January 20, 19—.
I DO not know whether to laugh or weep. I have just finished reading your letter, and I can hardly think. Words seem to have lost their meaning, and words, used as you use them, are without significance. You appear to speak a tongue strangely familiar, yet one I cannot understand. You are unintelligible, as, I dare say, I am to you.
And small wonder that we are unintelligible. Our difference presents itself quite clearly to the scientific mind, and somewhat in this fashion: Man acquires knowledge of the outer world through his sensations and perceptions. Sensation ends in sentiment, and perception ends in reason. These are the two sides of man's nature, and the individual is determined
and ruled by whichever side in him happens to be temperamentally dominant. I have already classed you as a feeler, myself as a thinker. This is, I think true. You, I am confident, feel it to be true. I reason why it is true. You accept it on faith as true, lose sight of the argu ment forthwith, and proceed to express it in emotional terms — which is to say that you take it to heart and feel badly because it happens to be so.
You feign to know this modern scientific slang, and you are contemptuous of it because you do not know it. The terms I use freight no ideas to you. They are sounds, rhythmic and musical, but they are not definite symbols of thought. Their facts you do not grasp. For instance, the prehensile organs of insects, the great toothed mandibles of the black stag-beetle, the amorous din of the male cicada and the muteness of his mate these are facts which you cannot relate, one with the other, nor can you generalise upon them. Let me add to these related characters, and you cannot discern the law which is alike to all. What to you the fluttering moth, decked in gold and crimson,
brilliant, iridescent, splendid? The beauty of it bids you bend to deity, otherwise it has no worth; it is a stimulus to religion, and that is all. So with the glowing incandescence of the stickleback and its polished scales of silver. What make you of the hoarse voice of the gorilla? Is not the dewlap of the ox inscrutable? the mane of the lion? the tusks of the boar? the musk-sack of the deer? In the amethyst and sapphire of the peacock's wing you find no rationality; to you it is a manifestation of the wonder which is taboo. And so with the cock bird, displaying his feathered ruffs and furbelows, dancing strange antics and spilling out his heart in song.
I, on the other hand, dare to gather all these phenomena together, and find out the common truth, the common fact, the common law, which is generalisation, which is Science. I learn that there are two functions which all life must perform: Nutrition and Reproduction. And I learn that in all life, the performance, according to time and space and degree, is very like. The slug must take to itself food, else it will perish; and so I. The slug must procreate its kind, or
its kind will perish; and so I. The need being the same, the only difference is in the expression. In all life come times and seasons when the individuals are aware of dim yearnings and blind compulsions and masterful desires. The senses are quickened and alert to the call of kind. And just as the fish and the reptile glimmeringly adumbrate man, so do these yearnings and desires adumbrate what man in himself calls "love," spelled all out in capitals. I repeat, the need is the same. From the amoeba, up the ladder of life to you and me, comes this passion of perpetuation. And in yourself, re fine and sublimate as you will, it is none the less blind, unreasoning, and compelling.
And now we come to the point. In the development of life from low to high, there came a dividing of the ways. Instinct, as a factor of development, had its limitations. It culminated in that remarkable mechanism, the bee-swarm. It could go no farther. In that direction life was thwarted. But life, splendid and invincible, not to be thwarted, changed the direction of its advance, and reason became the all-potent developmental factor. Reason dawned far down in
the scale, of life; but it culminates in man and the end is not yet.
The lever in his arm he duplicates in wood and steel; the lenses in his eyes in glass; the visual impressions of his brain on chemically sensitised wood-pulp. He is able, reasoning from events and knowing the law, to control the blind forces and direct their operation. Having ascertained the laws of development, he is able to take hold of life and mould and knead it into more beautiful and useful forms. Domestic selection it is called. Does he wish horses which are fast, he selects the fastest. He studies the physics of velocity in relation to equine locomotion, and with an eye to withers, loins, hocks, and haunches, he segregates his brood mares and his stallions. And behold, in the course of a few years, he has a thoroughbred stock, swifter of foot than any ever in the world before.
