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Beautifully classic book
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JUNE 21. L'ENFANT TERRIBLE.
JULY 7. AN OPTIMISTIC CYNIC.
JULY 20. A POET SHEEP-RANCHER.
SEPTEMBER 4. AN EATEN CAKE.
SEPTEMBER 12. CONCERNING ELBOWS ON THE TABLE.
NOVEMBER 1. JOHN-A'-DREAMS.
NOVEMBER 6. THE FOUNTAIN OF SALMACIS.
NOVEMBER 20. TWO SIEGFRIEDS.
6. JANUARY A DOOR AJAR.
7. JANUARY AT TIME OF DEATH.
10. JANUARY THE CURSE OF BABEL.
14. JANUARY FOURTH DIMENSION.
23. JANUARY ANT AND THE LARK.
29. JANUARY DÖPPELGANGER.
FEBRUARY 17. "A YOUNG MAN'S FANCY."
FEBRUARY 18. AN ARABIAN LOOKING-GLASS.
MARCH 4. THE CRY OF THE WOMEN.
4. MAY SEVILLE. THE BEAUTY OF CRUELTY.
7. MAY GRANADA. THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON'S TREES.
15. MAY NAPLES. THE BOY WITH THE GOOSE.
30. MAY ROME. A GOD INDEED.
JUNE 1. A QUESTION OF SKULLS.
LONDON. JUNE 30. THE MODERN WOMAN AND MARRIAGE.
JULY 17. THE IDEAL HUSBAND.
JULY 23. A NEW LAW OF HEALTH.
JULY 24. "DEAD, DEAD, DEAD."
SEPTEMBER 6. VERBAL MAGIC.
OCTOBER 8. HAMLET.
DECEMBER 13. GHOSTS.
DECEMBER 20. AMATEUR SAINTS.
JANUARY 1, 1900. THE ZEITGEIST.
FEBRUARY 11. THE ABDICATION OF MAN.
JUNE 13. LIFE.
JULY 2. PORTABLE PROPERTY.
JULY 10. ARE AMERICAN PARENTS SELFISH?
JULY 30. A QUESTION OF HEREDITY.
OCTOBER 6. THE LITTLE DUMB BROTHER.
AUGUST 5. FEVER DREAMS.
7. September A MISUNDERSTOOD MORALIST.
10. September THE PLEASURES OF PESSIMISM.
18. September MORAL PAUPERISM.
30. September ON A CERTAIN LACK OF HUMOUR IN FRENCHMEN.
OCTOBER 15. THE VALUE OF A SOUL.
OCTOBER 16. BORES.
NOVEMBER 7. EMOTIONS AND OXYDIZATION.
NOVEMBER 10. ABELARD TO HELOISE.
NOVEMBER 30. YUMEI MUJITSU.
DECEMBER 1. THE REAL THING.
DECEMBER 15. "OH, ELOQUENT, JUST, AND MIGHTY DEATH."
DECEMBER 23. "PHILISTIA, BE THOU GLAD OF ME."
DECEMBER 24. "OH KING LIVE FOREVER!"
JANUARY 1. THE LITTLE ROOM.
JANUARY 2. AFTERMATH.
The Secret Life
BEING THE BOOK OF A HERETIC
Edition 2017 by David De Angelis – all rights reserved
"The very Devil's in the moon for mischief:There's not a day, the longest, not the twenty-first of June,Sees half the mischief in a quiet wayOn which three single hours of moonlight smile."
At my age, alas! one no longer gets into mischief, either by moonlight or at midsummer, and yet to-day all the tricksey spirits of the invisible world are supposed to be abroad—tangling the horses' manes, souring the milkmaid's cream, setting lovers by the ears. Some such frisky Puck stirs even peaceable middle-aged blood at this season to mild little secret sins, such as beginning a diary in which to set down one's private naughty views—the heresies one has grown too staid and cautious to give speech to any longer.
