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John Fiske 





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I first met Dr. John Fiske in 1888. He had 
been giving a course of lectures in St. Louis, 
and stopped in Chicago for a day, sending me 
a note of introduction from a mutual friend in 
St. Louis. I called upon him at the Palmer 
House, took him home to dinner, and thus 
commenced an acquaintance and a friendship 
which was only terminated by his untimely 
death. For ten or eleven years after this visit 
he came annually to Chicago, remaining for 
four or five weeks at my house, while lectur- 
ing here and in the neighboring towns. He 
never seemed to take a trunk when on his 
travels, but would arrive at the house in a cab 
loaded inside and outside with big grip-sacks 
and dress-suit cases, eight or ten in number, 
and mostly full of music books and books of 
reference to use at his leisure hours in his his- 
torical work. When not lecturing or other- 



wise engaged, he usually wrote for several 
hours each day; and many chapters of all his 
historical works, except the first and the last 
volumes, were written at my house. To his 
friends he was most lovable; was genial, com- 
panionable, childlike in simplicity, and pro- 
foundly wise. To his friends life will be for- 
ever shadowed by his loss. They will miss 

" The sound of a voice 

Tender and sweet and low 
That made the earth rejoice 
A year ago." 

For many years before meeting Dr. Fiske, I 
had read with eager interest his writings in 
elucidation of the then New Philosophy of 
evolution, the universal reign of law. Through 
him, as was the case with thousands of others, 
I was first introduced to the studies of Darwin, 
Huxley, Spencer, Wallace, and the other great 
leaders of modern thought, among whom he 
won an honored place. When I met him he 
had just published his first historical book, 
"The Critical Period of American History." 
I had known him only as an evolutionist, and 


said to him: "In your last book, are you not 
getting out of your proper field?" "O, no," 
he replied, "I am just getting into it." He 
then proceeded to explain that several years 
before he had planned to write a history of 
the several separate English colonies in 
America, from the time of the settlement of 
each to the close of the Revolutionary War, 
when for the first time they were organized 
as a nation; that when commencing this 
work he had at the same time become inter- 
ested in the New Philosophy, and soon real- 
ized that thenceforward no history could be 
written except from the standpoint of an 
evolutionist; that he had read what had been 
published on the subject, and then visited 
England, made the acquaintance of Darwin, 
Huxley, Spencer, and Wallace, and spent a 
year going over with them the scope of the 
new science, its victories achieved, and the 
new worlds it must conquer in the fullness of 
time. Then returning home, he wrote, pub- 
lished, and lectured for several years as to the 
new science, and thus fitted himself for a 


writer of history, who must formulate the laws 
by which nations develop; must show how 
national characteristics are formed, partly 
trom inheritance and partly from the influence 
of environment. As to the American colonies, 
he must show how their inherited tendencies, 
in a new land without traditions and with 
abundant room for expansion, had developed 
a distinct nationality, conserving most that 
was good in their ancestral peoples, to whom 
their indebtedness was vast, but better adapted 
for their environment than aught that had 
existed before. 

Dr. Fiske was graduated from Harvard 
when twenty-one years of age. When twenty- 
seven years of age he was appointed Univer- 
sity Lecturer on Philosophy. For several 
years thereafter he had charge of the monthly 
review of scientific progress in the Atlantic 
Monthly; was appointed in 1870 Assistant 
Librarian at Harvard, and while thus engaged 
wrote an article on the work of librarians, 
which is now the guide for the best trained 
librarians in their duties. To 1874, when 


thirty-four years of age, he wrote and lectured 
in the principal cities of the country on the 
New Philosophy, and the work of Herbert 
Spencer, its greatest expositor; and in 1874 
he published his "Outlines of Cosmic Phil- 
osophy," which contained the substance of 
his various lectures, which was widely read, 
and which is as yet the most lucid and popular 
exposition of the theories of evolution. 

