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side the scope of this paper ; it will suffice now to state that no zoologist or botanist of repute appears to have any doubt that the higher animals and the higher plants are alike descended from such forms, and are, in fact, colonies of imperfectly-separated amoeboid cells. Here, then, we realise that a thing essentially different from competition, the co-operative union of individuals to form higher unities, underlies the whole living creation as it appears to our unaided eyes. How complete that union is let our sense of individuality testify. The oldest fossils, the age of which the geologist indicates by such purely symbolical expressions as fifty and a hundred million of years, are remains of creatures consisting of many “cells,” and before that time, therefore, their first ancient experiments in cooperation had been made and had succeeded. A very curious, and to some minds a fascinating line of speculation, may be noted before we conclude. In the amoeba we have an isolated animal of one cell; in the great majority of animals we have a union of many cells; among the hydrozoa, ascidians, and polyzoa these unions again unite into unions of a higher order. In the gregarious assembly of cattle, in the social intercourse of rooks and wolves, and men also, we have the faint beginnings of such a further synthesis, into the herd, the pack, the flock, or the party. How far may we speculate in the future of further developments of the cooperative principle? Certain cities—Jerusalem, Florence, imperial and pontifical Rome—are no mere aggregates ; they have a unity and distinctive character, an initiative and an emotion of their own. Again, we have ships that seem to have an individuality not entirely subjective. We perceive now in the Socialist a bold ambition for such a synthesis ; we realise his drift. The village commune of the future will be an organism ; it will rejoice and sorrow like a man. Men will be limbs—even nowadays in our public organisations men are but members. One ambition will sway the commune, a perfect fusion of interest there will be, and a perfect sympathy of feeling. Not only will there be “forty feeding like one,” but forty writhing like one, because of toothache in its carpenter or rheumatics in its agriculturalists. The recent work undertaken by physiologists to investigate the behaviour of the peculiar corpuscles in the body, the phagocytes, lends colour to this vision. These strange unities wander through the body, here engorging bacteria, and there crowding at an inflamed spot or absorbing an obsolete structure. They have an appearance of far more initiative and freedom than a factory hand in the body politic. It is as startling and grotesque as it is scientifically true, VOL. CCLXXIII. No. 1942. F F
that man is an aggregate of amoeboid individuals in a higher unity, and that such higher unities as may be reasonably likened to man, the Polyzoa individuals and the Ascidians, have united again into yet higher individual unities, and that, therefore, there is no impossibility in science that in the future men should not coalesce into similar unified aggregates. There can be no doubt that such phenomena as the now almost forgotten Siamese twins and double-headed monstrosities are tentative experiments on the part of Nature towards a “colonial" grouping. This is one of those numberless peculiar cases in which experience jars with reason. Mathematics abounds in such queer contrasts; at the very beginning of algebra we have to speculate about taking quantities away from deficiencies, as everybody knows; but the paradoxical aspect of biological science has not yet been so widely proclaimed. It is as much beyond dispute that the possibility of the utter extinction of humanity, or its extensive modification into even such strange forms as we have hinted at, human trees with individuals as their branches and so forth, is as imperatively admissible in science as it is repugnant to the imagination. Only a very ignorant and dull person would find in such conclusions the reductio ad absurdum of science, and only a very imaginative person could imagine he realised what those conclusions meant. But there are certainly enough facts accumulated by biologists to necessitate very considerable modification of our conceptions of individuality, and to have, if properly applied, an extensive influence on the tenor
of current speculation.
THE dramatic event of the dead month has been the curious
1 little discussion which the enterprising Pall Mall Gazette has started in its columns under the title of “Why I Don't Write Plays." The discussion is due originally to the restless energy of Mr. William Archer. Mr. Archer thinks that the British drama is not brilliantin which I quite agree with him ; but he thinks it is to be bettered by the forcing of all sorts of reluctant novelists into the writing of plays-in which I do not agree with him at all. But the Pall Mall Gazette took the matter up, and wrote to a number of our leading novelists to ask them why they didn't write plays, and what their views were on the present divorce between literature and the drama. A great number of the novelists addressed have replied. One of the first and one of the most important replies came from Mr. Thomas Hardy. Mr. Hardy's remarks appeal to me with a peculiar interest, because Mr. Hardy has been good enough to give me his permission to dramatise one of the most powerful and painful of the stories that compose the “Group of Noble Dames.” Mr. Hardy is very much to the point. He thinks the divorce of fiction from the drama is inimical to the best interests of the stage, but no injury to literature. He has occasionally had a desire to produce a play, and has gone so far as to write the skeletons of several, but has no such desire in any special sense just now. His reasons for preferring the novel to the drama are very cogent. He considers that “in general the novel affords scope for getting nearer to the heart and meaning of things than does the play: in particular, the play as nowadays conditioned, when parts have to be moulded to actors, not actors to parts; when managers will not risk a truly original play ; when seenes have to be arranged in a constrained and arbitrary fashion to suit the exigencies of scene-building, although spectators are absolutely indifferent to order and succession, provided they can have set before them a developing thread of interest. The reason of this arbitrary arrangement would seem to be that the presentation of human passions is subordinated to the presentation of mountains,
cities, clothes, furniture, plate, jewels, and other real and sham-real appurtenances, to the neglect of the principle that the material stage should be a conventional or figurative arena, in which accessories are kept down to the plane of mere suggestions of place and time, so as not to interfere with the required high relief of the action and emotions.”
