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    7. A Very Old Master

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    Chapter 8
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    The work of art which lies before me is old, unquestionably old; a good
    deal older, in fact, than Archbishop Ussher (who invented all out of his
    own archiepiscopal head the date commonly assigned for the creation of
    the world) would by any means have been ready to admit. It is a
    bas-relief by an old master, considerably more antique in origin than
    the most archaic gem or intaglio in the Museo Borbonico at Naples, the
    mildly decorous Louvre in Paris, or the eminently respectable British
    Museum, which is the glory of our own smoky London in the spectacled
    eyes of German professors, all put together. When Assyrian sculptors
    carved in fresh white alabaster the flowing curls of Sennacherib's hair,
    just like a modern coachman's wig, this work of primæval art was already
    hoary with the rime of ages. When Memphian artists were busy in the
    morning twilight of time with the towering coiffure of Ramses or
    Sesostris, this far more ancient relic of plastic handicraft was lying,
    already fossil and forgotten, beneath the concreted floor of a cave in
    the Dordogne. If we were to divide the period for which we possess
    authentic records of man's abode upon this oblate spheroid into ten
    epochs--an epoch being a good high-sounding word which doesn't commit
    one to any definite chronology in particular--then it is probable that
    all known art, from the Egyptian onward, would fall into the tenth of
    the epochs thus loosely demarcated, while my old French bas-relief
    would fall into the first. To put the date quite succinctly, I should
    say it was most likely about 244,000 years before the creation of Adam
    according to Ussher.

    The work of the old master is lightly incised on reindeer horn, and
    represents two horses, of a very early and heavy type, following one
    another, with heads stretched forward, as if sniffing the air
    suspiciously in search of enemies. The horses would certainly excite
    unfavourable comment at Newmarket. Their 'points' are undoubtedly coarse
    and clumsy: their heads are big, thick, stupid, and ungainly; their
    manes are bushy and ill-defined; their legs are distinctly feeble and
    spindle-shaped; their tails more closely resemble the tail of the
    domestic pig than that of the noble animal beloved with a love passing
    the love of women by the English aristocracy. Nevertheless there is
    little (if any) reason to doubt that my very old master did, on the
    whole, accurately represent the ancestral steed of his own exceedingly
    remote period. There were once horses even as is the horse of the
    prehistoric Dordonian artist. Such clumsy, big-headed brutes, dun in hue
    and striped down the back like modern donkeys, did actually once roam
    over the low plains where Paris now stands, and browse off lush grass
    and tall water-plants around the quays of Bordeaux and Lyons. Not only
    do the bones of the contemporary horses, dug up in caves, prove this,
    but quite recently the Russian traveller Prjevalsky (whose name is so
    much easier to spell than to pronounce) has discovered a similar living
    horse, which drags on an obscure existence somewhere in the high
    table-lands of Central Asia. Prjevalsky's horse (you see, as I have only
    to write the word, without uttering it, I don't mind how often or how
    intrepidly I use it) is so singularly like the clumsy brutes that sat,
    or rather stood, for their portraits to my old master that we can't do
    better than begin by describing him _in propria persona_.

