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July 11 , 2007

Falling in Love With Other Essays on More Exact Branches of Science


An ancient and famous human institution is in pressing danger. Sir George Campbell has set his face against the time-honoured practice of Falling in Love. Parents innumerable, it is true, have set their faces against it already from immemorial antiquity; but then they only attacked the particular instance, without venturing to impugn the institution itself on general principles. An old Indian administrator, however, goes to work in all things on a different pattern. He would always like to regulate human life generally as a department of the India Office; and so Sir George Campbell would fain have husbands and wives selected for one another (perhaps on Dr. Johnson's principle, by the Lord Chancellor) with a view to the future development of the race, in the process which he not very felicitously or elegantly describes as 'man-breeding.' 'Probably,' he says, as reported in Nature, 'we have enough physiological knowledge to effect a vast improvement in the pairing of individuals of the same or allied races if we could only apply that knowledge to make fitting marriages, instead of giving way to foolish ideas about love and the tastes of young people, whom we can hardly trust to choose their own bonnets, much less to choose in a graver matter in which they are most likely to be influenced by frivolous prejudices.' He wants us, in Other words, to discard the deep-seated inner physiological promptings of inherited instinct, and to substitute for them some calm and dispassionate but artificial selection of a fitting partner as the father or mOther of future generations.
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