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The Humour of Homer and Other Essays by Samuel Butler

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suppressed if talk is to be got through at all, but it is
intolerable when we are inquiring about the relations between
thought and words. To do so is to let words become as it were the
masters of thought, on the ground that the fact of their being only
its servants and appendages is so obvious that it is generally
allowed to go without saying.

If all that Professor Max Muller means to say is, that no animal but
man commands an articulate language, with verbs and nouns, or is
ever likely to command one (and I question whether in reality he
means much more than this), no one will differ from him. No dog or
elephant has one word for bread, another for meat, and another for
water. Yet, when we watch a cat or dog dreaming, as they often
evidently do, can we doubt that the dream is accompanied by a mental
image of the thing that is dreamed of, much like what we experience
in dreams ourselves, and much doubtless like the mental images which
must have passed through the mind of my deaf and dumb waiter? If
they have mental images in sleep, can we doubt that waking, also,
they picture things before their mind's eyes, and see them much as
we do--too vaguely indeed to admit of our thinking that we actually
see the objects themselves, but definitely enough for us to be able
to recognize the idea or object of which we are thinking, and to
connect it with any other idea, object, or sign that we may think

Here we have touched on the second essential element of language.
We laid it down, that its essence lay in the communication of an
idea from one intelligent being to another; but no ideas can be
communicated at all except by the aid of conventions to which both
parties have agreed to attach an identical meaning. The agreement
may be very informal, and may pass so unconsciously from one
generation to another that its existence can only be recognized by
the aid of much introspection, but it will be always there. A
sayer, a sayee, and a convention, no matter what, agreed upon
between them as inseparably attached to the idea which it is
intended to convey--these comprise all the essentials of language.
Where these are present there is language; where any of them are
wanting there is no language. It is not necessary for the sayee to
be able to speak and become a sayer. If he comprehends the sayer--
that is to say, if he attaches the same meaning to a certain symbol
as the sayer does--if he is a party to the bargain whereby it is
agreed upon by both that any given symbol shall be attached
invariably to a certain idea, so that in virtue of the principle of
associated ideas the symbol shall never be present without
immediately carrying the idea along with it, then all the essentials
of language are complied with, and there has been true speech though
never a word was spoken.

The lower animals, therefore, many of them, possess a part of our
own language, though they cannot speak it, and hence do not possess
it so fully as we do. They cannot say "bread," "meat," or "water,"
but there are many that readily learn what ideas they ought to
attach to these symbols when they are presented to them. It is idle
to say that a cat does not know what the cat's-meat man means when
he says "meat." The cat knows just as well, neither better nor
worse than the cat's-meat man does, and a great deal better than I
myself understand much that is said by some very clever people at
Oxford or Cambridge. There is more true employment of language,
more bona fide currency of speech, between a sayer and a sayee who
understand each other, though neither of them can speak a word, than
between a sayer who can speak with the tongues of men and of angels
without being clear about his own meaning, and a sayee who can
himself utter the same words, but who is only in imperfect agreement
with the sayer as to the ideas which the words or symbols that he
utters are intended to convey. The nature of the symbols counts for
nothing; the gist of the matter is in the perfect harmony between
sayer and sayee as to the significance that is to be associated with

Professor Max Muller admits that we share with the lower animals
what he calls an emotional language, and continues that we may call
their interjections and imitations language if we like, as we speak
of the language of the eyes or the eloquence of mute nature, but he
warns us against mistaking metaphor for fact. It is indeed mere
metaphor to talk of the eloquence of mute nature, or the language of
winds and waves. There is no intercommunion of mind with mind by
means of a covenanted symbol; but it is only an apparent, not a
real, metaphor to say that two pairs of eyes have spoken when they
have signalled to one another something which they both understand.
A schoolboy at home for the holidays wants another plate of pudding,
and does not like to apply officially for more. He catches the
servant's eye and looks at the pudding; the servant understands,
takes his plate without a word, and gets him some. Is it metaphor
to say that the boy asked the servant to do this, or is it not
rather pedantry to insist on the letter of a bond and deny its
spirit, by denying that language passed, on the ground that the
symbols covenanted upon and assented to by both were uttered and
received by eyes and not by mouth and ears? When the lady drank to
the gentleman only with her eyes, and he pledged with his, was there
no conversation because there was neither noun nor verb? Eyes are
verbs, and glasses of wine are good nouns enough as between those
who understand one another. Whether the ideas underlying them are
expressed and conveyed by eyeage or by tonguage is a detail that
matters nothing.

But everything we say is metaphorical if we choose to be captious.
Scratch the simplest expressions, and you will find the metaphor.
Written words are handage, inkage and paperage; it is only by
metaphor, or substitution and transposition of ideas, that we can
call them language. They are indeed potential language, and the
symbols employed presuppose nouns, verbs, and the other parts of
speech; but for the most part it is in what we read between the
lines that the profounder meaning of any letter is conveyed. There
are words unwritten and untranslatable into any nouns that are
nevertheless felt as above, about and underneath the gross material
symbols that lie scrawled upon the paper; and the deeper the feeling
with which anything is written the more pregnant will it be of
meaning which can be conveyed securely enough, but which loses
rather than gains if it is squeezed into a sentence, and limited by
the parts of speech. The language is not in the words but in the
heart-to-heartness of the thing, which is helped by words, but is
nearer and farther than they. A correspondent wrote to me once,
many years ago, "If I could think to you without words you would
understand me better." But surely in this he was thinking to me,
and without words, and I did understand him better. . . . So it is
not by the words that I am too presumptuously venturing to speak to-
night that your opinions will be formed or modified. They will be
formed or modified, if either, by something that you will feel, but
which I have not spoken, to the full as much as by anything that I
have actually uttered. You may say that this borders on mysticism.
Perhaps it does, but there really is some mysticism in nature.

To return, however, to terra firma. I believe I am right in saying
that the essence of language lies in the intentional conveyance of
ideas from one living being to another through the instrumentality
of arbitrary tokens or symbols agreed upon and understood by both as
being associated with the particular ideas in question. The nature
of the symbol chosen is a matter of indifference; it may be anything
that appeals to human senses, and is not too hot or too heavy; the
essence of the matter lies in a mutual covenant that whatever it is
shall stand invariably for the same thing, or nearly so.

We shall see this more easily if we observe the differences between
written and spoken language. The written word "stone," and the
spoken word, are each of them symbols arrived at in the first
instance arbitrarily. They are neither of them more like the other
than they are to the idea of a stone which rises before our minds,
when we either see or hear the word, or than this idea again is like
the actual stone itself, but nevertheless the spoken symbol and the
written one each alike convey with certainty the combination of
ideas to which we have agreed to attach them.

The written symbol is formed with the hand, appeals to the eye,
leaves a material trace as long as paper and ink last, can travel as
far as paper and ink can travel, and can be imprinted on eye after
eye practically ad infinitum both as regards time and space.

The spoken symbol is formed by means of various organs in or about
the mouth, appeals to the ear, not the eye, perishes instantly
without material trace, and if it lives at all does so only in the
minds of those who heard it. The range of its action is no wider
than that within which a voice can be heard; and every time a fresh
impression is wanted the type must be set up anew.

The written symbol extends infinitely, as regards time and space,
the range within which one mind can communicate with another; it
gives the writer's mind a life limited by the duration of ink, paper
and readers, as against that of his flesh and blood body. On the
other hand, it takes longer to learn the rules so as to be able to
apply them with ease and security, and even then they cannot be
applied so quickly and easily as those attaching to spoken symbols.
Moreover, the spoken symbols admit of a hundred quick and subtle
adjuncts by way of action, tone and expression, so that no one will
use written symbols unless either for the special advantages of
permanence and travelling power, or because he is incapacitated from
using spoken ones. This, however, is hardly to the point; the point
is that these two conventional combinations of symbols, that are as
unlike one another as the Hallelujah Chorus is to St. Paul's
Cathedral, are the one as much language as the other; and we
therefore inquire what this very patent fact reveals to us about the
more essential characteristics of language itself. What is the
common bond that unites these two classes of symbols that seem at
first sight to have nothing in common, and makes the one raise the
idea of language in our minds as readily as the other? The bond
lies in the fact that both are a set of conventional tokens or
symbols, agreed upon between the parties to whom they appeal as
being attached invariably to the same ideas, and because they are
being made as a means of communion between one mind and another--for
a memorandum made for a person's own later use is nothing but a
communication from an earlier mind to a later and modified one; it
is therefore in reality a communication from one mind to another as
much as though it had been addressed to another person.

We see, therefore, that the nature of the outward and visible sign
to which the inward and spiritual idea of language is attached does
not matter. It may be the firing of a gun; it may be an old
semaphore telegraph; it may be the movements of a needle; a look, a
gesture, the breaking of a twig by an Indian to tell someone that he
has passed that way: a twig broken designedly with this end in view
is a letter addressed to whomsoever it may concern, as much as
though it had been written out in full on bark or paper. It does
not matter one straw what it is, provided it is agreed upon in
concert, and stuck to. Just as the lowest forms of life
nevertheless present us with all the essential characteristics of
livingness, and are as much alive in their own humble way as the
most highly developed organisms, so the rudest intentional and
effectual communication between two minds through the
instrumentality of a concerted symbol is as much language as the
most finished oratory of Mr. Gladstone. I demur therefore to the
assertion that the lower animals have no language, inasmuch as they
cannot themselves articulate a grammatical sentence. I do not
indeed pretend that when the cat calls upon the tiles it uses what
it consciously and introspectively recognizes as language; it says
what it has to say without introspection, and in the ordinary course
of business, as one of the common forms of courtship. It no more
knows that it has been using language than M. Jourdain knew he had
been speaking prose, but M. Jourdain's knowing or not knowing was
neither here nor there.

Anything which can be made to hitch on invariably to a definite idea
that can carry some distance--say an inch at the least, and which
can be repeated at pleasure, can be pressed into the service of
language. Mrs. Bentley, wife of the famous Dr. Bentley of Trinity
College, Cambridge, used to send her snuff-box to the college
buttery when she wanted beer, instead of a written order. If the
snuff-box came the beer was sent, but if there was no snuff-box
there was no beer. Wherein did the snuff-box differ more from a
written order, than a written order differs from a spoken one? The
snuff-box was for the time being language. It sounds strange to say
that one might take a pinch of snuff out of a sentence, but if the
servant had helped him or herself to a pinch while carrying it to
the buttery this is what would have been done; for if a snuff-box
can say "Send me a quart of beer," so efficiently that the beer is
sent, it is impossible to say that it is not a bona fide sentence.
As for the recipient of the message, the butler did not probably
translate the snuff-box into articulate nouns and verbs; as soon as
he saw it he just went down into the cellar and drew the beer, and
if he thought at all, it was probably about something else. Yet he
must have been thinking without words, or he would have drawn too
much beer or too little, or have spilt it in the bringing it up, and
we may be sure that he did none of these things.

You will, of course, observe that if Mrs. Bentley had sent the
snuff-box to the buttery of St. John's College instead of Trinity,
it would not have been language, for there would have been no
covenant between sayer and sayee as to what the symbol should
represent, there would have been no previously established
association of ideas in the mind of the butler of St. John's between
beer and snuff-box; the connection was artificial, arbitrary, and by
no means one of those in respect of which an impromptu bargain might
be proposed by the very symbol itself, and assented to without
previous formality by the person to whom it was presented. More
briefly, the butler of St. John's would not have been able to
understand and read it aright. It would have been a dead letter to
him--a snuff-box and not a letter; whereas to the butler of Trinity
it was a letter and not a snuff-box. You will also note that it was
only at the moment when he was looking at it and accepting it as a
message that it flashed forth from snuff-box-hood into the light and
life of living utterance. As soon as it had kindled the butler into
sending a single quart of beer, its force was spent until Mrs.
Bentley threw her soul into it again and charged it anew by wanting
more beer, and sending it down accordingly.