Certainly no' man has a better right to speak for fiction than the author who first found fame with a masterpiece like “Far from the Madding Crowd,” and who has earned of late still greater honour from “Tess of the d'Urbervilles.” But there are other novelists of very different methods whose opinions have also been sought and found, and prominent among these is that Thackeray in miniature, Mr. W. E. Norris.
Mr. Norris thinks that, although it is one thing to write a novel, and quite another thing to write a play, the two arts are, nevertheless, closely allied. It is needless, he thinks, to point out that in every country but England a novelist is almost, as a matter of course, a playwright into the bargain. Needless also is it to insist upon the benefits which must necessarily accrue both to a national literature and to a national drama from such ordinary versatility, The English novelist, with his regulation three volumes in which to plav about and elaborate his ideas, is apt to grow diffuse—is sometimes even driven to be diffuse-and requires that sort of discipline which demands concentration and condensation.
Mr. Norris himself does not feel greatly tempted to enter the dramatic lists. “Why should we, who assuredly are not men of genius, and who, therefore, cannot hope to trample an opposing host of difficulties under foot, expose ourselves not so much to the danger as to the certainty of a fiasco ? Let it, for the sake of argument, be boldly assumed that we could, if we chose, produce comedies about equal in merit to the novels which we have written, and which have found acceptance with a portion of the novel. reading public. Well, in Paris there would be a chance for us. In Paris our piece—the piece as we had written it-would be faithfully rendered, and our audience would no more think of demanding from it what was neither in it, nor intended to be in it, than of searching for peaches in a strawberry-bed. In Paris such a play, for example, as 'L'Ami Fritz,' a play in which there is absolutely no dramatic incident or situation whatsoever, is not only tolerated but appreciated. But can it be pretended that London would put up with delineations of character, with little genre pictures of contemporary life or gentle satires upon contemporary manners and
morals? ... One would fain avoid the appearance of being offensive or impertinent; but, frankly, I do not believe that the average novelist—the novelist whose works are supposed to be read by 'the lesser public'-could hope to escape being rendered publicly ridiculous were he to essay the suggested feat. If, by an impossibility, he could go the round of the London theatres, selecting an actor here and an actress there, he might get a company together ; otherwise he would be foredoomed to failure. That terrible ‘technique' would be the death of him. Points which depend for their effect upon being very quietly given would be thrust to the front with cruel, strident emphasis ; grandes dames would strut and snort; little tricks of speech and manner that characterise the different classes with which he is accustomed to deal would be replaced by gestures and methods of enunciation characteristic of nothing at all, except the British stage ; emotions common enough in daily life would be displayed after a fashion in which no human being off the boards of a theatre has ever dreamt of displaying them since the world began; and if he ventured upon a timid remonstrance, he would undoubtedly be told that he did not know what he was talking about. The bare thought of what it would be like is enough to make the average novelist's blood curdle in his veins.”
But Mr. Norris has his word to say to the critics who call upon him and his fellows to do something towards rendering the English drama philosophically and technically abreast of the intellectual movement of the time. “Jump upon your Pegasus—or your Rosinantesay these critics; lay your doughty pen in rest, and charge against that grim square of foemen, those 'old critics,' those 'actor-managers, that inveterate, inexorable technique.'. You will be killed, perhaps ; still, you will have fallen in a good cause, and the next squadron, or the next, may be more fortunate.
“But,” pleads Mr. Norris, " if you come to that, I do not so very much want to be killed. I have my little position, such as it is, in the world of letters ; I have my circle of readers, who treat me with a kindness more than equal to any claims that I may possess upon their attention ; I feel that I am fulfilling my modest mission tant bien que mal. If you take me for Don Quixote, it becomes at once my duty to inform you that I am only Sancho Panza. Permit me, for the moment, to shelter myself behind the backs of my big brothers. If they like to undertake the charge, well and good. I am inclined to agree with you that they ought to undertake it, and applause shall not be lacking to them so long as my hands and lungs continue to serve me. Possibly, being so big, they may triumph