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Enter PHILOSOPHER'S SON. Philosopher's Son. Hullo, whom have we here? A picnic party? P. G. and N. N. No; two victims of heredity who have flown here to avoid reflected glory and falling mantles, and who are resolved to return to pristine ignorance and innocence step by step hand in hand.
P. G. I have got to live down a grandfather.
N. N. And I an aunt.
P. S. "Fact is stranger than fiction," as Bacon says. I also am escaping from the toils of an ancestor. My father is a born metaphysician, author of 'The Ratiocination of Co-ordinate Syncretisms,' and I am expected to live up to this. Now, I put it to you if that's not rather hard on a fellow. I don't go in for the sort of thing. I'm a sportsman, fond of shooting, fishing, hunting; all for the open air, and booklarning be hanged! What's the good in it all? What comes of study but round shoulders and pasty faces? I remember as a boy kicking over the traces when I was asked what a conjunction was. Fancy expecting a fellow to know what a conjunction was!
N. N. Are you the man who once found a friend reading a book called 'Dant,' and wondered what ailed him that he should do this thing? You must be his cousin, if not himself.
P. S. No, hang it all! I tell you my kith and kin are clever intellectual people; that's where the trouble is. Now, if my father were a good, stupid, worthy old fox-hunting squire, with muddy gaiters and a whiff of the stable about him, how I should revere him, how proud I should be of him! But a philosopher!-bah !
hang up philosophy, unless philosophy can put a calf to one's leg. Muscle and sinew are the only things worth cultivating. Mind! -faugh! I'm sick of mind, and that's why I'm here.
P. G. Let us shake hands. I've suffered from a poetic grandsire, which is nearly as bad as a philosophic father. I am so glad you are one with us in entering a protest against the March of Intellect with a capital M and a capital I.
P. S. Yes, I'm turning my back on progress, civilisation, and the garnered wisdom of the ages— so many tons of chopped logic done up in stacks, so many sacks of wool gathered by the five wits of generations of deep thinkers. No good to me any of it. Man is an animal, and should behave himself as such, that's what I say. What does he gain by knowledge? Nothing Why, Scripture is dead against book-learning. All I ask for is plenty of biceps, calves, and liberty to kill something. This island ought surely to prove a stepping-stone in the right direction, and help to bridge over the distance between us and pre
Enter POLITICIAN'S NEPHEW.
Politician's Nephew (aside). Seems to me my desert island is inhabited, and by clothed and cultured humanity too. This is a pity. I had hoped to have found myself far from man as a talking reasoning being. (Aloud.) I hope I don't intrude. The fact is, I thought this was a desert island.
Omnes. We all thought that. P. S. Are you, like the rest of us, fleeing from reflected glory, abandoning ancestor-worship, and seeking to wipe out the stigma of inherited genius by a resumption of primordial usages?
P. N. I am. I have an uncle
in Parliament. I won't say what his politics are, or whether I belong to his party or not. It wouldn't interest you. It doesn't interest me. You have no idea what it is to have an uncle in Parliament, and on the wrong side too. I haven't said which side that is, have I? Well, I've suffered from that unruly member, my uncle, considerably. I assure you I can't go anywhere without having him paraded before me-either held to vilification, or else extolled as one doing yeoman service (good old phrase !) to the Cause. I am identified with him. His opinions are supposed to be my opinions. I overhear whispered snatches of conversation 66 Nephew of member for Byteshire, stood for Barkshire in '85; very able man the uncle; nephew very like him; you remember that speech of his in the great debate on the Betterment Bill. He managed to secure a majority in favour of retaining the depreciation-of-the-sovereign clause in that bill," and so on. I am called upon to air my uncle's views on all subjects, and I am supposed to be ready to enter the lists with any champion of the opposite party. Now it so happens that politics are my pet aversion. I detest the party questions, the intrigues, cabals, machinations, and popularity-bidding attitude of the body politic, and I long for a return to the bare simplicity of savage life. In fact, I should even prefer to go a step further back, and to fall into the portion apes and missing links; but this may find difficult.
N. N. This is really amusing. We are all here to escape from the woful burden of hereditary talent.
P. G. Yes, I am simply longing to dig for "pignuts" with these nails of mine, and "to scare the haggard from the rock."
not sure that I know what a haggard is. Do you?
N. N. As a beginning to our dégringolade, I mean to forswear the use of speech, and to make little clucking noises like this— tchuk, tchuk; savages always do.
P. S. We might invent a language analogous to that which Garner tells us is in use among the Simian tribes. But no; that would mean an effort of brain, and there must be nothing of that kind amongst us. To invent even a very low structure of language, to adapt even the queerest, most primitive clucking sound to our needs, would involve some waste of brain-tissue, some process of the intellectual faculties. And this is not to be thought of. But (turning to POLITICIAN'S NEPHEW) how did you get here?
P. N. Oh, I borrowed my uncle's yacht (rather mean of me!). He was busy haranguing his constituents; so I came off, resolved to land on the first desert island that should present itself; and this one rose in mid-ocean, as if on purpose. But how did you effect a landing?
P. S. I was ballooning with a friend, ready to drop down on the first desert island that should turn up, and I descended by a parachute half an hour ago. I told my friend not to wait. And now tell me, pending the discovery of "pignuts," "haggards," and shell-fish, what arrangements have been made about feeding?-grazing I hope to be able to call it ere long, for I quite expect we shall all be down upon all-fours, like Nebuchadnezzar, before we are done with this experiment.
N. N. My trunk, which is lying on the other side of the island, is well stocked with tinned meats, biscuits, and other comestibles. Shall we go over and unpack it? [Exeunt omnes.]
SCENE II.-A week has elapsed. Same island. PHILOSOPHER'S SON and NOVELIST'S NIECE sitting on log of driftwood.
N. N. I don't find that we are forgetting the use of language, or making any appreciable retrogression; do you?
P. S. No; our crablike movements towards a lower plane have not been productive of much result as yet. I am constantly analysing the movement and asking myself, "Am I a lower animal to day than I was yesterday?" and the answer is doubtful. My calves are certainly no bigger round than they were; but that may possibly be the result of "pig-nuts" and insufficient nourishment. I don't feel any tendency to burrow or to hibernate, which is regrettable. You, my dear lady, will find it an easier matter than I to return to a state of nature-pardon the phrase. You see your aunt, after all, is not known beyond a narrow circle of intimes, whereas the author of 'The Ratiocination of Co-ordinate Syncretisms' is a writer of European celebrity, and his son naturally finds himself trammelled at every backward step by the intricacy of his brain convolutions, and the tremendous displacement of grey matter. To think oneself back into beast is a deal harder than to move upwards into man. Now your
N.N. (indignantly). What about my aunt? You are making a great mistake in supposing she is not on a par with your father. Why, her one novel was the cleverest book of its day, she herself quite the wittiest woman in England, and owing to her marriage to Mons. Bonmot, she has a dash of French piquancy and espièglerie to add to her sparkling qualities. I can't allow her powers of mind
to be called in question. Now, as for 'The Rat
Enter POLITICIAN'S NEPHEW and POET'S GRANDDAUGHTER.
P. N. What are you two quarrelling about? And in words too! Surely tooth and claw would have been more seemly under the circumstances.
N. N. We find we are not descending the scale rapidly enough. Hereditary instincts, some trick in the blood, accretions, growths of centuries, time-honoured traditions, inherited prejudices, ancestral idiosyncrasies, impede us, keep us back from "ranging down the lower track" towards prehistoric man.
P. G. Haven't you succeeded in throwing your aunt to the winds yet?
N. N. And what have you done with your grandfather? I think you have given yourself too much concern as to his far-reaching influence. I don't believe any one reads him nowadays. He's quite out of date.
P. G. (firing up). You are quite mistaken. He is one of the immortals, and will live for ever in the hearts of posterity. The true poet is for all time, and can lay the touch of healing and balm on the Weltschmerz as long as men must work and women weep. The stuff poets are made of is woven in the loom of God. But your politician, your philosopher, and your novelist, can be turned out by machinery at so much & dozen.