Again, take the ring which the Earl of Essex sent to Queen
Elizabeth, but which the queen did not receive. This was intended
as a sentence, but failed to become effectual language because the
sensible material symbol never reached those sentient organs which
it was intended to affect. A book, again, however full of excellent
words it may be, is not language when it is merely standing on a
bookshelf. It speaks to no one, unless when being actually read, or
quoted from by an act of memory. It is potential language as a
lucifer-match is potential fire, but it is no more language till it
is in contact with a recipient mind, than a match is fire till it is
struck, and is being consumed.

A piece of music, again, without any words at all, or a song with
words that have nothing in the world to do with the ideas which it
is nevertheless made to convey, is very often effectual language.
Much lying, and all irony depends on tampering with covenanted
symbols, and making those that are usually associated with one set
of ideas convey by a sleight of mind others of a different nature.
That is why irony is intolerably fatiguing unless very sparingly
used. Take the song which Blondel sang under the window of King
Richard's prison. There was not one syllable in it to say that
Blondel was there, and was going to help the king to get out of
prison. It was about some silly love affair, but it was a letter
all the same, and the king made language of what would otherwise
have been no language, by guessing the meaning, that is to say, by
perceiving that he was expected to enter then and there into a new
covenant as to the meaning of the symbols that were presented to
him, understanding what this covenant was to be, and acquiescing in

On the other hand, no ingenuity can torture "language" into being a
fit word to use in connection with either sounds or any other
symbols that have not been intended to convey a meaning, or again in
connection with either sounds or symbols in respect of which there
has been no covenant between sayer and sayee. When we hear people
speaking a foreign language--we will say Welsh--we feel that though
they are no doubt using what is very good language as between
themselves, there is no language whatever as far as we are
concerned. We call it lingo, not language. The Chinese letters on
a tea-chest might as well not be there, for all that they say to us,
though the Chinese find them very much to the purpose. They are a
covenant to which we have been no parties--to which our intelligence
has affixed no signature.

We have already seen that it is in virtue of such an understood
covenant that symbols so unlike one another as the written word
"stone" and the spoken word alike at once raise the idea of a stone
in our minds. See how the same holds good as regards the different
languages that pass current in different nations. The letters p, i,
e, r, r, e convey the idea of a stone to a Frenchman as readily as
s, t, o, n, e do to ourselves. And why? because that is the
covenant that has been struck between those who speak and those who
are spoken to. Our "stone" conveys no idea to a Frenchman, nor his
"pierre" to us, unless we have done what is commonly called
acquiring one another's language. To acquire a foreign language is
only to learn and adhere to the covenants in respect of symbols
which the nation in question has adopted and adheres to. Till we
have done this we neither of us know the rules, so to speak, of the
game that the other is playing, and cannot, therefore, play
together; but the convention being once known and consented to, it
does not matter whether we raise the idea of a stone by the words
"lapis," or by "lithos," "pietra," "pierre," "stein," "stane" or
"stone"; we may choose what symbols written or spoken we choose, and
one set, unless they are of unwieldy length, will do as well as
another, if we can get other people to choose the same and stick to
them; it is the accepting and sticking to them that matters, not the
symbols. The whole power of spoken language is vested in the
invariableness with which certain symbols are associated with
certain ideas. If we are strict in always connecting the same
symbols with the same ideas, we speak well, keep our meaning clear
to ourselves, and convey it readily and accurately to anyone who is
also fairly strict. If, on the other hand, we use the same
combination of symbols for one thing one day and for another the
next, we abuse our symbols instead of using them, and those who
indulge in slovenly habits in this respect ere long lose the power
alike of thinking and of expressing themselves correctly. The
symbols, however, in the first instance, may be anything in the wide
world that we have a fancy for. They have no more to do with the
ideas they serve to convey than money has with the things that it
serves to buy.

The principle of association, as everyone knows, involves that
whenever two things have been associated sufficiently together, the
suggestion of one of them to the mind shall immediately raise a
suggestion of the other. It is in virtue of this principle that
language, as we so call it, exists at all, for the essence of
language consists, as I have said perhaps already too often, in the
fixity with which certain ideas are invariably connected with
certain symbols. But this being so, it is hard to see how we can
deny that the lower animals possess the germs of a highly rude and
unspecialized, but still true language, unless we also deny that
they have any ideas at all; and this I gather is what Professor Max
Muller in a quiet way rather wishes to do. Thus he says, "It is
easy enough to show that animals communicate, but this is a fact
which has never been doubted. Dogs who growl and bark leave no
doubt in the minds of other dogs or cats, or even of man, of what
they mean, but growling and barking are not language, nor do they
even contain the elements of language." {230}

I observe the Professor says that animals communicate without saying
what it is that they communicate. I believe this to have been
because if he said that the lower animals communicate their ideas,
this would be to admit that they have ideas; if so, and if, as they
present every appearance of doing, they can remember, reflect upon,
modify these ideas according to modified surroundings, and
interchange them with one another, how is it possible to deny them
the germs of thought, language, and reason--not to say a good deal
more than the germs? It seems to me that not knowing what else to
say that animals communicated if it was not ideas, and not knowing
what mess he might not get into if he admitted that they had ideas
at all, he thought it safer to omit his accusative case altogether.

That growling and barking cannot be called a very highly specialized
language goes without saying; they are, however, so much diversified
in character, according to circumstances, that they place a
considerable number of symbols at an animal's command, and he
invariably attaches the same symbol to the same idea. A cat never
purrs when she is angry, nor spits when she is pleased. When she
rubs her head against anyone affectionately it is her symbol for
saying that she is very fond of him, and she expects, and usually
finds that it will be understood. If she sees her mistress raise
her hand as though to pretend to strike her, she knows that it is
the symbol her mistress invariably attaches to the idea of sending
her away, and as such she accepts it. Granted that the symbols in
use among the lower animals are fewer and less highly differentiated
than in the case of any known human language, and therefore that
animal language is incomparably less subtle and less capable of
expressing delicate shades of meaning than our own, these
differences are nevertheless only those that exist between highly
developed and inchoate language; they do not involve those that
distinguish language from no language. They are the differences
between the undifferentiated protoplasm of the amoeba and our own
complex organization; they are not the differences between life and
no life. In animal language as much as in human there is a mind
intentionally making use of a symbol accepted by another mind as
invariably attached to a certain idea, in order to produce that idea
in the mind which it is desired to affect--more briefly, there is a
sayer, a sayee, and a covenanted symbol designedly applied. Our own
speech is vertebrated and articulated by means of nouns, verbs, and
the rules of grammar. A dog's speech is invertebrate, but I do not
see how it is possible to deny that it possesses all the essential
elements of language.

I have said nothing about Professor R. L. Garner's researches into
the language of apes, because they have not yet been so far verified
and accepted as to make it safe to rely upon them; but when he lays
it down that all voluntary sounds are the products of thought, and
that, if they convey a meaning to another, they perform the
functions of human speech, he says what I believe will commend
itself to any unsophisticated mind. I could have wished, however,
that he had not limited himself to sounds, and should have preferred
his saying what I doubt not he would readily accept--I mean, that
all symbols or tokens of whatever kind, if voluntarily adopted as
such, are the products of thought, and perform the functions of
human speech; but I cannot too often remind you that nothing can be
considered as fulfilling the conditions of language, except a
voluntary application of a recognized token in order to convey a
more or less definite meaning, with the intention doubtless of thus
purchasing as it were some other desired meaning and consequent
sensation. It is astonishing how closely in this respect money and
words resemble one another. Money indeed may be considered as the
most universal and expressive of all languages. For gold and silver
coins are no more money when not in the actual process of being
voluntarily used in purchase, than words not so in use are language.
Pounds, shillings and pence are recognized covenanted tokens, the
outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual purchasing
power, but till in actual use they are only potential money, as the
symbols of language, whatever they may be, are only potential
language till they are passing between two minds. It is the power
and will to apply the symbols that alone gives life to money, and as
long as these are in abeyance the money is in abeyance also; the
coins may be safe in one's pocket, but they are as dead as a log
till they begin to burn in it, and so are our words till they begin
to burn within us.

The real question, however, as to the substantial underlying
identity between the language of the lower animals and our own,
turns upon that other question whether or no, in spite of an
immeasurable difference of degree, the thought and reason of man and
of the lower animals is essentially the same. No one will expect a
dog to master and express the varied ideas that are incessantly
arising in connection with human affairs. He is a pauper as against
a millionaire. To ask him to do so would be like giving a street-
boy sixpence and telling him to go and buy himself a founder's share
in the New River Company. He would not even know what was meant,
and even if he did it would take several millions of sixpences to
buy one.

It is astonishing what a clever workman will do with very modest
tools, or again how far a thrifty housewife will make a very small
sum of money go, or again in like manner how many ideas an
intelligent brute can receive and convey with its very limited
vocabulary; but no one will pretend that a dog's intelligence can
ever reach the level of a man's. What we do maintain is that,
within its own limited range, it is of the same essential character
as our own, and that though a dog's ideas in respect of human
affairs are both vague and narrow, yet in respect of canine affairs
they are precise enough and extensive enough to deserve no other
name than thought or reason. We hold moreover that they communicate
their ideas in essentially the same manner as we do--that is to say,
by the instrumentality of a code of symbols attached to certain
states of mind and material objects, in the first instance
arbitrarily, but so persistently, that the presentation of the
symbol immediately carries with it the idea which it is intended to
convey. Animals can thus receive and impart ideas on all that most
concerns them. As my great namesake said some two hundred years
ago, they know "what's what, and that's as high as metaphysic wit
can fly." And they not only know what's what themselves, but can
impart to one another any new what's-whatness that they may have
acquired, for they are notoriously able to instruct and correct one

Against this Professor Max Muller contends that we can know nothing
of what goes on in the mind of any lower animal, inasmuch as we are
not lower animals ourselves. "We can imagine anything we like about
what passes in the mind of an animal," he writes, "we can know
absolutely nothing." {234} It is something to have it in evidence
that he conceives animals as having a mind at all, but it is not
easy to see how they can be supposed to have a mind, without being
able to acquire ideas, and having acquired, to read, mark, learn and
inwardly digest them. Surely the mistake of requiring too much
evidence is hardly less great than that of being contented with too
little. We, too, are animals, and can no more refuse to infer
reason from certain visible actions in their case than we can in our
own. If Professor Max Muller's plea were allowed, we should have to
deny our right to infer confidently what passes in the mind of
anyone not ourselves, inasmuch as we are not that person. We never,
indeed, can obtain irrefragable certainty about this or any other
matter, but we can be sure enough in many cases to warrant our
staking all that is most precious to us on the soundness of our
opinion. Moreover, if the Professor denies our right to infer that
animals reason, on the ground that we are not animals enough
ourselves to be able to form an opinion, with what right does he
infer so confidently himself that they do not reason? And how, if
they present every one of those appearances which we are accustomed
to connect with the communication of an idea from one mind to
another, can we deny that they have a language of their own, though
it is one which in most cases we can neither speak nor understand?
How can we say that a sentinel rook, when it sees a man with a gun
and warns the other rooks by a concerted note which they all show
that they understand by immediately taking flight, should not be
credited both with reason and the germs of language?

