From F. P. Cobbe 28 November 1
26. Hereford Sq. | S W
My dear Mr Darwin
You will know how pleased & proud your letter has made me.—2 I do not write to draw from you any more words, valuable though they be either as praise or as criticism, but just to say I have sent you the Cornhill just published to shew you another instance of what seems to me genuine superstition in dogs. Of course I rather turned the matter to jest in calling a stump a fetish—but the sentiment of vague awe at the incomprehensible is surely, I think, to be traced both in such freaks of dogs & in the shying of horses; & is very nearly akin to human superstition if not quite the same feeling.3
Your own & your dog’s similar behaviour after the commission of guilt, form delicious counterparts! Do you think the phenomenon can at all explain the exceeding religiosity of a great many arrant moral offenders?
Miss Lloyd entering agrees with you about the suicide of dogs & wished me not to insert the stories in my article—4 I did so in truth only hypothetically. Is there not some sort of radiate creature which casts off its own limbs, and strictly speaking causes its own dissolution when captured?—
I am sorry to hear of Jesse’s untrustworthiness.5 No doubt old stories of natural history are little to be relied on for scientific purposes. They only shew what men then thought their beasts might do—Would that those cruel old Jews had one such anecdote as that of Ulysses’ dog in all their literature6 It would have stopped a thousand Christian atrocities
We have just returned from the zoos where we paid a domiciliary visit to the Chimpanzee in his private study. The poor dear little beast took a fancy to me & stroked my dress & face affectionately. I must say the grasp of his strong warm hand,—gentle and cordial as any human handshaking, was quite awful to me. I should consider it every bit as much murder to kill him as an idiot— The nearer one feels in pity & sympathy to an ape or an idiot the more I think the vague sense presses on us that some positive thing—(a thing we may as well call a “soul” as anything else,—) is missing; & not that it is merely a rudimentary stage of development which we behold— This impression does not come from any theory—indeed it does not fit any theories at all—but it is one which comes to me with very vivid insistence
With many apologies for troubling you with this long letter & with my (very childish) article in the Cornhill, | believe me dear Mr Darwin | most truly yrs | Frances P Cobbe
More stories about dog behaviour.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8653,” accessed on 27 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-8653