"A flask of Bombarolina; and Mr. Norman Douglas bent on winning an admission that the rites of the Church are all a survival of Paganism pure and simple.  MaX   1923"

 

 

Caricature and caption, from:  first printing of the original (1923 [see below]), in:  Things New and Old, Max Beerbohm (1872 – 1956), Heinemann, 1923, caricature 31.  [See:  christianism.com, page 82, 419.].

 

_____     _____     _____

 

 

SIR MAX BEERBOHM 1872 – 1956

 

 

from:  Beerbohm's Literary Caricatures, From Homer to Huxley, Selected, introduced, and annotated by J.G. Riewald, Allen Lane (Penguin), 1977.

 

'100

            For many years Normal Douglas (1868-1952), the English novelist and essayist, lived on the island of Capri in the bay of Naples.  His first book, Siren Land (1911), was a complete failure, but it was reprinted in 1923, the year in which Max drew this caricature, and has since been widely read.  Douglas's first popular success was South Wind (1917), which was reprinted eighteen times between its publication and 1935.  This satirical novel is set in the Mediterranean island of Nepenthe (Capri). The island is visited by the narrow-minded Anglican bishop of Bampopo, who is profoundly influenced by his brief stay in the Mediterranean.  Among the characters he meets are an American "Duchess" hovering on the brink of conversion to Roman Catholicism, and Don Francesco, a popular ecclesiastic, "worldly wise, indolent, good-natured," an unrivaled preacher, and "a thoroughgoing pagan."

 

            A gourmet and a lover of wine, Normal Douglas's philosophy of life was Epicurean.  He was very outspoken in his criticism of Christianity, especially of Roman Catholicism.  He once said that he had taken a vow never to enter a church.

 

            In a recent (1969) broadcast talk Sir Compton Mackenzie [1883 – 1972] recalled his friendship with Norman Douglas in these words:  "To sit with him on a terrazza in the sweet South, thatched with broom against the fierce noonday sun, between us a flask of red or white wine, and talk the hours away was, for me, like sitting with Horace [65 – 8 B.C.E.] at his

1


            Sabine farm.  Nunc vino pellite curas.  Now banish with wine all cares.  Carpe diem.  Gather today, and put not the smallest faith in tomorrow."

            As far as I know, there is no such wine as Bombarolina.  Max probably invented the word to emphasize, by its sound, the persistent force of Douglas's argument.  Max's own favorite wine was Bardolino.

            Beerbohm owned a copy of Alone (1921), one of Norman Douglas's Italian travel books (SC ["Catalogue of the Library and Literary Manuscripts of the late Sir Max Beerbohm.  Illustrated edition.  London:  Sotheby & Co., 1960."  [14]] 58).

 

Things New and Old (1923)

HD ["Hart-Davis, Rupert, comp.  A Catalogue of the Caricatures of Max Beerbohm.  London:  Macmillan, and Cambridge, Mass.:  Harvard University Press, 1972." [14]] 444'  [272].

 

"[Caricature by Max Beerbohm] A Flask [flask] of Bombarolina; and Mr. Norman Douglas bent on winning an admission that the rites of the Church are all a survival of Paganism pure and simple.  1923"  [273].

_____     _____     _____

 

 

from:  Observations, Max Beerbohm, Heinemann, 1925, preface:  "To Edmund Gosse": 

 

"I grant you that the best subject for a caricaturist is some one whom he reveres.  Only by reverence can he have that happy boyish sense of irreverence which is such a spur to his talent.  But the spur is sharper, more conducive to caracolings, when the revered personage is of the over-serious sort….  For there has ever been in you [Sir Edmund Gosse 1849 – 1928]…an admixture of levity and devilry…."

 

_____     _____     _____

 

 

from:  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.

 

"Beerbohm, Sir Henry Maximilian [Max] (1872–1956), caricaturist and writer, was born at 57 Palace Gardens Terrace, London, on 24 August 1872 and was baptized on 16 October at the church of All Saints, Kensington."  [817].

