Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/281

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

our institutions, and the duties of citizens in regard to them.

In one respect the time of publication was somewhat unfortunate. The results of the interview were offered to the New York press to all the New York newspapers at the same time and without previous notice, and, as the columns of the press are generally much crowded in an active political campaign, there was some difficulty in publishing the communication. Several papers felt it necessary to shorten it by omitting what they regarded as the less important parts, so that imperfect representations of the interview were extensively circulated and republished. This being known, there has been a good deal of call for the document in its complete form, which could not be met. We have accordingly thought it best to reprint the interview in full. It will certainly not be news to our readers, but it may be well to have a permanent record of it for future reference:

Hearing that Herbert Spencer had returned to New York in a somewhat improved condition of health, an intimate American friend obtained his consent to be questioned regarding his impressions of this country to the following effect:

I believe, Mr. Spencer, that you have not been interviewed since your arrival in this country?

I have not. The statements in the newspapers implying personal intercourse are unauthorized, and many of them incorrect. It was said, for example, that I was ill from the effects of the voyage; the truth being that I suffered no inconvenience whatever, save that arising from disturbed rest. Subsequent accounts of me in respect of disorders, diet, dress, habits, etc., have been equally wide of the mark.

Have these misrepresentations been annoying to you?

In some measure, though I am not very sensitive; but I have been chiefly annoyed by statements which affect, not myself only, but others. For some ten days or more there went on reappearing in various journals, an alleged opinion of mine concerning Mr. Oscar Wilde. The statement that I had uttered it was absolutely baseless. I have expressed no opinion whatever concerning Mr. Oscar Wilde. Naturally, those who put in circulation fictions of this kind may be expected to mix much fiction with what fact they report.

Might not this misrepresentation have been avoided, by admitting interviewers?

Possibly; but, in the first place, I have not been sufficiently well; and, in the second place, I am averse to the system. To have to submit to cross-examination, under penalty of having ill-natured things said if one refuses, is an invasion of personal liberty which I dislike. Moreover, there is implied what seems to me an undue love of personalities. Your journals recall a witticism of the poet Heine, who said that "when a woman writes a novel, she has one eye on the paper and the other on some man except the Countess Hahn-hahn, who has only one eye." In like manner, it seems to me that in the political discussions that fill your papers, everything is treated in connection with the doings of individuals—some candidate for office, or some "boss" or wire puller. I think it not improbable that this appetite for personalities, among other evils, generates this recklessness of statement. The appetite must be ministered to; and in the eagerness to satisfy its cravings, there comes less and less care respecting the correctness of what is said.

Has what you have seen answered your expectations?

It has far exceeded them. Such books about America as I had looked into, had given me no adequate idea of the immense developments of material civilization which I have everywhere found. The extent, wealth, and magnificence of your cities, and especially the splendor of New York, have altogether astonished me. Though I have not visited the wonder of the West, Chicago, yet some of your minor modern places, such as Cleveland, have sufficiently amazed me, by the marvelous results of one generation's activity. Occasionally, when I have been in places of some ten thousand inhabitants, where the telephone is in general use, I have felt somewhat ashamed of our