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Essays on Life, Art and Science



It is hardly necessary to apologise for the miscellaneous character
of the following collection of essays. Samuel Butler was a man of
such unusual versatility, and his interests were so many and so
various that his literary remains were bound to cover a wide field.
Nevertheless it will be found that several of the subjects to which
he devoted much time and labour are not represented in these pages.
I have not thought it necessary to reprint any of the numerous
pamphlets and articles which he wrote upon the Iliad and Odyssey,
since these were all merged in "The Authoress of the Odyssey," which
gives his matured views upon everything relating to the Homeric
poems. For a similar reason I have not included an essay on the
evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which he printed in
1865 for private circulation, since he subsequently made extensive
use of it in "The Fair Haven."

Two of the essays in this collection were originally delivered as
lectures; the remainder were published in The Universal Review
during 1888, 1889, and 1890.

I should perhaps explain why two other essays of his, which also
appeared in The Universal Review, have been omitted.

The first of these, entitled "L'Affaire Holbein-Rippel," relates to
a drawing of Holbein's "Danse des Paysans," in the Basle Museum,
which is usually described as a copy, but which Butler believed to
be the work of Holbein himself. This essay requires to be
illustrated in so elaborate a manner that it was impossible to
include it in a book of this size.

The second essay, which is a sketch of the career of the sculptor
Tabachetti, was published as the first section of an article
entitled "A Sculptor and a Shrine," of which the second section is
here given under the title, "The Sanctuary of Montrigone." The
section devoted to the sculptor represents all that Butler then knew
about Tabachetti, but since it was written various documents have
come to light, principally owing to the investigations of Cavaliere
Francesco Negri, of Casale Monferrato, which negative some of
Butler's most cherished conclusions. Had Butler lived he would
either have rewritten his essay in accordance with Cavaliere Negri's
discoveries, of which he fully recognised the value, or incorporated
them into the revised edition of "Ex Voto," which he intended to
publish. As it stands, the essay requires so much revision that I
have decided to omit it altogether, and to postpone giving English
readers a full account of Tabachetti's career until a second edition
of "Ex Voto" is required. Meanwhile I have given a brief summary of
the main facts of Tabachetti's life in a note (page 154) to the
essay on "Art in the Valley of Saas." Any one who wishes for
further details of the sculptor and his work will find them in
Cavaliere Negri's pamphlet, "Il Santuario di Crea" (Alessandria,

The three essays grouped together under the title of "The Deadlock
in Darwinism" may be regarded as a postscript to Butler's four books
on evolution, viz., "Life and Habit," "Evolution, Old and New,"
"Unconscious Memory" and "Luck or Cunning." An occasion for the
publication of these essays seemed to be afforded by the appearance
in 1889 of Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace's "Darwinism"; and although
nearly fourteen years have elapsed since they were published in the
Universal Review, I have no fear that they will be found to be out
of date. How far, indeed, the problem embodied in the deadlock of
which Butler speaks is from solution was conclusively shown by the
correspondence which appeared in the Times in May 1903, occasioned
by some remarks made at University College by Lord Kelvin in moving
a vote of thanks to Professor Henslow after his lecture on "Present
Day Rationalism." Lord Kelvin's claim for a recognition of the fact
that in organic nature scientific thought is compelled to accept the
idea of some kind of directive power, and his statement that
biologists are coming once more to a firm acceptance of a vital
principle, drew from several distinguished men of science retorts
heated enough to prove beyond a doubt that the gulf between the two
main divisions of evolutionists is as wide to-day as it was when
Butler wrote. It will be well, perhaps, for the benefit of readers
who have not followed the history of the theory of evolution during
its later developments, to state in a few words what these two main
divisions are. All evolutionists agree that the differences between
species are caused by the accumulation and transmission of
variations, but they do not agree as to the causes to which the
variations are due. The view held by the older evolutionists,
Buffon, Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck, who have been followed by many
modern thinkers, including Herbert Spencer and Butler, is that the
variations occur mainly as the result of effort and design; the
opposite view, which is that advocated by Mr. Wallace in
"Darwinism," is that the variations occur merely as the result of
chance. The former is sometimes called the theological view,
because it recognises the presence in organic nature of design,
whether it be called creative power, directive force, directivity,
or vital principle; the latter view, in which the existence of
design is absolutely negatived, is now usually described as
Weismannism, from the name of the writer who has been its principal
advocate in recent years.

In conclusion, I must thank my friend Mr. Henry Festing Jones most
warmly for the invaluable assistance which he has given me in
preparing these essays for publication, in correcting the proofs,
and in compiling the introduction and notes.


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