Unconscious Memory
by Samuel Butler
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Transcribed from the 1910 A. C. Fifield edition by David Price, email


"As this paper contains nothing which deserves the name either of experiment or discovery, and as it is, in fact, destitute of every species of merit, we should have allowed it to pass among the multitude of those articles which must always find their way into the collections of a society which is pledged to publish two or three volumes every year. . . . We wish to raise our feeble voice against innovations, that can have no other effect than to check the progress of science, and renew all those wild phantoms of the imagination which Bacon and Newton put to flight from her temple."—Opening Paragraph of a Review of Dr. Young's Bakerian Lecture. Edinburgh Review, January 1803, p. 450.

"Young's work was laid before the Royal society, and was made the 1801 Bakerian Lecture. But he was before his time. The second number of the Edinburgh Review contained an article levelled against him by Henry (afterwards Lord) Brougham, and this was so severe an attack that Young's ideas were absolutely quenched for fifteen years. Brougham was then only twenty-four years of age. Young's theory was reproduced in France by Fresnel. In our days it is the accepted theory, and is found to explain all the phenomena of light."—Times Report of a Lecture by Professor Tyndall on Light, April 27, 1880.

This Book Is inscribed to RICHARD GARNETT, ESQ. (Of the British Museum) In grateful acknowledgment of the unwearying kindness with which he has so often placed at my disposal his varied store of information.

Contents: Note by R. A. Streatfeild Introduction by Marcus Hartog Author's Preface Unconscious Memory


For many years a link in the chain of Samuel Butler's biological works has been missing. "Unconscious Memory" was originally published thirty years ago, but for fully half that period it has been out of print, owing to the destruction of a large number of the unbound sheets in a fire at the premises of the printers some years ago. The present reprint comes, I think, at a peculiarly fortunate moment, since the attention of the general public has of late been drawn to Butler's biological theories in a marked manner by several distinguished men of science, notably by Dr. Francis Darwin, who, in his presidential address to the British Association in 1908, quoted from the translation of Hering's address on "Memory as a Universal Function of Original Matter," which Butler incorporated into "Unconscious Memory," and spoke in the highest terms of Butler himself. It is not necessary for me to do more than refer to the changed attitude of scientific authorities with regard to Butler and his theories, since Professor Marcus Hartog has most kindly consented to contribute an introduction to the present edition of "Unconscious Memory," summarising Butler's views upon biology, and defining his position in the world of science. A word must be said as to the controversy between Butler and Darwin, with which Chapter IV is concerned. I have been told that in reissuing the book at all I am committing a grievous error of taste, that the world is no longer interested in these "old, unhappy far-off things and battles long ago," and that Butler himself, by refraining from republishing "Unconscious Memory," tacitly admitted that he wished the controversy to be consigned to oblivion. This last suggestion, at any rate, has no foundation in fact. Butler desired nothing less than that his vindication of himself against what he considered unfair treatment should be forgotten. He would have republished "Unconscious Memory" himself, had not the latter years of his life been devoted to all- engrossing work in other fields. In issuing the present edition I am fulfilling a wish that he expressed to me shortly before his death.

R. A. STREATFEILD. April, 1910.

INTRODUCTION By Marcus Hartog, M.A. D.Sc., F.L.S., F.R.H.S.

In reviewing Samuel Butler's works, "Unconscious Memory" gives us an invaluable lead; for it tells us (Chaps. II, III) how the author came to write the Book of the Machines in "Erewhon" (1872), with its foreshadowing of the later theory, "Life and Habit," (1878), "Evolution, Old and New" (1879), as well as "Unconscious Memory" (1880) itself. His fourth book on biological theory was "Luck? or Cunning?" (1887). {0a}

Besides these books, his contributions to biology comprise several essays: "Remarks on Romanes' Mental Evolution in Animals, contained in "Selections from Previous Works" (1884) incorporated into "Luck? or Cunning," "The Deadlock in Darwinism" (Universal Review, April- June, 1890), republished in the posthumous volume of "Essays on Life, Art, and Science" (1904), and, finally, some of the "Extracts from the Notebooks of the late Samuel Butler," edited by Mr. H. Festing Jones, now in course of publication in the New Quarterly Review.

Of all these, "LIFE AND HABIT" (1878) is the most important, the main building to which the other writings are buttresses or, at most, annexes. Its teaching has been summarised in "Unconscious Memory" in four main principles: "(1) the oneness of personality between parent and offspring; (2) memory on the part of the offspring of certain actions which it did when in the persons of its forefathers; (3) the latency of that memory until it is rekindled by a recurrence of the associated ideas; (4) the unconsciousness with which habitual actions come to be performed." To these we must add a fifth: the purposiveness of the actions of living beings, as of the machines which they make or select.

Butler tells ("Life and Habit," p. 33) that he sometimes hoped "that this book would be regarded as a valuable adjunct to Darwinism." He was bitterly disappointed in the event, for the book, as a whole, was received by professional biologists as a gigantic joke—a joke, moreover, not in the best possible taste. True, its central ideas, largely those of Lamarck, had been presented by Hering in 1870 (as Butler found shortly after his publication); they had been favourably received, developed by Haeckel, expounded and praised by Ray Lankester. Coming from Butler, they met with contumely, even from such men as Romanes, who, as Butler had no difficulty in proving, were unconsciously inspired by the same ideas—"Nur mit ein bischen ander'n Worter."

It is easy, looking back, to see why "Life and Habit" so missed its mark. Charles Darwin's presentation of the evolution theory had, for the first time, rendered it possible for a "sound naturalist" to accept the doctrine of common descent with divergence; and so given a real meaning to the term "natural relationship," which had forced itself upon the older naturalists, despite their belief in special and independent creations. The immediate aim of the naturalists of the day was now to fill up the gaps in their knowledge, so as to strengthen the fabric of a unified biology. For this purpose they found their actual scientific equipment so inadequate that they were fully occupied in inventing fresh technique, and working therewith at facts—save a few critics, such as St. George Mivart, who was regarded as negligible, since he evidently held a brief for a party standing outside the scientific world.

Butler introduced himself as what we now call "The Man in the Street," far too bare of scientific clothing to satisfy the Mrs. Grundy of the domain: lacking all recognised tools of science and all sense of the difficulties in his way, he proceeded to tackle the problems of science with little save the deft pen of the literary expert in his hand. His very failure to appreciate the difficulties gave greater power to his work—much as Tartarin of Tarascon ascended the Jungfrau and faced successfully all dangers of Alpine travel, so long as he believed them to be the mere "blagues de reclame" of the wily Swiss host. His brilliant qualities of style and irony themselves told heavily against him. Was he not already known for having written the most trenchant satire that had appeared since "Gulliver's Travels"? Had he not sneered therein at the very foundations of society, and followed up its success by a pseudo- biography that had taken in the "Record" and the "Rock"? In "Life and Habit," at the very start, he goes out of his way to heap scorn at the respected names of Marcus Aurelius, Lord Bacon, Goethe, Arnold of Rugby, and Dr. W. B. Carpenter. He expressed the lowest opinion of the Fellows of the Royal Society. To him the professional man of science, with self-conscious knowledge for his ideal and aim, was a medicine-man, priest, augur—useful, perhaps, in his way, but to be carefully watched by all who value freedom of thought and person, lest with opportunity he develop into a persecutor of the worst type. Not content with blackguarding the audience to whom his work should most appeal, he went on to depreciate that work itself and its author in his finest vein of irony. Having argued that our best and highest knowledge is that of whose possession we are most ignorant, he proceeds: "Above all, let no unwary reader do me the injustice of believing in me. In that I write at all I am among the damned."

His writing of "EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW" (1879) was due to his conviction that scant justice had been done by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace and their admirers to the pioneering work of Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck. To repair this he gives a brilliant exposition of what seemed to him the most valuable portion of their teachings on evolution. His analysis of Buffon's true meaning, veiled by the reticences due to the conditions under which he wrote, is as masterly as the English in which he develops it. His sense of wounded justice explains the vigorous polemic which here, as in all his later writings, he carries to the extreme.

As a matter of fact, he never realised Charles Darwin's utter lack of sympathetic understanding of the work of his French precursors, let alone his own grandfather, Erasmus. Yet this practical ignorance, which to Butler was so strange as to transcend belief, was altogether genuine, and easy to realise when we recall the position of Natural Science in the early thirties in Darwin's student days at Cambridge, and for a decade or two later. Catastropharianism was the tenet of the day: to the last it commended itself to his Professors of Botany and Geology,—for whom Darwin held the fervent allegiance of the Indian scholar, or chela, to his guru. As Geikie has recently pointed out, it was only later, when Lyell had shown that the breaks in the succession of the rocks were only partial and local, without involving the universal catastrophes that destroyed all life and rendered fresh creations thereof necessary, that any general acceptance of a descent theory could be expected. We may be very sure that Darwin must have received many solemn warnings against the dangerous speculations of the "French Revolutionary School." He himself was far too busy at the time with the reception and assimilation of new facts to be awake to the deeper interest of far- reaching theories.

