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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/415

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ELISEE RECLUS AND HIS OPINIONS.

the theorician than Reclus the eminent geographer, whose fascinating books on geography have vivified a science too often presented in dull and lifeless shape before the world. As great a geographer as Humboldt, he surpasses him in the fact that, like all Frenchmen, and unlike most Germans (and Humboldt was no exception), he is a fine stylist. His eloquent, graceful periods make even dry dissertations pleasant reading. Had he not held such extreme opinions he might have attained even greater fame, if this be possible. In any case we might have had more scientific books from his pen had he not given so much time to writing and speaking on his hobby. As this hobby reveals the man, may we expose it in these pages, without, however, on that account committing ourselves to any idea that we share them or wish to commend them to our readers. But a psychological study is always worth making, especially when the subject is so eminent and world-known. Before laying before our readers Reclus's mature opinions, let us cast a glance over his past.

Elisée Reclus is the son of a French Protestant minister, one of twelve children, of whom several have distinguished themselves in various departments. With a father so overweighted with an enormous progeny it is obvious that Reclus early made acquaintance with the pinch of poverty, for to maintain such a family in luxury would drain even the resources of purses deeper than those of French Protestant pastors. Elisée was educated in Rhenish Prussia, and his university studies were made at Berlin. It was no doubt in that city that he became inoculated with revolutionary ideas, for his student life fell in the time of ferment that preceded the uprising of 1848. Owing to his extreme democratic opinions, he left France after the coup d'état of December 2, 1851, and for several years traveled through Europe and America. It was on his return from these that he first wrote for the Revue des Deux Mondes and other periodicals the account of his journeys and geographical researches, which at once placed him in the forefront of all living geographers. But side by side with these geographical studies he continued to take an interest in social politics. It was he who was the first to point out in France the rights and wrongs of the American war of secession. It was he who helped to enlighten French public opinion concerning the cause defended by Lincoln. In consequence, the minister of the United States in Paris proposed that, as an acknowledgment of the great services rendered by Reclus, a considerable sum of money should be presented to him. This money the young learned man indignantly refused, although at the time he was in great pecuniary straits. He stated that he wrote entirely that right and liberty might triumph, and not for pecuniary personal recompense. Soon after this he published his magnificent