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The Choice Of Parents
by [?]

“Yes,” said Marindin quietly, “they may say they write for Posterity, but what living author besides myself does write for Posterity?”

This sounded so unlike Marindin’s modesty that I wondered if the port and the paradoxes of our Christmas dinner had got into his head at last. The veteran man of letters had talked brilliantly more suo of many things, most of all perhaps of his dead friend, Charles Dickens. Who seemed more surely to have been writing Christmas stories for Posterity? we had asked ourselves musingly, as we discussed the change of temper since the days when Dickens or Father Christmas might have stood for the Time-Spirit. Many good things had Marindin said of Ibsen and Nietzsche and the modern apostles of self-development who sneered at the Gospel of self-sacrifice, and at all the amiable virtues our infancy had drawn from “The Fairchild Family” with its engaging references to Jeremiah xvii. 9. But now he was breaking out in a new way, and I missed the reassuring twinkle in his eye.

“I think I may without arrogance claim to be the one author who really has considerable influence with Posterity,” he went on, drawing serenely at his cigar and adjusting his right leg more comfortably across the arm of his easy-chair. “Is there any one else whom Posterity listens to?”

I shifted uneasily in my own arm-chair. “What do you mean?” I inquired baldly.

“Don’t you know I write for the unborn?” he counter-queried.

“But they don’t read you–yet,” I said, trying to smile.

“My dear fellow! Why, I’m the best-read man in Ante-land. The unborn swear by me! My publishers, Fore and Futurus, are simply rolling in promissory notes.”

“You’ve become a Theosophist!” I cried in alarm, for that familiar twinkle in his eye had been replaced by a strange exaltation.

“And what if I have?”

“Theosophy!” I cried scornfully–“Theology for Atheists! The main contemporary form of the Higher Foolishness.”

“The Higher Foolishness!” echoed Marindin indignantly.

“Yes, the Foolishness of the fool with brains. The brainless fool fulfils himself in low ways–in alcoholic saturnalia, in salvation carnivals, in freethought hysterics, in political bombs. The Higher Foolishness expresses itself in aberrations of poetry and art, in table-rapping and theosophy, in vegetarianism, and in mystic calculations about the Beast.”

“It is you who are the fool,” he replied shortly. “Theosophy is true–that is, my form of it. Birth is but the name for the entry upon this particular form of existence.

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.

“The unborn pre-exist, even as the dead persist; and instead of addressing Posterity posthumously and circuitously, I have anticipated its verdict. I have written for the unborn, direct. I have been the apostle of the New Ethics among the pre-natal populations, the prophet of individualism among the unborn.”

“What! You have propagated the teaching that free choice must be the battle-cry of the future, that the only genuine morality is that which is the spontaneous outcome of an emancipated individuality!”


“But what has free choice to do with the unborn?”

“What has it to do? Great heavens! Everything. The battle-cry of the future will be Free Birth.”

“Free Birth!” I echoed.

“Yes–this is what I have been preaching to the unborn–the choice of their parents before consenting to be born! Compulsory birth must be swept away. What! would you sweep away all checks upon the individuality of the individual–once he is born would you tear asunder all the swaddling-bands of our baby civilisation; would you replace the rules of the nursery by the orderly anarchy of manhood and womanhood, and yet retain such an incoherent anachronism as compulsory birth–a disability which often cripples a man upon the very threshold of his career? Without this initial reform the individualism of your Ibsens and Auberon Herberts becomes a mere simulacrum, a hollow mockery. If you are to develop your individuality, it must be your own individuality that you develop, not an individuality thrust upon you by a couple of outsiders.”