An excerpt from
Science in Excelsis:
St. Raphael. My friends and fellow Cherubim, it seems to me that we and some of our former associates, now in "another place," have dissertated long enough on Fixed Fate, Free Will, Foreknowledge Absolute. If I mistake not, it is nearly nine hundred thousand years since the subject was first mooted by my illustrious brother Saint Uriel, and since that epoch we have spent many ages in talking the matter over, without arriving at any satisfactory conclusion. In fact (as one of these poor little intelligent creatures who move on the planet Tellus ventured to surmise), we have
"Found no end, in wandering mazes lost." (1)It is high time, surely, for us to turn to some more practical study, lest our special glory of being the "Spirits who know most" be eclipsed, and no question will remain but that the Seraphim, who love most, have the better of us.
The Angel Israfel. I rise to second the motion of the most wise and noble Archangel. His observation is just. We have spent time enough on scholastic and metaphysical riddles which no Angel can be expected to understand. Science, as everyone now admits, is superior both to Learning and Philosophy. Let us turn our attention to it forthwith.
Many cherubim at once. By all means! By all means! Let us immediately establish a "Celestial Association for the Promotion of Science."
Raphael (graciously). I am pleased, my friends, to see that my suggestion meets with your approval. We will take up Science with angelic vigour forthwith. Let us consider a moment how we shall pursue the various branches. As to Astronomy (for which we possess, of course, very special advantages), I think our Celestial Association might very properly "endow research" by sending out an Exploring Expedition round the Universe, to bring us in the latest intelligence from all the worlds of space. A Report drawn up on such a scale would be both instructive and entertaining.
The Angel Samiasa. A splendid proposal, Saint Raphael! I am ready to volunteer for the Expedition on the spot.
Many other angels. And I! And I! And I!
Raphael. This is highly gratifying. Our distinguished colleagues will doubtless return, within a million years or so, laden with interesting intelligence. I would only warn the less far-sighted not to lose themselves by mischance in a Nebula, a misfortune to which scientists in general seem liable. The next science to be considered (since we need not trouble ourselves with petty details, such as Geography or Geology) is Physiology; and here, I venture to foretell, our most interesting studies will be found. What do any of us, Angels, know, for example, of that singular little Automaton, Mana tiny creature of bone and muscle, blood and nerves, who yet sends his thoughts up to our very dwelling-place, looks through our ethereal forms with his telescope even to the remotest suns, penetrates the history of past ages, and writes poems which, like the Divina Commedia and Paradise Lost, even Angels are wont to peruse with satisfaction? How, I ask, does that little lump of pulpy matter which the creature calls his Brain help him to do these things? How does he move his little legs and arms by those bands he calls his muscles; and what is the meaning of that curious internal bag, into which he is always cramming bread and fruit and (horrible to think!) the flesh of other animals? Truly, I believe, my dear fellow-cherubim, we could scarcely find, in any of the hundred million spheres around us, a more interesting point whereat to commence our studies than this very Physiology of Man; and I for my part, as the Archangelic Healer, confidently hope to hit on some beneficent discoveries which, as in the case of Tobit, may enable me to cure these poor creatures' maladies.
Eloa (starting up). Oh, Saint Raphael! you don't mean to say you would suffocate, or starve, or bake those miserable creatures? Consider, they are evidently sensitive to pain.
Raphael (reprovingly). Dear Eloa! do not be so excitable! Nothing will be attempted, I can assure you, beyond the legitimate demands of Science. Grave doubts may be entertained as to whether Men are anything more than Automata; but, even granting they have some dim feelings of pain and pleasure, it would surely be absurd for a moment to put their sensations in competition with the noble thirst for knowledge now stirring in the Angelic mind? Only think of placing man's existence or suffering in the balance against the acquirement of some great truth by Archangels like Gabriel, Michael, or myself!
Eloa (weeping and clasping her hands). Oh, Saint Raphael! when you speak thus, and draw up your majestic form a thousand fathoms high and shake your iridescent wings, I feel how poor and low, and all too base, to claim your consideration, are the feeble creatures of earth! But yet, O mighty and wise and generous Archangel, have pity on these miserable beings! To the greater part of them Science is but a name, a word of no meaning. To live their little day in the sun; to play and eat and sleep; to love their mates and their offspring; this is what existence is to themharmless, even if ignoble. Say, great and glorious St. Raphael, that you will not turn that humble existence into a curse by putting them to tortures of which they can understand neither reason nor end?
St. Raphael. Well, well, Eloa shall have her way thus far. We will not try any experiments on those simple mortals for whom she pleads, who know nothing about the glories of Science, and cannot be supposed to take any sympathetic interest in our investigations into their brains and stomachs. We will confine our researches entirely to those eminent Physiologists who have devoted themselves to the same pursuit, and have tried every experiment upon creatures nearly as much lower than they as they are lower than we; I mean on cats, dogs, and monkeys. They have been so ingenious in inventing and so candid in recording all their practices, that we shall have nothing to do but to order up a few of their Handbooks and Reports, and then set to work to go over the contents seriatim on their own persons. At the endthough it seems doubtful whether these human Physiologists have obtained anything of value by tormenting the brutesof course we, with our keener vision and deeper knowledge, shall advance Science much more by experimenting on the higher animal.
