ePub 版

' founded on fact,' as they are called, with which some of these female connoisseurs have thought fit to present the world, abound everywhere in violations of historical truth as gross, and in sins against costume as glaring, as ever astounded the reader of a romance of the thirteenth century. As in these productions of that dark age, Achilles and Hector are always painted like true knights of Languedoc or Armorica, with saltires and fesses on their shields, with mottos, merrymen, pennons, gonfalons, caps of mainten⚫ance, close viziers, tabarts, trumpeters, and all the trappings of Gothic chivalry, so, in the Scottish Chiefs," we find Sir William Wallace, "that stalwart knycht of Elderslee," metamorphosed into an interesting young colonel, making love to a delicate lady, with one arm in a sling, and a cambric handkerchief in his hand-quot ing Ossian, warbling ballads, and recovered from a sentimental swoon by the application of a crystal smelling bottle. It would have been cruel indeed to have brought so fine a gentleman to the block on Tower-hill; so Miss Porter contrives to smuggle Sir William out of the way on the fatal morning, and introduces a dead porter to have his head chopped off in his stead.

These observations were suggested to me, by hearing some persons, in a company where I was the other day, call in question the accuracy of the author of the Tales of my Landlord,' in respect to an antiquarian remark which he has introduced in two different parts of his work. The first occurs in the description of the feast, in p. 251 of the 'Black Dwarf.'" Beneath the Saltcellar," says he, (a massive piece of plate which occupied the middle of the table,)" sate the sine nomine turba, men whose vanity was gratified by oc cupying even the subordinate space at the social board, while the distinction observed in ranking them was a salvo to the pride of their superiors." In the same manner, in the tale of Old Mortality,' in the admirable picture of the Laird of Milnwood's dinner, the old butler, Cuddie, &c. sat "at a considerable distance from the Laird, and, of course, below the salt." The critics, whose remarks it was my fortune to hear, were of opinion, that this usage of placing guests above or below the salt, according to the degree of nobility in

[ocr errors]

their blood, was a mere invention of the facetious author, and entirely without any foundation in history, or, as one of them expressed it, totum merum sal. It struck me at the time, that the usage was not so new to my ears as it seemed to be to theirs, and, on coming home, I looked into a volume of old English ballads, where I found the following verse;

"Thou art a carle mean of degre,

Ye salte yt doth stande twain me and thee; But anthou hadst been of ane gentyl strayne, I wold have bitten my gante againe."


An instance of the importance attached to the circumstance of being seated above the salt, occurs in a much later work-" The Memorie of the Somervilles," a curious book, edited last year by Mr Walter Scott." It was,' says Lord Somerville, (who wrote about the year 1680) as much out of peike as to give obedience to this act of the assemblies, that Walter Stewart of Allontoune, and Sir James his brother, both heretors in the parish of Cambusnethen, the first, from some antiquity, a fewar of the Earle of Tweddill's in Auchtermuire, whose predecessors, until this man, never came to sit above the saltfoot, when at the Laird of Cambusnethen's (Somerville's) table; which for ordinary every Sabboth they dyned at, as did most of the honest men of the parish of any account." Vol. ii, p. 394.

The same author is indeed so familiar with this usage as one of every-day observance, that he takes notice of it again in speaking of a provost of Edinburgh :-"He was a gentleman of very mean family upon Clyde, being brother german to the Goodman of Allentone, whose predecessors never came to sit above the salt-foot." P. 380, ibid.

I have observed, in several houses of distinction, certain very large and massy pieces of plate of a globular form, and commonly with two handles, which, although they go by a different name, I have at times suspected to be no other than "salt-foots," or, as it should be written, salt-vats. To whatever uses these may be applied, I have always been inclined to say with Plautus

"Nunquam ego te tum esse Matulam credida."

I shall endeavour to procure a drawi. e. glove.

ing of a very beautiful one, in the possession of an honourable person in this neighbourhood, and send it you, along with a few further remarks, if possible, before the publication of your second Number. Yours respectfully, J. M. Stockbridge, March 17, 1817.


Some Observations on the late Pamph lets of Dr Gordon and Dr Spurzheim.