It is the more unfortunate that Butler's lack of appreciation on these points should have led to the enormous proportion of bitter personal controversy that we find in the remainder of his biological writings. Possibly, as suggested by George Bernard Shaw, his acquaintance and admirer, he was also swayed by philosophical resentment at that banishment of mind from the organic universe, which was generally thought to have been achieved by Charles Darwin's theory. Still, we must remember that this mindless view is not implicit in Charles Darwin's presentment of his own theory, nor was it accepted by him as it has been by so many of his professed disciples.

"UNCONSCIOUS MEMORY" (1880).—We have already alluded to an anticipation of Butler's main theses. In 1870 Dr. Ewald Hering, one of the most eminent physiologists of the day, Professor at Vienna, gave an Inaugural Address to the Imperial Royal Academy of Sciences: "Das Gedachtniss als allgemeine Funktion der organisirter Substanz" ("Memory as a Universal Function of Organised Matter"). When "Life and Habit" was well advanced, Francis Darwin, at the time a frequent visitor, called Butler's attention to this essay, which he himself only knew from an article in "Nature." Herein Professor E. Ray Lankester had referred to it with admiring sympathy in connection with its further development by Haeckel in a pamphlet entitled "Die Perigenese der Plastidule." We may note, however, that in his collected Essays, "The Advancement of Science" (1890), Sir Ray Lankester, while including this Essay, inserts on the blank page {0b}—we had almost written "the white sheet"—at the back of it an apology for having ever advocated the possibility of the transmission of acquired characters.

"Unconscious Memory" was largely written to show the relation of Butler's views to Hering's, and contains an exquisitely written translation of the Address. Hering does, indeed, anticipate Butler, and that in language far more suitable to the persuasion of the scientific public. It contains a subsidiary hypothesis that memory has for its mechanism special vibrations of the protoplasm, and the acquired capacity to respond to such vibrations once felt upon their repetition. I do not think that the theory gains anything by the introduction of this even as a mere formal hypothesis; and there is no evidence for its being anything more. Butler, however, gives it a warm, nay, enthusiastic, reception in Chapter V (Introduction to Professor Hering's lecture), and in his notes to the translation of the Address, which bulks so large in this book, but points out that he was "not committed to this hypothesis, though inclined to accept it on a prima facie view." Later on, as we shall see, he attached more importance to it.

The Hering Address is followed in "Unconscious Memory" by translations of selected passages from Von Hartmann's "Philosophy of the Unconscious," and annotations to explain the difference from this personification of "The Unconscious" as a mighty all-ruling, all- creating personality, and his own scientific recognition of the great part played by UNCONSCIOUS PROCESSES in the region of mind and memory.

These are the essentials of the book as a contribution to biological philosophy. The closing chapters contain a lucid statement of objections to his theory as they might be put by a rigid necessitarian, and a refutation of that interpretation as applied to human action.

But in the second chapter Butler states his recession from the strong logical position he had hitherto developed in his writings from "Erewhon" onwards; so far he had not only distinguished the living from the non-living, but distinguished among the latter MACHINES or TOOLS from THINGS AT LARGE. {0c} Machines or tools are the external organs of living beings, as organs are their internal machines: they are fashioned, assembled, or selected by the beings for a purposes so they have a FUTURE PURPOSE, as well as a PAST HISTORY. "Things at large" have a past history, but no purpose (so long as some being does not convert them into tools and give them a purpose): Machines have a Why? as well as a How?: "things at large" have a How? only.

In "Unconscious Memory" the allurements of unitary or monistic views have gained the upper hand, and Butler writes (p. 23):-

"The only thing of which I am sure is, that the distinction between the organic and inorganic is arbitrary; that it is more coherent with our other ideas, and therefore more acceptable, to start with every molecule as a living thing, and then deduce death as the breaking up of an association or corporation, than to start with inanimate molecules and smuggle life into them; and that, therefore, what we call the inorganic world must be regarded as up to a certain point living, and instinct, within certain limits, with consciousness, volition, and power of concerted action. IT IS ONLY OF LATE, HOWEVER, THAT I HAVE COME TO THIS OPINION."

I have italicised the last sentence, to show that Butler was more or less conscious of its irreconcilability with much of his most characteristic doctrine. Again, in the closing chapter, Butler writes (p. 275):-

"We should endeavour to see the so-called inorganic as living in respect of the qualities it has in common with the organic, rather than the organic as non-living in respect of the qualities it has in common with the inorganic."

We conclude our survey of this book by mentioning the literary controversial part chiefly to be found in Chapter IV, but cropping up elsewhere. It refers to interpolations made in the authorised translation of Krause's "Life of Erasmus Darwin." Only one side is presented; and we are not called upon, here or elsewhere, to discuss the merits of the question.

"LUCK, OR CUNNING, as the Main Means of Organic Modification? an Attempt to throw Additional Light upon the late Mr. Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection" (1887), completes the series of biological books. This is mainly a book of strenuous polemic. It brings out still more forcibly the Hering-Butler doctrine of continued personality from generation to generation, and of the working of unconscious memory throughout; and points out that, while this is implicit in much of the teaching of Herbert Spencer, Romanes, and others, it was nowhere—even after the appearance of "Life and Habit"—explicitly recognised by them, but, on the contrary, masked by inconsistent statements and teaching. Not Luck but Cunning, not the uninspired weeding out by Natural Selection but the intelligent striving of the organism, is at the bottom of the useful variety of organic life. And the parallel is drawn that not the happy accident of time and place, but the Machiavellian cunning of Charles Darwin, succeeded in imposing, as entirely his own, on the civilised world an uninspired and inadequate theory of evolution wherein luck played the leading part; while the more inspired and inspiring views of the older evolutionists had failed by the inferiority of their luck. On this controversy I am bound to say that I do not in the very least share Butler's opinions; and I must ascribe them to his lack of personal familiarity with the biologists of the day and their modes of thought and of work. Butler everywhere undervalues the important work of elimination played by Natural Selection in its widest sense.

The "Conclusion" of "Luck, or Cunning?" shows a strong advance in monistic views, and a yet more marked development in the vibration hypothesis of memory given by Hering and only adopted with the greatest reserve in "Unconscious Memory."

"Our conception, then, concerning the nature of any matter depends solely upon its kind and degree of unrest, that is to say, on the characteristics of the vibrations that are going on within it. The exterior object vibrating in a certain way imparts some of its vibrations to our brain; but if the state of the thing itself depends upon its vibrations, it [the thing] must be considered as to all intents and purposes the vibrations themselves—plus, of course, the underlying substance that is vibrating. . . . The same vibrations, therefore, form the substance remembered, introduce an infinitesimal dose of it within the brain, modify the substance remembering, and, in the course of time, create and further modify the mechanism of both the sensory and the motor nerves. Thought and thing are one.

"I commend these two last speculations to the reader's charitable consideration, as feeling that I am here travelling beyond the ground on which I can safely venture. . . . I believe they are both substantially true."

In 1885 he had written an abstract of these ideas in his notebooks (see New Quarterly Review, 1910, p. 116), and as in "Luck, or Cunning?" associated them vaguely with the unitary conceptions introduced into chemistry by Newlands and Mendelejeff. Judging himself as an outsider, the author of "Life and Habit" would certainly have considered the mild expression of faith, "I believe they are both substantially true," equivalent to one of extreme doubt. Thus "the fact of the Archbishop's recognising this as among the number of his beliefs is conclusive evidence, with those who have devoted attention to the laws of thought, that his mind is not yet clear" on the matter of the belief avowed (see "Life and Habit," pp. 24, 25).

To sum up: Butler's fundamental attitude to the vibration hypothesis was all through that taken in "Unconscious Memory"; he played with it as a pretty pet, and fancied it more and more as time went on; but instead of backing it for all he was worth, like the main theses of "Life and Habit," he put a big stake on it—and then hedged.

The last of Butler's biological writings is the Essay, "THE DEADLOCK IN DARWINISM," containing much valuable criticism on Wallace and Weismann. It is in allusion to the misnomer of Wallace's book, "Darwinism," that he introduces the term "Wallaceism" {0d} for a theory of descent that excludes the transmission of acquired characters. This was, indeed, the chief factor that led Charles Darwin to invent his hypothesis of pangenesis, which, unacceptable as it has proved, had far more to recommend it as a formal hypothesis than the equally formal germ-plasm hypothesis of Weismann.

The chief difficulty in accepting the main theses of Butler and Hering is one familiar to every biologist, and not at all difficult to understand by the layman. Everyone knows that the complicated beings that we term "Animals" and "Plants," consist of a number of more or less individualised units, the cells, each analogous to a simpler being, a Protist—save in so far as the character of the cell unit of the Higher being is modified in accordance with the part it plays in that complex being as a whole. Most people, too, are familiar with the fact that the complex being starts as a single cell, separated from its parent; or, where bisexual reproduction occurs, from a cell due to the fusion of two cells, each detached from its parent. Such cells are called "Germ-cells." The germ-cell, whether of single or of dual origin, starts by dividing repeatedly, so as to form the PRIMARY EMBRYONIC CELLS, a complex mass of cells, at first essentially similar, which, however, as they go on multiplying, undergo differentiations and migrations, losing their simplicity as they do so. Those cells that are modified to take part in the proper work of the whole are called tissue-cells. In virtue of their activities, their growth and reproductive power are limited- -much more in Animals than in Plants, in Higher than in Lower beings. It is these tissues, or some of them, that receive the impressions from the outside which leave the imprint of memory. Other cells, which may be closely associated into a continuous organ, or more or less surrounded by tissue-cells, whose part it is to nourish them, are called "secondary embryonic cells," or "germ-cells." The germ- cells may be differentiated in the young organism at a very early stage, but in Plants they are separated at a much later date from the less isolated embryonic regions that provide for the Plant's branching; in all cases we find embryonic and germ-cells screened from the life processes of the complex organism, or taking no very obvious part in it, save to form new tissues or new organs, notably in Plants.

