Our ape-like ancestors were not unlike the existing gorilla, chimpanzee, and orang-utang. They lived in large herds and were prolific; polygamy was in vogue, and at the courting season love-duels were fought among the males. They chiefly inhabited the ground, but ascended the trees in search of fruit, and also built platforms of sticks and leaves, on which the females were confined, and which were occasionally used as sleeping-places, just as birds sometimes roost in old nests. These animals went on all fours, rising to the upright posture now and then, in order to see some object at a distance, but supporting that posture with difficulty, holding on to a branch with one hand. They were slow in their movements; their body was almost naked, so scantily was it clothed with hair; the males had but poorly developed tusks, or canine-teeth; the ears were flattened from disuse, and had no longer the power of being raised; the tail as in all great apes had disappeared beneath the skin. This defenceless structure resulted from the favourable conditions under which, during many ages, these animals had lived. They inhabited a warm tropical land; they had few enemies, and abundant food; their physical powers had been enfeebled by disuse, But nothing is ever lost in nature. What had become of the force which had once been expended on agility and strength? It had passed into the brain.
The chimpanzee is not so large a creature or so strong as the gorilla; but, as I was informed by the natives in that country where the two species exist together, the chimpanzee is the more intelligent of the two. In the same manner our ape-like ancestors were inferior to the chimpanzee in strength and activity, and its superior in mental powers.
All gregarious animals have a language, by means of which they communicate with one another, Some times their language is that of touch: cut off the antennae of the ant, and it is dumb. With most animals the language is that of vocal sound, and its varied intonations of anger, joy, or grief may be distinguished even by the human ear. Animals have also their alarm-cries, their love-calls, and sweet murmuring plaintive sounds, which are uttered only by mothers as they fondle and nurse their young. The language of our progenitors consisted of vocal sounds, and also movements of the hands. The activity of mind and social affection developed in these animals through the Law of Compensation, made them fond of babbling and gesturing to one another, and thus their language was already of a complicated nature, when events occurred which developed it still more. Owing to causes remotely dependent on geological revolutions, dark days fell upon these creatures. Food became scanty; enemies surrounded them. The continual presence of danger, the habit of incessant combat, drew them more closely together. Their defects of activity and strength made them rely on one another for protection. Nothing now but their unexampled power of combination could save their lives. This power of combination was entirely dependent upon their language, which was developed and improved until at length it passed into a new stage. The first stage of language is that of intonation, in which the ideas are arranged on a chromatic scale. We still use this language in conversing with our dogs, who perfectly understand the difference between the curses, not loud but deep, which are vented on their heads, and the caressing sounds, which are usually uttered in falsetto; while we understand the growl, the whine, and the excited yelp of joy.
The new stage of language was that of imitation. Impelled partly by necessity, partly by social love, combined with mental activity, these animals began to notify events to one another by imitative sounds, gestures, and grimaces. For instance, when they wished to indicate the neighbourhood of a wild beast, they gave a low growl; they pointed in a certain direction; they shaped their features to resemble his; they crawled stealthily along with their belly crouched to the ground. To imitate water, they bubbled with their mouths; they grubbed with their hands and pretended to eat, to show that they had discovered roots. The pleasure and profit obtained from thus communicating their ideas to one another led them to invent conversation. Language passed into its third stage -- the conventional or artificial. Certain objects were pointed out, and certain sounds were uttered, and it was agreed that those sounds should always signify the objects named. At first this conventional language consisted only of substantives; each word signified an object, and was a sentence in itself. Afterwards adjectives and verbs were introduced; and lastly words, which had at first been used for physical objects, were applied to the nomenclature of ideas.
Combination is a method of resistance; language is the instrument of combination. Language, therefore, may be considered the first weapon of our species, and was improved, as all weapons would be, by that long, never-ceasing war, the battle of existence. Our second weapon was the hand. With monkeys the hand is used as a foot, and the foot is used as a hand. But when the hand began to be used for throwing missiles, it was specialised more and more, and feet were required to do all the work of locomotion. This separation of the foot and hand is the last instance of the physiological division of labour; and when it was effected, the human frame became complete. The erect posture was assumed; that it is modern and unnatural is shown by the difficulty with which it is maintained for any length of time. The centre of gravity being thus shifted, certain alterations were produced in the physical appearance of the species; since that time, however, the human body has been but slightly changed, the distinctions which exist between the races of men being unimportant and external. Such as they are, they have been produced by differences of climate and food acting indirectly upon the races throughout geological periods; and it is also possible that these distinctions of hair and skin were chiefly acquired at a time when man's intelligence being imperfectly developed, his physical organisation was more easily moulded by external conditions than was afterwards the case. For while with the lower animals the conditions by which they are surrounded can produce alterations throughout their whole structure, or in any part; with men, they can produce an alteration only in the brain. For instance, a quadruped inhabits a region which, owing to geological changes, is gradually assuming an Arctic character. In the course of some hundreds or thousands of centuries the species puts on a coat of warm fur, which is either white in colour, or which turns white at the snowy period of the year. But when man is exposed to similar conditions he builds a warm house and kills certain animals, that he may wear their skins. By these means he evades the changed conditions so far as his general structure is concerned. But his brain has been indirectly altered by the climate. Courage, industry, and ingenuity have been called forth by the struggle for existence; the brain is thereby enlarged, and the face assumes a more intelligent expression.
Of such episodes the ancient history of man was composed. He was ever contending with the forces of nature, with the wild beasts of the forest, and with the members of his own species outside his clan. In that long and varied struggle his intelligence was developed. His first invention, as might be supposed, was an improvement in the art of murder. The lower animals sharpen their claws and whet their tusks. It was merely an extension of this instinct which taught the primeval men to give point and edge to their sticks and stones; and out of this first invention the first great discovery was made. While men were patiently rubbing sticks to point them into arrows, a spark leapt forth and ignited the wood-dust which had been scraped from the sticks. Thus fire was found. By a series of accidents its uses were revealed. Its possessors cooked their food, and so were improved in health and vigour both of body and of mind. They altered the face of nature by burning down forests. By burning the withered grass they favoured the growth of the young crop, and thus attracted, in the prairie lands, thousands of wild animals to their fresh green pastures. With the assistance of fire they felled trees and hollowed logs into canoes. They hardened the points of stakes in the embers; and with their new weapons were able to attack the Mammoth, thrusting their spears through his colossal throat. They made pots. They employed their new servant in agriculture and in metallurgy. They used it also as a weapon; they shot flaming arrows, or hurled fiery javelins against the foe. Above all, they prepared, by means of fire, the vegetable poison which they discovered in the woods; and this invention must have created a revolution in the art of ancient war. There is a custom in East Africa for the king to send fire to his vassals, who extinguish all the fires on their hearths, and re-light them from the brand which the envoy brings. It is possible that this may be a relic of tribe subjection to the original fire tribe: it is certain that the discovery of fire would give the tribes which possessed it an immense advantage over all the others. War was continually being waged among the primeval men, and tribes were continually driven, by battle or hunger, to seek new lands. As hunters they required vast areas on which to live, and so were speedily dispersed over the whole surface of the globe, and adopted various habits and vocations according to the localities in which they dwelt. But they took with them, from their common home, the elements of those pursuits. The first period of human history may be entitled forest-life. The forest was the womb of our species, as the ocean was that of all our kind. In the dusky twilight of the primeval woods the nations were obscurely born. While men were yet in the hunting stage, while they were yet mere animals of prey, they made those discoveries by means of which they were afterwards formed into three great families -- the pastoral, the maritime, and the agricultural.
