisely those which it would be
most essential to examine, are necessarily incompatible with
the state of observation. But as to observing in the same
manner intellectual phenomena, while they are proceeding, it is
manifestly impossible. The thinking individual cannot separate
himself in two parts, of which the one shall reason, and the
other observe it reasoning. The organ observed and the organ
observing being in this case identical, how can observation be
carried on?

"This pretended psychological method is thus radically absurd.
And only consider to what procedures profoundly contradictory
it immediately conducts! On the other hand, they recommend you
to isolate yourself as much as possible from all external
sensation; and, above all, they interdict you every
intellectual exercise; for if you were merely occupied in
making the most simple calculation, what would become of your
_internal_ observation? On the other hand, after having thus,
by dint of many precautions, attained to a perfect state of
intellectual slumber, you are to occupy yourself in
contemplating the operations passing in your mind--while there
is no longer any thing passing there. Our descendants will one
day see these ludicrous pretensions transferred to the
stage."--P. 34.

They seem transferred to the stage already--so completely burlesqued is
the whole process on which the psychologist bases his results. He does
not pretend to observe the mind itself; but he says, you can remember
previous states of consciousness, whether of passion or of intellectual
effort, and pay renewed attention to them. And assuredly there is no
difficulty in understanding this. When, indeed, M. Cousin, after being
much perplexed with the problem which Kant had thrown out to him, of
objective and subjective truth, comes back to the public and tells them,
in a second edition of his work, that he has succeeded in discovering,
in the inmost recesses of the mind, and at a depth of the consciousness
to which neither he nor any other had before been able to penetrate,
this very sense of the absolute in truth of which he was in
search--something very like the account which M. Conte gives, may be
applicable. But when M. Cousin, or other psychologists, in the ordinary
course of their investigations, observe mental phenomena, they simply
pay attention to what memory brings them of past experiences;
observations which are not only a legitimate source of knowledge, but
which are continually made, with more or less accuracy, by every human
being. If they are impossible according to the doctrines of phrenology,
let phrenology look to this, and rectify her blunder in the best way, as
speedily as she can. M. Comte may think fit to depreciate the labours of
the metaphysician; but it is not to the experimental philosopher alone
that he is indebted for that positive method which he expounds with so
exclusive an enthusiasm. M. Comte is a phrenologist; he adopts the
fundamental principles of Gall's system, but repudiates, as consummately
absurd, the list of organs, and the minute divisions of the skull, which
at present obtain amongst phrenologists. How came he, a phrenologist, so
far and no further, but from certain information gathered from his
consciousness, or his memory, which convicted phrenology of error? And
how can he, or any other, rectify this erroneous division of the
cranium, and establish a more reasonable one, unless by a course of
craniological observations directed and confirmed by those internal
observations which he is pleased here to deride?

His hierarchy being erected, he next enters on a review of the several
received sciences, marking throughout the successful, or erroneous,
application of the positive method. This occupies three volumes. It is a
portion of the work which we are restricted from entering on; nor shall
we deviate from the line we have prescribed to ourselves. But before
opening the fourth volume, in which he treats of social physics, it will
not be beside our object to take a glance at the _method_ itself, as
applied in the usual field of scientific investigation, to nature, as it
is called--to inorganic matter, to vegetable and animal life.

We are not here determining the merits of M. Comte in his exposition of
the scientific method; we take it as we find it; and, in unsophisticated
mood, we glance at the nature of this mental discipline--to make room
for which, it will be remembered, so wide a territory is to be laid

