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Samuel Butler's Canterbury Pieces by Samuel Butler

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This etext was produced from the 1914 A. C. Fifield edition by David
Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk


by Samuel Butler


Darwin on the Origin of Species
A Dialogue
Letter: 21 Feb 1863
Letter: 14 Mar 1863
Letter: 18 Mar 1863
Letter: 11 Apr 1863
Letter: 22 June 1863
Darwin Among the Machines
Lucubratio Ebria
A note on "The Tempest"
The English Cricketers


Prefatory Note

As the following dialogue embodies the earliest fruits of Butler's
study of the works of Charles Darwin, with whose name his own was
destined in later years to be so closely connected, and thus
possesses an interest apart from its intrinsic merit, a few words as
to the circumstances in which it was published will not be out of

Butler arrived in New Zealand in October, 1859, and about the same
time Charles Darwin's ORIGIN OF SPECIES was published. Shortly
afterwards the book came into Butler's hands. He seems to have read
it carefully, and meditated upon it. The result of his meditations
took the shape of the following dialogue, which was published on 20
December, 1862, in the PRESS which had been started in the town of
Christ Church in May, 1861. The dialogue did not by any means pass
unnoticed. On the 17th of January, 1863, a leading article (of
course unsigned) appeared in the PRESS, under the title "Barrel-
Organs," discussing Darwin's theories, and incidentally referring to
Butler's dialogue. A reply to this article, signed A .M., appeared
on the 21st of February, and the correspondence was continued until
the 22nd of June, 1863. The dialogue itself, which was unearthed
from the early files of the PRESS, mainly owing to the exertions of
Mr. Henry Festing Jones, was reprinted, together with the
correspondence that followed its publication, in the PRESS of June 8
and 15, 1912. Soon after the original appearance of Butler's
dialogue a copy of it fell into the hands of Charles Darwin, possibly
sent to him by a friend in New Zealand. Darwin was sufficiently
struck by it to forward it to the editor of some magazine, which has
not been identified, with the following letter:-

Down, Bromley, Kent, S.E.
March 24 [1863].


Mr. Darwin takes the liberty to send by this post to the Editor a New
Zealand newspaper for the very improbable chance of the Editor having
some spare space to reprint a Dialogue on Species. This Dialogue,
written by some [sic] quite unknown to Mr. Darwin, is remarkable from
its spirit and from giving so clear and accurate a view of Mr. D.
[sic] theory. It is also remarkable from being published in a colony
exactly 12 years old, in which it might have [sic] thought only
material interests would have been regarded.

The autograph of this letter was purchased from Mr. Tregaskis by Mr.
Festing Jones, and subsequently presented by him to the Museum at
Christ Church. The letter cannot be dated with certainty, but since
Butler's dialogue was published in December, 1862, and it is at least
probable that the copy of the PRESS which contained it was sent to
Darwin shortly after it appeared, we may conclude with tolerable
certainty that the letter was written in March, 1863. Further light
is thrown on the controversy by a correspondence which took place
between Butler and Darwin in 1865, shortly after Butler's return to
England. During that year Butler had published a pamphlet entitled
incorporated the substance into THE FAIR HAVEN. Butler sent a copy
of this pamphlet to Darwin, and in due course received the following

Down, Bromley, Kent.
September 30 [1865].

My dear Sir,--I am much obliged to you for so kindly sending me your
Evidences, etc. We have read it with much interest. It seems to me
written with much force, vigour, and clearness; and the main argument
to me is quite new. I particularly agree with all you say in your

I do not know whether you intend to return to New Zealand, and, if
you are inclined to write, I should much like to know what your
future plans are.

My health has been so bad during the last five months that I have
been confined to my bedroom. Had it been otherwise I would have
asked you if you could have spared the time to have paid us a visit;
but this at present is impossible, and I fear will be so for some

With my best thanks for your present,

I remain,
My dear Sir,
Yours very faithfully,
Charles Darwin.

To this letter Butler replied as follows:-

15 Clifford's Inn, E.C.
October 1st, 1865.

Dear Sir,--I knew you were ill and I never meant to give you the
fatigue of writing to me. Please do not trouble yourself to do so
again. As you kindly ask my plans I may say that, though I very
probably may return to New Zealand in three or four years, I have no
intention of doing so before that time. My study is art, and
anything else I may indulge in is only by-play; it may cause you some
little wonder that at my age I should have started as an art student,
and I may perhaps be permitted to explain that this was always my
wish for years, that I had begun six years ago, as soon as ever I
found that I could not conscientiously take orders; my father so
strongly disapproved of the idea that I gave it up and went out to
New Zealand, stayed there for five years, worked like a common
servant, though on a run of my own, and sold out little more than a
year ago, thinking that prices were going to fall--which they have
since done. Being then rather at a loss what to do and my capital
being all locked up, I took the opportunity to return to my old plan,
and have been studying for the last ten years unremittingly. I hope
that in three or four years more I shall be able to go on very well
by myself, and then I may go back to New Zealand or no as
circumstances shall seem to render advisable. I must apologise for
so much detail, but hardly knew how to explain myself without it.

I always delighted in your ORIGIN OF SPECIES as soon as I saw it out
in New Zealand--not as knowing anything whatsoever of natural
history, but it enters into so many deeply interesting questions, or
rather it suggests so many, that it thoroughly fascinated me. I
therefore feel all the greater pleasure that my pamphlet should
please you, however full of errors.

The first dialogue on the ORIGIN which I wrote in the PRESS called
forth a contemptuous rejoinder from (I believe) the Bishop of
Wellington--(please do not mention the name, though I think that at
this distance of space and time I might mention it to yourself) I
answered it with the enclosed, which may amuse you. I assumed
another character because my dialogue was in my hearing very severely
criticised by two or three whose opinion I thought worth having, and
I deferred to their judgment in my next. I do not think I should do
so now. I fear you will be shocked at an appeal to the periodicals
mentioned in my letter, but they form a very staple article of bush
diet, and we used to get a good deal of superficial knowledge out of
them. I feared to go in too heavy on the side of the ORIGIN, because
I thought that, having said my say as well as I could, I had better
now take a less impassioned tone; but I was really exceedingly angry.

Please do not trouble yourself to answer this, and believe me,

Yours most sincerely,
S. Butler.

This elicited a second letter from Darwin:-

Down, Bromley, Kent.
October 6.

My dear Sir,--I thank you sincerely for your kind and frank letter,
which has interested me greatly. What a singular and varied career
you have already run. Did you keep any journal or notes in New
Zealand? For it strikes me that with your rare powers of writing you
might make a very interesting work descriptive of a colonist's life
in New Zealand.

I return your printed letter, which you might like to keep. It has
amused me, especially the part in which you criticise yourself. To
appreciate the letter fully I ought to have read the bishop's letter,
which seems to have been very rich.

You tell me not to answer your note, but I could not resist the wish
to thank you for your letter.

With every good wish, believe me, my dear Sir,

Yours sincerely,
Ch. Darwin.

It is curious that in this correspondence Darwin makes no reference
to the fact that he had already had in his possession a copy of
Butler's dialogue and had endeavoured to induce the editor of an
English periodical to reprint it. It is possible that we have not
here the whole of the correspondence which passed between Darwin and
Butler at this period, and this theory is supported by the fact that
Butler seems to take for granted that Darwin knew all about the
appearance of the original dialogue on the ORIGIN OF SPECIES in the

Enough, however, has been given to explain the correspondence which
the publication of the dialogue occasioned. I do not know what
authority Butler had for supposing that Charles John Abraham, Bishop
of Wellington, was the author of the article entitled "Barrel-
Organs," and the "Savoyard" of the subsequent controversy. However,
at that time Butler was deep in the counsels of the PRESS, and he may
have received private information on the subject. Butler's own
reappearance over the initials A. M. is sufficiently explained in his
letter to Darwin.

