Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME XV

RECENT GREAT AUTOBIOGRAPHIES

1860

THIS final volume of our series advances in date but little from the preceding one. The narrative of Thomas Huxley, which is given here, belongs with the class of great scientific autobiographies described in the previous volume as having sprung from the keen scientific awakening of the 1850's and 60's. So too we might place the story of Ernest Renan with those of the men whose hearts were rent by the religious struggle of those days. But Huxley and Renan are only the earliest speakers in the present volume. Beyond them we come to autobiographers of our own generation, some of them still living, and others only very recently passed from among us.

Moreover, even with Huxley and Renan we get a much more modern air than with the earlier thinkers whom they resemble. Huxley took up the ideas of evolution where Darwin left them. Huxley was the fighting scientist of the 1860's and 70's, the arguer who hammered home the proofs and made all men see what Darwin had only quietly announced. Even in his autobiography Huxley is still fighting. He tells us that he writes it so men cannot misrepresent him after he is dead. There is a familiar tone about this that may win the reader to a smile as he looks back through Haydon and Rousseau and all the other autobiographers until he reaches old Sir Thomas Bodley, the first Englishman of them all, who also adopted this particular excuse for satisfying the natural human impulse to talk about himself.

Renan, though he at first took exact religious doctrines as seriously as Newman or Mlle. de Guerin, yet in the last analysis concluded to accept life more cheerfully. He resolved to live and work with what he knew, rather than with all that

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »