Nor have certain male and female individuals been intentionally picked out and matched, except in the well-known case of the Prussian grenadiers; and in this case man obeyed, as might have been expected, the law of methodical selection; for it is asserted that many tall men were reared in the villages inhabited by the grenadiers and their tall wives. In Sparta, also, a form of selection was followed, for it was enacted that all children should be examined shortly after birth; the well-formed and vigorous being preserved, the others left to perish. (13. Mitford's 'History of Greece,' vol. i. p. 282. It appears also from a passage in Xenophon's 'Memorabilia,' B. ii. 4 (to which my attention has been called by the Rev. J.N. Hoare), that it was a well recognised principle with the Greeks, that men ought to select their wives with a view to the health and vigour of their children. The Grecian poet, Theognis, who lived 550 B.C., clearly saw how important selection, if carefully applied, would be for the improvement of mankind. He saw, likewise, that wealth often checks the proper action of sexual selection. He thus writes:

"With kine and horses, Kurnus! we proceed By reasonable rules, and choose a breed For profit and increase, at any price: Of a sound stock, without defect or vice. But, in the daily matches that we make, The price is everything: for money's sake, Men marry: women are in marriage given The churl or ruffian, that in wealth has thriven, May match his offspring with the proudest race: Thus everything is mix'd, noble and base! If then in outward manner, form, and mind, You find us a degraded, motley kind, Wonder no more, my friend! the cause is plain, And to lament the consequence is vain."

(The Works of J. Hookham Frere, vol. ii. 1872, p. 334.))

If we consider all the races of man as forming a single species, his range is enormous; but some separate races, as the Americans and Polynesians, have very wide ranges. It is a well-known law that widely-ranging species are much more variable than species with restricted ranges; and the variability of man may with more truth be compared with that of widely- ranging species, than with that of domesticated animals.

Not only does variability appear to be induced in man and the lower animals by the same general causes, but in both the same parts of the body are affected in a closely analogous manner. This has been proved in such full detail by Godron and Quatrefages, that I need here only refer to their works. (14. Godron, 'De l'Espece,' 1859, tom. ii. livre 3. Quatrefages, 'Unite de l'Espece Humaine,' 1861. Also Lectures on Anthropology, given in the 'Revue des Cours Scientifiques,' 1866-1868.) Monstrosities, which graduate into slight variations, are likewise so similar in man and the lower animals, that the same classification and the same terms can be used for both, as has been shewn by Isidore Geoffroy St.-Hilaire. (15. 'Hist. Gen. et Part. des Anomalies de l'Organisation,' in three volumes, tom. i. 1832.) In my work on the variation of domestic animals, I have attempted to arrange in a rude fashion the laws of variation under the following heads:--The direct and definite action of changed conditions, as exhibited by all or nearly all the individuals of the same species, varying in the same manner under the same circumstances. The effects of the long- continued use or disuse of parts. The cohesion of homologous parts. The variability of multiple parts. Compensation of growth; but of this law I have found no good instance in the case of man. The effects of the mechanical pressure of one part on another; as of the pelvis on the cranium of the infant in the womb. Arrests of development, leading to the diminution or suppression of parts. The reappearance of long-lost characters through reversion. And lastly, correlated variation. All these so-called laws apply equally to man and the lower animals; and most of them even to plants.

The Descent of Man Page 21

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book