After all, a professor, whether of philology, psychology, biology,
or any other ology, is hardly the kind of person to whom we should
appeal on such an elementary question as that of animal intelligence
and language. We might as well ask a botanist to tell us whether
grass grows, or a meteorologist to tell us if it has left off
raining. If it is necessary to appeal to anyone, I should prefer
the opinion of an intelligent gamekeeper to that of any professor,
however learned. The keepers, again, at the Zoological Gardens,
have exceptional opportunities for studying the minds of animals--
modified, indeed, by captivity, but still minds of animals. Grooms,
again, and dog-fanciers, are to the full as able to form an
intelligent opinion on the reason and language of animals as any
University Professor, and so are cat's-meat men. I have repeatedly
asked gamekeepers and keepers at the Zoological Gardens whether
animals could reason and converse with one another, and have always
found myself regarded somewhat contemptuously for having even asked
the question. I once said to a friend, in the hearing of a keeper
at the Zoological Gardens, that the penguin was very stupid. The
man was furious, and jumped upon me at once. "He's not stupid at
all," said he; "he's very intelligent."

Who has not seen a cat, when it wishes to go out, raise its fore
paws on to the handle of the door, or as near as it can get, and
look round, evidently asking someone to turn it for her? Is it
reasonable to deny that a reasoning process is going on in the cat's
mind, whereby she connects her wish with the steps necessary for its
fulfilment, and also with certain invariable symbols which she knows
her master or mistress will interpret? Once, in company with a
friend, I watched a cat playing with a house-fly in the window of a
ground-floor room. We were in the street, while the cat was inside.
When we came up to the window she gave us one searching look, and,
having satisfied herself that we had nothing for her, went on with
her game. She knew all about the glass in the window, and was sure
we could do nothing to molest her, so she treated us with absolute
contempt, never even looking at us again.

The game was this. She was to catch the fly and roll it round and
round under her paw along the window-sill, but so gently as not to
injure it nor prevent it from being able to fly again when she had
done rolling it. It was very early spring, and flies were scarce,
in fact there was not another in the whole window. She knew that if
she crippled this one, it would not be able to amuse her further,
and that she would not readily get another instead, and she liked
the feel of it under her paw. It was soft and living, and the
quivering of its wings tickled the ball of her foot in a manner that
she found particularly grateful; so she rolled it gently along the
whole length of the window-sill. It then became the fly's turn. He
was to get up and fly about in the window, so as to recover himself
a little; then she was to catch him again, and roll him softly all
along the window-sill, as she had done before.

It was plain that the cat knew the rules of her game perfectly well,
and enjoyed it keenly. It was equally plain that the fly could not
make head or tail of what it was all about. If it had been able to
do so it would have gone to play in the upper part of the window,
where the cat could not reach it. Perhaps it was always hoping to
get through the glass, and escape that way; anyhow, it kept pretty
much to the same pane, no matter how often it was rolled. At last,
however, the fly, for some reason or another, did not reappear on
the pane, and the cat began looking everywhere to find it. Her
annoyance when she failed to do so was extreme. It was not only
that she had lost her fly, but that she could not conceive how she
should have ever come to do so. Presently she noted a small knot in
the woodwork of the sill, and it flashed upon her that she had
accidentally killed the fly, and that this was its dead body. She
tried to move it gently with her paw, but it was no use, and for the
time she satisfied herself that the knot and the fly had nothing to
do with one another. Every now and then, however, she returned to
it as though it were the only thing she could think of, and she
would try it again. She seemed to say she was certain there had
been no knot there before--she must have seen it if there had been;
and yet, the fly could hardly have got jammed so firmly into the
wood. She was puzzled and irritated beyond measure, and kept
looking in the same place again and again, just as we do when we
have mislaid something. She was rapidly losing temper and dignity
when suddenly we saw the fly reappear from under the cat's stomach
and make for the window-pane, at the very moment when the cat
herself was exclaiming for the fiftieth time that she wondered where
that stupid fly ever could have got to. No man who has been hunting
twenty minutes for his spectacles could be more delighted when he
suddenly finds them on his own forehead. "So that's where you
were," we seemed to hear her say, as she proceeded to catch it, and
again began rolling it very softly without hurting it, under her

My friend and I both noticed that the cat, in spite of her
perplexity, never so much as hinted that we were the culprits. The
question whether anything outside the window could do her good or
harm had long since been settled by her in the negative, and she was
not going to reopen it; she simply cut us dead, and though her
annoyance was so great that she was manifestly ready to lay the
blame on anybody or anything with or without reason, and though she
must have perfectly well known that we were watching the whole
affair with amusement, she never either asked us if we had happened
to see such a thing as a fly go down our way lately, or accused us
of having taken it from her--both of which ideas she would, I am
confident, have been very well able to convey to us if she had been
so minded.

Now what are thought and reason if the processes that were going
through this cat's mind were not both one and the other? It would
be childish to suppose that the cat thought in words of its own, or
in anything like words. Its thinking was probably conducted through
the instrumentality of a series of mental images. We so habitually
think in words ourselves that we find it difficult to realize
thought without words at all; our difficulty, however, in imagining
the particular manner in which the cat thinks has nothing to do with
the matter. We must answer the question whether she thinks or no,
not according to our own ease or difficulty in understanding the
particular manner of her thinking, but according as her action does
or does not appear to be of the same character as other action that
we commonly call thoughtful. To say that the cat is not
intelligent, merely on the ground that we cannot ourselves fathom
her intelligence--this, as I have elsewhere said, is to make
intelligence mean the power of being understood, rather than the
power of understanding. This nevertheless is what, for all our
boasted intelligence, we generally do. The more we can understand
an animal's ways, the more intelligent we call it, and the less we
can understand these, the more stupid do we declare it to be. As
for plants--whose punctuality and attention to all the details and
routine of their somewhat restricted lines of business is as obvious
as it is beyond all praise--we understand the working of their minds
so little that by common consent we declare them to have no
intelligence at all.

Before concluding I should wish to deal a little more fully with
Professor Max Muller's contention that there can be no reason
without language, and no language without reason. Surely when two
practised pugilists are fighting, parrying each other's blows, and
watching keenly for an unguarded point, they are thinking and
reasoning very subtly the whole time, without doing so in words.
The machination of their thoughts, as well as its expression, is
actual--I mean, effectuated and expressed by action and deed, not
words. They are unaware of any logical sequence of thought that
they could follow in words as passing through their minds at all.
They may perhaps think consciously in words now and again, but such
thought will be intermittent, and the main part of the fighting will
be done without any internal concomitance of articulated phrases.
Yet we cannot doubt that their action, however much we may
disapprove of it, is guided by intelligence and reason; nor should
we doubt that a reasoning process of the same character goes on in
the minds of two dogs or fighting-cocks when they are striving to
master their opponents.

Do we think in words, again, when we wind up our watches, put on our
clothes, or eat our breakfasts? If we do, it is generally about
something else. We do these things almost as much without the help
of words as we wink or yawn, or perform any of those other actions
that we call reflex, as it would almost seem because they are done
without reflection. They are not, however, the less reasonable
because wordless.

Even when we think we are thinking in words, we do so only in half
measure. A running accompaniment of words no doubt frequently
attends our thoughts; but, unless we are writing or speaking, this
accompaniment is of the vaguest and most fitful kind, as we often
find out when we try to write down or say what we are thinking
about, though we have a fairly definite notion of it, or fancy that
we have one, all the time. The thought is not steadily and
coherently governed by and moulded in words, nor does it steadily
govern them. Words and thought interact upon and help one another,
as any other mechanical appliances interact on and help the
invention that first hit upon them; but reason or thought, for the
most part, flies along over the heads of words, working its own
mysterious way in paths that are beyond our ken, though whether some
of our departmental personalities are as unconscious of what is
passing, as that central government is which we alone dub with the
name of "we" or "us," is a point on which I will not now touch.

I cannot think, then, that Professor Max Muller's contention that
thought and language are identical--and he has repeatedly affirmed
this--will ever be generally accepted. Thought is no more identical
with language than feeling is identical with the nervous system.
True, we can no more feel without a nervous system than we can
discern certain minute organisms without a microscope. Destroy the
nervous system, and we destroy feeling. Destroy the microscope, and
we can no longer see the animalcules; but our sight of the
animalcules is not the microscope, though it is effectuated by means
of the microscope, and our feeling is not the nervous system, though
the nervous system is the instrument that enables us to feel.

The nervous system is a device which living beings have gradually
perfected--I believe I may say quite truly--through the will and
power which they have derived from a fountain-head, the existence of
which we can infer, but which we can never apprehend. By the help
of this device, and in proportion as they have perfected it, living
beings feel ever with great definiteness, and hence formulate their
feelings in thought with more and more precision. The higher
evolution of thought has reacted on the nervous system, and the
consequent higher evolution of the nervous system has again reacted
upon thought. These things are as power and desire, or supply and
demand, each one of which is continually outstripping, and being in
turn outstripped by the other; but, in spite of their close
connection and interaction, power is not desire, nor demand supply.
Language is a device evolved sometimes by leaps and bounds, and
sometimes exceedingly slowly, whereby we help ourselves alike to
greater ease, precision, and complexity of thought, and also to more
convenient interchange of thought among ourselves. Thought found
rude expression, which gradually among other forms assumed that of
words. These reacted upon thought, and thought again on them, but
thought is no more identical with words than words are with the
separate letters of which they are composed.

To sum up, then, and to conclude. I would ask you to see the
connection between words and ideas as in the first instance
arbitrary. No doubt in some cases an imitation of the cry of some
bird or wild beast would suggest the name that should be attached to
it; occasionally the sound of an operation such as grinding may have
influenced the choice of the letters g, r, as the root of many words
that denote a grinding, grating, grasping, crushing action; but I
understand that the number of words due to direct imitation is
comparatively few in number, and that they have been mainly coined
as the result of connections so far-fetched and fanciful as to
amount practically to no connection at all. Once chosen, however,
they were adhered to for a considerable time among the dwellers in
any given place, so as to become acknowledged as the vulgar tongue,
and raise readily in the mind of the inhabitants of that place the
ideas with which they had been artificially associated.

As regards our being able to think and reason without words, the
Duke of Argyll has put the matter as soundly as I have yet seen it
stated. "It seems to me," he wrote, "quite certain that we can and
do constantly think of things without thinking of any sound or word
as designating them. Language seems to me to be necessary for the
progress of thought, but not at all for the mere act of thinking.
It is a product of thought, an expression of it, a vehicle for the
communication of it, and an embodiment which is essential to its
growth and continuity; but it seems to me altogether erroneous to
regard it as an inseparable part of cogitation."

The following passages, again, are quoted from Sir William Hamilton
in Professor Max Muller's own book, with so much approval as to lead
one to suppose that the differences between himself and his
opponents are in reality less than he believes them to be.