    The horse family of the present day is divided, like most other
    families, into two factions, which may be described for variety's sake
    as those of the true horses and the donkeys, these latter including also
    the zebras, quaggas, and various other unfamiliar creatures whose names,
    in very choice Latin, are only known to the more diligent visitors at
    the Sunday Zoo. Now everybody must have noticed that the chief broad
    distinction between these two great groups consists in the feathering of
    the tail. The domestic donkey, with his near congeners, the zebra and
    co., have smooth short-haired tails, ending in a single bunch or
    fly-whisk of long hairs collected together in a tufted bundle at the
    extreme tip. The horse, on the other hand, besides having horny patches
    or callosities on both fore and hind legs, while the donkeys have them
    on the fore legs only, has a hairy tail, in which the long hairs are
    almost equally distributed from top to bottom, thus giving it its
    peculiarly bushy and brushy appearance. But Prjevalsky's horse, as one
    would naturally expect from an early intermediate form, stands half-way
    in this respect between the two groups, and acts the thankless part of a
    family mediator; for it has most of its long tail-hairs collected in a
    final flourish, like the donkey, but several of them spring from the
    middle distance, as in the genuine Arab, though never from the very top,
    thus showing an approach to the true horsey habit without actually
    attaining that final pinnacle of equine glory. So far as one can make
    out from the somewhat rude handicraft of my prehistoric Phidias the
    horse of the quaternary epoch had much the same caudal peculiarity; his
    tail was bushy, but only in the lower half. He was still in the
    intermediate stage between horse and donkey, a natural mule still
    struggling up aspiringly toward perfect horsehood. In all other matters
    the two creatures--the cave man's horse and Prjevalsky's--closely agree.
    Both display large heads, thick necks, coarse manes, and a general
    disregard of 'points' which would strike disgust and dismay into the
    stout breasts of Messrs. Tattersall. In fact over a T.Y.C. it may be
    confidently asserted, in the pure Saxon of the sporting papers, that
    Prjevalsky's and the cave man's lot wouldn't be in it. Nevertheless a
    candid critic would be forced to admit that, in spite of clumsiness,
    they both mean staying.

    So much for the two sitters; now let us turn to the artist who sketched
    them. Who was he, and when did he live? Well, his name, like that of
    many other old masters, is quite unknown to us; but what does that
    matter so long as his work itself lives and survives? Like the Comtists
    he has managed to obtain objective immortality. The work, after all, is
    for the most part all we ever have to go upon. 'I have my own theory
    about the authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey,' said Lewis Carroll (of
    'Alice in Wonderland') once in Christ Church common room: 'it is that
    they weren't really written by Homer, but by another person of the same
    name.' There you have the Iliad in a nutshell as regards the
    authenticity of great works. All we know about the supposed Homer (if
    anything) is that he was the reputed author of the two unapproachable
    Greek epics; and all we know directly about my old master, viewed
    personally, is that he once carved with a rude flint flake on a fragment
    of reindeer horn these two clumsy prehistoric horses. Yet by putting two
    and two together we can make, not four, as might be naturally expected,
    but a fairly connected history of the old master himself and what Mr.
    Herbert Spencer would no doubt playfully term 'his environment.'

    The work of art was dug up from under the firm concreted floor of a cave
    in the Dordogne. That cave was once inhabited by the nameless artist
    himself, his wife, and family. It had been previously tenanted by
    various other early families, as well as by bears, who seem to have
    lived there in the intervals between the different human occupiers.
    Probably the bears ejected the men, and the men in turn ejected the
    bears, by the summary process of eating one another up. In any case the
    freehold of the cave was at last settled upon our early French artist.
    But the date of his occupancy is by no means recent; for since he lived
    there the long cold spell known as the Great Ice Age, or Glacial Epoch,
    has swept over the whole of Northern Europe, and swept before it the
    shivering descendants of my poor prehistoric old master. Now, how long
    ago was the Great Ice Age? As a rule, if you ask a geologist for a
    definite date, you will find him very chary of giving you a distinct
    answer. He knows that the chalk is older than the London clay, and the
    oolite than the chalk, and the red marl than the oolite; and he knows
    also that each of them took a very long time indeed to lay down, but
    exactly how long he has no notion. If you say to him, 'Is it a million
    years since the chalk was deposited?' he will answer, like the old lady
    of Prague, whose ideas were excessively vague, 'Perhaps.' If you suggest
    five millions, he will answer oracularly once more, 'Perhaps'; and if
    you go on to twenty millions, 'Perhaps,' with a broad smile, is still
    the only confession of faith that torture will wring out of him. But in
    the matter of the Glacial Epoch, a comparatively late and almost
    historical event, geologists have broken through their usual reserve on
    this chronological question and condescended to give us a numerical
    determination. And here is how Dr. Croll gets at it.

