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The next letter refers chiefly to an eccentric friend of his, Mr. Morgan Kavanagh, author of a work on “The Origin of Language and of Myths,” and always referred to by Purland as “The Great O," on account of his fundamental idea that (0) was the sign of the sun, the only permanently circular object in nature, and that the word “O” was the original name of the sun (from making the figure with the lips), and was thus the origin of all language. The book, however, is full of the most ingenious and suggestive derivations from Sanscrit and the Eastern languages.
"Sept. 24, 1872. “No! can't be a bigger man than you-19 stone. Will warm the only bed we have—as spare! But the nights are fine, and a walk home after the Jaw won't hurt you.
“You can grub if you like on what we have. As to the great O, he was here on Saturday-Och Murther—as usual, full of his diskivery—but it is all bosh.
“The true thing is this. Originally, man spoke by signs, and no wonder-Adam and Eve spoke by signs only, until one day Adam refused to go round the corner for some hardbake, which put Eve into a passion, and in her rage she broke Adam's head with the bedpost, which made him cry ‘O!' and Eve, alarmed at opening his head and mouth at one blow, cried • O'too. That's the origin of Language !
“Some think Adam said 'O Crikey, but as he was Crackey at the time it is uncertain.
The last I have was an anecdote of animal sagacity, a subject then being discussed in the papers, and of which he had given me some examples. I give a print of it, as it is a good example of his caricature drawing and of one of his fantastic signatures.
Our pleasant intimacy came to an end in a most absurd manner. Dr. Purland was, as I have said, a powerful and enthusiastic mesmerist, and had given his services for many VOL. II.
surgical operations. Just as the opposition of the chiefs of the medical profession was dying away, and they were beginning to acknowledge the great value of the mesmeric sleep in alleviating pain and greatly facilitating serious operations, the discovery of anæsthetics offered a rival, which, though much more dangerous, was more certain and more easily applied in emergencies, and this led to the discontinuance of the use of mesmerism as a remedial agent. This naturally disgusted Dr. Purland, who, with the whole energy of his character, hated chloroform, ether, and nitrous-oxide gas, and would have nothing to do with them in his profession. Besides, he despised any one who could not bear the pain of toothdrawing, and would turn away any patient who required the gas to be administered. A year or two after the date of his last letter my teeth were in a very bad state, and I had a number of broken stumps which required to be extracted preparatory to having a complete set of artificials. Entirely forgetting his objections, which, in fact, I had hardly believed to be real, after making an appointment I asked him to get a doctor to administer nitrous-oxide, as I could not stand the pain of three or four extractions of stumps of molars in succession. This thoroughly enraged him. He wrote me a most violent letter, saying he could not continue to be the friend of a man who could ask him to do such a thing, and gave me the name of an acquaintance of his who had no such scruples and whose work was thoroughly good. And that was the last communication I ever had from Dr. Purland.
The dentist to whom he recommended me was really a good workman, and made me a set of teeth which I wore almost constantly for thirty years, and which I have never had equalled since. While going about lecturing, and especially when going to America in 1886, I had new sets made, and I think I have had altogether four complete sets besides the first, but not one of them has been comfortable or even wearable without great pain ; with none could I eat satisfactorily or speak distinctly, and though I pointed out to each new dentist how well these old ones fitted me, and how comfortable they were, and begged each of them to make the
new ones as nearly as possible the same shape, yet each one made them differently, and some were so totally unlike that, when placed side by side, no one would believe they could have been made for the same mouth. My experience of modern dentists is that they all want to improve upon nature, and care nothing for the comfort of those who are to use the teeth.
I will occupy the remainder of this chapter with a few particulars of my relations with persons of some eminence, but with whom I had very few opportunities of personal intercourse.
