Essays on Life, Art and Science
by Samuel Butler
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Sixthly, those organisms that are the longest in reaching maturity should on the average be the longest-lived, for they will have received the most momentous impulse from the weight of memory behind them. This harmonises with the latest opinion as to the facts. In his article on Weismann in the Contemporary Review for May 1890, Mr. Romanes writes: "Professor Weismann has shown that there is throughout the metazoa a general correlation between the natural lifetime of individuals composing any given species, and the age at which they reach maturity or first become capable of procreation." This, I believe, has been the conclusion generally arrived at by biologists for some years past.

Lateness, then, in the average age of reproduction appears to be the principle underlying longevity. There does not appear at first sight to be much connection between such distinct and apparently disconnected phenomena as 1, the orderly normal progress of development; 2, atavism and the resumption of feral characteristics; 3, the more ordinary resemblance inter se of nearer relatives; 4, the benefit of an occasional cross, and the usual sterility of hybrids; 5, the unconsciousness with which alike bodily development and ordinary physiological functions proceed, so long as they are normal; 6, the ordinary non-inheritance, but occasional inheritance of mutilations; 7, the fact that puberty indicates the approach of maturity; 8, the phenomena of middle life and old age; 9, the principle underlying longevity. These phenomena have no conceivable bearing on one another until heredity and memory are regarded as part of the same story. Identify these two things, and I know no phenomenon of heredity that does not immediately become infinitely more intelligible. Is it conceivable that a theory which harmonises so many facts hitherto regarded as without either connection or explanation should not deserve at any rate consideration from those who profess to take an interest in biology?

It is not as though the theory were unknown, or had been condemned by our leading men of science. Professor Ray Lankester introduced it to English readers in an appreciative notice of Professor Hering's address, which appeared in Nature, July 18, 1876. He wrote to the Athenaeum, March 24, 1884, and claimed credit for having done so, but I do not believe he has ever said more in public about it than what I have here referred to. Mr. Romanes did indeed try to crush it in Nature, January 27, 1881, but in 1883, in his "Mental Evolution in Animals," he adopted its main conclusion without acknowledgment. The Athenaeum, to my unbounded surprise, called him to task for this (March 1, 1884), and since that time he has given the Heringian theory a sufficiently wide berth. Mr. Wallace showed himself favourably enough disposed towards the view that heredity and memory are part of the same story when he reviewed my book "Life and Habit" in Nature, March 27, 1879, but he has never since betrayed any sign of being aware that such a theory existed. Mr. Herbert Spencer wrote to the Athenaeum (April 5, 1884), and claimed the theory for himself, but, in spite of his doing this, he has never, that I have seen, referred to the matter again. I have dealt sufficiently with his claim in my book, "Luck or Cunning." {43} Lastly, Professor Hering himself has never that I know of touched his own theory since the single short address read in 1870, and translated by me in 1881. Every one, even its originator, except myself, seems afraid to open his mouth about it. Of course the inference suggests itself that other people have more sense than I have. I readily admit it; but why have so many of our leaders shown such a strong hankering after the theory, if there is nothing in it?

The deadlock that I have pointed out as existing in Darwinism will, I doubt not, lead ere long to a consideration of Professor Hering's theory. English biologists are little likely to find Weismann satisfactory for long, and if he breaks down there is nothing left for them but Lamarck, supplemented by the important and elucidatory corollary on his theory proposed by Professor Hering. When the time arrives for this to obtain a hearing it will be confirmed, doubtless, by arguments clearer and more forcible than any I have been able to adduce; I shall then be delighted to resign the championship which till then I shall continue, as for some years past, to have much pleasure in sustaining. Heretofore my satisfaction has mainly lain in the fact that more of our prominent men of science have seemed anxious to claim the theory than to refute it; in the confidence thus engendered I leave it to any fuller consideration which the outline I have above given may incline the reader to bestow upon it.


{1} Published in the Universal Review, July 1888.

{2} Published in the Universal Review, December 1890.

{3} Published in the Universal Review, May 1889. As I have several times been asked if the letters here reprinted were not fabricated by Butler himself, I take this opportunity of stating that they are authentic in every particular, and that the originals are now in my possession.—R. A. S.

{4} An address delivered at the Somerville Club, February 27, 1895.

{5} "The Foundations of Belief," by the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour. Longmans, 1895, p. 48.

{6} Published in the Universal Review, November 1888.

{7} Since this essay was written it has been ascertained by Cavaliere Francesco Negri, of Casale Monferrato, that Tabachetti died in 1615. If, therefore, the Sanctuary of Montrigone was not founded until 1631, it is plain that Tabachetti cannot have worked there. All the latest discoveries about Tabachetti's career will be found in Cavaliere Negri's pamphlet "Il Santuario di Crea" (Alessandria, 1902). See also note on p. 154.—R. A. S.

{8} Published in the Universal Review, December 1889.

{9} Longmans & Co., 1890.

{10} Longmans & Co., 1890.

{11} Published in the Universal Review, November 1890.

{12} Longmans & Co., 1890.

