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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/337

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SOME EIGHTEENTH CENTURY EVOLUTIONISTS.

Fiske supposed it to be a great novelty, and even conceived that he himself was the original discoverer of it. In the preface to his 'Destiny of Man' Mr. Fiske writes: "The detection of the part played by the lengthening of infancy in the genesis of the human race is my own especial contribution to the doctrine of evolution, so that I feel somewhat uncertain as to how far that subject will be understood." But the thing had been detected, not merely by Herder, but also by Pope, some fifty years before him; and that Mr. Fiske should have forgotten the fact only shows how general are the misapprehensions which concern the history of biological conceptions. Pope wrote, in the Third Epistle of the 'Essay on Man' (1733):

Thus beast and bird their common charge attend,
The mothers nurse it, and the sires defend;
The young dismissed, to wander earth or air,
There stops the Instinct, and there ends the care.
A longer care man's helpless kind demands,
That longer care contracts more lasting bands. . .
Still as one brood, and as another rose,
These nat'ral love maintained, habitual those:
The last, scarce ripened into perfect man,
Saw helpless him from whom their life began;
While pleasure, gratitude and hope combined
Still spread the interest, and preserved the kind.

Pope got the suggestion of this from one of Bolingbroke's 'Fragments'; but Bolingbroke had missed the main point, which Pope, in this case more original than his guide, clearly perceived. "If men," Bolingbroke had written, "come helpless into the world like other animals; if they require even longer than other animals to be nursed and educated by the tender instinct of their parents; it is because they have more to learn and more to do; it is because they are prepared for a more improved state and for greater happiness."

Bolingbroke failed to see that the most important consequence of the greater length of human infancy lay in its effect, not upon the child, but upon the parent—in creating the necessity for a steady and self-sacrificing affection and for a habitual subordination of immediate and personal aims to remote and disinterested ones. It may be, then, that to Pope should be given the credit of having first called attention to the relation between the lengthening of infancy and the evolution of social morality. It can hardly be doubted that it was the passage in Pope's poem that suggested the idea to Herder.

6. In all these cases the receptive and pregnant mind of Herder had grasped and elaborated separate ideas which have since become familiar parts of the general body of evolutionary theory. But did he accept the essential doctrine of evolution itself? Did he believe in the mutability of species and in the literal descent of man from lower