Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/88

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him. With only 20,000 Swedes he attacked 80,000 Russians under the Czar Peter who were besieging Narva and then, with only 8,000 men, before the arrival of his main army, gave the Russians such a severe defeat that they were filled with consternation.[1] A little later when Peter made overtures for peace he replied that he would 'treat with the Czar at Moscow.'

Charles was by no means successful in his subsequent battles, but considering the enormous odds against him, this demibarbarian 'whose ambition was madness and whose valor was ferocity' may justly be considered one of the greatest commanders of modern times, as well as one of the most remarkable men who ever lived. Rude, but chaste, frugal in his dress, food and mode of living, he seems to have had few failings save his impetuosity and inordinate ambition.

Of course such a character as Charles can never be directly derived from any law of heredity like Galton's. A man who has more of certain characteristics than other men can not be produced by adding together in a proportionate way the same characteristics of his ancestors. But if these extreme types like Charles, Peter the Great, Don Carlos, son of Philip II., and Frederick the Great occur most frequently where there is much of the same sort of character in several of the ancestors, we are better satisfied that the types are the product of hereditary influence, than if they frequently occurred in regions where none of the relatives show the character in question. The wave does not flow back towards the mean for every child or even for every generation. It also flows in an upward swell, and it is only to be expected that variations shall occur that show its highest manifestation where there is already some considerable indication of its presence in the neighborhood of the person in whom it appears in such an extreme degree.

In referring back to the ancestry we find the character of Charles XII. almost exactly repeated, though in a lesser degree, in both his father and grandfather. They were both active, vigilant, enterprising and warlike, frugal in daily living, but passionate in their temper. There were ambitions or marked talents in nearly all the other ancestors. His mother was intellectual and virtuous and derived as we have seen from the most able region of Denmark. So, after all, taking into consideration the two sisters of Charles XII., who were nobodies in the intellectual scale, we do not find this fraternity to which he belongs giving us more than is called for.

We are now brought to the dynasty of Holstein, which in the six characters, numbered from 28 to 33 inclusive, gives us no names that amount to anything; nor am I able to find out anything concerning the apparent nonentities who formed the ancestry and relationship of

  1. Lippincott's.