Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/771

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Our notice of the career of Thomas Edward, printed last month, has elicited much interesting and sympathetic comment from the press, accompanied in repeated instances with something like skepticism as to its verity, or the possibility that a man of such genius could have been so long neglected in a community claiming the slightest degree of civilized intelligence. The story will appear more incredible in this country, where we can hardly appreciate the intensity of the class-feeling that pervades British society. The open secret of the case is, that Edward was a laborer, and not a gentleman, and, belonging to the servile class, he was not recognized or aided by the people around him. Scientific men corresponded with him, but they were at a distance, and probably neither knew nor inquired anything about his personal circumstances. And so he was left to fight his course alone, which he did manfully and bravely, contented if he could only work. The world never heard of Banff before, and it will be now known more for its meanness toward a poor shoemaker than for any other cause. But what shall we say of the meanness of the reviewer who thinks that the world should not have been apprised of the career of this remarkable naturalist until after his death? The Banff people, it is to be presumed, will not offer much excuse for their neglect, but a reviewer can express regret that justice has been done him by a distinguished biographer, as if he grudged the man the satisfaction of being justly recognized in his declining years. It was not enough that he should never have been the recipient of any aid to facilitate his scientific studies, but he must be refused also that reward which is the spur of ambition to the highest natures, the sympathy and approbation of their fellow-men! And if there be a lower depth of meanness yet, a reviewer can find it. Although Edward had been battered through a career that would have killed most men, enduring privation and exposure until health gave way with the approach of old age, yet the critic of the London Academy fears that the effect of publishing this premature biography will be, that no more work can be got out of the old man. This is what he says:

"Interesting and valuable though this memoir of a self-helpful and a self-denying life undoubtedly is, we are not sure that Mr. Smiles would not have acted a wiser part in deferring its publication. For it is rather bold to assert of one who is but threescore and two, and has shown but few signs of mental decline, that 'hic jacet is all that remains to be added.' Rather we would hope that the downward course of Edward's life, smoothed by the queen's recognition of his services, may be a long and useful one, and that, having survived the danger of unmerited neglect, he may be spared the harder trial of intrusive patronage, to which this premature biography is likely enough to expose him. It is a perilous precedent for a successful author to have set, and we could have wished, for the sake of others, that Mr. Smiles had denied himself the pleasure of forestalling the verdict of posterity, and had culled his last example of self-help from a career already concluded."


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