Facts, or phenomena, classed according to their similitude or the law of
their succession--such is the material of science. All enquiry into
causes, into substance, into being, pronounced impertinent and nugatory;
the very language in which such enquiries are couched not allowed,
perhaps, to have a meaning--such is the supreme dictate of the method,
and all men yield to it at least a nominal submission. Very different is
the aspect which science presents to us in these severe generalities,
than when she lectures fluently before gorgeous orreries; or is heard
from behind a glittering apparatus, electrical or chemical; or is seen,
gay and sportive as a child, at her endless game of unwearying
experiment. Here she is the harsh and strict disciplinarian. The
museful, meditative spirit passes from one object of its wonder to
another, and finds, at every pause it makes, that science is as
strenuous in forbidding as in satisfying enquiry. The planet rolls
through space--ask not how!--the mathematician will tell you at what
rate it flies--let his figures suffice. A thousand subtle combinations
are taking place around you, producing the most marvellous
transformations--the chemist has a table of substances, and a table of
proportions--names and figures both--_why_ these transmutations take
place, is a question you should be ashamed to ask. Plants spring up from
the earth, and _grow_, and blossom at your feet, and you look on with
delight, and an unsubduable wonder, and in a heedless moment you ask
what is _life?_ Science will generalize the fact to you--give you its
formula for the expression of _growth, decomposition, and
recomposition_, under circumstances not as yet very accurately
collected. Still you stand gazing at the plant which a short while since
stole through a crevice of the earth, and taking to itself, with such
subtle power of choice, from the soil or the air, the matter that it
needed, fashioned it to the green leaf and the hanging blossom. In vain!
Your scientific monitor calls you from futile reveries, and repeats his
formula of decomposition and recomposition. As _attraction_ in the
planet is known only as a movement admitting of a stated numerical
expression, so _life_ in the plant is to be known only as decomposition
and recomposition taking place under certain circumstances. Think of it
as such--no more. But, O learned philosopher! you exclaim, you shall
tell me that you know not what manner of thing life is, and I will
believe you; and if you add that I shall never discover it, I will
believe you; but you cannot prevent me from knowing that it is something
I do not know. Permit me, for I cannot help it, still to wonder what
life is. Upon the dial of a watch the hands are moving, and a child asks
why? Child! I respond, that the hands _do_ move is an ultimate fact--so,
represent it to yourself--and here, moreover, is the law of their
movement--the longer index revolves twelve times while the shorter
revolves once. This is knowledge, and will be of use to you--more you
cannot understand. And the child is silent, but still it keeps its eye
upon the dial, and knows there is something that it does not know.

But while you are looking, in spite of your scientific monitor, at this
beautiful creature that grows fixed and rooted in the earth--what is
this that glides forth from beneath its leaves, with self-determined
motion, not to be expressed by a numerical law, pausing, progressing,
seeking, this way and that, its pasture?--what have we here?
_Irritability and a tissue._ Lo! it shrinks back as the heel of the
philosopher has touched it, coiling and writhing itself--what is this?
_Sensation and a nerve._ Does the nerve _feel_? you inconsiderately ask,
or is there some sentient being, other than the nerve, in which
sensation resides? A smile of derision plays on the lip of the
philosopher. _There is sensation_--you cannot express the fact in
simpler or more general terms. Turn your enquiries, or your microscope,
on the organization with which it is, in order of time, connected. Ask
not me, in phrases without meaning, of the unintelligible mysteries of
ontology. And you, O philosopher! who think and reason thus, is not the
thought within thee, in every way, a most perplexing matter? Not more
perplexing, he replies, than the pain of yonder worm, which seems now to
have subsided, since it glides on with apparent pleasure over the
surface of the earth. Does the organization of the man, or something
else within him, _think_?--does the organization of that worm, or
something else within it, _feel_?--they are virtually the same
questions, and equally idle. Phenomena are the sole subjects of science.
Like attraction in the planet, like life in the vegetable, like
sensation in the animal, so thought in man is an ultimate fact, which we
can merely recognize, and place in its order in the universe. Come with
me to the dissecting-room, and examine that cerebral apparatus with
which it is, or _was_, connected.

All this "craves wary walking." It is a trying course, this _method_,
for the uninitiated. How it strains the mind by the very limitations it
imposes on its outlook! How mysterious is this very sharp, and
well-defined separation from all mystery! How giddy is this path that
leads always so close over the unknowable! Giddy as that bridge of
steel, framed like a scimitar, and as fine, which the faithful Moslem,
by the aid of his Prophet, will pass with triumph on his way to
Paradise. But of our bridge, it cannot be said that it has one foot on
earth and one in heaven. Apparently, it has no foundation whatever; it
rises from cloud, it is lost in cloud, and it spans an inpenetrable
abyss. A mist, which no wind disperses, involves both extremities of our
intellectual career, and we are seen to pass like shadows across the
fantastic, inexplicable interval.