When a female animal is killed, the young one, fearing to be alone, often follows the hunter home; it is tamed for sport, and when it is discovered that animals can be made useful, domestication is methodically pursued. While men were yet in the forest they tamed only the dog to assist them in hunting, and perhaps the fowl as an article of food. But when certain tribes, driven by enemies or by starvation from their old haunts, entered the prairie land, clad in skins or bark-cloth, taking with them their fire-sticks, and perhaps some blacksmith's tools, they adopted breeding as their chief pursuit, and subdued to their service the buffalo, the sheep, the goat, the camel, the horse, and the ass. At first these animals were merely used as meat; next, their milk-giving powers were developed, and so a daily food was obtained without killing the animal itself; then they were broken in to carry burdens, to assist their masters in the chase and in war; and clothes and houses were manufactured from their skins.
The forest tribes who settled on the banks of rivers learnt to swim and to make nets, fish-traps, rafts, and canoes. When they migrated they followed the river, and so were carried to the sea. Then the ocean became their fish-pond. They learnt to build large canoes, with mast and matting sails; they followed the fish far away; lost the land at night, or in a storm; discovered new shores, returned home, and again set out as colonists, with their wives and families, to the lands which they had found. By such means the various tribes were dispersed beyond the seas.
Thirdly, when the tribes were in the forest condition they lived partly upon roots and berries, partly upon game. The men hunted, and the women collected the vegetable food, upon which they subsisted exclusively during the absence of their husbands. When the habitations of a clan were fixed, it often happened that the supply of edible plants in the neighbourhood would be exhausted, and starvation suggested the idea of sowing and transplanting. Agriculture was probably a female invention; it was certainly at first a female occupation. The bush was burnt down to clear a place for the crop, and the women, being too idle to remove the ashes from the soil, cast the seed upon them. The ashes acting as manure, garden varieties of the eating plants appeared. Among the pastoral people, the seed- bearing grasses were also cultivated into large-grained corn. But as long as the tribes could migrate from one region to another, agriculture was merely a secondary occupation, and was left, for the most part, in female hands. It was when a tribe was imprisoned in a valley with mountains or deserts all around that agriculture be came their main pursuit, as breeding was that of the shepherd wanderers, and fishing that of the people on the shore.
The pastoral tribes had a surplus supply of meat, milk, wool, and the rude products of the ancient loom. The marine tribes had salt and smoked fish. The agricultural tribes had garden- roots and grain. Here, then, a division of labour had arisen among the tribes; and if only they could be blended together, a complete nation would be formed. But the butcher tribes, the fishmonger tribes, and the baker tribes lived apart from one another; they were timid, ferocious, and distrustful; their languages were entirely distinct. They did not dare to communicate with one another, except to carry on dumb barter, as it is called. A certain tribe, for example, who desired salt approached the frontier of the sea-coast people, lighted a fire as a signal, and laid down some meat or flour. They then retired; the coast tribe came up, laid down salt, and also retired. The meat or flour tribe again went to the spot; and if the salt was sufficient, they took it away; if not, they left it untouched, to indicate that they required more; and so they chaffered a considerable time, each bid consisting of a promenade.
It is evident that such a system of trade might go on for ages without the respective tribes becoming better acquainted with each other. It is only by means of war and of religion that the tribes can be compressed into the nation. The shepherd tribes had a natural aptitude for war. They lived almost entirely on horseback; they attacked wild beasts in hand-to-hand conflict on the open plain, and they often fought with one another for a pasture or a well. They were attracted by the crops of the agricultural people, whom they conquered with facility. Usually they preferred their roaming life, and merely exacted a tribute of corn. But sometimes a people worsted in war, exiled from their pastures, wandering homeless through the sandy deserts, discovered a fruitful river plain, in which they settled down, giving up their nomad habits, but keeping their flocks and herds. They reduced the aborigines to slavery; made some of them labourers in the fields; others were appointed to tend the flocks; others were sent to the river or the coast to fish; others were taught the arts of the distaff and the loom; others were made to work as carpenters and smiths. The wives of the shepherd conquerors were no longer obliged to milk the cows and camels, and to weave clothes and tents; they became ladies, and were attended by domestic slaves. Their husbands became either military nobles or learned priests; the commander-in-chief or patriarch became the king. Foreign wars led to foreign commerce, and the priest developed the resources of the country. The simple fabrics of the old tent life were refined in texture and beautified with dyes; the potter's clay was converted into fine porcelain and glass, the blacksmith's shop became a manufactory of ornamented arms; ingenious machines were devised for the irrigation of the soil the arts and sciences were adopted by the government, and employed in the service of the state.
Here then we have a nation manufactured by means of war. Religion is afterwards useful as a means of keeping the conquered people in subjection; but in this case it plays only a secondary part. In another class of nationalities, however, religion operates as the prime agent.
When the human herd first wandered through the gloomy and gigantic forest, sleeping on reed platforms in the trees, or burrowing in holes, there was no government but that of force. The strongest man was the leader, and ceased to be the leader when he ceased to he the strongest. But as the minds of men became developed, the ruler was elected by the members of the clan, who combined to depose him if he exceeded his rightful powers; and chiefs were chosen not only for their strength, but also sometimes for their beauty, and sometimes on account of their intelligence. These chiefs possessed but little power; they merely expressed and executed the voice of the majority. But when it was believed that the soul was immortal, or, in other words, that there were ghosts; when it was believed that the bodies of men were merely garments, and that the true inmates were spirits, whom death stripped bare of flesh and blood, but whom death was powerless to kill; when it was believed that these souls or ghosts dwelt among the graves, haunted their old homes, hovered round the scenes in which they had passed their lives, and even took a part in human affairs, a theory arose that the ghost of the departed chief was still the ruler of the clan, and that in his spiritual state he could inflict terrible punishments on those by whom he was offended, and could also bestow upon them good fortune in hunting, in harvests, and in war. So then homage and gifts were rendered to him at his grave. A child of his house became the master of the clan, and professed to receive the commands of the deceased. For the first time the chiefs were able to exercise power without employing force; but this power had also its limits.
In the first place the chief feared he would be punished by the ghost if he injured the people over whom he ruled, and there were always prophets or seers who could see visions and dream dreams when the mind of the people was excited against the chief. By means therefore of religion, which at first consisted only in the fear of ghosts, the government of the clan was improved; savage liberty or licence was restrained; the young trembled before the old, whom previously they had eaten as soon as they were useless. Religion was also of service in uniting separated clans. In the forest, food was scanty; as soon as a clan expanded it was forced to divide, and the separated part pursued an orbit of its own. Savage dialects change almost day by day; the old people can always speak a language which their grandchildren do not understand, and so, in the course of a single generation, the two clans become foreigners and foes to one another. But when ghost-worship had been established, the members of the divided clans resorted to the holy graves at certain seasons of the year to unite with the members of the parent clan in sacrificing to the ancestral shades; the season of the pilgrimage was made a Truce of God; a fair was held, at which trade and competitive amusements were carried on. Yet still the clans or tribes had little connection with one another, excepting at that single period of the year. It was for war to continue the work which religion had begun. Some times the tribes uniting invaded a foreign country, and founded an empire of the kind which has already been described; then the army became a nation, and the camp a town. In other cases the tribes, being weaker than their neighbours, were compelled for their mutual protection to draw together into towns, and to fortify themselves with walls.