No speculations have engaged more attention, or have more frequently afforded a topic for conversation, since the time of Joanna Southcote, than those of Drs Gall and Spurzheim. Your readers, I presume, have heard of these gentlemen and their doctrines, and perhaps may be amused by a few remarks on the craniological controversy. One of these learned persons, who lately lectured in this city, has been remarkably active in the promulgation of his new system, and has devoted many years to its explanation, in all the principal cities and towns of Europe. Of this system it is unnecessary here to give any detailed account. Its outlines have been made so generally known by the unwearied eloquence of Dr Spurzheim, in his writings and by his lectures, that I beg to refer the very few persons, who have not heard the latter to the perusal of the former. I shall here offer only some general observations on a treatise lately published on the subject by Dr Gordon, and on a pamphlet by Dr Spurzheim, intended as a reply.

The craniological system of Drs Gall and Spurzheim has been very fully detailed and discussed in all the literary journals of this country, and they have been very unanimous in deciding on its merits. The Edinburgh Review stood foremost in opposition to this new system, and pointed out more fully and clearly than the rest, the anatomical errors on which it was founded. Dr Spurzheim, encouraged by his success in England relying, it may be also, on his per sonal address, and on the plausible sophistry with which he explained his system for its ready reception with the multitude of readers, who were of course incapable of detecting its errors-resolved to visit Edinburgh;

and there to repress the voice of opposition by the influence that might accompany his immediate presence.

On concluding his lectures at Bath and Clifton, he there announced his intention of visiting this northern capital; at the same time exciting the sympathy of his audience, by declaring, "that he was going amongst his enemies." At Clifton, particularly, he had gained many proselytes; and settling the manifestations of mind so occupied were the ladies there in from the bumps on each other's skulls, that carefully to braid the hair, in order to conceal wrong propensities, became a matter of very serious attention. The following fact, which actually occurred at a party in Clifton, will shew with what a nice accuracy Dr Spurzheim had taught his fair disciples to discover in their neighbours particular manifestations of mind ;and I give it as a short lesson of caution to their sister craniologists in Edinburgh, of which there are not a few. A lady in a large party remarked pretty audibly, that on a certain head very near her, she perceived a suspicious bump.

The lady to whom the head belonged, hearing this observation, turned to the informant, and, declaring that she would instantly remove this organ which had excited a suspicion of a wrong propensity, immediately took from her hair a small comb, which, lying concealed, had caused the manifestation.

Dr Spurzheim arrived in Edinburgh soon after the commencement of the last summer session at this university. He gave several demonstrations of a calf's and sheep's brain in Dr Barclay's lecture-room; and as soon as he could procure a human brain, he began his demonstrations on that organ in the class-room of Professor Thomson and Dr Gordon. Here was a fair opportunity to put to shame the critics of Edinburgh, who had so severely ridiculed his system. This was the time to support his written discoveries by actual demonstration. His new and superior mode of dissecting the human brain, could now readily be made manifest by a public exhi bition of his skill before some of the most eminent professors and practi tioners in the kingdom. A human brain was placed before him that organ on which his system was founded, and his alleged discoveries respect

ing which had already gained him such celebrity. The interpreter of mind took up his scalpel, and the learned men of the city sat around in silent expectation. In such a situation, there was one course which, it might be imagined, Dr Spurzheim .would certainly have pursued. As the colleague of Dr Gall, he had been accused, in no very ambiguous terms, by the Edinburgh Review, of wilful misrepresentation, and of gross ignorance in a science which he pretended to have enriched by new dis.coveries. These accusations, being anonymous, he certainly was not bound to notice. Convinced, however, as he must have been, that such heavy charges against him were well known to his audience, he surely must have felt peculiarly anxious to do away any bad impression they might have made, by a minute and clear exposition of his leading doctrines, and a decisive demonstration of the correctness of his anatomical views. Strong in his own integrity, and in the soundness of his system, we can conceive him gladly preparing to confound his enemies, by appealing to the testimony of their own senses, and claiming, for an actual exhibition of new anatomical facts, a belief in the theories which he had deduced from their existence. How Dr Spurzheim availed himself of such an opportunity is well known to all who witnessed his dissection. Far from establishing his claims to pretended discoveries by actual demonstration, it appears that he involved himself and his system in further discredit, by his visible inability to display the new structure he had so confidently described. He left very little doubt, I believe, on the minds of his audience, as to the merits of craniology. In order, however, still further to obviate misrepresentation, and to place the claims of Gall and Spurzheim in a proper light, Dr Gordon drew up a treatise, entitled, "Observations on the Structure of the Brain, comprising an estimate of the claims of Drs Gall and Spurzheim to discovery in the anatomy of that organ. On the title-page of this treatise he placed his name. This, let it be observed, was no anonymous attack which an individual could pass over without notice. It is a treatise in which the author personally brings forward accusations most direct and

[ocr errors]

pointed, and which, if well founded, go very far to affect the credit and character of Dr Spurzheim.

