Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

destitute he was of many of those acquirements which added lustre to the character of Pott, and which mainly contributed to obtain for him the high esteem which he so long and so deservedly enjoyed. But in spite of these deficiencies, Hunter, by the force of his own genius, which was unquestionably of a much higher order than that of Pott, and by his unwearied industry, forced his way at length to the summit of his profession; and, as Dr. Beddoes observed, when one heard that Hunter was at length the first surgeon in London, one felt a satisfaction like that which attends the distribution of poetical justice at the close of a well-told tale.'”—p. 112.

It has been usual to compare Hunter with Cuvier, a comparison which, we are willing to admit, does honour to both parties. Their minds were equally comprehensive, their zeal equally ardent, their industry equally unremitting, and their impartiality and love of truth equally conspicuous. They both created new sciences—Hunter that of physiological surgery, Cuvier that of osteological geology; but as their pursuits were directed to different objects, it is difficult to institute a parallelism between them.

To the pursuits of Hunter natural history was a subsidiary object; while to the zoological researches of Cuvier physiology was merely an accessory. The only ground common to them both was comparative anatomy, in which Hunter was unquestionably the superior. We perfectly agree in the observation recently made by Sir B. Brodie, in his Hunterian oration, that the descriptive prolegomena attached to the Hunterian catalogues, evince a power of generalization not inferior to that of Cuvier, and only require to be expanded by some accomplished writer to excel by many degress the Leçons d'Anatomie Comparée of that author.

The superior method and brilliant oratory of Cuvier rendered his talents more resplendent than those of Hunter, while, at the same time, he possessed the entire command of his own time, and the resources of a powerful nation. It is remarkable, however, that the foundations of his arrangement are precisely those which Hunter had previously adopted as those of his museum.

Sir Benjamin Brodie observes,

“ The study of comparative anatomy (that term being intended to designate the anatomy of animals generally, as contradistinguished from the anatomy of any single species) is of very ancient date. It is one of those many branches of science which occupied the comprehensive mind of Aristotle ; and since the revival of the love of knowledge from the torpor of the dark ages, there have been always individuals who pursued it to a greater or less extent. But, up to the middle of the last century, these enquiries were carried on in a vague and desultory manner. А master mind was wanting, capable of grasping the entire subject; of analysing, combining, and arranging the apparently heterogeneous and discordant materials of which it is composed, and of exhibiting them in their mutual relations, forming one harmonious system worthy of the creator of the universe. Those who attribute the glory of having first accomplished these objects to Cuvier, do great injustice to our own countryman. The labours of John Hunter preceded those of the French philosopher. In Cavier's work on comparative anatomy, we find recorded an immense number and variety of facts connected with the structure of all kinds of animals; but we need only walk into the Museum of this College to see the facts themselves displayed by the band of John Hunter, or under his immediate superintendence."--p. 15.

It appears to us, that the most proper subject of comparison with Hunter is Bichat; but there was a marked peculiarity in the natural and acquired endowments of these great men, which may be traced in a great measure to the differences of natural temperament by which they were distinguished. Hunter was less enthusiastic, less imaginative, than Bichat. His love of truth and innate caution of mind restrained those bold and rapid Aights which distinguished the latter. He discriminated the differences, while the other marked only the resemblances of objects. His observation was more subtle and exact, his judgment more penetrating and profound, and his view more extended and comprehensive. Hunter's mind was massive in all its proportions, and his

grasp of facts absolutely prodigious; so that he rarely failed to attain truth on those subjects which he made the objects of his investigation. He never suffered his love of truth to be warped by addiction to system, nor his love of applause to betray him into popular and superficial views, founded on the supposed harmonies of nature. Bichat, on the contrary, possessed a rapid and discursive mind, capable of embracing large views, and hitting out, with surprising facility, the conjectural analogies of things; his invention was wonderfully fertile, and his range of knowledge, apart from his professional pursuits, extensive and considerable. To these qualities he added the perfect command of a flowing and graceful style, which reacted on his mind, and often suggested new analogies and fresh topics of argument in the progress of his discussion; but his language is deficient in precision, his experiments are carelessly conducted, his observations are inexact, and his judgment is often superficial ;—he is too frequently carried away with the love of system and the desire of applause. Hunter, from defect of style, constantly struggles for expression, and always appears to the least advantage. Bichat, on the contrary, always captivates by his manner, and places his argument in the best possible light. By the former our judgment is informed, but by the latter our imagination is dazzled. The contrast, in short, is emphatically nationalit is that of Wellington or Napoleon.

We shall conclude with one further extract from Mr. Lawrence,

the eloquence of which is a fitting accompaniment to so noble and elevating a theme:

" In conclusion, gentlemen, let me express to you my conviction, that as a physiologist and surgeon, John Hunter has had no equal in any age or country ;-that he was one of those powerful minds, appearing only at long intervals, of which this island, small as it is, has produced so great a number ;— that his name must be inscribed on that bright constellation of genius, which already bears those of Harvey and Sydenham, of Bacon, Locke, and Newton; of Shakspeare, Milton, Scott, and Byron. These gifted mortals, with kindred spirits, who have drawn inspiration from their example and works, shed over our land an intellectual glory, equal to its renown in arts and in arms. The bosom of every Englishman glows with an emotion of conscious pride at the enumeration of these revered names. If, gentlemen, the time should ever come, when the institutions and the power of our beloved country shall have passed away, their memory would linger round the spots consecrated by their carthly labours; the land on which they trod would still be a watchword to the earth; it would be peopled with the glorious recollections of its departed sages, as the sight of Greece recalled to the truly noble poet, who yielded up his life on her classic soil, the heroes who had fallen in her defence.