The Angel Ituhriel. Nothing can be more to the purpose than our great President's observation. I only wish to know how his Wisdom means to proceed.
Raphael. Well, I think we must first command a new Physiological Laboratory to be built in connection with our College of Science, and let it be placed in such a position that it cannot be overlooked, and also where good south and north light may be obtained. So far as my recollection goes, there has not hitherto been any edifice of the kind in Heaven, though there are several closely resembling it in an opposite locality. Then we shall furnish it suitable with tables, Bernard's gags, experiment troughs, forceps, saws, clamps, chisels, cannulæ, knives and actual cauteries; a furnace or two, and an engine for maintaining artificial respiration when the subjects are curarised. When all is ready, Azrael will, I am sure, be so obliging as to run down and tell all the Physiologists they are "wanted" up here; and we may then immediately set to work without further delay.
All the cherubim. An excellent plan! So be it. Glory to Science in the highest! Amen.
Raphael. Our architect has done his work with his usual rapidity. Our Laboratory has "risen like an exhalation." I hope, my friends, we shall soon be enabled to quench our noble thirst for knowledge at the fountains of life. Ha! here comes the ever-punctual Azrael and our "subjects."
German physiologist. Mein Gott! What is that for a place! It mooch remind me of a well-known spot.
French physiologist. Mais qu'est-ce donc? Un laboratoire de physiologie? But where are the dogs, and the cats, and the rabbits? Mon Dieu! Serait-il possible que . . .
English physiologist. Well! what do those tremendous swells of Angels over there want with us? Can they intend to take some lessons out of our handbook of the Physiological laboratory, and do they mean to invite us to give them a course of lectures, like the students at the dear old Hospital?
Raphael (approaching with a smile). Not so far wrong, most learned doctor. We mean to learn Physiology from you, only not perhaps quite in the way you expect. You have always loudly proclaimed that theory without experiment is of little worth, so we intend to try some of your own choice examples on yourself and your friends.
All the physiologists in chorus. Oh! oh! oh! No! no! no! Oh, how shocking! Oh, how cruel! Oh, how insulting to Science!
Raphael (turning to the Cherubim). Did you ever hear anything so inconsistent? Why, these are the very men who have been repeating again and again that only by actual Vivisection could Physiological Science be advanced, and that Science is an end so noble and glorious that it was not worth while considering the pain any creature might endure to advance it! I have really no patience with them; but still I will condescend just to say a few words in explanation. [He beckons to the Physiologists, and whistles, as if calling dogs.] Come hither, you poor little two-legged trembling creatures! Don't growl and whine, but think yourselves very much honoured by what we Cherubim are going to do to you.
Physiologists. Oh, my Lord! Oh, your Saintship! Oh, your Holiness! Don't try your experiments on us! We were not made to be experimented onindeed we were not; and we are quite certain the UNKNOWN AND UNKNOWABLE would not approve of it at all!
Raphael. I should like to know why you are not to be experimented on, when you have tried your own devices on nearly every creature which breathes.
Physiologists. Why? Because we are men and they were brutes. We had of course a right to do as we pleased with them.
Raphael. Well! we are angels and you are men; and by the same logic we have a right to do as we please with you, being quite as much above you as you are above the dogs and monkeys. Moreover, these same monkeys, by your own showing, are your near relations; whereas we angels disclaim any kind of connection with you miserable mortals.
Physiologists. Oh, but, you see, we are intelligent beings.
Raphael. If I am not greatly mistaken, dogs are intelligent too; much nearer to the level of your intelligence than you are to ours.
Physiologists. We have reason.
Raphael. So have they.
Physiologists. We have affections.
Raphael. So have they! More than you, I suspect.
English physiologist. We have immortal souls.
Raphael. A la bonne heure! I was waiting for somebody to say that; and I suppose the French and German and Italian Physiologists felt a little diffidence in bringing out the argument. You have certainly immortal souls, as your presence here, after Azrael has delivered his death-warrant, sufficiently testifies. But will you please to explain to me why the fact that an animal has (as you imagine) only one life should justify you in making that solitary life such a curse as that it were better it had never been given?
German physiologist (loftily). We don't want to be justified. We are Philosophers, and can allow no superstitious moral considerations derived merely from the inherited prejudices of our ancestors to interfere with our pursuit of knowledge.
Raphael. Herr Professor! though you don't believe in the story of Adam and the Forbidden Tree of Knowledge, you talk uncommonly like one of his descendants. May I ask if you think it equally becoming for a Philosopher to steal and lie and cheat, as well as to be cruel, for sake of knowledge?