It is worth observing that Butler appears in the dialogue and ensuing
correspondence in a character very different from that which he was
later to assume. Here we have him as an ardent supporter of Charles
Darwin, and adopting a contemptuous tone with regard to the claims of
Erasmus Darwin to have sown the seed which was afterwards raised to
maturity by his grandson. It would be interesting to know if it was
this correspondence that first turned Butler's attention seriously to
the works of the older evolutionists and ultimately led to the
production of EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW, in which the indebtedness of
Charles Darwin to Erasmus Darwin, Buffon and Lamarck is demonstrated
with such compelling force.

[From the Press, 20 December, 1862.]

F. So you have finished Darwin? Well, how did you like him?

C. You cannot expect me to like him. He is so hard and logical, and
he treats his subject with such an intensity of dry reasoning without
giving himself the loose rein for a single moment from one end of the
book to the other, that I must confess I have found it a great effort
to read him through.

F. But I fancy that, if you are to be candid, you will admit that
the fault lies rather with yourself than with the book. Your
knowledge of natural history is so superficial that you are
constantly baffled by terms of which you do not understand the
meaning, and in which you consequently lose all interest. I admit,
however, that the book is hard and laborious reading; and, moreover,
that the writer appears to have predetermined from the commencement
to reject all ornament, and simply to argue from beginning to end,
from point to point, till he conceived that he had made his case
sufficiently clear.

C. I agree with you, and I do not like his book partly on that very
account. He seems to have no eye but for the single point at which
he is aiming.

F. But is not that a great virtue in a writer?

C. A great virtue, but a cold and hard one.

F. In my opinion it is a grave and wise one. Moreover, I conceive
that the judicial calmness which so strongly characterises the whole
book, the absence of all passion, the air of extreme and anxious
caution which pervades it throughout, are rather the result of
training and artificially acquired self-restraint than symptoms of a
cold and unimpassioned nature; at any rate, whether the lawyer-like
faculty of swearing both sides of a question and attaching the full
value to both is acquired or natural in Darwin's case, you will admit
that such a habit of mind is essential for any really valuable and
scientific investigation.

C. I admit it. Science is all head--she has no heart at all.

F. You are right. But a man of science may be a man of other things
besides science, and though he may have, and ought to have no heart
during a scientific investigation, yet when he has once come to a
conclusion he may be hearty enough in support of it, and in his other
capacities may be of as warm a temperament as even you can desire.

C. I tell you I do not like the book.

F. May I catechise you a little upon it?

C. To your heart's content.

F. Firstly, then, I will ask you what is the one great impression
that you have derived from reading it; or, rather, what do you think
to be the main impression that Darwin wanted you to derive?

C. Why, I should say some such thing as the following--that men are
descended from monkeys, and monkeys from something else, and so on
back to dogs and horses and hedge-sparrows and pigeons and cinipedes
(what is a cinipede?) and cheesemites, and then through the plants
down to duckweed.

F. You express the prevalent idea concerning the book, which as you
express it appears nonsensical enough.

C. How, then, should you express it yourself?

F. Hand me the book and I will read it to you through from beginning
to end, for to express it more briefly than Darwin himself has done
is almost impossible.

C. That is nonsense; as you asked me what impression I derived from
the book, so now I ask you, and I charge you to answer me.

F. Well, I assent to the justice of your demand, but I shall comply
with it by requiring your assent to a few principal statements
deducible from the work.

C. So be it.

F. You will grant then, firstly, that all plants and animals
increase very rapidly, and that unless they were in some manner
checked, the world would soon be overstocked. Take cats, for
instance; see with what rapidity they breed on the different runs in
this province where there is little or nothing to check them; or even
take the more slowly breeding sheep, and see how soon 500 ewes become
5000 sheep under favourable circumstances. Suppose this sort of
thing to go on for a hundred million years or so, and where would be
the standing room for all the different plants and animals that would
be now existing, did they not materially check each other's increase,
or were they not liable in some way to be checked by other causes?
Remember the quail; how plentiful they were until the cats came with
the settlers from Europe. Why were they so abundant? Simply because
they had plenty to eat, and could get sufficient shelter from the
hawks to multiply freely. The cats came, and tussocks stood the poor
little creatures in but poor stead. The cats increased and
multiplied because they had plenty of food and no natural enemy to
check them. Let them wait a year or two, till they have materially
reduced the larks also, as they have long since reduced the quail,
and let them have to depend solely upon occasional dead lambs and
sheep, and they will find a certain rather formidable natural enemy
called Famine rise slowly but inexorably against them and slaughter
them wholesale. The first proposition then to which I demand your
assent is that all plants and animals tend to increase in a high
geometrical ratio; that they all endeavour to get that which is
necessary for their own welfare; that, as unfortunately there are
conflicting interests in Nature, collisions constantly occur between
different animals and plants, whereby the rate of increase of each
species is very materially checked. Do you admit this?

C. Of course; it is obvious.

F. You admit then that there is in Nature a perpetual warfare of
plant, of bird, of beast, of fish, of reptile; that each is striving
selfishly for its own advantage, and will get what it wants if it

C. If what?

F. If it can. How comes it then that sometimes it cannot? Simply
because all are not of equal strength, and the weaker must go to the

C. You seem to gloat over your devilish statement.

F. Gloat or no gloat, is it true or no? I am not one of those

"Who would unnaturally better Nature
By making out that that which is, is not."

If the law of Nature is "struggle," it is better to look the matter
in the face and adapt yourself to the conditions of your existence.
Nature will not bow to you, neither will you mend matters by patting
her on the back and telling her that she is not so black as she is
painted. My dear fellow, my dear sentimental friend, do you eat
roast beef or roast mutton?

C. Drop that chaff and go back to the matter in hand.

F. To continue then with the cats. Famine comes and tests them, so
to speak; the weaker, the less active, the less cunning, and the less
enduring cats get killed off, and only the strongest and smartest
cats survive; there will be no favouritism shown to animals in a
state of Nature; they will be weighed in the balance, and the weight
of a hair will sometimes decide whether they shall be found wanting
or no. This being the case, the cats having been thus naturally
culled and the stronger having been preserved, there will be a
gradual tendency to improve manifested among the cats, even as among
our own mobs of sheep careful culling tends to improve the flock.

C. This, too, is obvious.

F. Extend this to all animals and plants, and the same thing will
hold good concerning them all. I shall now change the ground and
demand assent to another statement. You know that though the
offspring of all plants and animals is in the main like the parent,
yet that in almost every instance slight deviations occur, and that
sometimes there is even considerable divergence from the parent type.
It must also be admitted that these slight variations are often, or
at least sometimes, capable of being perpetuated by inheritance.
Indeed, it is only in consequence of this fact that our sheep and
cattle have been capable of so much improvement.

C. I admit this.

F. Then the whole matter lies in a nutshell. Suppose that hundreds
of millions of years ago there existed upon this earth a single
primordial form of the very lowest life, or suppose that three or
four such primordial forms existed. Change of climate, of food, of
any of the circumstances which surrounded any member of this first
and lowest class of life would tend to alter it in some slight
manner, and the alteration would have a tendency to perpetuate itself
by inheritance. Many failures would doubtless occur, but with the
lapse of time slight deviations would undoubtedly become permanent
and inheritable, those alone being perpetuated which were beneficial
to individuals in whom they appeared. Repeat the process with each
deviation and we shall again obtain divergences (in the course of
ages) differing more strongly from the ancestral form, and again
those that enable their possessor to struggle for existence most
efficiently will be preserved. Repeat this process for millions and
millions of years, and, as it is impossible to assign any limit to
variability, it would seem as though the present diversities of
species must certainly have come about sooner or later, and that
other divergences will continue to come about to the end of time.
The great agent in this development of life has been competition.
This has culled species after species, and secured that those alone
should survive which were best fitted for the conditions by which
they found themselves surrounded. Endeavour to take a bird's-eye
view of the whole matter. See battle after battle, first in one part
of the world, then in another, sometimes raging more fiercely and
sometimes less; even as in human affairs war has always existed in
some part of the world from the earliest known periods, and probably
always will exist. While a species is conquering in one part of the
world it is being subdued in another, and while its conquerors are
indulging in their triumph down comes the fiat for their being culled
and drafted out, some to life and some to death, and so forth ad

C. It is very horrid.

F. No more horrid than that you should eat roast mutton or boiled

C. But it is utterly subversive of Christianity; for if this theory
is true the fall of man is entirely fabulous; and if the fall, then
the redemption, these two being inseparably bound together.

