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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/279

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

A DOUBTFUL PROP OF MORALITY.

VERY persistent are the attacks of the supporters of an effete philosophy upon those intellectual views which are renewing the life of the world and enabling the human mind to shake off the burden of spiritual tyranny. Some of our readers may remember an article which we devoted a couple of years ago to a novel by a celebrated member of the French Academy, M. Octave Feuillet, the leading character in which was a young woman who had been brought up by a philosophical uncle in complete emancipation from theological beliefs, and who took, in the most natural way in the world—as the direct result, we are given to understand, of her acceptance of modern thought, and particularly of the Darwinian theory—to a career of monstrous and cold-blooded villainy. Her uncle was a benevolent old gentleman; but the evolution philosophy showed its perfect result in the niece, who had imbibed it in her very earliest years. This fine example of a "novel with a purpose" appeared first in the columns of the Revue des Deux Mondes; and to-day we find in the same periodical no less striking an example of a drama with a purpose, the author this time being M. George Duruy, and the title of his production Ni Dieu ni Maître. In this work the philosophical and philanthropical uncle of M. Feuillet's creation is replaced by a father—an eminent medical man—of similar views and similar character, who has brought up his own two children in complete independence of priestly control, and who, in return for all the affection he has lavished upon them, reaps a harvest of selfishness and ingratitude. Without being as utterly depraved as the delightful heroine of M. Feuillet's romance, they are mere creatures of pleasure and vanity, and when their poor father falls into ill-health and comparative poverty, instead of sympathizing with and aiding him, they have nothing for him but complaints and reproaches. The uncle in M. Feuillet's story and the father in M. Duruy's, it is noticeable, are both physicians, these authors paying the medical profession the compliment of thinking that the study and practice of medicine are particularly favorable to a philosophic cast of mind. M. Duruy throws in an interesting minor character in the person of a smart young physician, who had studied under the elder one, and who, in the days of the latter's prosperity, had become engaged to his daughter, but who, having got possession of the lucrative practice which the elder physician, through failing health, had been compelled to hand over to him, throws the daughter overboard without the slightest compunction. This young man, too, is offered to us as a shining example of what free-thought means when reduced to practice. Tricked out as these fictitious narratives are in all the graces of style that literary art can command, they are doubtless adapted to have an effect on a certain class of minds. Rich devotees of luxurious superstition will be greatly edified by the demonstration that not common sense but ecclesiastical authority is to determine all questions of education and conduct; and timorous souls in general will be glad to find that they are justified in refraining from any independent exercise of their minds upon moral questions. Others, among whom we count ourselves, find more of "purpose" than of honesty in these representations: to us they do not show the true working out either of the ancient or of the modern principles of morality, and we propose once more to show why.

One fact is incontrovertible, let liter-