Infinite numbers of intermixtures everywhere exist in civilised societies. Most of them are passable; many of them are execrable; a few of them are admirable; and here and there, one of them consists of that happy blending of individual characteristics which we all immediately recognise as genius—at least after somebody else has told us so.
The ultimate recipe for genius, then, would appear to be somewhat after this fashion. Take a number of good, strong, powerful stocks, mentally or physically, endowed with something more than the average amount of energy and application. Let them be as varied as possible in characteristics; and, so far as convenient, try to include among them a considerable small-change of races, dispositions, professions, and temperaments. Mix, by marriage, to the proper consistency; educate the offspring, especially by circumstances and environment, as broadly, freely, and diversely as you can; let them all intermarry again with other similarly produced, but personally unlike, idiosyncrasies; and watch the result to find your genius in the fourth or fifth generation. If the experiment has been properly performed, and all the conditions have been decently favourable, you will get among the resultant five hundred persons a considerable sprinkling of average fools, a fair proportion of modest mediocrities, a small number of able people, and (in case you are exceptionally lucky and have shuffled your cards very carefully) perhaps among them all a single genius. But most probably the genius will have died young of scarlet fever, or missed fire through some tiny defect of internal brain structure. Nature herself is trying this experiment unaided every day all around us, and, though she makes a great many misses, occasionally she makes a stray hit and then we get a Shakespeare or a Grimaldi.
‘But you haven’t proved all this: you have only suggested it.’ Does one prove a thesis of deep-reaching importance in a ten-page essay? And if one proved it in a big book, with classified examples and detailed genealogies of all the geniuses, would anybody on earth except Mr. Francis Galton ever take the trouble to read it?
If deserts have a fault (which their present biographer is far from admitting), that fault may doubtless be found in the fact that their scenery as a rule tends to be just a trifle monotonous. Though fine in themselves, they lack variety. To be sure, very few of the deserts of real life possess that absolute flatness, sandiness and sameness, which characterises the familiar desert of the poet and of the annual exhibitions—a desert all level yellow expanse, most bilious in its colouring, and relieved by but four allowable academy properties, a palm-tree, a camel, a sphinx, and a pyramid. For foreground, throw in a sheikh in appropriate drapery; for background, a sky-line and a bleaching skeleton;