of life, since the mammals in question do not form a really homogeneous group, and may have sprung from two distinct roots, so that their resemblance may have been rather superinduced than inherited.

The belief that there was formerly a tomical conditions, in favor of the hypothvery widely diffused marsupial fauna is esis that the Australian mammals are not one which has, however, gained consid-survivals of a once widely diffused form erable acceptance; and that its area was really larger at one time than at present is certain, from the discovery by Cuvier of a fossil opossum (allied to the American opossums) in the quarries of Montmartre. More than this, however, is widely accepted. It is very often supposed that, in times spoken of in geology as "triassic," there were no mammals which were not marsupial; and that we have in Austra· | lia what is, as it were, a modified triassic fauna still surviving.


The anatomical conditions referred to refer to the structure of the hind foot in different marsupials.

One of the most curious points of structure in the kangaroo is to be found in the feet of that animal. Each hind foot has but two large and conspicuous There is a good deal to be said in favor toes, the inner one of which is much the of this view. In the first place, the exist-larger, and bears very long and strong ing marsupials of Australia are not the claw - a formidable defensive weapon first which have inhabited that region. when the creature stands at bay. On the Huge beasts closely allied to the kan-inner side of this is what appears to be garoos of to-day, but of very different one very minute toe, but which is furshape and proportions - have lived, be- nished with two small claws. An examcome extinct, and left their fossil remains, ination of the bones of the foot shows us, thus showing that the existing mammalian however, that it really consists of two very life of this newest world is, at the least, slender toes (answering to our second and not the newest kind of such life. Second-third toes), united together in a common ly, the most ancient beasts, the remains fold, or sheath, of skin. Another charof which have been as yet discovered, acter of the kangaroo is that a pair of although inhabitants of the northern hem- bones, called "marsupial bones," lie withisphere, have more resemblance to certain in the flesh of the front of the animal's Australian forms than to any other exist- belly, each being attached at one end to ing mammals. They are known to us by the front (or upper) margin of that bony scanty relics preserved in the solidified girdle to which the hind limbs are articu mud of ancient triassic and oolitic waters, lated, and which is called the pelvis. Anand the animal they most resemble is the other point is that the lower hinder por beautifully marked small insectivorous tion of each side of the bone of the lower marsupial known in zoology by the generic jaw is bent in, or inflected. term Myrmecobius. A third argument for the antiquity of the Australian fauna is afforded by a living animal of a very different class. Certain fossil teeth have long been known to zoologists as objects occasionally found in triassic strata, and the animal to which such teeth belonged was distinguished by the designation Ceratodus. A few years ago a large flatheaded fish was found in Australia, which on examination was discovered to possess the very teeth then only known in a fossil condition Ceratodus, in fact, was discovered still living, a still surviving relic of the ancient oolitic and triassic seas!

[ocr errors]

These three facts cannot be denied to possess a certain weight in favor of the hypothesis of the great antiquity of the Australian fauna. Still, as we shall shortly see, they are not conclusive; while there is an argument, drawn from certain ana

Microlestes, Dromatherium, Amphitherium, Amphilestes, Phascolotherium, and Stereognathus.

Now almost all marsupials agree with the kangaroo in having marsupial bones and inflected angles to the jaw, while a certain number of them also agree with it in having the second and third toes reduced in size.

are the

Amongst Australian mammals which so agree with the kangaroo-i.e., in having these toes more or less reduced arboreal phalangers (Phalangista), the flying phalanger (Petaurus), the koala, or native bear (Phascolarctus), the wombat (Phascolomys), and the bondicoot (Perameles). Other marsupials in which these toes are not reduced in size are the native cat (Dasyurus), together with the American opossums (Didelphys) and the Australian forms Phascogale and Myrmecobius.

Does this divergence of character throw any light, and if any, what, on the origin of the Australian marsupials, and the question of the true relation borne by the Australian mammalian fauna to the inhab

itants of other parts of the earth's sur- | phia, seem rather to be related to the face? monodelphous order Insectivora (the order of the hedgehog and its allies) than to the Marsupialia.