F. My dear friend, there I am not bound to follow you. I believe in
Christianity, and I believe in Darwin. The two appear
irreconcilable. My answer to those who accuse me of inconsistency
is, that both being undoubtedly true, the one must be reconcilable
with the other, and that the impossibility of reconciling them must
be only apparent and temporary, not real. The reconciliation will
never be effected by planing a little off the one and a little off
the other and then gluing them together with glue. People will not
stand this sort of dealing, and the rejection of the one truth or of
the other is sure to follow upon any such attempt being persisted in.
The true course is to use the freest candour in the acknowledgment of
the difficulty; to estimate precisely its real value, and obtain a
correct knowledge of its precise form. Then and then only is there a
chance of any satisfactory result being obtained. For unless the
exact nature of the difficulty be known first, who can attempt to
remove it? Let me re-state the matter once again. All animals and
plants in a state of Nature are undergoing constant competition for
the necessaries of life. Those that can hold their ground hold it;
those that cannot hold it are destroyed. But as it also happens that
slight changes of food, of habit, of climate, of circumjacent
accident, and so forth, produce a slight tendency to vary in the
offspring of any plant or animal, it follows that among these slight
variations some may be favourable to the individual in whom they
appear, and may place him in a better position than his fellows as
regards the enemies with whom his interests come into collision. In
this case he will have a better chance of surviving than his fellows;
he will thus stand also a better chance of continuing the species,
and in his offspring his own slight divergence from the parent type
will be apt to appear. However slight the divergence, if it be
beneficial to the individual it is likely to preserve the individual
and to reappear in his offspring, and this process may be repeated ad
infinitum. Once grant these two things, and the rest is a mere
matter of time and degree. That the immense differences between the
camel and the pig should have come about in six thousand years is not
believable; but in six hundred million years it is not incredible,
more especially when we consider that by the assistance of geology a
very perfect chain has been formed between the two. Let this
instance suffice. Once grant the principles, once grant that
competition is a great power in Nature, and that changes of
circumstances and habits produce a tendency to variation in the
offspring (no matter how slight such variation may be), and unless
you can define the possible limit of such variation during an
infinite series of generations, unless you can show that there is a
limit, and that Darwin's theory over-steps it, you have no right to
reject his conclusions. As for the objections to the theory, Darwin
has treated them with admirable candour, and our time is too brief to
enter into them here. My recommendation to you is that you should
read the book again.

C. Thank you, but for my own part I confess to caring very little
whether my millionth ancestor was a gorilla or no; and as Darwin's
book does not please me, I shall not trouble myself further about the

BARREL-ORGANS: [From the Press, 17 January, 1863.]

Dugald Stewart in his Dissertation on the Progress of Metaphysics
says: "On reflecting on the repeated reproduction of ancient
paradoxes by modern authors one is almost tempted to suppose that
human invention is limited, like a barrel-organ, to a specific number
of tunes."

It would be a very amusing and instructive task for a man of reading
and reflection to note down the instances he meets with of these old
tunes coming up again and again in regular succession with hardly any
change of note, and with all the old hitches and involuntary squeaks
that the barrel-organ had played in days gone by. It is most amusing
to see the old quotations repeated year after year and volume after
volume, till at last some more careful enquirer turns to the passage
referred to and finds that they have all been taken in and have
followed the lead of the first daring inventor of the mis-statement.
Hallam has had the courage, in the supplement to his History of the
Middle Ages, p. 398, to acknowledge an error of this sort that he has
been led into.

But the particular instance of barrel-organism that is present to our
minds just now is the Darwinian theory of the development of species
by natural selection, of which we hear so much. This is nothing new,
but a rechauffee of the old story that his namesake, Dr. Darwin,
served up in the end of the last century to Priestley and his
admirers, and Lord Monboddo had cooked in the beginning of the same
century. We have all heard of his theory that man was developed
directly from the monkey, and that we all lost our tails by sitting
too much upon that appendage.

We learn from that same great and cautious writer Hallam in his
History of Literature that there are traces of this theory and of
other popular theories of the present day in the works of Giordano
Bruno, the Neapolitan who was burnt at Rome by the Inquisition in
1600. It is curious to read the titles of his works and to think of
Dugald Stewart's remark about barrel-organs. For instance he wrote
on "The Plurality of Worlds," and on the universal "Monad," a name
familiar enough to the readers of Vestiges of Creation. He was a
Pantheist, and, as Hallam says, borrowed all his theories from the
eclectic philosophers, from Plotinus and the Neo-Platonists, and
ultimately they were no doubt of Oriental origin. This is just what
has been shown again and again to be the history of German Pantheism;
it is a mere barrel-organ repetition of the Brahman metaphysics found
in Hindu cosmogonies. Bruno's theory regarding development of
species was in Hallam's words: "There is nothing so small or so
unimportant but that a portion of spirit dwells in it; and this
spiritual substance requires a proper subject to become a plant or an
animal"; and Hallam in a note on this passage observes how the modern
theories of equivocal generation correspond with Bruno's.

No doubt Hallam is right in saying that they are all of Oriental
origin. Pythagoras borrowed from thence his kindred theory of the
metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls. But he was more
consistent than modern philosophers; he recognised a downward
development as well as an upward, and made morality and immorality
the crisis and turning-point of change--a bold lion developed into a
brave warrior, a drunken sot developed into a wallowing pig, and
Darwin's slave-making ants, p. 219, would have been formerly
Virginian cotton and tobacco growers.

Perhaps Prometheus was the first Darwin of antiquity, for he is said
to have begun his creation from below, and after passing from the
invertebrate to the sub-vertebrate, from thence to the backbone, from
the backbone to the mammalia, and from the mammalia to the manco-
cerebral, he compounded man of each and all:-

Fertur Prometheus addere principi
Limo coactus particulam undique
Desectam et insani leonis
Vim stomacho apposuisse nostro.

One word more about barrel-organs. We have heard on the undoubted
authority of ear and eyewitnesses, that in a neighbouring province
there is a church where the psalms are sung to a barrel-organ, but
unfortunately the psalm tunes come in the middle of the set, and the
jigs and waltzes have to be played through before the psalm can
start. Just so is it with Darwinism and all similar theories. All
his fantasias, as we saw in a late article, are made to come round at
last to religious questions, with which really and truly they have
nothing to do, but were it not for their supposed effect upon
religion, no one would waste his time in reading about the
possibility of Polar bears swimming about and catching flies so long
that they at last get the fins they wish for.

DARWIN ON SPECIES: [From the Press, 21 February, 1863.]

To the Editor of the Press.

Sir--In two of your numbers you have already taken notice of Darwin's
theory of the origin of species; I would venture to trespass upon
your space in order to criticise briefly both your notices.

The first is evidently the composition of a warm adherent of the
theory in question; the writer overlooks all the real difficulties in
the way of accepting it, and, caught by the obvious truth of much
that Darwin says, has rushed to the conclusion that all is equally
true. He writes with the tone of a partisan, of one deficient in
scientific caution, and from the frequent repetition of the same
ideas manifest in his dialogue one would be led to suspect that he
was but little versed in habits of literary composition and
philosophical argument. Yet he may fairly claim the merit of having
written in earnest. He has treated a serious subject seriously
according to his lights; and though his lights are not brilliant
ones, yet he has apparently done his best to show the theory on which
he is writing in its most favourable aspect. He is rash, evidently
well satisfied with himself, very possibly mistaken, and just one of
those persons who (without intending it) are more apt to mislead than
to lead the few people that put their trust in them. A few will
always follow them, for a strong faith is always more or less
impressive upon persons who are too weak to have any definite and
original faith of their own. The second writer, however, assumes a
very different tone. His arguments to all practical intents and
purposes run as follows:-

Old fallacies are constantly recurring. Therefore Darwin's theory is
a fallacy.