We now open the fourth volume, which is emblazoned with the title of
_Physique Social_. And here we will at once extract a passage, which, if
our own remarks have been hitherto of an unattractive character, shall
reward the reader for his patience. It is taken from that portion of the
work--perhaps the most lucid and powerful of the whole--where, in order
to demonstrate the necessity of his new science of Sociology, M. Comte
enters into a review of the two great political parties which, with more
or less distinctness, divide every nation of Europe; his intention being
to show that both of them are equally incompetent to the task of
organizing society. We shall render our quotation as brief as the
purpose of exposition will allow:--

"It is impossible to deny that the political world is
intellectually in a deplorable condition. All our ideas of
_order_ are hitherto solely borrowed from the ancient system of
religious and military power, regarded especially in its
constitution, catholic and feudal; a doctrine which, from the
philosophic point of view of this treatise, represents
incontestably the _theologic_ state of the social science. All
our ideas of _progress_ continue to be exclusively deduced from
a philosophy purely negative, which, issuing from
Protestantism, has taken in the last age its final form and
complete development; the doctrines of which constitute, in
reality, the _metaphysic_ state of politics. Different classes
of society adopt the one or the other of these, just as they
are disposed to feel chiefly the want of conservation or that
of amelioration. Rarely, it is true, do these antagonist
doctrines present themselves in all their plenitude, and with
their primitive homogeneity; they are found less and less in
this form, except in minds purely speculative. But the
monstrous medley which men attempt in our days of their
incompatible principles, cannot evidently be endowed with any
virtue foreign to the elements which compose it, and tends
only, in fact, to their mutual neutralization.

"However pernicious may be at present the theologic doctrine,
no true philosophy can forget that the formation and first
development of modern societies were accomplished under its
benevolent tutelage; which I hope sufficiently to demonstrate
in the historical portion of this work. But it is not the less
incontestably true that, for about three centuries, its
influence has been, amongst the nations most advanced,
essentially retrograde, notwithstanding the partial services it
has throughout that period rendered. It would be superfluous to
enter here into a special discussion of this doctrine, in order
to show its extreme insufficiency at the present day. The
deplorable absence of all sound views of social organization
can alone account for the absurd project of giving, in these
times, for the support of social order, a political system
which has already been found unable to sustain itself before
the spontaneous progress of intelligence and of society. The
historical analysis which we shall subsequently institute of
the successive changes which have gradually brought about the
entire dissolution of the catholic and feudal system, will
demonstrate, better than any direct argument, its radical and
irrevocable decay. The theologic school has generally no other
method of explaining this decomposition of the old system than
by causes merely accidental or personal, out of all reasonable
proportion with the magnitude of the results; or else, when
hard driven, it has recourse to its ordinary artifice, and
attempts to explain all by an appeal to the will of Providence,
to whom is ascribed the intention of raising a time of trial
for the social order, of which the commencement, the duration,
and the character, are all left equally obscure."...--P.14

"In a point of view strictly logical, the social problem might
be stated thus:--construct a doctrine that shall be so
rationally conceived that it shall be found, as it develops
itself, to be still always consistent with its own principles.
Neither of the existing doctrines satisfies this condition,
even by the rudest approximation. Both display numerous and
direct contradictions, and on important points. By this alone
their utter insufficiency is clearly exhibited. The doctrine
which shall fulfil this condition, will, from this test, be
recognized as the one capable of reorganizing society; for it
is an _intellectual reorganization_ that is first wanted--a
re-establishment of a real and durable harmony amongst our
social ideas, disturbed and shaken to the very foundation.
Should this regeneration be accomplished in one intelligence
only, (and such must necessarily be its manner of
commencement,) its extension would be certain; for the number
of intelligences to be convinced can have no influence except
as a question of time. I shall not fail to point out, when the
proper opportunity arrives, the eminent superiority, in this
respect, of the positive philosophy, which, once extended to
social phenomena, will necessarily combine the ideas of men in
a strict and complete manner, which in no other way can be
attained."--P. 20.