    Every now and again, geological evidence goes to show us, a long cold
    spell occurs in the northern or southern hemisphere. During these long
    cold spells the ice cap at the poles increases largely, till it spreads
    over a great part of what are now the temperate regions of the globe,
    and makes ice a mere drug in the market as far south as Covent Garden or
    the Halles at Paris. During the greatest extension of this ice sheet in
    the last glacial epoch, in fact, all England except a small
    south-western corner (about Torquay and Bournemouth) was completely
    covered by one enormous mass of glaciers, as is still the case with
    almost the whole of Greenland. The ice sheet, grinding slowly over the
    hills and rocks, smoothed and polished and striated their surfaces in
    many places till they resembled the _roches moutonnées_ similarly ground
    down in our own day by the moving ice rivers of Chamouni and
    Grindelwald. Now, since these great glaciations have occurred at various
    intervals in the world's past history, they must depend upon some
    frequently recurring cause. Such a cause, therefore, Dr. Croll began
    ingeniously to hunt about for.

    He found it at last in the eccentricity of the earth's orbit. This world
    of ours, though usually steady enough in its movements, is at times
    decidedly eccentric. Not that I mean to impute to our old and
    exceedingly respectable planet any occasional aberrations of intellect,
    or still less of morals (such as might be expected from Mars and Venus);
    the word is here to be accepted strictly in its scientific or
    Pickwickian sense as implying merely an irregularity of movement, a
    slight wobbling out of the established path, a deviation from exact
    circularity. Owing to a combination of astronomical revolutions, the
    precession of the equinoxes and the motion of the aphelion (I am not
    going to explain them here; the names alone will be quite sufficient for
    most people; they will take the rest on trust)--owing to the
    combination of these profoundly interesting causes, I say, there occur
    certain periods in the world's life when for a very long time together
    (10,500 years, to be quite precise) the northern hemisphere is warmer
    than the southern, or _vice versa_. Now, Dr. Croll has calculated that
    about 250,000 years ago this eccentricity of the earth's orbit was at
    its highest, so that a cycle of recurring cold and warm epochs in either
    hemisphere alternately then set in; and such cold spells it was that
    produced the Great Ice Age in Northern Europe. They went on till about
    80,000 years ago, when they stopped short for the present, leaving the
    climate of Britain and the neighbouring continent with its existing
    inconvenient Laodicean temperature. And, as there are good reasons for
    believing that my old master and his contemporaries lived just before
    the greatest cold of the Glacial Epoch, and that his immediate
    descendants, with the animals on which they feasted, were driven out of
    Europe, or out of existence, by the slow approach of the enormous ice
    sheet, we may, I think, fairly conclude that his date was somewhere
    about B.C. 248,000. In any case we must at least admit, with Mr. Andrew
    Lang, the laureate of the twenty-five thousandth century, that

    He lived in the long long agoes;
    'Twas the manner of primitive man.

    The old master, then, carved his bas-relief in pre-Glacial Europe, just
    at the moment before the temporary extinction of his race in France by
    the coming on of the Great Ice Age. We can infer this fact from the
    character of the fauna by which he was surrounded, a fauna in which
    species of cold and warm climates are at times quite capriciously
    intermingled. We get the reindeer and the mammoth side by side with the
    hippopotamus and the hyena; we find the chilly cave bear and the Norway
    lemming, the musk sheep and the Arctic fox in the same deposits with the
    lion and the lynx, the leopard and the rhinoceros. The fact is, as Mr.
    Alfred Russel Wallace has pointed out, we live to-day in a zoologically
    impoverished world, from which all the largest, fiercest, and most
    remarkable animals have lately been weeded out. And it was in all
    probability the coming on of the Ice Age that did the weeding. Our Zoo
    can boast no mammoth and no mastodon. The sabre-toothed lion has gone
    the way of all flesh; the deinotherium and the colossal ruminants of the
    Pliocene Age no longer browse beside the banks of Seine. But our old
    master saw the last of some at least among those gigantic quadrupeds; it
    was his hand or that of one among his fellows that scratched the famous
    mammoth etching on the ivory of La Madelaine and carved the figure of
    the extinct cave bear on the reindeer-horn ornaments of Laugerie Basse.
    Probably, therefore, he lived in the period immediately preceding the
    Great Ice Age, or else perhaps in one of the warm interglacial spells
    with which the long secular winter of the northern hemisphere was then
    from time to time agreeably diversified.

