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Review of Hereditary Genius, The Spectator (11/27/1869) (1)

Review of  Hereditary Genius, The Spectator (11/27/1869) (1)
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Review of Hereditary Genius, The Spectator (11/27/1869) (1)
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2015. 1392 The Spectator November 27, 1869. [hairline rule width of page] or Jonathan Edwards, or any one of those who founded or profoundly modified great creeds? We have already said that, with one possible or partial exception, no poet has been succeeded by his equal, and so also has no Commander. Captain Galton, who wants one dreadfully, cannot find one, and if we range the world in the search, the best of the partial exceptions are Tehengis Khan, whose descendant was Timour, [italics]not[end italics] a genius, though a conqueror; Baber, an able, good-humoured drunkard, whose son, Humayoon, was a genius and a lunatic; and Edward III. and the Black Prince, who, though considerable Captains, are not of the rank to which genius is attributed. Statesmen have, no doubt, been succeeded by equal sons, but not in the few instances in which those statesmen have displayed more than high capacity, -- the ability to found. We must look lower than genius for the quality, and even then we shall be puzzled. Captain Galton seems to consider that he has settled the matter when he describes the quality as the power of rising to eminence; but not to discuss the extent to which he has strained his own definition, what is it but a fresh statement of the puzzle? [italics]What[end italics] that was transmissible raised his [italics]protégés[end italics] the Judges' kinsfolk to eminence? Was it anything more than a certain capacity for learning the work the family has always had to do, which courtiers have always asserted of boy kings, and which being, as it is, exactly analogous to that hereditary capacity for book-learning which is past dispute, may be in some greater or less degree a demonstrable fact, and be independent to some minute extent of the education itself? The transmissible power is, under that theory, an unusual sensibility to certain influences, an unusual readiness to respond to certain opportunities, but that is a very unsatisfactory and vague definition. If we knew anything of the origin of races, we might perhaps get nearer to the truth; but then we know so very little. If we knew the family or group of families from which the Roman patriciat sprang, we might be able to affirm with some confidence that of all qualities, that of dominance, the faculty which imposes law upon others, is the most transmissible; but then we know next to nothing of those original persons, and cannot argue from them to any family, still less to any caste. Castes, indeed, present such a conflict of evidence, that the mind of the inquirer is hopelessly bewildered. The facts just related of the Brahmins seem to point to a definite result, which is also true of Jews, and in a less degree of Parsees, namely, that a family, or group of families, if they keep their blood pure, may accumulate capacity for receiving certain forms of education; but, then, that is wholly untrue of the Spanish grandees and the North-German blue blood, and only appears to be partially true of the English Peerage, because it has never been properly a caste at all. Study it as we may, till we have obtained new evidence, we shall still be forced to return the unsatisfactory verdict of a coroner's jury, -- that qualities are clearly transmissible, but how, why, or to what extent, there is no sufficient evidence to show. All that seems certain is the fact which is fatal to the theory of ancient blood, that the tendency of each successive descendant from the founder, after the second, is to water his specialties down, until they are non-existent. And in spite even of that, the young Pretender was Stuart to his toes, James V. over again, with a little less backbone to his will. [centered score] The Sun's Crown. A circumstance has just been brought to light through the careful study of the photographs of the recent total solar eclipse which is full of interest and significance. When the sun is totally eclipsed, there springs suddenly into view a glory of white light, resembling the [italics]nimbus[end italics] with which painters surround the head of a saint. Astronomers have agreed to call this appearance the [italics]Corona[end italics]; but hitherto they have been perplexed by doubts whether this crown of glory belongs to the sun or to the moon, or whether, in fine, it is formed by our own atmosphere. If we briefly consider what is commonly seen, we shall be the better able to appreciate the interest and importance of the discovery which has just been made respecting the corona. As the moon is about to hide the last narrow streak of the sun's disc, the first signs of the corona make their appearance. But only when totality has commenced does the phenomenon present itself in full splendour. It is no faint gleam, like the light of a twilight sky. "I had imagined," says Mr. Baily, speaking of the eclipse of 1842, "that the corona, as to its luminous appearance, would not be brighter than the faint crepuscular light which sometimes takes place on a summer evening. I was, however, astonished