M. Comte then mentions some of the inconsistencies of the theologic

"Analyze, for example, the vain attempts, so frequently renewed
during two centuries by so many distinguished minds, to
subordinate, according to the theologic formula, reason to
faith; it is easy to recognize the radical contradiction this
attempt involves, which establishes reason herself as supreme
judge of this very submission, the extent and the permanence of
which is to depend upon her variable and not very rigid
decisions. The most eminent thinker of the present catholic
school, the illustrious _De Maistre_, himself affords a proof,
as convincing as involuntary, of this inevitable contradiction
in his philosophy, when, renouncing all theologic weapons, he
labours in his principal work to re-establish the Papal
supremacy on purely historical and political reasonings,
instead of limiting himself to command it by right divine--the
only mode in true harmony with such a doctrine, and which a
mind, at another epoch, would not certainly have hesitated to
adopt."--P. 25.

After some further observations on the theologic or retrograde school,
he turns to the _metaphysic_, sometimes called the anarchical, sometimes
_doctrine critique_, for M. Comte is rich in names.

"In submitting, in their turn, the _metaphysic_ doctrine to a
like appreciation, it must never be overlooked that, though
exclusively critical, and therefore purely revolutionary, it
has not the less merited, for a long time, the title of
progressive, as having in fact presided over the principal
political improvements accomplished in the course of the three
last centuries, and which have necessarily been of a _negative_
description. If, when conceived in an absolute sense, its
dogmas manifest, in fact, a character directly anarchical, when
viewed in an historical position, and in their antagonism to
the ancient system, they constitute a provisional state,
necessary to the introduction of a new political organization.

"By a necessity as evident as it is deplorable, a necessity
inherent in our feeble nature, the transition from one social
system to another can never be direct and continuous; it
supposes always, during some generations at least, a sort of
interregnum, more or less anarchical, whose character and
duration depend on the importance and extent of the renovation
to be effected. (While the old system remains standing, though
undermined, the public reason cannot become familiarized with a
class of ideas entirely opposed to it.) In this necessity we
see the legitimate source of the present _doctrine critique_--a
source which at once explains the indispensable services it has
hitherto rendered, and also the essential obstacles it now
opposes to the final reorganization of modern societies....

"Under whatever aspect we regard it, the general spirit of the
metaphysic revolutionary system consists in erecting into a
normal and permanent state a necessarily exceptional and
transitory condition. By a direct and total subversion of
political notions, the most fundamental, it represents
government as being, by its nature, the necessary enemy of
society, against which it sedulously places itself in a
constant state of suspicion and watchfulness; it is disposed
incessantly to restrain more and more its sphere of activity,
in order to prevent its encroachments, and tends finally to
leave it no other than the simple functions of general police,
without any essential participation in the supreme direction of
the action of the collective body or of its social development.

"Approaching to a more detailed examination of this doctrine,
it is evident that the absolute right of free examination
(which, connected as it is with the liberty of the press and
the freedom of education, is manifestly its principal and
fundamental dogma) is nothing else, in reality, but the
consecration, under the vicious abstract form common to all
metaphysic conceptions, of that transitional state of unlimited
liberty in which the human mind has been spontaneously placed,
in consequence of the irrevocable decay of the theologic
philosophy, and which must naturally remain till the
establishment in the social domain of the positive method.[49]
... However salutary and indispensable in its historical
position, this principle opposes a grave obstacle to the
reorganization of society, by being erected into an absolute
and permanent dogma. To examine always without deciding ever,
would be deemed great folly in any individual. How can the
dogmatic consecration of a like disposition amongst all
individuals, constitute the definitive perfection of the social
order, in regard, too, to ideas whose finity it is so
peculiarly important, and so difficult, to establish? Is it not
evident, on the contrary, that such a disposition is, from its
nature, radically anarchical, inasmuch as, if it could be
indefinitely prolonged, it must hinder every true mental

"No association whatever, though destined for a special and
temporary purpose, and though limited to a small number of
individuals, can subsist without a certain degree of reciprocal
confidence, both intellectual and moral, between its members,
each one of whom finds a continual necessity for a crowd of
notions, to the formation of which he must remain a stranger,
and which he cannot admit but on the faith of others. By what
monstrous exception can this elementary condition of all
society be banished from that total association of mankind,
where the point of view which the individual takes, is most
widely separated from that point of view which the collective
interest requires, and where each member is the least capable,
whether by nature or position, to form a just appreciation of
these general rules, indispensable to the good direction of his
personal activity. Whatever intellectual development we may
suppose possible, in the mass of men it is evident, that social
order will remain always necessarily incompatible with the
permanent liberty left to each, to throw back every day into
endless discussion the first principles even of society....

