An Autobiography HTML version

son, following worthily in the footsteps of a noble father, has taken up the broken threads
of the lifework of my friend, and is doing his utmost to carry it to a successful issue. My
love of reading, which has been a characteristic feature of my life, found full scope for
expression in the piles of books which reached us from all parts of the world. It has
always been my desire to keep abreast of current literature, and this, by means of my
book club and other sources, I was able to do. Sometimes my friends from abroad sent
me copies of their own publications, Dr. Bayard Holmes invariably forwarding to me a
presentation copy of his most valuable treatises on medical subjects. Mrs. Stetson's
poems and economic writings have always proved a source of inspiration to me, and I
have distributed her books wherever I have thought they would be appreciated. Just at
this time my financial position became brighter. I was fortunate in being able to dispose
of my two properties in East Adelaide, and the purchasing of an annuity freed me entirely
from money and domestic worries. Perhaps the greatest joy of all was that I was once
more able to follow my charitable inclinations by giving that little mite which, coming
opportunely, gladdens the heart of the disconsolate widow or smoothes the path of the
struggling worker. Giving up my home entirely, I went to live with my dear friend Mrs.
Baker, at Osmond terrace, where, perhaps, I spent the most restful period of a somewhat
eventful life.
The inauguration of a Criminological Society in Adelaide was a welcome sign to me of
the growing public interest in methods of prison discipline and treatment. I was one of the
foundation members of the society, and attended every meeting during its short existence.
My one contribution to the lectures delivered under its auspices was on "Heredity and
Environment." This was a subject in which I had long been interested, holding the view
that environment had more to do with the building up of character than heredity had to do
with its decadence. How much or how little truth there is in the cynical observation that
the only believers in heredity nowadays are the fathers of very clever sons I am not
prepared to say. I do say, however, that with the cruel and hopeless law of heredity as laid
down by Zola and Ibsen I have little sympathy. According to these pessimists, who ride
heredity to death, we inherit only the vices, the weaknesses, and the diseases of our
ancestors. If this, however, were really the case, the world would be growing worse and
not better, as it assuredly is, with every succeeding generation. The contrary view taken
of the matter by Ibsen's fellowcountryman, Bjornsen, appears to me to be so much more
commonsense and humanizing. He holds that if we know that our ancestors drank and
gambled to excess, or were violent-tempered or immoral, we can quite easily avoid the
pitfall, knowing it to be there. Too readily wrongdoers are prepared to lay their failings at
the door of ancestors, society, or some other blamable source, instead of attributing them,
as they should do, to their own selfish and weak indulgence and lack of self-control.
Heredity, though an enormous factor in our constitution, need not be regarded as an over-
mastering fate, for each human being has an almost limitless parentage to draw upon.
Each child has both a father and a mother, and two grandparents on both sides, increasing
as one goes back. But, besides drawing on a much wider ancestry than the immediate
parents, we have more than we inherit, or where could the law of progress operate? Each
generation, each child who is born, comes into a slightly different world, fed by more
experience, blown upon by fresh influences. And each individual comes into the world,
not with a body merely, but with a soul; and this soul is susceptible to impressions, not