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with it, though it may possess such feelings. We have not the least objection to suppose it does possess them. But if it has them that does not prevent the action being a radically different one from the pointing of man-it does not make it a “sign.”* All persons interested in these questions have probably read or heard of the card tricks of Sir John Lubbock's dogs. They have really no novel significance, and are fundamentally but what “Toby the learned pig" did in the days of our early childhood.
The anecdote of the cat who got help for a parrot up to its knees in dough; those of cats jumping on chairs, etc., are interesting, but not in the least inconsistent with our view of animal faculties being distinct in kind from those of man. We have ourselves elsewhere furnished anecdotes of the same kind.f
But the small value of the many marvellous tales told us about “animal intelligence," the credulity of observers or narrators, and Mr. Romanes's own need of a keener critical faculty, may all, we think, be made clear to readers of ordinary impartiality and intelligence by the following citations.
Mr. Romanes says, “Concerning the use of gesture-signs by monkeys, I give the remarkable case recorded by James Forbes, F.R.S., of a male monkey begging the body of a female which had just been shot.
* As to this and other feelings of relation, see “On Truth,” pp. 188–200, and 344-356.
+ See “ The Cat ” (John Murray), p. 367. Animals which from past sense-experiences have associated feelings of relief with the presence of a certain person, may be thus led to seek the presence of such a person when fresh painful feelings are excited in them.
I p. 100.
* The animal came to the door of the tent, and, finding threats of no avail, began a lamentable moaning, and by the most expressive gestures seemed to beg for the dead body. It was given him; he took it sorrowfully in his arms and bore it away to his expecting companions.” Successful, like Priam, it would be interesting to know what the monkeys did with the corpse. Mr. Romanes calls this tale “remarkable." It is so, indeed, but not in the sense which he intends. Had the apes made gestures, such as are used in ballets, stronger words could not have been used to describe them than “ most expressive." It was, perhaps, but an accident which prevented the subsequent movements of the apes being seen and interpreted as “truly funereal ;” seeing that Professor Büchner * has credited insects with the performance of pious funereal rites. He describes to us two bees flying out of a hive, “carrying between them the corpse of a dead comrade,” who, after they had found a suitable hole, “carefully pushed in the body head foremost, and placed above it two small stones [!]. They then watched for about a minute before they flew away”!
Mr. Romanes cites, with analogous credulity, an account of a monkey shot by Captain Johnson, which "instantly ran down to the lowest branch of a tree, as if he were going to fly at me, stopped suddenly, and coolly put his paw to the part wounded, covered with blood, and held it out for me to see.”.
We are yet further told † of a “closely similar case,” recorded by Sir William Hoste, as follows:
* In his sensational romance, entitled, “Mind in Animals," p. 249. † p. 101.
“One of his officers, coming home after a long day's shooting, saw a female monkey running along the rocks, with her young one in her arms. He immediately fired, and the animal fell. On his.coming up, she grasped her little one close to her breast, and with her other hand pointed [!] to the wound which the ball had made, and which had entered above her breast. Dipping her finger in the blood, and holding it up, she seemed to reproach him with having been the cause of her pain, and also of that of the young one, to which she frequently pointed.”
Now, that these relations repose on a basis of truth is not to be doubted, neither is the perfect good faith of the narrators to be suspected. That the mother hugged her young one, that the wounded apes made gestures due to anger, pain, terror, or distress, no reasonable critic would question. It is, however, quite evident that these kind-hearted sportsmen read into such movements, motives and meanings due to their own fertile imaginations. Such mistaken inferences are not to be wondered at on the part of military men, possibly unskilled either in scientific observation or philosophic reflection ; but it is strange indeed to see their delusions shared by a professed psychologist.*
But we reach the climax of absurdity in a tale which is gravely quoted from a correspondent by Mr. Romanes, † as evidence of exceptional capacity on the
* For an absurd tale about a gorilla, quoted by a writer who distinguished himself in “moral philosophy” at the London University, see “On Truth,” p. 349.
† p. 190.
part of a talking bird. It concerns a cockatoo which had been ill, and the words are :
“A friend came the same afternoon, and asked him how he was. With his head on one side and one of his cunning looks, he told her that he was a little better ;' and when she asked him if he had not been very ill, he said, “Cockie better ; Cockie ever so much better.' ... When I came back (after a prolonged absence) he said, Mother come back to little Cockie : mother come back to little Cockie. Come and love me, and give me pretty kiss. Nobody pity poor Cockie. The boy beat poor Cockie.' He always told me if Jes scolded or beat him. He always told me as soon as he saw me, and in such a pitisul tone."
After this we feel with Mr. Romanes that "enough has now been said.” For if what he represents as facts and valid inferences were truly such, we should not say with our author that“ animals present the germ of the sign-making faculty,” but that animals plainly have and exercise the very same intellectual powers that we possess and exercise, and that nothing but a series of accidents can have prevented some bird, such as this Cockie, from having discovered the law of gravitation or dictated a treatise like the ethics of Aristotle ! • Mr. Romanes concludes the chapter we are examining as follows: “It is certain that .... no distinction between the brute and the man can be raised on the question of the kind of signs which they severally employ as natural or conventional. This distinction, therefore, may in future be disregarded, and natural and conventional signs, if maile intentionally as signs, I shall consider as identical." This treatment of the subject is indeed a convenient one for Mr. Romanes's purpose, but it is a quite unjustifiable treatment. At the beginning of this chapter we were careful to point out the really fundamental distinction which exists with respect to the different classes of actions thus conveniently confounded together under this ambiguous and misleading use of the terms “natural” and “conventional,” and we think it only necessary now to refer to what we have before said.* Not one tittle of credible evidence has been adduced that any mere animal ever made, or was able to make, any real sign whatever.
In his sixth chapter the author applies himself to the consideration of “tone and gesture," as being the most natural and least conventional form of the signmaking faculty, and that which, in his opinion, comes first “in the order of its probable evolution.” He says,t truly enough, that animals express their feelings by “hissings, spittings, growlings, screamings, cooings, etc.," as well as by bodily movements, and that, “even in fully developed speech, rational meaning is largely dependent for its conveyance upon slight differences of intonation.”
He observes, and we entirely agree with him, “that an infant makes considerable advance in the language of tone and gesture before it begins to speak; and, according to Dr. Scott, who has had a very large experience in the instruction of idiotic children, 'those to whom there is no hope of teaching more than the merest rudiments of speech, are yet capable of receiving a con
* See, once more, above, pp. 65, 122. + p. 104.