 

"Italian years    After 1910 Max lived contentedly in Rapallo, as a reclusive English gentleman (he never took the trouble to learn Italian). He returned to England only during the two world wars, and occasionally on personal

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business, chiefly to arrange exhibitions with the Leicester Galleries.  Around 1930 he gave up caricaturing:  'I found that my caricatures were becoming likenesses.  I seem to have mislaid my gift for dispraise.  Pity crept in.  So I gave up caricaturing, except privately' (Behrman, 140)."  [820].

 

"N. John Hall"  [820].

_____     _____     _____

 

 

from:  Catalogue of the Library and Literary Manuscripts of the late Sir Max Beerbohm, removed from Rapallo [sold by order of the administratrix of the estate of the late Sir Max and Lady Beerbohm], Sotheby & Co., 1960, 34:

 

"118 Huxley (Aldous) [1894 – 1963] Mortal Coils, containing about 40 sketch-portraits, mostly profiles, of Norman Douglas [1868 - 1952], some of a female impersonator (? Vesta Tilley), etc., by Max Beerbohm, drawn in pencil on 16 blank pages, original cloth, spine repaired 8vo 1922"

 

_____     _____     _____

 

 

from:  Max Beerbohm, A Kind of a Life, N. John Hall, Yale, c2002.

 

'We do not customarily think of Max as having any but the mildest tinge of rebellion in him, but with pen or pencil in hand he was tough-minded and critical.  And he

 

[MAX] was a thorough unbeliever:  in God, in immortality, in an afterlife,

 

although (very unlike Swinburne) he was ever courteous to believers and their beliefs.  He [Max Beerbohm] was fatalistic; he believed that luck played an enormous role in one's life.  We know that among his favourite passages from Poems and Ballads [by Swinburne] are these lines from "The Garden of Proserpine" (that they are everyone else's favourites as well, and are predictably found in Bartlett's and the Oxford Book of Quotations need not detract from Max's taste for this hymn to death as eternal sleep):

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From too much love of living

From hope and fear set free,

We thank with brief thanksgiving

Whatever gods may be

That no life lives for ever,

That dead men rise up never;

That even the weariest river

Winds somewhere safe to sea.

 

Moreover, Swinburne [Algernon Charles Swinburne 1837 – 1909] was pre-eminently, gloriously, the poet of the sea (unlike Clement Scott [1841 – 1904], poet of the seaside), and Max loved the sea, moved [to Villino Chiaro, Rapallo, Italy] near the sea and spent most of his life within sight of it.'  [173].

 

"Will Rothenstein [Sir William Rothenstein 1872 – 1945] died on 14 February 1945; Max wrote to his widow:

 

Our dear Will, it is grievously sad that he is gone, that we shall never again see him and hear him.  He was the oldest of my friends.  He was, absent or present, a part of me.  There was no man whose mind and heart impressed me so much as his.  I learned so much from him when I was quite young, and I have gone on learning from him ever since.  He was always extraordinarily kind to me—and indeed to how many other people!…Death is a horrible thing.  I hate to think that Will's great heart and brain…are at work no longer, well though they have earned their rest.  His life was a surpassingly full one.

 

Max won't descend into sentimentality; and never, on the occasion of the death of friend or relative, does he give the slightest hint of even a hope for an afterlife."  [237].

 

_____     _____      _____

 

 

from:  Max Beerbohm, Letters to Reggie Turner, edited by Rupert Hart-Davis, Rupert Hart-Davis, London, 1964.

 

            "It is kind and delightful of you (Letter I) to put me down for that Norman Douglas book:I  ["IProbably Paneros, which was privately printed for subscribers by Orioli in Florence in 1930." [272]] very many thanks:  I do so look forward to having the book and reading it and (N.D. being N.D. and incapable of letting one down) revelling in it."  [272].

 

● ● ● ● ●

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NORMAN DOUGLAS 1868 – 1952

 

 

from:  Norman Douglas, Ralph D. Lindeman, Twayne, c1965.

 

 

"The Naturalist

 

            Douglas' view of reality is one that is clearly connected with the scientific attitudes that held so much appeal for him.  He considered the things of this world as sufficient, and he scorned conjecture concerning anything beyond nature.  He refused to consider problems of creation, believing that the universe had always existed and would always exist and that

 

GOD WAS NOT THE INVENTOR OF THE WORLD BUT WAS THE INVENTION OF MAN [see Links, Godchecker; 3057]."  [43].