"The dogma of _equality_ is the most essential and the most
influential after that which I have just examined, and is,
besides, in necessary relation to the principle of the
unrestricted liberty of judgment; for this last indirectly
leads to the conclusion of an equality of the most fundamental
character--an equality of intelligence. In its bearing on the
ancient system, it has happily promoted the development of
modern civilization, by presiding over the final dissolution of
the old social classification. But this function constitutes
the sole progressive destination of this energetic dogma, which
tends in its turn to prevent every just reorganization, since
its destructive activity is blindly directed against the basis
of every new classification. For, whatever that basis may be,
it cannot be reconciled with a pretended equality, which, to
all intelligent men, can now only signify the triumph of the
inequalities developed by modern civilization, over those which
had predominated in the infancy of society....

"The same philosophical appreciation is applicable with equal
ease to the dogma of the _sovereignty of the people_. Whilst
estimating, as is fit, the indispensable transitional office of
this revolutionary dogma, no true philosopher can now
misunderstand the fatal anarchical tendency of this
metaphysical conception, since in its absolute application it
opposes itself to all regular institution, condemning
indefinitely all superiors to an arbitrary dependence on the
multitude of their inferiors, by a sort of transference to the
people of the much-reprobated right of kings."

[49] "There is," says M. Comte here in a note, which consists
of an extract from a previous work--"there is no liberty of
conscience in astronomy, in physics, in chemistry, even in
physiology; every one would think it absurd not to give credit
to the principles established in these sciences by competent
men. If it is otherwise in politics, it is because the ancient
principles having fallen; and new ones not being yet formed,
there are, properly speaking, in this interval no established

As our author had shown how the _theologic_ philosophy was inconsistent
often with itself, so, in criticising the _metaphysics_, he exposes here
also certain self-contradictions. He reproaches it with having, in its
contests with the old system, endeavoured, at each stage, to uphold and
adopt some of the elementary principles of that very system it was
engaged in destroying.

"Thus," he says, "there arose a Christianity more and more
simplified, and reduced at length to a vague and powerless
theism, which, by a strange medley of terms, the metaphysicians
distinguished by the title of _natural religion_, as if all
religion was not inevitably _supernatural_. In pretending to
direct the social reorganization after this vain conception,
the metaphysic school, notwithstanding its destination purely
revolutionary, has always implicitly adhered, and does so,
especially and distinctly, at the present day, to the most
fundamental principle of the ancient political doctrine--that
which represents the social order as necessarily reposing on a
theological basis. This is now the most evident, and the most
pernicious inconsistency of the metaphysic doctrine. Armed with
this concession, the school of Bossuet and De Maistre will
always maintain an incontestable logical superiority over the
irrational detractors of Catholicism, who, while they proclaim
the want of a religious organization, reject, nevertheless, the
elements indispensable to its realization. By such a concession
the revolutionary school concur in effect, at the present day,
with the retrograde, in preventing a right organization of
modern societies, whose intellectual condition more and more
interdicts a system of politics founded on theology."

Our readers will doubtless agree with us, that this review of political
parties (though seen through an extract which we have been compelled to
abbreviate in a manner hardly permissible in quoting from an author)
displays a singular originality and power of thought; although each one
of them will certainly have his own class of objections and exceptions
to make. We said that the impression created by the work was decidedly
_conservative_, and this quotation has already borne us out. For without
implying that we could conscientiously make use of every argument here
put into our hands, we may be allowed to say, as the lawyers do in
Westminster Hail, _if this be so_, then it follows that we of the
retrograde, or as we may fairly style ourselves in England--seeing this
country has not progressed so rapidly as France--we of the stationary
party are fully justified in maintaining our position, unsatisfactory
though it may be, till some better and more definite system has been
revealed to us, than any which has yet made its advent in the political
world. If the revolutionary, metaphysic, or liberal school have no
proper office but that of destruction--if its nature be essentially
transitional--can we be called upon to forego this position, to quit our
present anchorage, until we know whereto we are to be transferred? Shall
we relinquish the traditions of our monarchy, and the discipline of our
church, before we hear what we are to receive in exchange? M. Comte
would not advise so irrational a proceeding.

But M. Comte has himself a _constructive_ doctrine; M. Comte will give
us in exchange--what? The Scientific Method!