To the time when he was forty years of age 
he gave his time and efforts largely to the ex- 
position of the New Philosophy, and to the 
study of the method of the amalgamation of 
its principles with historical work, after which 
he felt himself able to commence, what had 
been the hope of his life, the writing of Ameri- 
can History from the standpoint of an evolu- 
tionist. His two volumes on the Discovery of 
America, a magnificent prose epic, than which 
there are few greater narratives in our lan- 
guage, and the two volumes of the History of 
the Revolutionary War, marked the limits of 
the field he had sought to cover. Within this 

period he aimed to write the history of each 



of the colonies. At the time of his death this 
plan was completed, except the last work of 
the series, New England and New France ; and 
when I saw him in April, 1901, he told me that 
two months' work would complete these vol- 
umes. This last work of his original plan did 
not receive his finishing touches, but was 
sufficiently far along so that it will be pub- 
lished during the coming year. After com- 
pleting this book he planned to spend a few 
months in England, where he wished to have 
a last visit with Herbert Spencer; on his re- 
turn he expected to begin a new history of the 
nation from the close of the Revolutionary 
War to the election of McKinley. He told 
me something of his plan for this work a 
plan so broad, so philosophical, and in certain 
lines so new, as to indicate that his death 
before the doing of it was a national calamity. 
The stories of the precocious boyhood of 
Fiske rival those told of Macaulay or John 
Stuart Mill. At seven years of age he was 
reading Caesar's Commentaries; at nine he 
had read all the great English authors; at 


thirteen all the principal Latin ones; before 
entering Harvard at seventeen he had mas- 
tered Greek, Latin, German, and the Romance 
languages, was familiar with the best litera- 
ture of these several tongues, and had a con- 
siderable knowledge of Hebrew and Sanscrit. 
He had a marvellous facility in acquiring lan- 
guages, and during his college course he mas- 
tered half a dozen more of the modern tongues; 
was a brilliant scholar in the requirements of 
the college curriculum, and had read widely in 
science, philosophy, and history. His mem- 
ory was equally phenomenal ; he never seemed 
to forget anything he had ever heard or read, 
and all this vast accumulation of facts and 
fancies seemed to be arranged and classified 
and subject to instantaneous call. One even- 
ing at my house something was said about Sam 
Weller, and the conversation drifted to the 
Pickwick Papers. Mr. Fiske began to repeat, 
verbatim, long extracts therefrom. He gave 
the whole of the trial of Bardell vs. Pickwick 
the examination of Sam Weller and of Mr. 
Winkle ; the speech of Sergeant Buzfuz. Then 


Ben Allen and Bob Sawyer, Miss Sally Brass, 
Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness, and others 
of the characters in the Dickens stories were 
brought in, and Dr. Fiske would repeat pages 
and pages relative to these fascinating people. 
He said that he was delighted with these 
stories as they were first printed, and did not 
recall ever reading them since, but he re- 
peated, verbatim, passages pages long which 
he had read thirty or forty years before. 

Mr. Fiske had the faculty of rapid reading 
ascribed to Macaulay ; he seemed to absorb a 
full page at a glance as an ordinary reader 
would a line. I recollect an instance in point. 
Soon after the death of Dr. David Swing I had 
supervised the publication of two volumes of 
his unpublished essays. Dr. Fiske and Swing 
were warm friends, and many were the de- 
lightful Sunday afternoons they had passed 
together at my house. One day after dinner, 
Fiske asked for the two volumes and turned 
over leaf after leaf in each until he had gone 
through the two volumes four hundred pages 
in an hour. He spoke of how he had enjoyed 

the reading, and how the various papers re- 
flected the broad scholarship and sound phil- 
osophy of the great teacher. But a short time 
before I had read the contents of the volumes 
three times with great care, once in manu- 
script, and twice in revising the proof-sheets. 
It did not seem to me possible that he could 
know much about the essays, and I began to 
ask questions, with the result that I saw that 
not a point in the two volumes had escaped 
him; he was actually more familiar than I 
with every subject discussed in the books. 

