Page images

woodlands and meadows. Taken week in, week out throughout the year, the "wild gardens" of our own country need not fear comparison with those of any other of moderate climes. The genins of the gardener begins work earlier and ends it later. The first wild flower-show of the year is not, as the nursery-books would have it, a garden of snowdrops, but the chequered and shining gold and green carpet of the aconite, urging curved necks through rain-sodden, frostcracked mould and leaves hardly a month fallen,—the earliest and bravest of all winter flowers. Snowdrops will be shaking their bells in the northeaster a fortnight later; but it is doubtful whether they may be allowed to belong, after all, to the flowers of the wildest gardens. Probably, if their record could be traced back as far as possible, they would be found, even when they seem growing absolutely wild, to have been planted, perhaps in the plot of some long since tumbleddown cottage, or you will catch sight of the gnarled and lichened stem of some old apple-tree, showing that the ground on which it stands was not always uncared for. indeed, there is a pretty legend that where you find snowdrops growing in profusion you may be sure that you are on "Abbey land," and near the site of a monastery or nunnery. But there is no doubt ;i* to the essential wildness of the hillgardens and wood-gardens of a couple of months later. Nothing in all the year has quite the same fresh gaiety as the "host of golden daffodils" of Wordsworth's inimitable song or spring. He came upon them suddenly; and to see daffodils as they should be seen, you must come upon them suddenly in tens of thousands on the slope of a hill in sunlight and with a wind blowing. Daffodils need a wind as other flowers need the sun, and do not begin talking on the hill until the dry

sheaths behind their perianths are being danced backwards and forwards against their glaucous, spiky leaves. That is an even earlier and simpler sound of April than the first sharp notes of the chiffchaff tumbling among the beech-twigs. With the fading of daffodils, indeed, the first simplicity of spring ends; after that the gardener of the woods begins to try effects of color; she strews the most delicate yellows and crinkled greenery of primroses under plum-tinted blrch-twigs and bronze bracken, and paints into her picture corners and edgings of dogviolets and white violets; or while the primroses are still pale and new among their lengthening leaves, she spreads high and wide over the bank a curtain of bluebells, and dots into the skirt of it burning spires of orchids, the most jewel-like of all flowers of May; or among the young meadow grasses of Oxfordshire waterways scatters purple-spotted fritlllarles, "snake's heads" in the field to match the snake's head of the wryneck peering behind the willow boughs. Are there, though, any fritlllarles still left at Oxford? Perhaps they are not all yet grubbed up for an unworthy market .

On occasion, there can be a distinct sense of pleasure in a set boundary to a wild garden. Of all the farmers' enclosures, the hayfleld is the most riotous and unchecked in wealth of growth, and of all wild gardens there is none more shining than a field of buttercups in sunlight; you could almost see your face in a bunch of those burnished yellow chalices. it is not quite the yellowest field there can be, for that supreme yellow belongs to a field of weeds, or herbs, as those who believe in dandelion-tea may like to call them. A field which has, so to speak, been captured by dandelions is an astonishing piece of ground to look at; the brilliance of the color is even more continuous and dazzling than that of buttercups, yet with the glamor of it strangely and most delicately veiled, with thousands of school-children's "flower-clocks" floating and fainting in the wind above it. Here, without doubt, the sense of a set boundary adds a charm of its own. All round and outside the hedges of that one field are the ordinary life and growth of the farm; inside, a haunted garden of filmy shapes moving over glowing flowers. Only one other field of wild flowers has something of the same magic, and that is a stretch of cornfield ablaze with popples,—green colonnades and palaces hung with crumpled scarlet satin. That is, perhaps, the most brilliant garden of chalk downs near the sea; the far boundary a strip of blue water laced with white, and near you, along the level furrow, dusty pink convolvulus creeping out over the bank to the road.

For pure waywardness of choosing and planting there is nothing wilder, nor with secrets better kept, than the natural wall-garden. it is the easiest thing in the world, with the most careful planting, to fail dismally in making a wall-garden, or for that matter a rock-garden, which to many people's notions should consist chiefly of rocks. it might be worth some unsuccessful gardener's while to leave his old wall (if it is really an old wall, and not a new one with earth jammed in artificially by the local Balbus) entirely alone and to watch what happens to it . For in the crevices of old and crumbling walls, and in pockets on the sun-burnt facades of sheer cliffs, birds and the wind and rain contrive to place some of the most wonderful of all wild gardens. Nothing could very well look more parched or inhospitable than those weather-scarred surfaces; but so deep down into the stored crevices can the roots of the rock plants drive and search for moisture and food, and so level and uuchanging is

the cooiness of the solid stone, that not even the fiercest suns will wither the sea-lavender on the gray frontiers of the Welsh coastline, or the red valerian lining the banks of the South Country railway cutting, or the wallflowers and snapdragons on the ruined castle gateway. Or the genins of the roadside may decide upon a fernery, and set hart's-tongue and lady's-fern and maidenhair above West Country dipping wells, or clothe the long unsought combes by the sea with the rufous spikes and six-foot fronds of the Royal fern, the noble Osmunda regalis. Or she may decide to lead you out over the most difficult garden of all, sand and rock and shingle, and yet show you twenty acres starred and splashed with rock-rose and thyme and bed8traw, broom and bright-eye. and gray-green sea-holly waiting for August suns to burn it into blue; and then take you down from those sandy hills to change the garden into a sudden stretch of watered pasture, with cattle knee-deep in forget-me-not and meadow-sweet and yellow iris, their dark backs rubbing up into dog-rose and honeysuckle. Each is a true garden, defined and enclosured, though the boundary may be wilder and less easily known as a boundary than an iron railing or a laurel hedge.