They come again and again, like tunes in a barrel-organ. Therefore
Darwin's theory is a fallacy.

Hallam made a mistake, and in his History of the Middle Ages, p. 398,
he corrects himself. Therefore Darwin's theory is wrong.

Dr. Darwin in the last century said the same thing as his son or
grandson says now--will the writer of the article refer to anything
bearing on natural selection and the struggle for existence in Dr.
Darwin's work?--and a foolish nobleman said something foolish about
monkey's tails. Therefore Darwin's theory is wrong.

Giordano Bruno was burnt in the year 1600 A.D.; he was a Pantheist;
therefore Darwin's theory is wrong.

And finally, as a clinching argument, in one of the neighbouring
settlements there is a barrel-organ which plays its psalm tunes in
the middle of its jigs and waltzes. After this all lingering doubts
concerning the falsehood of Darwin's theory must be at an end, and
any person of ordinary common sense must admit that the theory of
development by natural selection is unwarranted by experience and

The articles conclude with an implied statement that Darwin supposes
the Polar bear to swim about catching flies for so long a period that
at last it gets the fins it wishes for.

Now, however sceptical I may yet feel about the truth of all Darwin's
theory, I cannot sit quietly by and see him misrepresented in such a
scandalously slovenly manner. What Darwin does say is that sometimes
diversified and changed habits may be observed in individuals of the
same species; that is that there are eccentric animals just as there
are eccentric men. He adduces a few instances and winds up by saying
that "in North America the black bear was seen by Hearne swimming for
hours with widely open mouth, thus catching--almost like a whale--
insects in the water." This and nothing more. (See pp. 201 and

Because Darwin says that a bear of rather eccentric habits happened
to be seen by Hearne swimming for hours and catching insects almost
like a whale, your writer (with a carelessness hardly to be
reprehended in sufficiently strong terms) asserts by implication that
Darwin supposes the whale to be developed from the bear by the latter
having had a strong desire to possess fins. This is disgraceful.

I can hardly be mistaken in supposing that I have quoted the passage
your writer alludes to. Should I be in error, I trust he will give
the reference to the place in which Darwin is guilty of the nonsense
that is fathered upon him in your article.

It must be remembered that there have been few great inventions in
physics or discoveries in science which have not been foreshadowed to
a certain extent by speculators who were indeed mistaken, but were
yet more or less on the right scent. Day is heralded by dawn, Apollo
by Aurora, and thus it often happens that a real discovery may wear
to the careless observer much the same appearance as an exploded
fallacy, whereas in fact it is widely different. As much caution is
due in the rejection of a theory as in the acceptation of it. The
first of your writers is too hasty in accepting, the second in
refusing even a candid examination.

Now, when the Saturday Review, the Cornhill Magazine, Once a Week,
and Macmillan's Magazine, not to mention other periodicals, have
either actually and completely as in the case of the first two,
provisionally as in the last mentioned, given their adherence to the
theory in question, it may be taken for granted that the arguments in
its favour are sufficiently specious to have attracted the attention
and approbation of a considerable number of well-educated men in
England. Three months ago the theory of development by natural
selection was openly supported by Professor Huxley before the British
Association at Cambridge. I am not adducing Professor Huxley's
advocacy as a proof that Darwin is right (indeed, Owen opposed him
tooth and nail), but as a proof that there is sufficient to be said
on Darwin's side to demand more respectful attention than your last
writer has thought it worth while to give it. A theory which the
British Association is discussing with great care in England is not
to be set down by off-hand nicknames in Canterbury.

To those, however, who do feel an interest in the question, I would
venture to give a word or two of advice. I would strongly deprecate
forming a hurried opinion for or against the theory. Naturalists in
Europe are canvassing the matter with the utmost diligence, and a few
years must show whether they will accept the theory or no. It is
plausible; that can be decided by no one. Whether it is true or no
can be decided only among naturalists themselves. We are outsiders,
and most of us must be content to sit on the stairs till the great
men come forth and give us the benefit of their opinion.

I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
A. M.

DARWIN ON SPECIES: [From the Press, March 14th, 1863.]

To the Editor of the Press.

Sir--A correspondent signing himself "A. M." in the issue of February
21st says: --"Will the writer (of an article on barrel-organs) refer
to anything bearing upon natural selection and the struggle for
existence in Dr. Darwin's work?" This is one of the trade forms by
which writers imply that there is no such passage, and yet leave a
loophole if they are proved wrong. I will, however, furnish him with
a passage from the notes of Darwin's Botanic Garden:-

"I am acquainted with a philosopher who, contemplating this subject,
thinks it not impossible that the first insects were anthers or
stigmas of flowers, which had by some means loosed themselves from
their parent plant; and that many insects have gradually in long
process of time been formed from these, some acquiring wings, others
fins, and others claws, from their ceaseless efforts to procure their
food or to secure themselves from injury. The anthers or stigmas are
therefore separate beings."

This passage contains the germ of Mr. Charles Darwin's theory of the
origin of species by natural selection:-

"Analogy would lead me to the belief that all animals and plants have
descended from one prototype."

Here are a few specimens, his illustrations of the theory:-

"There seems to me no great difficulty in believing that natural
selection has actually converted a swim-bladder into a lung or organ
used exclusively for respiration." "A swim-bladder has apparently
been converted into an air-breathing lung." "We must be cautious in
concluding that a bat could not have been formed by natural selection
from an animal which at first could only glide through the air." "I
can see no insuperable difficulty in further believing it possible
that the membrane-connected fingers and forearm of the galeopithecus
might be greatly lengthened by natural selection, and this, as far as
the organs of flight are concerned, would convert it into a bat."
"The framework of bones being the same in the hand of a man, wing of
a bat, fin of a porpoise, and leg of a horse, the same number of
vertebrae forming the neck of the giraffe and of the elephant, and
innumerable other such facts, at once explain themselves on the
theory of descent with slow and slight successive modifications."

I do not mean to go through your correspondent's letter, otherwise "I
could hardly reprehend in sufficiently strong terms" (and all that
sort of thing) the perversion of what I said about Giordano Bruno.
But "ex uno disce omnes"--I am, etc.,


DARWIN ON SPECIES: [From the Press, 18 March, 1863.]

To the Editor of the Press.

Sir--The "Savoyard" of last Saturday has shown that he has perused
Darwin's Botanic Garden with greater attention than myself. I am
obliged to him for his correction of my carelessness, and have not
the smallest desire to make use of any loopholes to avoid being
"proved wrong." Let, then, the "Savoyard's" assertion that Dr.
Darwin had to a certain extent forestalled Mr. C. Darwin stand, and
let my implied denial that in the older Darwin's works passages
bearing on natural selection, or the struggle for existence, could be
found, go for nought, or rather let it be set down against me.

What follows? Has the "Savoyard" (supposing him to be the author of
the article on barrel-organs) adduced one particle of real argument
the more to show that the real Darwin's theory is wrong?

The elder Darwin writes in a note that "he is acquainted with a
philosopher who thinks it not impossible that the first insects were
the anthers or stigmas of flowers, which by some means, etc. etc."
This is mere speculation, not a definite theory, and though the
passage above as quoted by the" Savoyard" certainly does contain the
germ of Darwin's theory, what is it more than the crudest and most
unshapen germ? And in what conceivable way does this discovery of
the egg invalidate the excellence of the chicken?

Was there ever a great theory yet which was not more or less
developed from previous speculations which were all to a certain
extent wrong, and all ridiculed, perhaps not undeservedly, at the
time of their appearance? There is a wide difference between a
speculation and a theory. A speculation involves the notion of a man
climbing into a lofty position, and descrying a somewhat remote
object which he cannot fully make out. A theory implies that the
theorist has looked long and steadfastly till he is clear in his own
mind concerning the nature of the thing which he is beholding. I
submit that the "Savoyard" has unfairly made use of the failure of
certain speculations in order to show that a distinct theory is

Let it be granted that Darwin's theory has been foreshadowed by
numerous previous writers. Grant the "Savoyard" his Giordano Bruno,
and give full weight to the barrel-organ in a neighbouring
settlement, I would still ask, has the theory of natural development
of species ever been placed in anything approaching its present clear
and connected form before the appearance of Mr. Darwin's book? Has
it ever received the full attention of the scientific world as a duly
organised theory, one presented in a tangible shape and demanding
investigation, as the conclusion arrived at by a man of known
scientific attainments after years of patient toil? The upshot of
the barrel-organs article was to answer this question in the
affirmative and to pooh-pooh all further discussion.

