Here was a dilemma! Geology certainly seemed to be true, but the Bible, which was God’s word, was true. If the Bible said that all things in Heaven and Earth were created in six days, created in six days they were,—in six literal days of twenty-four hours each. The evidences of spontaneous variation of form, acting, over an immense space of time, upon ever-modifying organic structures, seemed overwhelming, but they must either be brought into line with the six-day labour of creation, or they must be rejected. I have already shown how my Father worked out the ingenious ‘Omphalos’ theory in order to justify himself as a strictly scientific observer who was also a humble slave of revelation. But the old convention and the new rebellion would alike have none of his compromise.
To a mind so acute and at the same time so narrow as that of my Father—a mind which is all logical and positive without breadth, without suppleness and without imagination—to be subjected to a check of this kind is agony. It has not the relief of a smaller nature, which escapes from the dilemma by some foggy formula; nor the resolution of a larger nature to take to its wings and surmount the obstacle. My Father, although half suffocated by the emotion of being lifted, as it were, on the great biological wave, never dreamed of letting go his clutch of the ancient tradition, but hung there, strained and buffeted. It is extraordinary that he—an ‘honest hodman of science’, as Huxley once called him—should not have been content to allow others, whose horizons were wider than his could be, to pursue those purely intellectual surveys for which he had no species of aptitude. As a collector of facts and marshaller of observations, he had not a rival in that age; his very absence of imagination aided him in this work. But he was more an attorney than philosopher, and he lacked that sublime humility which is the crown of genius. For, this obstinate persuasion that he alone knew the mind of God, that he alone could interpret the designs of the Creator, what did it result from if not from a congenital lack of that highest modesty which replies ‘I do not know’ even to the questions which Faith, with menacing forger, insists on having most positively answered?
DURING the first year of our life in Devonshire, the ninth year of my age, my Father’s existence, and therefore mine, was almost entirely divided between attending to the little community of ‘Saints’ in the village and collecting, examining and describing marine creatures from the seashore. In the course of these twelve months, we had scarcely any social distractions of any kind, and I never once crossed the bounds of the parish. After the worst of the winter was over, my Father recovered much of his spirits and his power of work, and the earliest sunshine soothed and refreshed us both. I was still almost always with him, but we had now some curious companions.