Cornhill Magazine,  6 (1862), 271–81.

Our Survey of Literature, Science, and Art

[George H Lewes] and [Robert H Patterson]


Regular Feature, Review-Essay


Popularization, Monographs, Philosophy, Religion, Heterodoxy, Physiological Chemistry, Organicism, Natural History, Naturalists, Parasitology, Microbiology

    Although it is 'obvious to every one that this is not the fitting place to open a discussion on the great problems of Philosophy and Religion', the '"Survey", superficial as it is, must include at least the mention of a work so lofty in aim and so remarkable in execution as the System of Synthetic Philosophy, which Mr. Herbert Spencer is issuing to subscribers, in quarterly instalments, and of which the first volume, containing First Principles, is now complete'. The book, 'we may as well warn our readers, will be found satisfactory by very few orthodox thinkers', and Spencer's style of writing is often 'monotonous'. However, 'in spite of all dissidence respecting the conclusions, the serious reader will applaud the profound earnestness' and the 'immense scientific knowledge' of Spencer's work. (273) Reports the findings of Marie J P Flourens on the importance of the mother's milk for the growth of osseous tissues in children. Indeed, the 'organism by its marvellous chemistry transmutes the most various substances of food into the few organic compounds, assimilating them, as we say, so that the herbage of the meadow is converted into bone' (277–78). Suggests that when Alfred Tennyson's Ulysses states, 'I am a part of all that I have met', he might 'with equal truth, though with less dignity have said—"I am a part of all that I have ate"'. Lewes also recounts his own observations from March 1861 on some 'sticklebacks [...] obtained from one of the duckponds in our Zoological Gardens', which seemed to show the existence of a type of parasitic mollusc ('Anodonta') that had 'hitherto never been found living on or in the bodies of other animals'. He recalls how, 'Not finding any notice of such a fact in the books on our shelves, we applied to Professor Huxley', who directed Lewes to the similar observations of William Houghton and other naturalists. There are, nevertheless, 'still obscurities' on which Lewes's observations of the parasites differ from those of these other naturalists. (278)

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