BLTC Press Titles

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The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

Man and beast here and hereafter

by John George Wood


AMONG other traits of character which Humour are commo: sense of humour

A common to

are common to man and beast, is the man and

. boast.

Humour This is developed in various ways.

exhibited r J

ancHf°7 Mostly, it assumes the form of teasing or others, annoying others, and deriving amusement from their discomfort. This is the lowest form of humour, and is popularly known among ourselves as practical joking. Sometimes, both with man and beast, it takes the form of bodily torture, the struggles of the victim being highly amusing to the tor

even turer. Civilised man has now learned to

by physi

caitorture. consider the infliction of pain upon another as anything but an amusement, and would sooner suffer the agony than inflict it upon a fellow-creature. But to the savage there is no entertainment so fascinating as the infliction of bodily pain upon a human being.

As among Take for example the North American Indian tribes, among whom the torture is a solemn usage of war, which every warrior expects for himself if captured, and is certain to inflict upon any prisoner whom he may happen to take. The ingenuity with which the savage wrings every nerve of the human frame, and kills his victim by sheer pain, is absolutely fiendish; and yet the whole tribe assemble round the stake, and gloat upon the agonies which are being endured by a fellow-creature. Similarly, —in ail

parts of

the African savage tortures either man or the world, woman who is accused of witchcraft, employing means which are too horrible to be mentioned.

Yet, even in these cases, the cruelty seems to be in a great degree owing to

obtuseness of perception; and the savage obtuse

• i i ness °f

who ties his prisoner to a stake, and per- perception

its chief

forates all the sensitive parts of his body cause,
with burning pine-splinters, acts very much
like a child who amuses itself by catching —as


flies, pulling off their wings and legs, and amuse


watching their unavailing efforts to escape. ]>> tilling I do not know whether it is the case now or not, but some twenty years ago I saw cockchafers publicly sold in Paris for children to torture to death; the amusement being to run a hooked pin through their tail, tie a thread to it, and see the poor insect spin in

—or spin- the air. After it was too enfeebled to spread

ning cockchafers. its wings, it was slowly dismembered, the

child being greatly amused at its endeavours to crawl, as leg after leg was pulled off. I rescued many of these wretched insects from the thoughtlessly cruel children, and released them from their sufferings by instantaneous death.

In Italy a similar custom prevails, though in a more cruel form, the creatures which are tortured by way of sport being more capable of suffering pain than are insects. Birds are employed for the amusement of children, just as are the cockchafers in France. A string is tied to the leg, and the unfortunate bird, after its powers of flight are exhausted, is generally plucked alive and dismembered.

It is not done from any idea of cruelty, but from sheer incapacity to understand that a bird or a beast can be a fellowcreature. The Italians are notorious for their cruel treatment of animals, and if remonstrance be made, they are quite astonished, and reply, "Non e Cristiano" (It is not a Christian).

Not that we, in this country, have very much to boast of on this score. The Puritans did a good work when they abolished bear-baiting, even though, as Macaulay says, they did so, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. But, up to the present day, there is a latent hankering after similar scenes, even though they are now contrary to law, and dogfighting, cock-fighting, badger-drawing, and rat-killing, are still practised in secret, though they cannot be carried on in public.

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