I do not doubt that, as the world goes on, a deeper sense of moral responsibility in the matter of marriage will grow up among us. But it will not take the false direction of ignoring these our profoundest and holiest instincts. Marriage for money may go; marriage for rank may go; marriage for position may go; but marriage for love, I believe and trust, will last for ever. Men in the future will probably feel that a union with their cousins or near relations is positively wicked; that a union with those too like them in person or disposition is at least undesirable; that a union based upon considerations of wealth or any other consideration save considerations of immediate natural impulse, is base and disgraceful. But to the end of time they will continue to feel, in spite of doctrinaires, that the voice of nature is better far than the voice of the Lord Chancellor or the Royal Society; and that the instinctive desire for a particular helpmate is a surer guide for the ultimate happiness, both of the race and of the individual, than any amount of deliberate consultation. It is not the foolish fancies of youth that will have to be got rid of, but the foolish, wicked, and mischievous interference of parents or outsiders.
Adult man is the only animal who, in the familiar scriptural phrase, ‘knoweth the right hand from the left.’ This fact in his economy goes closely together with the other facts, that he is the only animal on this sublunary planet who habitually uses a knife and fork, articulate language, the art of cookery, the common pump, and the musical glasses. His right-handedness, in short, is part cause and part effect of his universal supremacy in animated nature. He is what he is, to a great extent, ‘by his own right hand;’ and his own right hand, we may shrewdly suspect, would never have differed at all from his left were it not for the manifold arts and trades and activities he practises.
It was not always so, when wild in woods the noble savage ran. Man was once, in his childhood on earth, what Charles Reade wanted him again to be in his maturer centuries, ambidextrous. And lest any lady readers of this volume—in the Cape of Good Hope, for example, or the remoter portions of the Australian bush, whither the culture of Girton and the familiar knowledge of the Latin language have not yet penetrated—should complain that I speak with unknown tongues, I will further explain for their special benefit that ambidextrous means equally-handed, using the right and the left indiscriminately. This, as Mr. Andrew Lang remarks in immortal verse, ‘was the manner of Primitive Man.’ He never minded twopence which hand he used, as long as he got the fruit or the scalp he wanted. How could he when twopence wasn’t yet invented? His mamma never said to him in early youth, ‘Why-why,’ or ‘Tomtom,’ as the case might be, ‘that’s the wrong hand to hold your flint-scraper in.’ He grew up to man’s estate in happy ignorance of such minute and invidious distinctions between his anterior extremities. Enough for him that his hands could grasp the forest boughs or chip the stone into shapely arrows; and he never even thought in his innocent soul which particular hand he did it with.