Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

musical relations, which, again, seems to be correlated with a special functional endowment of the organ of hearing. One may add to this that musical inventiveness presupposes no experience or knowledge of things, but merely an accumulation of tone-material.

Painting, like music, seems to depend on a special sense-endowment, viz. an eye for form and colour, and also a finely organised hand, which endowments might be expected to be well-marked from the first. On the other hand, it involves much more in the way of external observation and a knowledge of objects. Hence, perhaps, its inferiority to music in the matter of precocity.

Passing to men of letters, we find that, on the whole, Poets are the most precocious class. Here, too, we note the presence of a clearly marked sensuous ingredient, viz. a fine ear for rhythm and the musical qualities of verbal sounds. The poetic endowment includes, moreover, as a principal act or, a lively, sensuous imagination, a faculty that is in a manner based on a certain degree of perfection of the senses, and so may be expected to become prominent at an early period of life. If to this we add that lyrical poetry is to a very large extent the expression of erotic and kindred feelings which are known to be developed in great strength during the transition from childhood to youth, we are able, I imagine, to understand much of the daring precocity of poets. It is to be remarked that, though there are several instances of boys writing comedies, dramatic composition begins as a rule considerably later than lyrical, and this accords with the fact that dramatic conception presupposes much more objective knowledge of men and things.

The next class to claim attention is the Scholars. At first one may well be surprised to find these so high up in our first table, for the critical faculty, judgment, is known to be late in its development. But the anomaly is only an apparent one. The scholar, the historian, and the critic are alike dependent on an exceptional power of acquisition and of memory, and this is well known to be a precocious endow. ment. Moreover, it is an endowment which is fairly certain to be duly noted, seeing that it is precisely the aptitude which is at the basis of school-renown. This is borne out by the fact that the class of scholars, &c., though high up in respect of early manifestation of ability, are not so distinguished in the matter of early production or of early attainment of excellence.

The next group in our combined scale of precocity is Scientists. Their high place is, I believe, largely owing to the mathematicians. The mathematical faculty is well known to be a precocious one. The fact that it is often found in the company of musical capacity suggests that there is a common mental ingredient. In each we note the play of inventive imagination on a circumscribed mass of material easily acquired, viz. tone-images in the one case, and symbol-images in the other. On the other hand, the representatives of the natural sciences which involve prolonged processes of observation, &c., are much less forward.

The shifting position of novelists in our three scales is, perhaps, the most curious outcome of our investigation. Like the poet, the novelist employs as his chief mental implement the faculty of sensuous imagination. Hence the relatively high position in our first table. At the same time the novel presupposes much more in the way of knowledge of the world and reflection on its ways than the poem. Its most distinctive aptitude, perhaps, is a minute knowledge of character, a circumstance which brings it into close relation to one of the most abstract of the sciences, viz. psychology.

Respecting Philosophers little need be said. That a considerable fraction should begin to write after thirty and almost as large a proportion attain fame after forty, is just what one might antecedently espect. Indeed, nowhere perhaps is early achievement so truly marvellous as in the severe domain of abstract speculation. It is not a mere coincidence, I take it, that the two most brilliant examples of this precocity, Berkeley and Schelling, are metaphysicians whose writings are so deeply tinged with the glow of a poetic imagination.

In this attempt to explain our results we have confined our attention to the intellectual ingredient in genius. But we might also take into account the emotional and volitional factor, that is to say, the specific impulse which prompts and sustains the creative activity. And by so doing we might still further illustrate the general agreement between our facts and the laws of mental development. Thus, for example, the artistic impulse, which according to our tables shows itself to be most precocious, appears also to be the one first manifesting itself in a decided form in the history of the average individual, and of the race. The child and the race alike develop a crude art before they take seriously to inquiry. How far this consilience extends with reference to the relative position of the several classes in our scheme I will not now venture to say.

Genius is precocious, then, in the sense of manifesting itself early. But what of its subsequent history? Does it soon attain the summit of its development, or go on improving as long as, or even longer than, ordinary intelligence ? This, as was pointed out at the beginning of this essay, is in a measure a different inquiry and one too long to follow out here. There are special difficulties, too, in pursuing this line of research. Although it is, in a general way, an easy matter to say when a man of genius produces his first distinctly original work, it is exceedingly difficult to determine how long he goes on improving. Critics are far from agreed, for example, as to the relative value of the earlier and later work of Goethe, Beethoven, Turner, &c. It may, however, be safely asserted that early manifestation of genius is not incompatible with a prolonged and even late development. Haydn, Beethoven, Michael Angelo, Titian, Milton, Goethe, Voltaire, Gibbon, Lessing, Newton, Leibnitz, Berkeley, Mill, and other great names, are examples of such a lengthy process of development. Indeed, there is much to support Mr. Galton's view that eminent men surpass ordinary men not only in superiority from the first, but also in a more prolonged development."

Such a conclusion, it may be observed, would seem to accord with what we know of the general laws of mental evolution. For if we compare the different races of man, or the different species of animals, we find that, in general, the higher the cerebral organisation attained, the longer the process of development. Men of great original power, having the most highly organised type of brain, may be expected to illustrate the most prolonged movement of mental growth.