"Language," says Sir W. Hamilton, "is the attribution of signs to
our cognitions of things. But as a cognition must have already been
there before it could receive a sign, consequently that knowledge
which is denoted by the formation and application of a word must
have preceded the symbol that denotes it. A sign, however, is
necessary to give stability to our intellectual progress--to
establish each step in our advance as a new starting-point for our
advance to another beyond. A country may be overrun by an armed
host, but it is only conquered by the establishment of fortresses.
Words are the fortresses of thought. They enable us to realize our
dominion over what we have already overrun in thought; to make every
intellectual conquest the base of operations for others still

"This," says Professor Max Muller, "is a most happy illustration,"
and he proceeds to quote the following, also from Sir William
Hamilton, which he declares to be even happier still.

"You have all heard," says Sir William Hamilton, "of the process of
tunnelling through a sandbank. In this operation it is impossible
to succeed unless every foot, nay, almost every inch of our progress
be secured by an arch of masonry before we attempted the excavation
of another. Now language is to the mind precisely what the arch is
to the tunnel. The power of thinking and the power of excavation
are not dependent on the words in the one case or on the mason-work
in the other; but without these subsidiaries neither could be
carried on beyond its rudimentary commencement. Though, therefore,
we allow that every movement forward in language must be determined
by an antecedent movement forward in thought, still, unless thought
be accompanied at each point of its evolutions by a corresponding
evolution of language, its further development is arrested."

Man has evolved an articulate language, whereas the lower animals
seem to be without one. Man, therefore, has far outstripped them in
reasoning faculty as well as in power of expression. This, however,
does not bar the communications which the lower animals make to one
another from possessing all the essential characteristics of
language, and, as a matter of fact, wherever we can follow them we
find such communications effectuated by the aid of arbitrary symbols
covenanted upon by the living beings that wish to communicate, and
persistently associated with certain corresponding feelings, states
of mind, or material objects. Human language is nothing more than
this in principle, however much further the principle has been
carried in our own case than in that of the lower animals.

This being admitted, we should infer that the thought or reason on
which the language of men and animals is alike founded differs as
between men and brutes in degree but not in kind. More than this
cannot be claimed on behalf of the lower animals, even by their most
enthusiastic admirer.

The Deadlock in Darwinism: Part I {245}

It will be readily admitted that of all living writers Mr. Alfred
Russel Wallace is the one the peculiar turn of whose mind best fits
him to write on the subject of natural selection, or the
accumulation of fortunate but accidental variations through descent
and the struggle for existence. His mind in all its more essential
characteristics closely resembles that of the late Mr. Charles
Darwin himself, and it is no doubt due to this fact that he and Mr.
Darwin elaborated their famous theory at the same time, and
independently of one another. I shall have occasion in the course
of the following article to show how misled and misleading both
these distinguished men have been, in spite of their unquestionable
familiarity with the whole range of animal and vegetable phenomena.
I believe it will be more respectful to both of them to do this in
the most outspoken way. I believe their work to have been as
mischievous as it has been valuable, and as valuable as it has been
mischievous; and higher, whether praise or blame, I know not how to
give. Nevertheless I would in the outset, and with the utmost
sincerity, admit concerning Messrs. Wallace and Darwin that neither
can be held as the more profound and conscientious thinker; neither
can be put forward as the more ready to acknowledge obligation to
the great writers on evolution who had preceded him, or to place his
own developments in closer and more conspicuous historical
connection with earlier thought upon the subject; neither is the
more ready to welcome criticism and to state his opponent's case in
the most pointed and telling way in which it can be put; neither is
the more quick to encourage new truth; neither is the more genial,
generous adversary, or has the profounder horror of anything even
approaching literary or scientific want of candour; both display the
same inimitable power of putting their opinions forward in the way
that shall best ensure their acceptance; both are equally unrivalled
in the tact that tells them when silence will be golden, and when on
the other hand a whole volume of facts may be advantageously brought
forward. Less than the foregoing tribute both to Messrs. Darwin and
Wallace I will not, and more I cannot pay.

Let us now turn to the most authoritative exponent of latter-day
evolution--I mean to Mr. Wallace, whose work, entitled Darwinism,
though it should have been entitled Wallaceism, is still so far
Darwinistic that it develops the teaching of Mr. Darwin in the
direction given to it by Mr. Darwin himself--so far, indeed, as this
can be ascertained at all--and not in that of Lamarck. Mr. Wallace
tells us, on the first page of his preface, that he has no intention
of dealing even in outline with the vast subject of evolution in
general, and has only tried to give such an account of the theory of
natural selection as may facilitate a clear conception of Darwin's
work. How far he has succeeded is a point on which opinion will
probably be divided. Those who find Mr. Darwin's works clear will
also find no difficulty in understanding Mr. Wallace; those, on the
other hand, who find Mr. Darwin puzzling are little likely to be
less puzzled by Mr. Wallace. He continues:--

"The objections now made to Darwin's theory apply solely to the
particular means by which the change of species has been brought
about, not to the fact of that change."

But "Darwin's theory"--as Mr. Wallace has elsewhere proved that he
understands--has no reference "to the fact of that change"--that is
to say, to the fact that species have been modified in course of
descent from other species. This is no more Mr. Darwin's theory
than it is the reader's or my own. Darwin's theory is concerned
only with "the particular means by which the change of species has
been brought about"; his contention being that this is mainly due to
the natural survival of those individuals that have happened by some
accident to be born most favourably adapted to their surroundings,
or, in other words, through accumulation in the common course of
nature of the more lucky variations that chance occasionally
purveys. Mr. Wallace's words, then, in reality amount to this, that
the objections now made to Darwin's theory apply solely to Darwin's
theory, which is all very well as far as it goes, but might have
been more easily apprehended if he had simply said, "There are
several objections now made to Mr. Darwin's theory."

It must be remembered that the passage quoted above occurs on the
first page of a preface dated March, 1889, when the writer had
completed his task, and was most fully conversant with his subject.
Nevertheless, it seems indisputable either that he is still
confusing evolution with Mr. Darwin's theory, or that he does not
know when his sentences have point and when they have none.

I should perhaps explain to some readers that Mr. Darwin did not
modify the main theory put forward, first by Buffon, to whom it
indisputably belongs, and adopted from him by Erasmus Darwin,
Lamarck, and many other writers in the latter half of the eighteenth
century and the earlier years of the nineteenth. The early
evolutionists maintained that all existing forms of animal and
vegetable life, including man, were derived in course of descent
with modification from forms resembling the lowest now known.

Mr. Darwin went as far as this, and farther no one can go. The
point at issue between him and his predecessors involves neither the
main fact of evolution, nor yet the geometrical ratio of increase,
and the struggle for existence consequent thereon. Messrs. Darwin
and Wallace have each thrown invaluable light upon these last two
points, but Buffon, as early as 1756, had made them the keystone of
his system. "The movement of nature," he then wrote, "turns on two
immovable pivots: one, the illimitable fecundity which she has
given to all species: the other, the innumerable difficulties which
reduce the results of that fecundity." Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck
followed in the same sense. They thus admit the survival of the
fittest as fully as Mr. Darwin himself, though they do not make use
of this particular expression. The dispute turns not upon natural
selection, which is common to all writers on evolution, but upon the
nature and causes of the variations that are supposed to be selected
from and thus accumulated. Are these mainly attributable to the
inherited effects of use and disuse, supplemented by occasional
sports and happy accidents? Or are they mainly due to sports and
happy accidents, supplemented by occasional inherited effects of use
and disuse?

The Lamarckian system has all along been maintained by Mr. Herbert
Spencer, who, in his Principles of Biology, published in 1865,
showed how impossible it was that accidental variations should
accumulate at all. I am not sure how far Mr. Spencer would consent
to being called a Lamarckian pure and simple, nor yet how far it is
strictly accurate to call him one; nevertheless, I can see no
important difference in the main positions taken by him and by

The question at issue between the Lamarckians, supported by Mr.
Spencer and a growing band of those who have risen in rebellion
against the Charles-Darwinian system on the one hand, and Messrs.
Darwin and Wallace with the greater number of our more prominent
biologists on the other, involves the very existence of evolution as
a workable theory. For it is plain that what Nature can be supposed
able to do by way of choice must depend on the supply of the
variations from which she is supposed to choose. She cannot take
what is not offered to her; and so again she cannot be supposed able
to accumulate unless what is gained in one direction in one
generation, or series of generations, is little likely to be lost in
those that presently succeed. Now variations ascribed mainly to use
and disuse can be supposed capable of being accumulated, for use and
disuse are fairly constant for long periods among the individuals of
the same species, and often over large areas; moreover, conditions
of existence involving changes of habit, and thus of organization,
come for the most part gradually; so that time is given during which
the organism can endeavour to adapt itself in the requisite
respects, instead of being shocked out of existence by too sudden
change. Variations, on the other hand, that are ascribed to mere
chance cannot be supposed as likely to be accumulated, for chance is
notoriously inconstant, and would not purvey the variations in
sufficiently unbroken succession, or in a sufficient number of
individuals, modified similarly in all the necessary correlations at
the same time and place to admit of their being accumulated. It is
vital therefore to the theory of evolution, as was early pointed out
by the late Professor Fleeming Jenkin and by Mr. Herbert Spencer,
that variations should be supposed to have a definite and persistent
principle underlying them, which shall tend to engender similar and
simultaneous modification, however small, in the vast majority of
individuals composing any species. The existence of such a
principle and its permanence is the only thing that can be supposed
capable of acting as rudder and compass to the accumulation of
variations, and of making it hold steadily on one course for each
species, till eventually many havens, far remote from one another,
are safely reached.

It is obvious that the having fatally impaired the theory of his
predecessors could not warrant Mr. Darwin in claiming, as he most
fatuously did, the theory of evolution. That he is still generally
believed to have been the originator of this theory is due to the
fact that he claimed it, and that a powerful literary backing at
once came forward to support him. It seems at first sight
improbable that those who too zealously urged his claims were
unaware that so much had been written on the subject, but when we
find even Mr. Wallace himself as profoundly ignorant on this subject
as he still either is, or affects to be, there is no limit
assignable to the ignorance or affected ignorance of the kind of
biologists who would write reviews in leading journals thirty years
ago. Mr. Wallace writes:--

"A few great naturalists, struck by the very slight difference
between many of these species, and the numerous links that exist
between the most different forms of animals and plants, and also
observing that a great many species do vary considerably in their
forms, colours and habits, conceived the idea that they might be all
produced one from the other. The most eminent of these writers was
a great French naturalist, Lamarck, who published an elaborate work,
the Philosophie Zoologique, in which he endeavoured to prove that
all animals whatever are descended from other species of animals.
He attributed the change of species chiefly to the effect of changes
in the conditions of life--such as climate, food, etc.; and
especially to the desires and efforts of the animals themselves to
improve their condition, leading to a modification of form or size
in certain parts, owing to the well-known physiological law that all
organs are strengthened by constant use, while they are weakened or
even completely lost by disuse. . . .

"The only other important work dealing with the question was the
celebrated Vestiges of Creation, published anonymously, but now
acknowledged to have been written by the late Robert Chambers."

