Oscar Wilde.

Lady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest online

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mitted to his daughters and the character of the dam is trans-
mitted to her sons. Long ago I established a table in the "Year
Book" to embrace the sires of mares that produced two or more
animals in the 2:30 list, but had failed to place any representa-


tive there from their own loins. The development of this table
simply showed an array of sires that were not able to get 2:30
trotters, but when their daughters were bred to liorses of stronger
inheritance, horses indeed that were able to get trotters from
almost any kind of mares, they produced foals that came within
the circle. This was a grandsire's table and depended upon
second causes, that is, the horses tliat gave it life occupied
secondary positions in it, and it jDresented but little that was of
value to the student of horse history. In the discussion of, this
particular form of heredity the books are filled up with instances
of vicious fathers begetting vicious daughters and vicious mothers
producing vicious sons, with more or less uncertainty as to the
individual origin of the parties in question.

Indirect and Colla.teral Heredity. — "When a child or a
colt does not resemble its parents, but "takes after" the grand-
father or some more remote ancestor, it is said to be a case of
atavism, or indirect or collateral heredity. Twenty years ago I
visited, by appointment, a branch of my family at the old home-
stead of my great-grandfather, on the maternal side. There
never had been any knowledge of each other or intercourse be-
tween these two branches of the family. On arriving at my
destination I was warmly greeted by a gentleman who came for-
ward from the crowd and named me. As there were a good
number of people alighting from the train at the same time I
asked my cousin how he knew me, and he replied that I bore
such a striking resemblance to my grandfather that at a single
glance he could have picked me out of a hundred men. This
grandfather was the father of my mother and he died when I was
a small boy. But there was a still greater surprise awaiting me.
My kinsman was an intelligent man of excellent sense, and during
the few days I spent in his family he was to me a most interest-
ing study. In a hundred ways he reminded me of my brother,
not in resemblance of face, for there was, practically, no resem-
blance; but in the action of his mind, in his way of putting things,
and especially in his unstudied and peculiar gestures of his hands
in conversation, the one seemed to be a perfect reproduction of
the other. They were both born and reared on farms, they were
botli heads of families, and they were both elders in the Presby-
terian church. The one was the third and the other the fourth
remove from their common progenitor. I have read carefully
descriptions of many cases of mental heredity, but this case,


coming under my own observation and deliberate study, seemed
to be more thoroughly convincing than any or all others.

The fact that certain qualities may lie dormant through several
generations and then be unexpectedly developed was well known to
the ancients more than tsvo thousand years ago. Plutarch mentions
& Greek woman who gave birth to a negro child and was brought
to trial for adultery, but it was discovered that she was descended
in the fourth degree from an Ethiopian. Montaigne expresses
his astonishment at this, and remarks:

"Is it not marvelous that this drop of seed from which we are produced
should bear the impression, not only of the bodily form, but even the thoughts
a,iid inclinations of our fathers? Where does this drop of water keep its infi-
nite number of forms? How does it bear these likenesses through a progress
so iiaphazard and so irregular that the great-grandson shall resemble the great-
grandfather, the nephew the uncle ? "

The most prolific and satisfactory sources of evidence in sup-
port of indirect or reversionary heredity are to be found in the
crosses between the white and the black races. They abound in
all quarters wherever the two races are to be found, and many a
proud family has been humbled to the dust when the long-concealed
''black drop" makes its unexpected appearance. There are hun-
dreds of such cases in the world, and it is impossible to make even
an approximation of the number of generations that would be
required to wash out the stain.

