Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/387

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A STUDY OF BRITISH GENIUS.

Centlivre, Cowley, Edgeworth, Eliot, Ferrier, Gaskell, Godwin, Inchbald, Jameson, Martineau, Mitford, Montague, More, Morgan, Newcastle, Opie, Radcliffe.

Women of Science.—Somerville.

It may be asked how these 902 persons of preeminent intellectual ability have been distributed through the course of English history. I find that from the fourth to the eleventh centuries, inclusive, there are only 14 men of sufficient distinction to appear in my lists. From that date onwards (reckoning by the date of birth) we find that the twelfth century yields 10, the thirteenth 9, the fourteenth 16, the fifteenth 31, the sixteenth 156, the seventeenth 182, the eighteenth 352, the nineteenth 132. It is probable that the estimate most nearly corresponds to the actual facts as regards the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Before that time our information is usually too scanty, so that many men of notable ability have passed away without record. In the nineteenth century, on the other hand, the material has been too copious, and the national biographers have probably tended to become unduly appreciative of every faint manifestation of intellectual ability. The extraordinary productiveness of the eighteenth century is very remarkable. In order to realize the significance of the facts, however, a century is too long a period. Distributing our persons of genius into half-century periods, I find that the following groups are formed:

1101-1150 1151-1200 1201-1250 1251-1300 1301-1350 1351-1400
4 6 2 7 6 10
1401-1450 1451-1500 1501-1550 1551-1600 1601-1650 1651-1700
6 25 49 107 107 75
1701-1750 1751-1800 1801-1850
129 223 131

Only one individual belongs to the second half of the nineteenth century. It is scarcely necessary to remark that the record for the first half of the nineteenth century is still incomplete. Taking the experience of the previous century as a basis, it may be estimated that some 40 per cent, at least of the eminent persons belonging to the first half of the nineteenth century are still alive. This would raise that half-century to the first place, but it may be pointed out that the increase on the previous half-century would be small, and also that the result must be discounted by the inevitable tendency to overestimate the men of our own time. When we bear in mind that the activities of the individuals in each of these groups really fall, on the whole, into the succeeding group, certain interesting points are suggested. We note how the waves of Humanism and Reformation, when striking the shores of Britain, have stirred intellectual activity, and have been prolonged and intensified in the delayed English Renaissance. We see how this fermentation has been continued in the political movements