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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/281

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271
LITERARY NOTICES.

any rate, Mr. Vignoli has the science of the world and probably the truth of the case on his side. But, if man was developed from the lower animals, he has derived his psychical faculties, as well as his bodily organism, from his inferior ancestors; and, although he has left them by a wide gap, they are still parts of a series with so much remaining in common that the higher can only be interpreted in derivative connection with the lower. On this view the mythical element, as considered by our author, begins with the lower animals, and comparative psychology is appealed to, with many special experiments, to show that animals endow the objects around them with a consciousness like their own. Man, in his early stages, does a similar thing by "animating" the forces and objects of nature, and filling the world with mythical personalities. This process goes on, according to Mr. Vignoli, with the advance of intelligence, so that science, instead of ending myths, only modifies them. Man "personifies all phenomena, first vaguely projecting himself into them, and then exercising a distinct purpose of anthropomorphism until, in this way, he has gradually modified the world according to his own image."

In his opening chapter on the ideas and sources of myths, Mr. Vignoli thus presents the point of view from which he considers the subject:

We do not propose to consider in this treatise the myths peculiar to one people nor to one race; we do not seek to estimate the intrinsic value of myths at the time when they were already developed among various peoples and constituted into an. Olympus or special religion; we do not wish to determine the special and historical cause of their manifestations in the life of any one people, since we now refrain from entering on the field of comparative mythology. It is the scope and object of our modest researches to trace the strictly primitive origin of the human myths as a whole; to reach the ultimate fact, and the causes of this fact, whence myth in its necessary and universal form is evolved and has its origin.

We must, therefore, seek to discover whether, in addition to the various causes assigned for myth in earlier ages, and still more in modern times, by our great philologists, ethnologists, and philosophers of every school—causes which are for the most part extrinsic there be not a reason more deeply seated in our nature, which is first manifested as a necessary and spontaneous function of the intelligence, and which is, therefore, intrinsic and inevitable.

In this case myth will appear to us, not as an accident in the life of primitive peoples varying in intensity and extent, not as a vague conception of things due to the erroneous interpretation of words and phrases, nor again as the fanciful creation of ignorant minds; but it will appear to be a special faculty of the human mind, inspired by emotions Which accompany and animate its products. Since this innate faculty of myth is indigenous and common to all men, it will not only be the portion of all peoples, but of each individual in every age, in every race, whatever may be their respective condition.

Myth, therefore, will not be resolved by us into a manifestation of an obsolete age, or of peoples still in a barbarous and savage state, nor as part of the cycle through which nations and individuals have respectively passed or have nearly passed; but it remains to this day; in spite of the prevailing civilization which has greatly increased and is still increasing, it still persists as a mode of physical and intellectual force in the organic elements which constitute it.

Easy Lessons in Science. Edited by Professor W. F. Barrett. Light. By Mrs. W. Awdry. Pp 114. Heat. By C. W. Martineau. Pp. 136. Macmillan & Co.

Verily, verily, if the children of this generation do not grow wise in science, it will not be for lack of elementary books for the purpose. "Rudimentary Lessons," "Elementary Lessons," "Simple Lessons," "Easy Lessons," and "Primers" innumerable, separate and in groups, edited by one book-maker and written by others, are already multiplied on every hand, and are increasing more rapidly than ever. They must be purchased, or they would not continue to be made; and, if purchased, they are probably read and used—so that, on the whole, we may assume that the result is good. But one thing is certain—the excellence of these books is in no relation to their numbers, nor is it easy to discern much if any improvement in the successive series. They are all lesson-books with abundant pictures to be learned in the old-fashioned way in the school-room. There is some effort at cheapening the means of experiment for scientific illustration, and, in so far as this promotes demonstration, the effect is undoubtedly beneficial. But these little manuals generally display but a very limited acquaintance with the minds of the young, and they are all conformed to the common type of books of information to be obtained by the regular old process of reading and lesson-learning.