    And what did the old master himself look like? Well, painters have
    always been fond of reproducing their own lineaments. Have we not the
    familiar young Raffael, painted by himself, and the Rembrandt, and the
    Titian, and the Rubens, and a hundred other self-drawn portraits, all
    flattering and all famous? Even so primitive man has drawn himself many
    times over, not indeed on this particular piece of reindeer horn, but on
    several other media to be seen elsewhere, in the original or in good
    copies. One of the best portraits is that discovered in the old cave at
    Laugerie Basse by M. Elie Massénat, where a very early pre-Glacial man
    is represented in the act of hunting an aurochs, at which he is casting
    a flint-tipped javelin. In this, as in all other pictures of the same
    epoch, I regret to say that the ancient hunter is represented in the
    costume of Adam before the fall. Our old master's studies, in fact, are
    all in the nude. Primitive man was evidently unacquainted as yet with
    the use of clothing, though primitive woman, while still unclad, had
    already learnt how to heighten her natural charms by the simple addition
    of a necklace and bracelets. Indeed, though dresses were still wholly
    unknown, rouge was even then extremely fashionable among French ladies,
    and lumps of the ruddle with which primitive woman made herself
    beautiful for ever are now to be discovered in the corner of the cave
    where she had her little prehistoric boudoir. To return to our hunter,
    however, who for aught we know to the contrary may be our old master
    himself in person, he is a rather crouching and semi-erect savage, with
    an arched back, recalling somewhat that of the gorilla, a round head,
    long neck, pointed beard, and weak, shambling, ill-developed legs. I
    fear we must admit that pre-Glacial man cut, on the whole, a very sorry
    and awkward figure.

    Was he black? That we don't certainly know, but all analogy would lead
    one to answer positively, Yes. White men seem, on the whole, to be a
    very recent and novel improvement on the original evolutionary pattern.
    At any rate he was distinctly hairy, like the Ainos, or aborigines of
    Japan, in our own day, of whom Miss Isabella Bird has drawn so startling
    and sensational a picture. Several of the pre-Glacial sketches show us
    lank and gawky savages with the body covered with long scratches,
    answering exactly to the scratches which represent the hanging hair of
    the mammoth, and suggesting that man then still retained his old
    original hairy covering. The few skulls and other fragments of
    skeletons now preserved to us also indicate that our old master and his
    contemporaries much resembled in shape and build the Australian black
    fellows, though their foreheads were lower and more receding, while
    their front teeth still projected in huge fangs, faintly recalling the
    immense canines of the male gorilla. Quite apart from any theoretical
    considerations as to our probable descent (or ascent) from Mr. Darwin's
    hypothetical 'hairy arboreal quadrumanous ancestor,' whose existence may
    or may not be really true, there can be no doubt that the actual
    historical remains set before us pre-Glacial man as evidently
    approaching in several important respects the higher monkeys.

    It is interesting to note too that while the Men of the Time still
    retained (to be frankly evolutionary) many traces of the old monkey-like
    progenitor, the horses which our old master has so cleverly delineated
    for us on his scrap of horn similarly retained many traces of the
    earlier united horse-and-donkey ancestor. Professor Huxley has admirably
    reconstructed for us the pedigree of the horse, beginning with a little
    creature from the Eocene beds of New Mexico, with five toes to each hind
    foot, and ending with the modern horse, whose hoof is now practically
    reduced to a single and solid-nailed toe. Intermediate stages show us an
    Upper Eocene animal as big as a fox, with four toes on his front feet
    and three behind; a Miocene kind as big as a sheep, with only three toes
    on the front foot, the two outer of which are smaller than the big
    middle one; and finally a Pliocene form, as big as a donkey, with one
    stout middle toe, the real hoof, flanked by two smaller ones, too short
    by far to reach the ground. In our own horse these lateral toes have
    become reduced to what are known by veterinaries as splint bones,
    combined with the canon in a single solidly morticed piece. But in the
    pre-Glacial horses the splint bones still generally remained quite
    distinct, thus pointing back to the still earlier period when they
    existed as two separate and independent side toes in the ancestral
    quadruped. In a few cave specimens, however, the splints are found
    united with the canons in a single piece, while conversely horses are
    sometimes, though very rarely, born at the present day with three-toed
    feet, exactly resembling those of their half-forgotten ancestor, the
    Pliocene hipparion.

