A Young Positivist | by George du Maurier

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A Young Positivist

Parson. “What’s a Miracle?”
Boy. “Dunno.”

Parson. “Well, if the Sun were to Shine in the Middle of the Night, what should you Say it was?”
Boy. “The Moon.”

Parson. “But if you were Told it was the Sun, what should you Say it was?”
Boy. “A Lie.”

Parson.I Don’t tell Lies. Suppose I told you it was the Sun; what would you Say then?
Boy. “That yer wasn’t Sober!”


[George L. P. B. Du Maurier], ‘A Young Positivist’, Punch, 61, December 30 (1871), p.269.
Source: Google Books



The little dialogue had, without the original picture, its own afterlife as a humerous filling in newspaper entertainment sections. The central question of positivist epistemology was, however avoided by almost all who reprinted the anti-clerical sketch:

  • [Without title] in the “News and Gossip” section of the Morning Chronicle, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 26 January 1872, p. 2. Google
  • Indianapolis People, Indiana, Sunday, 28 January 1872, p. 7. Archive
  • New Albany Weekly Ledger, Wednesday, 31 January, 1872, p. 2. Archive
  • “London Punch contains this account of ‘A Young Positivist'”, The St. Cloud journal, St. Cloud, Minn., 08 February 1872, p.1. Archive
  • “Parson to a young lad” in Mariposa Gazette, California, Volume 17, Number 40, 29 March 1872. California Digital Newspaper Collection
  • Frederick Locker, “What is a Miracle”, in: Patchwork, London: Smith, Elder, 1879. p. 67. Forgotten Books
  • “A Clergyman, interrogating a Sunday-School class of Boys, said”, in the “Omnium-Gatherum”-section of the Waikato Times, New Zealand, Volume XLII, Issue 3433, 30 June 1894, p. 4. Archive
  • “The Young Idea” in The West Australian Sunday Times, Perth, WA, Sunday 1 October 1899. National Library of Australia

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