The Fall of Man The loves of the gorillas
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THE FALL OF MAN:
THE LOVES OF THE GORILLAS.
To CHARLES DARWIN, Esq., M.A., F.R.S., etc., etc., etc.
To you is dedicated this faithful report of a humble attemptto confirm, explain, and elucidate the wonderful and irrefragabletheory of which you are the discoverer and the promulgator. Ofwhich dedication the appropriateness is manifest. What other dispositionof the work of your learned kinsman would be so fitting asto lay it at your feet, hind-thumbless although they be? He followsyou feebly and afar. But remember that he tells only what he knows,and does not attempt to soar with you to the dizzy heights of speculation,or dive with you into the depths of disbelief. Deign, sir, toaccept this modest tribute to the fame of one who has done so much toelevate our conception of ourselves and of the great scheme of creation;and look with the generous eye of exalted genius upon thehonest and simple effort of a co-laborer who strives, with you, to convincethe world that a Shakespeare may be but an oyster raised to theone-thousandth power, or even a Darwin the cube root of a ring-tailedmonkey.
One morning in the spring of the present year I, the editor, or ratherthe reporter, of the following lecture, found myself in a forest ofWestern Africa. I was neither searching for the source of anythingnor hoping to meet anybody. But, as I walked on my lonelyway, I did soon come upon a man, much be-tattered and bronzed, whowas plainly an Anglo-Saxon. He was bathing his feet in a muddylittle spring, from which a tiny rill ran out and lost itself in the leafygloom. As I passed him I turned my head inquiringly, and he lookedup and said, “Yes, my name is Livingstone, and this is it. It emptiesinto a duck-pond about a mile off, and that empties into a series ofmill-ponds, each a little larger than the other, from the last of whicha river runs into Lake Nyanza. This is it; and so I thought that, asI am rather tired with my tramp, I would bathe my feet. Throwa chip in here, and it will float past Thebes and the Pyramids into theMediterranean. Just send word to Murchison, please, that I’ll bealong presently. Good morning.” “All right,” I answered; “goodmorning,” and continued my walk, thinking how nice and jolly it wasto find Livingstone making a wash-pot of the source of the Nile.
As I went onward, musing upon the eternal fitness of things, anendless theme, I became aware that there were many monkeysaround me, of various kinds, but chiefly gorillas. They were all inmotion, not disporting themselves or seeking food, but apparentlymoving forward, with one consent, in one direction. Some of themwere leaping from tree to tree; others ran along upon the ground.As I went on the numbers increased, until at last I found myself surroundedby several hundred gorillas, many of them being the largestand fiercest of their species. There could not have been more if Mr.Du Chaillu had been present. Determined to see what was theoccasion of this movement, I followed his example and joined thecrowd. After walking for about an hour, the throng increasing atevery step, we finally came upon an open place in the forest, andthere we found a mass-meeting of monkeys. Some were seated uponthe ground; others were perched upon the branches of the surroundingtrees; and all seemed animated and expectant. There was a greatchattering, which, in the confusion, I did not at first quite understand;although, having read Mr. Du Chaillu’s books in a docilemood, I was familiar with the monkey language, and particularlywith the gorilla dialect. But I soon made out the words “Fall ofman,” “interesting subject,” “lecture,” “Darwin,” “the learned UmBugg Hee.” I inferred at once that there was to be a lecture onthe monkey version of the Darwinian theory; and of course decidedto wait, and bathe my feet also in the sources of the Nile. Afterthe ladies had been escorted to front places (for, as Mr. Du Chailluhas told us, the gorillas are very attentive to their females), there wassilence; and the lecturer, a large and solemn male gorilla, somewhatpast middle age, mounted a stump, and delivered himself as follows.I have done nothing more than translate his lecture from Gorillese intoa civilized form of thought and into the English idiom.
I will only call attention to the reserve and decorum of the gorillalecture. Notwithstanding the nature of his subject, and the exampleof his illustrious predecessor and kinsman, he has made his amorousscenes few, and has treated them with great delicacy, and, unlike theformer, has not made it necessary to cloak any part of his lecture inthe obscurity of a learned language:—a doubtful expedient in thesedays—these practical days—when so many young women learn nothingof house-keeping but much of Latin.
