« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
The following Lectures, with The Cruise of the Betsey, and Rambles of a Geologist, are all that remain, of what Hugh Miller once designed to be his Maximum Opus,THE GEOLOGY OF SCOTLAND. It is well, however, that his materials have been so left that they can be presented to the public in a shape perfectly readable ; furnishing two volumes, each of which, it is hoped, will be found to possess in itself a uniform and intrinsic interest, -differing in matter and manner as much as they do in the form in which they have found an embodiment. That form is simply the one naturally arising out of the circumstances of the Author's life as they occurred, instead of the more artificial plan designed by himself, in which these circumstances would probably more or less, if not altogether, have disappeared. Yet it may well be doubted whether the natural method does not possess a charm which any more formal arrangement would have wanted. Every one must be struck with the freshness, buoyancy, and vigour displayed in the Summer Rambles ; qualities more apparent in these than even in his more laboured Autobiography, of which they are, indeed, but a sort of unintentional continuation. They were the
spontaneous utterances of a mind set free from an occupation never very congenial,--that of writing compulsory articles for a newspaper,—to find refreshment amid the familiar haunts in which it delighted, and to seize with a grasp, easy, yet powerful, on the recreation of a favourite science, as the artist seizes on the pencil from which he has been separated for a time, or the musician on some instrument much loved and long lost, which he well knows will, as it yields to him its old music, restore vigour and harmony to his entire being. My dear husband did, indeed, bring to his science all that fondness, while he found in it much of that kind of enjoyment, which we are wont to associate exclusively with the love of art.
The delivery of these Lectures may not yet have passed quite away from the recollection of the Edinburgh public. They excited unusual interest, and awakened unusual attention, in a city where interest in scientific matters, and attendance upon lectures of a very superior order, are affairs of every-day occurrence. Rarely have I seen an audience so profoundly absorbed. And at the conclusion of the whole, when the lecturer's success had been triumphantly established (for it must be remembered that lecturing was to him an experiment made late in life), I ventured to urge the propriety of having the series published before the
general interest had begun to subside. His reply was, 'I cannot afford it : I have given so many of my best facts and broadest ideas, --so much, indeed, of what would be required to lighten the drier details in my Geology of Scotland, -that it would never do to publish these Lectures by themselves.' It will thus be seen that they veritably gather into one luminous centre the best portions of his contemplated work, garnering very much of what was most vivid in painting and original in conception,--of that which has now, alas ! glided, with himself, into those silent shades where dwell the souls of the departed, with the halo of past thought hovering dimly round them, waiting for that new impulse from the Divine Spirit which is to quicken them into an intenser and higher unity.
I have been led to indulge the hope that this work will be found useful in giving to elementary Geology a greater attractiveness in the eyes of the student than it has hitherto possessed. It was characteristic of the mind of its author that he valued words, and even facts, as only subservient to the high powers of reason and imagination. It is to be regretted that many introductory works, especially those for the use of schools, should be so crammed with scientific terms, and facts hard packed, and not always well chosen, that they are fitted to remind us of the dragon's teeth sown by Jason, which sprang up into armed men,-being much more likely to repel, than to allure into the temple of science. One might, indeed, as well attempt to gain an acquaintance with English literature solely from the study of Johnson's Dictionary, as to acquire an insight into the nature of Geology from puzzling over such books. But, viewed in the light of a mind which had approached the subject by quite another pathway, all unconscious, in its outset, of the gatherings and recordings of others, and which never made a single step of progression in which it was not guided by the light of its own genius and the inspiration of nature, it may be regarded by beginners in another aspect,-one very different from that in which Wordsworth looked upon it when he thanked Heaven that the covert nooks of nature reported not of the geologist's hands,—the man who classed his splinter by some barbarous namė, and hurried on. At that time the poet must have seen but the cold, hard profile of the man, instead of the broad, beaming, full-orbed glance which he may cast over the wondrous æons of the past eternity.
To meet any difficulties arising from misconception, it may be proper to glance rapidly at what has been accomplished in geological research within the last two years. The reader will thus avoid the painful impression that there are any suppressed facts of recent date which clash with the theories of the succeeding Lectures, destroying their value and impairing their unity. And it may be well to remind him that there are two schools of Geology, quite at one in their willingness to bring all theories to the test of actual discovery, but widely differing in their leanings as to the mode in which, a priori, they would wish the facts brought to light to be viewed. The one, as expounded in the following Lectures, delights in the unfolding of a great plan, having its original in the Divine Mind, which has gradually fitted the earth to be the habitation of intelligent beings, and has introduced upon the stage of time organism after organism, rising in dignity, until all have found their completion in the human nature, which, in its turn, is a prophecy of the spiritual and Divine. This may be said to be the true development hypothesis, in opposition to the false and puerile one, which has been discarded by all geologists worthy of the name, of whatsoever side. The other school holds the opinion, though perhaps not very decidedly,--that all things have been from the beginning as they are now; and that if evidence at the present moment leans to the side of a gradual progress and a serial development, it is because so much remains undiscovered; the hiatus, wherever it occurs, being,