at the splendid scene which suddenly burst upon my view." All round the eclipsed sun, to a distance equal to about a tenth of his apparent diameter, there is a brilliant ring of light, which appears under favourable circumstances of vision to have a well-defined edge. But this is not the complete corona. Beyond the edge of this ring of light extends a fainter ring, sometimes spreading out into rays or streamers, which extend some eight or nine times farther from the eclipsed sun than the bright inner circle of light. The colour of the corona is commonly described as white; but there can be no doubt that when seen through a pure atmosphere it presents tints of red, yellow, and blue. Such is the corona as seen by astronomers. But the question will at once arise, what is the real position and what are the true dimensions of this beautiful object? Of course, if we regard it as a mere optical phenomenon produced by our own atmosphere, we need not try to find the answer to these questions. The appearance of the corona, its apparent figure, and its variations of figure would then have merely a meteorological interest, apart, of course, from the optical questions they involve. If, on the other hand, we regard the corona as as a real solar appendage, we are forced to consider it as one of the most important and striking features of the solar system. The ring of the brighter light around the sun is then seen to represent a globular shell about 90,000 miles in depth, and surrounding the whole mass of the central luminary of the planetary system. The fainter part of the corona becomes an even more astonishing phenomenon, since looked on as a solar appendage it represents a shell of matter fully 800,000 miles deep in every part, and forming with the sun, which it encloses, a sphere some two-and-a-half millions of miles in diameter, -- the largest sphere of matter which the science of astronomy presents with any certainty to our consideration. But if the corona belongs to the moon, its dimensions shrink into relative insignificance, -- in fact, our own earth is a larger globe than the coronal sphere so understood. The question of the corona has long been seen to rest between the two former solutions. Halley rather favoured the notion that the corona is a lunar phenomenon; but he admitted that one whose judgments he "must always revere" (he referred, doubtless, to his illustrious friend Newton) held a contrary opinion. We now know very certainly that the moon has no atmosphere whose extent we can measure, -- certainly no atmosphere approaching the extent the dimensions of the coronal rings. During the great solar eclipse of 1868 very little attention was given to the corona, because astronomers were very anxious to determine the nature of the rose-coloured prominences. But from the few observations which were then made, the question whether the corona belongs to the sun or is a phenomenon of our own atmosphere was left an open one. It was hoped that the problem of the corona might be solved during the total eclipse which occurred last August in North America. At first, however, the results of the observations seemed more perplexing than any which had yet been presented to the notice of astronomers. As Mr. Lockyer remarked, they were "bizarre and puzzling in the extreme." They seemed to point to the corona as a permanent solar aurora, since some of the observers found in the spectrum of the aurora the same bright lines which belong to the spectrum of the aurora borealis. So perplexing did this result appear, that Mr. Lockyer was disposed to doubt whether some mistake had been made. The results of his own observations led him to the conclusion that the solar atmosphere in which the red prominences are formed is by no means so dense as the enormous dimensions of the corona would imply, if the corona really were a solar atmosphere. It will be known to many of our readers that Dr. Frankland and Mr. Lockyer have worked together in this matter, and they have found that the appearance of the bright lines belonging to the prominences can be taken as a means of estimating the pressure of the atmosphere in which those prominences appear; and the result of their observations pointed, as we have said, to a relatively rare atmosphere. But now it would seem that little further doubt can be entertained respecting the fact that the brighter coronal ring, at least, belongs to the sun. For on a careful comparison of the photographs taken during the recent total eclipse, it has been found that the disc of the moon [italics]travelled over[end italics] the corona; and further, that the corona presented the same appearance as seen from widely separated places. It will be remembered that photography gave in the same way the first evidence of the true nature of the coloured prominences. It was discovered during the eclipse of 1860 that the moon [italics]travelled over[end italics] the prominences, and so astronomers pronounced decisively that these objects belong to the sun. It would appear quite as certain, now, that the corona is also a solar appendage. But how are we to get over the difficulties suggested by Mr. Lockyer's observations? It seems perplexing in the extreme to regard the corona as a solar atmosphere, because, were it really of [end]
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