"With Meditation on a Happy End," a Description of Chief Inspector Henri Moreau

[Translator's Note: Moreau's autobiography was published posthumously by his grandson in 1892. I've done my best to translate Moreau's vinegary, poetic tone from the original French.]

En 1889, dans la ville d'Arles

My life has become a flutter, flutter, flutter of paperwork as if clouds of inkwet moths are constantly flying around my office. If only these papers shared the moth's predilection for leaping into the nearest flames, I would have more fuel for my fireplace and a little less clutter. But this is my punishment for ambition; for wanting to add "en chef" beside "inspecteur." Now I have an office overlooking the Rhône, where I can work above the clatter of the streets, where I can interview my agents over a slow pipe and wine. I have never been unhappier.
Plus, there is that damned portrait on the wall. There I stand in a blue coat with my hand in my pocket, not like Napoleon, but just a man with his hand in his pocket. My silver buttons, short-brimmed cap, and silver laurel wrapped around my collar impress my high office, while my gray cloak and beard white as cobwebs remind the viewer that retirement, maybe even death, is my next promotion. I've been told the painting is done in the style of Carolus-Duran, but its oily glaze, highlighted and wrinkled skin, and shadowy background reminds me of a Rembrandt. There I am, Walt Whitman civilized. A hero at his end. But who had put it beside a mirror? Why must my decay be compared to my glorious final years? There is the expiration date, and then there's rot.

Now, I think I would have retired gracefully into the life of a mewling monk-gardener, enjoying my estate and my books and my wife, if it hadn't been for that English trouble-sower Charles Robert Darwin. Some fifty years I fought the criminal mind, and for most of it, I thought the culprit some kind of evil. I saw terrible things. I am not a religious man, but it gave me comfort knowing there was a higher order. Maybe man was touched with a little madness but he was above the bugs. He was not a system of instincts and survival mechanics bound by carapace and limbs. But then a younger me read La descendance de l'homme et la sélection sexuelle. It was on the suggestion of my wife, the great Entomologist. I still remember the volume—green with gold print on the spine. And in that terrible book was Darwin suggesting man evolved from worms! That as our respiratory organs sophisticated, we began to draw more oxygen into our blood, and grow in size, and complicate. When I thought about it, it made sense—like worms, we're two mouths connected by tubes. In it goes, out it goes. And we have oily skin that comes in browns and reds, pearls and buffs. 

The Ancient Greeks envisioned all sorts of mythical animals. Bears, lions, cats, dogs. If only we lived in a world as wondrous as that. Instead, we have been born into this mechanical, rational order of insects. And we are not their beekeepers. We're insects ourselves. But I have a theory. I think maybe we do have a bit of Chaos in our minds. That our maggot flesh closed around some wild principle—that there was some mismanagement of evolution which gave us a Freedom uncontested. And this Freedom has given us a strange evolutionary advantage. But my tragic sense still thinks we operate under the insectoid masters: pain and pleasure, from which all right and wrong and causal chains derive. Darwin only remembered our origins—we are insects pretending to be men. If I retire, I fear these thoughts will bother me like flies on the brain. 

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