{13} M. Ruppen's words run: "1687 wurde die Kapelle zur hohen Stiege gebaut, 1747 durch Zusatz vergrossert und 1755 mit Orgeln ausgestattet. Anton Ruppen, ein geschickter Steinhauer mid Maurermeister leitete den Kapellebau, und machte darin das kleinere Altarlein. Bei der hohen Stiege war fruher kein Gebetshauslein; nur ein wunderthatiges Bildlein der Mutter Gottes stand da in einer Mauer vor dem fromme Hirten und viel andachtiges Volk unter freiem Himmel beteten.

"1709 wurden die kleinen Kapellelein die 15 Geheimnisse des Psalters vorstelland auf dem Wege zur hohen Stiege gebaut. Jeder Haushalter des Viertels Fee ubernahm den Bau eines dieser Geheimnisskapellen, und ein besonderer Gutthater dieser frommen Unternehmung war Heinrich Andenmatten, nachher Bruder der Geselischaft Jesu."

{14} The story of Tabachetti's incarceration is very doubtful. Cavaliere F. Negri, to whose book on Tabachetti and his work at Crea I have already referred the reader, does not mention it. Tabachetti left his native Dinant in 1585, and from that date until his death in 1615 he appears to have worked chiefly at Varallo and Crea. There is a document in existence stating that in 1588 he executed a statue for the hermitage of S. Rocco, at Crea, which, if it is to be relied on, disposes both of the incarceration and of the visit to Saas. It is possible, however, that the date is 1598, in which case Butler's theory of the visit to Saas may hold good. In 1590 Tabachetti was certainly at Varallo, and again in 1594, 1599, and 1602. He died in 1615, possibly during a visit to Varallo, though his home at that time was Costigliole, near Asti.—R. A. S.

{15} This is thus chronicled by M. Ruppen: "1589 den 9 September war eine Wassergrosse, die viel Schaden verursachte. Die Thalstrasse, die von den Steinmatten an bis zur Kirche am Ufer der Visp lag, wurde ganz zerstort. Man ward gezwungen eine neue Strasse in einiger Entfernung vom Wasser durch einen alten Fussweg auszuhauen welche vier und einerhalben Viertel der Klafter, oder 6 Schuh und 9 Zoll breit soilte." (p. 43).

{16} A lecture delivered at the Working Men's College in Great Ormond Street, March 15, 1890; rewritten and delivered again at the Somerville Club, February 13, 1894.

{17} "Correlation of Forces": Longmans, 1874, p. 15.

{18} "Three Lectures on the Science of Language," Longmans, 1889, p. 4.

{19} "Science of Thought," Longmans, 1887, p. 9.

{20} Published in the Universal Review, April, May, and June 1890.

{21} "Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle," iii. p. 237.

{22} "Luck, or Cunning, as the main means of Organic Modification?" (Longmans), pp. 179, 180.

{23} Journals of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Zoology, vol. iii.), 1859, p. 61.

{24} "Darwinism" (Macmillan, 1889), p. 129.

{25} Longmans, 1890, p. 376.

{26} See Nature, March 6, 1890.

{27} "Origin of Species," sixth edition, 1888, vol. i. p. 168.

{28} "Origin of Species," sixth edition, 1888, vol. ii. p. 261.

{29} Mr. J. T. Cunningham, of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Plymouth, has called my attention to the fact that I have ascribed to Professor Ray Lankester a criticism on Mr. Wallace's remarks upon the eyes of certain fiat-fish, which Professor Ray Lankester was, in reality, only adopting—with full acknowledgment—from Mr. Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham has left it to me whether to correct my omission publicly or not, but he would so plainly prefer my doing so that I consider myself bound to insert this note. Curiously enough I find that in my book "Evolution Old and New," I gave what Lamarck actually said upon the eyes of flat-fish, and having been led to return to the subject, I may as well quote his words. He wrote:—

"Need—always occasioned by the circumstances in which an animal is placed, and followed by sustained efforts at gratification—can not only modify an organ—that is to say, augment or reduce it—but can change its position when the case requires its removal.

"Ocean fishes have occasion to see what is on either side of them, and have their eyes accordingly placed on either side of their head. Some fishes, however, have their abode near coasts on submarine banks and inclinations, and are thus forced to flatten themselves as much as possible in order to get as near as they can to the shore. In this situation they receive more light from above than from below, and find it necessary to pay attention to whatever happens to be above them; this need has involved the displacement of their eyes, which now take the remarkable position which we observe in the case of soles, turbots, plaice, &c. The transfer of position is not even yet complete in the case of these fishes, and the eyes are not, therefore, symmetrically placed; but they are so with the skate, whose head and whole body are equally disposed on either side a longitudinal section. Hence the eyes of this fish are placed symmetrically upon the uppermost side."—Philosophie Zoologique, tom. i., pp. 250, 251. Edition C. Martins. Paris, 1873.

{30} "Essays on Heredity," &c., Oxford, 1889, p. 171.

{31} "Essays on Heredity," &c., Oxford, 1889, p. 266.

{32} "Darwinism," 1889, p. 440.

{33} Page 83.

{34} Vol. i. p. 466, &c. Ed. 1885.

{35} "Darwinism," p. 440.

{36} Longmans, 1890.

{37} Tom. iv. p. 383. Ed. 1753.

{38} Essays, &c., p. 447.

{39} "Zoonomia," 1794, vol. i. p. 480.

{40} Longmans, 1890.

{41} Longmans, 1890.

{42} Longmans, 1890.

{43} Longmans, 1890.


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