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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/553

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MR. MALLOCK ON OPTIMISM.

MR. MALLOCK ON OPTIMISM.
By W. D. LE SUEUR.

AS, in olden time, a certain Lars Porsena, of Clusium, swore by the great gods that his friends the Tarquins, who had been expelled from Rome for gross misconduct, "should suffer wrong no more," so, in our own day, Mr. Mallock, of "Is Life worth Living?" seems to have sworn a great oath that the beliefs which the republic of modern thought has for good cause expelled from its borders shall by his powerful arm be restored to their old tyranny over human life. He therefore brings up his forces, draws lines of circumvallation, and prepares to conquer and capture the whole host of liberal thinkers, and either put them logically to the edge of the sword or force them back into the ancient slavery. The enterprise is not lacking in audacity, and, to do Mr. Mallock justice, he seems to be a writer of no little courage and of infinite jest. His sword-practice is always brilliant; and, if he could only induce his opponents to stand exactly where he makes his passes and slashes, there is no question that he would do for them completely enough. As it is, we see the gleam of the weapon; but, somehow or other, the foe does not fall, and we begin to perceive that he was never quite in the line of the strokes.

In furtherance of the purpose above indicated, Mr. Mallock has contributed two apparently powerful articles to the "Fortnightly Review"—one on "The Scientific Bases of Optimism," and the other on "Cowardly Agnosticism." We shall briefly examine the first of these to-day, and, perhaps, with the editor's kind permission, may take up the second at a later date. "Optimism," in Mr. Mallock's view, is the essential creed of all the modern schools of thought, whether Unitarians or Deists, followers of Spencer, followers of Matthew Arnold, or followers of Auguste Comte. All of these, whatever some of them may say to the contrary, really unite in worshiping Humanity; and Mr. Mallock undertakes to show them how foolish their worship is, and how mutually contradictory are the ideas on which it is founded. Let us take a brief but careful survey of Mr. Mallock's argument.

"The religious doctrine of Humanity," says this agile writer, asserts that the facts of history have a meaning, that they follow a certain rational order, and that, taken as a whole, they have been, are, and will be always, working together—though it may be very slowly—to improve the kind of happiness possible for the human being, and to increase the numbers by whom such happiness will be enjoyed. To affirm this, however, is, by implication, to affirm that a natural element in human character is