It seems to us that it does; for it seems to prove that the characters common to all marsupials are not so peculiar and important as to show that they must all have had a common origin, since had they had such common origin, there would hardly be this curious diversity in foot-structure. Moreover, if the placental modification of mammalian structure could have arisen once, what is there to prevent its having arisen twice, and so have made such uniformity as does exist between the equaltoed and unequal-toed groups of marsupials, an induced uniformity and not an aboriginal one?

From this insectivorous root, then, the marsupials, as we at present know them, not improbably diverge as a relatively unimportant branch, while the main stem of the mammalian tree continued on and gave origin to the various successively arising orders of mammalian life.

This view may be strengthened by the indication that the existing marsupial (Myrmecobius) which most nearly resembles the old triassic mammals, is just one of those marsupials in which the specially marsupial character, "the pouch," is wanting. The same is the case with the allied genus Phascogale, while in most of the small American opossums (Didelphys) the pouch is not developed; the character is still a very variable one in many forms of the order, as if it had not become, even yet, a completely established character. It is the very highly specialized Australian forms, the kangaroos and phalangers forms that may be relatively modern developments - which have the pouch most completely formed, and which may be considered to be the typical representa. tives of marsupial life. It is also far from

The three reasons before referred to as favoring the view of the great antiquity and general diffusion of marsupial life are (as has been before said) not conclusive, for the following reasons. That large extinct forms of kangaroos, etc., preceded the existing forms in recent geological times is only what we might expect, see. ing how at the same time gigantic sloth like creatures, ant-eaters and armidillos, preceded, in South America, the small sloths, ant-eaters, and armadillos of today. The surviving triassic fish will agree as well with the later as with the earlier development of Australian mam-impossible that some of the existing marmals. It is only the remaining argument which has any force, but the force it at first appears to have becomes much diminished by a critical examination of the matter. Only one of the triassic fossil mammals before referred to had (as marsupials have) inflected angles to its jaw, while in the number of cutting-teeth they all (where evidence on this point exists) diverge from the marsupial type and agree with that of the carnivorous placentals. All that these fossil forms can be held to demonstrate is that there existed at the time of their entombment species which had both marsupial and monodelphous affinities, and which may have been some of the as yet undifferentiated ancestors whence those two most widely divergent and unequal groups of mammals (the placental and the marsupial) have descended. This is the more likely, since the oldest known mammals of the next geological epoch with mammalian remains - the present us with forms* which, though still somewhat intermediate between the Marsupialia and the Monodel


*Arctocyon, Pterodon, Provinerra, Hyanodon, Palæonictis, etc.

supials have come, as before suggested, from a different root to that which gave rise to the others. Forms may have grown alike from different origins, as few things are more certain in the matter of development than that similar structures often arise independently, and causes which would induce marsupial modifica. tions in the descendants of one root-form might well induce them in another rootform also. The singular difference in the structure of the hind foot, which exists between two sets of marsupials seems (as before observed) to point to a twofold origin of the order Marsupialia (as it now exists) from pre-existing forms, the nearest allies to which are those monodelphous mammals, the Insectivora. Thus viewed, the marsupial order appears to represent the more or less modern culmination, in the remote Australian region, of the process of evolution, or unfolding, according to preimposed divine law, as directed to the multifold elaboration of the marsupial type of mammalian life, a type which never reached those higher stages of development which the class mammalia has elsewhere attained.

