Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/852

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

riably proves the genuine title-deed to the family estates and the hand of the heroine. But, in real life, Huppim may always be readily distinguished from Muppim by some slight divergence of feature or expression; Huz is always a trifle fatter or thinner than Buz, his brother; the two Dromios and the two Antipholuses may deceive the outer public by their close resemblance, but not even Shakespeare himself can make us believe that Mrs. Antipholus was really mistaken as to the personal identity of her own husband. I don't want to be too hard on a lady, but I fancy, myself, she was glad of the excuse for a little innocent and easily explicable flirtation with an agreeable stranger.

Yes, everybody has a character and an idiosyncrasy different in many points from everybody else's. Not even twins, who come closest together of all humanity, merge their individuality absolutely into mere replicas one of the other. Such utter identity is quite impossible in the human family. And the reason, I think, is simply this: the infinite number of separate traits possessed by each human being is too immensely incalculable ever to admit of any two throws, however near, producing precisely the same resultant. I do not doubt that there may be snails or jelly-fish built absolutely on the same pattern in every particular, mental or physical; though, even there, the man that knows them well is often astonished at the way in which one snail differs from another in aspect, or one jelly-fish differs from another in character and intellect. But while the papa snail and the mamma snail are distinguishable in a few traits only, discoverable by none but the close observer, the papa and mamma among human beings are distinguishable by ten thousand diverse peculiarities, mental and physical, all of them obvious to the veriest outsider. Each child is, as it were, a meeting place and battle-field for these diverse paternal and maternal tendencies. It must resemble one or the other in every fiber of every feature; it can't possibly resemble both exactly in those points in which they conspicuously differ. Hence the resultant is, so to speak, a compromise or accommodation between the two; and the chances of the compromise being ever absolutely equal in any two cases are practically none. You might throw down the letters of the alphabet which compose "Paradise Lost" for ever and ever, but you would never get even one line by accident in the exact order that Milton wrote it. In the struggle for life between each unit or cell that goes to make up brain and face and nerve and muscle, here the father conquers, and there the mother, and yonder a truce is struck between them; but that any two among the children should ever represent exactly the same result of the desperate struggle is so infinitely improbable as to be practically impossible.

One last word as to the difficulty which some observers doubtless find in making this theory fit in with the facts as they observe them. While writing this paper, I paused in the midst, laid down my pen,