This gentleman and his colleague have asserted, that no anatomist before themselves believed that the brain was, throughout, of a fibrous structure.

This, therefore, they claim as a discovery peculiarly their own, and considering it one of high importance, they style it, “ La premiere et la plus importante des decouvertes, celle sans la quelle toutes les autres seroient imparfaites." Dr Gordon proves very satisfactorily, that from the time of Malpighi in 1664, downwards, such

a fibrous structure was believed to exist every where throughout the cerebral mass. To such proofs Dr Spurzheim, in his pamphlet, returns no answer. This first and most important of their discoveries turns out, therefore, to be no discovery at all-and it will be seen that all the others are indeed " imparfaites."

Drs Gall and Spurzheim wished to appropriate to themselves the method of scraping the brain, as a mode of dissection peculiar to themselves, and best calculated to display its structure. Dr Gordon asserts, that this method was not invented by them. To this assertion Dr Spurzheim assents by his silence.

One of the most important points in his and Dr Gall's anatomical discoveries, concerns, as we are told by Dr Spurzheim, the two orders of fibres, viz. diverging, and converging or uniting. It is in fact upon the existence of these peculiarly arranged fibres, and upon the proof of a statement which has been positively advanced, that the brown matter secretes the white, that the whole system of Drs Gall and Spurzheim depends. I beg your readers particularly to notice, that it is upon the communication between the brown matter and the white medullary substance, to which it serves as a covering, that the doctrines of craniology depend for their chief support. Imagine no such communication to exist, and the brown capsule of the brain, and cerebellum, is nothing more than an unconnected covering to the white substance beneath. Now, in this case, if mind can be manifested by external signs on the head, these signs being caused by swellings, or a peculiar conformation of some substance within the cranium-that substance must

be the brown matter, and the brown matter alone. The white medullary substance, with all its curious cavities and arrangements, has nothing to do in such mental manifestations, and the whole nervous system is alike excluded. Dr Spurzheim, however, maintains, that the whole medullary substance is secreted by the brown, and that a communication can be shewn to exist between them by a system of diverging and converging fibres. Surely he must have discovered these fibres by an actual dissection-his writings assert this ;-their existence is a sine-qua-non to his whole system. Now Dr Gordon distinctly states, that Spurzheim never did demonstrate such communication between the brown and nervous matter-he did not demonstrate these diverging and converging fibres when called upon to do so; and moreover, Dr Gordon positively denies that any such arrangement can be shewn to exist in the cerebral mass. How does Dr Spurzheim attempt to parry this homethrust, which goes to terminate his craniological existence? Very simply, by an exclamation of "Hey ho! is it so ?"

In another part of his pamphlet, indeed, p. 27, he offers to shew converging fibres to any one who shall procure a fresh brain ;" and at p. 38, mentioning the " reinforcing fi

[ocr errors]

bres," which Dr Gordon denies are susceptible of demonstration, he offers "to demonstrate all these statements to any one who shall procure a fresh brain." Every one who knows the very great difficulty there is in procuring a recent brain, will easily perceive that Dr Spurzheim is making merry with his readers. He was provided at his demonstration with a brain in the most recent state,-why did he not then "demonstrate all these facts?"-he did not do so-he was unable to do so,-and his whole system falls to the ground.

"Upon every occasion," says Dr Gordon, "where he was called upon to make good those affirmations which constitute the leading features of his system, he endeavoured to excuse himself from the task, by denying that he had ever maintained any such structure to be demonstrable."-P. 114.

As a reply to such serious accusations, Dr Spurzheim produced a pamphlet, professing to be "An Ex

amination of the Objections made in Britain against the Doctrines of himself and Colleague." We sat down to a perusal of it with a considerable degree of curiosity, and we closed it, quite satisfied as to the merits of these far-famed craniologists.


Never was there a more evident attempt to evade the overwhelming force of unwelcome facts, than has been made by Dr Spurzheim on this " amination." Instead of meeting fairly and decisively the objections so strongly urged against him ;—instead of a clear refutation, or a manly confession of mistake and error ;-there is little else in this pamphlet but a most general and unconnected repetition of his former theories and assertions. We see in it only the signs of an imbecile irritability,-evidently sensible to reproach;-conscious that it is but too well founded,-but unwilling to confess its justice, and unable to avoid its sting.

