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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/427

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

It is needless, however, to pursue the parallel further, though the Rev. Mr. Smith very properly carries it into the region of morals, where it is no less close than in that of intellectual action. There is another interesting aspect of evolution which the reverend gentleman glances at, and that is its bearing on general courses of study. History and literature, considered as departments of research, it has largely transformed by substituting for conventional categories and abstract notions the perception of a genetic process pervading all the works of the human spirit and linking them into an organic unity. In conclusion, we may observe that, if Superintendent A. J. Smith had not made some foolish remarks in a rather ostentatious manner, it is probable the Rev. S. G. Smith would not have delivered the excellent discourse on which we have commented, and which we feel sure will far outweigh in general effect the performance which called it forth. The conclusions to be drawn are the pleasing ones that good may sometimes come out of evil, and that a free pulpit is admirably adapted to guard the interests of liberty and common sense.

 

 

LESSONS OF ANTHROPOLOGY.

The address delivered at the last meeting of the British Association by the president of the Anthropological Section contained nothing that was strikingly novel—it is not every year that striking novelties can be announced—but it dealt in an interesting manner with several phases of a most important subject. The speaker, Professor Brabrook, took the position that the order of the universe is expressed in continuity, not cataclysm, and that this principle will be found illustrated in every branch of anthropological research, in direct proportion to the completeness of the data obtained. He admitted the vastness of the gap which still separates the remains of palæolithic from those of neolithic man, but expressed the belief that further explorations would bring intermediate relics to light. To quote the speaker's words: "The evidence we want relates to events which took place at so great a distance of time that we may well wait patiently for it, assured that somewhere or other these missing links must have existed, and probably are still to be found."

Reference was made to the labors which are now being usefully expended in gathering what is called the folklore of various communities, and to the result which continually appears with fuller evidence, namely, that the tendency of mankind everywhere is to develop like fancies and ideas at a like stage of intellectual development. Full of detail as these stories are, they are found to contain but a few primitive ideas; and it seems not improbable that to a large extent they are essentially Nature myths. Mr. Brabrook happily quotes Lord Bacon's description of such narratives as "sacred relics, gentle whispers and the breath of better times." The "better times" are a part of the general system of myth; but who will deny that there is a special charm in these early documents of our race? "Let one of our literary exquisites," said a thoughtful French writer, "try to write a fairy tale which shall neither be a pretentious apologue nor a tiresome and transparent allegory, and he will soon feel that mere cleverness does not suffice to create these marvelous narratives, and will conceive a just admiration for those who constructed them, that is to say, everybody and nobody."

The progress of anthropology,