Heredity of Influence.— When the subject of "How to Breed
the Trotting Horse" was in its infancy there Avas a wonderful
amount of mystery about it. Nobody could understand why one
horse of the same general conformation should not trot just as
fast as another. When it was found that this way of looking at
the problem would not meet the facts, one thought it was owing
to the length of certain bones, another that it was all in the hind
quarters, another that it was "the trotting pitch," another that
it was "a happy nick," etc. When it was all made plain that a
horse was able to trot fast because his ancestors were able to trot
fast, the seekers for the mysterious had nothing left that suited
their taste but the effects of first impregnations, resting on
Lord Morton's story of the quagga and the mare, which is here
dignified with the title "Heredity of Influence." Now, just
how "influence," two or three years after the event, should be-
come a controlling factor in the paternity of a colt, is a mystery
sufficiently profound to satisfy our friends of earlier years, so


intent upon finding something mysterious. For about three-
quarters of a century the story, coming from so reputable a
source, has been cited in many scientific bodies and accepted by
many scientific men and writers Avithout a question or doubt.
No writer, so far as I know, has ever attempted to controvert it,
and if the facts be well founded it demolishes in its conclusions
all the laws of generation, to say nothing of the universal
law of heredity. The point to be considered is, whether the first
impregnation influences the offspring of subsequent and different
impregnations. In other words, whether the children of a widow
by her second husband will partake of the characteristics of her
first husband. Eibot says "that from the psychological point of
view, we are skeptical in regard to this form of heredity. The
fact seems to be perfectly out of the order of things." He then
goes on to consider it as though it might be true, and cites any
number of the veriest fables in support of it, without ever stop-
ping to inquire whether they have any foundation of truth. In
every assemblage of breeders brought together for the purpose
of discussing how best to breed and rear our domestic animals at
a profit, there is always somebody to bring in the everlasting
story of the mare and the quagga, not because it may have any
relevancy to the subject, but it is an opportunity not to be lost
to show one's learning. As this story has served the purpose of
showing off the learning of so many thousands Avho never saw it,
I will here give it in its original and official form. A communi-
cation from the Earl of Morton was read before the Eoyal Society
of London, November 23, 1820, and published in "Philosophical
Transactions" for 1821, p. 20, and is as follows:

"I yesterday had an opportunity of observino^ a singular fact in natural
history, which you may, perhaps, deem not unworthy of being communicated
to the Royal Society.

" Some years ago I was desirous of trying the experiment of domesticating
the quagga, and endeavored to procure some individuals of that species. I
obtained a male; but being disappointed of a female, I tried to breed from the
male quagga and a young chestnut mare of seven-eighths Arabian blood, and
which had never been bred from; the result was the production of a female
hybrid, now five years old, and bearing both in her form and in her color very
decided indications of her mixed origin. I subsequently parted with the seven-
eighths Arabian mare to Sir Gore Ousley, who has bred from her, by a very
fine black Arabian horse. I yesterday morning examined the produce, namely,
a two-year-old filly and a year-old colt. They have the character of the Ara-
bian breed as decidedly as can be expected, where fifteen-sixteenths of the


blood are Arabian; and they are fine specimens of that breed; but both in their
color and in the hair of their manes they have a striking resemblance to the
quagga. Their color is bay, marked more or less like the qiiagga, in a darker
tint. Both are distinguished by the dark line along the ridge of the back, the
dark stripes across the forehand, and the dark bars across the back part of the
legs. The stripes acioss the forehand of the colt are confined to the withers
and the part of the neck next to them. Those on the filly cover nearly the
whole of the neck and the back as far as the flanks. The color of her coat
on the neck adjoining the mane is pale, and approaching a dun, rendering the
stripes there more conspicuous than those on the colt. The same pale tint ap-
pears in a less degree on the rump; and in this circumstance of the dun tint
also she resembles the quagga.

