ePub 版

erfield-school, under the Rev. Mr. Burrows, of whom he always spoke with great respect. He was entered with two of his elder brothers, at St. John's college, Cambridge; and, being intended for the practice of medicine took the degree of M. B. in 1755, defending in his thesis an opinion, that the motion of the heart and arteries is produced by the immediate stimulus of the blood. During his residence at Cambridge, Mr. Darwin was elected to one of lord Exeter's scholarships, worth about 161. per annum, which, from the meagerness of his father's income at that time was esteemed a desirable ac quisition. After having prepared himself for his future profession, by an attendance on the lectures of Dr. Hunter, in London, and by a severe course of study at Edinburgh, he contemplated the metropolis as the proper theatre for his exertions. Deterred, however, by the want of an immediate introduction, and the improbability of obtaining_immediate patronage, Doctor Darwin thought it altogether more adviseable to settle in the country; the first place to which he went, in the capacity of a physician, was Not tingham, where he was entirely disappointed in his hopes of practice; he removed, therefore, to Litchfield, with letters of introduction to lady Gresley and the Rev. Mr. Seward. Here his great capacity and various acquirements were more justly appreciated; he resided at Litchfield during a great number of years, in the enjoyment of a very extensive reputation, and a very profitable practice, the foundation of which is said to havebeen laid by his success in restoring to health a gentleman of fortune in the neighbourhood, whose recovery was despaired of by a numerous circle of friends and acquaintances. In the year 1757 Dr. Darwin married Miss Mary Howard, daughter of Charles Howard, Esq. by his wife, Elizabeth Foley: she died in 1770. By this lady he had

five children, two of whom died in their infancy: the eldest son, Charles, he educated to his own profession, but he died in the 20th year of his age, very soon after he had finished his course of studies at Edinburgh, where he gained considerable reputation, by endeavouring to furnish a criterion for distinguishing pus from mucus.* The second son, Erasmus, was an attorney, and practised at Derby: about three years since (in 1799) he walked into his garden, at dead of night, threw himself into the Derwent, and was drowned. Dr. Darwin's third son, Robert, is a physician, in very extensive practice, at Shrewsbury, and married the daughter of the late Mr. Wedgewood, of Etruria.

Soon after the decease of his wife, Dr. Darwin commenced his laborious work, Zoonomia, which, however, he did not think proper to publish till about eight years since.

In 1778 he obtained a lease of a picturesque spot of ground, about a mile from Litchfield, where a cold bath was erected by Sir John Flayer, an eminent physician in the beginning of the last century: there is a grotto, surrounded by projecting rocks, from the edges of which trickles a perpetual shower of water. This place became his favourite retreat and amusement: here he formed a botanic-garden, and began his poem on the "Loves of the plants," the scenery of which, as adapted to love-scenes, and being thence a proper residence for the Goddess of Botany," is taken from these sequestered shades:....

Dr. Darwin edited this posthu mous work of his son Charles which was published in 1780, under the title of Experiments, establishing a criterion between mucilaginous and purulent matter: and an account of the retrograde motions of the absorbent vessels of animal bodies in some discases."

[blocks in formation]

moved, and in two or three days he became to all appearance, quite well, and declared himself perfectly recovered. On Saturday, the 17th he amused himself in his garden, with all his children, who were come home from school, probably on account of the easter-holidays: in the evening, as he was walking with Mrs. Darwin, and a lady of about his own age, the latter remarked, that he would have sufficient employment for ten years in bringing all his plans about the place to perfection. "You, Madam (he replied) have as good a prospect as any body I know, of your age, of living ten years....I have not."....Mrs. Darwin remarked his good looks, spirits, and strength: he said, "I always appear particularly well immediately before I become ill." He sat with his family in the evening, conversing with his usual cheerfulness, went to bed, rose at six on the following morning, and wrote some letters: he then called his servant, fell into a violent fit of passion with him on account of his horses, and was seized with a cold shivering fit, which increased, and was attended with thirst: he then sat down by the kitchen-fire, and drank a considerable quantity of butter-milk, but feeling himself much indispesed, he lay down on a sofa, when becoming more cold and torpid, he was raised up, and placed in an arm-chair, where, without pain, or any emotion, he expired, between eight and nine o'clock, in the 71st year of his age.