    The reason why we know so much about the horses of the cave period is, I
    am bound to admit, simply and solely because the man of the period ate
    them. Hippophagy has always been popular in France; it was practised by
    pre-Glacial man in the caves of Périgord, and revived with immense
    enthusiasm by the gourmets of the Boulevards after the siege of Paris
    and the hunger of the Commune. The cave men hunted and killed the wild
    horse of their own times, and one of the best of their remaining works
    of art represents a naked hunter attacking two horses, while a huge
    snake winds itself unperceived behind close to his heel. In this rough
    prehistoric sketch one seems to catch some faint antique foreshadowing
    of the rude humour of the 'Petit Journal pour Rire.' Some archæologists
    even believe that the horse was domesticated by the cave men as a source
    of food, and argue that the familiarity with its form shown in the
    drawings could only have been acquired by people who knew the animal in
    its domesticated state; they declare that the cave man was obviously
    horsey. But all the indications seem to me to show that tame animals
    were quite unknown in the age of the cave men. The mammoth certainly was
    never domesticated; yet there is a famous sketch of the huge beast upon
    a piece of his own ivory, discovered in the cave of La Madelaine by
    Messrs. Lartet and Christy, and engraved a hundred times in works on
    archæology, which forms one of the finest existing relics of pre-Glacial
    art. In another sketch, less well known, but not unworthy of admiration,
    the early artist has given us with a few rapid but admirable strokes his
    own reminiscence of the effect produced upon him by the sudden onslaught
    of the hairy brute, tusks erect and mouth wide open, a perfect glimpse
    of elephantine fury. It forms a capital example of early impressionism,
    respectfully recommended to the favourable attention of Mr. J.M.
    Whistler.

    The reindeer, however, formed the favourite food and favourite model of
    the pre-Glacial artists. Perhaps it was a better sitter than the
    mammoth; certainly it is much more frequently represented on these early
    prehistoric bas-reliefs. The high-water mark of palæolithic art is
    undoubtedly to be found in the reindeer of the cave of Thayngen, in
    Switzerland, a capital and spirited representation of a buck grazing, in
    which the perspective of the two horns is better managed than a Chinese
    artist would manage it at the present day. Another drawing of two
    reindeer fighting, scratched on a fragment of schistose rock and
    unearthed in one of the caves of Périgord, though far inferior to the
    Swiss specimen in spirit and execution, is yet not without real merit.
    The perspective, however, displays one marked infantile trait, for the
    head and legs of one deer are seen distinctly through the body of
    another. Cave bears, fish, musk sheep, foxes, and many other extinct or
    existing animals are also found among the archaic sculptures. Probably
    all these creatures were used as food; and it is even doubtful whether
    the artistic troglodytes were not also confirmed cannibals. To quote Mr.
    Andrew Lang once more on primitive man, 'he lived in a cave by the seas;
    he lived upon oysters and foes.' The oysters are quite undoubted, and the
    foes may be inferred with considerable certainty.