None are so blind as those who will not see, and it would be waste
of time to argue with the invincible ignorance of one who thinks
Lamarck and Buffon conceived that all species were produced from one
another, more especially as I have already dealt at some length with
the early evolutionists in my work Evolution, Old and New, first
published ten years ago, and not, so far as I am aware, detected in
serious error or omission. If, however, Mr. Wallace still thinks it
safe to presume so far on the ignorance of his readers as to say
that the only two important works on evolution before Mr. Darwin's
were Lamarck's Philosophie Zoologique and the Vestiges of Creation,
how fathomable is the ignorance of the average reviewer likely to
have been thirty years ago, when the Origin of Species was first
published? Mr. Darwin claimed evolution as his own theory. Of
course, he would not claim it if he had no right to it. Then by all
means give him the credit of it. This was the most natural view to
take, and it was generally taken. It was not, moreover, surprising
that people failed to appreciate all the niceties of Mr. Darwin's
"distinctive feature" which, whether distinctive or no, was
assuredly not distinct, and was never frankly contrasted with the
older view, as it would have been by one who wished it to be
understood and judged upon its merits. It was in consequence of
this omission that people failed to note how fast and loose Mr.
Darwin played with his distinctive feature, and how readily he
dropped it on occasion.

It may be said that the question of what was thought by the
predecessors of Mr. Darwin is, after all, personal, and of no
interest to the general public, comparable to that of the main
issue--whether we are to accept evolution or not. Granted that Buff
on, Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck bore the burden and heat of the day
before Mr. Charles Darwin was born, they did not bring people round
to their opinion, whereas Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace did, and the
public cannot be expected to look beyond this broad and indisputable

The answer to this is, that the theory which Messrs. Darwin and
Wallace have persuaded the public to accept is demonstrably false,
and that the opponents of evolution are certain in the end to
triumph over it. Paley, in his Natural Theology, long since brought
forward far too much evidence of design in animal organization to
allow of our setting down its marvels to the accumulation of
fortunate accident, undirected by will, effort and intelligence.
Those who examine the main facts of animal and vegetable
organization without bias will, no doubt, ere long conclude that all
animals and vegetables are derived ultimately from unicellular
organisms, but they will not less readily perceive that the
evolution of species without the concomitance and direction of mind
and effort is as inconceivable as is the independent creation of
every individual species. The two facts, evolution and design, are
equally patent to plain people. There is no escaping from either.
According to Messrs. Darwin and Wallace, we may have evolution, but
are on no account to have it as mainly due to intelligent effort,
guided by ever higher and higher range of sensations, perceptions,
and ideas. We are to set it down to the shuffling of cards, or the
throwing of dice without the play, and this will never stand.

According to the older men, cards did indeed count for much, but
play counted for more. They denied the teleology of the time--that
is to say, the teleology that saw all adaptation to surroundings as
part of a plan devised long ages since by a quasi-anthropomorphic
being who schemed everything out much as a man would do, but on an
infinitely vaster scale. This conception they found repugnant alike
to intelligence and conscience, but, though they do not seem to have
perceived it, they left the door open for a design more true and
more demonstrable than that which they excluded. By making their
variations mainly due to effort and intelligence, they made organic
development run on all-fours with human progress, and with
inventions which we have watched growing up from small beginnings.
They made the development of man from the amoeba part and parcel of
the story that may be read, though on an infinitely smaller scale,
in the development of our most powerful marine engines from the
common kettle, or of our finest microscopes from the dew-drop.

The development of the steam-engine and the microscope is due to
intelligence and design, which did indeed utilize chance
suggestions, but which improved on these, and directed each step of
their accumulation, though never foreseeing more than a step or two
ahead, and often not so much as this. The fact, as I have elsewhere
urged, that the man who made the first kettle did not foresee the
engines of the Great Eastern, or that he who first noted the
magnifying power of the dew-drop had no conception of our present
microscopes--the very limited amount, in fact, of design and
intelligence that was called into play at any one point--this does
not make us deny that the steam-engine and microscope owe their
development to design. If each step of the road was designed, the
whole journey was designed, though the particular end was not
designed when the journey was begun. And so is it, according to the
older view of evolution, with the development of those living
organs, or machines, that are born with us, as part of the
perambulating carpenter's chest we call our bodies. The older view
gives us our design, and gives us our evolution too. If it refuses
to see a quasi-anthropomorphic God modelling each species from
without as a potter models clay, it gives us God as vivifying and
indwelling in all His creatures--He in them, and they in Him. If it
refuses to see God outside the universe, it equally refuses to see
any part of the universe as outside God. If it makes the universe
the body of God, it also makes God the soul of the universe. The
question at issue, then, between the Darwinism of Erasmus Darwin and
the neo-Darwinism of his grandson, is not a personal one, nor
anything like a personal one. It not only involves the existence of
evolution, but it affects the view we take of life and things in an
endless variety of most interesting and important ways. It is
imperative, therefore, on those who take any interest in these
matters, to place side by side in the clearest contrast the views of
those who refer the evolution of species mainly to accumulation of
variations that have no other inception than chance, and of that
older school which makes design perceive and develop still further
the goods that chance provides.

But over and above this, which would be in itself sufficient, the
historical mode of studying any question is the only one which will
enable us to comprehend it effectually. The personal element cannot
be eliminated from the consideration of works written by living
persons for living persons. We want to know who is who--whom we can
depend upon to have no other end than the making things clear to
himself and his readers, and whom we should mistrust as having an
ulterior aim on which he is more intent than on the furthering of
our better understanding. We want to know who is doing his best to
help us, and who is only trying to make us help him, or to bolster
up the system in which his interests are vested. There is nothing
that will throw more light upon these points than the way in which a
man behaves towards those who have worked in the same field with
himself, and, again, than his style. A man's style, as Buffon long
since said, is the man himself. By style, I do not, of course, mean
grammar or rhetoric, but that style of which Buffon again said that
it is like happiness, and vient de la douceur de l'ame. When we
find a man concealing worse than nullity of meaning under sentences
that sound plausibly enough, we should distrust him much as we
should a fellow-traveller whom we caught trying to steal our watch.
We often cannot judge of the truth or falsehood of facts for
ourselves, but we most of us know enough of human nature to be able
to tell a good witness from a bad one.

However this may be, and whatever we may think of judging systems by
the directness or indirectness of those who advance them,
biologists, having committed themselves too rashly, would have been
more than human if they had not shown some pique towards those who
dared to say, first, that the theory of Messrs. Darwin and Wallace
was unworkable; and secondly, that even though it were workable it
would not justify either of them in claiming evolution. When
biologists show pique at all they generally show a good deal of
pique, but pique or no pique, they shunned Mr. Spencer's objection
above referred to with a persistency more unanimous and obstinate
than I ever remember to have seen displayed even by professional
truth-seekers. I find no rejoinder to it from Mr. Darwin himself,
between 1865 when it was first put forward, and 1882 when Mr. Darwin
died. It has been similarly "ostrichized" by all the leading
apologists of Darwinism, so far at least as I have been able to
observe, and I have followed the matter closely for many years. Mr.
Spencer has repeated and amplified it in his recent work The Factors
of Organic Evolution, but it still remains without so much as an
attempt at serious answer, for the perfunctory and illusory remarks
of Mr. Wallace at the end of his Darwinism cannot be counted as
such. The best proof of its irresistible weight is that Mr. Darwin,
though maintaining silence in respect to it, retreated from his
original position in the direction that would most obviate Mr.
Spencer's objection.

Yet this objection has been repeatedly urged by the more prominent
anti-Charles-Darwinian authorities, and there is no sign that the
British public is becoming less rigorous in requiring people either
to reply to objections repeatedly urged by men of even moderate
weight, or to let judgment go by default. As regards Mr. Darwin's
claim to the theory of evolution generally, Darwinians are beginning
now to perceive that this cannot be admitted, and either say with
some hardihood that Mr. Darwin never claimed it, or after a few
saving clauses to the effect that this theory refers only to the
particular means by which evolution has been brought about, imply
forthwith thereafter none the less that evolution is Mr. Darwin's
theory. Mr. Wallace has done this repeatedly in his recent
Darwinism. Indeed, I should be by no means sure that on the first
page of his preface, in the passage about "Darwin's theory," which I
have already somewhat severely criticized, he was not intending
evolution by "Darwin's theory," if in his preceding paragraph he had
not so clearly shown that he knew evolution to be a theory of
greatly older date than Mr. Darwin's.

The history of science--well exemplified by that of the development
theory--is the history of eminent men who have fought against light
and have been worsted. The tenacity with which Darwinians stick to
their accumulation of fortuitous variations is on a par with the
like tenacity shown by the illustrious Cuvier, who did his best to
crush evolution altogether. It always has been thus, and always
will be; nor is it desirable in the interests of Truth herself that
it should be otherwise. Truth is like money--lightly come, lightly
go; and if she cannot hold her own against even gross
misrepresentation, she is herself not worth holding.
Misrepresentation in the long run makes Truth as much as it mars
her; hence our law courts do not think it desirable that pleaders
should speak their bona fide opinions, much less that they should
profess to do so. Rather let each side hoodwink judge and jury as
best it can, and let truth flash out from collision of defence and
accusation. When either side will not collide, it is an axiom of
controversy that it desires to prevent the truth from being

Let us now note the courses forced upon biologists by the
difficulties of Mr. Darwin's distinctive feature. Mr. Darwin and
Mr. Wallace, as is well known, brought the feature forward
simultaneously and independently of one another, but Mr. Wallace
always believed in it more firmly than Mr. Darwin did. Mr. Darwin
as a young man did not believe in it. He wrote before 1839,
"Nature, by making habit omnipotent and its effects hereditary, has
fitted the Fuegian for the climate and productions of his country,"
{259a} a sentence than which nothing can coincide more fully with
the older view that use and disuse were the main purveyors of
variations, or conflict more fatally with his own subsequent
distinctive feature. Moreover, as I showed in my last work on
evolution, {259b} in the peroration to his Origin of Species, he
discarded his accidental variations altogether, and fell back on the
older theory, so that the body of the Origin of Species supports one
theory, and the peroration another that differs from it toto coelo.
Finally, in his later editions, he retreated indefinitely from his
original position, edging always more and more continually towards
the theory of his grandfather and Lamarck. These facts convince me
that he was at no time a thoroughgoing Darwinian, but was throughout
an unconscious Lamarckian, though ever anxious to conceal the fact
alike from himself and from his readers.

Not so with Mr. Wallace, who was both more outspoken in the first
instance, and who has persevered along the path of Wallaceism just
as Mr. Darwin with greater sagacity was ever on the retreat from
Darwinism. Mr. Wallace's profounder faith led him in the outset to
place his theory in fuller daylight than Mr. Darwin was inclined to
do. Mr. Darwin just waved Lamarck aside, and said as little about
him as he could, while in his earlier editions Erasmus Darwin and
Buffon were not so much as named. Mr. Wallace, on the contrary, at
once raised the Lamarckian spectre, and declared it exorcized. He
said the Lamarckian hypothesis was "quite unnecessary." The giraffe
did not "acquire its long neck by desiring to reach the foliage of
the more lofty shrubs, and constantly stretching its neck for this
purpose, but because any varieties which occurred among its
antitypes with a longer neck than usual at once secured a fresh
range of pasture over the same ground as their shorter-necked
companions, and on the first scarcity of food were thus enabled to
outlive them." {260}

"Which occurred" is evidently "which happened to occur" by some
chance of accident unconnected with use and disuse. The word
"accident" is never used, but Mr. Wallace must be credited with this
instance of a desire to give his readers a chance of perceiving that
according to his distinctive feature evolution is an affair of luck,
rather than of cunning. Whether his readers actually did understand
this as clearly as Mr. Wallace doubtless desired that they should,
and whether greater development at this point would not have helped
them to fuller apprehension, we need not now inquire. What was
gained in distinctness might have been lost in distinctiveness, and
after all he did technically put us upon our guard.

