**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Herbert Spencer
by [?]

At the headquarters of this army grew up a court, and all the magnificent splendor of a capitol centered around the captains. In fact, the word “capitol” means the home of the captain.

Herbert Spencer did not say that a soldier was a respectable brigand, and that a lawyer is a man who protects us from lawyers, but he came so close to it that his immediate friends begged him to moderate his expressions for his own safety.

Spencer also at the same time traced the evolution of the priest. He showed how the “holy man” was one frenzied with religious ecstasy, who went away and lived in a cave. Occasionally this man came back to beg, to preach and to do good. In order to succeed in his begging, he revealed his peculiar psychic powers, and then reinforced these with claims of supernatural abilities. These claims were not exactly founded upon truth, but once put forth were in time believed by those who advanced them.

This priest, who claimed to have influence with the power of the Unseen, found early favor with the soldier–and the soldier and the priest naturally joined hands. The soldier protected the priest and the priest absolved the soldier. One dictated man’s place in this world–the other in the next.

The calm way in which Herbert Spencer reasoned these things out, and his high literary style, which made him unintelligible to all those whose minds were not of scientific bent, and his emphatic statement that what is, is right, and all the steps in man’s development mean a mounting to better things, saved him from the severe treatment that greeted, say, Charles Bradlaugh, who translated the higher criticisms for the hoi polloi.

Spencer’s first essays on “The Proper Sphere of Government,” done in his early twenties for “The Non-Conformist” and “The Economist,” outlined his occupation for life–he was to be a writer. He became assistant editor of the “Westminster Review,” and contributed to various literary and scientific journals.

These essays, enlarged, rewritten and revised, finally emerged in Eighteen Hundred Fifty-one in the form of “Social Statics, or the Conditions Essential to Human Happiness.”

This book, so bold in its radical suggestions, now almost universally admitted, was printed at the author’s expense–a fact that should put a quietus for all time upon all those indelicate and sarcastic allusions concerning “when the author prints.” There was an edition of seven hundred fifty copies of the book, and it took every shilling the young man had saved, and a few borrowed pounds as well, to pay the bill.

The book made no splash in the literary sea–nobody read it except a dozen good people who did so as a matter of friendship.

After six years there were still five hundred copies left, and the author wrote this slightly ironical line: “I am glad the public is taking plenty of time to fully digest my work before passing judgment upon it. Of all things, hasty criticisms are to be regretted.”

Yet there was one person who read Herbert Spencer’s first book with close consideration and profound sympathy. This was a young woman, the same age as Spencer, who had come up to London from the country to make her fortune. Her name was Mary Ann Evans.

* * * * *

In “Notes and Comments,” Spencer’s last book, published two years before his death, are several quotations and allusions to George Eliot. No other woman is mentioned in the volume.

Herbert Spencer and Mary Ann Evans first met at the house of the editor of the “Westminster Review” about the year Eighteen Hundred Fifty-one. Their tastes, aptitudes and inclinations were much the same. They were born the same year; both were brought up in the country; both were naturalists by inclination, and scientists because they could not help it. “Social Statics” made a profound impression on George Eliot, and she protested to the last that it was the best book the author ever wrote. He had read her “Essay on Spinoza,” and remembered it so well that he repeated a page of it the first time they met. They loved the same things, and united, too, in their dislikes. Both were democrats, and the cards, curds and custards of society were to them as naught. In a few months after the first meeting, George Eliot wrote to a friend in Warwickshire: “The bright side of my life, after the affection for my old friends, is the new and delightful friendship which I have found in Herbert Spencer. We see each other every day, and in everything we enjoy a delightful comradeship. If it were not for him my life would be singularly arid.”