With all his vast accumulation in every de- 
partment of human knowledge, he had the 
faculty of clear statement, to which clear 
thinking is a prerequisite. Darwin, after 
reading the Cosmic Philosophy, wrote to Dr. 
Fiske: "I never in my life read so lucid an 
expositor and therefore thinker as you 
are"; and Herbert Spencer said substantially 
the same thing. It was this gift of a brilliant 
mind, formulating its thoughts in transparent 
language of absolute precision, which espe- 
cially fitted him for making understood by a 

wide general public the facts and formulas of 
evolution, which before that time had been 
scarcely understood outside the ranks of 

The first publication of Dr. Fiske's, so far 
as I have been able to learn, was an article in 
the National Quarterly Review, published when 
he was nineteen years old, and in his Sopho- 
more year at Harvard, entitled "Fallacies in 
Buckle's History of Civilization. " The article 
is a marvel of learning, clearness of state- 
ment, and eloquence for a man of any age. 
He does full justice to the work which was an 
epoch-making treatise. He says of it that in 
breadth of views, in the candor with which 
they are stated, in wealth of erudition, and 
the honesty with which he applies his facts, in 
the love of liberty which pervades his work, 
and the eloquence which invests all parts with 
an undying charm, he has few equals in any 
age. In Fiske's review he takes up and dis- 
cusses the four great laws which Buckle, in 
his three volumes, lays down as the basis for 
his history of civilization. 

Of these laws he says the first is, that social 
changes conform to fixed laws. This is true, 
but not new. Many writers have given vague 
glimpses of its coming. Voltaire almost for- 
mulated it, and Auguste Comte established it 
by absolute proof. 

The second law defined the relative value 
of intelligence and morality in the progress of 
civilization. Fiske shows as to this, that as 
formulated by Buckle, it is in conflict with the 
first law ; is contradictory in its different parts, 
and is throughout confused and vague, show- 
ing that Buckle had not a clear idea of what 
he sought to prove. 

The third law was, that permanent scepti- 
cism was the greatest of factors in progress. 
This is partly true and partly untrue. When 
scepticism means a condition of doubt until 
proof be established of the truth of a theory it 
is true, but when proof is made, doubt is a 
drawback, and the law is untrue. 

The fourth law defined the difference in 
results between the deductive and inductive 
methods of reasoning, and was illustrated 


with marvelous skill from the histories of 
England, Scotland, and Spain. The reviewer 
pointed out certain errors, but as a whole said 
that the discussion showed a depth of thought 
and an extent in learning unsurpassed in his- 
toric literature. Fiske's review as the work 
of a boy of nineteen seems to me unparalleled 
in learning, clearness of statement, and ma- 
turity of judgment a worthy review of a great 

For several years after his graduation Dr. 
Fiske published much of his work in the 
Atlantic Monthly, outside his Cosmic Philos- 
ophy and purely scientific papers. His first 
publication in this periodical was a review of 
Edward L. You-mans's class-book of chemistry. 
He was then twenty-two years old and a stu- 
dent at the Harvard Law School. The article 
is most remarkable for so young a man. It 
embodies the most important qualities of his 
maturer years. Its style is at once striking 
and simple; it shows vast reading in all fields 
of research, and surveys the subject from a 
lofty and comprehensive standpoint. It is 

almost unstinted in its praise of the volume, 
but indignant at one point, in which he claims 
Dr. Youmans is unscientific; his use of the 
ever vague and unsatifactory term ether. The 
book of Youmans was when issued the most 
in accord with modern science of anything 
before then published. It banished the words 
caloric, phlogiston, or fire as elements forms 
of matter and placed them instead with 
sound and light as modes of motion. It illus- 
trated the motion of all forms of matter in its 
ultimate atoms as its normal state, and argued 
that the balance determined the existence of 
matter, and that what could not be weighed 
was not matter. Fiske's wide reading and 
study is illustrated when in referring to this 
point he quotes in its support from Goethe's 
mystic poem of Faust. He says: "The won- 
drous phenomena of light, heat, and electri- 
city are now seen to be due to the rythmetrical 
vibration of atoms. There is thus no such 
thing as rest; from the planet to the ultimate 
particle all things are endlessly moving, and 
the mystic song of the Earth Spirit in Faust 


is recognized as the sublimest truth of science. 
The spirit says: 

" ' In the current of life, in the tempest of motion, 
In the fervour of act in the fire in the storm, 

Hither and thither, 

Over and under, 

Wend I and wander. 

Birth and the grave 

Limitless ocean, 

Where the restless wave 

Undulates ever, 

Under and over 

Their ceaseless strife, 

Heaving and weaving 

The changes of life, 
At the whirring loom of Time unawed 
I work the living mantle of God.'" 

