Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  9 (1884–85), 819–22.

Editor's Drawer



Regular Feature—Anecdote, Drollery


Climatology, Darwinism, Periodicals, Physiology, Analogy, Idealism, Experiment, Health, Exploration, Reading

    Congratulates those 'readers who are alive in this latitude upon the end of the sheer struggle for existence this year', and insists that the magazine is 'naturally partial to those of its readers who pull through' the cold winter months, because a periodical 'needs a vigorous circulation to keep the body warm; and the larger the body is, the more need of an active circulation'. Happily, Harper's New Monthly Magazine has 'a feeling of security in an audience, in having a circulation through all our longitudes and most of the latitudes of the globe'. In considering the 'effect of intellect upon climate' and the 'power in mental activity to resist or control climatic influences', suggests that 'Some philosophers have held that there is an occult sympathy between mind and matter, and that a great accumulation of mind upon one point—that is to say, the direction of a strong current of desire for or against some operation of nature—would be effective'. However, such a mass 'experiment has never been tried, for common consent at any moment never has been attained'. (819) Concedes that it is 'probably necessary to have snow at the poles in order to keep the poles cool, and insure a proper circulation and change of air round the globe, just as it is necessary to keep the equator so hot that it is as unpleasant to sit on it as on a kitchen stove', but protests that 'in this region [...] the only effect of the presence of snow is to fill the atmosphere with chilling moisture, lung fever, pneumonia, and that sort of thing', and condemns the widespread delight elicited by snow, complaining that the 'ignorance of this scientific age is discouraging' (819–20). While 'any struggle or trial is invigorating to the moral and intellectual nature', the annual 'hand-to-hand struggle with extreme cold for months' in fact merely 'drains vitality' and hinders any kind of mental development. For instance, the 'Esquimau is but little raised above the polar bear and the seal. His whole existence is just an effort to keep alive, to get blubber and skins enough to generate and keep in his body vital heat. He can think of nothing else, he has room for no other mental development'. Precisely the same thing, moreover, is found in the 'diaries and accounts of the polar exploration fanatics'. These studies of the 'capacity of the human organism to resist the unrestrained attacks of nature [...] doubtless have a physiological interest', but they are otherwise 'painful' and 'monotonous' for the general reader. (820)

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

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