Again, in ourselves, and to a greater or less extent in all Animals, we find a system of special tissues set apart for the reception and storage of impressions from the outer world, and for guiding the other organs in their appropriate responses—the "Nervous System"; and when this system is ill-developed or out of gear the remaining organs work badly from lack of proper skilled guidance and co- ordination. How can we, then, speak of "memory" in a germ-cell which has been screened from the experiences of the organism, which is too simple in structure to realise them if it were exposed to them? My own answer is that we cannot form any theory on the subject, the only question is whether we have any right to INFER this "memory" from the BEHAVIOUR of living beings; and Butler, like Hering, Haeckel, and some more modern authors, has shown that the inference is a very strong presumption. Again, it is easy to over-value such complex instruments as we possess. The possessor of an up-to-date camera, well instructed in the function and manipulation of every part, but ignorant of all optics save a hand-to-mouth knowledge of the properties of his own lens, might say that a priori no picture could be taken with a cigar-box perforated by a pin-hole; and our ignorance of the mechanism of the Psychology of any organism is greater by many times than that of my supposed photographer. We know that Plants are able to do many things that can only be accounted for by ascribing to them a "psyche," and these co-ordinated enough to satisfy their needs; and yet they possess no central organ comparable to the brain, no highly specialised system for intercommunication like our nerve trunks and fibres. As Oscar Hertwig says, we are as ignorant of the mechanism of the development of the individual as we are of that of hereditary transmission of acquired characters, and the absence of such mechanism in either case is no reason for rejecting the proven fact.

However, the relations of germ and body just described led Jager, Nussbaum, Galton, Lankester, and, above all, Weismann, to the view that the germ-cells or "stirp" (Galton) were IN the body, but not OF it. Indeed, in the body and out of it, whether as reproductive cells set free, or in the developing embryo, they are regarded as forming one continuous homogeneity, in contrast to the differentiation of the body; and it is to these cells, regarded as a continuum, that the terms stirp, germ-plasm, are especially applied. Yet on this view, so eagerly advocated by its supporters, we have to substitute for the hypothesis of memory, which they declare to have no real meaning here, the far more fantastic hypotheses of Weismann: by these they explain the process of differentiation in the young embryo into new germ and body; and in the young body the differentiation of its cells, each in due time and place, into the varied tissue cells and organs. Such views might perhaps be acceptable if it could be shown that over each cell-division there presided a wise all-guiding genie of transcending intellect, to which Clerk-Maxwell's sorting demons were mere infants. Yet these views have so enchanted many distinguished biologists, that in dealing with the subject they have actually ignored the existence of equally able workers who hesitate to share the extremest of their views. The phenomenon is one well known in hypnotic practice. So long as the non-Weismannians deal with matters outside this discussion, their existence and their work is rated at its just value; but any work of theirs on this point so affects the orthodox Weismannite (whether he accept this label or reject it does not matter), that for the time being their existence and the good work they have done are alike non-existent. {0e}

Butler founded no school, and wished to found none. He desired that what was true in his work should prevail, and he looked forward calmly to the time when the recognition of that truth and of his share in advancing it should give him in the lives of others that immortality for which alone he craved.

Lamarckian views have never lacked defenders here and in America. Of the English, Herbert Spencer, who however, was averse to the vitalistic attitude, Vines and Henslow among botanists, Cunningham among zoologists, have always resisted Weismannism; but, I think, none of these was distinctly influenced by Hering and Butler. In America the majority of the great school of palaeontologists have been strong Lamarckians, notably Cope, who has pointed out, moreover, that the transformations of energy in living beings are peculiar to them.

We have already adverted to Haeckel's acceptance and development of Hering's ideas in his "Perigenese der Plastidule." Oscar Hertwig has been a consistent Lamarckian, like Yves Delage of the Sorbonne, and these occupy pre-eminent positions not only as observers, but as discriminating theorists and historians of the recent progress of biology. We may also cite as a Lamarckian—of a sort—Felix Le Dantec, the leader of the chemico-physical school of the present day.

But we must seek elsewhere for special attention to the points which Butler regarded as the essentials of "Life and Habit." In 1893 Henry P. Orr, Professor of Biology in the University of Louisiana, published a little book entitled "A Theory of Heredity." Herein he insists on the nervous control of the whole body, and on the transmission to the reproductive cells of such stimuli, received by the body, as will guide them on their path until they shall have acquired adequate experience of their own in the new body they have formed. I have found the name of neither Butler nor Hering, but the treatment is essentially on their lines, and is both clear and interesting.

In 1896 I wrote an essay on "The Fundamental Principles of Heredity," primarily directed to the man in the street. This, after being held over for more than a year by one leading review, was "declined with regret," and again after some weeks met the same fate from another editor. It appeared in the pages of "Natural Science" for October, 1897, and in the "Biologisches Centralblatt" for the same year. I reproduce its closing paragraph:-

"This theory [Hering-Butler's] has, indeed, a tentative character, and lacks symmetrical completeness, but is the more welcome as not aiming at the impossible. A whole series of phenomena in organic beings are correlated under the term of MEMORY, CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS, PATENT AND LATENT. . . . Of the order of unconscious memory, latent till the arrival of the appropriate stimulus, is all the co-operative growth and work of the organism, including its development from the reproductive cells. Concerning the modus operandi we know nothing: the phenomena may be due, as Hering suggests, to molecular vibrations, which must be at least as distinct from ordinary physical disturbances as Rontgen's rays are from ordinary light; or it may be correlated, as we ourselves are inclined to think, with complex chemical changes in an intricate but orderly succession. For the present, at least, the problem of heredity can only be elucidated by the light of mental, and not material processes."

It will be seen that I express doubts as to the validity of Hering's invocation of molecular vibrations as the mechanism of memory, and suggest as an alternative rhythmic chemical changes. This view has recently been put forth in detail by J. J. Cunningham in his essay on the "Hormone {0f} Theory of Heredity," in the Archiv fur Entwicklungsmechanik (1909), but I have failed to note any direct effect of my essay on the trend of biological thought.

Among post-Darwinian controversies the one that has latterly assumed the greatest prominence is that of the relative importance of small variations in the way of more or less "fluctuations," and of "discontinuous variations," or "mutations," as De Vries has called them. Darwin, in the first four editions of the "Origin of Species," attached more importance to the latter than in subsequent editions; he was swayed in his attitude, as is well known, by an article of the physicist, Fleeming Jenkin, which appeared in the North British Review. The mathematics of this article were unimpeachable, but they were founded on the assumption that exceptional variations would only occur in single individuals, which is, indeed, often the case among those domesticated races on which Darwin especially studied the phenomena of variation. Darwin was no mathematician or physicist, and we are told in his biography that he regarded every tool-shop rule or optician's thermometer as an instrument of precision: so he appears to have regarded Fleeming Jenkin's demonstration as a mathematical deduction which he was bound to accept without criticism.

Mr. William Bateson, late Professor of Biology in the University of Cambridge, as early as 1894 laid great stress on the importance of discontinuous variations, collecting and collating the known facts in his "Materials for the Study of Variations"; but this important work, now become rare and valuable, at the time excited so little interest as to be 'remaindered' within a very few years after publication.

In 1901 Hugo De Vries, Professor of Botany in the University of Amsterdam, published "Die Mutationstheorie," wherein he showed that mutations or discontinuous variations in various directions may appear simultaneously in many individuals, and in various directions. In the gardener's phrase, the species may take to sporting in various directions at the same time, and each sport may be represented by numerous specimens.

De Vries shows the probability that species go on for long periods showing only fluctuations, and then suddenly take to sporting in the way described, short periods of mutation alternating with long intervals of relative constancy. It is to mutations that De Vries and his school, as well as Luther Burbank, the great former of new fruit- and flower-plants, look for those variations which form the material of Natural Selection. In "God the Known and God the Unknown," which appeared in the Examiner (May, June, and July), 1879, but though then revised was only published posthumously in 1909, Butler anticipates this distinction:-

"Under these circumstances organism must act in one or other of these two ways: it must either change slowly and continuously with the surroundings, paying cash for everything, meeting the smallest change with a corresponding modification, so far as is found convenient, or it must put off change as long as possible, and then make larger and more sweeping changes.