"The colt and filly were taken up from grass for my inspection, and owing
to the present state of their coats I could not ascertain whether they bear any
indications of spots on the rump, the dark pasterns, or the narrow strips on
tbe forehead, with which the quagga is marked. They have no appearance of
the dark lines along the belly or the white tufts on the side of the mane.
Both their manes are black; that of the filly is short and stiff, and stands up-
right; and Sir Gore Ousley's stud groom alleged it never was otherwise; that
of the colt is long, but so stiff as to arch upward, and to hang clear of the
side of the neck, in which circumstance it resembles that of a hybrid. This is
the more remarkable, as the mane of the Arabian breed hangs lank and closer
to the neck than those of most others. The bars across the legs, both of the
hybrid and of the colt and filly, are more strongly defined and darker than those
on the legs of the quagga, which are very slightly marked; and though the
hybrid has several quagga marks which the colt and filly have not, yet the
most striking, namely, the stripes on the forehand, are fewer and less appar-
ent tlian those on the colt and filly. These circumstances may appear singu-
lar, but I think vou will agree with me that they are trifles compared with the
extraordinary fact of so many striking features which do not belong to the
dam, being in two successive instances communicated through her to the pro-
geny not only of another sire, who also had them not, but to a sire probahly
of another species; for such we have very strong reasons for supposing the
quagga to be "

This is Lord Morton's original quagga story without abridge-
ment, the substance of which has been quoted and printed mil-
lions of times, but I never have seen anything like an analysis of
it, either for or against its value as determining any fact or prin-
ciple in breeding. The elements are: a young chestnut mare,
"seven-eighths Arabian blood," was bred to a quagga and pro-
duced a hybrid. She was afterward bred to a black "Arabian"
and produced a colt and a filly that were supposed to be marked
like the quagga; hence, first impregnations influence all subse-
quent foals; and hence "the heredity of influence," as called by
some scientists. Lord Morton has given an intelligent and, no


doubt, faithful description of the colt and the filly that came out
of the mare that had previously produced the hybrid quagga; but
lie has failed to show that none of the near-by ancestors of tlie
sire and dam of this colt and filly were of a dun color and were
marked just as the colt and filly were marked. Until it is shown
that the peculiar markings of this colt and filly could not have
been inherited from their natural ancestors, the half-formed
theory that they were the result of the coupling with the qnagga,
years before, wholly fails to satisfy the human understanding.
When Lord Morton tells us that the dam was seven-eighths, and
the sire full Arabian, he seems to think he has covered that
point; but he has not, for he has not shown that there was a sin-
gle drop of Arabian blood in either of them. It must not be for-
gotten that at the period here referred to all Eastern and South-
ern horses were called Arabians, when not one in fifty of them
ever saw Arabia either through his own eyes or through the eyes
of any of his ancestors. The composite material out of which
the English race horse was built up was of all colors, including
the dun, with the dark stripe on his back, the short stripes or
patches on his shoulders, and the transverse bars on his legs.
A horse of this color, I am told, once won the Derby. The
Kattywar horses of Northwestern India, Mr. Darwin informs us,
are from fifteen to sixteen hands high, of all colors, with the
several shades of dun the most common, and when one of them
fails of having the spinal stripe, the shoulder stripes, and the leg
stripes the purity of his breeding is doubted. This is the type
of horse the British officers ride, and when their term of service
expires sometimes bring home with them. There are many
duns in Persia and in Eastern Asia Minor, I am informed, and
the stripes seem to belong to the color. In Norway the color of
the native horse is dun and the stripes are considered evidence of
pure breeding. Many of the mountain horses of Spain are duns,
with the stripes. The dun color prevailed, to a greater or less
extent, among the native English horses of three hundred years
ago, and some of them were brought to this country in the early
colonial period. Mr. Darwin, in his "Animals and Plants under
Domestication," fully describes the dun horses of Devonshire, and
in order to be clearly understood he figures one of them showing
the dark stripes on the shoulder and the transverse bars upon the
legs. I have seen numbers of dun horses so marked, in this
country, the most conspicuous that I can now recall being Wapsie,


the distinguished son of Green's Bashaw. The fact that horses
of this color and marking are to be found in all parts of the
globe, has led many thoughtful writers to the conclusion that
these characteristics are among the very earliest in the history of
the horse. To bring this instance to a close, I must say:

1. Beyond the color alone of the sire and dam of this colt and
filly, there is no evidence whatever that they might not have
inherited, by ordinary generation, the color and markings from
some of their ancestors.

