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PRESIDENT OF THE ANIMALS FRIEND SOCIETY.
Some benevolent persons, duriog my recent visit to England, requested me to write a pamphlet on the subject of Cruelty to Animals, and on the best mode of bettering their condition, previous to the communications which I have since had with your Society on the subject. I at first refused this task, not from any unwillingness to contribute to the accomplishment of so kind an object, but from the consciousness of my own inability to do it justice. Accustomed, during the greatest portion of my life, to the less useful employment of pursuing the physical Sciences, and illustrating the operations of Nature in detail, I felt that I had not had time to reflect sufficiently on the vast moral historical and even metaphysical questions which the considerations of the animal kingdom involved, to be able to place the best means of improving its conditiori before the public, in that comprehensive point of view which alone could add any new force to arguments already urged, with too little avail, by previous writers. My diffidence was also founded on another consideration : I saw that it would be necessary, writing, as I must do, for a large portion of readers who were accustomed to rely more on authority than on their own reason for arguments, to have recourse to some critical enquiries for which the nature of my studies had not in any way fitted me. I had hitherto examined Nature in her exterior beauties : but it would now be necessary to investigate her in some of her worst deformities, and to trace to their source, with a view of reforming them, many of the most appalling of human crimes, which, having sprung from habitual cruelty towards animals, had been consummated in the most revolting enormities committed against man.
The notorious monster, for example, who many years ago was brought to condign punishment for indulging in a propensity to assassinate women in the dark, had confessed that he owed this demoniacal pleasure to having been allowed, when a boy, to frequent the slaughter house. Nero and Caligula are believed to have begun their career of bloodshed by killing flies : and history records in cvery age and country that animals, because less protected by the law, have afforded to cowardly and cruel men the earliest means of indulging those vicious propensities of human nature which, strengthened by habit, have ended in tyranny and murder. Several persons of both sexes convicted of wanlon cruelty had confessed, before their execution, that they had begun their career of wickedness by tormenting animals. Phrenology, too, had opened to me a vast field of inquiry into the physical conditions of character ; in confirmation of the new doctrine, hundreds of the most atrocious cases had been brought before Gall, Spurzheim, and myself, of persons who had made similar confessions. The subject therefore seemed to demand an extensive investigation into the laws of cerebral physiology, for which I was unprepared. In addition to this, religious doctrines are everywhere, but particularly in Europe, mixed up with all moral lessons; and for these I was still less qualified. Nor was I wholly without apprehension, having been, at one period, rather too fond of joining Diana in her sylvan sports not entirely destitute of cruelty, that I might be accused of wearing the mask of hypocrisy, and suspected of an illtimed and doubtful conversion, in preaching one thing after having long practised another; and that, if I made such a venturesome attack on the Diva Triformis, as would be necessary in this treatise ; though I should not share the fate of Orion, nor pay the penalty of the fatal lock to Proserpine, I might yet be set down by my old associates as under the influence of the goddess in another of her phases. For a man who has spent his time with the Virgin Huntress among the wild woods in the morning of his days, must be cautious how he assails her in the sober evening of life ; lest the Lunar beams should be supposed to be the illuminating sparks that had let in the new light upon his understanding; and he should become a sort of counterpart to the lovers sung by Catullus, who, dallying too long under the rays of the OEtean star that bids the shepherd fold at eventide,
caught rather suddenly by Phosphorus before daybreak :
quos idem saepe revertens Hespere mutalo comprendis nomine eosdem. I had been myself a foxhunter, and tot uis day the merry horn and the hollow voices of Rockwood, Ringwood and Rallywood at break of dawn, afford to my ears a chorus more delightful than all the sickly descant of the Opera, or the sonorous oratory of the finest discourse ever pronounced by
My friends, however, urged me to the task, and convinced me of the duty, which devolved on every one of us, to contribute something towards the general good, in this age of advancing civilization : so that I at length consented, if they would give me a brief, to plead the cause of outraged humanity before the public, and to aid the exertions of some of the best of men whom our country has produced, in extending the principle of charity to the utmost limits of the creation.
On my return to the Continent, therefore, to resume my accustomed pursuits, I determined to find some unoccupied moments, for considering the subject ; and soon hit on a plan which, without breaking in upon the usual occupation of the day, would furnish the requisite time. Habit, already become second nature, has forced on me the necessity of half an hour's quiet smoking, as a digestor after breakfast and dinner ; 1
resolved therefore to employ that period in meditating on the object of this treatise, and, in writing down the result of my thoughts, before I went to work at the more regular business of science. I forget who asserts that “in smoke there's wisdom, and in snuff there's wit”: but I found that, in spending half a morning with a pipe in the mouth, a cup of coffee on the table, and my canine friends with their sonsie faces yawning by my side, I regretted less the loss of a few idle hours, while occupied with the consideration of those important objects which your Society is endeavouring to accomplish. So that, patting the bousie head of old Pup or the silky slanks of poor Posck; I felt entitled to the benefit of the Horatian maxim :
Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci, and proceeded, amidst the sweet fumes of Oriental tobacco, to consider the various subjects which are treated of, I fear with 100 much precipitation, in the following pages. And, frequently, when my merry little poodle Zante wagged his tail, I said, “Hold still, my good dog, I am pleading your cause, in the Court of Conscience, and arraigning the miscreant man before the Tribunal of Public Opinion.'
I mention this anecdole, because it may be of use to others, whose minds are always on the stretch and capable of continued action, to take the hint, and learn to employ many. odds and ends of time to advantage which might otherwise be wasted. I am acquainted with a learned barrister, in high. practice, who has recently produced some able works, and who, I believe, owes his best productions to a habit of devoting half an hour, each morning, to meditation on the subject of his various treatises. Besides, this custom excludes bad thoughts ; and as, all occupations, whether legal, scientific or military, must have interludes of change, it is better to acquire habits of useful recreation than to indulge in others of injurious tendency. By this means we turn our very leisure hours 10 profit, and extract honey, while we are smelling flowers. If all the members of your Society. would agree never to sit down