"Both these courses are the same in principle, the difference being one of scale, and the one being a miniature of the other, as a ripple is an Atlantic wave in little; both have their advantages and disadvantages, so that most organisms will take the one course for one set of things and the other for another. They will deal promptly with things which they can get at easily, and which lie more upon the surface; THOSE, HOWEVER, WHICH ARE MORE TROUBLESOME TO REACH, AND LIE DEEPER, WILL BE HANDLED UPON MORE CATACLYSMIC PRINCIPLES, BEING ALLOWED LONGER PERIODS OF REPOSE FOLLOWED BY SHORT PERIODS OF GREATER ACTIVITY . . . it may be questioned whether what is called a sport is not the organic expression of discontent which has been long felt, but which has not been attended to, nor been met step by step by as much small remedial modification as was found practicable: so that when a change does come it comes by way of revolution. Or, again (only that it comes to much the same thing), it may be compared to one of those happy thoughts which sometimes come to us unbidden after we have been thinking for a long time what to do, or how to arrange our ideas, and have yet been unable to come to any conclusion" (pp. 14, 15). {0g}

We come to another order of mind in Hans Driesch. At the time he began his work biologists were largely busy in a region indicated by Darwin, and roughly mapped out by Haeckel—that of phylogeny. From the facts of development of the individual, from the comparison of fossils in successive strata, they set to work at the construction of pedigrees, and strove to bring into line the principles of classification with the more or less hypothetical "stemtrees." Driesch considered this futile, since we never could reconstruct from such evidence anything certain in the history of the past. He therefore asserted that a more complete knowledge of the physics and chemistry of the organic world might give a scientific explanation of the phenomena, and maintained that the proper work of the biologist was to deepen our knowledge in these respects. He embodied his views, seeking the explanation on this track, filling up gaps and tracing projected roads along lines of probable truth in his "Analytische Theorie der organische Entwicklung." But his own work convinced him of the hopelessness of the task he had undertaken, and he has become as strenuous a vitalist as Butler. The most complete statement of his present views is to be found in "The Philosophy of Life" (1908-9), being the Giffold Lectures for 1907-8. Herein he postulates a quality ("psychoid") in all living beings, directing energy and matter for the purpose of the organism, and to this he applies the Aristotelian designation "Entelechy." The question of the transmission of acquired characters is regarded as doubtful, and he does not emphasise—if he accepts—the doctrine of continuous personality. His early youthful impatience with descent theories and hypotheses has, however, disappeared.

In the next work the influence of Hering and Butler is definitely present and recognised. In 1906 Signor Eugenio Rignano, an engineer keenly interested in all branches of science, and a little later the founder of the international review, Rivista di Scienza (now simply called Scientia), published in French a volume entitled "Sur la transmissibilite des Caracteres acquis—Hypothese d'un Centro- epigenese." Into the details of the author's work we will not enter fully. Suffice it to know that he accepts the Hering-Butler theory, and makes a distinct advance on Hering's rather crude hypothesis of persistent vibrations by suggesting that the remembering centres store slightly different forms of energy, to give out energy of the same kind as they have received, like electrical accumulators. The last chapter, "Le Phenomene mnemonique et le Phenomene vital," is frankly based on Hering.

In "The Lesson of Evolution" (1907, posthumous, and only published for private circulation) Frederick Wollaston Hutton, F.R.S., late Professor of Biology and Geology, first at Dunedin and after at Christchurch, New Zealand, puts forward a strongly vitalistic view, and adopts Hering's teaching. After stating this he adds, "The same idea of heredity being due to unconscious memory was advocated by Mr. Samuel Butler in his "Life and Habit."

Dr. James Mark Baldwin, Stuart Professor of Psychology in Princeton University, U.S.A., called attention early in the 90's to a reaction characteristic of all living beings, which he terms the "Circular Reaction." We take his most recent account of this from his "Development and Evolution" (1902):- {0h}

"The general fact is that the organism reacts by concentration upon the locality stimulated for the CONTINUANCE of the conditions, movements, stimulations, WHICH ARE VITALLY BENEFICIAL, and for the cessation of the conditions, movements, stimulations WHICH ARE VITALLY DEPRESSING."

This amounts to saying in the terminology of Jenning (see below) that the living organism alters its "physiological states" either for its direct benefit, or for its indirect benefit in the reduction of harmful conditions.


"This form of concentration of energy on stimulated localities, with the resulting renewal through movement of conditions that are pleasure-giving and beneficial, and the consequent repetition of the movements is called 'circular reaction.'"

Of course, the inhibition of such movements as would be painful on repetition is merely the negative case of the circular reaction. We must not put too much of our own ideas into the author's mind; he nowhere says explicitly that the animal or plant shows its sense and does this because it likes the one thing and wants it repeated, or dislikes the other and stops its repetition, as Butler would have said. Baldwin is very strong in insisting that no full explanation can be given of living processes, any more than of history, on purely chemico-physical grounds.

The same view is put differently and independently by H. S. Jennings, {0i} who started his investigations of living Protista, the simplest of living beings, with the idea that only accurate and ample observation was needed to enable us to explain all their activities on a mechanical basis, and devised ingenious models of protoplastic movements. He was led, like Driesch, to renounce such efforts as illusory, and has come to the conviction that in the behaviour of these lowly beings there is a purposive and a tentative character—a method of "trial and error"—that can only be interpreted by the invocation of psychology. He points out that after stimulation the "state" of the organism may be altered, so that the response to the same stimulus on repetition is other. Or, as he puts it, the first stimulus has caused the organism to pass into a new "physiological state." As the change of state from what we may call the "primary indifferent state" is advantageous to the organism, we may regard this as equivalent to the doctrine of the "circular reaction," and also as containing the essence of Semon's doctrine of "engrams" or imprints which we are about to consider. We cite one passage which for audacity of thought (underlying, it is true, most guarded expression) may well compare with many of the boldest flights in "Life and Habit":-

"It may be noted that regulation in the manner we have set forth is what, in the behaviour of higher organisms, at least, is called intelligence [the examples have been taken from Protista, Corals, and the Lowest Worms]. If the same method of regulation is found in other fields, there is no reason for refusing to compare the action to intelligence. Comparison of the regulatory processes that are shown in internal physiological changes and in regeneration to intelligence seems to be looked upon sometimes as heretical and unscientific. Yet intelligence is a name applied to processes that actually exist in the regulation of movements, and there is, a priori, no reason why similar processes should not occur in regulation in other fields. When we analyse regulation objectively there seems indeed reason to think that the processes are of the same character in behaviour as elsewhere. If the term intelligence be reserved for the subjective accompaniments of such regulation, then of course we have no direct knowledge of its existence in any of the fields of regulation outside of the self, and in the self perhaps only in behaviour. But in a purely objective consideration there seems no reason to suppose that regulation in behaviour (intelligence) is of a fundamentally different character from regulation elsewhere." ("Method of Regulation," p. 492.)

Jennings makes no mention of questions of the theory of heredity. He has made some experiments on the transmission of an acquired character in Protozoa; but it was a mutilation-character, which is, as has been often shown, {0j} not to the point.

One of the most obvious criticisms of Hering's exposition is based upon the extended use he makes of the word "Memory": this he had foreseen and deprecated.

"We have a perfect right," he says, "to extend our conception of memory so as to make it embrace involuntary [and also unconscious] reproductions of sensations, ideas, perceptions, and efforts; but we find, on having done so, that we have so far enlarged her boundaries that she proves to be an ultimate and original power, the source and, at the same time, the unifying bond, of our whole conscious life." ("Unconscious Memory," p. 68.)

This sentence, coupled with Hering's omission to give to the concept of memory so enlarged a new name, clear alike of the limitations and of the stains of habitual use, may well have been the inspiration of the next work on our list. Richard Semon is a professional zoologist and anthropologist of such high status for his original observations and researches in the mere technical sense, that in these countries he would assuredly have been acclaimed as one of the Fellows of the Royal Society who were Samuel Butler's special aversion. The full title of his book is "DIE MNEME als erhaltende Prinzip im Wechsel des organischen Geschehens" (Munich, Ed. 1, 1904; Ed. 2, 1908). We may translate it "MNEME, a Principle of Conservation in the Transformations of Organic Existence."

From this I quote in free translation the opening passage of Chapter II:-

"We have shown that in very many cases, whether in Protist, Plant, or Animal, when an organism has passed into an indifferent state after the reaction to a stimulus has ceased, its irritable substance has suffered a lasting change: I call this after-action of the stimulus its 'imprint' or 'engraphic' action, since it penetrates and imprints itself in the organic substance; and I term the change so effected an 'imprint' or 'engram' of the stimulus; and the sum of all the imprints possessed by the organism may be called its 'store of imprints,' wherein we must distinguish between those which it has inherited from its forbears and those which it has acquired itself. Any phenomenon displayed by an organism as the result either of a single imprint or of a sum of them, I term a 'mnemic phenomenon'; and the mnemic possibilities of an organism may be termed, collectively, its 'MNEME.'