2. The miscegenous breeding of the ass upon the mare has
been practiced, we know, for more than three thousand years,
and yet in all that time, and down to our own day and experiences,
there has been no established indication that the first impregna-
tion of the filly by the ass had any influence whatever upon her
subsequent produce by the horse.

This theory of the first impregnation having an influence on
all subsequent produce is probably more generally maintained
among dog fanciers than any other class of breeders. In some
instances when a valuable maiden bitch gets astray she is.
banished from the kennel and either destroyed or given away.
For this foolish notion some antique authority might be cited.
Burdach, a French writer on physiology, says:

"If a bitch be once put to a doo- of another race, every litter of puppies
afterward will include one belonging to tiiat other breed, except the first time
she be put only to dogs of her own breed."

This is a kind of pseudo science that is only calculated to mis-
lead, for the vital facts are omitted. What was the pedigree of
the bitch? She may have looked like a well-bred pointer and a
high price may have been paid for her, but her sire may have
been a mongrel, or, possibly, a miserable cur. No dog breeder
or dog dealer has ever been known to drown the results of a
mesalUajice if it was a fairly good-looking puppy. It goes into
the records as a thoroughbred and finds a market. When a dog
and a bitch, seeming to be well-bred and costing a high price,
bring into the world a litter of puppies showing a mixed inherit-
ance, the fancier at once jumps to the conclusion that there is
something mysterious about it, and as he has heard of the evil
results of first impregnations, he thinks he has discovered the
source of the trouble and straightway this is another example
resulting from first impregnation. He then goes back on the


dealer, or possibly the breeder, and there to conceal the fact that
the blood of his kennel was not pure, he would naturally play
ihe rogue and admit that the young bitch might have got astray.
This satisfies the unsophisticated owner, and another trick of an
unscrupulous ''dog jockey" goes on record as a case of "heredity
•of influence," when in fact it was nothing more nor less than a
dirty fraud in the breeding of the dog or bitch, or both.

Some of the early French writers on scientific subjects, as
Burdach, Michelet, etc., advanced the theory more than a hun-
dred years ago that the children of a second marriage, in some
■cases, inherited the resemblance and character of the first hus-
band. In the nature of things this theory could have but very
feeble support and that chiefly among scandalmongers. In con-
nection with this phase of "heredity of influence" I will give a
little instance of my personal experience. Twenty years ago, or
more, I was making an address before an association, in a New Eng-
land city, on the subject of "How to Breed the Trotting Horse."
The audience was very large and composed exclusively of gentle-
men. At the opening it was announced that at the close of each
specific topic an opportunity would be given to any one in the
audience to ask questions on the thoughts presented. The signal
had hardly been given when a gentleman arose in the audience
and raised the question whether I had not omitted an important
fact in heredity? He then went on to rehearse the everlasting
quagga story, with a most confident flourish of his learning and a
sure grasp on a triumph.

"The quagga story," I remarked, "is well known to everybody,
but there are some facts about it that are not known to anybody.
The mare herself may have been from a dun tribe of horses, or
the horse to which she was afterward bred may have been from
such a tribe, hundreds of which have stripes on the back, the
shoulders and the legs, and thus the stripes might be accounted
for by indirect heredity; not because the quagga had stripes, but
because the dun horse ancestry had stripes. Most people, proba-
bly, look upon it as a freak of nature, and as the case has never
duplicated itself, in all the years before or since, it fails to be a
practical question, and in our personal experiences as breeders,
we need not be afraid of suffering harm from it,"

"Your explanation," replied my interlocutor, "fails to cover
the case, I think, for I have seen, with my own eyes, instances
of it in the human family and I will relate one. A dozen years


ago, or more, a friend of mine married a lady who was a brunette
in complexion, with black eyes and black hair. He was of florid
complexion, with blue eyes and sandy hair, jnst about the color
of my own. After tbree or four years the husband died leaving
two children of his own complexion and color of eyes and hair.
In course of time the widow married a man with black hair and
black eyes, and there came a second set of children that were as
perfect reproductions of the first husband as his own children
were in complexion and color of hair."