In its original condition the town was a federation. Each family was a little kingdom in itself, inhabiting a fortified cluster of dwellings, having its own domestic religion, governed by its own laws. The paterfamilias was king and priest; he could put to death any member of his family. There was little distinction between the wives, the sons, and the daughters, on the one hand, and the slaves, the oxen, and the sheep on the other. These family fathers assembled in council, and passed laws for their mutual convenience and protection. Yet these laws were not national; they resembled treaties between foreign states; and two houses would frequently go to war and fight pitched battles in the streets without any interference from the commonwealth at large. If the town progressed in power and intelligence, the advantages of centralisation were perceived by all; the fathers were induced to emancipate their children, and to delegate their royal power to a senate or a king; each man was responsible for his own actions, and for them alone; individualism was established. This important revolution, which, as we have elsewhere shown, tends to produce the religious theory of rewards and punishments in a future state, was itself in part produced by the influence and teaching of the priests.
Besides the worship of the ancestral shades the ancient people adored the great deities of nature who governed the woods and the waters, the earth and the sky. When men died, it was supposed that they had been killed by the gods; it was therefore believed that those who lived to a good old age were special favourites of the divine beings. Many people asked them by what means they had obtained the good graces of the gods. With savages nothing is done gratis; the old men were paid for their advice; and in course of time the oracle system was established. The old men consulted the gods they at first advised, they next commanded what gifts should be offered on the altar. They collected taxes, they issued orders on the divine behalf. In the city of federated families the priests formed a section entirely apart; they belonged not to this house, or to that house, but to all; it was to their interest that the families should be at peace; that a national religion should be established; that the household gods or ancestral ghosts should be degraded, that the despotism of the hearth should be destroyed. They acted as peacemakers and arbitrators of disputes. They united the tribes in the national sacrifice and the solemn dance. They preached the power and grandeur of the gods. They became the tutors of the people; they rendered splendid service to mankind. We are accustomed to look only at the dark side of those ancient faiths; their frivolous and sanguinary laws, their abominable offerings, their grotesque rites. Yet even the pure and lofty religions of Confucius and Zoroaster; of Moses, and Jesus, and Mohammed; of the Brahmins and the Buddhists, have not done so much for man as those barbarous religions of the early days. They established a tyranny, and tyranny was useful in the childhood of mankind. The chiefs could only enact those laws which were indispensable for the life of the community. But the priests were supposed to utter the commands of invisible beings whose strange tempers could clearly be read in the violent outbreaks and changing aspects of the sky. The more irrational the laws of the priests appeared, the more evident it was that they were not of man. Terror generated piety; wild savages were tamed into obedience; they became the slaves of the unseen; they humbled themselves before the priests, and implicitly followed their commands that they might escape sickness, calamity, and sudden death; their minds were subjected to a useful discipline; they acquired the habit of self-denial, which like all habits can become a pleasure to the mind, and can be transmitted as a tendency or instinct from generation to generation. They were ordered to abstain from certain kinds of food; to abstain from fishing and working in the fields on days sacred to the gods of the waters and the earth; they were taught to give with generosity not only in fear, but also in thanksgiving. Even the human sacrifices which they made were sometimes acts of filial piety and of tender love. They gave up the slaves whom they valued most to attend their fathers in the Underworld; or sent their souls as presents to the gods.
But the chief benefit which religionconferred upon mankind, whether in ancient or in modern times, was undoubtedly the oath. The priests taught that if a promise was made in the name of the gods, and that promise was broken, the gods would kill those who took their name in vain. Such is the true meaning of the Third Commandment. Before that time treaties of peace and contracts of every kind in which mutual confidence was required could only be effected by the interchange of hostages. But now by means of this purely theological device a verbal form became itself a sacred pledge: men could at all times confide in one another; and foreign tribes met freely together beneath the shelter of this useful superstition which yet survives in our courts of law. In those days, however, the oath required no law of perjury to sustain its terrors: as Xenophon wrote, "He who breaks an oath defies the gods"; and it was believed that the gods never failed sooner or later to take their revenge.
The priests, in order to increase their power, studied the properties of plants, the movements of the stars; they cultivated music and the imitative arts; reserving their knowledge to their own caste, they soon surpassed in mental capacity the people whom they ruled. And being more intelligent, they became also more moral, for the conscience is an organ of the mind; it is strengthened and refined by the education of the intellect. They learnt from Nature that there is unity in all her parts; hence they believed that one god or man-like being had made the heavens and the earth. At first this god was a despotic tithe-taker like themselves; but as their own minds became more noble, and more pure; as they began to feel towards the people a sentiment of paternity and love, so God, the reflected image of their minds, rose into a majestic and benignant being, and this idea reacted on their minds, as the imagination of the artist is inspired by the masterpiece which he himself has wrought. And, as the Venus of Milo and the Apollo Belvedere have been endowed by man with a beauty more exquisite than can be found on earth; a beauty that may well be termed divine; so the God who is worshipped by elevated minds is a mental form endowed with power, love, and virtue in perfection. The Venus and the Apollo are ideals of the body; God is an ideal of the mind. Both are made by men; both are superhuman in their beauty; both are human in their form. To worship the image made of stone is to worship the work of the human hand. To worship the image made of ideas is to worship the work of the human brain. God-worship, therefore, is idolatry; but in the early ages of mankind how fruitful of good was that error, how ennobling was that chimera of the brain! For when the priests had sufficiently progressed in the wisdom of morality to discover that men should act to others, as they would have others act to them; and that they should never do in thought what they would not do in deed; then these priests, the shepherds of the people, desired to punish those who did evil, and to reward those who did good to their fellow-men; and thus, always transferring their ideas to the imaginary being whom they had created, and whom they adored, they believed and they taught that God punished the guilty, that God rewarded the good; and when they perceived that men are not requited in this world according to their deeds, they believed and they taught that this brief life is merely a preparation for another world; and that the souls or ghosts will be condemned to eternal misery, or exalted to everlasting bliss, according to the lives which they have led within the garment of the flesh.
This belief, though not less erroneous than that on which the terrors of the oath were based; this belief, though not less a delusion than the faith in ghosts, of which, in fact, it is merely an extension; this belief, though it will some day become pernicious to intellectual and moral life, and has already plundered mankind of thousands and thousands of valuable minds, exiling earnest and ardent beings from the main-stream of humanity, entombing them in hermitage or cell, teaching them to despise the gifts of the intellect which nature has bestowed, teaching them to waste the precious years in barren contemplations and in selfish prayers; this belief has yet undoubtedly assisted the progress of the human race. In ancient life it exalted the imagination, it purified the heart, it encouraged to virtue, it deterred from crime. At the present day a tender sympathy for the unfortunate, a jealous care for the principles of freedom, a severe public opinion, and a law difficult to escape are the safeguards of society but there have been periods in the history of man when the fear of hell was the only restriction on the pleasure of the rulers; when the hope of heaven was the only consolation in the misery of the ruled.
The doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future state is comparatively modern; the authors of the Iliad, the authors of the Pentateuch, had no conception of a heaven or a hell; they knew only Hades or Scheol, where men dwelt as shadows, without pain, without joy; where the wicked ceased from troubling and the weary were at rest. The sublime conception of a single God was slowly and painfully attained by a few civilised people in ancient times. The idea that God is a being of virtue and of love has not been attained even in the present day except by a cultivated few. Such is the frailty of the human heart that men, even when they strive to imagine a perfect being, stain him with their passions, and raise up an idol which is defective as a moral form. The God of this country is called a God of love; but it is said that he punishes the crimes and even the errors of a short and troubled life with torture which will have no end. It is not even a man which theologians create; for no man is quite without pity; no man, however cruel he might he, could bear to gaze for ever on the horrors of the fire and the rack; no man could listen for ever to voices shrieking with pain, and ever crying out for mercy and forgiveness. And if such is the character of the Christian God, if such is the idea which is worshipped by compassionate and cultivated men, what are we to expect in a barbarous age? The God of Job was a sultan of the skies, who, for a kind of wager, allowed a faithful servant to be tortured, like that man who performed vivisection on a favourite dog which licked his hand throughout the operation. The Jehovah of the Pentateuch was a murderer and bandit; he rejoiced in offerings of human flesh The gods of Homer were lascivious and depraved. The gods of savages are merely savage chiefs.
God, therefore, is an image of the mind, and that image is ennobled and purified from generation to generation, as the mind becomes more noble and more pure. Europeans believe in eternal punishment, partly because it has been taught them in their childhood and because they have never considered what it means; partly because their imaginations are sluggish, and they are unable to realise its cruelty; and partly also, it must be feared, because they have still the spirit of revenge and persecution in their hearts. The author of Job created God in the image of an Oriental king, and in the East it is believed that all men by nature belong to the king, and that he can do no wrong. The Bedouins of the desert abhorred incontinence as a deadly sin; but brigandage and murder were not by them considered crimes. In the Homeric period, piracy was a profession, and vices were the customs of the land. The character of a god is that of the people who have made him. When, therefore, I expose the crimes of Jehovah, I expose the defective morality of Israel; and when I criticise the God of modern Europe, I criticise the defective intellects of Europeans. The reader must endeavour to bear this in mind, for, though he may think that his idea of the creator is actually the Creator, that belief is not shared by me.
We shall now return to the forest and investigate the origin of intellect; we shall first explain how the aptitude for science and for art arose; and next how man first became gifted with the moral sense.
The desire to obtain food induces the animal to examine everything of novel appearance which comes within its range of observation. The habit is inherited and becomes an instinct, irrespective of utility. This instinct is curiosity, which in many animals is so urgent a desire that they will encounter danger rather than forego the examination of any object which is new and strange. This propensity is inherited by man, and again passes through a period of utility. When fire is first discovered, experiments are made on all kinds of plants, with the view of ascertaining what their qualities may be. The remarkable knowledge of herbs which savages possess; their skill in preparing decoctions which can act as medicines or as poisons, which can attract or repel wild animals, is not the result of instinct but of experience; and, as with the lower animals, the habit of food-seeking is developed into curiosity, so the habit of searching for edibles, medicine, and poison becomes the experimental spirit, the passion of inquiry which animates the lifetime of the scientific man, and which makes him, even in his last hours, observe his own symptoms with interest, and take notes on death as it draws near. It has been said that genius is curiosity. That instinct is at least an element of genius; it is the chief stimulant of labour; it keeps the mind alive.
The artistic spirit is, in the same manner, developed from the imitative instinct, the origin of which is more obscure than that of the inquisitive propensity. However, its purpose is clear enough; the young animal learns from its parent, by means of imitation, to feed, to arrange its toilet with beak or tongue, and to perform all the other offices of life. The hen, for instance, when she discovers food, pecks the ground, not to eat, but to show her chickens how to eat, and they follow her example. The young birds do not sing entirely by instinct, they receive lessons from their parents. The instinct of imitation, so essential to the young, remains more or less with the adult, and outlives its original intent. Animals imitate one another, and with the monkeys this propensity becomes a mania. It is inherited by men, with whom even yet it is half an instinct, as is shown by the fact that all persons, and especially the young, reflect, in spite of their own efforts, the accent and the demeanour of those with whom they live. This instinct, when adroitly managed, is a means of education; it is, in fact, the first principle of progress. The Red Indians are not imitative, and they have now nearly been destroyed; the negroes imitate like monkeys, and what is the result? They are preachers, traders, clerks, and artisans, all over the world, and there is no reason to suppose that they will remain always in the imitative stage. With respect to individuals it is the same. Paradoxical as it may appear, it is only the imitative mind which can attain originality, the artist must learn to copy before he can create. Mozart began by imitating Bach; Beethoven began by copying Mozart. Molière mimicked the Greek dramatists before he learnt to draw from the world. The many-sided character of Goethe's mind, which has made him a marvel among men, was based upon his imitative instincts; it has been said that he was like a chameleon, taking the hue of the ground on which he fed. What, in fact, is emulation but a noble form of imitativeness? Michaelangelo saw a man modelling in clay in the garden of Lorenzo, and was seized with the desire to become a sculptor; and most men who have chosen their own vocation could trace its origin in the same way to some imitative impulse.
Among the primeval men this instinct, together with wonder and the taste for beauty, explains the origin of art: The tendency to reproduce with the hand whatever pleases and astonishes the mind, undoubtedly begins at an early period in the history of man; pictures were drawn in the period of the mammoth; I once saw a boy from a wild bush tribe look at a ship with astonishment and then draw it on the sand with a stick. It frequently happens in savage life, that a man is seized with a passion for representing objects, and such a Giotto is always invited, and perhaps, paid, to decorate walls and doors. With this wall-painting the fine arts began. Next the outlines were engraved with a knife, making a figure in relief. Next came a statue with the back adhering to the wall, and lastly the sculptured figure was entirely detached. In the same manner painting was also separated from the wall; and mural painting was developed into another form of art. By means of a series of pictures a story was told; the picture-writing was converted into hieroglyphics, and thence into a system of alphabetical signs. Thus the statue, the picture, and the book are all descended from such figures as those which savages scrawl with charcoal on their hut walls, and which seldom bear much resemblance to the thing portrayed. The genius of art and the genius of science are developed by means of priesthoods and religion but when a certain point has been attained, they must be divorced from religion, or they will cease to progress.
And now, finally, with respect to music. There is a science of music; but music is not a science. Nor is it an imitative art. It is a language.
Words at first were rather sung than spoken, and sentences were rhythmical. The conversation of the primeval men was conducted in verse and song; at a later period they invented prose; they used a method of speech which was less pleasing to the ear, but better suited for the communication of ideas. Poetry and music ceased to be speech, and became an art, as pantomime, which once was a part of speech, is now an art exhibited upon the stage. Poetry and music at first were one; the bard was a minstrel, the minstrel was a bard. The same man was composer, poet, vocalist, and instrumentalist, and instrument-maker. He wrote the music and the air; as he sang he accompanied himself upon the harp, and he also made the harp. When writing came into vogue the arts of the poet and the musician were divided, and music again was divided into the vocal and the instrumental, and finally instrument-making became a distinct occupation, to which fact may partly he ascribed the superiority of modern music to that of ancient times.
The human language of speech bears the same relation to the human language of song as the varied bark of the civilised dog to its sonorous howl. There seems little in common between the lady who sings at the piano and the dog who chimes in with jaws opened and nose upraised; yet each is making use of the primitive language of its race the wild dog can only howl, the wild woman can only sing.