"I have selected my own terms for the concepts that I have just defined. On many grounds I refrain from making any use of the good German terms 'Gedachtniss, Erinnerungsbild.' The first and chiefest ground is that for my purpose I should have to employ the German words in a much wider sense than what they usually convey, and thus leave the door open to countless misunderstandings and idle controversies. It would, indeed, even amount to an error of fact to give to the wider concept the name already current in the narrower sense—nay, actually limited, like 'Erinnerungsbild,' to phenomena of consciousness. . . . In Animals, during the course of history, one set of organs has, so to speak, specialised itself for the reception and transmission of stimuli—the Nervous System. But from this specialisation we are not justified in ascribing to the nervous system any monopoly of the function, even when it is as highly developed as in Man. . . . Just as the direct excitability of the nervous system has progressed in the history of the race, so has its capacity for receiving imprints; but neither susceptibility nor retentiveness is its monopoly; and, indeed, retentiveness seems inseparable from susceptibility in living matter."

Semen here takes the instance of stimulus and imprint actions affecting the nervous system of a dog

"who has up till now never experienced aught but kindness from the Lord of Creation, and then one day that he is out alone is pelted with stones by a boy. . . . Here he is affected at once by two sets of stimuli: (1) the optic stimulus of seeing the boy stoop for stones and throw them, and (2) the skin stimulus of the pain felt when they hit him. Here both stimuli leave their imprints; and the organism is permanently changed in relation to the recurrence of the stimuli. Hitherto the sight of a human figure quickly stooping had produced no constant special reaction. Now the reaction is constant, and may remain so till death. . . . The dog tucks in its tail between its legs and takes flight, often with a howl [as of] pain."

"Here we gain on one side a deeper insight into the imprint action of stimuli. It reposes on the lasting change in the conditions of the living matter, so that the repetition of the immediate or synchronous reaction to its first stimulus (in this case the stooping of the boy, the flying stones, and the pain on the ribs), no longer demands, as in the original state of indifference, the full stimulus a, but may be called forth by a partial or different stimulus, b (in this case the mere stooping to the ground). I term the influences by which such changed reaction are rendered possible, 'outcome-reactions,' and when such influences assume the form of stimuli, 'outcome-stimuli.'

They are termed "outcome" ("ecphoria") stimuli, because the author regards them and would have us regard them as the outcome, manifestation, or efference of an imprint of a previous stimulus. We have noted that the imprint is equivalent to the changed "physiological state" of Jennings. Again, the capacity for gaining imprints and revealing them by outcomes favourable to the individual is the "circular reaction" of Baldwin, but Semon gives no reference to either author. {0k}

In the preface to his first edition (reprinted in the second) Semon writes, after discussing the work of Hering and Haeckel:-

"The problem received a more detailed treatment in Samuel Butler's book, 'Life and Habit,' published in 1878. Though he only made acquaintance with Hering's essay after this publication, Butler gave what was in many respects a more detailed view of the coincidences of these different phenomena of organic reproduction than did Hering. With much that is untenable, Butler's writings present many a brilliant idea; yet, on the whole, they are rather a retrogression than an advance upon Hering. Evidently they failed to exercise any marked influence upon the literature of the day."

This judgment needs a little examination. Butler claimed, justly, that his "Life and Habit" was an advance on Hering in its dealing with questions of hybridity, and of longevity puberty and sterility. Since Semon's extended treatment of the phenomena of crosses might almost be regarded as the rewriting of the corresponding section of "Life and Habit" in the "Mneme" terminology, we may infer that this view of the question was one of Butler's "brilliant ideas." That Butler shrank from accepting such a formal explanation of memory as Hering did with his hypothesis should certainly be counted as a distinct "advance upon Hering," for Semon also avoids any attempt at an explanation of "Mneme." I think, however, we may gather the real meaning of Semon's strictures from the following passages:-

"I refrain here from a discussion of the development of this theory of Lamarck's by those Neo-Lamarckians who would ascribe to the individual elementary organism an equipment of complex psychical powers—so to say, anthropomorphic perception and volitions. This treatment is no longer directed by the scientific principle of referring complex phenomena to simpler laws, of deducing even human intellect and will from simpler elements. On the contrary, they follow that most abhorrent method of taking the most complex and unresolved as a datum, and employing it as an explanation. The adoption of such a method, as formerly by Samuel Butler, and recently by Pauly, I regard as a big and dangerous step backward" (ed. 2, pp. 380-1, note).

Thus Butler's alleged retrogressions belong to the same order of thinking that we have seen shared by Driesch, Baldwin, and Jennings, and most explicitly avowed, as we shall see, by Francis Darwin. Semon makes one rather candid admission, "The impossibility of interpreting the phenomena of physiological stimulation by those of direct reaction, and the undeception of those who had put faith in this being possible, have led many on the BACKWARD PATH OF VITALISM." Semon assuredly will never be able to complete his theory of "Mneme" until, guided by the experience of Jennings and Driesch, he forsakes the blind alley of mechanisticism and retraces his steps to reasonable vitalism.

But the most notable publications bearing on our matter are incidental to the Darwin Celebrations of 1908-9. Dr. Francis Darwin, son, collaborator, and biographer of Charles Darwin, was selected to preside over the Meeting of the British Association held in Dublin in 1908, the jubilee of the first publications on Natural Selection by his father and Alfred Russel Wallace. In this address we find the theory of Hering, Butler, Rignano, and Semon taking its proper place as a vera causa of that variation which Natural Selection must find before it can act, and recognised as the basis of a rational theory of the development of the individual and of the race. The organism is essentially purposive: the impossibility of devising any adequate accounts of organic form and function without taking account of the psychical side is most strenuously asserted. And with our regret that past misunderstandings should be so prominent in Butler's works, it was very pleasant to hear Francis Darwin's quotation from Butler's translation of Hering {0l} followed by a personal tribute to Butler himself.

In commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Charles Darwin and of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the "Origin of Species," at the suggestion of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, the University Press published during the current year a volume entitled "Darwin and Modern Science," edited by Mr. A. C. Seward, Professor of Botany in the University. Of the twenty-nine essays by men of science of the highest distinction, one is of peculiar interest to the readers of Samuel Butler: "Heredity and Variation in Modern Lights," by Professor W. Bateson, F.R.S., to whose work on "Discontinuous Variations" we have already referred. Here once more Butler receives from an official biologist of the first rank full recognition for his wonderful insight and keen critical power. This is the more noteworthy because Bateson has apparently no faith in the transmission of acquired characters; but such a passage as this would have commended itself to Butler's admiration:-

"All this indicates a definiteness and specific order in heredity, and therefore in variation. This order cannot by the nature of the case be dependent on Natural Selection for its existence, but must be a consequence of the fundamental chemical and physical nature of living things. The study of Variation had from the first shown that an orderliness of this kind was present. The bodies and properties of living things are cosmic, not chaotic. No matter how low in the scale we go, never do we find the slightest hint of a diminution in that all-pervading orderliness, nor can we conceive an organism existing for one moment in any other state."

We have now before us the materials to determine the problem of Butler's relation to biology and to biologists. He was, we have seen, anticipated by Hering; but his attitude was his own, fresh and original. He did not hamper his exposition, like Hering, by a subsidiary hypothesis of vibrations which may or may not be true, which burdens the theory without giving it greater carrying power or persuasiveness, which is based on no objective facts, and which, as Semon has practically demonstrated, is needless for the detailed working out of the theory. Butler failed to impress the biologists of his day, even those on whom, like Romanes, he might have reasonably counted for understanding and for support. But he kept alive Hering's work when it bade fair to sink into the limbo of obsolete hypotheses. To use Oliver Wendell Holmes's phrase, he "depolarised" evolutionary thought. We quote the words of a young biologist, who, when an ardent and dogmatic Weismannist of the most pronounced type, was induced to read "Life and Habit": "The book was to me a transformation and an inspiration." Such learned writings as Semon's or Hering's could never produce such an effect: they do not penetrate to the heart of man; they cannot carry conviction to the intellect already filled full with rival theories, and with the unreasoned faith that to-morrow or next day a new discovery will obliterate all distinction between Man and his makings. The mind must needs be open for the reception of truth, for the rejection of prejudice; and the violence of a Samuel Butler may in the future as in the past be needed to shatter the coat of mail forged by too exclusively professional a training.

MARCUS HARTOG Cork, April, 1910


Not finding the "well-known German scientific journal Kosmos" {0m} entered in the British Museum Catalogue, I have presented the Museum with a copy of the number for February 1879, which contains the article by Dr. Krause of which Mr. Charles Darwin has given a translation, the accuracy of which is guaranteed—so he informs us— by the translator's "scientific reputation together with his knowledge of German." {0n}

I have marked the copy, so that the reader can see at a glance what passages has been suppressed and where matter has been interpolated.

I have also present a copy of "Erasmus Darwin." I have marked this too, so that the genuine and spurious passages can be easily distinguished.

I understand that both the "Erasmus Darwin" and the number of Kosmos have been sent to the Keeper of Printed Books, with instructions that they shall be at once catalogued and made accessible to readers, and do not doubt that this will have been done before the present volume is published. The reader, therefore, who may be sufficiently interested in the matter to care to see exactly what has been done will now have an opportunity of doing so.

October 25, 1880.


Introduction—General ignorance on the subject of evolution at the time the "Origin of Species" was published in 1859.