(Translated by J. Auster.) 

John Fiske was married when twenty-two 
years of age to Miss Abby Brooks, of Peter- 
sham, Massachusetts. The marriage was a 
happy one. His home life was always most 
satisfying and beautiful. Her brother, James 
Brooks, a business man of Boston, had a beau- 
tiful home in Petersham which had been in the 


family for some generations. Dr. Fiske and 
his family were from the time of his marriage 
frequent visitors to this family home. I once, 
on the invitation of Mr. James Brooks, accom- 
panied Professor and Mrs. Fiske to spend Sun- 
day at this home. While there, driving with 
Dr. Fiske, he became in a reminiscent mood, 
and asked if he had ever told me the story of 
his marriage, which he then proceeded to do. 
He said that just after his graduation and 
while a student at the Harvard Law School, 
he was one evening a guest at a reception in 
Cambridge where he met Miss Abby Brooks. 
He was greatly attracted, and had as many 
chats with her during the evening as circum- 
stances allowed, and on his return to his room 
that night told his chum that he had seen the 
woman whom he intended to marry. He noted, 
however, that sundry other young men beside 
himself had seemed attracted by Miss Brooks; 
and finding that she had returned to Petersham, 
decided that it would be wise to follow up his 
acquaintance lest she forget, lest she forget. 
He accordingly, not having any ready money 


in hand, borrowed five dollars from the woman 
with whom he boarded, and started for Peter- 
sham. On reaching there he again realized 
the importance of time in his campaign, as he 
found other young men of that neighborhood 
who were fully aware of the attractiveness of 
Miss Abby. At the end of two days he real- 
ized that the treasury was substantially empty, 
and feeling it unsafe to leave the campaign 
but begun, he wrote to his landlady for an 
additional loan of ten dollars, which she 
kindly forwarded him. He plied his suit with 
great diligence until the ten dollars was nearly 
exhausted. By this time he had learned that 
Miss Abby would, within a very short time, 
start for a visit to friends in Ohio and Chi- 
cago, to be absent for nearly a year. Matters 
had progressed so well that he was enabled 
to arrange for a correspondence during her 
absence. He then settled his hotel bill and 
secured a ticket for as far toward Boston as 
his money would buy, and walked the last 
sixty miles without anything to eat but some 
apples which he lifted from orchards whose 


owners kept no dog. He said that he could 
not remember whether in this sixty-mile tramp 
his feet touched the ground or not. During 
the year a lively correspondence was kept up, 
and he said that he had never written anything 
on the subject of evolution or philosophy on 
which he had expended greater care than on 
these letters. He said that during this cor- 
respondence and later he had discussed some- 
what with his hoped-for fiancee the teachings 
of the New Philosophy. When its theories 
were at first promulgated, its votaries were 
often assailed as enemies of religion, as agnos- 
tics or atheists; and Fiske, not knowing 
whether Miss Brooks had heard such state- 
ments regarding him, decided that it was his 
duty to define to her his position, that she 
might not be shocked on learning it later. 
He thereupon wrote her fully, and was de- 
lighted, on getting her reply, to find that she 
was not only in full accord with him as far as 
he had gone, but was in some points still 
farther advanced ; that her letter, as he said, 
swept some cobwebs out of certain neglected 


and dusty corners of his own brain. Shortly 
after her return he was able to arrange with 
her to accept the position of the light of his 

During Dr. Fiske's summers at Petersham 
he was visited by many famous and interesting 
people who have in many ways recorded their 
delights at his good comradeship. Huxley, 
on one of his visits to America, spent, with his 
wife, a week at Petersham a week full of 
conversation, witty, frolicsome, and wise, with 
drives to points whence could be viewed 
Monadnock and Wachusett, with picnics and 
camping-outs in the pine forests. Huxley 
wrote Fiske from England that nowhere in 
America had he felt so thoroughly at home 
and in sympathy with his surroundings as at 
Petersham a week made up wholly of red- 
letter days. 

There is but little room for pure originality 
in the work of an historian. The most of the 
facts and incidents, the personality of the 
leading characters, the dates of the principal 
events, are common property. But from Dr. 