All, I think, have some Secret Garden where they unbind the girdle of conventions and breathe to a sympathetic listener the opinions they would repudiate indignantly upon the housetops; but I know of no such kindred soul—indeed my private views are so heretical that I should tremble to whisper them even into the dull cold ear of night, lest I should cause it to turn pink, and thereafter hymns would not purge it. Hence no resource remains to ease my bosom of its perilous stuff but the unprotesting innocence of the blank pages of a diary.
There is a story concerning the king of some ungeographical country, to whom came two adventurers of cynical tendencies, professing to be able—given a certain allowance of jewels and precious metals—to weave a garment of exceeding richness and of such subtle texture that no monarch on earth might hope to match it. Setting up a loom and providing themselves with ample materials from the Royal treasury, they went through the motions of stringing a warp and thereupon industriously threw empty shuttles back and forth.
When the king, accompanied by his court, was summoned to observe the progress of the famous web, the puzzled ruler could see nothing but an empty loom, but before the eager explanations of the enthusiastic weavers, who pointed out here a glowing dye, there a splendid pattern, and having regard to the noncommittal countenances of the courtiers, the king nodded sagely and waited developments.
"Best of all, Sire," cried the cheerful rogues, "so magical is this robe we weave, that only those can see it whose tongue has never uttered a lie, whose hands have never taken a bribe."
Rises thereupon instant chorus of praise of the beautiful fabric from a unanimous court. Next day a solemn procession through the streets of the capital to display to the world the magic robe. Amazed multitude staring at the king in pompous dishabille, but hearing the courtiers' admiring cries, no man willing to admit his own blindness—when up speaks Tiresome Child: "Mother, why does the king ride abroad in his shirt?"
General outburst of mortified veracity, and futile search for the discreetly vanished adventurers.
So ends the story. But nothing of the sort really took place. Instead, l'enfant terrible was slapped and put to bed, to meditate upon his ill-timed outspokenness, and next day, and all the days thereafter, sees what his companions see. I know, because I myself am that Tiresome Child, and because my uncomfortable eyes refuse to see the imaginary robe in which so many kings of this world are dressed I have spent a large part of my life in disgrace. At last and tearfully I have learned to hold my tongue, but when the tricksome spirits of Midsummer Eve are abroad, I get out pen and paper and, where no pious ear can be violated, secretly vent my elderly naughtinesses. My respectable acquaintances will be all the safer in consequence that I have an inviolable confidant of the real thoughts that lie behind my but slightly wrinkled brow and unrevealing eyes. Thackeray once said, "If women's eyes could only be dragged, what queer things one might learn."... Ah, the Secret Life!—who among us can guess at the thoughts that are concealed behind the clear brows and frankseeming eyes of even those nearest us?
We live our lives draped and masked in our own bodies; forcing those bodies to speak the words, perform the actions expected from them, while we dwell alone within, thinking and wishing what we never, or rarely, express. It is this that drives us to diaries—the need to somewhere, somehow, speak the truth in a world of conformable lies. It is of no use to slip aside our masks or raise our draperies for an instant, in the hope that our fellows will recognize a hand or an eye like their own, and that thereupon even one of our companions will invite us to come out from under our robe and walk about with him friendlily, without disguise. Instead our companion makes signs of distress and resentment through the veil of his concealment, and we hastily readjust the mask and domino and resist further temptation to find a heart akin.
"It takes," says Thoreau, "two to tell the truth—one to speak and another to hear."
Called upon once to help a grief-stricken mother to lay away the belongings of a boy summoned suddenly out of life, we unearthed among his abandoned treasures a curious collection of odds and ends concerning which we could imagine no value that should have moved him to keep them by him. A shell, a bit of ribbon, a rusty nail; scraps of paper with a scribbled line or two; cuttings, whose printed words referred to nothing which seemed to bear in any way upon what we might guess of as touching his life.
"I thought I knew every fibre of his heart," cried the mother in sudden tears, "and yet of all these strange things he seems to have treasured so carefully I cannot divine the meaning of a single one!" A whole world of ambitions, interests, and sentiments foreign to her he had carried away into eternal silence.
