The Mademoiselle

“When fhe was taken up, fhe put aboard a great fhip., and was carried to a warm country, where fhe was fold for a flave; the perfon who fold her having first painted her all over black, with a view no doubt, to make her pafs for a negroe.


She says further of the country from which she was thus carried away, that the people there had no cloathing but fkins, and had no ufe of fire at all, fo that when fhe came to France, she could not bear the fire, and hardly even the clofe air of a room, or breaths of a perfons who were near her. There were, fhe says, another fort of men in this country, who were bigger and stronger than her people, all covered with hair; and thefe people were at war with her people, and ufed to eat them when they could catch them.”



Preface by Lord Monboddo, An Account of A Savage Girl, Caught Wild in the Woods of Champagne, Translated From the French of Madame H-t, With A Preface Containing Feveral Particulars omitted in the Original Account


A Conjectured Servant of Two Masters

“But what sort of society and nobility? Where Rousseau’s orangutans insofar as they were natural men might be imagined as egalitarian and democratic, Monboddo’s monkey men were quiet different. Although an admirer of Rousseau’s criticisms of the moderns, Monboddo was an advocate of ancient meritocracy and saw in the orangutan a natural gentleman emerging from the undifferentiated herd to which democrats like Rousseau would return us. The orangutan was a sort of Greek hero, faster than Achilles, naturally noble, and manifesting the virtues of both servant and master.

The orangutan was not unique in providing an image of the state of nature from which to derive an ideal politics or to bemoan its loss.”


K. Haakonssen (eds.) The Cambridge History of Eighteenth Century Philosophy, Vol 1, 2006

Of A Saturday Morning and Other Business

” At the office all morning and did business; by and by we are called to Sir W. Batten’s to see the strange creature that Captain Holmes hath brought with him from Guiny; it is a great baboon, but so much like a man in most things, that though they say there is a species of them, yet I cannot believe but that it is a monster got of a man and she-baboon. I do believe that it already understands much English, and I am of the mind it might be taught to speak or make signs………….and so to bed ”


Dairy of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24th August 1661


I first came across this reference in a series of articles that all expressed the perspective that Pepys was the first to suggest the idea that sign language may be taught to simians before expressing the notion that this idea took centuries before such experiments were carried out.

No attempt to present Pepys perspective in context. His belief in regard to the hybrid nature of the baboon he viewed is typical and in line with standard classical understanding, his conjecture on the topic on sign language very much related to his dock side encounter with a monster of his imagination. Growth of foreign trade and the experience of merchant traders had stimulated significant interest in the language of signs as a universal language understood by all people.

Struck me as a somewhat anxious 21st century attempt to reconcile notions of past and present intellectual identity, with a strong emphasis on the present and concern regarding its uncertain and yet to be written future.

History did not seem to be the object of reflection in what I read.

Screen Memory

“The recognition of this fact must diminish the distinction we have drawn between screen memories and other memories derived from our childhood. It may indeed be questioned whether we have any memories at all from childhood: memories relating to our childhood may be all that we posses. Our childhood memories show us our earliest years not as they were but as they appeared at the later periods when the memories were aroused. In these periods of arousal, the childhood memories did not, as people are accustomed to say emerge, they were formed at that time. And a number of motives, with no concern for historical accuracy, had a part in forming them, as well as in the selection of the memories themselves. ”


Screen Memories (1899), The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 3, Early Psycho Analytically Publications, 2001