It cannot then by any means be safely

From The Spectator.




affirmed that, as regards marsupials, the newest world-the world of Australia has the oldest animal population, though its marsupial fauna is the most peculiar If we are to trust Mr. Traill, and aberrant of all the faunas to be found little book on Coleridge we have reviewed upon the earth's surface. Peculiar in its in another column, Coleridge left us degree is the fauna of South Africa, still only the delight of his few great poems more so that of the island of Madagascar, and of his fine poetical criticism, while while the peculiarity of the animals of the the influence which he exercised as a South American continent has been point- thinker is almost nil. He hints, indeed, ed out in the beginning of this article- that while he genuinely impressed "a few animals amongst which are included many mystics of the type of Maurice," he exerspecies of a genus (Didelphys) of marsu- cised no permanent influence on English pials. But the nature of the whole mar- thought. Cardinal Newman thinks dif supial order, interesting and puzzling as ferently. He holds that Coleridge had the question may be, is but a small puzzle paved the way philosophically for a new compared with that which relates to the and deeper apprehension of theology; and nature and origin of those Australian ani- we confess that we attach far more value mals the platypus and echidna. By the to the judgment of Cardinal Newman in possession of these animals that'region of such a matter than we do to the judgment the earth's surface is indeed zoologically of Mr. Traill. Indeed, there can, we distinguished. The great island of New think, hardly be any question that ColeGuinea has made us acquainted with a ridge led the way in that reaction against new and larger kind of echidna, but as the philosophy of Locke which made even yet no fossil remains anywhere discov- Carlyle's vague transcendentalism itself ered throw a single ray of light as to the possible, though it did not, and could not, mode of origin of these two most peculiar make such transcendentalism a real power forms. They stand widely apart from in the actual life of England. Coleridge and at a much lower level than all other was quite right in thinking that his philmammals, yet they do not stand near to- osophy was useful chiefly as a rationale gether. In brain, in heart, and in many of man's nature in perfect harmony with other anatomical characters, these two the Christian revelation, a description beasts differ greatly, which tends to show which certainly would not apply to the that whatever may be the case with mar-philosophy of Condillac, or Locke, or supials, these two aberrant monotremes Hume, or Herbert Spencer. Coleridge, are the last survivors of an extinct race which must once have had to show a number of forms and kinds of life more or less intermediate between the platypus and echidna. Whether these unknown and lost progenitors were inhabitants of Australia, or whether their descendants migrated into that region from some other land now covered by the waters of the Southern Ocean, a vast antiquity can alone account for their evolution, multiplication of types, and extinction. As regards these monotremes, then, we may not fear to affirm that this newest world does contain certain survivors of a very ancient, if not most ancient, form of incipient, or highly aberrant, mammalian life. They are the most peculiar beasts which have as yet anywhere been found; nor should we hesitate to affirm that the frag. ments of the earth's surface yet unvisited will make science acquainted with no living forms (whatever fossils they may afford) nearly so strange and so suggestive of a hoar antiquity as these denizens of our newest world, the platypus and the echidna.

[blocks in formation]

if he exerted any really great and perma. nent influence over English thought, exerted it in this direction, by effecting a reconciliation between the theology of the New Testament and the philosophy of the nineteenth century.

But did he really do this? Did the various metaphysical disquisitions, so curiously wedged into the "Biographia Literaria," or those volumes of Mr. Green's which professed to be the fruits of Coleridge's teaching, succeed in refuting the philosophy of the materialist school, or of that purely evolutionist school which maintains that the mind of man bears no witness in itself to the antecedent existence of a consciousness infinitely larger and grander than ours, but is only the slowly ripening fruit of an experience first gathered in the lower regions of blind sensation? We lay no great stress on the drift of Coleridge's more abstract disquisitions, and no stress at all on the legacy of his faithful pupil's labors. It was not by his metaphysical dissertations, subtle and instructive as these often are, and certainly not by the testimony of his

[ocr errors]

He call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of Hell resounded.

