The Stones Speak

As our world drifts inexorably towards the barbarism of perpetual war, manufactured plagues and transhumanism, my breakfast reading this morning introduced me to Albert MOTT. A wine merchant by trade, he was president of the Liverpool Philosophical Society and in 1873 he gave a talk on The Origin of Savage Life, during which he …

… publicized Easter Island and made much of the inferiority of the living inhabitants to their ancestors. Mott dwelt upon the great size and weight of the stone images scattered around the island, the terraces of fitted stone, the utter isolation of this little pinnacle thrust upward in the vast waste of waters. “If,” Mott argued, this island was first peopled by the accidental drifting of a canoe, it is incredible that the art of making these images and terraces should have developed there. To suppose that savages, under such circumstances, would spend their time and strength upon such labours is altogether past belief.”

Loren Eiseley, Easter: The Isle of Faces (collected in The Star Thrower, 1978)

From this and other examples of ancient ruins, Albert argued that “savage life is the result of decay and degradation”.

A wine merchant. For goodness sake.

The man who unwittingly panicked Charles DARWIN into publishing The Origin of Species before he was quite ready, wrote a letter to Dr Archdall REID in 1908.

Broadstone, Wimborne.

Dear Sir, -… I was much pleased the other day to read, in a review of Mr. T. Rice Holmes’s fine work on “Ancient Britain and the Invasions of Julius Caesar,” that the author had arrived by pure historical study at the conclusion that we have not risen morally above our primitive ancestors. It is a curious and important coincidence.

I myself got the germ of the idea many years ago, from a very acute thinker, Mr. Albert Mott, who gave some very original and thoughtful addresses as President of the Liverpool Philosphical Society, one of which dealt with the question of savages being often, perhaps always, the descendants of more civilised races, and therefore affording no proof of progression. At that time (about 1860-70) I could not accept the view, but I have now come to think he was right. – Yours very truly,

ALFRED R. WALLACE.

As we grow accustomed to our Orwellian present and teeter on the edge of a dystopian future, this letter has added piquancy. Albert Mott’s middle name was Julius, after his father, Julius Caesar Mott (1788-1859).

Somewhat apropos –

RIVIEREbritonGiantsAtPlay
Briton Riviere, Giants at Play 1882, Photo © Tate, attribution CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

I will tell you about Albert’s last day on earth tomorrow.