P. S. Hold! The Rat
N. N. Hang the Rat! How I wish Madame Bonmot was here
to laugh at you all! What funny things she would have said and written about you!
P. S. I will be heard! My father's name is much better known than that of any of your pseudo-intellectual clique. Philosophy from her lofty altitudes looks down in calm and abiding serenity on the poetical or political aberrations of mankind. Therefore, all hail, Philosophy!
P. N. You are wrong there. A knowledge of the political situation, and of the principles that underlie the actions of statesmen, outweighs all other knowledge. The politician marshalling his facts (a vast array emerging from the fastnesses of ancient history, and joining issue with the forces that are moulding the problems of history in process of formation), and passing them in review before him, deduces from a study of them a sound policy. Through the long night of watching he hears human nature knocking at the hundred gates of citadels erected by man's craft, guile, and selfishness, against brother man, citadels destined to fall and crumble away at the trumpet-blast of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. And in the clear light of that day which will dawn, the airy nothings of the poet's dream will vanish like the morning dew, and the shadowy speculations of the metaphysician yield themselves up as vapour to the sun. My uncle
N. N. My aunt
P. N. Will you kindly allow me to finish what I was saying?
N. N. Certainly not. Your uncle can't hold a candle to my
P. G. Can we not keep our tempers, and admit that poets, philosophers, novelists, and politicians have each their place in this world's economy?
P. N. I suspect we are all rather run down from want of food, and may get on to each other's nerves. 'Pig-nuts," especially when you don't find them, are not sustaining; and "haggards of the rock" are tasteless when raw, for the very obvious reason that you can't go within two yards of them.
P. S. It has just occurred to me that in running away from one progenitor, we are bumping up against another. Reaction is the principle that governs mankind. Don't you suppose the first thinking man had nearly as great a contempt for his huge Caliban of a root-grubbing father as we have for our highly organised intellectual parents? Give us back the cave-dweller with the canine tooth and prehensile toes, and what would happen? Progressive desire, putting forth her hand, hauls the creature up inch by inch, age after age, to the full stature of the perfect man. dividual interludes of the ape and tiger in humanity there will be, but the race keeps mounting on and ever on towards the divine.
P. N. Are you quoting from 'The Ratiocination of Co-ordinate Syncretisms' for if you are, I must open fire with one of my uncle's addresses to his constituency. It began
Primrose League, Primrose League,
Primrose League, onward; Plump in the ballot-box fell the six hundred."
This was the text of his speech; but I don't wish to drift into party politics or to rouse any ill-feeling, and so I won't tell you the lines on which he laid down his appeal. I wish you could hear him speakhe's quite a Demosthenes. I must get you in the next time he's on for a debate. Ah! I am forget
ting our isolated position. Strange how, now we are out of it, one longs to be in it, to know "who's in, who's out, who loses and who wins." If the G.O.M. retires soon, I shouldn't wonder if
P. G. For a speechless prehistoric undeveloped male biped, you have a wonderful power of monopolising the conversation. It's impossible to get a word in edgeways. But I feel it is due to my grandfather to interrupt you, and to tell you that I have felt lately poetic utterances in my bosom struggling to free themselves, and I cannot stem the torrent of my inspiration any longer. (Moans out:-)
I dreamt the world was square,
I dreamt the world was long,
The days went slowly by,
I dreamt the world was narrow,
With a clipping sound of shears.
N. N. Strait world! Straitjacket, I think.
P. N. This may merely be the result of mal-nutrition. Yet, on the other hand, it may be inherited genius which will out.
N. N. I should willingly risk being thought brilliant if only I could get safely out of this island. Even dulness palls after a time.
P. S. It is strange how passages from The Ratiocination of Coordinate Syncretisms' keep cropping up in my mind. If you had asked me when I landed, I should have said I had never read the book. Now, I seem almost to know it by heart. Listen to this: "The stream of absolute Truth,