The Romance of Mathematics Part 5

The Romance of Mathematics -

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There are a few great evils in our present system which are strongly opposed to any scientific methods in politics; and in the interests of the country as well as those of science they ought to be removed. One great evil is the want of political and scientific knowledge on the part of the electors, who are in the habit of choosing their representatives on personal grounds, or party considerations, rather than on sound principles of political science. All this is opposed to any idea of law.

Owing to the ignorance of the electors they fall an easy prey to adventurers and unprincipled politicians, who make all kinds of specious promises, tempt them with all manner of baits, and make self-interest instead of the welfare of the State the principle of voting. Selfishness is the ruin of social life and intercourse, the destroyer of all happiness, peace, and mutual trust in family life or in society. It is the root of most of the faults, vices, and crimes in the individual; and who can tell the endless disasters which will befall the State, where selfishness is the chief motive-power of the electors and the elected? A selfish statesman, one who goes into Parliament to gain his own ends and forward his own personal interests, is a disgrace to society--

'Feeling himself, his own low self, the whole, When he by sacred sympathy might make The whole one self. Self, that no alien knows!

Self, far diffused as fancy's wing can travel!

Self, spreading still, oblivious of its own, Yet all of all possessing!'

I have said that the ignorance of the electorate makes them an easy prey to such men; and until they have learnt to detect the false from the true, until they become acquainted with the elements of political science, and have been taught that their own selfish interests are not the highest aims of social government, it is vain to hope for a reasonable method of regulating the affairs of the nation, based upon logical laws and scientific principles.

And how is this work of educating the electors to be accomplished? Not, I maintain, by furious speeches and rhetorical displays; not by bribery, baits and banter; but by patient, never-ceasing labour, by lectures on history and science, by individual instruction, is the great work to be accomplished upon which the security and stability of the country depend.

Then we may hope that the 'Reign of Law' in polemical science may be ushered in with the joyful acclamations of an enlightened and united people, and its benign influence extend from the throne of the monarch and the council-chamber of his ministers to the hearth of the cottager.

Politicians will rule by law; policies be calculated by laws; people vote by law; and then methinks I see in my mind (to use the words of the blind old poet) a n.o.ble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks; methinks I see her as an eagle, renewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam; purging and unsealing her long-abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds flutter about amazed at what she means.

Such is the glorious vision of the 'Reign of Law.' Let it be the business of every Englishman and Englishwoman to arrange the framework of our social and political system, that law may have an uninterrupted sway; then shall we be a united, prosperous, and contented people, and the reign of lawless agitators, bribery-mongers, and counterfeit statesmen will have pa.s.sed away into the oblivion and obscurity of a more suitable but less favoured region.



In my previous lectures I have had occasion to mention the principle of cohesion; but it plays so vital a part in the const.i.tution of States and their relations to each other that I consider it advisable to devote this lecture entirely to it.

This is a large and comprehensive subject, and embraces such principles as the Centralization of States; the Co-operation of States; Monogamic Marriage; Unions; Free Trade, and many others equally important. We have already noticed that cohesion is a well-known property of matter; that its influence is not confined to the regions of physical sciences; and that it is the manifest duty of all governments to increase the force of cohesion.

Various methods have been tried to accomplish this purpose. The principle of Feudalism was one of the earliest attempts to produce the cohesion of the nation; and, in an elementary condition of society, it was partly successful. The theories of 'Divine Right' and 'Social Contract' were other methods which have been adopted; and the unity of the Christian Church has been the great means of producing the cohesion of the State in olden times; and its aid may be again required for the same beneficent object in future complications and social disruptions.

But it is always advantageous in scientific pursuits to go back to first principles; and we will adopt that method in our present investigations.

The social unit is the family; the multiplication of families makes the tribe; the multiplication of tribes makes the State; and, therefore, we shall not be far wrong if we consider the family tie as the first principle of political cohesion. I am in agreement with several learned thinkers upon this subject when I say that marriage is a most important political factor; and as marriage cannot take place without women, it is evident that women play a very important part in promoting the cohesion of the State.