 

 

"[Norman Douglas ("beginning of his atheism")] Let each think as he pleases.  To me, even as a boy, it was misery to profess credence in any of this Mumbo-Jumbo or to conform to any of its rites."  (56-57 [Together]) [45].

 

            'As might be expected, the aspect of the Christian tradition which drew Douglas' finest scorn is the emphasis upon abstemiousness and mortification of the flesh, as it appears in ascetic medieval Catholicism and in northern Puritanism.  He hated to see people throwing away the good things in life and inducing others to do so, all for the sake of intangible and to him incredible returns.  He discussed the Christianity of St. Theresa in Siren Land:

 

Too indolent to scale the heights of doubt or dogmatic speculation, it avoids those fruitful sources of dissension and finds contentment in phlegmatic submission to authority; too selfish to expend its energies in altruistic schemes, it silently disregards, while professing loudly, the perilous and irksome doctrine of neighbourly love; too sensual to desire or conceive an impersonal deity, it throws the impetus of its misguided sexual yearnings into a sub-carnal passion for the Son of God who, by a presumption unique and degrading, is supposed to appreciate and actually to reciprocate such sentiments:  the whole edifice, if it deserves that name, being interpenetrated and enlivened by mysticism, the convenient refuge of all who can feel, but not reason.  (166)'  [45-46].

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            'Douglas approved a thoroughgoing polytheism as expedient for the peasantry.  He recognized that the problem of evil—the contradiction between the presence of evil and that of an omnipotent and just God— grew with the monotheistic emphasis:  "If we must have gods, let us have them by the score[see Links, Godchecker]—it is the only way out of the difficulty.  …Then we shall know on whom to fix the blame, when anything disagreeable happens to us.  At present, God being good, we are up a tree."10  The God who is omnipotent, transcendent, and personal strikes him as inevitably a Puritan and a spy, designed to relieve the weak of individual moral responsibility:  "A great Being who sets the Cosmos in order and then goes to sleep; that will pass.  One who remains awake and responsible for all that happens on earth is a monster.  Even with the help of the Devil to explain away the worst of his tricks, he cuts an indifferent figure.  

 

MONOTHEISM, A GRACELESS AND UNREASONABLE BELIEF, HAS ITS ORIGIN IN LAZINESS.  A SINGLE GOD IS AN ABSURDITY AND A BORE."11

 

            Douglas' affinity for the attitudes of the early (pre-Periclean) Greeks is apparent in many aspects of his thought, and it is reflected in his paradoxical attitude toward various kinds of polytheism.  The southern Italians, whom he considered more sane than northerners, were like the Greeks:  they were able to leave their religion in the temple and to live with their reason and their senses.  The patron saint is called upon only in emergencies and is not permitted to affect everyday life, to override common sense, or to obscure those virtues which are universally human.  In fact, Douglas' position seems to be that the more absurd the beliefs, the less likely they are to be taken seriously and the more likely they are to produce a healthy reaction.  The Russian Orthodox Church, for instance, is described as

 

…an establishment after my own heart. It fosters blandly those virtues which every sensible man cannot help practicing even without its authority or approval; its art forms, frozen to immobility, appeal to the lover of things obsolete. Its fetishistic ceremonials beguile the senses; for the rest—a veritable nightmare, a repository of apocalyptic nonsense of the right kind, the uncompromising kind; and in so far affording a better springboard into a clean element of thought than the incurable Catholicism of the Poles, or our own Church [apparently, "Church of England"] whose demi-vierge [demi[half]-virgin] concessions to modernism offer seductive resting places for the intellectually weak-kneed.12

 

The saints are "downstairs gods," like the impulsive and often rascally members of the Homeric Pantheon.  They will foster rather than discourage the enjoyment of physical pleasures (ascetic saints such as Teresa or Serafina are, of course, exceptions) and will not interfere with the individual's healthy tendency to look out for himself:  "Every one of the

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heavenly host may be cheated at a bargain; the Virgin and her infant Son—the adult Jesus is practically unknown here—are adored with feasts and flowers; they are tanto belli; but to endeavour to imitate either of them would be deemed a most unprofitable speculation.  A Greek fashion of regarding the gods.13  In pointing out the pagan nature of these practices, Douglas is, of course, granting his highest order of approbation.

