The substitution of law for force has indeed altered the relations of the strong and the weak; the hardening or cooling down of political institutions and social traditions, the fixed and legal track instead of the open pathless field, have removed or neutralised many of those occasions and passages of life, which were formerly the schools of individual character. The genius of mechanism has vied, in the arts of both peace and war, with the strong hand, and has well-nigh robbed it of its place. But let us not be deceived by that smoothness of superficies, which the social prospect offers to the distant eye. Nearness dispels the illusion; life is still as full of deep, of ecstatic, of harrowing interests as it ever was. The heart of man still beats and bounds, exults and suffers, from causes which are only less salient and conspicuous because they are more mixed and diversified. It still undergoes every phase of emotion, and even, as seems probable, with a susceptibility which has increased and is increasing, and which has its index and outer form in the growing delicacy and complexities of the nervous system. Does any one believe that ever at any time there was a greater number of deaths referable to that comprehensive cause a broken heart? Let none fear that this age, or any coming one, will extinguish the material of poetry. The more reasonable apprehension might be lest it should sap the vital force necessary to handle that material, and mould it into appropriate forms. To those especially, who cherish any such apprehension, we recommend the perusal of this volume. Of it we will say without fear, what we would not dare to say of any other recent work; that of itself it raises the character and the hopes of the age and the country which have produced it, and that its author, by his own single strength, has made a sensible addition to the permanent wealth of mankind.
[From The Quarterly Review, July, 1860]
On the Origin of Species, by means of Natural Selection; or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. By CHARLES DARWIN, M.A., F.R.S. London, 1860.
Any contribution to our Natural History literature from the pen of Mr. C. Darwin is certain to command attention. His scientific attainments, his insight and carefulness as an observer, blended with no scanty measure of imaginative sagacity, and his clear and lively style, make all his writings unusually attractive. His present volume on the Origin of Species is the result of many years of observation, thought, and speculation; and is manifestly regarded by him as the “opus” upon which his future fame is to rest. It is true that he announces it modestly enough as the mere precursor of a mightier volume. But that volume is only intended to supply the facts which are to support the completed argument of the present essay. In this we have a specimen-collection of the vast accumulation; and, working from these as the high analytical mathematician may work from the admitted results of his conic sections, he proceeds to deduce all the conclusions to which he wishes to conduct his readers.