“ • They fell (he says) devoted but undying;

The very gale their names seemed sighing;
The waters murmured of their name;
The woods were peopled with their fame;
The silent pillar, lone and grey,
Claimed kindred with their sacred clay;
Their spirit wrapp'd the dusky mountain;
Their memory sparkled o'er the fountain ;
The meanest rill, the mightiest river,
Rolled mingling with their fame for ever.'”—p. 38.

[ocr errors]

Art. II.-Lectures on the Connexion between Science and

Rerealed Religion. 2 vols. 8vo. By the Reverend Nicholas
Wiseman, D.D. Booker, London. 1836.
O
N many occasions,” says an illustrious Catholic writer of

Germany, we must contemplate with regret, how that mighty England, in the eighteenth century, so brilliant and so powerful by the sway she exerted over the whole European mind, no longer seems to feel herself at home in the nineteenth century, nor to know where to find her place in the new order of things."* Indeed, the great intellectual inferiority of England

Schlegel's “ Philosophy of History,” translated from the German, by J. B. Robertson, Esq., vol. ii. p. 310. VOL. II.-NO, IV.

X

in the present age, seems to be pretty generally admitted by our countrymen themselves. While a large portion of France has been courageously shaking off the degrading trammels of materialism, and rising more and more into the pure regions of Christian philosophy,—while Germany, Catholic and Protestant, has been advancing with giant strides in every department of knowledge,--while even Italy begins to give no unequivocal symptoms of a great intellectual resuscitation,-in England, we regret to say, mediocrity and frivolity are the general characteristics of literature. În the higher regions of imagination, indeed, many stately trees, worthy of the best days of British growth, have sprung up to vindicate the ancient glory of our country; but in the more level fields of literature, the whole intellectual vegetation, as if choked and dried up by the flying sands of materialism, bears a languid, parched, and shrivelled look. That awful tempest, which marked the close of the eighteenth century, and which was a scourge sent forth by an offended Deity, to chastise and purify a guilty world, -a tempest which, in France, levelled with the dust the most sacred, valued, and venerable institutions, and whose ravages it will probably take half a century more to repair,—which, in more favoured Germany, (for that country felt only the tail of the hurricane,) while it destroyed some noxious abuses, left, comparatively speaking at least, the foundations of the social edifice unshaken ;--that tempest rolled harmless by the shores of Britain: and thus it came to pass, that not only the great and immediate evil, but the remoter good, which, according to the mysterious laws of Providence, results from those great catastrophes, were alike unfelt by our country. Hence the philosophy of the last age, among a no. inconsiderable portion of the British public, drags on a wretched, lingering existence; and, in a moral sense, we have too often occasion to remark, that the eighteenth century is not yet terminated in England. That the moral and intellectual regeneration of our country, however, may be accomplished without the terrible, and ever uncertain ordeal of a political revolution, is a prayer in which every Christian and patriotic Englishman must concur.

Among us, many important branches of literature, as ethnography and archæology, in which our continental neighbours have, during the last thirty years, made such rapid advances, are almost totally neglected; classical philology has too often degenerated into a mere verbal criticism, without life or spirit; the muse of history, except in a few brilliant instances, has been compelled to give place to that of memoir-writing; the natural sciences have remained devoid of mutual connexion, and of all deeper purpose and signification; nor can we marvel at this decline of intellect, when we consider that philosophy, the queen of the sciences, has been deposed from her throne, and lies trampled in the dust. And how should philosophy herself possess any fecundity, or retain any portion of her dignity, divorced as she has long been from a sound theology?

The causes of this great debasement of British literature in our times, it is not difficult to trace. The small degree of patronage which, until lately, literary or scientific merit has received at the hands of government, and the want of those official honours and emoluments, which, in other countries, foster genius, and stimulate application; the inefficiency of our public Universities,* in despite of the undeniable improvements which they have undergone within the last forty years,—an inefficiency which is in a great degree attributable to the predominance of the tutorial over the professional system of instruction; the great cost of education in those establishments, by which a large portion of the liberal youth of England are effectually excluded from all participation in their advantages; the monopoly of all higher instruction, which, until lately, they have enjoyed; the utter distaste of a large portion of the Protestant Dissenters, particularly the Quakers and the Methodists, for all polite literature and liberal knowledge; the long oppression, which cramped the intellectual energies of the British Catholics; the habits of fashionable frivolity and enervating luxury, which pervade the upper classes of society, habits which are so inimical to all sound discipline of the mind; the engrossing attention which commercial pursuits, and political affairs, and political discussions, claim and possess in this country; the passion for a sort of literary journalism, and the mania for epitomes, abridgments, and elementary books of all descriptions, and on all sorts of subjects, which has seized this unfortunate generation; the degrading influence of the philosophy of Locke, which has directed the English mind almost exclusively to the contemplation of material objects, a philosophy which is the deadly foe to all the lofty aspirings of fancy, and to all the deeper searchings of thought; lastly, the progress of religious indifference, springing, as it does, out of the natural developinent of Protestant principles, and which, while it undermines the foundations of domestic happiness, and public morality, and social order, chills the feelings, deadens the imagination, and contracts and debases the understanding ;-such are

We allude more particularly to Oxford and Cambridge, as the other Universities are of too recent an origin to have exercised any influence, one way or the other, upon our national literature.

« ForrigeFortsett »