Popular Science Monthly/Volume 40/March 1892/Darwinism in the Nursery
|DARWINISM IN THE NURSERY.|
By LOUIS ROBINSON, M. D.
WITHIN quite recent times we have learned that such seemingly trivial things as nursery rhymes and fairy tales are of the greatest importance in illustrating some points of the history and affinities of the human race, and also, in a less degree, in indicating the character of the ideas of our early ancestors concerning the forces and phenomena of Nature.
The value of the intense conservatism of the nursery in thus preserving for us, in an almost unchanged form (like ants in the resin of the Tertiary epoch or mammoths in the frozen tundra of the Quaternary), relics of the thoughts and customs of long ago has only begun to be appreciated; and doubtless if the nursery were less of a close preserve to the poachers and priers of science, and, like the beehive and the ant-hill, were available for purposes of investigation or experiment, we might considerably add to our knowledge concerning the history and habits of primitive man. At present there is a gap between embryology and anthropology which has never been filled up; and, oddly enough, with one or two exceptions, there have been hitherto no attempts to make use of the abundant material close at hand for the purpose of filling it. In this essay I propose to bring forward a few results of researches that have been carried out during several years under rather unusually favorable circumstances, in the hope that in some humble degree I may contribute to this end.
Some of the results obtained have been extraordinary, and the hesitation with which they have been received by some of my friends well versed in physiology and anthropology shows that hitherto the facts have escaped attention. They are, however, easily verified, and in several instances a single experiment performed in presence of a skeptic has cut short the controversy in a DARWINISM IN THE NURSERY. 675
satisfactory manner. Many of the inferences drawn are no doubt mucli more open to question, and tliey are liere put forward chiefly with the purpose of drawing the attention of those much better able to judge of the value and bearing of the facts than the present writer.
It is curious how little has been written on the natural history of the human infant in its normal state. "We have, of course, an abundant medical literature on the ailments and care of young children, but the many eminent physicians who have written on the subject have confined their attention almost entirely to abnor- mal or diseased conditions. Even in studying the healthy physi- ological processes the primary idea has been to gain the kind of knowledge which would be available in the treatment of disease rather than that which might illustrate the history of the develop- ment of the race, and this may easily account for many facts of very considerable value for the latter purpose being overlooked or not appreciated at their proper value.
It is plain that a typically healthy infant, in which Nature's processes go on without the interference of medical art, will, after the first crisis of its entry on an independent existence is over, scarcely come under the notice of the physician at all.
The three classes of persons who are brought into close enough contact with the objects under discussion to study their habits and characteristics are medical men, nurses, and parents. The first have been already dealt with. Of the second class we may say that their knowledge, although doubtless profound, and derived both from tradition and observation, does not seem very available for the purposes of science. This has hitherto been my experi- ence, for although in nearly every case where questions were asked there was every assumption and appearance of superior erudition, yet it seemed almost impossible to tap the supply.
Parents, as a rule, from the very nature of their relationship to their offspring, are obviously unable to look on them with the cold, impartial gaze of the scientific investigator. At any rate, experi- ence has proved that very little has resulted from their observa- tions. The parental bias must, more or less, vitiate results ; and the average mother, in spite of many unquestioned merits, is about as competent to take an unprejudiced view of the facts bearing on the natural history of her infant as a "West African negro would do to carry out an investigation of the anatomy and physi- ology of a fetich.
There are some illustrious exceptions, and Darwin himself, in his Expression of the Emotions and Descent of Man, gives an ac- count of some very interesting observations on several of his own children when infants. Several salient traits seem, however, to have completely escaped him, and some of these, which will be
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dealt with, in this paper, have a most important bearing on the argument on which he was then laying most stress, viz., that man is descended from an arboreal quadrumanous ancestor. The fact that such important and easily ascertained characteristics as those alluded to should have been passed over by one so keenly observ- ant of all phenomena bearing upon his theory might suggest that the great man was scarcely so supreme in his own nursery as he was in the wider field of research, and that his opportunities for investigation were to some extent limited by the arbitrary and inflexible rules of this household department. In fact, the sup- posed interest of the Darwinian race, when conflicting with the interests of the Darwinian theory, appear to have become para- mount somewhat to the detriment of the latter.