If I shall have persistence sufficient to continue this Heretic Diary, I am afraid it will find itself stuffed with an equally absurd number of my secret loves and hates, of the intolerable opinions for which I have been slapped and put to bed, of all the sentimental rubbish I carry about with me in a fardel under my mask and domino— the poor inconsequential treasures of my secret life.
Amiel's Journal:—I have been reading it with the half impatient interest which such books always arouse—in me at least. It is a more agreeable book, however, than Marie Bashkirtseff's disingenuous posings, or Rousseau's vulgar, insulting confidences. One is impatient with the bore who talks about himself when one is impatient to bore him about one's own self, and yet, somehow, one is fascinated by the hope of getting behind the mask of personality.
I learned to read French that I might possess the contents of the "Confessions." George Eliot called it the most interesting book she knew, which fired my ambition to read it. With the aid of a dictionary, the four great volumes were got through somehow, and when the task was accomplished, though I loathed Rousseau, I had enough French to serve roughly for both reading and speech.
What ambition and courage one had in those days! I studied French while I did the churning. Remembering the strength and persistency of that time I wonder that I have come to middle age and done nothing. Athletic trainers say that there is in every one only a fixed capacity for development. One may reach that limit readily, and once reached no toil or patience will ever carry the power of the muscles beyond it by the smallest part of a fraction. Mentally, the same probably holds good. My capacity was, no doubt, always small. So far as it went the cramping, unpropitious circumstances of youth had no power to chill it, but prosperity, leisure, opportunity, could not add one jot to its possibilities....
In all these journals what I find interesting is not so much what the writer says as what he reveals unintentionally.
The impression Amiel leaves upon the reader is that he was at least a gentleman—that he had a gentle soul; clean and modest, continent and grave. His melancholy seems neither so profound nor so touching as Mrs. Humphrey Ward and his other critics would have one believe. At least it is neither tragic nor torturing. He gives the impression of saying "I have no bread—but," he adds cheerfully, after a moment's reflection, "the Lord will provide."
He is not rebellious. In moments of the most real gravity, when he is face to face with death, he clings to the egotistic superstition that perhaps—most probably—there is somewhere some wise kind Power deeply interested in his doings, his emotions, his future. He is profoundly convinced that it is important how he feels, how he bears himself. He has no sense at all of the blind nullity of things. He asserts this nullity to be unthinkable. All this is surprising when one remembers the insistence of his commentators upon the intense modernity of his mind. Is this modern? I cannot see wherein it differs from the spirit of the past. Such natures were not uncommon in other centuries—as was the nature of Erasmus for example....
The man had no passion. He did not marry because, he says, he demanded perfection; could not find or give it, and therefore resigned himself cheerfully to celibacy. Passion, of course, would have blinded his eyes to imperfections; having none, his eyes were always clear.... It is perhaps in this passionlessness that he is most modern. Most of us no longer demand perfection. Knowing it to be unattainable, modern common sense cheerfully agrees to abandon desire for it. This is visible in our literature, in art, in love. No one reads or buys long poems any more, therefore the poets never contemplate a new Paradise Lost. No one paints heroic pictures, for they are not salable. The grandiose has no market and therefore grows obsolete. The law of supply and demand rules there as elsewhere. Passion and the perfection it longs and strives for is démodé.
F—— is dead, and with the announcement by cable this morning comes a belated letter from M——, full of hope and encouragement. A sudden rally had made her believe in a possibility of recovery—no doubt it was that last flare which comes often just as the oil fails and the light is about to go out.