            Douglas thought of Christianity as imported from the East by the Greeks, "who ought to have known better"; and he was particularly harsh on Plato, whose ideas he correctly considered germinal to much that he disliked in Western thought.  Plato [c. 428 – c. 348 B.C.E.], that hater of facts, is mere "food for adolescents."  He may possibly have a value also for the aged:  "For questioning moods grow burdensome with years; after a strain of virile doubt, we are glad to acquiesce once more—to relapse into Platonic animism, the logic of valetudinarians.  The dog to his vomit."14  Douglas considered Plato's influence to have lain in his ability, through the magic of language, to make the reader think he knows more than he does.  Plato is hence the father of wishful dreams and comfortable lies.  To Douglas the poet and the metaphysician are virtually the same:  obscure dreamers who soften the fibers of humanity.  Their kind of truth is not for him.

            Pythagoras [6th century B.C.E.] is another Greek who does not fare well at the hands of this apostle of reason and hard facts.  To Pythagoras he attributes "…that oriental introspectiveness which culminated in the idly-splendid yearnings of Plato, paved the way for

 

the quaint Alexandrian tutti-fruitti known as Christianity,

 

and tainted the well-springs of honest research for two thousand years."15' 

[46-48].

 

 

'Douglas is not seriously "concerned with the spiritual welfare of mankind"; moreover, he is not a poet, which Nietzsche [Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900] was, but a scientist, which Nietzsche was not.  The German [Nietzsche] was not able to go all the way with Darwin and his followers.  He was aware of the biological discoveries of his day, and the "survival of the fittest" theory lies behind much of his thought.  But he was not able to accept its full implications.  Douglas wrote of Nietzsche that the true import of the advancements which had been made by the English scientists "seems to have escaped him altogether (159 [Good-bye to Western Culture])."  In Alone (1921) he related that he had recognized this weakness in Nietzsche some time before, presumably as a young man:

 

Nietzsche was also then to the fore, and it pleases me to recollect that even in those days I detected his blind spot; his horror of those English materialists and biologists.… To his way of thinking the human mind is so

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highly organized, so different from that of beasts, that not all the proofs of ethnology and physiology would ever induce him to accept the ape-ancestry of man.  This monkey-business is too irksome and humiliating to be true; he waves it aside, with a sneer at the disgusting arguments of those Englishmen.  (126)'  [69].

 

 

"Christians are only an anaemic variety of Jews".  [74].

 

 

'…Douglas had few illusions concerning the ancient world.  He knew that it was not "a schoolmaster's pale Platonic dream."69  In Siren Land he referred to the Greek "crowd" as an "intemperate set of bigots and ruffians (12)," and in One Day, written in Greece, he said:  "…one remembers what certain enthusiasts would have us forget:  that the old Greeks, though humaner than ourselves in some respects, were in others as ferocious a pack of fanatics as every breathed [see:  The Greeks and the Irrational, E.R. Dodds, U. California, c1951]."70  His dislikes among things Greek were as strong as his likes:  the Philistine Spartans; the "oriental dreamer" Plato [c. 428 – c. 348 B.C.E.]; Pythagoras [6th century B.C.E.], "strongly tainted with Orientalism"71; the Orphic mysteries, "stuffed with Eastern lore";72 stoicism, "—a dumb protest against the environment."73  He [Norman Douglas] particularly disliked the mystery cults and the tendency they represented:

 

[What drove men toward them?]…the anti-Hellenic impulse to escape from actualities;

 

it was fear of a fact:  that death is the end of all things [see:  www.christianism.com, 2939-3058]. 

 

They craved for comfort….So they underwent that rite which, like other such buffooneries, gave them a sense of superiority over their unenlightened, because uninitiated, fellow-creatures; they went in as gentlemen, and came out as prigs.  And why the proceedings in that dark hole were never disclosed is intelligible on another hypothesis:  that the mysteries themselves were some sublime farce which these good people were ashamed to reveal.  Hence that conspiracy of silence (ask any intelligent Mason).74

 

As much as Douglas was attracted by the values which he chose to consider characteristically Greek, he was repulsed by those which he considered characteristically Roman.  He found the Romans too businesslike, too practical, and too unartistic.  A passage in Good-bye to Western Culture places the blame for almost everything upon the Romans:  "The shoddiness of our ideals…social and political is a heritage from those unimaginative Roundheads, with their ingrained vulgarity, their imperialism, their pernicious

8


doctrine of the raison d'état [reason of state], and the welcome they gave, as vulgarians naturally would give, to imported pinchbeck [counterfeit] like Christianity (238-39)."'  [82-83].