It has been well said that the develoi^ment of the individual from the single germ-cell to maturity is an epitome of the infinitely longer development of the race from the simplest form of life to its present condition. No branch of science, not even paleontology, has thrown so much light on the evolution theory as the study of the structure and progress of the embryo up to the time of birth. There seems, however, no reason why embryology should stop here. An animal until independent of parental care, and even beyond that point, until the bodily structures and func- tions are those of an adult, is still, strictly speaking, an embryo ; and we may learn much of its racial history by observing the peculiarities of its anatomy and habits of life.
For instance, among our domestic animals, horses and cattle live very much in the same manner, and thrive equally well graz- ing in open pastures. Yet a brief examination of the young of each shows that the habits and habitats of their resj^ective wild ancestors were widely different. A foal from birth is conspicuous for the development of its legs, and when a few days old can gal- lop almost as fast as ever it will in its life. It makes no attempt at concealment beyond retiring behind its dam, and it carries its head high, evidently on the alert to see danger and flee from it. A young calf, on the contrary, is not much longer in the \eg in proportion than its parents (I exclude, of course, the breeds artifi- cially produced within quite recent times), and has but an indif- ferent turn of speed, and it is slow and stupid in noticing its sur- roundings. It has, however, one powerful and efficient instinct of self-preservation ; for if, as is often the case in a bushy pasture, the mother leaves it under cover while she goes to graze, it will lie as still as death, and allow itself to be trodden on rather than betray its hiding-place. Hence we see that the ancestors of our domestic horses inhabited open plains where there was little or no cover, and that they escaped by quickly observing the approach of a foe and by speed. Wild cattle, on the contrary, as is still
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seen in some parts of Texas and Australia, never from choice stray far from the shelter of the woods ; and their ancestors, when threatened, lay couched among the bushes like deer, in the hope of escaping observation. It is very remarkable how quickly horses and cattle, though domesticated for thousands of genera- tions, during which long period many of their wild instincts and habits have been entirely in abeyance, regain all the old power of self-preservation proper to the wild state, and often in a single generation become as acute in powers of scent and vision, and other means of escaping from their enemies, as animals which have never been tamed. There are at present probably no animals so alert and difficult to approach as the " brumbies," of Australia. In no way could more eloquently be shown the immense stretch of time during which these qualities were formed and became ingrained in the very nature and structure of their possessors than by comparing them with the trivial and evanescent effects of many centuries of domestication.
In the case of our own race it has often been observed that schoolboys present many points of resemblance to savages both in their methods of thinking — especially about abstract subjects — and in their actions. Younger children without a doubt also re- flect some of the traits of their remote progenitors. If, as in the case of the calf and the foal, we look for traces of habits of self- preservation that for incalculably long periods were most neces- sary for the safety of the individual (and therefore for the preser- vation of the race), we shall find that such habits exist, and are impossible to explain on any other hypothesis than that they were once of essential service.
Take, for instance, the shyness of very young children and their evident terror and distress at the approach of a stranger. At first sight it seems quite unaccountable that an infant a few months old, who has experienced nothing but the utmost kindness and tender care from every human being that it has seen, should cling to its nurse and show every sign of alarm when some person new to it approaches. Infants vary much in this respect, and the habit is not by any means universal, though it is far more often present than absent. This would suggest that, whatever its origin, it was not for any very long period (in the evolutionary sense) ab- solutely necessary to preserve the species from extinction. Darwin merely alludes to the shyness of children as probably a remnant of a habit common to all wild creatures. We need not, however, go back to any remote ancestral form to find a state of affairs in which it might prove of the greatest service. We know that the cave-dwellers of the Dordogne Valley were cannibals, and that much later, when the races that piled together the Danish "kitchen middens" lived on the shores of the Baltic and German
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Oceans, they were very mucli such, savages as the present inhabit- ants of Tierra del Fuego, and lived after the same fashion. Like the Fuegians, they were probably divided into small clans, each of a few families, and these, from conflicting interests and other causes, would be constantly at war. The earlier palaeolithic sav- ages, living in caves and rock shelters, would be even more isolated and uncompromising in their treatment of strangers, for the game of any given district would only be sufficient to support a few. If in our day
" Lands intersected by a narrow frith Ablior each other, mountains interposed Make enemies of nations,"
in the time of palseolithic and early neolithic man every district the size of an English parish would be the hunting-ground of a clan, with fierce enemies on every side. In such a state of affairs a stranger (unless he were safely tied to a stake) would be a most undesirable person in proximity to the wigwam and the pica- ninnies.