My mind has been full of amazement all day. It is so difficult to realize that a strong, aggressive personality is finally and definitely extinguished. I have been thinking of their odd, romantic story. He must have had great seductive power—not easily realizable now—to have come into her life and have persuaded her to abandon everything to follow him. I have heard her tell the story often. The tall young sheep-rancher from New Zealand, with his burning eyes and his pockets full of sonnets, appearing one morning, and she suddenly abandons her brilliant position, her jointure, her two orphan boys, and goes away, despite the furious outcries of her family and friends, with a man seven years her junior; goes into the wilderness with him, New Zealand of more than a quarter of a century ago being decidedly wilderness, yet she calls those the happiest years of her life—spent in a shanty fifty miles from the nearest neighbour! She likes to recall the wild scrambles among the mountains; the wrestles to save the sheep from the spring floods; the vigils; the dances to which they rode on mountain ponies, sixty or seventy miles; the makeshifts; the caring for flocks and shepherds in the stress of heat and cold, of sickness and sorrow; and the snow-bound nights beside the fire, when the sonnets came to the fore again. After all it was youth, and love, and adventure; why shouldn't she have been happy? And she was justified in her faith. When I came to know them the detrimental young sheep-rancher moved in a world of gilded aides-de-camp, with sentries and mounted escorts attending his steps, surrounded by tropical pomp and spacious luxury, and now, alas! he is but one more unit in the yearly tribute of flesh and blood demanded by England's Equatorial Empire.
A handsome, brilliant, charming creature. The generation is the poorer for the loss of his graceful, cynical wit.
He belonged to the generation who formed their ideals of manners upon Pelham and Vivian Grey. It was Byronism translated into prose. M—— says he bore his sufferings—enormous sufferings—with the light and humorous courage with which it was the ideal of the fine gentleman of his period to face all unpleasant situations.
The S——s came in last night after dinner. They cling to the old fashion, common in England before the advent of afternoon tea, of having the tray brought in about ten o'clock, so I tried it to-night because of them, and found it not a bad idea.
Simple, agreeable folk they are, of what is called in Scotland the middle classes. That is to say, they follow some commercial calling: I am not sure of its exact nature. They are very well educated in just the way which differentiates the British middle-class education from the other sort—they speak several modern languages fluently, and know little of the classics. All their learning is sound, unornamental, utilitarian. Some reference was made to a kinsman in a foreign town which I had visited. I could not recall any association with the name until the elder brother said quite simply and without any self-consciousness:
"He is Jones of Jones & Co. (a large haberdasher in P——)—you may have been in his shop."
It was nicely done. I doubt if an American could have achieved it in quite the same way. If he had made the confidence it would have been made with bravado, or he would have explained that the shop was an "emporium."
The girl has such a good restful British calm about her—I felt it after she was gone. It arises, I think, from lack of any special interest in the impression she makes upon others. All the rest of us—we Americans—were desirous of being agreeable, amusing—of making a good effect. We were consciously sympathetic, consciously vivacious, consciously civil. She was just herself; we might take or leave her as she was. It never occurred to her to attempt to be different for our sakes. The result of it is very reposeful. One is always conscious of a sense of strain in American society for this reason. It is because of that desire to impress, to please, that American voices in conversation grow sharp and hurried, that American faces grow keen and lined. We have a tradition that English women are dull and bovine, but no doubt they make the better mothers because of it. They hoard their energies to give to their sons. They bring their children into the world with deep reserves of strength. I have often observed the great superiority of English men over Americans in the capacity for long, sustained, unflinching labour. I am sure they owe that to the immense fund of unexhausted power given them by their mothers, who are profound wells of calm vitality. It is the old story of being unable to eat one's cake and have it too. American women eat their cake in the form of a higher exhilaration in existence, but when the drain of creation comes they have nothing save nervous energy to give. The rest of the cake has already been devoured. There are no reserves for the child to call upon.
I believe that Englishmen—without reasoning upon the matter—feel this instinctively. They vastly prefer their own women as mates. I have rarely known an Englishman to marry an American woman who had not the extrinsic attractionof wealth. They do not hesitate to marry penniless countrywomen of their own.
A—— was here to-day. What a formal little soul it is! She can never begin where she left off. One has her acquaintance to make all over again each time she comes.
The depths, the heights of her propriety!... Always that extremely well behaved look, which never changes. P—
— says, "A—— is too modest to take off and put on expressions in public."
One wonders if there is any privacy so entire that she would consider dishevelment of behaviour permissible. How exhausting to herself such flawless respectability must become!