Nevertheless, he too at a pinch takes refuge in Lamarckism. In
relation to the manner in which the eyes of soles, turbots, and
other flat-fish travel round the head so as to become in the end
unsymmetrically placed, he says:--

"The eyes of these fish are curiously distorted in order that both
eyes may be upon the upper side, where alone they would be of any
use. . . . Now if we suppose this process, which in the young is
completed in a few days or weeks, to have been spread over thousands
of generations during the development of these fish, those usually
surviving _whose eyes retained more and more of the position into
which the young fish tried to twist them_ [italics mine], the change
becomes intelligible." {261} When it was said by Professor Ray
Lankester--who knows as well as most people what Lamarck taught--
that this was "flat Lamarckism," Mr. Wallace rejoined that it was
the survival of the modified individuals that did it all, not the
efforts of the young fish to twist their eyes, and the transmission
to descendants of the effects of those efforts. But this, as I said
in my book Evolution, Old and New, is like saying that horses are
swift runners, not by reason of the causes, whatever they were, that
occasioned the direct line of their progenitors to vary towards ever
greater and greater swiftness, but because their more slow-going
uncles and aunts go away. Plain people will prefer to say that the
main cause of any accumulation of favourable modifications consists
rather in that which brings about the initial variations, and in the
fact that these can be inherited at all, than in the fact that the
unmodified individuals were not successful. People do not become
rich because the poor in large numbers go away, but because they
have been lucky, or provident, or more commonly both. If they would
keep their wealth when they have made it they must exclude luck
thenceforth to the utmost of their power and their children must
follow their example, or they will soon lose their money. The fact
that the weaker go to the wall does not bring about the greater
strength of the stronger; it is the consequence of this last and not
the cause--unless, indeed, it be contended that a knowledge that the
weak go to the wall stimulates the strong to exertions which they
would not otherwise so make, and that these exertions produce
inheritable modifications. Even in this case, however, it would be
the exertions, or use and disuse, that would be the main agents in
the modification. But it is not often that Mr. Wallace thus
backslides. His present position is that acquired (as distinguished
from congenital) modifications are not inherited at all. He does
not indeed put his faith prominently forward and pin himself to it
as plainly as could be wished, but under the heading "The Non-
Heredity of Acquired Characters," he writes as follows on p. 440 of
his recent work in reference to Professor Weismann's Theory of

"Certain observations on the embryology of the lower animals are
held to afford direct proof of this theory of heredity, but they are
too technical to be made clear to ordinary readers. A logical
result of the theory is the impossibility of the transmission of
acquired characters, since the molecular structure of the germ-plasm
is already determined within the embryo; and Weismann holds that
there are no facts which really prove that acquired characters can
be inherited, although their inheritance has, by most writers, been
considered so probable as hardly to stand in need of direct proof.

"We have already seen in the earlier part of this chapter that many
instances of change, imputed to the inheritance of acquired
variations, are really cases of selection."

And the rest of the remarks tend to convey the impression that Mr.
Wallace adopts Professor Weismann's view, but, curiously enough,
though I have gone through Mr. Wallace's book with a special view to
this particular point, I have not been able to find him definitely
committing himself either to the assertion that acquired
modifications never are inherited, or that they sometimes are so.
It is abundantly laid down that Mr. Darwin laid too much stress on
use and disuse, and a residuary impression is left that Mr. Wallace
is endorsing Professor Weismann's view, but I have found it
impossible to collect anything that enables me to define his
position confidently in this respect.

This is natural enough, for Mr. Wallace has entitled his book
Darwinism, and a work denying that use and disuse produced any
effect could not conceivably be called Darwinism. Mr. Herbert
Spencer has recently collected many passages from The Origin of
Species and from Animals and Plants under Domestication," {263}
which show how largely, after all, use and disuse entered into Mr.
Darwin's system, and we know that in his later years he attached
still more importance to them. It was out of the question,
therefore, that Mr. Wallace should categorically deny that their
effects were inheritable. On the other hand, the temptation to
adopt Professor Weismann's view must have been overwhelming to one
who had been already inclined to minimize the effects of use and
disuse. On the whole, one does not see what Mr. Wallace could do,
other than what he has done--unless, of course, he changed his
title, or had been no longer Mr. Wallace.

Besides, thanks to the works of Mr. Spencer, Professor Mivart,
Professor Semper, and very many others, there has for some time been
a growing perception that the Darwinism of Charles Darwin was
doomed. Use and disuse must either do even more than is officially
recognized in Mr. Darwin's later concessions, or they must do a
great deal less. If they can do as much as Mr. Darwin himself said
they did, why should they not do more? Why stop where Mr. Darwin
did? And again, where in the name of all that is reasonable did he
really stop? He drew no line, and on what principle can we say that
so much is possible as effect of use and disuse, but so much more
impossible? If, as Mr. Darwin contended, disuse can so far reduce
an organ as to render it rudimentary, and in many cases get rid of
it altogether, why cannot use create as much as disuse can destroy,
provided it has anything, no matter how low in structure, to begin
with? Let us know where we stand. If it is admitted that use and
disuse can do a good deal, what does a good deal mean? And what is
the proportion between the shares attributable to use and disuse and
to natural selection respectively? If we cannot be told with
absolute precision, let us at any rate have something more definite
than the statement that natural selection is "the most important
means of modification."

Mr. Darwin gave us no help in this respect; and worse than this, he
contradicted himself so flatly as to show that he had very little
definite idea upon the subject at all. Thus in respect to the
winglessness of the Madeira beetles he wrote:--

"In some cases we might easily put down to disuse modifications of
structure, which are wholly or mainly due to natural selection. Mr.
Wollaston has discovered the remarkable fact that 200 beetles, out
of the 550 species (but more are now known) inhabiting Madeira, are
so far deficient in wings that they cannot fly; and that of the 29
endemic genera no less than 23 have all their species in this
condition! Several facts--namely, that beetles in many parts of the
world are frequently blown out to sea and perish; that the beetles
in Madeira, as observed by Mr. Wollaston, lie much concealed until
the wind lulls and the sun shines; that the proportion of wingless
beetles is larger on the exposed Desertas than in Madeira itself;
and especially the extraordinary fact, so strongly insisted on by
Mr. Wollaston, that certain large groups of beetles, elsewhere
excessively numerous, which absolutely require the use of their
wings are here almost entirely absent;--these several considerations
make me believe that the wingless condition of so many Madeira
beetles is mainly due to the action of natural selection, _combined
probably with disuse_ [italics mine]. For during many successive
generations each individual beetle which flew least, either from its
wings having been ever so little less perfectly developed or from
indolent habit, will have had the best chance of surviving, from not
being blown out to sea; and, on the other hand, those beetles which
most readily took to flight would oftenest have been blown to sea,
and thus destroyed." {265}

We should like to know, first, somewhere about how much disuse was
able to do after all, and moreover why, if it can do anything at
all, it should not be able to do all. Mr. Darwin says: "Any change
in structure and function which can be effected by small stages is
within the power of natural selection." "And why not," we ask,
"within the power of use and disuse?" Moreover, on a later page we
find Mr. Darwin saying:--

"_It appears probable that disuse has been the main agent in
rendering organs rudimentary_ [italics mine]. It would at first
lead by slow steps to the more and more complete reduction of a
part, until at last it has become rudimentary--as in the case of the
eyes of animals inhabiting dark caverns, and of the wings of birds
inhabiting oceanic islands, which have seldom been forced by beasts
of prey to take flight, and have ultimately lost the power of
flying. Again, an organ, useful under certain conditions, might
become injurious under others, as _with the wings of beetles living
on small and exposed islands_; and in this case natural selection
will have aided in reducing the organ, until it was rendered
harmless and rudimentary [italics mine]." {266}

So that just as an undefined amount of use and disuse was introduced
on the earlier page to supplement the effects of natural selection
in respect of the wings of beetles on small and exposed islands, we
have here an undefined amount of natural selection introduced to
supplement the effects of use and disuse in respect of the identical
phenomena. In the one passage we find that natural selection has
been the main agent in reducing the wings, though use and disuse
have had an appreciable share in the result; in the other, it is use
and disuse that have been the main agents, though an appreciable
share in the result must be ascribed to natural selection.

Besides, who has seen the uncles and aunts going away with the
uniformity that is necessary for Mr. Darwin's contention? We know
that birds and insects do often get blown out to sea and perish, but
in order to establish Mr. Darwin's position we want the evidence of
those who watched the reduction of the wings during the many
generations in the course of which it was being effected, and who
can testify that all, or the overwhelming majority, of the beetles
born with fairly well-developed wings got blown out to sea, while
those alone survived whose wings were congenitally degenerate. Who
saw them go, or can point to analogous cases so conclusive as to
compel assent from any equitable thinker?

Darwinians of the stamp of Mr. Thiselton Dyer, Professor Ray
Lankester, or Mr. Romanes, insist on their pound of flesh in the
matter of irrefragable demonstration. They complain of us for not
bringing forward someone who has been able to detect the movement of
the hour-hand of a watch during a second of time, and when we fail
to do so, declare triumphantly that we have no evidence that there
is any connection between the beating of a second and the movement
of the hour-hand. When we say that rain comes from the condensation
of moisture in the atmosphere, they demand of us a rain-drop from
moisture not yet condensed. If they stickle for proof and cavil on
the ninth part of a hair, as they do when we bring forward what we
deem excellent instances of the transmission of an acquired
characteristic, why may not we, too, demand at any rate some
evidence that the unmodified beetles actually did always, or nearly
always, get blown out to sea, during the reduction above referred
to, and that it is to this fact, and not to the masterly inactivity
of their fathers and mothers, that the Madeira beetles owe their
winglessness? If we begin stickling for proof in this way, our
opponents would not be long in letting us know that absolute proof
is unattainable on any subject, that reasonable presumption is our
highest certainty, and that crying out for too much evidence is as
bad as accepting too little. Truth is like a photographic
sensitized plate, which is equally ruined by over and by under
exposure, and the just exposure for which can never be absolutely

Surely if disuse can be credited with the vast powers involved in
Mr. Darwin's statement that it has probably "been the main agent in
rendering organs rudimentary," no limits are assignable to the
accumulated effects of habit, provided the effects of habit, or use
and disuse, are supposed, as Mr. Darwin supposed them, to be
inheritable at all. Darwinians have at length woke up to the
dilemma in which they are placed by the manner in which Mr. Darwin
tried to sit on the two stools of use and disuse, and natural
selection of accidental variations, at the same time. The knell of
Charles-Darwinism is rung in Mr. Wallace's present book, and in the
general perception on the part of biologists that we must either
assign to use and disuse such a predominant share in modification as
to make it the feature most proper to be insisted on, or deny that
the modifications, whether of mind or body, acquired during a single
lifetime, are ever transmitted at all. If they can be inherited at
all, they can be accumulated. If they can be accumulated at all,
they can be so, for anything that appears to the contrary, to the
extent of the specific and generic differences with which we are
surrounded. The only thing to do is to pluck them out root and
branch: they are as a cancer which, if the smallest fibre be left
unexcised, will grow again, and kill any system on to which it is
allowed to fasten. Mr. Wallace, therefore, may well be excused if
he casts longing eyes towards Weismannism.