If he paid a call it would very likely be — in the scarcity of other game — with the purpose of carrying off a tender foe for table use. Under such circumstances the child who ran to its mother, or fled into the dark recesses of the cave, upon first spying an intruder would be more likely to survive than another of a more confiding disposition. Often, during the absence of the men on a hunting expedition, a raid would be made, and all the women and children that could be caught carried away or killed. The returning warriors would find their homes desolate, and only those members of their families surviving who, by chance or their own action, had escaped the eyes of the spoilers. On the approach of an enemy — and " stranger " and " enemy " would be synonymous — the child which first ran or crawled to its mother, so that she could catch it up and dash out of the wigwam and seek the cover of the woods, might be the only one of all the family to survive and leave offspring. Naturally the instinct which caused the child to turn from the stranger to the mother would be perpetuated ; and from the frequency of the habit at the present day it seems probable that many of our ancestors were so saved from destruction. We must remember that the state of society in which such occurrences would be frequent lasted many thousand years, and that probably scarcely a generation was exempt from this particular and unpleas- ant form of influence.
When we bear in mind that the play of young animals is almost always mimic war, it is well worthy of note how very early young children will take to the game of " hide and seek.'^ I have seen a child of a year old who, with scarcely any teaching, would
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liide beliind the curtains and pretend to be in great alarm wlien discovered. Probably the readiness with which infants play at " bo-peep," and peer round the edge of a cradle curtain, and then suddenly draw back into hiding, is traceable to a much earlier ancestor. Here we see the remains of a habit common to nearly all arboreal animals, and the cradle curtain, or chair, or what not, is merely a substitute for a part of the trunk of a tree behind which the body is supposed to be hidden, while the eyes, and as little else as possible, are exposed for a moment to scrutinize a possible enemy and then quickly withdrawn.
It is remarkable how quickly very young children notice and learn to distinguish different domestic animals. I have known several cases in which an infant under a year old, which could not talk at all, has recognized and imitated the cries of sheep, cows, dogs, and cats, and evidently knew a horse from an ox. Not infrequently I have heard great surprise expressed by parents at the quickness with which a baby would perceive some animal a long distance off, or when from other causes it was so inconspicu- ous as to escape the eyes of older persons. Pictures of animals, too, have a great fascination, and the child is never tired of hear- ing its playmate roar like a lion or bray like an ass when looking at them in the picture-book. This may seem of trivial import ; but it is worth while to remember that the baby's forefathers for several thousand generations depended upon their knowledge of the forms and ways of wild beasts in order to escape destruction, either from starvation or from being overcome and devoured in contests with them ; and that any and every individual who was a dunce at this kind of learning was in a short time eliminated. Hence an aptness to notice and gain a knowledge of different animals was essential to those who wished to survive, and a faculty so necessary, and so constantly operative through long ages, would be likely to leave traces in after-generations.
Among all arboreal apes the ability firmly to hold on to the branches is, of course, extremely important, and in consequence they have developed a strong power of grip in the hands. The late Frank Buckland compares the hands of an anthropoid ape to grapnels, from their evident adaptation to this end. Nor does this power exist only among adults, for although most apes, when at rest, nurse their young on one arm, just as does a mother of our own species, when, as often happens, they are fleeing from an enemy, such as a leopard or some other tree-climbing carnivorous animal, the mother would need all her hands to pass from branch to branch with sufficient celerity to escape. Under such circum- stances the infant ape must cling on to its mother as best it can ; and naturalists who have repeatedly seen a troop of monkeys in full flight state that the young ones as a rule hang beneath the
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necks and breasts of the mothers, holding on by the long hair of their shoulders and sides. This was the case with a young Rhoe- sus monkey born in the Zoological Gardens. Wallace, in his Malay Archipelago, gives an account of a very young orang which he secured after shooting the mother. He states that the baby orang was in most points as helpless as a human infant, and lay on its back, quite unable to sit upright. It had, however, an ■extraordinary power of grip, and when it had once secured a hold -of his beard he was not able to free himself without help. On his taking it home to his house in Sarawak he found that it was very unhappy unless it could seize and hold on to something, and would lie on its back and sprawl about with its limbs until this could be accomplished. He first gave it some bars of wood to hold on to, but, finding it preferred something hairy, he rolled up a buffalo- skin, and for a while the little creature was content to cling to this, until, by trying to make it perform other maternal duties and fill an empty stomach, the poor orphan mias nearly choked itself with mouthfuls of hair and had to be deprived of its comforter. The whole story of this poor little ape is both amusing and pathetic, as well as instructive, and I can not do better than refer those not already acquainted with it to the book, which is as a whole as good an introduction for the young student to the science of evolution as could well be found.