This prominent position was duly a.s.signed to women by one of our greatest political philosophers, M. Auguste Comte, who strongly opposed the fatal fallacy of ancient political systems, which greatly overestimated the powers of men, and depreciated those of women. If the superiority of bodily strength be the sole cause of greatness in political and intellectual pursuits, then, most n.o.ble lords of creation, we yield to you the palm--you are our masters in this respect. But if, on the other hand, it can be shown that physical strength is not a requisite for great achievements in these occupations; if the powers of endurance, elasticity, adaptability, nervous energy, and patience are quite as needful as mere animal strength; then we women are quite as capable, and indeed more capable than men, for achieving political greatness. In the 'good old days,' when the law of might was right, and the strongest arm was the most powerful machinery in the government of the country, women were compelled naturally to occupy a less prominent position in the conduct of the affairs of the nation; and for centuries they have been degraded by a dominating tradition, and supposed incapable of performing duties for which they were mentally well suited.

But those militant days are past. Animal strength and brute force are no longer needed in the councils of the nation; and the time has arrived when women should cease to be oppressed by the disparaging, illogical deductions of former generations, and when their a.s.sistance ought to be invoked in the great work of promoting the nation's welfare.

I have stated that marriage is an important political factor; and, therefore, women have always occupied a primary, though obscure, part in political affairs. The cohesion of the State has been produced by the secret influence of family life. But it may be asked, What kind of marriage is most conducive to national cohesion? This question has been carefully and conclusively answered by a learned scientific writer, who shows that polygamic marriage never exists in an advanced state, as instanced by the history of Judaism and Mohammedanism; that a strict form of monogamic marriage is essential to political greatness and true progress in civilization. The cohesion of the State is destroyed by polygamy, and by any system which relaxes the binding nature of the marriage tie. 'Domestic disorganization is a sure augury of political disruption.'

Cohesion, the essential property of all rightly const.i.tuted nations, is often in danger of being lost when the State is geographically very large, or when local interests have greater power than the attractive force of the central government. To obviate this evil, the method of centralization has been adopted with satisfactory results, as in the case of the United States of America, and Germany.

By this means the local authorities are brought into close relations.h.i.+p with the central head, and the centrifugal influences of independent interests and customs are counteracted by the force of central attraction. Centralization increases the importance of the whole body, and, like the pendulum of a clock, regulates the movements of the whole State. In some cases it tends to make the government despotic, when the local governments are entirely under the control of the central; and every enactment, and scheme, and plan checked and supervised by the chief officers of the State. Such was the system adopted in France by Napoleon III. But cohesion without the enforcement of a hard and rigid connection, a general supervision without severe tyrannical jurisdiction, are the best methods of securing the unity of composite States.

But the force of cohesion is evidently at work in the nation apart from centralization. Men who have a community of interests unite together for the purposes of strength and mutual a.s.sistance. They combine for the sake of securing means of support in sickness, and form benefit societies, such as the Order of Oddfellows or Foresters. This force of cohesion has produced trade unions, and similar inst.i.tutions which exist for the purpose of protecting a common interest, and giving expression to the concurrent opinions of the members. These have their legitimate use in every civilized State, in spite of some of the disadvantages which follow in their train. There are, of course, opposed interests in every community: _attractive_ forces, which produce trade unions, guilds, corporations, companies, and the like; and _repulsive_ forces, which result from the opposed interests of employers and employed, landlords and tenants, and similar pairs of different in the community. As time goes on, and the State advances with it, these forces will gain in strength; the cohesion of will become greater; a.s.sociation will grow as naturally as the bubbles form on the surface of our evening beverage. It is a law of nature, and therefore cannot be resisted. But the repulsive forces will be no less strong, and to calculate the resultant of these contending interests will be the problem for practical statesmen to solve.

