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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/171

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THE PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE LANDS.

Gran, Theiss, Temes, Aluta, Sereth, and Pruth. Many of these are large streams with other important tributaries. The Danube drains upwards of 300.000 square miles of country."

A decided advance over earlier books in the way of rational or explanatory treatment is found in the works of Peschel and Eeclus; it is to the former that a reaction against the historical treatment of geography in Germany is largely dne; while the latter is to be credited with an enlarged attention to the detail of land forms; but the books of neither of these authors recognize the systematic evolution of land forms. The same may be said of various other treatises which approach, but do not yet reach, the ideal that seems to be in sight. One of the chief responsibilities of the geographer—the description of landscape—can not be fully met by students who accept the principles set forth in these books as their guides; for in spite of the increasing attention given to the lands in modern books, and in spite of the greater number of forms recognized, the combination of all forms in a well-organized whole is not yet accomplished.

It seems to have been against the empirical method of such books as Ansted's that Huxley protested in his 'Physiography,' urging its replacement by a more educative method. He wrote:

"I do not think that a description of the earth, which commences by telling a child that it is an oblate spheriod, moving around the sun in an elliptical orbit, and ends without giving him the slightest hint towards an understanding of the ordnance map of his own country, or any suggestion as to the meaning of the phenomena offered by the brook which runs through his village, or of the gravel pit whence the roads are mended, is calculated either to interest or to instruct. . . . Physiography has very little to do with this sort of Physical Geography. My hearers were not troubled with much about latitudes and longitudes, the heights of mountains, depths of seas, or the geographical distribution of kangaroos or Compositæ. . . . I endeavored to give them. . . . a view of the 'place in nature' of a particular district of England—the basin of the Thames—and to leave upon their minds the impression that the muddy waters of our metropolitan river, the hills between which it flows, the breezes which blow over it, are not isolated phenomena, to be taken as understood because they are familiar. On the contrary, I endeavored to show that the application of the plainest and simplest processes of reasoning to any one of these phenomena suffices to show, lying behind it, a cause, which again suggests another; until, step by step, the conviction dawns upon the learner that, to attain to even an elementary conception of what goes on in his own parish, he must know something about the universe; that the pebble he kicks aside would not be what it is and where it is, unless a particular chapter of the earth's history, finished untold ages ago, had