Fiske's standpoint bare facts or a vast aggre- 
gation of isolated facts were almost worthless 
in themselves; their value was developed, 
when in the hand of a master these facts were 
classified their relation to each other shown ; 
and when by the grouping in proper sequence 
of these isolated facts would be buih up a 
systematic whole, illustrating some great 
epoch in a nation's life. To many writers of 
history all facts are of equal value. From 
Dr. Fiske's broad horizon little incidents, 
which other writers magnify, disappear, but 
facts of real moment, even almost insignifi- 
cant at first view, are clothed with new value 
as parts of some movement, some development 
greater than themselves. He grasped facts in 
their relations. His usefulness as an historian 
was primarily in his power to present to the 
average man the revelation of the continuity 
and necessary sequence of the events in the 
national life ; of the significance of the crises 
which attended various stages of development, 
and that when viewed from a sufficiently broad 
and lofty standpoint, each crisis was inevi- 


table, had its use, and taught its lesson. For 
a mastery of his subject without dullness, for 
lucidity, charm, and enthusiasm in his group- 
ing of events and bringing them in true rela- 
tion before his readers, we have never known 
his equal. Especially is this true of his work 
in abstruse philosophical or historical subjects, 
which he has made luminous and transparent 
by his intellectual clarity. 

In his work as a writer on Evolution, he was 
in great part simply an expositor a teacher 
of what had been put in form by Spencer, 
Huxley, Darwin, and Wallace; but his own 
contribution to the New Philosophy was im- 
portant, and was repeatedly recognized as of 
great value by his masters. This contribution 
was the important part in the development of 
the race borne by the lengthened period of 
infancy in the human child. There came a 
time in the evolution of man from a lower 
type of animal life when his intellect had 
placed him in advance of all other types, and 
where cunning and the ability to use rude 
weapons became of more value than simple 


physical strength. He was, for example, far 
less powerful than the gorilla his possible 
ancestor. The human child became much 
weaker and more helpless at birth than the 
offspring of any members of the purely animal 
kingdom. In the case of animals, while the 
maternal instinct is necessarily developed to 
some extent, the paternal instinct is as a rule 
not developed at all. Yet where the newly 
born offspring within a few days is in a large 
measure able to care for itself, this instinct is 
but rudimentary as compared with the human 
race, where great care and kindness fora long 
period are indispensable to the preservation of 
the species. This care for the first time calls 
for the aid of both parents, the mother no less 
than the child must be cared for, and thus for 
a long period the parents and the new-born 
child are necessary to each other, and thus 
gradually the segregation leading to the fam- 
ily was evolved the lifelong relations of 
father and mother, of husband and wife ; and 
with this came love, the human faculty which 
is divine, and which is the corner-stone and 


indispensable element in even the rudest form 
of civilization. This theory the contribution 
of Dr. Fiske to the new philosophy is of 
great value, as it is almost the only humanizing 
element in the doctrine of evolution. Else- 
where the doctrine of selection and of the sur- 
vival of the fittest is constant and merciless; 
in all forms of lower life, the tooth and claw 
pure physical prowess are the mighty fac- 
tors through all the ages. Everywhere the 
strong devour the weak. The pages of this 
history are written in blood. Without this 
prolongation of infancy, the man might have 
become formidable among animals through 
sheer force of sharp-wittedness. But without 
this mighty factor he might never have com- 
prehended the meaning of such terms as self- 
sacrifice or altruistic devotion. The phe- 
nomena of social life would have been omitted 
from the history of the world, and with them 
the phenomena of ethics, of religion, and of 
human love. 

Upon the first publication of the theory of 
evolution, showing the vast age of the world 


and illustrating the methods of change through 
uncounted ages to its present state, it created 
great disturbance among the theologians of all 
schools, who denounced the new doctrines as 
blasphemous and calculated to destroy the 
very foundations of religious belief. Vast 
numbers of people felt that if the world was 
really more than six thousand years old, and 
had been uncounted millions of years in its 
building instead of six days, if the old beliefs 
upon these points must pass away, all the other 
teachings of the Bible must go also, and they 
felt the slipping away of all belief in spiritual 
things. For a long time this large class of 
people could not realize that there could be 
but one truth that it was utterly impossible 
there should be a conflict between scientific 
and religious truths, and that with fuller in- 
telligence this seeming conflict would be ex- 
changed for an enduring and mutually bene- 
ficial alliance. 