This power to hold on to the parent in any emergency may be com_[>ared to the galloping power of the young foal and the instinct of concealment in the calf ; it is the one chief means of self-preser- vation adopted by the young of the arboreal quadrumana. During long epochs, impossible to measure by years, it would constantly be exercised ; and it is plain that every infant ape that failed to exercise it, or which was physically unable from any cause to cling to its mother, when pursued by an agile foe, would either fall to the ground or be devoured among the branches. When we consider the harassed and precarious life of all wild creatures and the number of their enemies, it becomes apparent that scarcely an individual would be exempt from being many times put to the test, and the habit would, by the survival of those only which were able to maintain their grip, become more and more confirmed, until it became an integral part of the nature of all quadrumana and their descendants.
This being so, it occurred to me to investigate the powers of grip in young infants ; for if no such power were present, or if the grasp of the hands proved only to be equally proportionate to any other exhibition of muscular strength in those feeble folk, it would either indicate that our connection with quadrumana was of the slightest and most remote description, or that man had some other origin than the Darwinian philosophy maintains.
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In The Luck of Roaring Camp every one will remember the expression of one of Bret Harte's mining ruffians after lie liad passed through the shanty containing the newly born " Luck " and the corpse of the wretched mother. " He wrastled with my finger," said Mr. Kentuck, regarding that member with curiosity, and characteristically adding some adjectives more emphatic than to the point. On reading the story aloud in company several years ago a discussion arose as to whether the novelist was as correct an observer of infant human nature as he doubtless was of the vagaries of the pious cut-throats and chaste courtesans of the Pacific slope in the golden days of '49, and considerable doubt was thrown on the statement of Mr. Kentuck, since it did not seem probable that so gelatinous and flabby a creature as a new- born babe could " wrastle " (and prevail) even with a finger. Sub- sequent observation proved that the novelist here did not go beyond Nature's warrant, and that, whatever doubts we may have of the disinterestedness of Mr. Oakhurst, or the constancy of " Miggles," " The Luck " was drawn true to type.
Finding myself placed in a position in which material was abundant, and available for reasonable experiment, I commenced a series of systematic observations with the purpose of finding out what proportion of young infants had a noticeable power of grip, and what was the extent of the power. I have now records of upward of sixty cases in which the children were under a month old, and in at least half of these the experiment was tried within an hour of birth. The results as given below are, as I have already indicated, both curious and unexpected.
In every instance, with only two exceptions, the child was able to hang on to the finger or a small stick three quarters of an inch in diameter by its hands, like an acrobat from a horizontal bar, and sustain the whole lueight of its body for at least ten seconds. In twelve cases, in infants under an hour old, half a minute passed before the grasp relaxed, and in three or four nearly a minute. When about four days old I found that the strength had increased, and that nearly all, when tried at this age, could sustain their weight for half a minute. At about a fortnight or three weeks after birth the faculty appeared to have maintained its maximum, for several at this period succeeded in hanging for over a minute and a half, two for just over two minutes, and one infant of three weeks old for two minutes thirty-five seconds! As, however, in a well-nourished child there is usually a rapid accumulation of fat after the first fortnight, the apparently diminished strength subse- quently may result partly from the increased disproportion of the weight of the body and the muscular strength of the arms, and partly from the neglect to cultivate this curious endowment. In one instance, in which the performer had less than one hour's
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experience of life, he liung by both hands to my forefinger for ten seconds, and then deliberately let go with his right hand (as if to seek a better hold) and maintained his position for five seconds more by the left hand only. A curious point is, that in many cases no sign of distress is evinced, and no cry uttered, until the grasp begins to give way. In order to satisfy some skeptical friends I had a series of photographs taken of infants clinging to a finger or to a walking-stick, and these show the position adopted excellently. Invariably the thighs are bent nearly at right angles to the body, and in no case did the lower limbs hang down and take the attitude of the erect position. This attitude and the dis- proportionately large development of the arms compared with the legs, give the photographs a striking resemblance to a well-known picture of the celebrated chimpanzee " Sally " at the Zoological Gardens. Of this flexed position of the thighs, so characteristic of young babies, and of the small size of the lower extremities as compared with the upper, I must speak further later on ; for it appears to me that the explanation hitherto given by physiolo- gists of these peculiarities is not altogether satisfactory.