My Hairy Hearers:
Many parts of the world, less happy than the wilds of our belovedAfrica, are inhabited by a feeble, smooth-skinned creature calledMan. This unhappy animal is much vexed with creeds and theoriesand notions; and the one of these which has been longest and mostdeeply rooted in his mind is, that he is a fallen being. For hundredsof years, for thousands, he has believed that his forefathers lived in aGolden Age, compared with which that in which he now toils andworries is an age of stone or iron; and he seems to have had a melancholypleasure in the thought that in that golden age his race wasbetter, happier, and handsomer than it is at present. Of all his fancies,this one has the best foundation. For, O my quadrumanoushearers, whether gorillas, chimpanzees, ouran-outans, or simple undistinguishedmonkeys! this feeble, helpless creature is akin to us, andis in fact our poor relation. The thought, indeed, is shocking. Norespectable gorilla, of well-regulated mind, can contemplate it withouthorror. But the truth must be told sometimes; and the time hascome when we must confess that man, weak, born without clothes—cruel,cowardly, and ungrateful man—is of our family; very remotely,I am happy to say, a kind of ten thousandth cousin, but still a directdescendant of our progenitors. From the high estate of gorilla-hoodhe has descended to that of manhood; and we are in a measure disgracedby his humiliation. This is the fall of man—that he has descendedfrom monkey-hood to humanity.
The story of his descent in the scale of creation is sad and touching,and cannot be heard without deep emotion. What lady gorilla aboutto become a mother, or hoping that at some future day she may beabout to become a mother—about to become a mother for the first,or second, or I will say even the third time (for I cannot suppose thatany well-regulated lady gorilla would ever be about to become amother for the fourth time)—what lady gorilla, I say, in this interestingcondition of mind, could contemplate without shuddering theprobability that, instead of presenting the gentleman gorilla of heraffections with a pledge of their love that promised to have a hideand a bellow that would rival those of a buffalo, teeth like pebble-stones,a fine retreating forehead, and, above all, that high distinguishingfeature of our race, a hind-thumb that is at once a terror toour foes and the most useful of all our members, she would producea wrinkled, pink-bodied weakling, looking like a monkey—one of thesmallest and feeblest of our race—that had been flayed alive, andwhich, even after reaching maturity, could live only by covering itselfwith an artificial skin, and by making machines with which to get itsfood and defend itself against its natural enemies! The idea isshocking; and I beg pardon of my lady friends for the suggestion, Imay say the bare suggestion. But the story of this fall of manalthough sad, is interesting, and I shall proceed to tell it, counting onthe indulgence of my hearers; for it is linked and twined with ourown past history.
The tale has been lately told by one of these very miserable creatures,who, in the depths of his degradation, has yet had the sense todiscover his relationship to us, and the grace to be proud of it. Yes,my well-haired friends, a man-animal called the Darwin has had thesatisfaction of boasting to his fellows of his descent from the quadrumana.Not only so, he has traced it truthfully, step by step, to ourshame and their glory. I shall tell you succinctly and directly whathe spreads over a long and tedious narrative, full of assertions, andrepetitions, and guesses, which he calls inferences. These are all needlessto us; for, as he confesses, and we boast, we comprehend at onceby instinct what he and his poor fellows in weakness and ignorancecan only grasp by a long and painful process which they call reasoning,by which they are often led into absurdities attainable in no otherway.
As you know, the world was made for the gorilla, and when heappeared he was in all the glory of his present strength and beauty.He was the last and highest of Nature’s productions, the ideal creatureof the universe. True, there were others larger and stronger—onland and in water—lions, tigers, elephants, and the like, whales,crocodiles, and hippopotamuses; but these were of low caste, creatureswith whom he could have no intercourse on terms of equality,and whom he could generally meet only as his natural enemies. Foryou must have observed that those who are below us hate us; hate usenough at least to rejoice in our downfall, if not to seek our destruction.Usually, too, they devour us, and feed their own life andgrowth by our extinction.
But the gorilla, too, has had his vicissitudes. Indeed, we may saythat, like man, he has had his fall. Unlike man, however, he roseagain, until he re-attained his present glorious perfection of formand feature. We fell, my quadrumanous friends, through thefrailty and fickleness of the female sex. That charming and no lessuseful half of our race has also been its bane and its torment for manycenturies. To them we owe the humiliating fact that gorillas once hadtails, and that some even of our cousins are still afflicted with that ridiculous,although sometimes useful, appendage. I hope that none ofthose who are present, representing the be-tailed families of our species,will take offence at what I have said. All distinctions founded uponsuperiority have been done away by the revolutions of late years; andthe last change in the fundamental law of our community, I think itwas the fifteenth, made the smallest and longest-tailed monkey inAfrica—my equal.
But to the story of our tail.
Long ago, so long that the years cannot be numbered upon all thefingers and toes of all the gorillas and