At p. 37, Dr Spurzheim wishes to "amuse," his readers by an anecdote, which we must not forget to notice. It is an account of a dissection which took place in the Royal Infirmary_last December, and it will be seen how slyly a very formidable accusation is brought forward against Dr Gordon. We know that this gentleman was present at this dissection; but it happened not to be the week in which his official duty as one of the surgeons to the Infirmary would have given him the superintendence. This duty belonged to one of his colleagues, the next in seniority. Dr Gordon had therefore no necessary concern with this dissection-it was a point of etiquette not to interfere with it. We can assert, that the presence of Dr Spurzheim in the theatre was known neither to Dr Gordon nor to the surgeon who presided; no intentional obstruction could therefore be offered to his views by either of these gentlemen. We regret with Dr Spurzheim, that a dissection so interesting as this really was, afforded, as we are compelled to acknowledge, so little gratification or improvement to the students who crowded the anatomical theatre. Why were the whole posse-comitatus of the hospital,

clinical and surgical clerks,-assistant-surgeons, apothecaries, and dressers,-permitted to stand round the dissecting table, and totally to prevent the students from seeing the body?

The lower seat which surrounds the area is particularly for the accommodation of this medical suite, but on this occasion it was unoccupied; and with heads and bodies, forming a pretty opaque circle over and around the table, the view of several hundred students was completely intercepted.

Since the brain has had its day as the basis of a system, we see no reason why that organ in the human body, which is popularly supposed to be the seat of passion, shall not in its turn serve to amuse the credulity of mankind. Why may not the human heart be registered in a good sized quarto volume, with plates and references, and be made the basis to a system of CORDIOLOGY? Some inquirer may arise, who is fond enough of travelling, and sufficiently anxious for a transient reputation to run over Europe, and give lectures on its fibres and emotions. He may surely discover such a difference in the twisting of these fibres;-in the curvature of its valves ;-the sweeping of its arteries; or the arrangement of its nerves; as may afford a very amusing explanation of human passion. The heart, indeed, is not just as open to examination in the living subject as the skull; and we doubt whether any lady could be found sufficiently in love with science, and a new system, to expose her heart for the sake of either, to the manipulation of a cordiologist. But comparative anatomy will supply us with data, and there needs but a little inference, a little reasoning from analogy, and a great deal of supposition, to help us out. From the form of the chest we may presume the structure of the heart within it; -we might have some good manifes tations of passion by the jugular vein; and a great many mysteries commonly referred to the human heart, may probably be explained by peculiarities of palpitation, caused by a modification in the shape or bumpiness of its apex; or in the arrangement of its tranverse fibres.

Such patch-work systems of conjecture and speculation are fortunately destined, by the immutable and eternal laws of truth, to last but for a season. Craniology has almost "lived its little hour." In this city we are certain, that, with the absence of Dr Spurzheim, and the introduction of some other novelty, as a French-dance or a

new beauty, it will be very soon for-
gotten. There is nothing indeed which
can make us regret the fall of this ill-
fated system. It seems to have been
a mere exhalation of human thought,
which has risen, and is passing away
before us, in all its native duskiness;
with no rainbow tinge to allure our
gaze by its beauty-not one celestial
hue to lighten the dull materiality of
its aspect.
A. M.
Edinburgh, March 3, 1817.



MANY of your readers must be aware that Mr John Watson, Writer to the Signet, bequeathed a sum of money to trustees, to be applied, "at the sight of the Magistrates of the city of Edinburgh, to such pious and charitable uses within the said city," as the trustees should think proper; and that the trustees, after announcing it to be their final and unalterable resolution to apply this bequest to the establishment of a Foundling Hospital, declared, That upon their decease, the management of the charity should devolve upon the keepers and commissioners of the Writers to the Signet. Mr Watson died in 1762, and his widow in 1779. The Writers to the Signet became possessed of the trust-funds, according to the destination of the testator's trustees; and after much litigation with the Magistrates of Edinburgh, their right to the management was confirmed by our Supreme Court. These funds, originally small, have been so well employed that they are said now to amount to more than £60,000.

Now, my object is to know whether this sum is to be applied to the esta blishment of a foundling hospital? and if it be, when it is intended so to employ it? or whether it be in contemplation to apply to Parliament to authorise its appropriation to such charitable purposes as may be thought, in the present circumstances of society and of public opinion, to be more worthy of encouragement?

From the litigation to which this part of Mr Watson's testamentary deed has given rise, and the very different opinions entertained as to the

« 上一頁繼續 »