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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/875

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

would come with a better grace from the fact that I have just published what will probably be considered a somewhat severe criticism of Herbert Spencer's Political Ethics. But I am not unmindful of the astonishing power that he has become in the thought of the world, which renders any utterance of his wherein he is wrong so potent for evil. I recently asked a student of Oxford, here for a few days on his winter vacation, how Spencer was regarded at Oxford, and he told me that although his name was rarely spoken and then only in a whisper, as if, on Pope's theory of vice in general, its very utterance might lead to closer acquaintance, nevertheless Spencer was the unseen but overshadowing presence that surrounded the university and which it was considered necessary perpetually to guard against and drive back. I am not finding fault with the widespread opposition to Spencer. Nothing could be worse than to set up a high priest of opinion and bow down to authority. But I have often been amused to see how simple a matter it is supposed to be to refute his doctrines and overthrow his system. And I am disposed to attribute the solidity of his system, and the wonderful resistance which it offers to this perpetual bombardment, to the high degree in which it rests upon the firm foundations of truth. I am myself disposed to follow him with little deviation all the way until he reaches deductive sociology and ethics, and I leave him here only because I believe that, owing to unfortunate early political preconceptions, he has himself left the clear path which his entire system logically requires him to follow. But I did not rise either to approve or disapprove Spencer's philosophy, but simply to draw attention to the kind of man the world has to deal with when it ventures to antagonize his achievements. He fills no chair in any great university, he bears no title from the English crown, he holds no high post of public honor, he boasts no classical scholarship, he speaks no language but his mother tongue, and yet, by a complete mastery of that tongue, and by the sheer power of vigorous and organized thought applied to an 'encyclopedic' acquaintance with all that is worth knowing in the world, he has forced his way into every department of human thought and action. He has invaded science, art, philosophy, literature, morals, and religion in a way and with an authority that have commanded respect and attention, until to-day the eyes of the whole thinking world are centered upon him. I did not know but that Americans were alone in rendering him this unintended homage, but I have learned to-day that it is also the habit of his own countrymen."

 

The Land of Kashmir.—Giving an account of his Karakorum expedition, Mr. W. M. Conway said that the actual Kashmir was widely different from the land full of all material delights and scenes of idyllic beauty which poets had described. It might, in truth, be described as a "crumpled Sahara," with rocks and precipitous slopes, stony, naked, devoid of moisture or of shade, a grilling, hopeless, impassable wilderness. The only relief to its absolute desert were the patches of artificial irrigation. In this inhospitable region there were great masses of mountains covered with snow, from which sometimes streams issued which created oases here and there of singular fertility. In them alone was any population to be found. The starting point of the expedition was Gilgit—now an important military outpost, but a few years ago unknown to British travelers. Gilgit is about five thousand feet above sea level and affords an exaggerated example of the climate of these regions. It was almost rainless during the months of May and June and the earlier part of July. He had just received a letter from a British officer stationed at Gilgit who gave him a vivid account of a terrible flood which occurred on July 7th and in the course of five days wrought a positive geological revolution. All the bridges and piers were destroyed, and the engineers had to extemporize a bridge with a span of three hundred and forty-six feet. From this cheerless region he emerged into a land of glaciers and traversed the great Hispar, Baltoro, and Biafro glaciers. These great snowfields resembled—though planned on a much vaster scale—those of the Alps. Besides the snowfields there were great areas of moraine—inhospitable deserts covered with large masses of broken stone. There sprang up from them mountain peaks ranging from twenty thousand to twenty-eight thousand feet. In the