Cornhill Magazine,  1 (1860), 682–90.

Studies in Animal Life Ch. 6  [6/6]

[George H Lewes]


Essay, Biography, Serial

Relevant illustrations:

wdct. [1]


Natural History, Philosophy, Organicism, Dissection, Microbiology, Socialism, Utilitarianism, Anthropomorphism, Entomology, Morality, History of Science, Genius, Observation, Comparative Anatomy, Taxonomy

People mentioned:

Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire , Thomas Carlyle , Carl Linnaeus , Johann W von Goethe , George L Leclerc, comte de Buffon , Louis-J-M Daubenton , Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier , Carl F Kielmeyer , Aristotle

Institutions mentioned:

Academia Carolina, Stuttgart , Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Publications cited:

Wordsworth 1814 , Lewes 1860a

    Warning that 'Natural History is full of paradoxes', Lewes asserts that the 'several distinct organs' that make up 'an animal Organism' (682) are at the same time both independent and entirely dependent upon the rest of the organism: 'a very dependent independence' (683). This can be seen most clearly in polype colonies, where each is an individual but all rely on a common nutritive fluid. Applying a provocative metaphor from human society, Lewes observes of them, 'the labours of each enrich all. It is animal Socialism of the purest kind—there are no rich and no poor, neither are there any idlers' (683). Later he adds, 'no bee or ant could exist if separated from its colony. So great is "the physiological division of labour", which has taken place among these insects' (684). In the following paragraph, however, Lewes adopts the language of natural history to describe humans in society. We, he enjoins, are equally dependent upon 'all created things, directly or indirectly', 'Nor is the moral dependence less than the physical'. We cannot, after all, 'isolate ourselves if we would. The thoughts of others, the sympathies of others, the needs of others,—these too make up our life; without these we should quickly perish'. (685) Curtailing this line of argument with an abrupt announcement that 'at this present moment there is nothing under our Microscope which can seduce us from the pleasant volume' of youthful letters by Georges Cuvier, Lewes proposes 'we let our "Studies" take a biographical direction' (686). In these biographical reflections he observes that a talent for drawing is invaluable in natural history as 'it not only enables a man to preserve observations of fugitive appearances, but sharpens his faculty of observation by the exercise it gives' (687). He also notes that 'In science, incessant and enlightened labour is necessary, even to the smallest success. Labour is not all; but without it, genius is nothing' (690). Lewes closes the article, and the series, with the 'hope' that it might be 'resumed hereafter [...] with as much willingness' on the part of the reader 'as desire to interest you on mine' (690). George Smith asked Lewes to continue the series in January 1862, but he declined, perhaps in protest at the publisher's complaints about his heterodoxy and cautious support for Charles R Darwin (Ashton 1991, 215).


Lewes 1862

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