To bring about this alliance no writer has 
done more than Dr. Fiske. He was essen- 
tially a man of a most reverent nature and 


imagination. His writings in the interpreta- 
tion of the New Philosophy took on with pass- 
ing years a note of higher spirituality. His 
three small volumes, "The Descent of Man," 
"The Idea of God," and "Through Nature to 
God," have had a wide circulation, and no 
stronger argument has ever been made upon 
the greatest of all questions the question of 
a life beyond life than is set forth in these 
small volumes. The human soul is the high- 
est creative effort of the Supreme Power 
which governs all worlds; and as chemistry 
has demonstrated that no form of matter ever 
perishes, but may undergo great changes, can 
it be supposed that the result of the sublimest 
of all creative efforts is the only thing which 
does perish? This statement from analogy is 
ingenious, but not conclusive. Dr. Fiske con- 
cedes that we have absolutely no evidence of 
a future life. No soul has ever returned 
across the border with tidings of a paradise. 
But a presumption is raised from the fact that 
every nation, even the lowest tribes, has a 
belief in a future state, and the universality of 

this beief, which seems inborn, cannot be dis- 
regarded. Again Dr. Fiske argues that it is 
impossible for us ever to have any evidence of 
a life apart from some form of matter, and 
that we should not look for or expect such 
evidence ; that the fact that no such proof was 
forthcoming does not at all militate against 
the existence of a future life. All our experi- 
ences are in connection with material things, 
and the human mind cannot apprehend any- 
thing outside the range of possible experi- 
ences. If the soul survives the body, then, 
and then alone, can it recognize spiritual 

There was much genial banter in this field 
between Dr. Fiske and his long-time friend 
Huxley. Huxley was known and called him- 
self an agnostic. His belief, as stated by 
himself in a few words, was that it is practi- 
cally beyond the power of science to adduce 
any evidence in support of the soul's survival 
of the body, since the whole question lies out- 
side the bound of our terrestrial experiences. 
Despite this, Fiske used to quote with delight 


and full approval the words of Mr. MacMillan 
about his friend, "That there was so much real 
Christianity in Huxley that if it were parceled 
out among all the inhabitants of the British 
Isles, there would be enough to save the souls 
of all, with plenty to spare for the adjoining 
peoples." He also used to quote with em- 
phatic indorsement Huxley's saying that 
whatever mistakes he had made, he had never 
bent the knee to those unutterable humbugs, 
Benjamin Disraeli and Louis Napoleon. It 
seemed to me, however, that Dr. Fiske had a 
sort of sneaking bohemian admiration for the 
two men who had fooled so many people for 
so long a time. Fiske used to tell of Huxley's 
first visit to his home, which occurred at once 
after his landing in America. He had heard 
from his American friends of various eatable 
luxuries not to be found among the effete 
peoples of the Old World, and was evidently 
watching for their appearance. At dinner a 
plate of what our housewives call hot raised 
biscuits was passed. Huxley took one, looked 
it over carefully, and then asked, "Is this a 

buckwheat cake?" Mr. Fiske's comment on 
this being that even a great mind was helpless 
before a proposition involving two unknown 

Dr. Fiske's optimism in spiritual things and 
his cheerful serenity in the presence of these 
sublimest of problems, which he had stated 
with great and penetrating power, have been 
of vast benefit to his age. Many clergymen, 
as well as hosts of his great audience, have 
borne testimony to his saving their belief in 
spiritual things, when all the supposed founda- 
tions seemed to be slipping away. He had 
the fine enthusiasm of the prophetic soul. 