The force of cohesion is also evidently at work, not only in individual States, but also amongst the nations of Europe, and of the world. That is to say, there is an evident desire for co-operation on the part of those nations who have attained to the highest degree of civilization and internal cohesion. International law is based on the principle of cohesion, and every day it is gaining power and favour in the eyes of our leading statesmen. The doctrine of Free Trade, which, if universally adopted, would be of the greatest service to mankind, results from a desire for co-operation; and whatever evils may result from one-sided Free Trade in this country at the present time, there can be no doubt that ultimately the complete system will be adopted.

Sad is the fate of a nation when the force of cohesion is weakened. The first revolution in France is a proof of this a.s.sertion; there was no cohesion, no common faith, or loyalty to the throne and Government; and indeed the Government, which was rotten to the core, was hardly likely to awake any feelings of loyalty and respect; and therefore the social disruption which followed was only a natural sequence of events, and was prophesied with the accuracy with which an astronomer can foretell an eclipse. But that is not all; when the cohesion of the State is destroyed, it takes a long time to restore the action of the force; and, as in the case of France, further disruption is sure to take place.

In this lecture I have already enumerated some of the ways in which this force acts; there are doubtless others which will suggest themselves to you. But I contend that the prosperity of the State, and the peace of the world, depend upon cohesion. Let this be your work, most n.o.ble professors, to promote the action of this helpful and life-giving force. Promote, as far as in you lies, the sacred union of family life.

Encourage the generous feelings of true loyalty and patriotism amongst the people of this realm of England; counsel our statesmen with regard to the primary necessity of national cohesion, and the advantages of international co-operation; and your work will be blessed; your names will rank with those heroes of the sword and of the pen who have raised our beloved country to her present pinnacle of greatness and prosperity; and your memory will live in the hearts of your grateful countrymen.

[Editorial Note.]--We regret to state that the various MSS. in the sealed desk are nearly exhausted, and are therefore compelled to present the series of lectures on polemical studies in an incomplete form. But we had the good fortune to light upon a brief diary which discloses some interesting information with regard to the Author's life and occupations. We append a few extracts:

Extracts from the Author's Diary.

_June 3rd_.--Arnold called again to-day--the fifth time during the last fortnight! His attention is rather overpowering, and wastes much of my valuable time. He says he hates science--the heathen!--and wants me to lecture in cla.s.sics. He affirms that mathematics are dry and hard--too hard for women, and tend to make them unsympathetic and critically severe. I am afraid I was rather severe with him. But really he is very trying, and always seems to talk like a Greek chorus in the most profound plat.i.tudes. Arnold is a cla.s.sical tutor at Clare College. My old pupil is getting on famously. Poor fellow! he seems quite oppressed with his work. But he is making great progress, and sticks to his books like--a student of Girtham College!

_June 4th_.--Lectured on the Scientific Basis of Blackstone's Commentaries; afterwards received pupils until 1 p.m. Really Blanch S---- is more tiresome than ever. It appears that she has taken up with a young undergraduate of King's, and there is no prospect of any improvement in her work unless this nonsense is terminated. How foolish some of my s.e.x are, in spite of their improved opportunities! I blush for them! Arnold has sent me a copy of Robert Browning's 'Belaustion,'

in order to make me like cla.s.sics, and give up science. Misguided young man! He has written some tolerable verses on the fly-leaf; but I have no intention of playing Belaustion to his 'entranced youth.' These are his verses:

'My lady dear, if I may call you so, For you are dearer than all else beside, I know the love you bear to golden verse, To golden thoughts enshrined in cla.s.sic lore, To all that's beautiful; so here I send Some echoes of the songs of ancient days, Attuned and chanted by an English bard, Who fires one's old love for the rolling lines Of youthful h.e.l.las; may your cultured ear Receive, and gladly welcome his sweet song.

And while we revel in the poet's dream, And hear his actors speak, we'll play our parts.

You, sweet Belaustion on the temple-steps, Taking your captors captive by your voice; And I, the youth who, more entranced than all, Was bound by fetters that he would not loose; And so we'll play our part. What say you, dear?'

