To the student of science, accustomed to recognise the operation of law in all phenomena, even though the nature of the law and the manner of its operation may be unknown, there is something strange in the prevalent belief in luck. In the operations of nature and in the actions of men, in commercial transactions and in chance games, the great majority of men recognise the prevalence of something outside law—the good fortune or the bad fortune of men or of nations, the luckiness or unluckiness of special times and seasons—in ﬁne (though they would hardly admit as much in words), the inﬂuence of something extranatural if not supernatural.
This is true alike of great things and of small; of matters having a certain dignity, real or apparent, and of matters which seem utterly contemptible. Napoleon announcing that a certain star (as he supposed) seen in full daylight was his star and indicated at the moment the ascendency of his fortune, or William the Conqueror proclaiming, as he rose with hands full of earth from his accidental fall on the Sussex shore, that he was destined by fate to seize England, may not seem comparable with a gambler who says that he shall win because he is in the vein, or with a player at whist who rejoices that the cards he and his partner use are of a particular colour, or expects a change from bad
to good luck because he has turned his chair round thrice; but one and all are alike absurd in the eyes of the student of science, who sees law, and not luck, in all things that happen.