Gestures with us are still used as ornaments of speech, and some savage languages are yet in so imperfect a condition that gestures are requisite to elucidate the words. Gestures are relics of the primeval language, and so are musical sounds. With the dog of the savage there is much howl in its bark: its voice is in a transitional condition. The peasants of all countries sing in their talk, and savages resemble the people in the opera. Their conversation is of a "libretto" character; it glitters with hyperbole and metaphor, and they frequently speak in recitative, chanting or intoning, and ending every sentence in a musically sounded O! Often also in the midst of conversation, if a man happens to become excited, he will sing instead of speaking what he has to say; the other also replies in song, while the company around, as if touched by a musical wave, murmur a chorus in perfect unison, clapping their hands, undulating their bodies, and perhaps breaking forth into a dance.
Just as the articulate or conventional speech has been developed into rich and varied tongues, by means of which abstract ideas and delicate emotions can be expressed in appropriate terms, so the inarticulate or musical speech, the true, the primitive language of our race, has been developed with the aid of instruments into a rich and varied language of sound in which poems can be composed. When we listen to the sublime and mournful sonatas of Beethoven, when we listen to the tender melodies of Bellini, we fall into a trance; the brain burns and swells; its doors fly open; the mind sweeps forth into an unknown world where all is dim, dusky, unutterably vast; gigantic ideas pass before us; we attempt to seize them, to make them our own, but they vanish like shadows in our arms. And then, as the music becomes soft and low, the mind returns and nestles to the heart; the senses are steeped in languor; the eyes fill with tears; the memories of the past take form; and a voluptuous sadness permeates the soul, sweet as the sorrow of romantic youth when the real bitterness of life was yet unknown.
What, then, is the secret of this power in music? And why should certain sounds from wood and wire thus touch our very heart strings to their tune? It is the voice of Nature which the great composers combine into harmony and melody; let us follow it downwards and downwards in her deep bosom, and there we discover music, the speech of passion, of sentiment, of emotion, and of love; there we discover the divine language in its elements; the sigh, the gasp, the melancholy moan, the plaintive note of supplication, the caressing murmur of maternal love, the cry of challenge or of triumph, the song of the lover as he serenades his mate.
The spirit of science arises from the habit of seeking food; the spirit of art arises from the habit of imitation, by which the young animal first learns to feed; the spirit of music arises from primeval speech, by means of which males and females are attracted to each other. But the true origin of these instincts cannot be ascertained: it is impossible to account for primary phenomena. There are some who appear to suppose that this world is a stage-play, and that if we pry into it too far, we shall discover ropes and pulleys behind the scenes, and that so agreeable illusions will be spoiled. But the great masters of modern science are precisely those whomNature inspires with most reverence and awe. For as their minds are wafted by their wisdom into untravelled worlds, they find new fields of knowledge expanding to the view; the firmament ever expands, the abyss deepens, the horizon recedes. The proximate Why may be discovered; the ultimate Why is unrevealed. Let us take, for instance, a single law. A slight change invigorates the animal; and so the offspring of the pair survive the offspring of the single individual. Hence the separation of the sexes, desire, affection, family love, combination, gregariousness, clan-love, the Golden Rule, nationality, patriotism, and the religion of humanity, with all those complex sentiments and emotions which arise from the fact that one animal is dependent on another for the completion of its wants. But why should a slight change invigorate the animal? And if that question could be answered; we should find another why behind. Even when science shall be so far advanced that all the faculties and feelings of men will be traced with the precision of a mathematical demonstration to their latent condition in the fiery cloud of the beginning, the luminous haze, the nebula of the sublime Laplace: even then the origin and purpose of creation, the How and the Why, will remain unsolved. Give me the elementary atoms, the philosopher will exclaim; give me the primeval gas and the law of gravitation, and I will show you how man was evolved, body and soul, just as easily as I can explain the egg being hatched into a chick. But, then, where did the egg come from? Who made the atoms and endowed them with the impulse of attraction? Why was it so ordered that reason should be born of refrigeration, and that a piece of white-hot star should cool into a habitable world, and then be sunned into an intellectual salon, as the earth will some day be? All that we are doing, and all that we can do, is to investigate secondary laws; but from these investigations will proceed discoveries by which human nature will be elevated, purified, and finally transformed.
The ideas and sentiments, the faculties and the emotions, should be divided into two classes; those which we have in common with the lower animals, and which therefore we have derived from them; and those which have been acquired in the human state. Filial, parental, and conjugal affection, fellow- feeling and devotion to the welfare of the community, are virtues which exist in every gregarious association. These qualities, therefore, were possessed by the progenitors of man before the development of language, before the separation of the foot and the hand. Reproduction was once a part of growth: animals, therefore, desire to perpetuate their species from a natural and innate tendency inherited from their hermaphrodite and animalcule days. But owing to the separation of the sexes, this instinct cannot be appeased except by means of co- operation. In order that off spring may be produced, two animals must enter into partnership; and in order that offspring may be reared, this partnership must be continued for a considerable time. All living creatures of the higher grade are memorials of conjugal affection and parental care; they are born with a tendency to love, for it is owing to love that they exist. Those animals that are deficient in conjugal desire or parental love produce or bring up no offspring, and are blotted out of the book of Nature. That parents and children should consort together is natural enough; and the family is multiplied into the herd. At first the sympathy by which the herd is united is founded only on the pleasures of the breeding season and the duties of the nest. It is based entirely on domestic life. But this sympathy is extended and intensified by the struggle for existence; herd contends against herd, community against community; that herd which best combines will undoubtedly survive; and that herd in which sympathy is most developed will most efficiently combine. Here, then, one herd destroys another, not only by means of teeth and claws, but also by means of sympathy and love. The affections, therefore, are weapons, and are developed according to the Darwinian Law. Love is as cruel as the shark's jaw, as terrible as the serpent's fang. The moral sense is founded on sympathy, and sympathy is founded on self -preservation. With all gregarious animals, including men, self-preservation is dependent on the preservation of the herd. And so, in order that each may prosper, they must all combine with affection and fidelity, or they will be exterminated by their rivals.
In the first period of the human herd, co-operation was merely instinctive, as it is in a herd of dog-faced baboons. But when the intelligence of man was sufficiently developed, they realised the fact that the welfare of each individual depended on the welfare of the clan, and that the welfare of the clan depended on the welfare of each efficient individual. They then endeavoured to support by laws the interests of the association; and though, owing to their defective understandings, they allowed, and even enjoined, many customs injurious to their own welfare, yet, on the whole, they lived well and wisely within the circle of their clan. It will now be seen that the moral laws by which we are guided are all due to the law of self-preservation. It was considered wicked and wrong to assault, to rob, to deceive, or in any way to ill- treat or offend an able-bodied member of the clan; for, if he were killed or disabled, his services were lost to the clan, and if he were made discontented he might desert to another corporation. But these vices were wrong, merely because they were injurious; even murder in the abstract was not regarded by them as a sin. They killed their sickly children, and dined upon their superannuated parents without remorse; for the community was profited by their removal. This feeling of fidelity to the clan, though, no doubt, often supported by arguments addressed to the reason, was not with them a matter of calculation. It was rooted in their hearts; it was a true instinct inherited from animal and ancient days; it was with them an idea of duty, obedience to which was prompted by an impulse, neglect of which was punished by remorse. In all fables there is some fact; and the legends of the noble savage possess this element of truth, that savages within their own communion do live according to the Golden Rule, and would, in fact, be destroyed by their enemies if they did not. But they are not in reality good men. They have no conscience outside their clan. Their virtue after all is only a kind of honour among thieves. They resemble those illustrious criminals who were excellent husbands and fathers, and whose biographies cannot be read without a shudder. Yet it is from these people that our minds and our morals are descended. The history of morals is the extension of the reciprocal or selfish virtues from the clan to the tribe, from the tribe to the nation, from the nation to all communities living under the same government, civil or religious, then to people of the same colour, and finally to all mankind.