We have just seen something of this scientific method. M. Comte himself
is well aware that it is a style of thought by no means adapted to the
multitude. Therefore there will arise with the scientific method an
altogether new class, an intellectual aristocracy, (not the present race
of _savans_ or their successors, whom he is particularly anxious to
exclude from all such advancement,) who will expound to the people the
truths to which that method shall give birth. This class will take under
its control all that relates to education. It will be the seat of the
moral power, not of the administrative. This, together with some
arguments to establish what few are disposed to question, the
fundamental character of the laws of property and of marriage, is all
that we are here presented with towards the definite re-organization of

We shall not go back to the question, already touched upon, and which
lies at the basis of all this--how far it is possible to construct a
science of Sociology. There is only one way in which the question can be
resolved in the affirmative--namely, by constructing the science.

Meanwhile we may observe, that the general consent of a cultivated order
of minds to a certain class of truths, is not sufficient for the
purposes of government. We take, says M. Comte, our chemistry from the
chemist, our astronomy from the astronomer; if these were fixed
principles, we should take our politics with the same ease from the
graduated politician. But it is worth while to consider what it is we do
when we take our chemistry from the chemist, and our astronomy from the
astronomer. We assume, on the authority of our teacher, certain facts
which it is not in our power to verify; but his reasonings upon these
facts we must be able to comprehend. We follow him as he explains the
facts by which knowledge has been obtained, and yield to his statement a
rational conviction. Unless we do this, we cannot be said to have any
knowledge whatever of the subject--any chemistry or astronomy at all.
Now, presuming there were a science of politics, as fixed and perfect as
that of astronomy, the people must, at all events, be capable of
understanding its exposition, or they could not possibly be governed by
it. We need hardly say that those ideas, feelings, and sentiments, which
can be made general, are those only on which government can rest.

In the course of the preceding extract, our author exposes the futility
of that attempt which certain churchmen are making, as well on this side
of the Channel as the other, to reason men back into a submission of
their reason. Yet, if the science of Sociology should be above the
apprehension of the vulgar, (as M. Comte seems occasionally to presume
it would be,) he would impose on his intellectual priesthood a task of
the very same kind, and even still more hopeless. A multitude once
taught to argue and decide on politics, must be reasoned back into a
submission of their reason to political teachers--teachers who have no
sacred writings, and no traditions from which to argue a delegated
authority, but whose authority must be founded on the very
reasonableness of the entire system of their doctrine. But this is a
difficulty we are certainly premature in discussing, as the true
Catholic church in politics has still itself to be formed.

We are afraid, notwithstanding all his protestations, M. Comte will be
simply classed amongst the _Destructives_, so little applicable to the
generality of minds is that mode of thought, to establish which (and it
is for this we blame him) he calls, and so prematurely, for so great

The fifth volume--the most remarkable, we think, of the whole--contains
that historical survey which has been more than once alluded to in the
foregoing extracts. This volume alone would make the fortune of any
expert Parisian scribe who knew how to select from its rich store of
original materials, who had skill to arrange and expound, and, above
all, had the dexterity to adopt somewhat more ingeniously than M. Comte
has done, his abstract statements to our reminiscences of historical
facts. Full of his own generalities, he is apt to forget the concrete
matter of the annalist. Indeed, it is a peculiarity running through the
volume, that generalizations, in themselves of a valuable character, are
shown to disadvantage by an unskilful alliance with history.

We will make one quotation from this portion of the work, and then we
must leave M. Comte. In reviewing the theological progress of mankind,
he signalizes three epochs, that of Fetishism, of Polytheism, and of
Monotheism. Our extract shall relate to the first of these, to that
primitive state of religion, or idolatry, in which _things themselves_
were worshipped; the human being transferring to them immediately a
life, or power, somewhat analogous to its own.