I think it will be acknowledged that the remarkable strength shown in the flexor muscles of the forearm in these young infants, especially when compared with the flaccid and feeble state of the muscular system generally, is a sufficiently striking phenomenon to provoke inquiry as to its cause and origin. The fact that a three-weeks-old baby can perform a feat of muscular strength that would tax the powers of many a healthy adult — if any of my readers doubt this let them try hanging by their hands from a horizontal bar for three minutes — is enough to set one won- dering.
So noteworthy and so exceptional a measure of strength in this set of muscles, and at the same time one so constantly present in all individuals, must either be of some great utility now, or must in the past have proved of material aid in the battle for existence. Now it is evident that to human infants this gift of grip is of no use at all, unless indeed they were subjected to a severe form of an old south of England custom, which ordered that the babe, when three days old, should be lightly tossed on to the slope of a newly thatched roof, that it might, by holding on to the straw with its little hands, or by rolling helplessly back into the arms of its father, assist in forecasting its future disposition and prospects in life. Barring the successful passing of this ordeal — with regard to which I have never heard that non-suc- cess was a preliminary to immediate extinction — it seems plain that this faculty of sustaining the whole weight by the strength of the grasp of the fingers is totally unnecessary, and serves no purpose whatever in the newly born offspring of savage or civil-
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ized man. It follows therefore that, as is the case with many vestigial structures and useless habits, we must look back into the remote past to account for its initiation and subsequent confirma- tion ; and whatever views we may hold as to man's origin, we find among the arboreal quadrumana, and among these only, a condi- tion of affairs in which not only could the faculty have originated, but in which the need of it was imperative, since its absence meant certain and speedy death.
It is a well-known fact that the human embryo about three months before birth has a thick covering of soft hair, called " la- nugo," which is shed before a separate existence is entered upon. At1:he same stage of development the skeleton is found to conform much more to the simian type than later, for the long bone of the arm, the humerus, is equal to the thigh-bone, and the ulna is quite as long and as important as the tibia. At the time of birth the lower limbs are found to have gained considerably on the upper, but still they are nothing like so much larger as when fully grown. Physiologists have explained this want of development of the lower extl-emities in the foetus by attributing it to the peculiarity of the ante-natal circulation, in which the head and arms are sup- plied with comparatively pure oxygenated blood fresh from the maternal placenta, and the lower part of the trunk and legs get the venous vitiated blood returned through the great veins and transferred via the right ventricle and the ductus arteriosus to the descending aorta. This, it is said, accounts for the more rapid growth and more complete development of the head and arms before birth. To assert the exact contrary would be to contradict several great authorities, and apparently to follow the lead of the pious sage who admired the wisdom and goodness of Providence in causing large rivers to flow by great cities. Nevertheless it is well to remember that just as the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, so the blood-vessels were made for the body and not the body for the blood-vessels. It appears to me much more true to say that the quick arterial blood is sent to the upper extremities because these parts are for the. time being more important, and their growth and development essential to the wel- fare of the individual, than that they are coerced into a kind of temporary hypertrophy, nolens volens, through having a better blood-supply arbitrarily sent them than is allotted to their nether fellow-members. That this view is "ttorne out by facts can be shown by taking the example of a young animal whose hind quarters are of essential service to it from birth ; and for this end we need go no further than the instance, already quoted, of the young foal. Now, in the ante-natal state the foal has just the same arrangement of blood-distribution as the embryo man ; yet he is born with a small light head and well-developed hind quarters, so
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tliat he can gallop with speed. Instead of coming into the world with the general outline of an American bison (as he ought to do upon accepted physiological dicta), he is, as is well known, pro- portionately higher at the rump and lower at the shoulder than in after-life. The mention of the American bison reminds me that it is another capital illustration of the same fact ; for a young buffalo calf must have speed from its earliest days to enable it to keep up with the herd on the open prairie ; and, in consequence, we find that it is much better developed behind (the hind legs being the chief propellers in all galloping animals) than the full-grown bull or cow, and has none of the comma-like, whittled-off aspect of its adult parents. The massive fore end of the bull bison arises from his habit of using himself as a projectile wherewith to batter his rivals out of the overlordship of the herd ; but the bison calf is almost as level-backed as the young of our domestic cattle — though it is a much more active, wide-awake little beast than an ordinary calf.