 

 

"Christianity and the Platonic tradition became bêtes noires [things detested] in which Douglas could see no constructive value or historical purpose."  [111].

 

 

"Douglas assuredly believed that the sunny south was the best hope of civilized men; other men—most men—had no hope."  [126].

 

 

"Douglas believed that climate and region influenced the human outlook [see pages 12-13].  In Siren Land he had written:  "The landscape…and not only the hour and the man, plays a part when gods are to be created (36)."  And now in South Wind:  "But certainly the sun which colours our complexion and orders our daily habits, influences at the same time our character and outlook.  The almost hysterical changes of light and darkness, summer and winter, which have impressed themselves upon the literature of the North, are unknown here (325)."  He had likewise spoken in Siren Land of the cathartic properties of the southern Italian regions:….'  [126].

 

 

'A return to the Church, for example, was out of the question.  His [Norman Douglas] sympathies had outgrown the ideals of that establishment; a wave of pantheistic benevolence had drowned its smug little teachings.  The Church of England!  What was it still good for?  A stepping stone, possibly towards something more respectable and humane; a warning to all concerned of the folly of idolizing dead men and their delusions.  The Church?  Ghosts! (399)'  [130].

 

● ● ● ● ●

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Excursus:  from:  The National Depravity of Mankind, Observations on the Human Condition, Ferdinand Lundberg [1905 – 1995], Barricade, c1994.  [I thank John V., for this author and reference].

 

 

"Government and Religion

 

              Down through the ages, governments have sought the aid and support of religions in enforcing the rules of justice and equity."  [52].

 

 

            "Every religion without exception consists of an elementary moral code, such as the Ten Commandments and the rules of organization for that religion.  All of that is encased in

 

some preposterous myth, such as the life and death of Jesus,

 

or Moses coming down from the mountain with stone slabs on which were engraved the Ten Commandments.  Other religions are supported by other myths and some religions, such as Hinduism, are ruled over by many gods.

            Whenever religionists argue the superior validity of their religion over other religions, they are really arguing the superior validity of one myth over the other, a patent absurdity as no myth whatever has objective validity. 

 

Every myth is a product of human imagination and wishful thinking.  And wishful thinking is a hallmark of every religion.

 

            But as history shows, organized religions like governments often come into conflict and bring about the violent deaths of thousands of people, even millions.  When religions do come into violent conflict, or sects within a single religion conflict, the conflict is always about the acquisition or retention of members, who are the customers of any religion.  Governments fight over territories and the populations therein and religions fight over members.

            Often it is difficult to distinguish a religious war from a political war, as in the Christian crusades against Islam which left Islam shattered even though it embodied a higher intellectual level at the time than did Christianity.  It was not until after the Renaissance that Christianity gradually shook off the most retrograde of its teachings.

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            After the wars of the crusades, Christianity split into its Catholic and Protestant divisions and conducted fearful and bloody wars against each other for many years in Europe.  Residual wars of these religious wars are still going on during this writing such as the case of the Orthodox Serbs against the Muslim Bosnians, with the struggle taking place over territory and population.  At this writing thousands of unarmed Bosnian civilians have been killed or raped.  In India, Hindus and Muslims are waging pitched battles against each other, with much loss of life."  [53-54].

 

 

            "Despite the invalidity of religion, many non-religious conservatives nevertheless believe religion does serve as a deterrence to misbehavior.  And so it probably does, in a certain number of cases.  But it is plainly evident in multitudes of criminal cases that crimes have been committed by people claiming to be religious.  Here a distinction is to be drawn between the truly religious person and the nominally religious.  The truly religious person will not commit a crime but the nominally religious will [both types commit crimes].  Unfortunately, one cannot tell the difference by mere observation between the nominally and the truly religious.

