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Unconscious Memory, &c

Abstract

MR. BUTLER is already known to the public as the author of two or three books which display a certain amount of literary ability. So long therefore as he aimed only at entertaining his readers by such works as “Erewhon,” or “Life and Habit,” he was acting in a suitable sphere. But of late his ambition seems to have prompted him to other labours; for in his “Evolution, Old and New,” as well as in the work we are about to consider, he formally enters the arena of philosophical discussion. To this arena, however, he is in no way adapted, either by mental stature or mental equipment; and therefore makes so sorry an exhibition that Mr. Darwin may well be glad that his enemy has written a book. But while we may smile at the vanity which has induced so incapable and ill-informed a man gravely to pose before the world as a philosopher, we should not on this account have deemed “Unconscious Memory” worth reviewing. On the contrary, as a hasty glance would have been sufficient to show that the book is bad in philosophy, bad in judgment, bad in taste, and, in fact, that the only good thing in it is the writer's own opinion of himself—with all that was bad we should not have troubled ourselves, and that which was good we should not have inflicted on our readers. The case, however, is changed when we meet, as we do, with a vile and abusive attack upon the personal character of a man in the position of Mr. Darwin; for however preposterous, and indeed ridiculous, the charges may be, the petty malice which appears to underlie them deserves to be duly repudiated. We shall therefore do our duty in this respect, and at the same time take the opportunity of pointing out the nonsense that Mr. Butler has been writing, both about the philosophy of evolution and the history of biological thought.

Unconscious Memory, &c.

By Samuel Butler. Op. 5. (London: David Bogue, 1880.)

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