In the primitive period, the males contended at the courting season for the possession of the females; polygamy prevailed, and thus the strongest and most courageous males were the fathers of all the children that were born; the males of the second class died "old maids." The weakly members of the herd were also unable to obtain their share of food. But when the period of brute force was succeeded by the period of law, it was found that the men of sickly frames were often the most intelligent, and that they could make themselves useful to the clan by inventing weapons and traps, or at least by manufacturing them.
In return for their sedentary labour, they were given food; and as they were too weak to obtain wives by force, females also were given them; the system of love-duels was abolished; the women belonged to the community, and were divided fairly, like the food. The existence of the clan depended on the number of its fighting men, and therefore on the number of children that were born. The birth of a male child was a matter of rejoicing: the mother was honoured as a public benefactress. Then breeding began to be studied as an art; young persons were methodically paired. It was observed that children inherit the qualities and inclinations of their parents, and so the brave and the intelligent were selected to be sires.
If food was scarce and if children were difficult to rear, the new-born infants were carefully examined, and those that did not promise well were killed. Promiscuous intercourse on the part of the females was found to result in sterility, and was forbidden. Cohabitation during the suckling period, which lasted at least three years, was supposed to injure the mother's milk, on which the savage baby is entirely dependent; and during that period the woman was set apart. Premature unions among children were forbidden, and sometimes prevented by infibulation, but savages seldom seem to be aware that for the young to marry as soon as the age of puberty has been attained is injurious to the womb and to the offspring. The ancient Germans, however, had excellent laws upon this subject.
Finally the breeders made a discovery from which has resulted one of the most universal of moral laws, and one which of all laws has been the least frequently infringed. Clans made war on foreign clans not only for game-preserves, and fish waters, and root, and berry grounds, but also for the purpose of making female prisoners. A bachelor was expected to catch a wild wife for his own benefit, and for that of the community. He accordingly prowled round the village of the enemy, and when an eligible person came down to the brook to fill her pitcher, or went into the bush to gather sticks, he burst forth from his ambush, knocked her down with his club, and carried her off in triumph to his own people. It was observed that the foreign wives produced more children, and stronger children, than the home-born wives, and, also that the nearer the blood- relationship between husband and wife, the more weakly and the less frequent were the offspring. On this account a law was passed forbidding marriage between those who were closely related to one another; sometimes even it was forbidden to marry within the tribe at all; and all wives were obtained from foreign tribes by means of capture or exchange. These laws relating to marriage, enacted by the elders, and issued as orders of the gods, were at first obeyed by the young merely out of fear; but in the second generation they were ingrained on the minds of children, and were taken under the protection of the conscience.
When the clans or families first leagued together in order to form a town, the conscience of each man was confined to his own circle. He left it at home when he went out into the town. He considered it laudable to cheat his fellow townsmen in a bargain, or to tell them clever lies. If he committed a murder or a theft, his conscience uttered no reproach. But each father was responsible for the crimes of the members of his clan; he might inflict what punishment he chose on the actual offender; but he himself was the culprit in the eyes of the law, and was condemned to pay the fine. If the municipal government was not fully formed, the injured family took its own revenge; it did not seek for the thief or murderer himself; the individual did not exist; all the family to them were one. No man, therefore, could break a law without exposing his revered father and all the members of his family to expense, and even to danger of their lives. No savage dares to be unpopular at home; the weight of opprobrium is more than any man can bear. His happiness depends on the approbation of those with whom he lives; there is no world for him outside his clan. The town laws were, therefore, respected by each man for the sake of his family, and then by a well-known mental process they came to be respected for themselves, and were brought under the moral law which was written on the heart. Men ceased to be clansmen; they became citizens. They next learnt to cherish and protect those foreigners who came to trade and who thus conferred a benefit upon the town; and at last the great discovery was made. Offences against the Golden Rule are wrong in themselves, and displeasing to the gods. It is wicked for a man to do that which he would not wish a man to do to him; it is wrong for a man to do that to a woman which he would not wish done to his sister or his wife. Murder, theft, falsehood, and fraud, the infliction of physical or mental pain, all these from time immemorial had been regarded as crimes between clansmen and clansmen; they were now regarded as crimes between man and man. And here we come to a singular fact. The more men are sunk in brutality the less frequently they sin against their conscience; and as men become more virtuous, they also become more sinful. With the primeval man the conscience is an instinct; it is never disobeyed. With the savage the conscience demands little; that little it demands under pain of death; it is, therefore, seldom disobeyed. The savage seldom does that which he feels to be wrong. But he does not feel it wrong to commit incest, to eat "grandfather soup", to kill a sickly child like a kitten, to murder any one who lives outside his village. In the next period, the matrimonial and religious laws which have proceeded from the science of breeding and the fear of ghosts place a frequent restraint upon his actions. He now begins to break the moral law; he begins a career of sin; yet he is, on the whole, a better man.
We finally arrive at the civilised man; he has refined sentiments and a cultivated intellect; and now scarcely a day passes in which he does not offend against his conscience. His life is passed in self- reproach. He censures himself for an hour that he has wasted; for an unkind word that he has said; for an impure thought which he has allowed to settle for a moment on his mind. Such lighter sins do not indeed trouble ordinary men, and there are few at present whose conscience reproaches them for sins against the intellect. But the lives of all modern men are tormented with desires which may not be satisfied; with propensities which must be quelled. The virtues of man have originated in necessity; but necessity developed the vices as well. It was essential for the preservation of the clan that its members should love one another, and live according to the Golden Rule; men, therefore, are born with an instinct of virtue. But it was also essential for the existence of the clan that its members should be murderers and thieves, crafty and ferocious; fraudulent and cruel. These qualities, therefore, are transmitted by inheritance. But as the circle of the clan widens, these qualities are rarely useful to their possessors, and finally are stigmatised as criminal propensities. But because their origin was natural and necessary, their guilt is not lessened an iota. All men are born with these propensities; all know that they are evil; all can suppress them if they please. There are some, indeed, who appear to be criminals by nature; who do not feel it wrong to prey upon mankind. These are cases of reversion; they are savages or wild beasts; they are the enemies of society, and deserve the prison, to which sooner or later they are sure to come. But it is rare indeed that these savage instincts resist a kind and judicious education; they may all be stifled in the nursery. Life is full of hope and consolation; we observe that crime is on the decrease, and that men are becoming more humane. The virtues as well as the vices are inherited; in every succeeding generation the old ferocious impulses of our race will become fainter and fainter, and at length they will finally die away.
There is one moral sentiment which cannot be ascribed to the law of gregarious preservation, and which is therefore of too much importance to be entirely passed over, though it cannot here be treated in detail. The sense of decorum which is outraged at the exposure of the legs in Europe is as artificial as that which is shocked at the exhibition of the female face in the East: if the young lady of London thinks that the absence of underclothing in the Arab peasant girl "looks rather odd," on the other hand no Arab lady could look at her portrait in an evening dress without a feeling of discomfort and surprise. Yet although the minor details of nudity are entirely conventional; although complete nudity prevails in some parts of Africa, where yet a petticoat grows on every tree, and where the people are by no means indifferent to their personal appearance, for they spend half their lives upon their coiffure; although in most savage countries the unmarried girl is never permitted to wear clothes; although decoration is everywhere antecedent to dress, still the traveller does find that a sentiment of decency, though not universal, is at least very common among savage people.