There are few things which strike us with more surprise, when we review the course taken by opinion in the last century, than the suddenness with which belief in witchcraft and demoniacal possession came to an end. This has been often remarked upon, but I am not acquainted with any record of the fact as it appeared to those under whose eyes the change was taking place, nor have I seen any contemporary explanation of the reasons which led to the apparently sudden overthrow of a belief which had seemed hitherto to be deeply rooted in the minds of almost all men. As a parallel to this, though in respect of the rapid spread of an opinion, and not its decadence, it is probable that those of our descendants who take an interest in ourselves will note the suddenness with which the theory of evolution, from having been generally ridiculed during a period of over a hundred years, came into popularity and almost universal acceptance among educated people.

It is indisputable that this has been the case; nor is it less indisputable that the works of Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace have been the main agents in the change that has been brought about in our opinions. The names of Cobden and Bright do not stand more prominently forward in connection with the repeal of the Corn Laws than do those of Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace in connection with the general acceptance of the theory of evolution. There is no living philosopher who has anything like Mr. Darwin's popularity with Englishmen generally; and not only this, but his power of fascination extends all over Europe, and indeed in every country in which civilisation has obtained footing: not among the illiterate masses, though these are rapidly following the suit of the educated classes, but among experts and those who are most capable of judging. France, indeed—the country of Buffon and Lamarck—must be counted an exception to the general rule, but in England and Germany there are few men of scientific reputation who do not accept Mr. Darwin as the founder of what is commonly called "Darwinism," and regard him as perhaps the most penetrative and profound philosopher of modern times.

To quote an example from the last few weeks only, {2} I have observed that Professor Huxley has celebrated the twenty-first year since the "Origin of Species" was published by a lecture at the Royal Institution, and am told that he described Mr. Darwin's candour as something actually "terrible" (I give Professor Huxley's own word, as reported by one who heard it); and on opening a small book entitled "Degeneration," by Professor Ray Lankester, published a few days before these lines were written, I find the following passage amid more that is to the same purport:-

"Suddenly one of those great guesses which occasionally appear in the history of science was given to the science of biology by the imaginative insight of that greatest of living naturalists—I would say that greatest of living men—Charles Darwin."—Degeneration, p. 10.

This is very strong language, but it is hardly stronger than that habitually employed by the leading men of science when they speak of Mr. Darwin. To go farther afield, in February 1879 the Germans devoted an entire number of one of their scientific periodicals {3} to the celebration of Mr. Darwin's seventieth birthday. There is no other Englishman now living who has been able to win such a compliment as this from foreigners, who should be disinterested judges.

Under these circumstances, it must seem the height of presumption to differ from so great an authority, and to join the small band of malcontents who hold that Mr. Darwin's reputation as a philosopher, though it has grown up with the rapidity of Jonah's gourd, will yet not be permanent. I believe, however, that though we must always gladly and gratefully owe it to Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace that the public mind has been brought to accept evolution, the admiration now generally felt for the "Origin of Species" will appear as unaccountable to our descendants some fifty or eighty years hence as the enthusiasm of our grandfathers for the poetry of Dr. Erasmus Darwin does to ourselves; and as one who has yielded to none in respect of the fascination Mr. Darwin has exercised over him, I would fain say a few words of explanation which may make the matter clearer to our future historians. I do this the more readily because I can at the same time explain thus better than in any other way the steps which led me to the theory which I afterwards advanced in "Life and Habit."

This last, indeed, is perhaps the main purpose of the earlier chapters of this book. I shall presently give a translation of a lecture by Professor Ewald Hering of Prague, which appeared ten years ago, and which contains so exactly the theory I subsequently advocated myself, that I am half uneasy lest it should be supposed that I knew of Professor Hering's work and made no reference to it. A friend to whom I submitted my translation in MS., asking him how closely he thought it resembled "Life and Habit," wrote back that it gave my own ideas almost in my own words. As far as the ideas are concerned this is certainly the case, and considering that Professor Hering wrote between seven and eight years before I did, I think it due to him, and to my readers as well as to myself, to explain the steps which led me to my conclusions, and, while putting Professor Hering's lecture before them, to show cause for thinking that I arrived at an almost identical conclusion, as it would appear, by an almost identical road, yet, nevertheless, quite independently, I must ask the reader, therefore, to regard these earlier chapters as in some measure a personal explanation, as well as a contribution to the history of an important feature in the developments of the last twenty years. I hope also, by showing the steps by which I was led to my conclusions, to make the conclusions themselves more acceptable and easy of comprehension.

Being on my way to New Zealand when the "Origin of Species" appeared, I did not get it till 1860 or 1861. When I read it, I found "the theory of natural selection" repeatedly spoken of as though it were a synonym for "the theory of descent with modification"; this is especially the case in the recapitulation chapter of the work. I failed to see how important it was that these two theories—if indeed "natural selection" can be called a theory—should not be confounded together, and that a "theory of descent with modification" might be true, while a "theory of descent with modification through natural selection" {4} might not stand being looked into.

If any one had asked me to state in brief what Mr. Darwin's theory was, I am afraid I might have answered "natural selection," or "descent with modification," whichever came first, as though the one meant much the same as the other. I observe that most of the leading writers on the subject are still unable to catch sight of the distinction here alluded to, and console myself for my want of acumen by reflecting that, if I was misled, I was misled in good company.

I—and I may add, the public generally—failed also to see what the unaided reader who was new to the subject would be almost certain to overlook. I mean, that, according to Mr. Darwin, the variations whose accumulation resulted in diversity of species and genus were indefinite, fortuitous, attributable but in small degree to any known causes, and without a general principle underlying them which would cause them to appear steadily in a given direction for many successive generations and in a considerable number of individuals at the same time. We did not know that the theory of evolution was one that had been quietly but steadily gaining ground during the last hundred years. Buffon we knew by name, but he sounded too like "buffoon" for any good to come from him. We had heard also of Lamarck, and held him to be a kind of French Lord Monboddo; but we knew nothing of his doctrine save through the caricatures promulgated by his opponents, or the misrepresentations of those who had another kind of interest in disparaging him. Dr. Erasmus Darwin we believed to be a forgotten minor poet, but ninety-nine out of every hundred of us had never so much as heard of the "Zoonomia." We were little likely, therefore, to know that Lamarck drew very largely from Buffon, and probably also from Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and that this last-named writer, though essentially original, was founded upon Buffon, who was greatly more in advance of any predecessor than any successor has been in advance of him.

We did not know, then, that according to the earlier writers the variations whose accumulation results in species were not fortuitous and definite, but were due to a known principle of universal application—namely, "sense of need"—or apprehend the difference between a theory of evolution which has a backbone, as it were, in the tolerably constant or slowly varying needs of large numbers of individuals for long periods together, and one which has no such backbone, but according to which the progress of one generation is always liable to be cancelled and obliterated by that of the next. We did not know that the new theory in a quiet way professed to tell us less than the old had done, and declared that it could throw little if any light upon the matter which the earlier writers had endeavoured to illuminate as the central point in their system. We took it for granted that more light must be being thrown instead of less; and reading in perfect good faith, we rose from our perusal with the impression that Mr. Darwin was advocating the descent of all existing forms of life from a single, or from, at any rate, a very few primordial types; that no one else had done this hitherto, or that, if they had, they had got the whole subject into a mess, which mess, whatever it was—for we were never told this—was now being removed once for all by Mr. Darwin.

The evolution part of the story, that is to say, the fact of evolution, remained in our minds as by far the most prominent feature in Mr. Darwin's book; and being grateful for it, we were very ready to take Mr. Darwin's work at the estimate tacitly claimed for it by himself, and vehemently insisted upon by reviewers in influential journals, who took much the same line towards the earlier writers on evolution as Mr. Darwin himself had taken. But perhaps nothing more prepossessed us in Mr. Darwin's favour than the air of candour that was omnipresent throughout his work. The prominence given to the arguments of opponents completely carried us away; it was this which threw us off our guard. It never occurred to us that there might be other and more dangerous opponents who were not brought forward. Mr. Darwin did not tell us what his grandfather and Lamarck would have had to say to this or that. Moreover, there was an unobtrusive parade of hidden learning and of difficulties at last overcome which was particularly grateful to us. Whatever opinion might be ultimately come to concerning the value of his theory, there could be but one about the value of the example he had set to men of science generally by the perfect frankness and unselfishness of his work. Friends and foes alike combined to do homage to Mr. Darwin in this respect.

For, brilliant as the reception of the "Origin of Species" was, it met in the first instance with hardly less hostile than friendly criticism. But the attacks were ill-directed; they came from a suspected quarter, and those who led them did not detect more than the general public had done what were the really weak places in Mr. Darwin's armour. They attacked him where he was strongest; and above all, they were, as a general rule, stamped with a disingenuousness which at that time we believed to be peculiar to theological writers and alien to the spirit of science. Seeing, therefore, that the men of science ranged themselves more and more decidedly on Mr. Darwin's side, while his opponents had manifestly—so far as I can remember, all the more prominent among them—a bias to which their hostility was attributable, we left off looking at the arguments against "Darwinism," as we now began to call it, and pigeon-holed the matter to the effect that there was one evolution, and that Mr. Darwin was its prophet.

