Samuel Butler.

Selections from previous works, with remarks on G. J. Romanes' Mentl evolution in animals, and A psalm of Montreal online

. (page 22 of 23)
Online LibrarySamuel ButlerSelections from previous works, with remarks on G. J. Romanes' Mentl evolution in animals, and A psalm of Montreal → online text (page 22 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


read the bye-laws which are posted up in the cloisters, we found
ourselves continually smiling at the manner in which almost anything that
looked like a prohibition could be removed with the consent of the
director. There is no rule whatever about visitors attending the church;
all that is required of them is that they do not interfere with those who
do. They must not play games of chance, or noisy games; they must not
make much noise of any sort after ten o'clock at night (which corresponds
about with midnight in England). They should not draw upon the walls of
their rooms, nor cut the furniture. They should also keep their rooms
clean, and not cook in those that are more expensively furnished. This
is about all that they must not do, except fee the servants, which is
most especially and particularly forbidden. If any one infringes these
rules, he is to be admonished, and in case of grave infraction or
continued misdemeanor he may be expelled and not readmitted.

Visitors who are lodged in the better-furnished apartments can be waited
upon if they apply at the office; the charge is twopence for cleaning a
room, making the bed, bringing water, &c. If there is more than one bed
in a room, a penny must be paid for every bed over the first. Boots can
be cleaned for a penny, shoes for a halfpenny. For carrying wood, &c.,
either a halfpenny or a penny will be exacted according to the time
taken. Payment for these services must not be made to the servant, but
at the office.

The gates close at ten o'clock at night, and open at sunrise, "but if any
visitor wishes to make Alpine excursions, or has any other sufficient
reason, he should let the director know." Families occupying many rooms
must - when the hospice is very crowded, and when they have had due
notice - manage to pack themselves into a smaller compass. No one can
have rooms kept for him. It is to be strictly "first come, first
served." No one must sublet his room. Visitors must not go away without
giving up the key of their room. Candles and wood may be bought at a
fixed price.

Any one wishing to give anything to the support of the hospice must do so
only to the director, the official who appoints the apartments, the dean
or the cappellani, or to the inspectress of the daughters of Oropa, but
they must have a receipt for even the smallest sum; alms-boxes, however,
are placed here and there into which the smaller offerings may be dropped
(we imagine this means anything under a franc).

The poor will be fed as well as housed for three days
gratuitously - provided their health does not require a longer stay; but
they must not beg on the premises of the hospice; professional beggars
will be at once handed over to the mendicity society in Biella, or even
perhaps to prison. The poor for whom a hydropathic course is
recommended, can have it under the regulations made by the committee - that
is to say, if there is a vacant place.

There are _trattorie_ and cafes at the hospice, where refreshments may be
obtained both good and cheap. Meat is to be sold there at the prices
current in Biella; bread at two centimes the chilogramma more, to pay for
the cost of carriage.

Such are the bye-laws of this remarkable institution.

Few except the very rich are so under-worked that two or three days of
change and rest are not at times a boon to them, while the mere knowledge
that there is a place where repose can be had cheaply and pleasantly is
itself a source of strength. Here, so long as the visitor wishes to be
merely housed, no questions are asked; no one is refused admittance,
except for some obviously sufficient reason; it is like getting a reading
ticket for the British Museum, there is practically but one test - that is
to say, desire on the part of the visitor - the coming proves the desire,
and this suffices. A family, we will say, has just gathered its first
harvest; the heat on the plains is intense, and the malaria from the rice-
grounds little less than pestilential; what, then, can be nicer than to
lock up the house and go for three days to the bracing mountain air of
Oropa? So at daybreak off they all start trudging, it may be, their
thirty or forty miles, and reaching Oropa by nightfall. If there is a
weakly one among them, some arrangement is sure to be practicable whereby
he or she can be helped to follow more leisurely, and can remain longer
at the hospice. Once arrived, they generally, it is true, go the round
of the chapels, and make some slight show of pilgrimage, but the main
part of their time is spent in doing absolutely nothing. It is
sufficient amusement to them to sit on the steps, or lie about under the
shadow of the trees, and neither say anything nor do anything, but simply
breathe, and look at the sky and at each other. We saw scores of such
people just resting instinctively in a kind of blissful waking dream.
Others saunter along the walks which have been cut in the woods that
surround the hospice, or if they have been pent up in a town and have a
fancy for climbing, there are mountain excursions, for the making of
which the hospice affords excellent headquarters, and which are looked
upon with every favour by the authorities.