In the year 1780, Dr. Darwin was called to attend colonel Sacheverel Pole, of Radbourne-hall, distant four miles from Derby, and a few months after the decease of the colonel he married his relict, Mrs. Pole, with a jointure of 6001. per annum, to which 1001. was added, by establishing the validity of a promissory-note, which had been given to her by her former husband. The marriage of Dr. Darwin occasioned his immediate removal from Litchfield to Radbourne, where he resided till he could be accommodated with a house in Derby in this last situation he remained till about three months before his death, when he removed to an old mansion, called Breadwall priory, about three miles distant from Derby, which was a commodious and peaceful retirement for his old age. During the last few years Dr. Darwin was much subject to inflammation in his breast and lungs: he had a very serious attack of this disease in the course of the last spring, from which, after repeated bleedings by himself and a surgeon, he with great difficulty recovered. On the 10th of April last he was attacked with a severe shivering fit, follow-like, of the same place, thinks this ed by a correspondent hot one, and accompanied with symptoms of inflammation in his lungs: his surgeon, Mr. Hadley, took from him, in course of the day, twenty-five ounces of blood: the fever was re

The death of Dr. Darwin is variously accounted for: it is supposed to have been caused by a cold fit of an inflammatory fever: Dr. Fox, of Derby, considers the disease which occasioned it to have been angina pectoris; but Dr. Gar

opinion not sufficiently well-founded: whatever was the disease, it is not improbable, surely, that the fatal event was hastened by the violent fit of passion with which he was scized in the morning.

Dr. Darwin has left a widow and six children by his last marriage: besides these, there are two natural daughters (Miss Parkers) whom he has established at a school at Ashbourne, and for whose instruction and assistance he composed and published his Treatise on Female Education.

During the whole of his life. Dr. Darwin was remarkable for great benevolence of disposition, and it was particularly conspicuous in the care he took even of the lowest animals. He had frequently expressed a strong desire, that the termination of his existence might be without pain, having always looked upon death as the less evil of the two. He was of a middle stature, iu person gross and corpulent; his features were coarse, and his countenance heavy; if not wholly void of animation, it certainly was by no means expressive. The print of him, from a painting of Mr. Wright, is a good likeness. In his gait and dress he was rather clumsy and slovenly, and frequently walked with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

A gentleman with whom he was many years in the habits of intimacy, relates "that in his youth Dr. Darwin was fond of sacrificing to both Bacchus and Venus: but he soon discovered that he could not continue his devotions to both these deities without destroying his health, and constitution.* He therefore resolved to relinquish Bacchus, but his affection for Venus was retained to the last period of life."

At this period of life, when he was hesitating from which of the two favourite altars he must discontinue his sacrifices, we may suppose him to have translated, with so much spirit and effect, the following epigram of Martial :....

Balnea, Vina, Venus, corrumpunt cor

[blocks in formation]

In the second vol. of Zoonomia (Class iv. 1, 2, 15. Art. Podagra,) Dr. Darwin relates, that about forty-five years ago he was first seized with a fit of the gout; in consequence of which he totally abstained from all fermented liquors, not even tasting small beer, or a drop of any kind of wine: but he ate plentifully of flesh-meat, and all kinds of vegetables and fruit, using, for his drink at meals, chiefly water alone, or cream and water, with tea and coffee between them, as usual. By this abstinence from fermented liquors he kept quite free from the gout for fifteen or sixteen years, and from some other complaints to which he had been subject: he then indulged himself occasionally with a little wine and water, cyder and water, &c. but was speedily admonished into his former temperance, by a paroxysm of the gout. He was in the habit of eating a large quantity of food, and his stomach possessed a strong power of digestion: his advice frequently was "Eat, eat, eat as much as you can ;" but he took every opa portunity to impress a dread of all fermented liquors on the minds of his patients, whose diseases he was too ready to represent as originating in the frequent use of them.

In the "Botanic Garden" (Part II. Canto iv. 357, &c.) Dr. Darwin has taken an opportunity to express his strong antipathy against fermented liquors, by comparing their effects to that of the Promethean fire:...." The ancient story of Prometheus, who concealed in his bosom the fire he had stolen, and afterwards had a vulture perpetually gnawing his liver, affords so apt an allegory for the effects of drinking spirituous liquors, that one should be induced to think the art of distillation, as well as some other chemical processes (such as calcining gold), had been known in times of great antiquity, and lost again. The swallowing drams cannot be better represented in hieroglyphic language than by taking fire into one's bosom; and certain

by rapid glances, from any books which accident throws in our way. Instead of that orderly, scientific method of study, which is the direct road to knowledge, are substituted miscellaneous reading, and vague thinking, from which nothing is to be expected, but a confused mass of truth and error. Thus, opinions, once introduced, however it is, that the general effect of drinking fermented or spirituous liquors is an inflamed, schirrous, or paralytic liver, with its various critical or consequential diseases, as leprous eruptions on the face, gout, dropsy, epilepsy, insanity."

In the very brief and hasty memoir which we are now compiling, it is not to be expected that we should dissert on the genius and writings of Dr. Darwin: the various productions of his fanciful and philosophical pen have long since been exposed to public criticism, and received an ample share, as well of obloquy as applause.