Bacon kept part of his ideal garden to be hung with bird-cages, and it might be amusing to guess what birds he would have put in them. There is a bird proper to each wild garden, but a wilder genins than Bacon's opens the cage-door of the lark, and send him climbing up his own blue ladder. He belongs alike to the earliest and latest gardens of all; but there are others belonging only to one. There is the snipe, drumming high zigzags over the marshflowers, and the cuckoo calling never later than the roses—or for a thorough lusty call of spring, what is to be set beside the trinmphant, harsh cry of the cock pheasant, with the loud roll of his flapping wings to follow it as he stands glorious before his meek brown mate among the primroses? That Is a call from the very heart of the spring; and if, because the singing birds are silent later in the year, there is no bird which chiefly associates itself with all the

The Spectator.

later gardens, there are still two or three winged creatures which add brilliance to the flowers on which they sim themselves. Even into October the peacock and red admiral butterflies strut and fan their glowing wings on flower after flower of the patches of purple scabious, the latest of the wtJd gardens of the year.


(1) Dr. H. Charlton Bastian re-aflirms his conviction that living organisms continue to arise from not-living material. It is a long time since, in his "Beginnings of Life" (1872), Bastian sought to establish the reality of this "archeblosis" and also of heterogenesis —that strange process by which organisms or parts of organisms of definite kind give rise to organisms of a quite different kind, as when the ovum of the rotifer Hydatlna produces the infusorlan Otostoma. In 1876-7 there was a notable and useful controversy between Bastian, on the one side, Tyndall and Pasteur on the other, the issue of which seemed to most experts to be that Bastian failed to make good his case for the present-day occurrence of spontaneous generation. The claims of professional work forced the heretic to renounce his investigations for about twenty years, but he has recently been able to return with unabated vigor to the study of both heterogenesis and abiogenesis. His "Studies in Heterogenesis" and his work on "The Nature

• 1 "The Evolution of Life." By Dr. H. Carlton Bastian F.B.S. Pp. xvlli + 319; with diagrams and many photomicrographs. (London: Methuen and Co., n.d.) Price 7s. 6d. net.

2" The Nature and Origin of Life in the Light of New Knowledge." By Prof. Felix Le Danteo. An Introductory preface by Robert K. Duncan, author of "The New Knowledge." Pp. xvl + 260; 21 figures. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1907.) Price 6s. net.

and Origin of Living Matter" have been already reviewed In Nature, and we have now before us an account of his recent researches on "archeblosis" and a clear exposition of his views as to "The Evolution of Life." It is impossible not to admire the author's strong desire to get at the truth, the courage of his convictions, and his incomparable good humor.

Dr. Bastian begins by indicating some of the objections to the term "spontaneous generation," which is almost as bad as "generatio equivoca"; he advocates the use of the word "archeblosis"—the past or present origination of living things from not-living material—and he contrasts it with "heterogenetlc reproduction," which presupposes pre-existing organisms. In the first part of his book he points out that inorganic evolution (recently studied In ways not a little upsetting) has not stopped, and argues against the dogmatism of those who, while admitting that archebiosls probably occurred very long ago, refuse to discuss the possibility of Its occurrence now. Because it has been shown that maggots are not really produced by the flesh in which they crawl, it does not follow that minute specks of living matter may not arise de novo In suitable not-living fluids, and to base the formula omne vlvum ear vivo on the

"past experience of mankind" is ridiculously naive. It has become the fashion to call "spontaneous generation" a "chimera," and the study of it a search for a mare's nest. But "neither Darwin, Huxley, nor Spencer ever undertook; any experimental work on this subject themselves," and as for Tyndall and Pasteur, both were convinced beforehand. The whole story is gone over again (pp. 95-228) and it is (psychologically, at least) very instructive. Since 1878, Dr. Bastlan had not, before the present work, published anything on the subject of archebiosis, save one chapter In his 1905 volume, and It Is interesting to read his retrospect of a famous controversy and his undismayed conclusions in spite of all. "Mere observation," the author points out, "can never settle the question whether Archebiosis does or does not take place at the present day." In a fluid believed to be quite uot-Uving, minute living creatures appear, but observation cannot decide whether they arise from Invisible germs of pre-existing organisms or "whether they have come Into being in the mother liquid as a result of life-giving synthetic processes." Therefore we must resort to experiment, and the fallacies to be guarded against are two. The heat employed in the sterilizing process must be adequate to kill all pre-existing living things within the experimental vessels, and there must be no subsequent contamination with atmospheric germs. Therefore Bastlan heated his fluids to 115° C. or 130° C, and hermetically sealed the tubes. But these precautions involve disadvantages; the degrading effect of the initial purifying heat process may render the medium unlit for the occurrence of future processes that may lead to life-origination, and the glass of the hermetically sealed vessel in which the fluid is contained partially excludes actinic rays which might be