It must be remembered also that the accommodation provided at Oropa is
much better than what the people are, for the most part, accustomed to in
their own homes, and the beds are softer, more often beaten up, and
cleaner than those they have left behind them. Besides, they have
sheets - and beautifully clean sheets. Those who know the sort of place
in which an Italian peasant is commonly content to sleep, will understand
how much he must enjoy a really clean and comfortable bed, especially
when he has not got to pay for it. Sleep, in the circumstances of
comfort which most readers will be accustomed to, is a more expensive
thing than is commonly supposed. If we sleep eight hours in a London
hotel we shall have to pay from 4d. to 6d. an hour, or from 1d. to 1.5d.
for every fifteen minutes we lie in bed; nor is it reasonable to believe
that the charge is excessive when we consider the vast amount of
competition which exists. There is many a man the expenses of whose
daily meat, drink, and clothing are less than what an accountant would
show us we, many of us, lay out nightly upon our sleep. The cost of
really comfortable sleep-necessaries cannot, of course, be nearly so
great at Oropa as in a London hotel, but they are enough to put them
beyond the reach of the peasant under ordinary circumstances, and he
relishes them all the more when he can get them.

But why, it may be asked, should the peasant have these things if he
cannot afford to pay for them; and why should he not pay for them if he
can afford to do so? If such places as Oropa were common, would not lazy
vagabonds spend their lives in going the rounds of them, &c., &c.?
Doubtless if there were many Oropas, they would do more harm than good,
but there are some things which answer perfectly well as rarities or on a
small scale, out of which all the virtue would depart if they were common
or on a larger one; and certainly the impression left upon our minds by
Oropa was that its effects were excellent.

Granted the sound rule to be that a man should pay for what he has, or go
without it; in practice, however, it is found impossible to carry this
rule out strictly. Why does the nation give A. B., for instance, and all
comers a large, comfortable, well-ventilated, warm room to sit in, with
chair, table, reading-desk, &c., all more commodious than what he may
have at home, without making him pay a sixpence for it directly from
year's end to year's end? The three or nine days' visit to Oropa is a
trifle in comparison with what we can all of us obtain in London if we
care about it enough to take a very small amount of trouble. True, one
cannot sleep in the reading-room of the British Museum - not all night, at
least - but by day one can make a home of it for years together except
during cleaning times, and then it is hard if one cannot get into the
National Gallery or South Kensington, and be warm, quiet, and entertained
without paying for it.

It will be said that it is for the national interest that people should
have access to treasuries of art or knowledge, and therefore it is worth
the nation's while to pay for placing the means of doing so at their
disposal; granted, but is not a good bed one of the great ends of
knowledge, whereto it must work, if it is to be accounted knowledge at
all? and it is not worth a nation's while that her children should now
and again have practical experience of a higher state of things than the
one they are accustomed to, and a few days' rest and change of scene and
air, even though she may from time to time have to pay something in order
to enable them to do so? There can be few books which do an averagely-
educated Englishman so much good, as the glimpse of comfort which he gets
by sleeping in a good bed in a well-appointed room does to an Italian
peasant; such a glimpse gives him an idea of higher potentialities in
connection with himself, and nerves him to exertions which he would not
otherwise make. On the whole, therefore, we concluded that if the
British Museum reading-room was in good economy, Oropa was so also; at
any rate, it seemed to be making a large number of very nice people
quietly happy - and it is hard to say more than this in favour of any
place or institution.

The idea of any sudden change is as repulsive to us as it will be to the
greater number of my readers; but if asked whether we thought our English
universities would do most good in their present condition as places of
so-called education, or if they were turned into Oropas, and all the
educational part of the story totally suppressed, we inclined to think
they would be more popular and more useful in this latter capacity. We
thought also that Oxford and Cambridge were just the places, and
contained all the appliances and endowments almost ready made for
constituting two splendid and truly imperial cities of
recreation - universities in deed as well as in name. Nevertheless we
should not venture to propose any further actual reform during the
present generation than to carry the principle which is already admitted
as regards the M.A. a degree a trifle further, and to make the B.A.
degree a mere matter of lapse of time and fees - leaving the little go,
and whatever corresponds to it at Oxford, as the final examination. This
would be enough for the present.

