12 DECEMBER 1885, Page 45

Lea Primitife: Etudes d'Ethnologie Comparde. Par Elie Reda& (G. Chamerot,

Imprimenr Editenr, Paris.)—The study of primitive races is, in effect, the study of our own beginnings ; for in prehistoric times, yet only the other day as reckoned by geologists, our fore- fathers were no further advanced in civilisation than the Eastern and Western Hy perboreans, the Apaches, Nairs, and lamas, of whom M, Elie Reclus has treated in this interesting and exhaustive work on com- parative ethnology, are now. The subjeot is one on which much haabeen written ; and if the progress achieved has not hitherto been in propor- • The exact figures are-8,892,536 in 1801, and 17,927,609 in 1851 (see Mr. Sonar's work, p. 185). These ought properly tst be corrected for emigration to the United States and the Colonies, and for immigration from Ireland, Scotland, and the Continent ; but we believe thefts }re no statistics for doing so, tion to the labour expended, the cause thereof must be sought rather in defective methods then in lack of diligence or seal. In the opinion of

some Continental experts, and they are probably right, too much atten- tion has been given to the investigation of relics and remains, and too little to the study of the primitive races of the present time. Assuming that prehistoric monuments, graves, burrows, the wreck of laoustrine dwellings, and the rest, furnish all the materials needful for their pur- pose, many investigators have endeavoured to infer from these indica- tions the manners and customs of our savage ancestors, and even to tell the story of their lives. This system, though it has led to some remarkable results, lacks in precision, and, taken by itself, is insufficient to explain the formation and evolution of primitive societies. An examination, however minute, of skulls, ossuaries, and flint imple- ments, suggestive though they may be, cannot justify us in concluding that we really know the peoples to whom they belonged. M. Elie Reclus has adopted a different method ; he supplements the study of paleontologic anthropology with the observation of existing races, or of races recently or almost extinct, concerning whom we have positive information, and who, when they first came in contact with European civilisation, some fifty years ago, were still living in an age of stone and had much in common with the lake dwellers of Central Europe and the inhabitants of prehistoric Britain. These are the " primi- tives " who have suggested the title of his book which, we may add, is written in a style quite equal to that of his more celebrated brother, and so clear and bright withal that if it had no other merit, its nervous and idiomatic French would alone render the work well worth reading. Bat it is brimful of carious information touching the infant peoples whose customs, beliefs, and social organisation he has investi- gated ; and albeit his conclusions may be contested by experts, they are exceedingly interesting and suggestive, and, as it seems to us, amply warranted by the facts he sets forth. M. Reclus does not. accept the theory as to the origin of societies, generally received— that in the beginning individuals lived more or less isolated and formed themselves into communities only after a considerable lapse of time. He believes, on the contrary, that communism was the first stage of the evolution ; individualism the second. " Differing from the idea commonly held," he writes, " that the individual was father to

society, we believe that society was mother to the individual. Everything points to the conclusion that at the outset collectivism was at its maximum, individualism at its minimum." M. Elie limit's also suggests an original theory as to the work of women on early civilisa- tion, in which advocates of " women's rights" may see an additional reason for the " enfranchisement " of the "weaker half." Among primitive peoples the lord of creation devotes himself almost exclu- sively to hunting, fishing, and war ; the ordinary cares of life devolving altogether on his non-combatant companion. It is she who builds the house, brings up the children, tills the land, and tends the kine ; facts which, in the author's opinion, prove that to woman are due the great part of early conquests over Nature, especially in the domain of agriculture. Woman is the civilising influence, par excellence, of primitive communities, pm-historic man being little more than "a wild beast, knowing only how to hunt and kill. Among all barbarous peoples culture comes from the mother." The author shows also that the customs of infanticide and patting to death of the aged are dictated by the fear of population outgrowing the means of sub- sistence, and the supreme necessity of keeping alive the hale and the able-bodied. There are Esqaimaux tribes whose braves, when increasing age or failing strength incapacitates them for work, give a last feast to their friends, and then, lying down on the floor of the sepulchral hut, solicit death at the hand of some obliging and robust companion- in-arms. In M. Elie Reclus's description of the Apaches, our vege- tarian friends may possibly find a new argument in support of their fad. Tribes, such as the Novajos, who live mainly (yet not exclu- sively) on cereals, are among the most magnificent specimens of the human race known to ethnologists ; the men are six feet in height, admirably proportioned, well featured, as muscular as so many Hercules, and as keen-sighted as eagles. The carnivorous Apaches, , on the other hand—those who live almost exclusively on flesh-meaty are ugly and disagreeable, with big flat faces, huge mouths, squinting eyes, a stature seldom exceeding five feet five inches, and a fetor so high that it disgusts even horses not accustomed to it, and so ingrained that no amount of soap and water will wash it away. But vegetarians will be good enough to observe that the diet of the handsome Apaches is mixed, or as M. Reclus pats it, they are omnivorous, not simply graminivorous—if there be any vegetarians, for it is quite possible for a man to abstain altogether from flesh meat, and yet live almost exclusively on animal food.