Self-interest here affords an explanation, but not in the human state; we must trace back the sentiment to its remote and secret source in the animal kingdom. Propriety grows out of cleanliness through the association of ideas. Cleanliness is a virtue of the lower animals, and is equivalent to decoration; it is nourished by vanity, which proceeds from the love of sexual display, and that from the desire to obtain a mate; and so here we do arrive at utility after all. It is a part of animal cleanliness to deposit apart, and even to hide, whatever is uncleanly; and men, going farther still, conceal whatever is a cause of the uncleanly. The Tuaricks of the desert give this as their reason for bandaging the mouth; it has, they say, the disgusting office of chewing the food, and is therefore not fit to be seen. The custom probably originated as a precaution against the poisonous wind and the sandy air; yet the explanation of the people themselves, though incorrect, is not without its value in affording a clue to the operations of the savage mind. But the sense of decorum must not be used by writers on Mind to distinguish man from the lower animals, for savages exist who are as innocent of shame and decorum as the beasts and birds.
There is in women a peculiar timidity, which is due to nature alone, and which has grown out of the mysterious terror attendant on the functions of reproductive life. But the other qualities, physical or mental, which we prize in women are the result of matrimonial selection. At first the female was a chattel common to all, or belonging exclusively to one, who was by brute force the despot of the herd. When property was divided and secured by law, the women became the slaves of their husbands, hewing the wood, drawing the water, working in the fields; while the men sewed and washed the clothes, looked after the house, and idled at the toilet, oiling their hair, and adorning it with flowers, arranging the chignon or the wig of vegetable fibre, filing their teeth, boring their ears, putting studs into their cheeks, staining their gums, tattooing fanciful designs upon their skins, tying strings on their arms to give them a rounded form, bathing their bodies in warm water, rubbing them with lime-juice and oil, perfuming them with the powdered bark of an aromatic tree. Decoration among the females was not allowed. It was then considered unwomanly to engage in any but what are now regarded as masculine occupations. Wives were selected only for their strength. They were hard, coarse, ill-favoured creatures, as inferior to the men in beauty as the females are to the males almost throughout the animal kingdom. But when prisoners of war were tamed and broken in, the women ceased to be drudges, and became the ornaments of life. Poor men select their domestic animals for utility: rich men select them for appearance. In the same manner, when husbands became rich they chose wives according to their looks. At first the hair of women was no longer than that of men, probably not so long. But long hair is universally admired. False hair is in use all over the world, from the Eskimos of the Arctic circle to the negroes of Gaboon. By the continued selection of long-haired wives the flowing tresses of the sex have been produced. In the same manner the elegance of the female form, its softness of complexion, its gracefulness of curve are not less our creation than the symmetry and speed of the racehorse, the magnificence of garden flowers, and the flavour of orchard fruits. Even the reserved demeanour of women, their refined sentiments, their native modesty, their sublime unselfishness, and power of self- control are partly due to us.
The wife was at first a domestic animal like a dog or a horse. She could not be used without the consent of the proprietor; but he was always willing to let her out for hire. Among savages it is usually the duty of the host to lend a wife to his stranger guest, and if the loan is declined the husband considers himself insulted. Adultery is merely a question of debt. The law of debt is terribly severe: the body of the insolvent belongs to the creditor to sell or to kill. But no other feelings are involved in the question. The injured husband is merely a creditor, and is always pleased that the debt has been incurred. Petitioner and co-respondent may often be seen smoking a friendly pipe together after the case has been proved and the money has been paid. However, as the intelligence expands and the sentiments become more refined, marriage is hallowed by religion; adultery is regarded as a shame to the husband, and a sin against the gods; and a new feeling -- Jealousy -- enters for the first time the heart of man. The husband desires to monopolise his wife, body and soul. He intercepts her glances; he attempts to penetrate into her thoughts. He covers her with clothes; he hides even her face from the public gaze. His jealousy, not only anxious for the future, is extended over the, past. Thus women from their earliest childhood are subjected by the selfishness of man to severe but salutary laws. Chastity becomes the rule of female life. At first it is preserved by force alone. Male slaves are appointed to guard the women who, except sometimes from momentary pique, never betray one another, and are allied against the men.
But as the minds of men are gradually elevated and refined through the culture of the intellect, there rises within them a sentiment which is unknown in savage life. They conceive a contempt for those pleasures which they share with the lowest of mankind, and even with the brutes. They feel that this instinct is degrading: they strive to resist it; they endeavour to be pure. But that instinct is strong with the accumulated power of innumerable generations; and the noble desire is weak and newly born: it can seldom be sustained except by the hopes and fears of religion, or by the nobler teaching of philosophy. But in women this new virtue is assisted by laws and customs which were established, long before, by the selfishness of men. Here, then, the abhorrence of the impure, the sense of duty, the fear of punishment, all unite and form a moral law which women themselves enforce, becoming the guardians of their own honour, and treating as a traitor to her sex the woman who betrays her trust. For her the most compassionate have no mercy: she has broken those laws of honour on which society is founded. It is forbidden to receive her; it is an insult to women to allude to her existence, to pronounce her name. She is condemned without inquiry, as the officer is condemned who has shown cowardice before the foe. For the life of women is a battle-field: virtue is their courage, and peace of mind is their reward. It is certainly an extraordinary fact that women should be subjected to a severe social discipline, from which men are almost entirely exempt. As we have shown, it is explained by history; it is due to the ancient subjection of woman to the man. But it is not the women who are to he pitied: it is they who alone are free; for by that discipline they are preserved from the tyranny of vice. It would be well for men if they also were ruled by a severe opinion. The passions are always foes, but it is only when they have been encouraged that they are able to become masters; it is only when they have allied themselves with habit that their terrible power becomes known. They resemble wild beasts which men feed and cherish until they are themselves devoured by their playmates. What miseries they cause, how many intellects they paralyse, how many families they ruin, how many innocent hearts they break asunder, how many lives they poison, how many young corpses they carry to the tomb! What fate can be more wretched than that of the man who resigns himself to them?
As to the beautiful mind of Mendelssohn every sound, whatever it might be -- the bubbling of a brook, the rustling of the wind among the trees, the voice of a bird, even the grating of a wheel -- inspired a musical idea, so -- how melancholy is the contrast! -- so -- how deep is the descent! -- so to the mind that is steeped in sensuality every sight, every sound, calls up an impure association. The voluptuary dreads to be alone; his mind is a monster that exhibits foul pictures to his eyes: his memories are temptations: he struggles, he resists, but it is all in vain: the habits which once might so easily have been broken are now harder than adamant, are now stronger than steel: his life is passed between desire and remorse: when the desire is quenched he is tortured by his conscience: he soothes it with a promise; and then the desire comes again. He sinks lower and lower until indulgence gives him no pleasure: and yet abstinence cannot be endured. To stimulate his jaded senses he enters strange and tortuous paths which lead him to that awful borderland where all is darkness, all is horror, where vice lies close to crime. Yet there was a time when that man was as guileless as a girl: he began by learning vice from the example of his companions, just as he learnt to smoke. Had his education been more severe: had the earliest inclinations been checked by the fear of ruin and disgrace, he would not have acquired the most dangerous of all habits. That men should be subjected to the same discipline as women is therefore to be wished for: and although the day is far distant, there can be no doubt that it will come: and the future historian of morals will record with surprise that in the nineteenth century society countenanced vices in men which it punished in women with banishment for life.