The dramatic imagination does not throw back,
but brings close; it stamps all nature with one,
and that its own, meaning, as in Lear through-

favorite disciple, that Coleridge has ex- | the reader is brought back to the single image erted the great influence he has on En-byglish thought. We should say that it is chiefly, if not wholly, by his scattered criticisms of the secrets of spiritual and poetical truth; by his exposition of the magic of the greatest writers, sacred or profane; by his criticisms of the Bible, of Shakespeare, of Milton, of Wordsworth; by his striking comments on history and politics; and by the flashes of wisdom is his "Table Talk," that he has done so much to subvert the theory that there is no room in man for true communion with the Divine, and to implant the belief that man's nature is not intelligible at all, except on the assumption of an organic relation between his mind and a spring of infinite wisdom, an assumption altogether beyond the range of sense evolution. We admit freely that the way in which Coleridge produced this conviction in the best minds of his age was in the highest degree desultory, by the multitude of little glimpses, in fact, which he gave us into the organic relations of human life with the life above us. But then, what way would be more effective than this? Take, for instance, that discussion of his of the secret of true imaginative power, to which Mr. Traill himself bears such cordial testimony in the little book to which we have referred. We will quote a very short pas sage from the "Table Talk" by way of


You may conceive the difference in kind between the Fancy and the Imagination in this way, that if the check of the senses and the reason were withdrawn, the first would become delirium, and the last mania. The Fancy brings together images which have no connection natural or moral, but are yoked together by the poet by means of sometaccidental coincidence; as in the well-known passage in Hudibras:

The sun had long since in the lap
Of Thetis taken out his nap,
And like a lobster boyl'd, the morn
From black to red began to turn.

The Imagination modifies images, and gives
unity to variety; it sees all things in one, il più
nell' uno.
There is the epic imagination, the
perfection of which is in Milton; and the
dramatic, of which Shakespeare is the absolute
master. The first gives unity by throwing
back into the distance; as after the magnifi-
cent approach of the Messiah to battle, the
poet, by one touch from himself.

far off their coming shone!

makes the whole one image. And so at the conclusion of the description of the appearance of the entranced angels, in which every sort of image from all the regions of earth and air is introduced to diversify and illustrate,

Well, who can accept that account of the
secret of imagination, as of a power which
in a flash gives a true wholeness to any
part of human life, and yet believe that
flash to visit the poet as a mere overflow of
the material forces of nature, though its re-
sult is to bring about a new illumination of
the secrets of the universe, a light then and
there arising for the first time? Does not
Coleridge's account of the imagination im-
ply necessarily that this mastery of a liv.
ing whole springs from a true insight into
the integrity of the universe, an insight
which nothing but light from the true
creative power could give; that poetic in-
spiration is really traceable to living rela-
tions with much more vital and, therefore,
much higher spiritual knowledge than our
own? Would not evolution from beneath
necessarily forbid the notion of these sud-
den springs into a far higher mastery of
the facts of life than any which our toil-
some advances, our slowly accumulated
experience, our unassisted gropings, could
The whole of Cole-
possibly account for?
ridge's analysis of the secret of poetic
power virtually assumes that the genius
of man is an overflow from the genius of
the true creative spirit, and that genius
could not spring to the heights it does, and
that, too, without the least clue to its own
mode of operation, were there not at its
source a far stronger grasp of the secrets
of creation than any which the highest
human genius can reach.

Again, take such a comment as this also to be found in the "Table Talk," which may be said to be essence of Coleridge, while all his other works are mere tinctures of Coleridge, on the unique feature of Jewish history:

[ocr errors]

The people of all other nations, but the Jewish, seem to look backwards and also to exist for the present; but in the Jewish scheme everything is prospective and preparatory; nothing, however trifling, is done for itself alone, but all is typical of something yet to come.

This, again, is a criticism as pithy as it is
And what does it not
obviously true.
argue as to the informing spirit of the
leaders of the Jewish people? The most
sceptical of critics will not deny that, how-
ever little credit they may give to proph-

Or take again that passage in the Lay Sermon on the Bible as "The Statesman's Manual," in which Coleridge anticipated one of the chief ideas of Carlyle's "French Revolution," and expounded the intimate relation between the passions and the generalizations, true or false, of the buman reason:

