The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

I. Philosophers

§ 26. Bagehot

Walter Bagehot’s Physics and Politics (1869) is still more closely connected with the doctrine of evolution. It is described on the title-page as “thoughts on the application of the principles of natural selection and inheritance to political society.” Luminous and suggestive though these studies are, it cannot be said that the influence of the theory of evolution expresses the leading characteristic of Bagehot’s mind, especially as shown in his other political and economic works—The English Constitution (1867), Lombard Street (1873), and Economic Studies (1880). It was his insight into the actual forces, especially the human forces, at work that chiefly distinguished his treatment. Whereas even Mill looked upon economic and political processes as due to the composition of a few simple forces such as desire of wealth and aversion from labour, Bagehot knew the actual men who were doing the work, and he recognised the complexity of their motives and the degree in which they were influenced by habit, tradition and imitation. In this way he gave a great impulse to realistic study, as contrasted with the abstract method of the older economics and politics.