            Not only do members of religious organizations commit crimes but the clergy often do—crimes such as sexual molestation of children, rape, adultery, embezzlement of church funds and the like.  The Holy Ghost appears to have been impotent in keeping these people in the ranks of rectitude, much to the dismay of conservative supporters of religion.  The conservatives, however, have a point on their side that some religious people are law-abiding.  But so are some non-religious people.

It is clear, at any rate, that religion has no particular influence in inducing the support of law.  This is proven by the fact that the prisons are full of people who were reared under religious auspices [see Article #2, page 37, 175. (Hans von Hentig)]."  [55].

 

End of Excursus.

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Excursus:  from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montesquieu

 

 

'One of his [Montesquieu 1689 – 1755] more exotic ideas, outlined in The Spirit of the Laws [see online:  http://www.constitution.org/cm/sol.htm] and hinted at in Persian Letters, is the climate theory, which holds that climate should [or does?] substantially influence the nature of man and his society.  He even goes so far[?] as to assert that certain climates are superior to others, the temperate climate of France being the best of possible climates.  His view is that people living in hot countries are "too hot-tempered," while those in northern countries are "icy" or "stiff."  The climate in middle Europe thus breeds [produces] the best people.  (This view is possibly influenced by similar statements in Germania [where?] by Tacitus [c. 55 – 120 C.E.], one of Montesquieu's favourite authors.)'  End of Excursus.

 

_____     _____     _____

 

 

Excursus:  from:  The Spirit of Laws, by M. De Secondat Baron de Montesquieu, Translated from the French by Thomas Nugent, LL.D, A New Edition, Carefully Revised and Compared with the Best Paris Edition, to which are Prefixed A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Author and an Analysis of the Work by M. D'Alembert, Vol. II, Cincinnati, Robert Clarke & Co, 1873.

 

 

"Book XXIV."  [135]

 

'Chap. XXIII. —Of Festivals.

 

                        When religion appoints a cessation from labour it ought to have a greater regard for the necessities of mankind, than to the grandeur of the being it designs to honour.

 

                        Athens was subject to great inconveniences from the excessive number of its festivals.*  These powerful people, to whose decision all the cities of Greece came to submit their quarrels, could not have time to dispatch such a multiplicity of affairs.

 

                        When Constantine [Roman Emperor 306 (312) – 337 (280? – 337)] ordained that the people should rest on the Sabbath, he made this decree for the cities,* and not for the inhabitants of the open

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country; he was sensible, that labour in the cities was useful, but in the fields necessary.

                        For the same reason, in a country supported by commerce, the number of festivals ought to be relative to this very commerce.  Protestant and Catholic countries are situated in such a manner that there is more need of labour in the former than in the latter; ["† The Catholics lie more towards the south, and the Protestants towards the north."] the suppression of festivals is therefore more suitable to Protestant than to Catholic countries.

            Dampier [William Dampier 1652 – 1715] observes, that the diversions of different nations vary greatly according to the climate.  As hot climates produce a quantity of delicate fruits, the barbarians easily find necessaries [essentials (my definition)], and therefore spend much time in diversions.  The Indians of colder countries have not so much leisure, being obliged to fish and hunt continually; hence they have less music, dancing, and festivals.  If a new religion should be established among these people, it ought to have regard to this in the institution of festivals.

 

 

Chap. XXIV.—Of the local Laws of Religion.

 

                        There are many local laws in various religions; and when Montezuma [Montezuma (or Moctezuma) II, 1466 - 1520 (Aztec Emperor 1502 – 1520)] with so much obstinacy insisted, that the religion of the Spaniards was good for their country, and his for Mexico, he did not assert an absurdity: because, in fact, legislators could never help having a regard to what nature had established before them.'  [135-136].

 

 

"Chap. XXVI.—The same Subject continued."  [138]

 

            "When a religion adapted to the climate of one country clashes too much with the climate of another, it cannot be there established; and whenever it has been introduced, it has been afterwards discarded.  It seems to all human appearance, as if the climate had prescribed the bounds of the Christian and the Mahometan religions."  [138].


End of Excursus.

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Comment:  compare:  A.  "the accident of birth" [see Article 4, 125, 552.].  B.  Max Beerbohm (page 3):  "fatalistic; he believed that luck played an enormous role in one's life."

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