TRANSMISSION OF QUALITIES.
While much remains yet to be understood in refer ence to this most important subject, there are yet clearly defined influences which have much to do in deciding the peculiar characteristics seen in the children of the same family. That the best people may and do give the worst of themselves to their children, and that parents not too degraded may give the best of their powers to some of their children, are palpable truths. The important truth, that both father and mother should be always just what they would wish their children to be, cannot be too often repeated. The commonly accepted theory in regard to marking children has at least this foundation in actual experi ence. An intense temporary activity of comparatively inert qualities just before or at the time of procrea tion, or during the period of maternal support, may make a strong impression for good or ill upon the child. Anger, hatred,. drunkenness, theft, deceit, re venge, when in active exercise, may be transmitted by some fairly constituted parents who do not habitually yield to those ill-conditions. I can never forget the story told me by a lovely young mother of scarcely thirty years, the wife of one of our representatives in Italy, after the loss of a little daughter not yet three years of age. She said, " Do not think me devoid of maternal love when I tell you that I have no sorrow in the death of my little girl. I am sure it was best that she was early removed from a life that would have been full of suffering for herself and others." As the little child had been usually healthful, and seemed bright and interesting, I expressed surprise at her remark, and asked her reason for the unusual feeling. It seemed that about four months before the birth of this little girl a slight circumstance oc curred which irritated the father; the mother replied sharply, and in a few moments, by reason of her sen sitive condition, a trivial cause culminated in the most violent and fiendish fit of anger she had ever felt in all her life. The bitterness of feeling was so
great that it was some time before she could banish it, nor could she ever recall it without great pain. When the little girl was a few months old, every manifestation of anger seemed to take on marked and furious characteristics, and neither her own nor the father's efforts had ever controlled these parox ysms of excitement. At these times the expression of her face was like that of a demoniac, and these outbursts of passion grew more serious as she became older. These parents were educated people, of high moral as well as social standing; the mother a lady of unusual sweetness and gentleness, conscientious and affectionate. A like instance occurred twenty-five years ago in the case of some young married people, whose family history I have known intimately since, where the eldest daughter received a similar bias. She was never governed in childhood, and her out bursts of temper have been ever a scourge to the household. Without doubt, hatred, murder, the ten dency to lie or steal, recklessness and jealousy, the narrow selfishness which devours itself, may be im planted in the minds of some children before birth (where the general characteristics are not bad in the -parents), when in an unguarded moment the evil nature runs riot.
How carefully every life should be guarded, so that the birth of a murderer, a thief, or a licentious per son would be an impossibility in any home ! Speak ing one day to a young mother, usually cheerful and good-tempered, upon the subject of heredity, she laugh ingly answered, "Pshaw, I don't believe a word of it. I scolded and fretted, when I felt like it, before Fred was born, and he is as good a child as I have." The superficial fretfulness and irritation which rises like foam to the surface and runs over is quite different from those deep-seated, discontented, unhappy states of feeling which lie like slumbering volcanoes work ing sure destruction in their depths.