She is the concentrated essence of the bourgeoisie. A savage can be natural; he knows nothing else, but when his eyes are opened and he sees himself to be naked the reign of the fig-leaf begins. There is something pathetic in that long era of profound distrust of his own nature and impulses. What does he think he would do if he let himself go?
Perhaps he is, underneath all that propriety, still so close to savagery that he dare not trust himself to be natural lest he instantly relapse into barbarism. After many generations of breeding he dare be savage and free again if he like—he is so sure of himself. As Mrs. B—— says, he becomes at last "A man who can afford to put his elbows on the table."
When he reaches such a point I notice he is always impatient of the constraint of those still bound by the shackles of self-conscious propriety, forgetting that he owes his own freedom to many generations that laboured in bonds, struggling to slay or subdue the savage....
AN AUTUMN IMPULSE.
A bird sat on the balcony rail just outside my window to-day gossiping with an unseen neighbour perched somewhere out of my range of vision. He was rather a grimy little person, and as the day was cold he made a perfect puff ball of himself. I listened to them conversing with great interest, feeling, as I always do when I hear birds talk, that if I only paid a little closer attention it would be possible to understand all they say. It is somewhat the same sensation one has in overhearing a rapid dialogue in French which one is too lazy to try to follow. When I came through I think I left some of the doors ajar behind me, and I remember my bird avatar especially clearly. Even yet, when autumn comes, I am pursued by a fluttering longing to arise and go southward. I feel that something beautiful—some wide splendid ecstasy is calling me if I will only go to meet it. I can remember having that sensation in my earliest childhood. In my dreams I often fly, with beautiful swoopings and balancings, with sudden confident droppings, through the elastic air, and sometimes I am in an enclosed place, beating my wings against the bounds, knowing no other way to get out....
When I look at birds they seem to know me. Not in the way of a mere creature who puts out crumbs in convenient breakfasting places, or who brings strawberries to one's cage, but they meet my eye with that familiarity one sees in the glance of brothers—a look of mutual understanding. My own sense is of kinship of the closest character. I understand how they regard things—what they think and feel. I wish I could so concentrate my attention as to catch what this grimy little citizen is saying to his fellow on the nearby ledge. If I could, what a flood of other memories it would restore that are now dim and confused.
I dreamed last night that I wore upon my breast a great necklace of flat golden plates cut in the shape of winged things, and these were linked together with other flat plates of turquoise. My garments were of white semi-transparent stuff, and my limbs and body showed through it. Before me stood a building of some sort, creamy yellow in colour and of a style of architecture with which I am not familiar—though it seemed familiar enough to me in my dreams. Now I have only a confused sense of low domes set upon massive cubes. I was waiting for the sun to rise. The air was warm and dry and that white glamour of the dawning light lay upon the surrounding country, which seemed flat and not very verdant. Suddenly the rays of the sun, which rose apparently immediately behind this dome, spread out about it like an aureole (Gavin Douglas's "Golden fanys")—and this seemed a signal for me to lift my arms above my head and recite a sort of litany—and then— it all passed away....
Most of one's dreams are confused and blurred by a sense of conflicting personalities. There is generally a sort of impression that while the incidents are apparently happening to one's self, they are happening in reality to some other being, not quite one's self; but this one was very clear, with no arrière pensée. I have worked out a theory which seems to me to quite solve the mystery of dreams.
Lifelong familiarity with the phenomena of sleep—with the trooping phantoms that inhabit slumber's dusk realm—has so dulled our wonder at the mystery of our double existence of the dark that night after night we open with calm incuriousness the door into that ghostly underworld, where we hold insane revels with fantastic spectres, babble with foolish laughter at witless jests, stain our souls with useless crime, or fly with freezing blood from the grasp of unnamable horrors, and with the morning we saunter serenely back from these adventures into the warm precincts of the cheerful day, unmoved, unstartled, and forgetting.
The hypnotists, because they can make a man feel pain or pleasure without material cause, are gaped upon with awed surprise by the same man who once every twenty-four hours of his life, with no more magic potion than healthy fatigue, with no greater weapon for wonder working than a pillow, may create for himself phantasmal illusions beside which all mesmeric suggestions are but the flattest of commonplace.
