"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, 6 February 2012

On being Probably Arboreal

This isn’t what I intended to blog about today. However, it has been brought to my attention (by my mother, who else?) that some readers might not have fully understood the blog title Probably Arboreal. As you can see, I took it from a Robert Louis Stevenson quote, the full text of which reads

There is a certain critic, not indeed of execution but of matter, whom I dare be known to set before the best: a certain low-browed, hairy gentleman, at first a percher in the fork of trees, next (as they relate) a dweller in caves, and whom I think I see squatting in cave-mouths, of a pleasant afternoon, to munch his berries - his wife, that accomplished lady, squatting by his side: his name I never heard, but he is often described as Probably Arboreal, which may serve for recognition. Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal; in all our veins there run some minims of his old, wild, tree-top blood; our civilised nerves still tingle with his rude terrors and pleasures; and to that which would have moved our common ancestor, all must obediently thrill.”
The appeal of this particular quote was threefold
Firstly, it sums up that we are all a product of our ancestry, and ultimately of our animal origins. In fact, I think that Stevenson took Probably Arboreal from Darwin, who said:
“Man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits.”
Secondly, as I said in On getting hooked on Genealogy, family history is an everlasting endeavour.  So, I suppose Probably Arboreal is the equivalent of a mythical holy grail for the family historian – an ancestor high up in the tree that we will in fact never be able reach! 

Finally, I rather liked the regal image of Probably Arboreal presiding over the entire tree – much as the family historian does as ‘keeper’ of their family tree.
So, I hope that has cleared it up for anyone who was wondering – I acknowledge that it’s a rather obscure reference, but finding an original name for a blog is no mean feat!
On a related topic, I want to say a massive thank you to http://www.geneabloggers.com/ for adding me to their blogroll, and to their members who are now following me – I will of course be reciprocating!
L x

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