Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Introductory Note to Westermarck's
"The History of Human Marriage" (S439: 1891)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Wallace's 'Introductory Note' was included in both the original 1891 edition of this milestone work, and subsequent ones. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S439.htm


     [[p. (v)]] Having read the proofs of Mr. Westermarck's book I am asked by the publishers to say a few words by way of introducing the work to English readers. This I have great pleasure in doing, because I have seldom read a more thorough or a more philosophic discussion of some of the most difficult, and at the same time interesting, problems of anthropology.

     The origin and development of human marriage have been discussed by such eminent writers as Darwin, Spencer, Morgan, Lubbock, and many others. On some of the more important questions involved in it all these writers are in general accord, and this agreement has led to their opinions being widely accepted as if they were well-established conclusions of science. But on several of these points Mr. Westermarck has arrived at different, and sometimes diametrically opposite, conclusions, and he has done so after a most complete and painstaking investigation of all the available facts.

     With such an array of authority on the one side and a hitherto unknown student on the other, it will certainly be thought that all the probabilities are against the latter. Yet I venture to anticipate that the verdict of independent thinkers will, on most of these disputed points, be in favour [[p. vi]] of the new comer who has so boldly challenged the conclusions of some of our most esteemed writers. Even those whose views are here opposed, will, I think, acknowledge that Mr. Westermarck is a careful investigator and an acute reasoner, and that his arguments as well as his conclusions are worthy of the most careful consideration.

     I would also call attention to his ingenious and philosophical explanation of the repugnance to marriage between near relatives which is so very general both among savage and civilised man, and as to the causes of which there has been great diversity of opinion; and to his valuable suggestions on the general question of sexual selection, in which he furnishes an original argument against Darwin's views on the point, differing somewhat from my own though in general harmony with it.

     Every reader of the work will admire its clearness of style, and the wonderful command of what is to the author a foreign language.


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