''How long have you personally known this family, and have
yon ever seen these two sets of children?"

" I have known the family intimately ever since the first mar-
riage and I have seen both sets of children very often."

''You certainly have had abundant opportunity to know
whereof you affirm, and the facts seem so plain that it would be a
refinement on folly to undertake to contradict them; but there
is one element in this case that has not been explained, and it is
a vital one. How are we to know whether some man of 'sandy
complexion' and with 'hair and eyes just the color of yours,' is
not the father of this second set of children?"

This ended th*^ colloquy in a "roof-raising" shout, and I never
Inave been called upon since, in a public meeting, to even allude
to the "heredity of influence." With the experiences of thou-
sands of years of miscegnatious breeding between the ass and the
mare and no indication among the writers of the ancients as to
the evil and abiding effects of first impregnations; and with the
experiences of more than a century in this country, with the
same results, we are compelled to throw over all claims of this
kind until furnished with full and complete pedigrees of the sire
and dam, showing the color and markings of each individual for
a number of generations.

Heredity of Acquired Characters and Instincts. — On
this point there is a lack of unanimity among the promoters of
the "primordial germ" theory, and the principal advocate of the
negative side of this question appears to be Professor Weismann.
Mere opinions of men, no difference how profound their learning,
cannot be of any value, unless they are sustained by actual ex-
periences, on questions of this kind. To determine this matter
we are not dependent upon any of the explanations of the cen-
tral Darwinian hypothesis of creation without a Creator, for we
have all around us, safely within the historic period of human


observation and experience, mountains of evidence, so to speak,,
heaped upon us, going to show that ^'acquired character and in-
stincts" are transmitted and become hereditary.

Dr. Pritchard, in his "Natural History of Man," gives the
following illustration on this point:

"Two other very important observations made by M. Roulin, in
Soutli America, were pointed out by M. Geoffrey St. Hillaire, in bis report
to tbe Academy of Sciences. They refer to the fact of the hereditary
transmission of habits originally impressed with care and art upon the
ancestors. Of this fact I will adduce other examples in the sequel; at present
I only advert to M. Koulin's observations. The horses bred on the grazing
farms of the table-lands of the Cordillera are carefully taught a peculiar pace,
which is a sort of running amble. This is not their natural mode of progres-
sion, but they are inured to it very early, and the greatest pains are taken to
prevent them from moving in any other gait; in this way the acquired habit
becomes a second nature. It happens occasionally that such horses becoming
lame, or no longer fit for use, it is then customary to let them loose, if they
happen to be well grown stallions, into the pasture grounds It is constantly
ob.served that these horses become the sires of a race to which the ambling
pace is natural, and which requires no teaching. The fact is so well known
that such colts have received a particular name; they are termed ' aguilillas.'"

The fact that there were some pacers in South America came
to me from many sources, and especially from gentlemen of in-
telligence and character who had spent years in that country, and
was for a long time a puzzle to me. All the evidences of history
went to show that the horse stock of South America was Spanish,
and no evidence could be found that the Spanish horse was a
pacer, or that there was any tendency to pace in the blood of the
Spanish horse. This report to the French Academy of Sciences
was made in the early part of this century and is really the first
information I have ever had of Spanish horses pacing. Dr. Pritch-
ard was one of the earlier modern writers on natural history
and stands very high as a man of conscience as well as learning.
The surprising feature in this South American experience is tlie
wide and, apparently, immediate measure of success that seems
to have followed the training to the pacing gait in its transmis-
sion. It may be taken as a rule that the changing of the gait
from the diagonal to the lateral, or vice versa, is a slow process,
and it seems to me that with few exceptions it would require
several generations before the new habit of action would become
fixed in the breed. It is just possible, however, that there may


Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 49 of 61)