The blame of our errors and oversights rests primarily with Mr. Darwin himself. The first, and far the most important, edition of the "Origin of Species" came out as a kind of literary Melchisedec, without father and without mother in the works of other people. Here is its opening paragraph:-

"When on board H.M.S. 'Beagle' as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species—that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting upon all sorts of facts which could possibly have any bearing on it. After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions which then seemed to me probable: from that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. I hope that I may be excused for entering on these personal details, as I give them to show that I have not been hasty in coming to a decision." {8a}

In the latest edition this passage remains unaltered, except in one unimportant respect. What could more completely throw us off the scent of the earlier writers? If they had written anything worthy of our attention, or indeed if there had been any earlier writers at all, Mr. Darwin would have been the first to tell us about them, and to award them their due meed of recognition. But, no; the whole thing was an original growth in Mr. Darwin's mind, and he had never so much as heard of his grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin.

Dr. Krause, indeed, thought otherwise. In the number of Kosmos for February 1879 he represented Mr. Darwin as in his youth approaching the works of his grandfather with all the devotion which people usually feel for the writings of a renowned poet. {8b} This should perhaps be a delicately ironical way of hinting that Mr. Darwin did not read his grandfather's books closely; but I hardly think that Dr. Krause looked at the matter in this light, for he goes on to say that "almost every single work of the younger Darwin may be paralleled by at least a chapter in the works of his ancestor: the mystery of heredity, adaptation, the protective arrangements of animals and plants, sexual selection, insectivorous plants, and the analysis of the emotions and sociological impulses; nay, even the studies on infants are to be found already discussed in the pages of the elder Darwin." {8c}

Nevertheless, innocent as Mr. Darwin's opening sentence appeared, it contained enough to have put us upon our guard. When he informed us that, on his return from a long voyage, "it occurred to" him that the way to make anything out about his subject was to collect and reflect upon the facts that bore upon it, it should have occurred to us in our turn, that when people betray a return of consciousness upon such matters as this, they are on the confines of that state in which other and not less elementary matters will not "occur to" them. The introduction of the word "patiently" should have been conclusive. I will not analyse more of the sentence, but will repeat the next two lines:- "After five years of work, I allowed myself to speculate upon the subject, and drew up some short notes." We read this, thousands of us, and were blind.

If Dr. Erasmus Darwin's name was not mentioned in the first edition of the "Origin of Species," we should not be surprised at there being no notice taken of Buffon, or at Lamarck's being referred to only twice—on the first occasion to be serenely waved aside, he and all his works; {9a} on the second, {9b} to be commended on a point of detail. The author of the "Vestiges of Creation" was more widely known to English readers, having written more recently and nearer home. He was dealt with summarily, on an early and prominent page, by a misrepresentation, which was silently expunged in later editions of the "Origin of Species." In his later editions (I believe first in his third, when 6000 copies had been already sold), Mr. Darwin did indeed introduce a few pages in which he gave what he designated as a "brief but imperfect sketch" of the progress of opinion on the origin of species prior to the appearance of his own work; but the general impression which a book conveys to, and leaves upon, the public is conveyed by the first edition—the one which is alone, with rare exceptions, reviewed; and in the first edition of the "Origin of Species" Mr. Darwin's great precursors were all either ignored or misrepresented. Moreover, the "brief but imperfect sketch," when it did come, was so very brief, but, in spite of this (for this is what I suppose Mr. Darwin must mean), so very imperfect, that it might as well have been left unwritten for all the help it gave the reader to see the true question at issue between the original propounders of the theory of evolution and Mr. Charles Darwin himself.

That question is this: Whether variation is in the main attributable to a known general principle, or whether it is not?—whether the minute variations whose accumulation results in specific and generic differences are referable to something which will ensure their appearing in a certain definite direction, or in certain definite directions, for long periods together, and in many individuals, or whether they are not?—whether, in a word, these variations are in the main definite or indefinite?

It is observable that the leading men of science seem rarely to understand this even now. I am told that Professor Huxley, in his recent lecture on the coming of age of the "Origin of Species," never so much as alluded to the existence of any such division of opinion as this. He did not even, I am assured, mention "natural selection," but appeared to believe, with Professor Tyndall, {10a} that "evolution" is "Mr. Darwin's theory." In his article on evolution in the latest edition of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," I find only a veiled perception of the point wherein Mr. Darwin is at variance with his precursors. Professor Huxley evidently knows little of these writers beyond their names; if he had known more, it is impossible he should have written that "Buffon contributed nothing to the general doctrine of evolution," {10b} and that Erasmus Darwin, "though a zealous evolutionist, can hardly be said to have made any real advance on his predecessors." {11} The article is in a high degree unsatisfactory, and betrays at once an amount of ignorance and of perception which leaves an uncomfortable impression.

If this is the state of things that prevails even now, it is not surprising that in 1860 the general public should, with few exceptions, have known of only one evolution, namely, that propounded by Mr. Darwin. As a member of the general public, at that time residing eighteen miles from the nearest human habitation, and three days' journey on horseback from a bookseller's shop, I became one of Mr. Darwin's many enthusiastic admirers, and wrote a philosophical dialogue (the most offensive form, except poetry and books of travel into supposed unknown countries, that even literature can assume) upon the "Origin of Species." This production appeared in the Press, Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1861 or 1862, but I have long lost the only copy I had.


How I came to write "Life and Habit," and the circumstances of its completion.

It was impossible, however, for Mr. Darwin's readers to leave the matter as Mr. Darwin had left it. We wanted to know whence came that germ or those germs of life which, if Mr. Darwin was right, were once the world's only inhabitants. They could hardly have come hither from some other world; they could not in their wet, cold, slimy state have travelled through the dry ethereal medium which we call space, and yet remained alive. If they travelled slowly, they would die; if fast, they would catch fire, as meteors do on entering the earth's atmosphere. The idea, again, of their having been created by a quasi-anthropomorphic being out of the matter upon the earth was at variance with the whole spirit of evolution, which indicated that no such being could exist except as himself the result, and not the cause, of evolution. Having got back from ourselves to the monad, we were suddenly to begin again with something which was either unthinkable, or was only ourselves again upon a larger scale—to return to the same point as that from which we had started, only made harder for us to stand upon.

There was only one other conception possible, namely, that the germs had been developed in the course of time from some thing or things that were not what we called living at all; that they had grown up, in fact, out of the material substances and forces of the world in some manner more or less analogous to that in which man had been developed from themselves.

I first asked myself whether life might not, after all, resolve itself into the complexity of arrangement of an inconceivably intricate mechanism. Kittens think our shoe-strings are alive when they see us lacing them, because they see the tag at the end jump about without understanding all the ins and outs of how it comes to do so. "Of course," they argue, "if we cannot understand how a thing comes to move, it must move of itself, for there can be no motion beyond our comprehension but what is spontaneous; if the motion is spontaneous, the thing moving must he alive, for nothing can move of itself or without our understanding why unless it is alive. Everything that is alive and not too large can be tortured, and perhaps eaten; let us therefore spring upon the tag" and they spring upon it. Cats are above this; yet give the cat something which presents a few more of those appearances which she is accustomed to see whenever she sees life, and she will fall as easy a prey to the power which association exercises over all that lives as the kitten itself. Show her a toy-mouse that can run a few yards after being wound up; the form, colour, and action of a mouse being here, there is no good cat which will not conclude that so many of the appearances of mousehood could not be present at the same time without the presence also of the remainder. She will, therefore, spring upon the toy as eagerly as the kitten upon the tag.

Suppose the toy more complex still, so that it might run a few yards, stop, and run on again without an additional winding up; and suppose it so constructed that it could imitate eating and drinking, and could make as though the mouse were cleaning its face with its paws. Should we not at first be taken in ourselves, and assume the presence of the remaining facts of life, though in reality they were not there? Query, therefore, whether a machine so complex as to be prepared with a corresponding manner of action for each one of the successive emergencies of life as it arose, would not take us in for good and all, and look so much as if it were alive that, whether we liked it or not, we should be compelled to think it and call it so; and whether the being alive was not simply the being an exceedingly complicated machine, whose parts were set in motion by the action upon them of exterior circumstances; whether, in fact, man was not a kind of toy-mouse in the shape of a man, only capable of going for seventy or eighty years, instead of half as many seconds, and as much more versatile as he is more durable? Of course I had an uneasy feeling that if I thus made all plants and men into machines, these machines must have what all other machines have if they are machines at all—a designer, and some one to wind them up and work them; but I thought this might wait for the present, and was perfectly ready then, as now, to accept a designer from without, if the facts upon examination rendered such a belief reasonable.

If, then, men were not really alive after all, but were only machines of so complicated a make that it was less trouble to us to cut the difficulty and say that that kind of mechanism was "being alive," why should not machines ultimately become as complicated as we are, or at any rate complicated enough to be called living, and to be indeed as living as it was in the nature of anything at all to be? If it was only a case of their becoming more complicated, we were certainly doing our best to make them so.