Why, then, are the head and upper extremities so apparently abnormally developed in the young infant ? I conceive the true reason to be something like this : For untold ages the perfection of the arms was a sine qua non of the continuance of the race ; and as man, or the thing which was to be man, took to living by his wits — when, that is, mind began to take precedence of brute force and direct reflex action in the forefront of the struggle for existence — it became an absolute necessity for the being that was to live by his wits to be furnished with an abundant supply of the raw material out of which wits are made — that is, brains. Now, every man, actual or in ^osse— having elected, be it remem- bered, to fight chiefly with his brains, and having renounced for- ever the more gross and carnal weapons, such as huge canine teeth and heavy, cla.w-armed limbs— would be certainly bested in the struggle, and driven out of being, if his chosen armature were not up to the mark. In other words, every incipient homo who was born with deficient mind-material lived but a short time and left no offspring. And, since the potentialities of the brain depend far more upon its primary degree of development than do, for instance, the potentialities of the muscles, only those infants which were born with crania capacious and well-furnished would attain that degree of excellence which would prevent them from being fatally plucked in Nature's great perennial competitive examination. Only those infants, then, survived and became our ancestors which had from the first a good development of head and arm, and, to insure this, Nature has provided for a suitable blood-supply during the early period of growth.
With regard to the forward bend of the thighs in young infants, which is constant in all cases, as any one who has the opportunity
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for observing can see for himself, this has been accounted for from the fact that the thighs are flexed against the abdomen during the hitter part of intra-uterine life. But from analogy with other young creatures, such as those already mentioned and young birds, we find that the pre-natal position has little or no influence in decreeing the habitual attitude of the limbs after birth, and it seems to me more logical and reasonable to trace this also to a prior state of evolutionary development.
Man is, when standing erect, the only animal that has the thigh in a line with the axis of the vertebral column, and among his nearest congeners in the animal world the flexed state of the femoral articulation is natural and constant. As we go down the scale the angle between the thighs and trunk diminishes, until it reaches the right angle characteristic of most quadrupeds. I speak here of the attitude adopted when the animal is at rest upon its legs, for during sleep there is in many cases a curious re- version to the position occupied in embryonic life. Thus we see that a bird roosting with its head " under its wing," and the legs drawn up close to the body, offers a decided resemblance to the chick in the Qgg.
I have noticed that young children, when old enough to shift their limbs, very seldom sleep in any but the curled-up posi- tion ; and that as often as not, when unhampered by clothing or other artificial restraints, they sleep in the same attitude as do many quadrupeds, viz., with the abdomen downward and the limbs flexed beneath them. I am told that negro mothers and nurses in the West Indies invariably lay their charges down to sleep on their stomachs, and that this custom is also common in various parts of the world. Adult man is, I believe, the only ani- mal who ever elects to sleep upon his back. Some of the lower savages seem to sleep comfortably on occasion in a crouching position with the head bent down upon the knees, just as all the common tribes of monkeys do. Among the quadrumana it is not until we come to the platform-building anthropoid types that we find a recumbent position habitually taken during sleep. The young orangs and chimpanzees that they have had at the Zoologi- cal Gardens slept with the body semi-prone and with the limbs, or all except one arm, which was used as a pillow, curled under them. This is exactly the position voluntarily adopted by eighty per cent of children between ten and twenty months old which I have had opportunities of watching. I was told by the attend- ants at the Zoological Gardens that no ape will sleep flat on his back, as adult man often does.
It would be very interesting to get exact observations as to the habits of all the lower tribes of men with regard to sleeping, for it is a point upon which a great deal would seem to depend, if.
�� � as Tylor and most of our anthropologists believe, man's first ideas of a spirit world arose from dreams. We know that most of our domestic animals dream, as is proved by their movements while asleep, and the same thing has also been observed in monkeys. The effect of the position of the body during sleep upon the character of our dreams is too well known to require comment, for probably every one of my readers has experienced the very disagreeable results of sleeping on the back.
Now, if the first glimmerings of another world came to early man through dreams, in which he saw his comrades, or enemies, long since dead, reappear just as in life, though mixed up with much that was incongruous and incomprehensible, it would seem as if the period during which man first adopted the dorsal decubitus might have been an epoch-making time in his raw theology.
Devils and devil-worship might easily have originated from a nightmare; and since even dogmas have pedigrees and are subject to the laws of evolution, it is perhaps no very wild suggestion that some of the more somber tenets of our gentle nineteenth-century creeds may owe their embryonic beginnings to the sleeping attitude of some palæolithic divine who had gorged himself in an unwise degree with wild-boar flesh. — Nineteenth Century.