The anecdotes about the propensity of monkeys to imitate man are much exaggerated. They have a physical structure like his, and mental qualities in some respects not wholly dissimilar from his, and naturally make gestures like those of men; and that is the most of truth there is in those stories.
Monkeys have a language, as among themselves, that is easily understood by individuals of the same species. Individuals of different species, if not too far remote, can after a time learn to understand each other; but if the species are very different, like those of the Old and the New World, the effort is tantamount to that of learning a new language, and frequently requires several years. As the thoughts of monkeys are excessively limited in extent and their wants relate solely to food and the struggle for existence, their language is but little varied, and is composed chiefly of vowels pronounced with different intonations and accompanied by different expressions of the figure, the most common of which are laughing and grinning, and which each species performs in its own peculiar fashion. The expressions of anger are also characteristic, and vary with the species.
My rhesus, together with a large mandrill and a Cynopithecus niger of unusual size, ate at my table, and received all the dishes that I had. The rhesus preferred roast fowl and roast mutton to all other meats, and also liked eggs, raw or cooked. His weakness for eggs once cost me a considerable sum, which I had to pay to a neighbor for one hundred and fifty eggs of high-bred fowls which my pet had destroyed. He ate all kinds of seeds, and liked much to vary his food. Among vegetables he preferred asparagus, and had a strong appetite for fruits, to gratify which he made my own and my neighbors' orchards suffer.
His ordinary drink was milk and half a glass of Bordeaux, which he took in his hand as a man would have done, without spilling a drop. I sometimes gave him tea, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, beer, and white Tokay wine. He frequently abused the last drink, and learned to go into a room where a bottle of it was kept. He would then get drunk—dead-drunk—like any man, and my servant would find him and call to me to help put him into the cage. But, even in this condition, he never failed to have a degree of respect for me, though he would resist being moved, as the street-toper resists the policeman. Put in the cage, he would sleep off his draught stupidly, and then be sick for two or three days, obstinately refusing to eat anything, but never to drink.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue Scientifique.