"Exclusively habituated, for so long a time, to a theology
eminently metaphysic, we must feel at present greatly
embarrassed in our attempt to comprehend this gross primitive
mode of thought. It is thus that fetishism has often been
confounded with polytheism, when to the latter has been applied
the common expression of idolatry, which strictly relates to
the former only; since the priests of Jupiter or Minerva would,
no doubt, have as justly repelled the vulgar reproach of
worshipping images, as do the Catholic doctors of the present
day a like unjust accusation of the Protestants. But though we
are happily sufficiently remote from fetishism to find a
difficulty in conceiving it, yet each one of us has but to
retrace his own mental history, to detect the essential
characters of this initial state. Nay, even eminent thinkers of
the present day, when they allow themselves to be involuntarily
ensnared (under the influence, but partially rectified, of a
vicious education) to attempt to penetrate the mystery of the
essential production of any phenomenon whose laws are not
familiar to them, they are in a condition personally to
exemplify this invariable instinctive tendency to trace the
generation of unknown effects to a cause analogous to life,
which is no other, strictly speaking, than the principle of

"Theologic philosophy, thoroughly investigated, has always
necessarily for its base pure fetishism, which deifies
instantly each body and each phenomenon capable of exciting the
feeble thought of infant humanity. Whatever essential
transformations this primitive philosophy may afterwards
undergo, a judicious sociological analysis will always expose
to view this primordial base, never entirely concealed, even in
a religious state the most remote from the original point of
departure. Not only, for example, the Egyptian theocracy has
presented, at the time of its greatest splendour, the
established and prolonged coexistence, in the several castes of
the hierarchy, of one of these religious epochs, since the
inferior ranks still remained in simple fetishism, whilst the
higher orders were in possession of a very remarkable
polytheism, and the most exalted of its members had probably
raised themselves to some form of monotheism; but we can at all
times, by a strict scrutiny, detect in the theologic spirit
traces of this original fetishism. It has even assumed, amongst
subtle intelligences, the most metaphysical forms. What, in
reality, is that celebrated conception of a soul of the world
amongst the ancients, or that analogy, more modern, drawn
between the earth and an immense living animal, and other
similar fancies, but pure fetishism disguised in the pomp of
philosophical language? And, in our own days even, what is this
cloudy pantheism which so many metaphysicians, especially in
Germany, make great boast of, but generalized and systematized
fetishism enveloped in a learned garb fit to amaze the
vulgar."--Vol. V. p. 38.

He then remarks on the perfect adaptation of this primitive theology to
the initial torpor of the human understanding, which it spares even the
labour of creating and sustaining the facile fictions of polytheism. The
mind yields passively to that natural tendency which leads us to
transfer to objects without us, that sentiment of existence which we
feel within, and which, appearing at first sufficiently to explain our
own personal phenomena, serves directly as an uniform base, an absolute
unquestioned interpretation, of all external phenomena. He dwells with
quite a touching satisfaction on this child-like and contented condition
of the rude intellect.

"All observable bodies," he says "being thus immediately
personified and endowed with passions suited to the energy of
the observed phenomena, the external world presents itself
spontaneously to the spectator in a perfect harmony, such as
never again has been produced, and which must have excited in
him a peculiar sentiment of plenary satisfaction, hardly by us
in the present day to be characterized, even when we refer back
with a meditation the most intense on this cradle of humanity."

Do not even these few fragments bear out our remarks, both of praise and
censure? We see here traces of a deep penetration into the nature of
man, coupled with a singular negligence of the historical picture. The
principle here laid down as that of fetishism, is important in many
respects; it is strikingly developed, and admits of wide application;
but (presuming we are at liberty to seek in the rudest periods for the
origin of religion) we do not find any such systematic procedure amongst
rude thinkers--we do not find any condition of mankind which displays
that complete ascendancy of the principle here described. Our author
would lead us to suppose, that the deification of objects was uniformly
a species of explanation of natural phenomena. The accounts we have of
fetishism, as observed in barbarous countries, prove to us that this
animation of stocks and stones has frequently no connexion whatever with
a desire to explain _their_ phenomena, but has resulted from a fancied
relation between those objects and the human being. The _charm_ or the
_amulet_--some object whose presence has been observed to cure diseases,
or bring good-luck--grows up into a god; a strong desire at once leading
the man to pray to his amulet, and also to attribute to it the power of
granting his prayer.[50]

[50] Take, for instance, the following description of fetishism
in Africa. It is the best which just now falls under our hand,
and perhaps a longer search would not find a better. Those only
who never read _The Doctor_, will be surprised to find it
quoted on a grave occasion:--