EVER since men began to think and inquire, they have differed in opinion; and it does not appear from the history of mankind, that, as they have increased in knowledge, they have hitherto proportionably approximated towards agreement. Hence some have been inclined to infer, that to such beings as men, diversity of opinion is a benefit. It might as reasonably be asserted, that disease is a benefit, because it has given birth to the science of medicine. Truth being one, if there was no such thing as error, all men must think alike; and error is certainly a disease, or defect of the mind, which it is the business of philosophy to remove. Diversity of opinion, if it has stimulated inquiry, has also generated animosity and intolerance. It must, therefore, be considered as an evil, which it is for the interest

of mankind, as much as possible, to banish from the world: and it is of importance to examine, whence this imperfection in the nature, or present state, of man arises; for it is only by attending to the causes of any malady, that we can hope to discover the means of cure.

Many of the causes of diversity of opinion, are of a moral nature, originating in the habit and temper of the mind. Among these, one of the most prevalent, is indolence, or an indisposition to mental exertion, in the search after truth. The present modes of education are in no respect more faulty, than in neglecting to cultivate and improve the reasoning faculty. During the early period of instruction and discipline, in which the mind is moulded, it is thought sufficient to store the memory with words and facts. enrich the fancy with images, and impress the heart with sentimenty, without instituting any course of intelectual exercises, by means of which young people may form a habit of deducing from admitted premises, certain, or probable, conclusions. It is not till they pass from the grammar-school, to the last finishing of the university, that young men are taught to think. Hence arises an indolent and desultory habit of the mind, which indisposes it for those vigorous and continued exertions which are necessary to the suscessful investigation, or even the accurate apprehension, of truth. To escape the fatigue of pursuing a regular train of thought, and examining minutely and methodically any subject of inquiry, we content ourselves with general ideas, casually collected from conversation, or snatched up by rapid glances from any books which accident throws in our way. Instead of that orderly, scientific method of study, which is the direct road to knowledge, are substituted miscellaneous reading and vague thinking, from which nothing is to be expected, but a confused mass of truth and error. Thus opinions once introduced, however ill found

ed, obtain an easy reception, and are transmitted from hand to hand without due examination, till the counterfeit currency becomes more numerous than the sterling coin.

That diligence of inquiry which leads to truth is prevented; and, consequently, those erroneous conceptions which multiply contrary opinions, are fostered by conceit. This quality is called by the French, opiniatrete and by some of our old English writers opiniatry, doubtless to express the immoderate fondness of the conceited man for his own opinions. To this fault young people are particularly liable. The first acquisitions which a young person makes in science, like the first piece of money which a child calls his own, are valued beyond their real worth; and the reason in both cases is, that the possessor is not capable of comparing his little stock with the larger treasures of others. It is chiefly on this account, that

'A little learning is a dangerous thing.' While we are at the foot of the hill of science, our view is so confined that we can neither perceive to what heights others have attained, nor observe what vast regions reremain unexplored by ourselves. In the lower stages of improvement, men are apt to rest satisfied with their present attainments, and to sit down contented with their present stock of ideas, and their present set of opinions, without suspecting that they may be false and erroneous, or apprehending any necessity for giving them a careful revisal. It is from the modest inquirer, and not from the conceited sciolist, that the world must look for the correction of those errors which have diversified opinion.

Nearly allied to conceit is pertinacity, another moral fault, which has the same tendency. Some men grasp their opinions, in whatever way they acquired them, with so firm a hold that they cannot be wrested from them by any force or argument. With such persons,

VOL. I....NO. V.

opinions have all the value and certainty of axioms. Never admitting a doubt concerning the truth of the dogmata they embrace, or making the supposition, so mortifying to their pride, that they possibly may be mstaken, they read and converse only to support their system. "Why should we give ourselves the trouble to search for a treasure, which we already possess? or why listen to men who are, either ignorantly or dishonestly, pleading the cause of error?" Such is the genuine language of dogmatism. Its sure effect upon others, is to produce disgust instead of conviction; upon the dogmatist himself, to shut him up forever within the narrow enclosure of his own prejudices: it therefore tends to perpetuate multiplied and contradictory errors.

Dogmatism upon the most favourable supposition, proceeds from narrow and partial views. But. men are often positive and dogmatical, not because they have studied the subject in dispute imperfectly, but because they have not studied it at all. They have no doubt that the opinions which they have received from their ancestors, or from their instructors, must be true: without examining the arguments, or evidence on which they are founded, they embrace them as incontrovertible doctrines, and maintain them as strenuously, as if they had seen them established upon the fullest demonstrations. Such persons seem to consider their opinions as a part of their inheritance, and to retain them as tenaciously as their estates. This implicit deference to authority, evidently tends to preserve alive those false opinions which have once obtained the sanction of a great name, or the patronage of the civil power. According to this principle, Aristotle ought still to preside in our schools, and the system of Descartes should never have given way to that of Newton. Were this principle universal, error, in its multifarious forms, must become perpetual; and


« 上一頁繼續 »