Page:Passages from the Life of a Philosopher.djvu/19

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NOT THROUGH CAIN.

Many years ago I met a very agreeable party at Mr. Rogers' table. Somebody introduced the subject of ancestry. I remarked that most people are reluctant to acknowledge as their father or grandfather, any person who had committed a dishonest action or a crime. But that no one ever scrupled to be proud of a remote ancestor, even though he might have been a thief or a murderer. Various remarks were made, and reasons assigned, for this tendency of the educated mind. I then turned to my next neighbour, Sir Robert H. Inglis, and asked him what he would do, supposing he possessed undoubted documents, that he was lineally descended from Cain.

Sir Robert said he was at that moment proposing to himself the very same question. After some consideration, he said he should burn them; and then inquired what I should do in the same circumstances. My reply was, that I should preserve them: but simply because I thought the preservation of any fact might ultimately be useful.

I possess no evidence that I am descended from Cain. If any herald suppose that there may be such a presumption, I think it must arise from his confounding Cain with Tubal Cain, who was a great worker in iron. Still, however he might argue that, the probabilities are in favour of his opinion: for I, too, work in iron. But a friend of mine, to whose kind criticisms I am much indebted, suggests that as Tubal Cain invented the Organ, this probability is opposed to the former one.

The next step in my pedigree is to determine whence the origin of my modern family name.

Some have supposed it to be derived from the cry of sheep. If so, that would point to a descent from the Shepherd Kings. Others have supposed it is derived from the name of a place called Bab or Babb, as we have, in the West of England, Bab

B 2