« PreviousContinue »
on the present occasion, as it has of late years necessarily been the subject of much careful examination and comment. That Nicholas acted in the spirit of the famous will of Peter, there can be little doubt; but he was not hasty or indiscriminate in his plans of aggression. He was content to await the natural course of events; and if he assisted their progress towards the desired point where direct action became possible on his part, he seldom forcibly precipitated them towards it. His most wanton and least excusable aggressions on Turkey had generally some more or less plausible pretext in the ill-regulated councils of the Divan, or in the ambiguous movements of other "protecting" powers. In his Greek policy, he was eminently successful against some of the cleverest of European diplomatists. In the Egyptian affair he was less fortunate, owing probably rather to the subsequent turn of events, which displaced Louis Philippe from the throne of France, than to any other cause. His alliance with England on that occasion was rather a preliminary step towards the meditated attack on Turkey, by effecting a decided breach between the two Western powers, than a distinct policy in itself. In the Menschikoff demands, which precipitated the last European contest, there were good grounds for hoping that no firm alliance could be formed between England and France, and that Prussia would be neutralised by her family alliance, and Austria by the recent service in Hungary and the recollection of her still unsettled position in that country and in Italy. It is very doubtful whether, after all, the Czar was not right in his conjecture respecting the Western alliance; nor is it easy to decide the point whether, had his life been prolonged, and the genius which presided over the destinies of Russia had not been removed in the very crisis of the contest, the alliance between England and France-already growing lukewarm through mutual jealousies-would have outlasted the sustained determination of Nicholas. We must remember, in estimating the late Czar's merits as a foreign statesman, that he had throughout his entire Eastern policy to contend against the excess and hasty fervour of Muscovite zeal, and yet to retain this enthusiasm as a fitting agent in his ultimate design. Looked at in this point of view, his long self-command will probably seem as remarkable as his eventual boldness of action. Persia in a great degree provoked the contest which lost her some valuable provinces. The war in Hungary was a politic step and a politic degradation to Austria; and, as it seemed, at the same time a very convenient mode of getting some sort of footing in the Sclavonic provinces along the Austrian portion of the Danube. The politic conduct of the Russian officers in the campaign did as much to weaken the respect of the population for their Austrian masters as it enhanced with
them the reputation of the northern invaders. This is not the only instance in which Nicholas contrived to intermix political diplomacy with the actual operations of war.
The private life of Nicholas may be treated of in a few words; and then our sketch, however imperfect, may be brought to a conclusion. His handsome person and stately demeanour have been spoken of. We believe that the general report of writers and travellers, that these personal advantages were not unattended by some of the sensual habits of his race, is not unfounded. There may be exaggeration in the stories told; but the fact of the infidelity of Nicholas to his marriage-vows has been frequently commented on, and sometimes palliated by the infirm state of health of the Empress. It is agreed, however, that if not a faithful husband, the Czar was a kind one; and that he consulted the actual decencies of society out of regard to her feelings, concealing the extent, though not the fact, of his irregularities.
His sons had no reason to complain of a want of paternal affection; and if State considerations to some extent directed the choice of his daughters' consorts, they did not do so in every case. The imperial circle-so far as the tyranny of court etiquette would allow—was a happy one, and there were fewer scandals within its precincts than in many others. The same perhaps cannot be said of the wider circle of the court; but it must be borne in mind, that the corruptions of Western Europe received in this point a strengthening rather than a weakening influence in the natural temperament of the Sclave.
As an administrator of that race, and the races associated with them on the extensive soil of Russia, the Czar Nicholas may, on the whole, challenge comparison with any sovereign placed in circumstances of similar difficulty. It would be folly to portray him as either a very mild or entirely just ruler. He has committed many crimes, in a position where the large majority of men would probably have committed many more. His crimes, as well as his errors, have been those of policy and a naturally cold temperament. If, on this account, his actions strike us occasionally with horror and indignation, they are not inconsistent with a large amount of beneficent and disinterested policy in other directions. His littlenesses sprang rather from the untoward position of autocrat than from his own particular character. He was certainly a worthy successor of Peter the Great, and the most successful of those who have endeavoured to perfect that monarch's ideas of empire. With the founder of St. Petersburg, and with Catherine II., he will be hereafter looked upon as one of the greatest, though not exactly one of the best, of Russia's sovereigns.
ART. VII.—THE WORLD OF MIND BY ISAAC TAYLOR. '
The World of Mind: an Elementary Book. By Isaac Taylor. London: Jackson and Walford, 1857. THE description which Mr. Taylor gives of his own book on its title-page is expressive rather of his aim in producing it than of its actual character and contents. It is not an elementary treatise on psychology, if we are to understand by those terms a popular exposition of the leading principles and general results of that science, so far as they have been yet discovered,—an introduction to its profounder and more systematic study. It is an original disquisition, peculiar in its plan and arrangement. It embraces more than is ordinarily comprised in works on mental science. They for the most part concern themselves only with the philosophy of the human mind; Mr. Taylor takes in the lower animal races also. This inclusion, indeed, is intended to be conveyed in the title of his book, which is somewhat ambiguous. "The World of Mind" may either mean, as it is generally interpreted, the inner universe, which is revealed to every man by self-consciousness, in the sense of the old poet, "My mind to me a kingdom is;" or it may be taken more objectively, as we use the phrases, "mineral kingdom," "vegetable kingdom," to denote the several orders of being endowed with the qualities in virtue of which these names are bestowed. It is in this second sense that it is used by our author.