And what was Mr. Darwin's system? Who can make head or tail of the
inextricable muddle in which he left it? The Origin of Species in
its latest shape is the reduction of hedging to an absurdity. How
did Mr. Darwin himself leave it in the last chapter of the last
edition of the Origin of Species? He wrote:--

"I have now recapitulated the facts and considerations which have
thoroughly convinced me that species have been modified during a
long course of descent. This has been effected chiefly through the
natural selection of numerous, successive, slight, favourable
variations; aided in an important manner by the inherited effects of
the use and disuse of parts, and in an unimportant manner--that is,
in relation to adaptive structures whether past or present--by the
direct action of external conditions, and by variations which seem
to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneously. It appears that I
formerly underrated the frequency and value of these latter forms of
variation, as leading to permanent modifications of structure
independently of natural selection."

The "numerous, successive, slight, favourable variations" above
referred to are intended to be fortuitous, accidental, spontaneous.
It is the essence of Mr. Darwin's theory that this should be so.
Mr. Darwin's solemn statement, therefore, of his theory, after he
had done his best or his worst with it, is, when stripped of
surplusage, as follows:--

"The modification of species has been mainly effected by
accumulation of spontaneous variations; it has been aided in an
important manner by accumulation of variations due to use and
disuse, and in an unimportant manner by spontaneous variations; I do
not even now think that spontaneous variations have been very
important, but I used once to think them less important than I do

It is a discouraging symptom of the age that such a system should
have been so long belauded, and it is a sign of returning
intelligence that even he who has been more especially the alter ego
of Mr. Darwin should have felt constrained to close the chapter of
Charles-Darwinism as a living theory, and relegate it to the
important but not very creditable place in history which it must
henceforth occupy. It is astonishing, however, that Mr. Wallace
should have quoted the extract from the Origin of Species just
given, as he has done on p. 412 of his Darwinism, without betraying
any sign that he has caught its driftlessness--for drift, other than
a desire to hedge, it assuredly has not got. The battle now turns
on the question whether modifications of either structure or
instinct due to use or disuse are ever inherited, or whether they
are not. Can the effects of habit be transmitted to progeny at all?
We know that more usually they are not transmitted to any
perceptible extent, but we believe also that occasionally, and
indeed not infrequently, they are inherited and even intensified.
What are our grounds for this opinion? It will be my object to put
these forward in the following number of the Universal Review.

The Deadlock in Darwinism: Part II {271}

At the close of my article in last month's number of the Universal
Review, I said I would in this month's issue show why the opponents
of Charles-Darwinism believe the effects of habits acquired during
the lifetime of a parent to produce an effect on their subsequent
offspring, in spite of the fact that we can rarely find the effect
in any one generation, or even in several, sufficiently marked to
arrest our attention.

I will now show that offspring can be, and not very infrequently is,
affected by occurrences that have produced a deep impression on the
parent organism--the effect produced on the offspring being such as
leaves no doubt that it is to be connected with the impression
produced on the parent. Having thus established the general
proposition, I will proceed to the more particular one--that habits,
involving use and disuse of special organs, with the modifications
of structure thereby engendered, produce also an effect upon
offspring, which, though seldom perceptible as regards structure in
a single, or even in several generations, is nevertheless capable of
being accumulated in successive generations till it amounts to
specific and generic difference. I have found the first point as
much as I can treat within the limits of this present article, and
will avail myself of the hospitality of the Universal Review next
month to deal with the second.

The proposition which I have to defend is one which no one till
recently would have questioned, and even now those who look most
askance at it do not venture to dispute it unreservedly; they every
now and then admit it as conceivable, and even in some cases
probable; nevertheless they seek to minimize it, and to make out
that there is little or no connection between the great mass of the
cells of which the body is composed, and those cells that are alone
capable of reproducing the entire organism. The tendency is to
assign to these last a life of their own, apart from, and
unconnected with that of the other cells of the body, and to cheapen
all evidence that tends to prove any response on their part to the
past history of the individual, and hence ultimately of the race.

Professor Weismann is the foremost exponent of those who take this
line. He has naturally been welcomed by English Charles-Darwinians;
for if his view can be sustained, then it can be contended that use
and disuse produce no transmissible effect, and the ground is cut
from under Lamarck's feet; if, on the other hand, his view is
unfounded, the Lamarckian reaction, already strong, will gain still
further strength. The issue, therefore, is important, and is being
fiercely contested by those who have invested their all of
reputation for discernment in Charles-Darwinian securities.

Professor Weismann's theory is, that at every new birth a part of
the substance which proceeds from parents and which goes to form the
new embryo is not used up in forming the new animal, but remains
apart to generate the germ-cells--or perhaps I should say "germ-
plasm"--which the new animal itself will in due course issue.

Contrasting the generally received view with his own, Professor
Weismann says that according to the first of these "the organism
produces germ-cells afresh again and again, and that it produces
them entirely from its own substance." While by the second "the
germ-cells are no longer looked upon as the product of the parent's
body, at least as far as their essential part--the specific germ-
plasm--is concerned; they are rather considered as something which
is to be placed in contrast with the tout ensemble of the cells
which make up the parent's body, and the germ-cells of succeeding
generations stand in a similar relation to one another as a series
of generations of unicellular organisms arising by a continued
process of cell-division." {274a} On another page he writes:--

"I believe that heredity depends upon the fact that a small portion
of the effective substance of the germ, the germ-plasm, remains
unchanged during the development of the ovum into an organism, and
that this part of the germ-plasm serves as a foundation from which
the germ-cells of the new organism are produced. There is,
therefore, continuity of the germ-plasm from one generation to
another. One might represent the germ-plasm by the metaphor of a
long creeping root-stock from which plants arise at intervals, these
latter representing the individuals of successive generations."

Mr. Wallace, who does not appear to have read Professor Weismann's
essays themselves, but whose remarks are, no doubt, ultimately
derived from the sequel to the passage just quoted from page 266 of
Professor Weismann's book, contends that the impossibility of the
transmission of acquired characters follows as a logical result from
Professor Weismann's theory, inasmuch as the molecular structure of
the germ-plasm that will go to form any succeeding generation is
already predetermined within the still unformed embryo of its
predecessor; "and Weismann," continues Mr. Wallace, "holds that
there are no facts which really prove that acquired characters can
be inherited, although their inheritance has, by most writers, been
considered so probable as hardly to stand in need of direct proof."

Professor Weismann, in passages too numerous to quote, shows that he
recognizes this necessity, and acknowledges that the non-
transmission of acquired characters "forms the foundation of the
views" set forth in his book, p. 291.

Professor Ray Lankester does not commit himself absolutely to this
view, but lends it support by saying (Nature, December 12, 1889):
"It is hardly necessary to say that it has never yet been shown
experimentally that _anything_ acquired by one generation is
transmitted to the next (putting aside diseases)."

Mr. Romanes, writing in Nature, March 13, 1890, and opposing certain
details of Professor Weismann's theory, so far supports it as to say
that "there is the gravest possible doubt lying against the
supposition that any really inherited decrease is due to the
inherited effects of disuse." The "gravest possible doubt" should
mean that Mr. Romanes regards it as a moral certainty that disuse
has no transmitted effect in reducing an organ, and it should follow
that he holds use to have no transmitted effect in its development.
The sequel, however, makes me uncertain how far Mr. Romanes intends
this, and I would refer the reader to the article which Mr. Romanes
has just published on Weismann in the Contemporary Review for this
current month.

The burden of Mr. Thiselton Dyer's controversy with the Duke of
Argyll (see Nature, January 16, 1890, et seq.) was that there was no
evidence in support of the transmission of any acquired
modification. The orthodoxy of science, therefore, must be held as
giving at any rate a provisional support to Professor Weismann, but
all of them, including even Professor Weismann himself, shrink from
committing themselves to the opinion that the germ-cells of any
organisms remain in all cases unaffected by the events that occur to
the other cells of the same organism, and until they do this they
have knocked the bottom out of their case.

From among the passages in which Professor Weismann himself shows a
desire to hedge I may take the following from page 170 of his book:--

"I am also far from asserting that the germ-plasm which, as I hold,
is transmitted as the basis of heredity from one generation to
another, is absolutely unchangeable or totally uninfluenced by
forces residing in the organism within which it is transformed into
germ-cells. I am also compelled to admit it as conceivable that
organisms may exert a modifying influence upon their germ-cells, and
even that such a process is to a certain extent inevitable. The
nutrition and growth of the individual must exercise some influence
upon its germ-cells . . . "

Professor Weismann does indeed go on to say that this influence must
be extremely slight, but we do not care how slight the changes
produced may be, provided they exist and can be transmitted. On an
earlier page (p. 101) he said in regard to variations generally that
we should not expect to find them conspicuous; their frequency would
be enough, if they could be accumulated. The same applies here, if
stirring events that occur to the somatic cells can produce any
effect at all on offspring. A very small effect, provided it can be
repeated and accumulated in successive generations, is all that even
the most exacting Lamarckian will ask for.

Having now made the reader acquainted with the position taken by the
leading Charles-Darwinian authorities, I will return to Professor
Weismann himself, who declares that the transmission of acquired
characters "at first sight certainly seems necessary," and that "it
appears rash to attempt to dispense with its aid." He continues:--

"Many phenomena only appear to be intelligible if we assume the
hereditary transmission of such acquired characters as the changes
which we ascribe to the use or disuse of particular organs, or to
the direct influence of climate. Furthermore, how can we explain
instinct as hereditary habit, unless it has gradually arisen by the
accumulation, through heredity, of habits which were practised in
succeeding generations?" {277}

I may say in passing that Professor Weismann appears to suppose that
the view of instinct just given is part of the Charles-Darwinian
system, for on page 389 of his book he says "that many observers had
followed Darwin in explaining them [instincts] as inherited habits."
This was not Mr. Darwin's own view of the matter. He wrote:--

"If we suppose any habitual action to become inherited--and I think
it can be shown that this does sometimes happen--then the
resemblance between what originally was a habit and an instinct
becomes so close as not to be distinguished. . . . But it would be
the most serious error to suppose that the greater number of
instincts have been acquired by habit in one generation, and then
transmitted by inheritance to succeeding generations. It can be
clearly shown that the most wonderful instincts with which we are
acquainted, namely, those of the hive-bee and of many ants, could
not possibly have been thus acquired."--[Origin of Species, ed.
1859, p. 209.]

Again we read: "Domestic instincts are sometimes spoken of as
actions which have become inherited solely from long-continued and
compulsory habit, but this, I think, is not true."--Ibid., p. 214.

Again: "I am surprised that no one has advanced this demonstrative
case of neuter insects, against the well-known doctrine of inherited
habit, as advanced by Lamarck."--[Origin of Species, ed. 1872, p.

I am not aware that Lamarck advanced the doctrine that instinct is
inherited habit, but he may have done so in some work that I have
not seen.

It is true, as I have more than once pointed out, that in the later
editions of the Origin of Species it is no longer "the _most_
serious" error to refer instincts generally to inherited habit, but
it still remains "a serious error," and this slight relaxation of
severity does not warrant Professor Weismann in ascribing to Mr.
Darwin an opinion which he emphatically condemned. His tone,
however, is so off-hand, that those who have little acquaintance
with the literature of evolution would hardly guess that he is not
much better informed on this subject than themselves.

Returning to the inheritance of acquired characters, Professor
Weismann says that this has never been proved either by means of
direct observation or by experiment. "It must be admitted," he
writes, "that there are in existence numerous descriptions of cases
which tend to prove that such mutilations as the loss of fingers,
the scars of wounds, etc., are inherited by the offspring, but in
these descriptions the previous history is invariably obscure, and
hence the evidence loses all scientific value."