There is another sanctuary about three hours' walk over the mountain
behind Oropa, at Andorno, and dedicated to St. John. We were prevented
by the weather from visiting it, but understand that its objects are much
the same as those of the institution I have just described. I will now
proceed to the third sanctuary for which the neighbourhood of Biella is
renowned.

* * * * *

At Graglia I was shown all over the rooms in which strangers are lodged,
and found them not only comfortable but luxurious - decidedly more so than
those of Oropa; there was the same cleanliness everywhere which I had
noticed in the restaurant. As one stands at the windows or on the
balconies and looks down to the tops of the chestnuts, and over these to
the plains, one feels almost as if one could fly out of the window like a
bird; for the slope of the hills is so rapid that one has a sense of
being already suspended in mid-air.

I thought I observed a desire to attract English visitors in the pictures
which I saw in the bedrooms. Thus there was "A view of the Black-lead
Mine in Cumberland," a coloured English print of the end of the last
century or the beginning of this, after, I think, Loutherbourg, and in
several rooms there were English engravings after Martin. The English
will not, I think, regret if they yield to these attractions. They will
find the air cool, shady walks, good food, and reasonable prices. Their
rooms will not be charged for, but they will do well to give the same as
they would have paid at a hotel. I saw in one room one of those
flippant, frivolous, Lorenzo de' Medici matchboxes on which there was a
gaudily-coloured nymph in high-heeled boots and tights, smoking a
cigarette. Feeling that I was in a sanctuary, I was a little surprised
that such a matchbox should have been tolerated. I suppose it had been
left behind by some guest. I should myself select a matchbox with the
Nativity or the Flight into Egypt upon it, if I were going to stay a week
or so at Graglia. I do not think I can have looked surprised or
scandalised, but the worthy official who was with me could just see that
there was something on my mind. "Do you want a match?" said he,
immediately reaching me the box. I helped myself, and the matter
dropped.

There were many fewer people at Graglia than at Oropa, and they were
richer. I did not see any poor about, but I may have been there during a
slack time. An impression was left upon me, though I cannot say whether
it was well or ill founded, as though there were a tacit understanding
between the establishments at Oropa and Graglia that the one was to adapt
itself to the poorer, and the other to the richer classes of society; and
this not from any sordid motive, but from a recognition of the fact that
any great amount of intermixture between the poor and the rich is not
found satisfactory to either one or the other. Any wide difference in
fortune does practically amount to a specific difference, which renders
the members of either species more or less suspicious of those of the
other, and seldom fertile _inter se_. The well-to-do working-man can
help his poorer friends better than we can. If an educated man has money
to spare, he will apply it better in helping poor educated people than
those who are more strictly called the poor. As long as the world is
progressing, wide class distinctions are inevitable; their discontinuance
will be a sign that equilibrium has been reached. Then human
civilisation will become as stationary as that of ants and bees. Some
may say it will be very sad when this is so; others, that it will be a
good thing; in truth, it is good either way, for progress and equilibrium
have each of them advantages and disadvantages which make it impossible
to assign superiority to either; but in both cases the good greatly
overbalances the evil; for in both the great majority will be fairly well
contented, and would hate to live under any other system.

Equilibrium, if it is ever reached, will be attained very slowly, and the
importance of any change in a system depends entirely upon the rate at
which it is made. No amount of change shocks - or, in other words, is
important - if it is made sufficiently slowly, while hardly any change is
too small to shock if it is made suddenly. We may go down a ladder of
ten thousand feet in height if we do so step by step, while a sudden fall
of six or seven feet may kill us. The importance, therefore, does not
lie in the change, but in the abruptness of its introduction. Nothing is
absolutely important or absolutely unimportant; absolutely good, or
absolutely bad.

This is not what we like to contemplate. The instinct of those whose
religion and culture are on the surface only is to conceive that they
have found, or can find, an absolute and eternal standard, about which
they can be as earnest as they choose. They would have even the pains of
hell eternal if they could. If there had been any means discoverable by
which they could torment themselves beyond endurance, we may be sure they
would long since have found it out; but fortunately there is a stronger
power which bars them inexorably from their desire, and which has ensured
that intolerable pain shall last only for a very little while. For
either the circumstances or the sufferer will change after no long time.
If the circumstances are intolerable, the sufferer dies: if they are not
intolerable, he becomes accustomed to them, and will cease to feel them
grievously. No matter what the burden, there always has been, and always
must be, a way for us also to escape.




A PSALM OF MONTREAL.