I made the acquaintance of Mr. Samuel Butler, the author of “Erewhon," through my friend Miss Buckley, at whose father's house on Paddington Green I met him two or three times. He was so good as to send me that wonderfully clever and original book, and also his less known satirical religious story, “The Fair Haven," which was reviewed with approval by some of the Church newspapers as a genuine piece of biography, which it purports to be. He also sent me “Life and Habit," and "Evolution Old and New," both of which I reviewed in Nature in the year 1879. The former is a wonderfully ingenious, brilliant, and witty application of the theory of Haeckel and others, that every animal cell, or even every organic molecule, is an independent conscious organism, with its likes and dislikes, its habits and instincts like the higher animals. He explains instincts as inherited memories, which, at the time he wrote, was a permissible hypothesis, but is now almost universally rejected as implying the inheritance of acquired characters, which all the available evidence is opposed to. The book, however, is well worth reading for its extreme ingenuity, logical arrangement, and all-pervading wit and humour.
The other work is a very full and careful exposition of the doctrines, as regards evolution, of Buffon, Lamarck, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, Mr. Patrick Matthew, and some more recent writers, with copious quotations from their works, and an attempt to show not only that their views were of the same general nature as those of Darwin, but were also of equal if not greater importance. After reading the volume I wrote
the following letter to the author, which may be of interest to those naturalists who either have not seen the work or who have forgotten its essential features :
“Waldron Edge, Duppas Hill, Croydon,
"May 9, 1879.
“MY DEAR SIR,
"Please accept my thanks for the copy of Evolution Old and New,' and of Life and Habit,' which you were so good as to send me.
“I have just finished reading the former with mixed feelings of pleasure and regret. I am glad that a connected account of the views of Buffon, Dr. Darwin, and Lamarck, and especially of Mr. Patrick Matthew, should be given to the world ; but I am sorry that you should have, as I think, so completely failed in a just estimation of the value of their work as compared with that of Mr. Charles Darwin,-because it will necessarily prejudice naturalists against you, and will cause 'Life and Habit' to be neglected ; and this I should greatly regret.
"To my mind, your quotations from Mr. Patrick Matthew are the most remarkable things in your whole book, because he appears to have completely anticipated the main ideas both of the Origin of Species' and of Life and Habit.'
" I should have to write a long article to criticize your book (which perhaps I may do). In your admiration of Lamarck you do not seem to observe that his views are all pure conjecture, utterly unsupported by a single fact. Where has it been proved that, in any one case, desires have caused variation? It is pure theory, with no fact to support it. And even if desires might, in a long course of generations, produce some effect, it can be demonstrated that in the same time'natural selection' or 'survival of the fittest' would produce so much greater an effect as to overpower the other unless the two worked together.
"I am sorry to see also much that seems to me mere verbal quibbles. For instance, at p. 388 (last par.) you turn
spontaneous variability' into "unknown causes, and then, of course, make nonsense of Mr. Darwin's words. In this way I will undertake to make nonsense of any argument. 'Spontaneous variability' is a FACT, as explained, for example, in my review of Mr. Murphy's book (along with yours) in Nature. It is an absolutely universal fact in the organic world (and for all I know in the inorganic too), and is probably a fundamental fact, due to the impossibility of any two organisms ever having been subjected to exactly identical conditions, and the extreme complexity both of organisms and their environment. This normal variability wants no other explanation. Its absence is inconceivable, because it would imply that diversity of conditions produced identity of result. The wishes or actions of individuals may be one of the causes of variability, but only one out of myriads. Now to say that such an universal fact as this cannot be taken as a basis of reasoning because the exact causes of it are unknown in each ease, is utterly illogical. The causes of gravitation, of electricity, of heat, of all the forces of nature are unknown. Can we not, then, reason on them, and explain other phenomena by them, without having the words 'unknown causes' substituted, and thus making nonsense?
“I am no blind admirer of Mr. Darwin, as my works show; but I must say your criticism of him in your present work completely fails to reach him.
“ The mere fact that Lamarck's views, though well put before the world for many years by Sir Charles Lyell (and other writers) converted no one, while Darwin has converted almost all the best naturalists in Europe, is a pretty good proof that the one theory is more complete than the other.
“Yours very faithfully,
“ALFRED R. WALLACE."
In Nature (June 12) I reviewed this book more fully, showing by numerous quotations how completely Mr. Butler has failed to grasp the essential features of natural selection, while a large portion of his criticism of Mr. Darwin's work is purely verbal and altogether erroneous