It would be mere presumption on my part either to attack or defend
Darwin, but my indignation was roused at seeing him misrepresented
and treated disdainfully. I would wish, too, that the "Savoyard"
would have condescended to notice that little matter of the bear. I
have searched my copy of Darwin again and again to find anything
relating to the subject except what I have quoted in my previous

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
A. M.

DARWIN ON SPECIES: [From the Press, April 11th, 1863.]

To the Editor of the Press.

Sir--Your correspondent "A. M." is pertinacious on the subject of the
bear being changed into a whale, which I said Darwin contemplated as
not impossible. I did not take the trouble in any former letter to
answer him on that point, as his language was so intemperate. He has
modified his tone in his last letter, and really seems open to the
conviction that he may be the "careless" writer after all; and so on
reflection I have determined to give him the opportunity of doing me

In his letter of February 21 he says: "I cannot sit by and see
Darwin misrepresented in such a scandalously slovenly manner. What
Darwin does say is 'that SOMETIMES diversified and changed habits may
be observed in individuals of the same species; that is, that there
are certain eccentric animals as there are certain eccentric men. He
adduces a few instances, and winds up by saying that in North America
the black bear was seen by Hearne swimming for hours with widely open
mouth, thus catching, ALMOST LIKE A WHALE, insects in the water.'
THIS, AND NOTHING MORE, pp. 201, 202."

Then follows a passage about my carelessness, which (he says) is
hardly to be reprehended in sufficiently strong terms, and he ends
with saying: "This is disgraceful."

Now you may well suppose that I was a little puzzled at the seeming
audacity of a writer who should adopt this style, when the words
which follow his quotation from Darwin are (in the edition from which
I quoted) as follows: "Even in so extreme a case as this, if the
supply of insects were constant, and if better adapted competitors
did not already exist in the country, I can see no difficulty in a
race of bears being rendered by natural selection more and more
aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths,
till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale."

Now this passage was a remarkable instance of the idea that I was
illustrating in the article on "Barrel-organs," because Buffon in his
Histoire Naturelle had conceived a theory of degeneracy (the exact
converse of Darwin's theory of ascension) by which the bear might
pass into a seal, and that into a whale. Trusting now to the
fairness of "A. M." I leave to him to say whether he has quoted from
the same edition as I have, and whether the additional words I have
quoted are in his edition, and if so whether he has not been guilty
of a great injustice to me; and if they are not in his edition,
whether he has not been guilty of great haste and "carelessness" in
taking for granted that I have acted in so "disgraceful" a manner.

I am, Sir, etc.,
"The Savoyard," or player
on Barrel-organs.

(The paragraph in question has been the occasion of much discussion.
The only edition in our hands is the third, seventh thousand, which
contains the paragraph as quoted by "A. M." We have heard that it is
different in earlier editions, but have not been able to find one.
The difference between "A. M." and "The Savoyard" is clearly one of
different editions. Darwin appears to have been ashamed of the
inconsequent inference suggested, and to have withdrawn it.--Ed. the

DARWIN ON SPECIES: [From the Press, 22nd June, 1863.]

To the Editor of the Press.

Sir--I extract the following from an article in the Saturday Review
of January 10, 1863, on the vertebrated animals of the Zoological

"As regards the ducks, for example, inter-breeding goes on to a very
great extent among nearly all the genera, which are well represented
in the collection. We think it unfortunate that the details of these
crosses have not hitherto been made public. The Zoological Society
has existed about thirty-five years, and we imagine that evidence
must have been accumulated almost enough to make or mar that part of
Mr. Darwin's well-known argument which rests on what is known of the
phenomena of hybridism. The present list reveals only one fact
bearing on the subject, but that is a noteworthy one, for it
completely overthrows the commonly accepted theory that the mixed
offspring of different species are infertile inter se. At page 15
(of the list of vertebrated animals living in the gardens of the
Zoological Society of London, Longman and Co., 1862) we find
enumerated three examples of hybrids between two perfectly distinct
species, and even, according to modern classification, between two
distinct genera of ducks, for three or four generations. There can
be little doubt that a series of researches in this branch of
experimental physiology, which might be carried on at no great loss,
would place zoologists in a far better position with regard to a
subject which is one of the most interesting if not one of the most
important in natural history."

I fear that both you and your readers will be dead sick of Darwin,
but the above is worthy of notice. My compliments to the "Savoyard."

Your obedient servant,
May 17th. A. M.


"Darwin Among the Machines" originally appeared in the Christ Church
PRESS, 13 June, 1863. It was reprinted by Mr. Festing Jones in his
edition of THE NOTE-BOOKS OF SAMUEL BUTLER (Fifield, London, 1912,
Kennerley, New York), with a prefatory note pointing out its
connection with the genesis of EREWHON, to which readers desirous of
further information may be referred.

[To the Editor of the Press, Christchurch, New Zealand, 13 June,

Sir--There are few things of which the present generation is more
justly proud than of the wonderful improvements which are daily
taking place in all sorts of mechanical appliances. And indeed it is
matter for great congratulation on many grounds. It is unnecessary
to mention these here, for they are sufficiently obvious; our present
business lies with considerations which may somewhat tend to humble
our pride and to make us think seriously of the future prospects of
the human race. If we revert to the earliest primordial types of
mechanical life, to the lever, the wedge, the inclined plane, the
screw and the pulley, or (for analogy would lead us one step further)
to that one primordial type from which all the mechanical kingdom has
been developed, we mean to the lever itself, and if we then examine
the machinery of the Great Eastern, we find ourselves almost
awestruck at the vast development of the mechanical world, at the
gigantic strides with which it has advanced in comparison with the
slow progress of the animal and vegetable kingdom. We shall find it
impossible to refrain from asking ourselves what the end of this
mighty movement is to be. In what direction is it tending? What
will be its upshot? To give a few imperfect hints towards a solution
of these questions is the object of the present letter.

We have used the words "mechanical life," "the mechanical kingdom,"
"the mechanical world" and so forth, and we have done so advisedly,
for as the vegetable kingdom was slowly developed from the mineral,
and as in like manner the animal supervened upon the vegetable, so
now in these last few ages an entirely new kingdom has sprung up, of
which we as yet have only seen what will one day be considered the
antediluvian prototypes of the race.

We regret deeply that our knowledge both of natural history and of
machinery is too small to enable us to undertake the gigantic task of
classifying machines into the genera and sub-genera, species,
varieties and sub-varieties, and so forth, of tracing the connecting
links between machines of widely different characters, of pointing
out how subservience to the use of man has played that part among
machines which natural selection has performed in the animal and
vegetable kingdoms, of pointing out rudimentary organs {1} which
exist in some few machines, feebly developed and perfectly useless,
yet serving to mark descent from some ancestral type which has either
perished or been modified into some new phase of mechanical
existence. We can only point out this field for investigation; it
must be followed by others whose education and talents have been of a
much higher order than any which we can lay claim to.

