Part 3 out of 3
his last resting-place by the side of the kindred-minded Newton. In no
country of the world, however, England not excepted, has the reforming
doctrine of Darwin met with so much living interest or evoked such a
storm of writings, for and against, as in Germany. It is, therefore,
only a debt of honor we pay if at this year's assembly of German
naturalists and physicians we gratefully call to remembrance the mighty
genius who has departed, and bring home to our minds the loftiness of
the theory of nature to which he has elevated us. And what place in the
world could be more appropriate for rendering this service of thanks
than Eisenach, with its Wartburg, this stronghold of free inquiry and
free opinion! As in this sacred spot 360 years ago Martin Luther, by his
reform of the Church in its head and members, introduced a new era in
the history of civilization, so in our days has Charles Darwin, by his
reform of the doctrine of development, constrained the whole perception,
thought, and volition of mankind into new and higher courses. It is true
that personally, both in his character and influence, Darwin has more
affinity to the meek and mild Melanchthon than to the powerful and
inspired Luther. In the scope and importance, however, of their great
work of reformation the two cases were entirely parallel, and in both
the success marks a new epoch in the development of the human mind.
Consider, first, the irrefragable fact of the unexampled success which
Darwin's reform of science has achieved in the short space of 23 years!
for never before since the beginning of human science has any new theory
penetrated so deeply to the foundation of the whole domain of knowledge
or so deeply affected the most cherished personal convictions of
individual students; never before has a new theory called forth such
vehement opposition and so completely overcome it in such short time.
The depicture of the astounding revolution which Darwin has accomplished
in the minds of men in their entire view of nature and conception of
the world will form an interesting chapter in the future history of the
doctrine of development."
Describing a visit which he paid to the late Mr. Darwin in 1866,
Professor Haeckel says:
"In Darwin's own carriage, which he had thoughtfully sent for my
convenience to the railway station, I drove one sunny morning in October
through the graceful, hilly landscape of Kent, which, with the checkered
foliage of its woods, with its stretches of purple heath, yellow broom,
and evergreen oaks, was arrayed in the fairest autumnal dress. As the
carriage drew up in front of Darwin's pleasant country-house, clad in a
vesture of ivy and embowered in elms, there stepped out to meet me from
the shady porch, overgrown with creeping plants, the great naturalist
himself, a tall and venerable figure with the broad shoulders of an
Atlas supporting a world of thoughts, his Jupiter-like forehead highly
and broadly arched, as in the case of Goethe, and deeply furrowed by
the plow of mental labor: his kindly, mild eyes looking forth under the
shadow of prominent brows; his amiable mouth surrounded by a copious
silver-white beard. The cordial, prepossessing expression of the whole
face, the gentle, mild voice, the slow, deliberate utterance, the
natural and _naive_ train of ideas which marked his conversation,
captivated my whole heart in the first hour of our meeting, just as
his great work had formerly, on my first reading it, taken my whole
understanding by storm. I fancied a lofty world sage out of Hellenic
antiquity--a Socrates or Aristotle--stood alive before me. Our
conversation, of course, turned principally on the subject which lay
nearest the hearts of both--on the progress and prospects of the history
of development. Those prospects at that time--16 years ago--were bad
enough, for the highest authorities had for the most part set themselves
against the new doctrines. With touching modesty, Darwin said that his
whole work was but a weak attempt to explain in a natural way the origin
of animal and vegetable species, and that he should not live to see any
noteworthy success following the experiment, the mountain of opposing
prejudice being so high. He thought I had greatly overestimated his
small merit, and that the high praise I had bestowed on it in my
'General Morphology' was far too exaggerated.
"We next came to speak of the numerous and violent attacks on his work,
which were then in the ascendant. In the case of many of those pitiful
botches one was, in fact, quite at a loss whether more to lament the
want of understanding and judgment they showed or to give the greater
vent to the indignation one could not but feel at the arrogance and
presumption of those miserable scribblers who pooh-poohed Darwin's
ideas and bespattered his character. I had then, as on later occasions,
repeatedly expressed my just scorn of the contemptible clan. Darwin
smiled at this, and endeavored to calm me with the words, 'My dear young
friend, believe me one must have compassion and forbearance with such
poor creatures; the stream of truth they can only hold back for a
passing instant, but never permanently stem.' In my later visits to Down
in 1876 and 1879 I had the pleasure of being able to relate to Darwin
the mighty progress which in the past intervals his doctrines had made
in Germany. Their decisive outburst happened more rapidly and more
completely here with us than in England, for the reason chiefly that the
power of social and religious prejudice is not nearly so strong here
as among our cousins across the Channel, who are better placed than
ourselves. Darwin was perfectly well aware of all this; though his
knowledge of our language and literature was defective, as he often
complained, yet he had the highest appreciation of our intellectual
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