Dr. Fiske, at the time of his death, was un- 
questionably our first man of letters. Outside 
his work in his two special lines, he wrote 
numerous articles for the Atlantic Monthly, 
largely upon current events, all of which 
showed wide intelligence and research. A 
recent article, entitled "Forty Years of the 
Shakespeare-Bacon Folly," was a delightful 
demolition of that most idiotic fallacy. For 
Dr. Fiske to attack such a collection of noth- 


ingness is something like taking a modern 
fifteen-inch gun with which to cannonade a 
grasshopper; but notwithstanding the fact that 
not a solitary human being entitled to be con- 
sidered a Shakespearian scholar has ever 
attached a feather's weight to the Baconian 
nonsense, sundry people poseurs like to 
make themselves conspicuous by claims of 
seeing that which cannot be seen. 

In summing up the literary work of Dr. 
Fiske, we may say that in his exposition of 
evolution he did more than any other man to 
popularize the New Philosophy, the working- 
out of which system, more than perhaps aught 
else, will make his century illustrious, and 
that his own contribution did more to human- 
ize it and show its gentler and kindlier aspects 
than the work of any other writer. 

That in history he had the grasp of thought 
and grace of manner of Parkman, and saw a 
broader horizon and possessed a philosophic 
and wider range of essential knowledge than 
even that gifted writer; that he pictured in 
style of noblest prose the struggle and devel- 


opment of the nation before the people in a 
far clearer light than had been done by others; 
and that this cheerful optimist left every 
reader prouder of his country and its people, 
and more hopeful of the future than ever 
before. His exposition of history and of 
human life was cheerful and luminous in its 
perpetual serenity. 

Outside his marvelous ability and rare schol- 
arship, to those who knew him well, the per- 
sonality of the man was the greatest factor of 
all. He was a man of abounding vitality and 
exhaustless good will toward all of his fellows 
and the whole of life. He partook with zest 
of all the good things of this world poetry, 
music, 'the drama, and the society of his 
friends, to whom he was a perpetual delight. 
He was a master of the technique of music, a 
good pianist, and an interesting and appreci- 
ative singer. In his later years his corpulence 
had somewhat affected his voice, and I recol- 
lect that at a reception at my house when he 
had sung the "Two Grenadiers," "Sylvia," 
and other favorites, our old-time comrade, 


James S. Norton, said to me as he was leav- 
ing the room: "I have greatly enjoyed the 
music. Fiske sings like a philosopher!" 

Howells says of him: "One of the kindest 
hearts in the world looked out of his spec- 
tacled eyes. At Cambridge his social and 
intellectual environment was as congenial as 
a man of his temperament could have, and he 
felt to the uttermost the inexpressible com- 
fort of it." He was a universal favorite 
among his neighbors, who relate various 
quaint stories showing his childlike simpli- 
city, with its touch of the atmosphere of Bo- 
hemia. Mrs. Fiske had a brother, James 
Brooks, a prosperous business man of Boston, 
a bachelor, and very fond of Mrs. Fiske and 
the family, whom he would occasionally visit 
for a few days. As the story is told, one 
morning as Fiske was walking from his house 
to the Harvard Library he met a friend who 
said, presently: "Why, Fiske, you look 
bunged up. You don't look as if you had 
slept at all last night." Replied Fiske: "I 
did not sleep well at all. Jim Brooks kept 


me awake more than three hours, walking up 
and down with the baby!" Fiske's baby, of 

Another of the neighborhood stories was 
when Mrs. Fiske found, to her horror, that 
the children had learned the use of various 
profane words while playing in the streets. 
Said Mrs. Fiske: "John, it's perfectly dread- 
ful how our children are learning to swear. 
Yesterday Maud said to me, 'Mamma, I think 
Cousin Mary is a fool and Cousin Kate a 
damned fool!' " "Well," said the Professor, 
after a moment's reflection, "don't you think, 
Abby, that the child made a very accurate 
distinction as to the relative intellectual facul- 
ties of the two girls?" 

Dr. Fiske lectured at the State University 
of Missouri for many years. The president 
was a great admirer of Dr. Fiske, and one 
day, when talking with a student, said to 
him: "I suppose of course you are attending 
the lectures of Professor Fiske." "No," said 
the boy, "I don't think much of Fiske." 
Said the president: "You ought not to miss 


one of his lectures. It is the opportunity of 
your life." Said the boy: "I don't admire 
Fiske. I think his writings are superficial." 
"What," said the president, "John Fiske 
superficial! You might as well say that he 
was emaciated!" 