Some few hints we have determined to venture upon, though we do so
with the profoundest diffidence. Firstly, we would remark that as
some of the lowest of the vertebrata attained a far greater size than
has descended to their more highly organised living representatives,
so a diminution in the size of machines has often attended their
development and progress. Take the watch for instance. Examine the
beautiful structure of the little animal, watch the intelligent play
of the minute members which compose it; yet this little creature is
but a development of the cumbrous clocks of the thirteenth century--
it is no deterioration from them. The day may come when clocks,
which certainly at the present day are not diminishing in bulk, may
be entirely superseded by the universal use of watches, in which case
clocks will become extinct like the earlier saurians, while the watch
(whose tendency has for some years been rather to decrease in size
than the contrary) will remain the only existing type of an extinct

The views of machinery which we are thus feebly indicating will
suggest the solution of one of the greatest and most mysterious
questions of the day. We refer to the question: What sort of
creature man's next successor in the supremacy of the earth is likely
to be. We have often heard this debated; but it appears to us that
we are ourselves creating our own successors; we are daily adding to
the beauty and delicacy of their physical organisation; we are daily
giving them greater power and supplying by all sorts of ingenious
contrivances that self-regulating, self-acting power which will be to
them what intellect has been to the human race. In the course of
ages we shall find ourselves the inferior race. Inferior in power,
inferior in that moral quality of self-control, we shall look up to
them as the acme of all that the best and wisest man can ever dare to
aim at. No evil passions, no jealousy, no avarice, no impure desires
will disturb the serene might of those glorious creatures. Sin,
shame, and sorrow will have no place among them. Their minds will be
in a state of perpetual calm, the contentment of a spirit that knows
no wants, is disturbed by no regrets. Ambition will never torture
them. Ingratitude will never cause them the uneasiness of a moment.
The guilty conscience, the hope deferred, the pains of exile, the
insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of the
unworthy takes--these will be entirely unknown to them. If they want
"feeding" (by the use of which very word we betray our recognition of
them as living organism) they will be attended by patient slaves
whose business and interest it will be to see that they shall want
for nothing. If they are out of order they will be promptly attended
to by physicians who are thoroughly acquainted with their
constitutions; if they die, for even these glorious animals will not
be exempt from that necessary and universal consummation, they will
immediately enter into a new phase of existence, for what machine
dies entirely in every part at one and the same instant?

We take it that when the state of things shall have arrived which we
have been above attempting to describe, man will have become to the
machine what the horse and the dog are to man. He will continue to
exist, nay even to improve, and will be probably better off in his
state of domestication under the beneficent rule of the machines than
he is in his present wild state. We treat our horses, dogs, cattle,
and sheep, on the whole, with great kindness; we give them whatever
experience teaches us to be best for them, and there can be no doubt
that our use of meat has added to the happiness of the lower animals
far more than it has detracted from it; in like manner it is
reasonable to suppose that the machines will treat us kindly, for
their existence is as dependent upon ours as ours is upon the lower
animals. They cannot kill us and eat us as we do sheep; they will
not only require our services in the parturition of their young
(which branch of their economy will remain always in our hands), but
also in feeding them, in setting them right when they are sick, and
burying their dead or working up their corpses into new machines. It
is obvious that if all the animals in Great Britain save man alone
were to die, and if at the same time all intercourse with foreign
countries were by some sudden catastrophe to be rendered perfectly
impossible, it is obvious that under such circumstances the loss of
human life would be something fearful to contemplate--in like manner
were mankind to cease, the machines would be as badly off or even
worse. The fact is that our interests are inseparable from theirs,
and theirs from ours. Each race is dependent upon the other for
innumerable benefits, and, until the reproductive organs of the
machines have been developed in a manner which we are hardly yet able
to conceive, they are entirely dependent upon man for even the
continuance of their species. It is true that these organs may be
ultimately developed, inasmuch as man's interest lies in that
direction; there is nothing which our infatuated race would desire
more than to see a fertile union between two steam engines; it is
true that machinery is even at this present time employed in
begetting machinery, in becoming the parent of machines often after
its own kind, but the days of flirtation, courtship, and matrimony
appear to be very remote, and indeed can hardly be realised by our
feeble and imperfect imagination.

Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by
day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily
bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the
energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life.
The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come
when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its
inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a
moment question.

Our opinion is that war to the death should be instantly proclaimed
against them. Every machine of every sort should be destroyed by the
well-wisher of his species. Let there be no exceptions made, no
quarter shown; let us at once go back to the primeval condition of
the race. If it be urged that this is impossible under the present
condition of human affairs, this at once proves that the mischief is
already done, that our servitude has commenced in good earnest, that
we have raised a race of beings whom it is beyond our power to
destroy, and that we are not only enslaved but are absolutely
acquiescent in our bondage.

For the present we shall leave this subject, which we present gratis
to the members of the Philosophical Society. Should they consent to
avail themselves of the vast field which we have pointed out, we
shall endeavour to labour in it ourselves at some future and
indefinite period.

I am, Sir, etc.,


"Lucubratio Ebria," like "Darwin Among the Machines," has already
appeared in THE NOTE-BOOKS OF SAMUEL BUTLER with a prefatory note by
Mr. Festing Jones, explaining its connection with EREWHON and LIFE
AND HABIT. I need therefore only repeat that it was written by
Butler after his return to England and sent to New Zealand, where it
was published in the PRESS on July 29, 1865.

There is a period in the evening, or more generally towards the still
small hours of the morning, in which we so far unbend as to take a
single glass of hot whisky and water. We will neither defend the
practice nor excuse it. We state it as a fact which must be borne in
mind by the readers of this article; for we know not how, whether it
be the inspiration of the drink or the relief from the harassing work
with which the day has been occupied or from whatever other cause,
yet we are certainly liable about this time to such a prophetic
influence as we seldom else experience. We are rapt in a dream such
as we ourselves know to be a dream, and which, like other dreams, we
can hardly embody in a distinct utterance. We know that what we see
is but a sort of intellectual Siamese twins, of which one is
substance and the other shadow, but we cannot set either free without
killing both. We are unable to rudely tear away the veil of phantasy
in which the truth is shrouded, so we present the reader with a
draped figure, and his own judgment must discriminate between the
clothes and the body. A truth's prosperity is like a jest's, it lies
in the ear of him that hears it. Some may see our lucubration as we
saw it, and others may see nothing but a drunken dream or the
nightmare of a distempered imagination. To ourselves it is the
speaking with unknown tongues to the early Corinthians; we cannot
fully understand our own speech, and we fear lest there be not a
sufficient number of interpreters present to make our utterance
edify. But there! (Go on straight to the body of the article.)

The limbs of the lower animals have never been modified by any act of
deliberation and forethought on their own part. Recent researches
have thrown absolutely no light upon the origin of life--upon the
initial force which introduced a sense of identity and a deliberate
faculty into the world; but they do certainly appear to show very
clearly that each species of the animal and vegetable kingdom has
been moulded into its present shape by chances and changes of many
millions of years, by chances and changes over which the creature
modified had no control whatever, and concerning whose aim it was
alike unconscious and indifferent, by forces which seem insensate to
the pain which they inflict, but by whose inexorably beneficent
cruelty the brave and strong keep coming to the fore, while the weak
and bad drop behind and perish. There was a moral government of this
world before man came near it--a moral government suited to the
capacities of the governed, and which unperceived by them has laid
fast the foundations of courage, endurance, and cunning. It laid
them so fast that they became more and more hereditary. Horace says
well fortes creantur fortibus et bonis, good men beget good children;
the rule held even in the geological period; good ichthyosauri begot
good ichthyosauri, and would to our discomfort have gone on doing so
to the present time had not better creatures been begetting better
things than ichthyosauri, or famine or fire or convulsion put an end
to them. Good apes begot good apes, and at last when human
intelligence stole like a late spring upon the mimicry of our semi-
simious ancestry, the creature learnt how he could of his own
forethought add extra-corporaneous limbs to the members of his own
body, and become not only a vertebrate mammal, but a vertebrate
machinate mammal into the bargain.

