This Simian World by Clarence Day

It was at the start of the 20th century that American author Clarence Day garnered success: with his autobiographical book entitled Life with Father (1936).

Born in New York City, he attended St. Paul’s School and graduated from Yale University in 1896, where he edited campus humor magazine The Yale Record.

The following year, Day joined the New York Stock Exchange, and became a partner in his father’s Wall Street brokerage firm. In 1898, he enlisted in the Navy, but developed crippling arthritis and was forced to spend the remainder of his life as a semi-invalid.

In 1920, he published his first book. It was called This Simian World, and comprises a series of humorous essays and illustrations. The Simian World looks at humankind’s simian characteristics. Day speculates on how we might have been better off if we had evolved from ants, bees, dogs cats, or even elephants.

Clarence Day travels back in time to examine the species existing after the great saurians disappeared from the face of the earth.


”Bees or ants might have seemed more promising. In these orderly insects there was obviously a capacity for labor, and cooperative labor at that. In a civilization of super-ants or bees, there would have been no problem of the hungry unemployed, no poverty, no unstable government, no riots, no strikes, no derision of eugenics, no thieves, perhaps no crime at all. Ants are good citizens: they place group interests first.”

“Like ants and bees, the cat race is nervous. Their temperaments are high-strung. They would never have become as poised or as placid as–say–super-cows. Yet they would have had less insanity, probably, than we. Monkeys’ (and elephants’) minds seem precariously balanced, unstable. The great cats are saner. They are intense, they would have needed sanitariums: but fewer asylums. And their asylums would have been not for weak-minded souls, but for furies.

They would have been strong at slander. They would have been far more violent than we, in their hates, and they would have had fewer friendships. Yet they might not have been any poorer in real friendships than we. The real friendships among men are so rare that when they occur they are famous. Friends as loyal as Damon and Pythias were, are exceptions. Good fellowship is common, but unchanging affection is not. We like those who like us, as a rule, and dislike those who don’t. Most of our ties have no better footing than that; and those who have many such ties are called warm-hearted.”

”It is possible that our race may be an accident, in a meaningless universe, living its brief life uncared-for, on this dark, cooling star: but even so – and all the more -what marvelous creatures we are! A universe capable of giving birth to so many such accidents – blind or not -is a good world to live in, a promising universe.”

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