potential, or at least helpful, in bringing about the combinations in question. In spite of these disadvantages, Dr. Bastlan found living creatures— "Bacilli, Vlbriones, Cocci, Streptococci, Torulae, and other germs of Fungi"—in saline solutions within tubes that had been heated at 115° C. to 130° C. for from ten to twenty -minutes, and the present subdirector of the Pasteur Institute has declared. In regard to spores of bacilli in all such fluids, that "a temperature of 115° C. sterilizes them completely and most rapidly." Some of the photomlcrographic figures of "organisms" are not very like organisms at all, but others are. The alternative interpretations are (1) that Dr. Bastian's methods were not rigorous enough; (2) that the fatal temperature lias been estimated at too low a figure; (3) that contamination occurred during the preparation of the photographed slides, or (4) that archebiosis actually takes place. Personally, we are not disposed to accept the last interpretation until every possibility of error has been excluded, and we are not convinced by Dr. Bastian's "final decisive experiments." We suspect that the sterilization was imperfect; we suspect that there were "germs"—where we have often seen them—on the slides and cover-slips; we suspect everything to a degree that Dr. Bastlan—with a tolerant smile—would say outrages common sense. For we belong to the prejudiced, illogical, conservative sect of St. Thomas who doubt and doubt. The whole business is so analogous to belief in "spooks" that no amount of argument is of any use until we have seen for ourselves. Why, then, Dr. Bastlan says, will you not experiment? And why will you not, in the name of St. Thomas, point out precisely where my experiments are fallacious? As to the first question, we think the answer is that we regard archebiosis as so great a miracle that we do not expect to see it repeated. As to the second question, we do not know what to answer, unless it be that the sterilization was inadequate, or that the preparations were contaminated before the photographs were taken. At the same time, recent physiochemlcal discoveries centred around the fact of radioactivity warn us that dogmatism as to possibilities is far from being consistent with the truly scientific mood.

Harking back to heterogenesls, perhaps it may be useful to say that Dr. Bastian was good enough to show us the mummy of an Otostoma reposing within the egg-case of Hydatina. There can be no doubt about it. But what remains unproved is that the organization of a Hydatina ovum gives rise by heterogenesls to the organization of the infusorian Otostoma. We suspected parasitism, and we watched many ova of Hydatina. But neither the expected nor the unexpected happened. On one occasion, however, Dr. John Rennie, lecturer on parasitology in the University of Aberdeen, an expert investigator who was good enough to assist in watching for the advent of Otostoma, observed two (not identified) infusorians moving inside the rotifer's egg, but he did not regard the phenomenon as a proof of heterogenesls. As a matter of fact, the egg-envelope showed a small split, through which the infusorians soon passed out, doubtless following the path by which they formerly entered.

(2) Prof. Felix Le Dantec has entitled his book "The Nature and Origin of Life," but with a humor which we appreciate he has entirely shirked the question of origia. only referring to it in a casual, half-hearted sort of way on the last page, where he tells us that "the time will come when methodic analysis will allow of a reasoned synthesis" of protoplasm. it is

problable that the solution will be

found in the study of diastases.

When the effective synthesis is obtained. it will have no surprises in it— and it will be utterly useless. With the new knowledge acquired by science, the enlightened mind no longer needs to see the fabrication of protoplasm in order to be convinced of the absence of all essential difference and all absolute discontinuity between living and notliving matter.

Prof. Le Dantec's book—which discusses the nature of life—ranges over the whole field of biology from bacteria to the nervous system, from karyokinesls to mutations, from tropisms to natural selection, and he leaves one with the general impression that even "in the light of new knowledge" the riddle of "life" remains very obscure. in a popular elusive manner, with abundant concrete illustrations, the author seeks to show that the living creature is a mechanism and nothing more, and that "the study of life belongs to chemical physics." "A higher animal such as man is a mechanism of mechanisms of mechanisms." This rather cryptic conclusion is expanded into the statement that man is an anatomical mechanism of colloid mechanisms of chemical mechanisms. The wonder is that they all hold together. "More and more the living being appears to us a superposition of dead things." But it is a fell superposition. "A rat trap would be alive if, while exercising its normal function of loosing its spring, it should impress on its constitutent substances a chemical activity whose result would be a tension of the spring tighter than before." This seems to us rather a claptrap theory of life. We mean that the author gives the problem a false simplicity; he conveys the impression that we can readily give a mechanical re-description of the development, the growth, the reproduction, the behavior, the evolution—the life of living creatures. But he does not go thoroughly

enough into any single instance to win

« PreviousContinue »