[The City of Montreal is one of the most rising and, in many respects,
most agreeable on the American continent, but its inhabitants are as yet
too busy with commerce to care greatly about the masterpieces of old
Greek Art. A cast of one of these masterpieces - the finest of the
several statues of Discoboli, or Quoit-throwers - was found by the present
writer in the Montreal Museum of Natural History; it was, however,
banished from public view, to a room where were all manner of skins,
plants, snakes, insects, &c., and in the middle of these, an old man,
stuffing an owl. The dialogue - perhaps true, perhaps imaginary, perhaps
a little of one and a little of the other - between the writer and this
old man gave rise to the lines that follow.]

Stowed away in a Montreal lumber-room,
The Discobolus standeth, and turneth his face to the wall;
Dusty, cobweb-covered, maimed, and set at naught,
Beauty crieth in an attic, and no man regardeth.
O God! O Montreal!

Beautiful by night and day, beautiful in summer and winter,
Whole or maimed, always and alike beautiful, -
He preacheth gospel of grace to the skins of owls,
And to one who seasoneth the skins of Canadian owls.
O God! O Montreal!

When I saw him, I was wroth, and I said, "O Discobolus!
Beautiful Discobolus, a Prince both among gods and men,
What doest thou here, how camest thou here, Discobolus,
Preaching gospel in vain to the skins of owls?"
O God! O Montreal!

And I turned to the man of skins, and said unto him, "Oh! thou man of
skins,
Wherefore hast thou done thus, to shame the beauty of the Discobolus?"
But the Lord had hardened the heart of the man of skins,
And he answered, "My brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon."
O God! O Montreal!

"The Discobolus is put here because he is vulgar, -
He hath neither vest nor pants with which to cover his limbs;
I, sir, am a person of most respectable connections, -
My brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon."
O God! O Montreal!

Then I said, "O brother-in law to Mr. Spurgeon's haberdasher!
Who seasonest also the skins of Canadian owls,
Thou callest 'trousers' 'pants,' whereas I call them 'trousers,'
Therefore thou art in hell-fire, and may the Lord pity thee!
O God! O Montreal!

"Preferrest thou the gospel of Montreal to the gospel of Hellas,
The gospel of thy connection with Mr. Spurgeon's haberdashery to the
gospel of the Discobolus?"
Yet none the less blasphemed he beauty, saying, "The Discobolus hath no
gospel, -
But my brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon."
O God! O Montreal!

PRINTED BY BALLANTYNE, HANSON AND CO.
EDINBURGH AND LONDON.




Works by the same Author.


Sixth Edition. Crown 8vo, Cloth, 6s.
EREWHON; or, OVER THE RANGE. Op. 1.

A WORK OF SATIRE AND IMAGINATION.

Second Edition. Demy 8vo, Cloth, 7s. 6d.
THE FAIR HAVEN. Op. 2.

A work in Defence of the Miraculous Element in our Lord's Ministry on
earth, both as against Rationalistic Impugners and certain Orthodox
Defenders. Written under the pseudonym of JOHN PICKARD OWEN, with a
Memoir by his supposed brother, WILLIAM BICKERSTETH OWEN.

Second Edition. Crown 8vo, Cloth, 7s. 6d.
LIFE AND HABIT. Op. 3.

AN ESSAY AFTER A COMPLETER VIEW OF EVOLUTION.

Second Edition, with Appendix and Index. Crown 8vo, Cloth, 10s. 6d.
EVOLUTION, OLD AND NEW. Op. 4.

A Comparison of the theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck,
with that of the late Mr. Charles Darwin, with copious extracts from the
works of the three first-named writers.

Crown 8vo, Cloth, 7s. 6d.
UNCONSCIOUS MEMORY. Op. 5.

A Comparison between the theory of Dr. Ewald Hering, Professor of
Physiology at the University of Prague, and the "Philosophy of the
Unconscious" of Dr. Edward Von Hartmann, with translations from both
these authors, and preliminary chapters bearing on "Life and Habit,"
"Evolution, Old and New," and Mr. Charles Darwin's edition of Dr.
Krause's "Erasmus Darwin."

Pott Quarto, Cloth, 21s.

ALPS AND SANCTUARIES OF PIEDMONT AND THE CANTON TICINO. Op. 6.

Profusely Illustrated by Charles Gogin, H. F. Jones, and the Author.




Footnotes:


{iii} See page 234 of this book.

{1} The first edition of Erewhon was published in the spring of 1872.