Since men are in a transitional condition; since Nature ordains that the existence of the race can only be preserved by means of gross appetites inherited from our ancestors, the animals, it is obvious that men should refine them so far as they are able. Thus the brute business of eating and drinking is made in civilised life the opportunity of social intercourse; the family, divided by the duties of the day, then assemble and converse: men of talent are drawn together and interchange ideas. Many a poem, many an invention, many a great enterprise, has been born at the table; loves and friendships have originated there. In the same manner the passions are sanctified by marriage. Blended with the pure affections their coarseness disappears: their violence is appeased: they become the ministers of conjugal and parental love.
If we place exceptions aside, and look at men in the mass, we find that, like the animals, they are actively employed from morning to night in obtaining food for themselves and for their families. But when they have satisfied their actual wants, they do not, like the animals, rest at their ease: they continue their labour. Let us take the life of an ordinary man. He adopts an occupation at first in order to get his bread; and then that he may marry and have children; and these also he has to feed. But that is not all. He soon desires to rise in his profession, or to acquire such skill in his craft that he may he praised by his superiors and by his companions. He desires to make money that he may improve his social position. And lastly, he begins to love his occupation for itself, whatever it may be: the poor labourer has this feeling as well as the poet or the artist. When the pleasures of money and fame have been exhausted: when nothing remains on earth that can bribe the mind to turn from its accustomed path, it is labour itself that is the joy; and aged men who have neither desires, nor illusions, who are separated from the world, and who are drawing near to the grave, who believe that with life all is ended, and that for them there is no hereafter, yet continue to work with indefatigable zeal. This noble condition of the mind which thus makes for itself a heaven upon earth can be attained by those who have courage and resolution. It is merely the effect of habit: labour is painful to all at first; but if the student perseveres he will find it more and more easy, until at last he will find it necessary, to his life. The toils which once were so hard to endure are now sought and cherished for themselves: the mind becomes uneasy when its chains are taken off.
The love of esteem is the second stimulant of labour; it follows the period of necessity; it precedes the period of habit. It is founded on that feeling of sympathy which unites the primeval herd, and which is necessary to its life. The man who distinguishes himself in battle; the man who brings home a deer, or a fish, or a store of honey, or a bundle of roots is praised by his comrades; so he is encouraged to fresh exertions, and so the emulation of others is excited. The actions of savages are entirely directed by the desire to exist, and by the desire to obtain the praises of their fellows. All African travellers have suffered from the rapacity of chiefs, and yet those same chiefs are the most open-handed of men. They plunder and beg from the white man his cloth, in order to give it away; and they give it away in order to obtain praise. A savage gentleman is always surrounded by a host of clients, who come every morning to give him the salutation, who chant his praises and devour him alive. The art of song had its origin in flattery. Mendicant minstrels wander from town to town, and from chief to chief, singing the praises of their patrons and satirising those who have not been generous towards them. In Africa the accusation of parsimony is a more bitter taunt than the accusation of cowardice. Commerce first commenced in necessity. The inland people required salt; the coast people required vegetables to eat with their fish. But soon the desire of esteem induced men to contrive, and labour, and imperil their lives in order to obtain ornaments or articles of clothing which came from abroad. In Central Africa it is more fashionable to wear a dirty rag of Manchester cloth, such as we use for a duster, than their own beautiful aprons of woven grass. An African chief will often commission a trader to buy him a handsome saddle, or some curious article of furniture, on condition that he will not supply it to any one else, just as connoisseurs will pay a higher price for a work of art when the mould has been broken.
Both in civilised and in savage life the selfish desires of man are few, and are quickly satisfied. Enormous sums are lavished upon cookery and wines, but more from ostentation than from true gourmanderie. The love of display, or the more noble desire to give pleasure to their friends, has much to do with the enthusiasm of those who spend fortunes on works of art and objects of virtue; and there are few amusements which can be enjoyed alone. Nihil est homini amicum sine homine amico. All the actions of men may therefore be traced first to the desire of preserving life and continuing their species; secondly to the desire of esteem; and thirdly to the effects of habit. In the religious conduct of man there is nothing which cannot be thus explained. First, men sacrifice and pray in order to escape sickness and death; or if they are a little more advanced, that they may not be punished in a future state. Secondly, they desire to win the esteem and affections of the gods; they are ambitious of obtaining a heavenly reputation. And lastly, prayer and praise, discipline and self-denial, become habits, and give pleasure to the mind. The rough hair shirt, the hard bed, the cold cell, the meagre food, the long vigil, the midnight prayer, are delights to the mind that is inured to suffer; and as other men rejoice that they have found something which can yield them pleasure, so the ascetic rejoices that he has found something which can yield him pain.
In the preceding sketch, which is taken from the writings of others, I have told how a hot cloud vibrating in space, cooled into a sun rotating on its axis, and revolving round a point, to us unknown; and how this sun cast off a piece, which went out like a coal that leaps from the fire, and sailed round the sun a cinder wrapped in smoke; and how, as it cooled, strange forces worked within it, varied phenomena appeared upon its surface; it was covered with a salt sea; the smoke cleared off; the sunlight played upon the water; gelatinous plants and animals appeared at first simple in their forms, becoming more complex as the forces which acted on them increased in complexity; the earth wrinkled up; the mountains and continents appeared; rain-water ascended from the sea, and descended from the sky; lakes and rivers were created; the land was covered with ferns, and gigantic mosses, and grasses tall as trees; enormous reptiles crawled upon the earth, frogs as large as elephants, which croaked like thunder; and the air, which was still poisonous and cloudy, was cleared by the plants feeding on the coaly gas; the sun shone brightly; sex was invented; love was born; flowers bloomed forth, and birds sang; mammoths and mastodons revelled upon the infinity of pastures the world became populous; the struggle for life became severe; animals congregated together; male struggled against male for spouses, herd struggled against herd for subsistence; a nation of apes, possessing peculiar intelligence and sociability, were exposed to peculiar dangers; as a means of resistance, they combined more closely; as they combined more closely, their language was improved; as a means of resistance, they threw missiles with their hands; thus using their hands, they walked chiefly with their feet; the apes became almost man, half walking, half crawling through the grim forests, jabbering and gesticulating in an imitative manner, fighting furiously for their females at the rutting season, their matted hair begrimed with dirt and blood, fighting with all nature, even with their own kind, but remaining true to their own herd; using the hand more and more as a weapon and a tool, becoming more and more erect; expressing objects by conventional sounds or words; delighting more and more to interchange ideas; sharpening stones and pointing sticks, heading javelins with bone and horn, inventing snares and traps; then fire was discovered, and, by a series of accidents, its various uses were revealed; the arts of agriculture, domestication, and river navigation were acquired: the tribes migrating from the forests were scattered over the world; their canoes of hollow trees skimmed the tepid waters of the Indian Ocean; their coracles of skin dashed through the icy waves of the Arctic seas; in valleys between mountains, or in fertile river plains, they nurtured seed-bearing grasses into grain; over pastoral mountains, or sandy deserts, or broad grassy steppes, they wandered with their flocks and herds; these shepherd tribes poured down on the plains, subdued the inhabitants and reduced them to serfdom; thus the nation was established, and consisted at first of two great classes -- the rulers and the ruled.