    I have spoken of our old master more than once under this rather
    question-begging style and title of primitive man. In reality, however,
    the very facts which I have here been detailing serve themselves to show
    how extremely far our hero was from being truly primitive. You can't
    speak of a distinguished artist, who draws the portraits of extinct
    animals with grace and accuracy, as in any proper sense primordial.
    Grant that our good troglodytes were indeed light-hearted cannibals;
    nevertheless they could design far better than the modern Esquimaux or
    Polynesians, and carve far better than the civilised being who is now
    calmly discoursing about their personal peculiarities in his own study.
    Between the cave men of the pre-Glacial age and the hypothetical hairy
    quadrumanous ancestor aforesaid there must have intervened innumerable
    generations of gradually improving intermediate forms. The old master,
    when he first makes his bow to us, naked and not ashamed, in his Swiss
    or French grotto, flint scalpel in hand and necklet of bear's teeth
    dropping loosely on his hairy bosom, is nevertheless in all essentials a
    completely evolved human being, with a whole past of slowly acquired
    culture lying dimly and mysteriously behind him. Already he had invented
    the bow with its flint-tipped arrow, the neatly chipped javelin-head,
    the bone harpoon, the barbed fish-hook, the axe, the lance, the dagger,
    and the needle. Already he had learnt how to decorate his implements
    with artistic skill, and to carve the handles of his knives with the
    figures of animals. I have no doubt that he even knew how to brew and to
    distil; and he was probably acquainted with the noble art of cookery as
    applied to the persons of his human fellow creatures. Such a personage
    cannot reasonably be called primitive; cannibalism, as somebody has
    rightly remarked, is the first step on the road to civilisation.

    No, if we want to get at genuine, unadulterated primitive man we must go
    much further back in time than the mere trifle of 250,000 years with
    which Dr. Croll and the cosmic astronomers so generously provide us for
    pre-Glacial humanity. We must turn away to the immeasurably earlier
    fire-split flints which the Abbé Bourgeois--undaunted mortal!--ventured
    to discover among the Miocene strata of the _calcaire de Beauce_. Those
    flints, if of human origin at all, were fashioned by some naked and
    still more hairy creature who might fairly claim to be considered as
    genuinely primitive. So rude are they that, though evidently artificial,
    one distinguished archæologist will not admit they can be in any way
    human; he will have it that they were really the handiwork of the great
    European anthropoid ape of that early period. This, however, is nothing
    more than very delicate hair-splitting; for what does it matter whether
    you call the animal that fashioned these exceedingly rough and
    fire-marked implements a man-like ape or an ape-like human being? The
    fact remains quite unaltered, whichever name you choose to give to it.
    When you have got to a monkey who can light a fire and proceed to
    manufacture himself a convenient implement, you may be sure that man,
    noble man, with all his glorious and admirable faculties--cannibal or
    otherwise--is lurking somewhere very close just round the corner. The
    more we examine the work of our old master, in fact, the more does the
    conviction force itself upon us that he was very far indeed from being
    primitive--that we must push back the early history of our race not for
    250,000 winters alone, but perhaps for two or three million years into
    the dim past of Tertiary ages.

    But if pre-Glacial man is thus separated from the origin of the race by
    a very long interval indeed, it is none the less true that he is
    separated from our own time by the intervention of a vast blank space,
    the space occupied by the coming on and passing away of the Glacial
    Epoch. A great gap cuts him off from what we may consider as the
    relatively modern age of the mound-builders, whose grassy barrows still
    cap the summits of our southern chalk downs. When the great ice sheet
    drove away palæolithic man--the man of the caves and the unwrought flint
    axes--from Northern Europe, he was still nothing more than a naked
    savage in the hunting stage, divinely gifted for art, indeed, but armed
    only with roughly chipped stone implements, and wholly ignorant of
    taming animals or of the very rudiments of agriculture. He knew nothing
    of the use of metals--_aurum irrepertum spernere fortior_--and he had
    not even learnt how to grind and polish his rude stone tomahawks to a
    finished edge. He couldn't make himself a bowl of sun-baked pottery,
    and, if he had discovered the almost universal art of manufacturing an
    intoxicating liquor from grain or berries (for, as Byron, with too great
    anthropological truth, justly remarks, 'man, being reasonable, _must_
    get drunk'), he at least drank his aboriginal beer or toddy from the
    capacious horn of a slaughtered aurochs. That was the kind of human
    being who alone inhabited France and England during the later
    pre-Glacial period.