Dr. Fiske's robust figure encompassed a 
magnetic and jovial soul. His life was one 
of industrious and noble contentment. Each 
passing hour brought to him its delights. It 
might be said of him as was said of Darwin, 
that he was one whom the gods, for love of 
him, had endowed with perpetual youth, so 
that his death could never seem other than 
premature. His sudden death had in it an 
element of tragedy. 

He had a pleasant home in Cambridge, 
which had been built for him by Mr. Stough- 
ton, his mother's second husband. His 
mother, again a widow, lived in a large and 
beautiful home, built by Richardson, the great 
architect, and one of his most successful 
houses. Fiske's house was roomy and com- 
fortable in all ways except in its library accom- 


modations. He had a library of some ten 
thousand volumes, selected with reference to 
his literary work, which had greatly outgrown 
the room provided for it. The ceilings were 
high, the bookcases reached to the ceilings, 
and the shelves usually had a double row of 
books, one behind the other, making them 
inconvenient of access. For years he had 
been planning to build an addition to the li- 
brary room, but could not study out a plan to 
add it to the house without spoiling the sym- 
metry of the building. Something over a 
year ago Mrs. Stoughton proposed that Mr. 
Fiske should give up his house, and with his 
family come to live in her house, which had 
abundant room for all, and the plan was de- 
cided. Some changes were to be made in the 
house, among others Fiske was to have his 
ideal room for his library. In April, 1901, I 
spent an afternoon with Dr. Fiske, and one of 
the first things he proposed was a walk to his 
mother's house to see his new workroom. 
We visited it. The carpenters and other 
workmen were everywhere at work, but the 


new library room was substantially finished 
a beautiful room thirty by fifty feet, with a 
big fireplace in the middle of one side, and 
the entire wall space of the room, except the 
door and windows, covered with book-shelves. 
His delight was almost boyish as he talked 
of his enjoyment when domiciled in his new 
workshop with all his books in easy reach. 
Then he was full, too, of the idea of his pro- 
posed trip to England. The year was the one 
thousandth anniversary of the death of King 
Alfred, of mighty memory, and the English 
people proposed to have a great commemora- 
tion of the event at Winchester. Departing 
from their usual insularity, the committee in 
charge had invited Dr. Fiske, a foreigner, to 
give the principal address on the occasion. 
He felt it the greatest compliment of his life. 
Much of the time of my brief visit was taken 
up in his discussion of the delightful summer 
before him, dwelling for a time in his new 
library, and in July sailing for England for 
the Winchester celebration, and also for some 
courses of lectures at the Universities of Ox- 


ford and Cambridge. The alteration at the 
new house consumed much more time than 
was anticipated, so it was not until the second 
of July that he began to move his books to 
the new room. Soon after this was completed 
he was to sail for England. On the fourth of 
July, prostrated by the murderous heat, he 
passed away. 

To those so blessed as to be of the inner 
circle of his friends, his gifts of a rare and 
comprehensive scholarship, his versatility, his 
commanding power of clear, simple narrative, 
are not more kindly and lovingly held in re- 
membrance than his never-failing geniality 
and heartiness of personal good will. Such 
friends will count their intimacy with him as 
one of life's most cherished and precious 

For his work as historian, as evolutionist, 
and as theologian in its best sense, he ever 
aimed to promote the highest ends. He was 
industrious and conscientious, and wrought 
"as ever in his great Taskmaster's eye." For 
him, therefore, there could be no fear in facing 

4 o 

the great unknown. With perfect serenity he 
could lie down to his long, his last, and dream- 
less sleep. His experiences had been an illus- 
tration, and his life-work a revelation, of the 
ultimate justice of the laws by which men and 
worlds are governed, and in these laws he 
could calmly trust. 

Few men could more confidently repeat the 
lines of Whittier: 

" I know not where His islands lift 

Their fronded palms in air, 
I only know I cannot drift 

Beyond His love and care. 
And so, beside the silent sea 

I wait the muffled oar. 
No harm from Him can come to me 

On ocean or on shore." 

Los Angeles 

Syracuse, N.Y 
== Stockton, '- 11 

L 005 834 532 3