From this point of view we are able, I think, to see the difference between the course of development of a truly great intellect and that of a precocious but stunted intelligence. That there are many clever children that never come to anything,' or at least do not fulfil their early promise, is a fact which nobody, probably, will deny. Some of these would perhaps have distinguished themselves if they had bad better opportunities, or at least more ambition and energy of character. But allowing for this, one finds a good remainder of youths who appear to have had a rapid but early arrested mental development. Such an early display of quickness followed by a lengthy period of ordinary mediocrity, or even dulness, looks like a too great forwardness of ordinary human ability. In other words, the clever child is in this case not an exceptional being, but a quite average one, whose cerebral development has somehow outrun the common attainment of his years. IIe is like a tree that bears fruit too soon. On the other hand, the man of superb ability is precocious just because, having a finer brain to start with, he is raised above the average mental stature of his years. He rather resembles a tree which shoots at once above the surrounding trees, though it may mature and bring forth fruit later than they.

JAMES SCLLY.

i See llereditary Genius, p. 4t. Vr. Galton has kindly sent me a fuller statement of his view on this point.

LIGHT AND WATER-COLOURS.

* Esto perpetua!' is the motto prefixed to one of Bewick's charming little cuts, representing village boys building up a snow man; and Michel Angelo himself once modelled a colossus of snow by command of his patron Piero de' Medici. Doubtless the statue was a masterpiece; but to have been enduring it should have been executed in some frozen Malebolge' or the Arctic regions, not in Florence. Scarcely less inimical to some creations of human genius, as admirable in their way as the sculptures of Michel Angelo, are the mere rays of the sun, wasting and waning masterworks of man the more they gladden and vivify the world in wbich he moves. Scarcely less instant and fatal indeed is the bleaching action of the sun's light on artists' pigments—to many of them at all events, and those usually the most brilliant and beautiful—than is its genial heat on ice and snow.

There has been an animated correspondence in the Times on the action of light on water-colours, incidentally raised by a communication of mine, not intended to provoke controversy. I imagined, indeed, that the fading of water-colour pictures and drawings was so obvious and notorious as to be beyond dispute, and my intention was to suggest the best means of counteracting the evil.

I was, however, greatly mistaken. I found indeed, to my infinite surprise, that darkness reigned where the fullest enlightenment might have been looked for, and where, literally speaking, darkness was a palliative, light was indirectly recommended.

The unqualified assertion, utterly erroneous as it is, that watercolour drawings not only do not fade, but that they actually deepen in tone by age, was advanced by the highest authorities and masters of the art in question.

This dictum is indeed astonishing; it is the very reverse of the truth and wofully mischievous in its tendency. Its dogmatic promulgation at this time has alone led me to return to the subject. The question ought indeed to be settled once for all, for on its right understanding literally depends nothing less than the preservation, for indefinite periods, of the admirable masterpieces of a truly national art, or their ultimate extinction and loss to the world.

Artists' pigments, whether they are embodied as water' or 'oil' colours or in any other vehicles (generally speaking the substances employed are the same), are of the most varied and diverse nature and origin-mineral, vegetable, and animal. Natural metallic oxides and earths, complex chemical compounds, gums, extracts and the inspissated sap of trees and plants, juices and secretions from insects and the higher animals, are alike pressed into the service of the painter. Modern science and commercial enterprise have in our own time vastly augmented the number and variety of these colouring substances. Unquestionably thereby the artist's palette has been greatly enriched and the physical means of art extended; but whether at the same time those means have been strengthened and improved in the sense of durability is another question.

Painters in the old times, when their pigments were comparatively few and simple in their nature, were usually in the habit of preparing, purifying, and refining their own colours. They were alive and attentive to the physical properties of the substances they employed, discarding, as far as they were able, such as were notoriously fugacious in their nature or uncertain in their action upon other colours. Now, on the other hand, artists, as a rule, simply ignore all this, accepting with blind faith whatever the colour merchant offers them; ever craving for some newer and more vivid tint, be it as fixed and eternal as the sapphire's blue or the ruby's red or as shortlived and fleeting as a dream.

The colour merchant, however, if he be unscrupulous or even only ignorant and careless, may work infinite mischief to art and artists ; as it is, the artist is absolutely at his mercy. The old and salutary motto Caveat emptor' scarcely applies in this case, for there are seldom any instant available means of testing or verifying the representations of the eager tradesman. Certain it is that every day some fresh pigment, guaranteed as absolutely stable and permanent, but of the properties of which the vendor himself may have had no adequate experience, is foisted on the helpless, unsuspecting painter. But this is nothing less than the most cruel and insufferable fraud, the consequences of which it seems scarcely necessary to dwell upon.

To this subject, however, the attention of eminent scientific authorities is now being directed; the field as yet has been but little tilled, and there is both honour and profit to be gleaned by the qualified and earnest labourer in it.

This matter lies, indeed, at the root of the question before us; it is for chemists and other scientists to deal with it effectually. The general subject of the preservation of the admirable works of past times in water-colours, however, is a manysided one, and there is so great a wealth of illustration to be brought to bear upon it that I shall probably find it impossible to entirely avoid trenching on the

« ForrigeFortsæt »