Since he takes sexual selection into his own hands and scientifically breeds the fish and the fowl, the beast and the vegetable, why may he not scientifically breed his own kind? The fish and the fowl and the beast and the vegetable obey dim yearnings and vague desires and reproduce
themselves. "Poor the reproduction," says Man to Mother Nature; "allow me." And Mother Nature is thrust aside and exceeded by this new creator, this Man-god.
These yearnings and desires of the beast and the vegetable are the best tools nature has succeeded in devising. Having devised them, she leaves their operation to the blindness of chance.
Steps in man and controls and directs them. For the first time in the history of life conscious intelligence forms and transforms life. These yearnings and desires, promptings of the " abysmal fecundity," have in man evolved into what is called "love." They arise in instinct and sensation and culminate in sentiment and emotion. They master man, and the intellect of man, as they master the beast and all the acts of the beast. And they operate in the development of man with the same blindness of chance that they operate in the development of the beast.
Now this is the law: Love, as a means for the perpetuation and development of the human type, is very crude and open to improvement. What the intellect of man has done with the beast, the intellect of man may do with man.
It is a truism to say that my intellect is wiser than my emotions. So, knowing the precise value and use of this erotic phenomenon, this sexual madness, this love, I, for one, elect to choose my mate with my intellect. Thus I choose Hester. And I do truly love her, but in the intellectual sense and not the sense you fanatically demand. I am not seized with a loutish vertigo when I look upon her and touch her hand. Nor do I feel impelled to leave her presence if I would live, as did Dante the presence of Beatrice; nor the painful confusion of Rousseau, when, in the same room with Madame Goton, he seemed impelled to leap into the flaming fireplace. But I do feel for Hester what happily mated men and women, after they have lived down the passion, feel in the afteroon of life. It is the affection of man for woman, which is sanity. It is the sanity of intercourse which replaces love madness; the sanity which comes upon sparrows after the ardour of mating, when they leave off wrangling and chattering and set soberly to work to build their nest for the coming brood.
Pre-nuptial love is the madness of non-under-
standing and part-understanding. Post-nuptial affection is the sanity of complete understanding; it is based upon reason and service and healthy sacrifice. The first is a blind mating of the blind; the second, a clear and open-eyed union of male and female who find enough in common to warrant that union. In a word and in the fullest sense of the word, it is sex comradeship. Pre-nuptial love cannot survive marriage any considerable time. It is doomed inexorably to flicker out, and when it has flickered out it must be replaced by affection, or else the parties to it must separate. We well know that many men and women, unable to build up affection on the ruins of love, do separate, or if they do not, continue to live together in cold tolerance or bitter hatred.
Now, Hester is my mate. We have much in common. There is intellectual, spiritual, and physical affinity. The caress of her voice and the feel of her mind are pleasurable to me; like wise the touch of her hand (and you know that in the union of man and woman the higher affinities are not possible unless there first be physiological affinity). We shall go through
life as comrades go, hand in hand, Hester and I; and great happiness will be ours. And because of all this I say you have no right to challenge my happiness, and vex my days, and feel for me as one dead.
My dear, bewildered Dane, come down out of the clouds. If I am wrong, I have gone over the ground. Then do you go over that ground with me and show where I am wrong. But do not pour out on me your romantic and poetic spleen. Confine yourself to the Fact, man, to the irrefragable Fact.
Ah, your later letter has just arrived. I can only say that I understand. But withal, I am pained that I am not nearer to you. These intellectual phantasmagoria rise up like huge amorphous ghosts and hold me from you. I cannot get through the mists and glooms to press your hand and tell you how dear I hold you. Do, Dane, do let us cease from this. Let us discuss no further. Let me care for Hester in my own way so long as I do no sin and harm no one; and be you father to us,
and bless us who else must go unblessed. For Hester, also, is fatherless and motherless, and you must be to her as you are to me.