Lord Dundreary
"Speech of Lord Dundreary in Section D, on Friday Last,
On the Great Hippocampus Question"

by Charles Kingsley (1861)

[140] "Mr. President and Gentlemen, I mean Ladies and Mr. President, I am sure that all ladies and gentlemen will see the matter just as I do; and I am sure we're all very much obliged to these scientific gentlemen for quarrelling–no–I don't mean that, that wouldn't be charitable, and it's a sin to steal a pin: but I mean for letting us hear them quarrel, [141] and so eloquently too; though, of course, we don't understand what is the matter, and which is in the right; but of course we were very much delighted, and I may say, quite interested, to find that we had all hippopotamuses in our brains. Of course they're right, you know, because seeing's believing.

"Certainly, I never felt one in mine; but perhaps it's dead, and so didn't stir, and then of course, it don't count, you know. A dead dog it as good as a live lion. Stop–no. A live lion is as good as a dead dog–no, that won't do again. There's a mistake somewhere. What was I saying? Oh, hippopotamuses. Well, I say, perhaps mine's dead. They say hippopotamuses feed on water. No, I don't think that, because teetotallers feed on water, and they are always lean; and the hippo's fat, at least in the Zoo. Live in water, it must be; and there's none in my brain. There was when I was a baby, my aunt says; but they tapped me; so I suppose the hippopotamus died of drought. No–stop. It wasn't a hippopotamus after all, it was hip–hip–not hip, hip, hurrah, you know, that comes after dinner, and the section hasn't dined, at least since last night, and the Cambridge wine is very good, I will say that. No. I recollect now. Hippocampus it was. Hippocampus, a sea horse; I learnt that at Eton; hippos, sea, and campus, a horse–no–campus a sea, and hippos, a horse, that's right. Only campus ain't a sea, it's a field, I know that; Campus Martius–I was swished for that at Eton–ought to be again, I believe, if every dog had his day. But at least it's a sea-horse, I know that, because I saw one alive at Malta with the regiment, and it rang a bell. No; it was a canary that rang a bell; but this had a tail like a monkey, and made a noise like a bell. I dare say you won't believe me; but 'pon my honour I'm speaking truth–noblesse oblige, you know; and it hadn't been taught at all, and perhaps if it had it wouldn't have learnt; but it did, and it was in a monkey's tail. No, stop, it must have been in its head, because it was in its brain; and every one has brains in his head, unless he's a skeleton; and it curled its tail round things like a monkey, that I know, for I saw it with my own eyes. That was Professor Rolleston's theory, you know. It was Professor Huxley said it was in his tail–not Mr. Huxley's, of course, but the ape's: only apes have no tails, so I don't quite see that. And then the other gentleman who got up last, Mr. Flower, you know, he said that it was all over the ape, everywhere. All over hippocampuses, from head to foot, poor beast, like a dog all over ticks! I wonder why they don't rub bluestone into the back of its neck, as one does to a pointer. Well, then. Where was I? Oh! and Professor Owen said it wasn't in apes at all: but only in the order bimana, that's you and me. Well, he know best. And they all know [142] best too, for they are monstrous clever fellows. So one must be right, and all the rest wrong, or else one of them wrong, and all the rest right–you see that? I wonder why they don't toss up about it. If they took a half-crown now, or a shilling, or even a fourpenny-piece would do, if they magnified it, and tost heads and tails, or Newmarket, if they wanted to be quite sure, why then there couldn't be any dispute among gentlemen after that, of course. Well, then, about men being apes, I say, why shouldn't it be the other way, and the apes be men? do you see? Because then they might have as many hippocampuses in their brains as they liked, or hippopotamuses either, indeed. I should be glad indeed if it was so, if it was only for my aunt's sake; for she says that her clergyman says, that if anybody ever finds a hippopotamus in a monkey's head, nothing will save her great, great, great–I can't say how great, you see–it's awful to think of–quite enormous grandfather from having been a monkey too; and then what is to become of her precious soul? So, for my aunt's sake, I should be very glad if it could be settled that way, really; and I am sure the scientific gentlemen will take it into consideration, because they are gentlemen, as every one knows, and would not hurt a lady's feelings. The man who would strike a woman, you know–everybody knows that, it's in Shakespeare. And besides, the niggers say that monkeys are men, only they won't work of fear of being made to talk; no, won't talk for fear of being made to work; that's it (right for once, as I live!) and put their hands over their eyes at night for fear of seeing the old gentleman–and I'm sure that's just like a reasonable creature, I used to when I was a little boy; and you see the niggers have lived among them for thousands of years and are monstrous like them, too, d'ye see, and so they must know best; and then it would all be right.

"Well, then, about a gulf. Professor Huxley says there's a gulf between a man and an ape. I'm sure I'm glad of it, especially if the ape bit; and Professor Owen says there ain't. What? am I wrong, eh? Of course. Yes–beg a thousand pardons, really now. Of course–Professor Owen says there is, and Professor Huxley says there ain't. Well, a fellow can't recollect everything. But I say, if there's a gulf, the ape might get over it and bite one after all. I know Quintus Curtius jumped over a gulf at Eton–that is, certainly, he jumped in: but that was his fault, you see: if he'd put in more powder he might have cleared it, and then there would have been no gulf between him and an ape. But that don't matter much, because Professor Huxley said the gulf was bridged by a structure. Now I am sure I don't wish to be personal, especially after the very handsome way in which Professor Huxley has drunk all our healths. Stop–no. It's we that ought to [143] drink his health, I'm sure. Highland honours and all; but at the same time I should have been obliged to him if he'd told us a little more about this structure, especially considering what nasty mischievous things apes are. Tore one of my coat tails off at the Zoological the other day. He ought–no, I don't say that, because it would seem like dictation; I don't like that; never could do it at school–wrote it down all wrong–got swished–hate dictation:–but I might humbly express that Professor Huxley might have told us a little, you see, about that structure. Was it wood? Was it iron? Was it silver and gold, like London Bridge when Lady Lee danced over it, before it was washed away by a man with a pipe in his mouth? No, stop, I say–That can't be. A man with a pipe in his mouth wash away a bridge? Why a fellow can't work hard with a pipe in his mouth–every body knows that–much less wash away a whole bridge. No, it's quite absurd–quite. Only I say, I should like to know something about this structure, if it was only to quiet my aunt. And then, if Professor Huxley can see the structure, why can't Professor Owen? It can't be invisible, you know, unless it was painted invisible green, like Ben Hall's new bridge at Chelsea: only you can see that of course, for you have to pay now when you go over, so I suppose the green ain't the right colour. But that's another reason why I want them to toss up–toss up, you see, whether they saw it or not, or which of them should see it, or something of that kind, I'm sure that's the only way to settle; and–oh, by-the-bye, as I said before–only I didn't, but I ought to have–if either of the gentlemen haven't half-a-crown about them, why a two-shilling-piece might do; though I never carry them myself, for fear of giving one to a keeper; and then he sets you down for a screw, you know. Because, you see, I see, I don't quite see, and no offense to honourable members–learned and eloquent gentlemen, I mean; and though I don't wish to dictate, I don't quite think ladies and gentlemen quite see either. You see that?

(The noble lord, who had expressed so accurately the general sense of the meeting, sat down amid loud applause.)"


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University