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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/415

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IDIOSYNCRASY.

occasional convergence which will give us either the old popular-songwriters, or Burns himself, or on a slightly lower level such a woman as Janet Hamilton? Again, the case of Dickens looks at first sight somewhat more difficult; but then one may remember that, as far as general mental power went, Dickens was nowhere. He was a pure artist in a special and very restricted line; he possessed a peculiar faculty for describing queer and original people in a queer and original way. Doubtless this faculty was in him so fully developed that it rose to the rank of genius in its own line; but the line was by no means an exalted one. In such a case, who can say what quaint little combinations of ordinary elements went to make up the power that amused and delighted us so much? Are there not thousands of people in our midst who possess just the same faculty in a less degree—people who, without depth or brilliancy in other respects, can raise a laugh, by their clever caricatures of the habits and conversation of their friends? Throw in the merest side-twist of comical exaggeration and a grain of plot-forming capacity into such a raconteur, and you get the framework for the genius of Dickens. Of genius of that sort, indeed, more than of any other, one may fairly say that it differs only by a hair's breadth from humorous mediocrity. It is otherwise, I believe, with really deep philosophical or scientific power. Grasp, insight, luminousness, breadth; the capacity for dealing with the abstract ideas of mathematics, of logic, of metaphysics; the power of seeing or formulating great generalizations—these things, if I read the lives of thinkers aright, come only from a convergence of able and powerful stocks. It takes three generations, they say, to make a gentleman; surely it takes many generations of trained intelligence on both sides to make a philosopher.

At the same time, it must be remembered that a convergence even of two mediocre strains may produce comparatively high results, provided the endowments of the two strains be complementary or supplementary to one another. To this cause may perhaps be attributed the general high level of intelligence displayed by half-breeds—even halfbreeds with a lower race. I have already alluded to the intellectual superiority of mulattoes, a large proportion of whom appear to me (and to some other observers) considerably above the average of either Europeans or negroes. And this is not surprising when we recollect that the negro brain, though relatively inferior, must almost necessarily be highly cultivated in some particular directions, where the European brain is comparatively deficient. If, then, a mulatto child inherits in fair degrees the quick perceptive faculties and intuitions of his mother, and the higher reasoning faculties and forethought of his father, he is likely on the average to be better equipped in inherited potentialities than either.[1] Similarly, one may take it for granted

  1. Darwin has somewhere noted that half-breeds with lower races appear to be on the whole often morally inferior to either parent race; and he has suggested that this inferiority