The design of his work is thus expressed: "Much of that which is to invite attention in this elementary book will consist of an exhibition-first, of what is common to all orders of living beings; and then a setting forth of what is peculiar to the human mind, and which is the ground of its immeasurable superiority.' The subject thus stated affords the materials for a valuable and instructive work; and with such a one Mr. Taylor has presented us. But we very much doubt whether the procedure he has adopted is likely to produce a volume fitted to occupy the first "place in a course of elementary reading in mental philosophy." Mr. Taylor seems to have been misled by the analogy of the physical sciences. In physiology, for example, it would be worse than useless to confine ourselves to the study of the frame of man, with its organs and functions, and to exclude from attention the related forms of lower animals. Little could be learned in this way. It may be practicable and convenient here to commence with the study of the laws and conditions of life as they manifest themselves in the lowest zoophyte;
and to trace them up, in their widening range and increasing complexity, to their development in man. The higher and the lower structures mutually give and receive light. And if mind exhibits itself, in different orders of being, in a similarly ascending scale, why should not the same procedure be applicable here? Why should we not have a comparative psychology? The difference, though often overlooked in the interests of theories, is perfectly obvious. External objects are known to us by outward observation and experiment; they can be directly compared and classified. The human body is an organisation as foreign to the examining mind as that of the ape or the tiger. It is not his own body that the anatomist dissects, or the physiologist speculates upon. On the other hand, no man has direct knowledge of any other mind than his own. The philosophy of the human mind is, in every case, neither more nor less than the philosophy of the particular mind then speculating. Nothing here can be taken on testimony. The experience and results of others are of no avail to us until they become our own; and we reject or accept them, according as they recommend or fail to recommend themselves to our individual consciousness. Self, as contrasted with what is not oneself,-the facts made known to the mind, "turned inward on its own mysteries," as opposed to those which the senses teach us to apprehend,-are the proper objects of psychology. It is an egotistic science. In its own barbarous language, it deals with "the me;" all that belongs to the "not me" is beyond its range. In proposing, then, to commence the study of it on any lower level than that of the human consciousness, to work a path upwards from the inferior animals to man, Mr. Taylor is ignoring the fundamental distinction on which his science depends, and without which it could not exist. Strongly and even vehemently opposed to all materialising tendencies, jealously guarding the frontier-territory of physiology and psychology against the encroachments and usurpations of the former science, protesting wisely and well against the confusion of theories of organisation and theories of mind, he is yet, by the procedure we have criticised, all the while playing into the hands of the enemy, against whom on other points he does such service.
"When we attempt to mark off the world of Mind," says Mr. Taylor, on the side bordering towards the lower orders of life, namely, the vegetative, some ambiguity attaches to many of the instances which present themselves on that margin. But the question which often perplexes the physiologist, when he inquires concerning this or that species whether it should be accounted animal or vegetable, is wholly unimportant in relation to our present subject. We do not concern ourselves with Mind until it comes to manifest itself clearly by its own distinctive characteristics; and these, if we ascend a few
steps only on the scale of animated being, become so strongly marked as to preclude all uncertainty.
Then, as we ascend step by step upon this scale, we find ourselves in the company of beings whose actions and whose modes of adapting themselves to the influences and the accidents of the external world are readily interpretable by means of our own consciousness, and our own modes of action. This criterion, if there were no other, would sufficiently serve the purpose of assigning any particular class of beings to its due place, as belonging to the upper or to the lower orders. It is by this rule of analogy that we admit any species into the community of mind, or disallow its claims to that distinction."
If the actions and dispositions of animals are only so far to be understood by us as they " are readily interpretable by means of our own consciousness," it certainly seems a mistake, an inversion of the proper order, to commence the study of our own consciousness by examination into the habits and dispositions of the lower animals :
"Yea, sire, and is it thus?
This is ignotum per ignotius.”
It is to attempt to illustrate the less by the more obscure topic; "to hold a farthing rushlight" (as yet unkindled) " to the sun." The science of the human mind must have attained a certain degree of completeness and certainty, before we can use it to explain the more difficult, because to us less accessible, subject of animal intelligence. It is, in fact, the application of a crude and ill-considered human psychology to the explication of the mental phenomena displayed by the lower orders of being that has involved the latter in more than their original obscurity.
Having thus stated our dissent from the conception of mental science which forms the ground-plan of Mr. Taylor's book, we proceed to consider in such detail as our space will admit the main doctrines and general spirit of his volume,
Our author declines any definition of his subject, because "a definition can be strictly applicable only when the subject to which it relates is thoroughly known to us ;" and offers in its place a descriptive statement," which "must not be regarded as if it were dependent, in any rigid manner, upon the precise words that may be employed to convey it." Without criticising this somewhat extraordinary condition, or stopping to inquire how far such "a descriptive statement" is likely "at least to serve to mark off our proper subject, and to keep it apart from other subjects to which it stands related, and with which it is very liable to be confounded;" or, again, if it does this, in what it differs from a definition properly so called,-we give Mr. Taylor's own exposition:
MIND, so far as we are cognisant of it by our individual con