{47} The myth above alluded to exists in Erewhon with changed names and
considerable modifications. I have taken the liberty of referring to the
story as familiar to ourselves.

{48} The first edition of the Fair Haven was published April 1873.

{68} The first edition of Life and Habit was published in December,
1877.

{96} See page 228 of this book, "Remarks on Mr. Romanes' 'Mental
Evolution in Animals.'"

{119} Kegan Paul, 1875.

{125} It is now (January 1884) more than six years since Life and Habit
was published, but I have come across nothing which makes me wish to
alter it to any material extent.

{127} It must be remembered that the late Mr. C. Darwin expressly denied
that instinct and inherited habit are generally to be connected. - See Mr.
Darwin's "Origin of Species," end of chapter viii., where he expresses
his surprise that no one has hitherto adduced the instincts of neuter
insects "against the well-known doctrine of inherited habit as advanced
by Lamarck."

Mr. Romanes, in his "Mental Evolution in Animals" (November, 1883),
refers to this passage of Mr. Darwin's, and endorses it with approbation
(p. 297).

{131} Evolution, Old and New, was published in May, 1879.

{134a} Quatrefages, "Metamorphoses de l'Homme et des Animaux," 1862, p.
42; G. H. Lewes, "Physical Basis of Mind," 1877, p. 83.

{134b} I have been unable, through want of space, to give this chapter
here.

{141} Page 210, first edition.

{144} 1878.

{148} "Nat. Theol." ch. xxiii.

{153a} 1878.

{153b} "Oiseaux," vol. i. p. 5.

{162} "Discours de Reception a l'Academie Francaise."

{163} I Cor. xiii. 8, 13.

{164a} Tom. i. p. 24, 1749.

{164b} Tom. i. p. 40, 1749.

{165} Vol. i. p. 34, 1749.

{166a} Tom. i. p. 36.

{166b} See p. 173.

{166c} Tom. i. p. 33.

{168} The Naturalist's Library, vol. ii. p. 23. Edinburgh, 1843.

{174} Tom. iv. p. 381, 1753.

{176} Tom. iv. p. 383, 1753 (this was the first volume on the lower
animals).

{177a} Tom xiii. p. 1765.

{177b} Sup. tom. v. p. 27, 1778.

{180} Tom. i. p. 28, 1749.

{181a} Unconscious Memory was published December, 1880.

{181b} See Unconscious Memory, chap. vi.

{181c} The Spirit of Nature, p. 39. J. A. Churchill & Co. 1880.

{184} I have put these words into the mouth of my supposed objector, and
shall put others like them, because they are characteristic; but nothing
can become so well known as to escape being an inference.

{189} Erewhon, chap, xxiii.

{198a} It must be remembered that this passage is put as if in the mouth
of an objector.

{198b} Mr. Herbert Spencer denies that there can be memory without a
"tolerably deliberate succession of psychical states." {198c} So that
practically he denies that there can be any such thing as "unconscious
memory." Nevertheless a few pages later on he says that "conscious
memory passes into unconscious or organic memory." {198d} It is plain,
therefore, that he could after all find no expression better suited for
his purpose.

Mr. Romanes is, I think, right in setting aside Mr. Spencer's limitation
of memory to conscious memory. He writes, "Because I have so often seen
the sun shine that my memory of it as shining has become automatic, I see
no reason why my memory of this fact, simply on account of its
perfection, should be called no memory." {198e}

{198c} Principles of Psychology, I., 447.

{198d} Ibid, p. 452.

{198e} Mental Evolution in Animals, p. 130

{217} Nineteenth Century, Nov. 1878, p. 826.

{218} Encyclopedia Britannica, Art. Biology, 9th ed., Vol. 3, p. 689.

{220a} Professor Huxley, Encycl. Brit., 9th ed., Art. Evolution, p. 750.

{220b} "Hume," by Professor Huxley, p. 45.

{220c} "The Philosophy of Crayfishes," by the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop
of Carlisle. Nineteenth Century for October 1880, p. 636.

{221} Les Amours des Plantes, p. 360. Paris, 1800.

{222a} Philosophie Zoologique, tom. i. p. 231. Ed. M. Martin. Paris,
1873.

{222b} Those who read the three following chapters will see that these
words, written in 1880, have come out near the truth in 1884.

{223a} Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society. Williams &


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22

Online LibrarySamuel ButlerSelections from previous works, with remarks on G. J. Romanes' Mentl evolution in animals, and A psalm of Montreal → online text (page 22 of 23)