The naive egotism of superstition saw in the movements of the solar system only prognostications concerning its own bean crop, and could discern nothing in the dream-world but the efforts of the supernatural powers to communicate, in their usual shuffling and incompetent fashion, with man. The modern revolt from this childishness has swung the pendulum of interest in dreams so far up the other curve of the arc that there seems now to be a foolish fear of attaching any importance whatever to the strange experiences of sleep, and as a result an unscientific avoidance of the whole subject. The consequence of this absurd revulsion is that in a period of universal investigation one of the most curious functions of the brain is left unexamined and unexplained.
Some dabbling there has been, with results of little more value than were the contents of the greasy, bethumbed dream-books of the eighteenth-century milkmaid or apprentice. The labour bestowed upon the matter has been mainly directed to efforts to prove the extreme rapidity with which dreams pass through the mind, and that it is some trivial outward cause at the very instant of awakening—such as a noise, a light, or a blow—which rouses the brain to this miraculous celerity of imaginative creation.
The persistent assertion that a dream occurs only at the moment of awakening shows how little real attention has been given to the matter, since the most casual observation of "the dog that hunts in dreams" would have shown that he may be "chasing the wild deer and following the roe" in the grey Kingdom of Seeming without breaking his slumbers. He will start and twitch, and give tongue after the phantom quarry he dreams he is pursuing, and yet continue his sleep without an interval. But have it whichever way one likes, the heart of the mystery is not yet discovered. How do they explain why a noise or a gleam of light—such as the waking senses know familiarly—should at this magical moment of rousing cause the brain to create with inconceivable rapidity a crowd of phantasmagoria in order to explain to itself the familiar phenomena of light and sound?
Dr. Friederich Scholz, in his recent volume upon "Sleep and Dreams," gives an example of rapid effort of the mind to explain the sensations felt by the sleeping body:
"I dreamed of the Reign of Terror, saw scenes of blood and murder, appealed before the Revolutionary Tribunal, saw Robespierre, Marat, Fouquier-Tinville, all the personages of that time of horrors, argued with them, was finally, after a number of occurrences, condemned to death, was carried to the place of execution on a cart through enormous masses of people, was bound by the executioner to the board. The knife fell and I felt my head severed from my body. Thereupon I awoke and found that a loosened rod of the bed had fallen on my neck like the knife of the guillotine, and this had happened, my mother assured me, at the very moment when I awoke."...
That the mind should, merely because of the body's sleep, be able to create a whole scene of a terrible drama with a rapidity impossible when all the functions are awake and active is incredible. The only function of the brain capable of this lightning-like swiftness of vision is memory. To create requires a certain effort, consumes a certain period of time, but a scene once beheld, an adventure once experienced and vividly impressed upon the memory, can be recalled in its minutest details in a period of time too short to be reckonable.
That the sensitive plate of the brain never loses any clear picture once received, has been demonstrated beyond doubt. The picture, the sensation, may be overlaid and hidden for a long time beneath the heaps of useless lumber that the days and years accumulate in the mind's storehouse, but need or accident, or a similarity of circumstance, will bring the forgotten belonging to light—sometimes with startling effect. There is the well-known instance of a girl who, during an attack of fever delirium, spoke in a language that no one about her could understand. Investigation proved it to be Welsh—a language of which, both before and after her illness, she was totally ignorant. Further investigation showed that being born in Wales she had understood the tongue as a very little child, but had afterwards completely forgotten it.
It is commonly known that in the struggle of the body against death by water, the memory, stirred to furious effort, produces all her stores at once—probably in the frantic endeavour to find some experience which may be of use in this crisis.