"The name Fetish, though used by the negroes themselves, is
known to be a corrupt application of the Portuguese word for
witchcraft, _feitico_; the vernacular name is _Bossum_, or
_Bossifoe_. Upon the Gold Coast every nation has its own, every
village, every family, and every individual. A great hill, a
rock any way remarkable for its size or shape, or a large tree,
is generally the national Fetish. The king's is usually the
largest tree in his country. They who choose or change one,
take the first thing they happen to see, however worthless--a
stick, a stone, the bone of a beast, bird, or fish, unless the
worshipper takes a fancy for something of better appearance,
and chooses a horn, or the tooth of some large animal. The
ceremony of consecration he performs himself, assembling his
family, washing the new object of his devotion, and sprinkling
them with the water. He has thus a household or personal god,
in which he has as much faith as the Papist in his relics, and
with as much reason. Barbot says that some of the Europeans on
that coast not only encouraged their slaves in this
superstition, but believed in it, and practised it
themselves."--Vol. V. p. 136.

We carry on our quotation one step further, for the sake of illustrating
the impracticable _unmanageable_ nature of our author's generalizations
when historically applied. Having advanced to this stage in the
development of theologic thought, he finds it extremely difficult to
extricate the human mind from that state in which he has, with such
scientific precision, fixed it.

"Speculatively regarded, this great transformation of the
religious spirit (from fetishism to polytheism) is perhaps the
most fundamental that it has ever undergone, though we are at
present so far separated from it as not to perceive its extent
and difficulty. The human mind, it seems to me, passed over a
less interval in its transit from polytheism to monotheism, the
more recent and better understood accomplishment of which has
naturally taught us to exaggerate its importance--an importance
extremely great only in a certain social point of view, which I
shall explain in its place. When we reflect that fetishism
supposes matter to be eminently active, to the point of being
truly alive, while polytheism necessarily compels it to an
inertia almost absolute, submitted passively to the arbitrary
will of the divine agent; it would seem at first impossible to
comprehend the real mode of transition from one religious
_regime_ to the other."--P. 97.

The transition, it seems, was effected by an early effort of
generalization; for as men recognized the similitude of certain objects,
and classified them into one species, so they approximated the
corresponding Fetishes, and reduced them at length to a principal
Fetish, presiding over this class of phenomena, who thus, liberated from
matter, and having of necessity an independent being of its own, became
a god.

"For the gods differ essentially from pure fetishes, by a
character more general and more abstract, pertaining to their
indeterminate residence. They, each of them, administer a
special order of phenomena, and have a department more or less
extensive; while the humble fetish governs one object only,
from which it is inseparable. Now, in proportion as the
resemblance of certain phenomena was observed, it was necessary
to classify the corresponding fetishes, and to reduce them to a
chief, who, from this time, was elevated to the rank of a
god--that is to say, an ideal agent, habitually invisible,
whose residence is not rigorously fixed. There could not exist,
properly speaking, a fetish common to several bodies; this
would be a contradiction, every fetish being necessarily
endowed with a material individuality. When, for example, the
similar vegetation of the several trees in a forest of oaks,
led men to represent, in their theological conceptions, what
was _common_ in these objects, this abstract being could no
longer be the fetish of a tree, but became the god of the
forest."--P. 101.

This apparatus of transition is ingenious enough, but surely it is
utterly uncalled for. The same uncultured imagination that could animate
a tree, could people the air with gods. Whenever the cause of any
natural event is _invisible_, the imagination cannot rest in Fetishism;
it must create some being to produce it. If thunder is to be
theologically explained--and there is no event in nature more likely to
suggest such explanation--the imagination cannot animate the thunder; it
must create some being that thunders. No one, the discipline of whose
mind had not been solely and purely _scientific_, would have created for
itself this difficulty, or solved it in such a manner.[51]

[51] At the end of the same chapter from which this extract is
taken, the _Doctor_ tells a story which, if faith could be put
in the numerous accounts which men relate of themselves, (and
such, we presume, was the original authority for the anecdote,)
might deserve a place in the history of superstition.

"One of the most distinguished men of the age, who has left a
reputation which will be as lasting as it is great, was, when a
boy, in constant fear of a very able but unmerciful
schoolmaster; and in the state of mind which that constant fear
produced, he fixed upon a great spider for his fetish, and used
every day to pray to it that he might not be flogged."

* * * * *

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