[ocr errors]

ecy in detail, the prophetic attitude was | tical. Facts only and cool common sense are of the very genius of the Jewish people; then in fashion. But let the winds of passion nor that this prophetic attitude did at swell, and straitway men begin to generalize; least point to an event, many centuries to connect by remotest analogies; to express distant, which actually revolutionized hu- the most universal positions of reason in the man history, however little they may be most glowing figures of fancy; in short, to feel inclined to admit that this event was an- narrow, and incommensurate with their feelparticular truths and mere facts, as poor, cold, ticipated in minute detail. Now what is ings. With his wonted fidelity to nature, our the explanation of this unique forward own great poet has placed the greater number glance of the only people whose history of his profoundest maxims and general truths, really claims to be ordained of God, un- both political and moral, not in the mouths of less it be found in the assumption that men at case, but of men under the influence of there was a spiritual power higher than passion, when the mighty thoughts overmaster the prophets, and which commanded the and become the tyrants of the mind that has future, presented to them in but dim brought them forth. In his "Lear," "Othello," "Macbeth,' glimpses and intimations, in true com- est insight and widest interest fly off like sparks Hamlet," principles of deepmunion with the prophets? from the glowing iron under the loud forgehammer. It seems a paradox only to the unthinking, and it is a fact that none, but the unread in history, will deny, that in periods of popular tumult and innovation the more abstract,a notion is, the more readily has it been found to combine, the closer has appeared its affinity, with the feelings of a people and with all their immediate impulses to action. At the commencement of the French Revolution, in the remotest villages every tongue was employed in echoing and enforcing the almost geometrical abstractions of the physiocratic politicians and economists. The public roads were crowded with armed enthusiasts disputing on the inalienable sovereignty of the people, the imprescriptible laws of the pure reason, and the universal constitution, which, as rising out of the nature and rights of man as man, all nations alike were under the obligation of adopting. Turn over the fugitive writings, that are still extant, of the age of Luther; peruse the pamphlets and loose sheets that came out in flights during the reign of Charles I. and the Republic; and you will find in these one continued comment on the aphorism of Lord Bacon (a man assuredly sufficiently acquainted with the extent of secret and personal influence), that the knowledge of the speculative principles of men in general between the age of twenty and thirty is the one great source of political prophecy. And Sir Philip Sidney regarded the adoption of one set of principles in the Netherlands, as a proof of the divine agency and the fountain of all the events and successes of that Revolution. This teaching that there is the closest possible alliance between the social passions and the generalizing reason of man, points to just the same inference as that forced upon us by the other passages we have quoted, namely, that power over men can only be gained by those who, whether truly or falsely, speak with the authority of that" categorical imperative" which professes to apply to all. It is a true or a false creed which sets men on fire. It is a creed they seek. It is a creed which

I have known men, who with significant nods and the pitying contempt of smiles have denied all influence to the corruptions of moral and political philosophy, and with much solemnity have proceeded to solve the riddle of the French Revolution by Anecdotes! Yet it would not be difficult, by an unbroken chain of historic facts, to demonstrate that the most important changes in the commercial relations of the world had their origin in the closets or lonely walks of uninterested theorists; that the mighty epochs of commerce that have changed the face of empires; nay, the most important of those discoveries and improvements in the mechanic arts, which have numerically increased our population beyond what the wisest statesmen of Elizabeth's reign deemed possible, and again doubled this population virtually; the most important, I say, of those inventions that in their results

best uphold

War by her two main nerves, iron and gold, had their origin not in the cabinets of statesmen, or in the practical insight of men of business, but in the visions of recluse genius. To the immense majority of men, even in civilized countries, speculative philosophy has ever been, and must ever remain, a terra incognita. Yet it is not the less true, that all the epoch-forming revolutions of the Christian world, the revolutions of religion and with them the civil, social, and domestic habits of the nations concerned, have coincided with the rise and fall of metaphysical systems. So few are the minds that really govern the machine of society, and so incomparably more numerous and more important are the indirect consequences of things than their foreseen and direct effects. It is with nations as with individuals. In tranquil moods and peaceable times we are quite prac.

« VorigeDoorgaan »