The experiments of M. Brown-Sequard throw so much light upon the
question at issue that I will quote at some length from the summary
given by Mr. Darwin in his Variation of Animals and Plants under
Domestication. {279} Mr. Darwin writes:--

"With respect to the inheritance of structures mutilated by injuries
or altered by disease, it was until lately difficult to come to any
definite conclusion." [Then follow several cases in which
mutilations practised for many generations are not found to be
transmitted.] "Notwithstanding," continues Mr. Darwin, "the above
several negative cases, we now possess conclusive evidence that the
effects of operations are sometimes inherited. Dr. Brown-Sequard
gives the following summary of his observations on guinea-pigs, and
this summary is so important that I will quote the whole:--

"'1st. Appearance of epilepsy in animals born of parents having
been rendered epileptic by an injury to the spinal cord.

"'2nd. Appearance of epilepsy also in animals born of parents
having been rendered epileptic by the section of the sciatic nerve.

"'3rd. A change in the shape of the ear in animals born of parents
in which such a change was the effect of a division of the cervical
sympathetic nerve.

"'4th. Partial closure of the eyelids in animals born of parents in
which that state of the eyelids had been caused either by the
section of the cervical sympathetic nerve or the removal of the
superior cervical ganglion.

"'5th. Exophthalmia in animals born of parents in which an injury
to the restiform body had produced that protrusion of the eyeball.
This interesting fact I have witnessed a good many times, and I have
seen the transmission of the morbid state of the eye continue
through four generations. In these animals modified by heredity,
the two eyes generally protruded, although in the parents usually
only one showed exophthalmia, the lesion having been made in most
cases only on one of the corpora restiformia.

"'6th. Haematoma and dry gangrene of the ears in animals born of
parents in which these ear-alterations had been caused by an injury
to the restiform body near the nib of the calamus.

"'7th. Absence of two toes out of the three of the hind leg, and
sometimes of the three, in animals whose parents had eaten up their
hind-leg toes which had become anaesthetic from a section of the
sciatic nerve alone, or of that nerve and also of the crural.
Sometimes, instead of complete absence of the toes, only a part of
one or two or three was missing in the young, although in the parent
not only the toes but the whole foot was absent (partly eaten off,
partly destroyed by inflammation, ulceration, or gangrene).

"'8th. Appearance of various morbid states of the skin and hair of
the neck and face in animals born of parents having had similar
alterations in the same parts, as effects of an injury to the
sciatic nerve.'

"It should be especially observed that Brown-Sequard had bred during
thirty years many thousand guinea-pigs from animals which had not
been operated upon, and not one of these manifested the epileptic
tendency. Nor has he ever seen a guinea-pig born without toes,
which was not the offspring of parents which had gnawed off their
own toes owing to the sciatic nerve having been divided. Of this
latter fact thirteen instances were carefully recorded, and a
greater number were seen; yet Brown-Sequard speaks of such cases as
one of the rarer forms of inheritance. It is a still more
interesting fact, 'that the sciatic nerve in the congenitally
toeless animal has inherited the power of passing through all the
different morbid states which have occurred in one of its parents
from the time of the division till after its reunion with the
peripheric end. It is not, therefore, simply the power of
performing an action which is inherited, but the power of performing
a whole series of actions, in a certain order.'

"In most of the cases of inheritance recorded by Brown-Sequard only
one of the two parents had been operated upon and was affected. He
concludes by expressing his belief that 'what is transmitted is the
morbid state of the nervous system,' due to the operation performed
on the parents."

Mr. Darwin proceeds to give other instances of inherited effects of

"With the horse there seems hardly a doubt that exostoses on the
legs, caused by too much travelling on hard roads, are inherited.
Blumenbach records the case of a man who had his little finger on
the right hand almost cut off, and which in consequence grew
crooked, and his sons had the same finger on the same hand similarly
crooked. A soldier, fifteen years before his marriage, lost his
left eye from purulent ophthalmia, and his two sons were
microphthalmic on the same side."

The late Professor Rolleston, whose competence as an observer no one
is likely to dispute, gave Mr. Darwin two cases as having fallen
under his own notice, one of a man whose knee had been severely
wounded, and whose child was born with the same spot marked or
scarred, and the other of one who was severely cut upon the cheek,
and whose child was born scarred in the same place. Mr. Darwin's
conclusion was that "the effects of injuries, especially when
followed by disease, or perhaps exclusively when thus followed, are
occasionally inherited."

Let us now see what Professor Weismann has to say against this. He

"The only cases worthy of discussion are the well-known experiments
upon guinea-pigs conducted by the French physiologist, Brown-
Sequard. But the explanation of his results is, in my opinion, open
to discussion. In these cases we have to do with the apparent
transmission of artificially produced malformations. . . . All
these effects were said to be transmitted to descendants as far as
the fifth or sixth generation.

"But we must inquire whether these cases are really due to heredity,
and not to simple infection. In the case of epilepsy, at any rate,
it is easy to imagine that the passage of some specific organism
through the reproductive cells may take place, as in the case of
syphilis. We are, however, entirely ignorant of the nature of the
former disease. This suggested explanation may not perhaps apply to
the other cases; but we must remember that animals which have been
subjected to such severe operations upon the nervous system have
sustained a great shock, and if they are capable of breeding, it is
only probable that they will produce weak descendants, and such as
are easily affected by disease. Such a result does not, however,
explain why the offspring should suffer from the same disease as
that which was artificially induced in the parents. But this does
not appear to have been by any means invariably the case. Brown-
Sequard himself says: 'The changes in the eye of the offspring were
of a very variable nature, and were only occasionally exactly
similar to those observed in the parents.'

"There is no doubt, however, that these experiments demand careful
consideration, but before they can claim scientific recognition,
they must be subjected to rigid criticism as to the precautions
taken, the nature and number of the control experiments, etc.

"Up to the present time such necessary conditions have not been
sufficiently observed. The recent experiments themselves are only
described in short preliminary notices, which, as regards their
accuracy, the possibility of mistake, the precautions taken, and the
exact succession of individuals affected, afford no data on which a
scientific opinion can be founded" (pp. 81, 82).

The line Professor Weismann takes, therefore, is to discredit the
facts; yet on a later page we find that the experiments have since
been repeated by Obersteiner, "who has described them in a very
exact and unprejudiced manner," and that "the fact"--(I imagine that
Professor Weismann intends "the facts")--"cannot be doubted."

On a still later page, however, we read:--

"If, for instance, it could be shown that artificial mutilation
spontaneously reappears in the offspring with sufficient frequency
to exclude all possibilities of chance, then such proof [i.e. that
acquired characters can be transmitted] would be forthcoming. The
transmission of mutilations has been frequently asserted, and has
been even recently again brought forward, but all the supposed
instances have broken down when carefully examined" (p. 390).

Here, then, we are told that proof of the occasional transmission of
mutilations would be sufficient to establish the fact, but on p. 267
we find that no single fact is known which really proves that
acquired characters can be transmitted, "_for the ascertained facts
which seem to point to the transmission of artificially produced
diseases cannot be considered as proof_." [Italics mine.] Perhaps;
but it was mutilation in many cases that Professor Weismann
practically admitted to have been transmitted when he declared that
Obersteiner had verified Brown-Sequard's experiments.

That Professor Weismann recognizes the vital importance to his own
theory of the question whether or no mutilations can be transmitted
under any circumstances, is evident from a passage on p. 425 of his
work, on which he says: "It can hardly be doubted that mutilations
are acquired characters; they do not arise from any tendency
contained in the germ, but are merely the reaction of the body under
certain external influences. They are, as I have recently expressed
it, purely somatogenic characters--viz. characters which emanate
from the body (soma) only, as opposed to the germ-cells; they are,
therefore, characters that do not arise from the germ itself.

"If mutilations must necessarily be transmitted" [which no one that
I know of has maintained], "or even if they might occasionally be
transmitted" [which cannot, I imagine, be reasonably questioned], "a
powerful support would be given to the Lamarckian principle, and the
transmission of functional hypertrophy or atrophy would thus become
highly probable."

I have not found any further attempt in Professor Weismann's book to
deal with the evidence adduced by Mr. Darwin to show that
mutilations, if followed by diseases, are sometimes inherited; and I
must leave it to the reader to determine how far Professor Weismann
has shown reason for rejecting Mr. Darwin's conclusion. I do not,
however, dwell upon these facts now as evidence of a transmitted
change of bodily form, or of instinct due to use and disuse or
habit; what they prove is that the germ-cells within the parent's
body do not stand apart from the other cells of the body so
completely as Professor Weismann would have us believe, but that, as
Professor Hering, of Prague, has aptly said, they echo with more or
less frequency and force to the profounder impressions made upon
other cells.

I may say that Professor Weismann does not more cavalierly wave
aside the mass of evidence collected by Mr. Darwin and a host of
other writers, to the effect that mutilations are sometimes
inherited, than does Mr. Wallace, who says that, "as regards
mutilations, it is generally admitted that they are not inherited,
and there is ample evidence on this point." It is indeed generally
admitted that mutilations, when not followed by disease, are very
rarely, if ever, inherited; and Mr. Wallace's appeal to the "ample
evidence" which he alleges to exist on this head, is much as though
he should say that there is ample evidence to show that the days are
longer in summer than in winter. "Nevertheless," he continues, "a
few cases of apparent inheritance of mutilations have been recorded,
and these, if trustworthy, are difficulties in the way of the
theory." . . . "The often-quoted case of a disease induced by
mutilation being inherited (Brown-Sequard's epileptic guinea-pigs)
has been discussed by Professor Weismann and shown to be not
conclusive. The mutilation itself--a section of certain nerves--was
never inherited, but the resulting epilepsy, or a general state of
weakness, deformity, or sores, was sometimes inherited. It is,
however, possible that the mere injury introduced and encouraged the
growth of certain microbes, which, spreading through the organism,
sometimes reached the germ-cells, and thus transmitted a diseased
condition to the offspring." {286}

I suppose a microbe which made guinea-pigs eat their toes off was
communicated to the germ-cells of an unfortunate guinea-pig which
had been already microbed by it, and made the offspring bite its
toes off too. The microbe has a good deal to answer for.

On the case of the deterioration of horses in the Falkland Islands
after a few generations, Professor Weismann says:--

"In such a case we have only to assume that the climate which is
unfavourable, and nutriment which is insufficient for horses, affect
not only the animal as a whole but also its germ-cells. This would
result in the diminution in size of the germ-cells, the effects upon
the offspring being still further intensified by the insufficient
nourishment supplied during growth. But such results would not
depend upon the transmission by the germ-cells of certain
peculiarities due to the unfavourable climate, which only appear in
the full-grown horse."

But Professor Weismann does not like such cases, and admits that he
cannot explain the facts in connection with the climatic varieties
of certain butterflies, except "by supposing the passive acquisition
of characters produced by the direct influence of climate."

Nevertheless, in his next paragraph but one he calls such cases
"doubtful," and proposes that for the moment they should be left
aside. He accordingly leaves them, but I have not yet found what
other moment he considered auspicious for returning to them. He
tells us that "new experiments will be necessary, and that he has
himself already begun to undertake them." Perhaps he will give us
the results of these experiments in some future book--for that they
will prove satisfactory to him can hardly, I think, be doubted. He

"Leaving on one side, for the moment, these doubtful and
insufficiently investigated cases, we may still maintain that the
assumption that changes induced by external conditions in the

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