It is often broadly asserted that the memory retains each and every experience which life has presented for its contemplation, but this is hardly true. The memory makes to a certain extent a choice, and chooses oftentimes with apparent caprice. To demonstrate the truth of this, let one endeavour to recall the first impression retained by his childish mind and it usually proves to be something extremely trivial. My own first clear memory is a sense of the comfort to my tired little two-year-old body of the clean linen sheets of the bed at the end of a perilous and adventurous journey, of whose startling incidents my memory preserved only one. Often this capricious faculty will seize upon some few high lights in a vivid picture and reject all the unimportant details. As a rule, however, it is the profound stirring of the emotions which wakes the memory to activity. A woman never forgets her first lover. A man to the end of his life can recall his first triumph, or his most imminent danger, and a trifle will often, after the lapse of half a century, fill the eye with tears, make the cheek burn, or the heart beat with the power of the long-passed emotion, preserved living and fresh by the memory.
That the memory uses in sleep the material it has gathered during the day, and during the whole life, no dreamer will deny; but here again it is capricious; some parts of the day's—the life's—experiences are used, others rejected. Added to these natural and explicable possessions of the memory are a mass of curious, conflicting, tangled thoughts, which are foreign to our whole experience of existence, and which, when confused with our own memories, makes of our nights a wild jumble of useless and foolish pictures. If it be true that it is by some outward impression upon the senses that dreams are evoked, that it is the endeavours of the somnolent mind to explain to itself the meaning of a noise, a light, a blow, which creates that delusion we call dreams, then it is not upon the stores of our own memories alone that the brain draws for material, since the falling rod awoke in the mind of Dr. Scholz a picture of the French revolution, which he had never seen, and different in detail and vividness from any picture his reading had furnished.
Heredity is an overworked jade, too often driven in double harness with a hobby; but the link between generation and generation is so strong and so close that none may lightly tell all the strands of which it is woven, nor from whence were spun the threads that tie us to the past. It is very certain, despite the theories of Weismann, that the acquired characteristics of the parent may be transmitted to the child. The boy whose father walked the quarter-deck is, nine times out of ten, as certain to head for salt water as a seagull born in a hen's nest. The victim of ill-fortune and prisoner of despair who breaks the jail of life to escape fate's malice leaves a dark tendency in the blood of his offspring, which again and again proves the terrible power of an inherited weakness. Women who lose their mind or become clouded in thought at childbirth—though they come of a stock of mens sana—transmit the blight of insanity to their sons and daughters both; and not only consumptive tendencies and the appetite for drink are acquired in a lifetime and then handed on for generations, but preferences, talents, manners, personal likeness—all may be the wretched burden or happy gift handed down to the son by the father. Who can say without fear of contradiction that the memories of passions and emotions that stirred those dead hearts to their centre may not be a part of our inheritance? The setting, the connection, is gone, but the memory of the emotion remains. Such and such nerves have quivered violently for such or such a cause—the memory stores and transmits the impression, and a similar incident sets them tingling again, though two generations lie between.
Certainly animals possess very distinctly these inherited memories. A young horse never before beyond the paddock and stables will fall into a very passion of fear when a snake crosses his path, or when driven upon a ferry to cross deep, swift water. He is entirely unfamiliar with the nature of the danger, but at some period one of his kind has sweated and throbbed in hideous peril, and the memory remains after the lapse of a hundred years. He, no more than ourselves, can recall all the surrounding circumstances of that peril, but the threatening aspect of a similar danger brings memory forward with a rush to use her stored warning. When the migrating bird finds its way without difficulty, untaught and unaccompanied, to the South it has never seen, we call its guiding principle instinct—but what is the definition of the word instinct? No man can give it. It but removes the difficulty one step backward. Call this instinct an inherited memory and the matter becomes clear. Such memories, it is plain, are more definite with the animals than with us; but so are many of their faculties, hearing, smell, and sight.
Everyone has felt many times in his life a sense of familiarity with incidents that have had no place in his own experience, and has found it impossible to offer any explanation for the feeling. Coming suddenly around a turn of a hill upon a fair and unknown landscape, his heart may bound with a keen sense of recognition of its unfamiliar outlines. In the midst of a tingling scene of emotion, a sensation of the whole incident being a mere dull repetition will rob it of its joy or pain. A sentence begun by a friend is recognized as trite and old before it is half done, though it refers to matters new to the hearer. A sound, a perfume, a sensation, will awaken feelings having no connection with the occasion.
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