_June 6th_.--Have just seen our new Professor of Physics, Amelia Cordial, who is an excellent woman, and well suited for the high office which she holds. She has told me of the foolish conduct of Lady Mary, who is evidently of opinion that the professorial mantle ought to have fallen on her shoulders. Really, this jealousy in the ranks of the learned is most disgraceful; and the bickerings which arise from disappointed ambition, the envyings and silly quarrels, are the weak places in our female collegiate system.

Such good news! The wrangler list is just out, and my hard-working pupil is _bracketed twelfth!_ This is really delightful, and abundantly repays us for all our hard toil. But really I have not found working with him distasteful; he is such an excellent pupil, so painstaking and eager, that I have quite looked forward to his coming, and found him much more interesting than some of these foolish maidens. But I almost dread seeing him. He will be so elated and overpoweringly grateful, whereas I ought to be grateful to him for all his work for me; for I am sure he would never have gone in for the Tripos if I had not persuaded him.

Well, I wonder why he does not come to tell me of his triumph.

_June 7th_.--_It_ has come! and I half expected it. My eager pupil writes with all the energy and love of his n.o.ble nature to ask me to be his wife! He says _that_ is all he cares for, and only values his Honours as a step to a higher honour and dignity, that of gaining my love and being my husband. All this is very nice to read; but a terribly difficult problem is placed before me for solution. I do indeed love this dear, good fellow--no one could help doing so, I am sure; but do I not love science more? There is a stringent regulation in this University that no one shall occupy the position of professor who is bound by any domestic ties or cares. All married women are excluded. If I say 'Yes,' I must resign my high position, leave this beloved college, give no more lectures to entranced audiences. In the interests of science, ought I to refuse, and sacrifice my heart's affections for the cause of mathematics? But if I say 'No,' I must give up--_him_; sacrifice his happiness too, and blight his life. Was ever anyone so perplexed? Science, aid thine obedient servant! May I not determine this vital question by thine all-pervading light?...

[Editorial Note.]--We had just arrived at this exciting moment in the life of the learned and accomplished lady whose writings form the subject of these pages--a moment when love and science were trembling in the balance--when a footstep was heard upon the stairs leading to our study, and ere we could secrete our MS. the door was opened, and a well-known voice exclaimed:

'I do not know why you should have become so studious lately, Ernest, and why you should refuse to take me into your confidence. You spend hours and hours in this room all by yourself, writing away, and never say a word to me about the subject of your literary work. There was a time when things were different, and you were not so slow in availing yourself of my help, and asking my advice.'

We murmured something about taking up the pen which had been laid aside by a far abler hand, and our deep grat.i.tude for past a.s.sistance in our work, which could never be forgotten.

'And do you think that I cannot help you now?' our visitor replied, in a very injured tone of voice. 'Is the old power dead, because it has not recently been used? Ernest, I think you very ungrateful not to confide in me. Come, tell me what you are writing.'

A suggestion about the proverbial curiosity of women rose to our lips, but died away without utterance. In the meantime, her eyes wandered over our study-table strewed with papers, and lighted upon the well-worn desk.

'Why, Ernest, where did you find this? My dear old desk, which has been lost ever so long! I do believe you have been ransacking its contents!

Why did you not tell me that you had found it? What are you doing with my papers, sir?'

The mischief was out! We tried to explain that the world ought not to be deprived of that which would benefit mankind; that the peace and prosperity of the country might be sacrificed if it were deprived of these discoveries of science, which were calculated to secure such beneficial results.

At length we gained our point, and obtained the full sanction of the late Lady Professor of Girtham College to publish her papers. Thus her obedient pupil is enabled to repay his late instructress for all her kindness to him, and in some measure to compensate the scientific and political world for the loss of one of its most original investigators in the regions of polemical studies, which, not without a struggle, she resigned when she deigned to become his wife.


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The Romance of Mathematics Part 5 summary

You're reading The Romance of Mathematics. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): P. Hampson. Already has 1538 views.

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