French physiologist. Quel tracasserie Çpropos de quelques malheureux chiens! Enfinwe are the strongest, and that is the long and the short of the matter.
Raphael. Perfectly true, Monsieur! You have hit the nail on the head. Your argument is unanswerable, and of course you will acquiesce cheerfully in our application of it to the present case. We Cherubim are stronger than you men, and we mean to treat you precisely as you treated the dogs.
Eloa (sinking on her knees). Oh, my beloved Archangel, have mercy upon them!
Raphael. Tut-tut! Eloa, you are really too weak, I cannot let these creatures escape. The slight resemblances which exist between their nature and ours make them (as they have said of dogs) "creatures which it would be a pity to withdraw from research"; and in the sacred interests of Science
All the cherubim. Oh, yes! The sacred interests of Science! The sacred interests of Science!
Physiologists (unanimously). Dn Science!
Raphael. Come, come; we have no time to lose. Just hand me that curly-haired one, Sandalphon, and I'll begin by paralysing him with curare!
Physiologists (screaming). O mercy, mercy! not curare!
Raphael. What a miserable cur it is, whining and crying before he is hurt! We can have no more of this. Let the assistants secure the whole pack as fast as possible on the operating troughs. Where are their books?
Attendant cherub. Here, your Grace. Here is the Handbook of the Physiological Laboratory, and the Lezioni di Fisiologia Sperimentale, and the Leçon sure le Système Nerveux, and the Physiologie Opératoire, and the Pression Barométrique, and the Méthodik, and the Archives de Physiologie, and the Centralblatt, and many more lectures and papers.
Raphael. Enough for the present. Let us begin at once and take the Englishmen, for their experiments are not quite so ingeniously cruel as the others. When we have sawn through their backbones, and irritated the stumps of the nerves, and rubbed caustic on their eyes, and made a few other interesting demonstrations, we shall be in better mood to bake, and skin, and try many curious experiments with the rest. See, here is quite a facetious idea. [Reads.]
Eloa (whose eyes have grown large with horror during this reading, flings herself into the arms of St. Raphael). Oh, my brother! my glorious Archangel! spare these poor wretches! It is impossible your noble nature can descend to inflict such torment even on the meanest of God's creatures.
Raphael. Dear Eloa! Must I remind you that your unfortunate habit of compassionating unworthy objects has ere now led you into terrible mistakes? Do you forget how you followed Lucifer himself into Gehenna when he told you his pitiful tale, and how, when he had got you there, he clutched you fast, and said you should remain and be lost with him for ever; and how it was JUSTICE, and not PITY, which delivered you, so that you might warn your sex never to follow your foolish example?
Bahman, Lord of the Animals (6) (here stands forward among the group of student-Cherubim). Most noble Archangel and brother Cherubim! I think it becomes me to speak in this matter. Do you understand, beloved and gentle Eloa, that these men have already done all these hideous things to my poor, harmless, unoffending birds and brutes? Do you know that they have tortured them for hours and days, by scores and by hundreds, and taught thoughtless youths to stifle every emotion of compassion and do the like, multiplying and repeating every form and kind of agony again and yet again? Do you know that the clanking engines, which maintain breath in the curarised and doubly-suffering creatures, never cease working in their accursed laboratories by day or night; and that they lie down to sleep leaving their mangled victims on their torture-troughs, waiting for the morrow's fresh anguish? Do you know that one of these men alone has been known to have tried his infernal devices on no less than fourteen thousand dogs, beside uncounted numbers of other sensitive creatures?
Raphael. My brother Angels! there now remains nothing to stay our hands. PITY has fled before SCIENCE, who alone will henceforth direct our proceedings.
With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
An Anthem of Seraphs heard from a great Distance:
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!
From the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, hundreds of British women wrote about and drew from nature. Somelike Beatrix Potter, who wrote natural history about hedgehogs as well as stories about rabbitsare still familiar today. But others have all but disappeared from view. Barbara Gates recovers these lost works in this anthology. Here online are just a few of the riches of In Nature's Name.
To the left is "Science in Excelsis: A New Vision of Judgement" by Frances Power Cobbe. You may also read a poem by Emily Brontë "High Waving Heather" and an excerpt from the travel account The Indian Alps and How We Crossed Them by Nina Mazuchelli.
"Gates's splendid new anthology, is packed with treasures and discoveries. Learned, lavishly illustrated and meticulously annotated, the book is bound to appeal to a range of readers, from feminist scholars to historians of science, from students of Romanticism, Victorianism and modernism to lovers of what one of the nineteenth-century authors represented here described as that 'charming beautifier Dame Nature."Sandra M. Gilbert, coeditor of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women
Copyright notice: ©2002 Excerpted from page 145-54 of In Nature's Name: An Anthology of Women's Writing and Illustration, 1780-1930 edited by Barbara T. Gates, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2002 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of University of Chicago Press.