    A hundred and seventy thousand years elapse (as the play-bills put it),
    and then the curtain rises afresh upon neolithic Europe. Man meanwhile,
    loitering somewhere behind the scenes in Asia or Africa (as yet
    imperfectly explored from this point of view), had acquired the
    important arts of sharpening his tomahawks and producing hand-made
    pottery for his kitchen utensils. When the great ice sheet cleared away
    he followed the returning summer into Northern Europe, another man,
    physically, intellectually, and morally, with all the slow accumulations
    of nearly two thousand centuries (how easily one writes the words! how
    hard to realise them!) upon his maturer shoulders. Then comes the age
    of what older antiquaries used to regard as primitive antiquity--the age
    of the English barrows, of the Danish kitchen middens, of the Swiss lake
    dwellings. The men who lived in it had domesticated the dog, the cow,
    the sheep, the goat, and the invaluable pig; they had begun to sow small
    ancestral wheat and undeveloped barley; they had learnt to weave flax
    and wear decent clothing: in a word, they had passed from the savage
    hunting condition to the stage of barbaric herdsmen and agriculturists.
    That is a comparatively modern period, and yet I suppose we must
    conclude with Dr. James Geikie that it isn't to be measured by mere
    calculations of ten or twenty centuries, but of ten or twenty thousand
    years. The perspective of the past is opening up rapidly before us; what
    looked quite close yesterday is shown to-day to lie away off somewhere
    in the dim distance. Like our paleolithic artists, we fail to get the
    reindeer fairly behind the ox in the foreground, as we ought to do if we
    saw the whole scene properly foreshortened.

    On the table where I write there lie two paper-weights, preserving from
    the fate of the sibylline leaves the sheets of foolscap to which this
    essay is now being committed. One of them is a very rude flint hatchet,
    produced by merely chipping off flakes from its side by dexterous blows,
    and utterly unpolished or unground in any way. It belongs to the age of
    the very old master (or possibly even to a slightly earlier epoch), and
    it was sent me from Ightham, in Kent, by that indefatigable unearther of
    prehistoric memorials, Mr. Benjamin Harrison. That flint, which now
    serves me in the office of a paper-weight, is far ruder, simpler, and
    more ineffective than any weapon or implement at present in use among
    the lowest savages. Yet with it, I doubt not, some naked black fellow by
    the banks of the Thames has hunted the mammoth among unbroken forest
    two hundred thousand years ago and more; with it he has faced the angry
    cave bear and the original and only genuine British lion (for everybody
    knows that the existing mongrel heraldic beast is nothing better than a
    bastard modification of the leopard of the Plantagenets). Nay, I have
    very little doubt in my own mind that with it some æsthetic ancestor has
    brained and cut up for his use his next-door neighbour in the nearest
    cavern, and then carved upon his well-picked bones an interesting sketch
    of the entire performance. The Du Mauriers of that remote age, in fact,
    habitually drew their society pictures upon the personal remains of the
    mammoth or the man whom they wished to caricature in deathless
    bone-cuts. The other paper-weight is a polished neolithic tomahawk,
    belonging to the period of the mound-builders, who succeeded the Glacial
    Epoch, and it measures the distance between the two levels of
    civilisation with great accuracy. It is the military weapon of a trained
    barbaric warrior as opposed to the universal implement and utensil of a
    rude, solitary, savage hunter. Yet how curious it is that even in the
    midst of this 'so-called nineteenth century,' which perpetually
    proclaims itself an age of progress, men should still prefer to believe
    themselves inferior to their original ancestors, instead of being
    superior to them! The idea that man has risen is considered base,
    degrading, and positively wicked; the idea that he has fallen is
    considered to be immensely inspiring, ennobling, and beautiful. For
    myself, I have somehow always preferred the boast of the Homeric Glaucus
    that we indeed maintain ourselves to be much better men than ever were
    our fathers.
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