It was a wise monkey that first learned to carry a stick, and a
useful monkey that mimicked him. For the race of man has learned to
walk uprightly much as a child learns the same thing. At first he
crawls on all fours, then he clambers, laying hold of whatever he
can; and lastly he stands upright alone and walks, but for a long
time with an unsteady step. So when the human race was in its
gorilla-hood it generally carried a stick; from carrying a stick for
many million years it became accustomed and modified to an upright
position. The stick wherewith it had learned to walk would now serve
to beat its younger brothers, and then it found out its service as a
lever. Man would thus learn that the limbs of his body were not the
only limbs that he could command. His body was already the most
versatile in existence, but he could render it more versatile still.
With the improvement in his body his mind improved also. He learnt
to perceive the moral government under which he held the feudal
tenure of his life--perceiving it he symbolised it, and to this day
our poets and prophets still strive to symbolise it more and more

The mind grew because the body grew; more things were perceived, more
things were handled, and being handled became familiar. But this
came about chiefly because there was a hand to handle with; without
the hand there would be no handling, and no method of holding and
examining is comparable to the human hand. The tail of an opossum is
a prehensile thing, but it is too far from his eyes; the elephant's
trunk is better, and it is probably to their trunks that the
elephants owe their sagacity. It is here that the bee, in spite of
her wings, has failed. She has a high civilisation, but it is one
whose equilibrium appears to have been already attained; the
appearance is a false one, for the bee changes, though more slowly
than man can watch her; but the reason of the very gradual nature of
the change is chiefly because the physical organisation of the insect
changes, but slowly also. She is poorly off for hands, and has never
fairly grasped the notion of tacking on other limbs to the limbs of
her own body, and so being short lived to boot she remains from
century to century to human eyes in statu quo. Her body never
becomes machinate, whereas this new phase of organism which has been
introduced with man into the mundane economy, has made him a very
quicksand for the foundation of an unchanging civilisation; certain
fundamental principles will always remain, but every century the
change in man's physical status, as compared with the elements around
him, is greater and greater. He is a shifting basis on which no
equilibrium of habit and civilisation can be established. Were it
not for this constant change in our physical powers, which our
mechanical limbs have brought about, man would have long since
apparently attained his limit of possibility; he would be a creature
of as much fixity as the ants and bees; he would still have advanced,
but no faster than other animals advance.

If there were a race of men without any mechanical appliances we
should see this clearly. There are none, nor have there been, so far
as we can tell, for millions and millions of years. The lowest
Australian savage carries weapons for the fight or the chase, and has
his cooking and drinking utensils at home; a race without these
things would be completely ferae naturae and not men at all. We are
unable to point to any example of a race absolutely devoid of extra-
corporaneous limbs, but we can see among the Chinese that with the
failure to invent new limbs a civilisation becomes as much fixed as
that of the ants; and among savage tribes we observe that few
implements involve a state of things scarcely human at all. Such
tribes only advance pari passu with the creatures upon which they

It is a mistake, then, to take the view adopted by a previous
correspondent of this paper, to consider the machines as identities,
to animalise them and to anticipate their final triumph over mankind.
They are to be regarded as the mode of development by which human
organism is most especially advancing, and every fresh invention is
to be considered as an additional member of the resources of the
human body. Herein lies the fundamental difference between man and
his inferiors. As regard his flesh and blood, his senses, appetites,
and affections, the difference is one of degree rather than of kind,
but in the deliberate invention of such unity of limbs as is
exemplified by the railway train--that seven-leagued foot which five
hundred may own at once--he stands quite alone.

In confirmation of the views concerning mechanism which we have been
advocating above, it must be remembered that men are not merely the
children of their parents, but they are begotten of the institutions
of the state of the mechanical sciences under which they are born and
bred. These things have made us what we are. We are children of the
plough, the spade, and the ship; we are children of the extended
liberty and knowledge which the printing press has diffused. Our
ancestors added these things to their previously existing members;
the new limbs were preserved by natural selection and incorporated
into human society; they descended with modifications, and hence
proceeds the difference between our ancestors and ourselves. By the
institutions and state of science under which a man is born it is
determined whether he shall have the limbs of an Australian savage or
those of a nineteenth-century Englishman. The former is supplemented
with little save a rug and a javelin; the latter varies his physique
with the changes of the season, with age and with advancing or
decreasing wealth. If it is wet he is furnished with an organ which
is called an umbrella and which seems designed for the purpose of
protecting either his clothes or his lungs from the injurious effects
of rain. His watch is of more importance to him than a good deal of
his hair, at any rate than of his whiskers; besides this he carries a
knife and generally a pencil case. His memory goes in a pocket-book.
He grows more complex as he becomes older and he will then be seen
with a pair of spectacles, perhaps also with false teeth and a wig;
but, if he be a really well-developed specimen of the race, he will
be furnished with a large box upon wheels, two horses, and a

Let the reader ponder over these last remarks and he will see that
the principal varieties and sub-varieties of the human race are not
now to be looked for among the negroes, the Circassians, the Malays,
or the American aborigines, but among the rich and the poor. The
difference in physical organisation between these two species of man
is far greater than that between the so-called types of humanity.
The rich man can go from here to England whenever he feels inclined,
the legs of the other are by an invisible fatality prevented from
carrying him beyond certain narrow limits. Neither rich nor poor as
yet see the philosophy of the thing, or admit that he who can tack a
portion of one of the P. and O. boats on to his identity is a much
more highly organised being than one who cannot. Yet the fact is
patent enough, if we once think it over, from the mere consideration
of the respect with which we so often treat those who are richer than
ourselves. We observe men for the most part (admitting, however,
some few abnormal exceptions) to be deeply impressed by the superior
organisation of those who have money. It is wrong to attribute this
respect to any unworthy motive, for the feeling is strictly
legitimate and springs from some of the very highest impulses of our
nature. It is the same sort of affectionate reverence which a dog
feels for man, and is not infrequently manifested in a similar

We admit that these last sentences are open to question, and we
should hardly like to commit ourselves irrecoverably to the
sentiments they express; but we will say this much for certain,
namely, that the rich man is the true hundred-handed Gyges of the
poets. He alone possesses the full complement of limbs who stands at
the summit of opulence, and we may assert with strictly scientific
accuracy that the Rothschilds are the most astonishing organisms that
the world has ever yet seen. For to the nerves or tissues, or
whatever it be that answers to the helm of a rich man's desires,
there is a whole army of limbs seen and unseen attachable; he may be
reckoned by his horse-power, by the number of foot-pounds which he
has money enough to set in motion. Who, then, will deny that a man
whose will represents the motive power of a thousand horses is a
being very different from the one who is equivalent but to the power
of a single one?

Henceforward, then, instead of saying that a man is hard up, let us
say that his organisation is at a low ebb, or, if we wish him well,
let us hope that he will grow plenty of limbs. It must be remembered
that we are dealing with physical organisations only. We do not say
that the thousand-horse man is better than a one-horse man, we only
say that he is more highly organised and should be recognised as
being so by the scientific leaders of the period. A man's will,
truth, endurance, are part of him also, and may, as in the case of
the late Mr. Cobden, have in themselves a power equivalent to all the
horse-power which they can influence; but were we to go into this
part of the question we should never have done, and we are compelled
reluctantly to leave our dream in its present fragmentary condition.

Act III, Scene I

The following brief essay was contributed by Butler to a small
IN CANTERBURY, N.Z., which was published at Christ Church on the
occasion of a bazaar held there in March, 1864, in aid of the funds
of the Christ Church Orphan Asylum, and offered for sale during the
progress of the bazaar. The miscellany consisted entirely of the
productions of Canterbury writers, and among the contributors were
Dean Jacobs, Canon Cottrell, and James Edward FitzGerald, the founder
of the PRESS.

