George Henry Lewes

    Abstract

    THIS is a name which has been long before the reading public of England, and the announcement of Mr. Lewes's death, on Saturday last, at the age of sixty-one years, will be received by very many with genuine regret. This will be especially the case with those who have reached or passed middle life, for latterly Mr. Lewes's name has come little before the public, and what work he has done appeals to a comparatively small circle. Of Mr. Lewes's many-sidedness every one knows; he commenced his career as a novelist, and ended as a physiological psychologist—perhaps in some respects no very great leap, after all; indeed the two functions may be said to be combined in that greatest of philosophical novelists, if not of novelists absolutely, “George Eliot,” Mr. Lewes's widow. Science owes a good deal to Mr. Lewes; for, though he made little or no pretension to be an original investigator in physical science, he did very much by his writings to give the general public an idea of what real science is, and to help forward the good work of carrying it into every-day life. His “Physiology of Common Life” had a long and deserved popularity, and even yet, we believe, is often “asked for” at libraries and book-shops. His “Biographical History of Philosophy” is thoroughly readable and full of information, which is more than can be said of philosophical works generally. Of his “Life of Goethe,” one of the very few masterly biographies, we leave it to others to speak, though he did much there to bring out the real importance of Goethe's botanical and other scientific researches. Of his latest work, “Problems of Life and Mind,” we spoke at length on the appearance of the volumes that have been published; in these volumes and in one or two letters and articles contributed to our pages, Mr. Lewes was perhaps at his best as an investigator in a department of science with which we are cautious of interfering, but which has a strange fascination for many thinkers. Altogether Mr. Lewes filled an important and many-sided place in the intellectual life of this country during his long career. It is easy to say that a man of his unusual keenness of mind might have achieved permanent greatness by concentrating his great store of energy in one particular direction; but then he would not have been the innately versatile George Henry Lewes. His influence has been spread over a wide field, and has been largely beneficial to progress and enlightenment; he never aimed, we believe, at piling up an enduring monument to himself.

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