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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." 1
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 exhibition, 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 produc
1 Encyl. Brit., ed. ix., art. "Evolution," p. 750.
tion 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 our 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.