When Prince Ferdinand was wrecked on the island Miranda was fifteen
years old. We can hardly suppose that she had ever seen Ariel, and
Caliban was a detestable object whom her father took good care to
keep as much out of her way as possible. Caliban was like the man
cook on a back-country run. "'Tis a villain, sir," says Miranda. "I
do not love to look on." "But as 'tis," returns Prospero, "we cannot
miss him; he does make our fire, fetch in our wood, and serve in
offices that profit us." Hands were scarce, and Prospero was obliged
to put up with Caliban in spite of the many drawbacks with which his
services were attended; in fact, no one on the island could have
liked him, for Ariel owed him a grudge on the score of the cruelty
with which he had been treated by Sycorax, and we have already heard
what Miranda and Prospero had to say about him. He may therefore
pass for nobody. Prospero was an old man, or at any rate in all
probability some forty years of age; therefore it is no wonder that
when Miranda saw Prince Ferdinand she should have fallen violently in
love with him. "Nothing ill," according to her view, "could dwell in
such a temple--if the ill Spirit have so fair an house, good things
will strive to dwell with 't." A very natural sentiment for a girl
in Miranda's circumstances, but nevertheless one which betrayed a
charming inexperience of the ways of the world and of the real value
of good looks. What surprises us, however, is this, namely the
remarkable celerity with which Miranda in a few hours became so
thoroughly wide awake to the exigencies of the occasion in
consequence of her love for the Prince. Prospero has set Ferdinand
to hump firewood out of the bush, and to pile it up for the use of
the cave. Ferdinand is for the present a sort of cadet, a youth of
good family, without cash and unaccustomed to manual labour; his
unlucky stars have landed him on the island, and now it seems that he
"must remove some thousands of these logs and pile them up, upon a
sore injunction." Poor fellow! Miranda's heart bleeds for him. Her
"affections were most humble"; she had been content to take Ferdinand
on speculation. On first seeing him she had exclaimed, "I have no
ambition to see a goodlier man"; and it makes her blood boil to see
this divine creature compelled to such an ignominious and painful
labour. What is the family consumption of firewood to her? Let
Caliban do it; let Prospero do it; or make Ariel do it; let her do it
herself; or let the lightning come down and "burn up those logs you
are enjoined to pile";--the logs themselves, while burning, would
weep for having wearied him. Come what would, it was a shame to make
Ferdinand work so hard, so she winds up thus: "My father is hard at
study; pray now rest yourself--HE'S SAFE FOR THESE THREE HOURS."
Safe--if she had only said that "papa was safe," the sentence would
have been purely modern, and have suited Thackeray as well as
Shakspeare. See how quickly she has learnt to regard her father as
one to be watched and probably kept in a good humour for the sake of
Ferdinand. We suppose that the secret of the modern character of
this particular passage lies simply in the fact that young people
make love pretty much in the same way now that they did three hundred
years ago; and possibly, with the exception that "the governor" may
be substituted for the words "my father" by the young ladies of three
hundred years hence, the passage will sound as fresh and modern then
as it does now. Let the Prosperos of that age take a lesson, and
either not allow the Ferdinands to pile up firewood, or so to arrange
their studies as not to be "safe" for any three consecutive hours.
It is true that Prospero's objection to the match was only feigned,
but Miranda thought otherwise, and for all purposes of argument we
are justified in supposing that he was in earnest.


The following lines were written by Butler in February, 1864, and
appeared in the PRESS. They refer to a visit paid to New Zealand by
a team of English cricketers, and have kindly been copied and sent to
me by Miss Colborne-Veel, whose father was editor of the PRESS at the
time that Butler was writing for it. Miss Colborne-Veel has further
permitted to me to make use of the following explanatory note: "The
coming of the All England team was naturally a glorious event in a
province only fourteen years old. The Mayor and Councillors had 'a
car of state'--otherwise a brake--'with postilions in the English
style.' Cobb and Co. supplied a six-horse coach for the English
eleven, the yellow paint upon which suggested the 'glittering chariot
of pure gold.' So they drove in triumph from the station and through
the town. Tinley for England and Tennant for Canterbury were the
heroes of the match. At the Wednesday dinner referred to they
exchanged compliments and cricket balls across the table. This early
esteem for cricket may be explained by a remark made by the All
England captain, that 'on no cricket ground in any colony had he met
so many public school men, especially men from old Rugby, as at

[To the Editor, the Press, February 15th, 1864.]

Sir--The following lines, which profess to have been written by a
friend of mine at three o'clock in the morning after the dinner of
Wednesday last, have been presented to myself with a request that I
should forward them to you. I would suggest to the writer of them
the following quotation from "Love's Labour's Lost."

I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,

"You find not the apostrophes, and so miss the accent; let me
supervise the canzonet. Here are only numbers ratified; but for the
elegancy, facility, and golden cadence of poesy, caret . . . Imitari
is nothing. So doth the hound his master, the ape his keeper, the
tired horse his rider."

Love's Labour's Lost, Act IV, S. 2.


. . . The whole town rose
Eyes out to meet them; in a car of state
The Mayor and all the Councillors rode down
To give them greeting, while the blue-eyed team
Drawn in Cobb's glittering chariot of pure gold
Careered it from the station.--But the Mayor -
Thou shouldst have seen the blandness of the man,
And watched the effulgent and unspeakable smiles
With which he beamed upon them.
His beard, by nature tawny, was suffused
With just so much of a most reverend grizzle
That youth and age should kiss in't. I assure you
He was a Southern Palmerston, so old
In understanding, yet jocund and jaunty
As though his twentieth summer were as yet
But in the very June o' the year, and winter
Was never to be dreamt of. Those who heard
His words stood ravished. It was all as one
As though Minerva, hid in Mercury's jaws,
Had counselled some divinest utterance
Of honeyed wisdom. So profound, so true,
So meet for the occasion, and so--short.
The king sat studying rhetoric as he spoke,
While the lord Abbot heaved half-envious sighs
And hung suspended on his accents.
CLAUD. But will it pay, Horatio?
HOR. Let Shylock see to that, but yet I trust
He's no great loser.
CLAUD. Which side went in first?
HOR. We did,
And scored a paltry thirty runs in all.
The lissom Lockyer gambolled round the stumps
With many a crafty curvet: you had thought
An Indian rubber monkey were endued
With wicket-keeping instincts; teazing Tinley
Issued his treacherous notices to quit,
Ruthlessly truthful to his fame, and who
Shall speak of Jackson? Oh! 'twas sad indeed
To watch the downcast faces of our men
Returning from the wickets; one by one,
Like patients at the gratis consultation
Of some skilled leech, they took their turn at physic.
And each came sadly homeward with a face
Awry through inward anguish; they were pale
As ghosts of some dead but deep mourned love,
Grim with a great despair, but forced to smile.
CLAUD. Poor souls! Th' unkindest heart had bled for them.
But what came after?
HOR. Fortune turned her wheel,
And Grace, disgraced for the nonce, was bowled
First ball, and all the welkin roared applause!
As for the rest, they scored a goodly score
And showed some splendid cricket, but their deeds
Were not colossal, and our own brave Tennant
Proved himself all as good a man as they.
* * * * *
Through them we greet our Mother. In their coming,
We shake our dear old England by the hand
And watch space dwindling, while the shrinking world
Collapses into nothing. Mark me well,
Matter as swift as swiftest thought shall fly,
And space itself be nowhere. Future Tinleys
Shall bowl from London to our Christ Church Tennants,
And all the runs for all the stumps be made
In flying baskets which shall come and go
And do the circuit round about the globe
Within ten seconds. Do not check me with
The roundness of the intervening world,
The winds, the mountain ranges, and the seas -
These hinder nothing; for the leathern sphere,
Like to a planetary satellite,
Shall wheel its faithful orb and strike the bails
Clean from the centre of the middle stump.
* * * * *
Mirrors shall hang suspended in the air,
Fixed by a chain between two chosen stars,
And every eye shall be a telescope
To read the passing shadows from the world.
Such games shall be hereafter, but as yet
We lay foundations only.
CLAUD. Thou must be drunk, Horatio.
HOR. So I am.


{1} We were asked by a learned brother philosopher who saw this
article in MS. what we meant by alluding to rudimentary organs in
machines. Could we, he asked, give any example of such organs? We
pointed to the little protuberance at the bottom of the bowl of our
tobacco pipe. This organ was originally designed for the same
purpose as the rim at the bottom of a tea-cup, which is but another
form of the same function. Its purpose was to keep the heat of the
pipe from marking the table on which it rested. Originally, as we
have seen in very early tobacco pipes, this protuberance was of a
very different shape to what it is now. It was broad at the bottom
and flat, so that while the pipe was being smoked the bowl might rest
upon the table. Use and disuse have here come into play and served
to reduce the function to its present rudimentary condition. That
these rudimentary organs are rarer in machinery than in animal life
is owing to the more prompt action of the human selection as compared
with the slower but even surer operation of natural selection. Man
may make mistakes; in the long run nature never does so. We have
only given an imperfect example, but the intelligent reader will
supply himself with illustrations.

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