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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/369

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GENIUS AND TALENT.

not mean merely that Geikie's work is fuller and more all-sided than Lyell's; the growth of the science and the accumulation of materials would alone suffice amply to account for that. But the lucid, orderly, and masterly arrangement, the just sense of method and proportion, the logical even development of the subject, the judicial temper, the cosmic vision, the rare combination of profound depth with perspicuous clearness, all alike place Geikie's remarkable book on a far higher level than his famous predecessor's. Yet I do not suppose Geikie's name will ever become as popularly celebrated as Lyell's. The lesser man happened upon the apter moment: he did fairly well the task he had it in hand to do; and the crisis itself more than sufficed to make him and his work conspicuous forever.

Genius, then, I humbly hold, differs from "mere talent" only in one or other out of three particulars: either it is talent of a higher order, backed up by industry; or it is the same talent, made notable by opportunity; or it is talent, often of a low grade, redeemed by exceptional originality, or combined with some piquant and arresting touch of quaintness, oddity, or it may even be grotesque deformity.

This is a democratic age—an age of socialism, of co-operation, of the revolt of the masses against the few and the privileged. We have found out in our own time that all wealth is the creation of the many: that Rome was not built in a day; that the railways, roads, canals, rivers, mines, factories, warehouses, machines, and towns of modern England, were slowly exploited by the continuous labor of thousands upon thousands of skilled workmen. We have found out that generation after generation has helped to build up our cathedrals and castles, our mills and looms, our ships and steamers, our commerce and manufactures. We know that the electric telegraph goes back at least to Gilbert's researches into magnetism in Queen Elizabeth's days; that the steam-engine goes back to the Marquis of Worcester in Charles the Second's reign; that ironclads and revolvers are not things of yesterday; that every art and every invention, though it may have its own eponym in modern times, is the joint creation of innumerable nameless and successive workers through a hundred generations. The Great Man theory has broken down, and has been replaced by a belief in Great Movements. I wish here to reclaim in the same way on behalf of the wider democracy of talent as against the exclusive oligarchy of genius. The language, the vocabulary, the idiom, the eloquence, the thought of every age is molded by a thousand unknown speakers and writers who each contributes his own part to the grand total of the literature of the day. From the lowest to the highest the gradation is regular, even, and continuous: there is no break; there is no gulf; there is no isolated