I do not suppose I at that time saw that this view comes to much the same as denying that there are such qualities as life and consciousness at all, and that this, again, works round to the assertion of their omnipresence in every molecule of matter, inasmuch as it destroys the separation between the organic and inorganic, and maintains that whatever the organic is the inorganic is also. Deny it in theory as much as we please, we shall still always feel that an organic body, unless dead, is living and conscious to a greater or less degree. Therefore, if we once break down the wall of partition between the organic and inorganic, the inorganic must be living and conscious also, up to a certain point.

I have been at work on this subject now for nearly twenty years, what I have published being only a small part of what I have written and destroyed. I cannot, therefore, remember exactly how I stood in 1863. Nor can I pretend to see far into the matter even now; for when I think of life, I find it so difficult, that I take refuge in death or mechanism; and when I think of death or mechanism, I find it so inconceivable, that it is easier to call it life again. The only thing of which I am sure is, that the distinction between the organic and inorganic is arbitrary; that it is more coherent with our other ideas, and therefore more acceptable, to start with every molecule as a living thing, and then deduce death as the breaking up of an association or corporation, than to start with inanimate molecules and smuggle life into them; and that, therefore, what we call the inorganic world must be regarded as up to a certain point living, and instinct, within certain limits, with consciousness, volition, and power of concerted action. It is only of late, however, that I have come to this opinion.

One must start with a hypothesis, no matter how much one distrusts it; so I started with man as a mechanism, this being the strand of the knot that I could then pick at most easily. Having worked upon it a certain time, I drew the inference about machines becoming animate, and in 1862 or 1863 wrote the sketch of the chapter on machines which I afterwards rewrote in "Erewhon." This sketch appeared in the Press, Canterbury, N.Z., June 13, 1863; a copy of it is in the British Museum.

I soon felt that though there was plenty of amusement to be got out of this line, it was one that I should have to leave sooner or later; I therefore left it at once for the view that machines were limbs which we had made, and carried outside our bodies instead of incorporating them with ourselves. A few days or weeks later than June 13, 1863, I published a second letter in the Press putting this view forward. Of this letter I have lost the only copy I had; I have not seen it for years. The first was certainly not good; the second, if I remember rightly, was a good deal worse, though I believed more in the views it put forward than in those of the first letter. I had lost my copy before I wrote "Erewhon," and therefore only gave a couple of pages to it in that book; besides, there was more amusement in the other view. I should perhaps say there was an intermediate extension of the first letter which appeared in the Reasoner, July 1, 1865.

In 1870 and 1871, when I was writing "Erewhon," I thought the best way of looking at machines was to see them as limbs which we had made and carried about with us or left at home at pleasure. I was not, however, satisfied, and should have gone on with the subject at once if I had not been anxious to write "The Fair Haven," a book which is a development of a pamphlet I wrote in New Zealand and published in London in 1865.

As soon as I had finished this, I returned to the old subject, on which I had already been engaged for nearly a dozen years as continuously as other business would allow, and proposed to myself to see not only machines as limbs, but also limbs as machines. I felt immediately that I was upon firmer ground. The use of the word "organ" for a limb told its own story; the word could not have become so current under this meaning unless the idea of a limb as a tool or machine had been agreeable to common sense. What would follow, then, if we regarded our limbs and organs as things that we had ourselves manufactured for our convenience?

The first question that suggested itself was, how did we come to make them without knowing anything about it? And this raised another, namely, how comes anybody to do anything unconsciously? The answer "habit" was not far to seek. But can a person be said to do a thing by force of habit or routine when it is his ancestors, and not he, that has done it hitherto? Not unless he and his ancestors are one and the same person. Perhaps, then, they ARE the same person after all. What is sameness? I remembered Bishop Butler's sermon on "Personal Identity," read it again, and saw very plainly that if a man of eighty may consider himself identical with the baby from whom he has developed, so that he may say, "I am the person who at six months old did this or that," then the baby may just as fairly claim identity with its father and mother, and say to its parents on being born, "I was you only a few months ago." By parity of reasoning each living form now on the earth must be able to claim identity with each generation of its ancestors up to the primordial cell inclusive.

Again, if the octogenarian may claim personal identity with the infant, the infant may certainly do so with the impregnate ovum from which it has developed. If so, the octogenarian will prove to have been a fish once in this his present life. This is as certain as that he was living yesterday, and stands on exactly the same foundation.

I am aware that Professor Huxley maintains otherwise. He writes: "It is not true, for example, . . . that a reptile was ever a fish, but it is true that the reptile embryo" (and what is said here of the reptile holds good also for the human embryo), "at one stage of its development, is an organism, which, if it had an independent existence, must be classified among fishes." {17}

This is like saying, "It is not true that such and such a picture was rejected for the Academy, but it is true that it was submitted to the President and Council of the Royal Academy, with a view to acceptance at their next forthcoming annual exhibition, and that the President and Council regretted they were unable through want of space, &c., &c." —and as much more as the reader chooses. I shall venture, therefore, to stick to it that the octogenarian was once a fish, or if Professor Huxley prefers it, "an organism which must be classified among fishes."

But if a man was a fish once, he may have been a fish a million times over, for aught he knows; for he must admit that his conscious recollection is at fault, and has nothing whatever to do with the matter, which must be decided, not, as it were, upon his own evidence as to what deeds he may or may not recollect having executed, but by the production of his signatures in court, with satisfactory proof that he has delivered each document as his act and deed.

This made things very much simpler. The processes of embryonic development, and instinctive actions, might be now seen as repetitions of the same kind of action by the same individual in successive generations. It was natural, therefore, that they should come in the course of time to be done unconsciously, and a consideration of the most obvious facts of memory removed all further doubt that habit—which is based on memory—was at the bottom of all the phenomena of heredity.

I had got to this point about the spring of 1874, and had begun to write, when I was compelled to go to Canada, and for the next year and a half did hardly any writing. The first passage in "Life and Habit" which I can date with certainty is the one on page 52, which runs as follows:-

"It is one against legion when a man tries to differ from his own past selves. He must yield or die if he wants to differ widely, so as to lack natural instincts, such as hunger or thirst, and not to gratify them. It is more righteous in a man that he should 'eat strange food,' and that his cheek should 'so much as lank not,' than that he should starve if the strange food be at his command. His past selves are living in him at this moment with the accumulated life of centuries. 'Do this, this, this, which we too have done, and found out profit in it,' cry the souls of his forefathers within him. Faint are the far ones, coming and going as the sound of bells wafted on to a high mountain; loud and clear are the near ones, urgent as an alarm of fire."

This was written a few days after my arrival in Canada, June 1874. I was on Montreal mountain for the first time, and was struck with its extreme beauty. It was a magnificent Summer's evening; the noble St. Lawrence flowed almost immediately beneath, and the vast expanse of country beyond it was suffused with a colour which even Italy cannot surpass. Sitting down for a while, I began making notes for "Life and Habit," of which I was then continually thinking, and had written the first few lines of the above, when the bells of Notre Dame in Montreal began to ring, and their sound was carried to and fro in a remarkably beautiful manner. I took advantage of the incident to insert then and there the last lines of the piece just quoted. I kept the whole passage with hardly any alteration, and am thus able to date it accurately.

Though so occupied in Canada that writing a book was impossible, I nevertheless got many notes together for future use. I left Canada at the end of 1875, and early in 1876 began putting these notes into more coherent form. I did this in thirty pages of closely written matter, of which a pressed copy remains in my commonplace-book. I find two dates among them—the first, "Sunday, Feb. 6, 1876"; and the second, at the end of the notes, "Feb. 12, 1876."

From these notes I find that by this time I had the theory contained in "Life and Habit" completely before me, with the four main principles which it involves, namely, the oneness of personality between parents and offspring; memory on the part of offspring of certain actions which it did when in the persons of its forefathers; the latency of that memory until it is rekindled by a recurrence of the associated ideas; and the unconsciousness with which habitual actions come to be performed.

The first half-page of these notes may serve as a sample, and runs thus:-

"Those habits and functions which we have in common with the lower animals come mainly within the womb, or are done involuntarily, as our [growth of] limbs, eyes, &c., and our power of digesting food, &c. . . .

"We say of the chicken that it knows how to run about as soon as it is hatched, . . . but had it no knowledge before it was hatched?

"It knew how to make a great many things before it was hatched.

"It grew eyes and feathers and bones.

"Yet we say it knew nothing about all this.

"After it is born it grows more feathers, and makes its bones larger, and develops a reproductive system.

"Again we say it knows nothing about all this.

"What then does it know?

"Whatever it does not know so well as to be unconscious of knowing it.

"Knowledge dwells upon the confines of uncertainty.

"When we are very certain, we do not know that we know. When we will very strongly, we do not know that we will."

I then began my book, but considering myself still a painter by profession, I gave comparatively little time to writing, and got on but slowly. I left England for North Italy in the middle of May 1876 and returned early in August. It was perhaps thus that I failed to hear of the account of Professor Hering's lecture given by Professor Ray Lankester in Nature, July 13 1876; though, never at that time seeing Nature, I should probably have missed it under any circumstances. On my return I continued slowly writing. By August 1877 I considered that I had to all intents and purposes completed my book. My first proof bears date October 13, 1877.

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