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The History of Phrenology on the Web (.uk/)
By John van Wyhe
Charles Gibbon, The Life of George Combe: Author of "The Constitution of Man.", 2 vols., Macmillan and Co., London, 1878.
This file has not been corrected and is provided as is.
This is volume 2.
AUTHOR OF “THE CONSTITUTION OF MAN.”
BY CHARLES GIBBON.
IN TWO VOLS:
MACMILLAN AND CO.
[The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved.]
1837-1838—A New Life—Barristers and Attorneys—Local Prejudices—Unpopularity in Edinburgh—Continued Opposition to the "Constitution of Man"—Lectures in Manchester—Richard Cobden—Causes of Phrenology being dead in Germany—Miracles—Claims of Gall and Spurzheim
—Projected Course of Lectures in German—Gall on the Cerebellum—Tune—Lectures in Bath and Birmingham— The Queen—Baron Stockmar—Education for the Legal Profession—Eeason and God—Departure for America . 1-27
1838-1840—United States—New York—Boston—George Bancroft—Common Schools—Horace Mann — Spurzheim— American Visitors—Lectures in Boston—Materialism— Human Responsibility—Preaching—Dr Channing—Newness of the Country—Philadelphia—Joseph Buonaparte— The Slave Question—President van Buren—John Quincy Adams—Washington—Lecturing in America—A Phenomenon—Railway Travelling—Niagara—Ethics of Justice
—Canada and the Canadians—Cape Cottage—Portland in Maine—Phrenological Controversies—Obstacles to a thorough Educational System in America—Effect of Lectures in Boston—Albany—The American People— Education—Religion—Opposition of Edinburgh Society— Lectures in Springfield and Albany—Phrenology in England—Physiognomy—" Is Mr Combe a believer in Christianity?"— New haven — Dissection of the Brain — The American Character and Customs—Farewell Address to the American People—Hereditary Peerage and Established Churches—The Future of America—Sects—Excursion to the Western States—General Harrison—The voyage Home 28-97
VOL. II. b
1840-1842—Edinburgh—State of Ms Health—Gorgie Cottage
—His Address to the Phrenological Association in Glasgow
—English Edition of the "Lectures on Moral Philosophy"— The Edinburgh Review—Corrections in the " Moral Philosophy" and the " Constitution of Man"—" Notes on North America during a Phrenological visit"—Discussion with Patrick Neill, LL.D. — Trinitarians and Unitarians — Liberty of Conscience—Dr Robert Chambers on Periodical Literature—Condition of the Poor in Scotland and America
—The Phrenobgical Journal—Dr Roberton's Bequest— Death of Mrs Cox—Schism in the Phrenological Association—Serious Illness of Dr Combe—Godesberg—Mannheim
—Preparing Lectures in German—Lecturing in Heidelberg University—Illness—The Journey Home—Death of Dr Channing, ..... 98-153
1843-1844—Sir James dark's Warning—The Repetition of the Lectures in German forbidden—Phrenology and Criminal Legislation—The Fifth Edition of the " System of Phrenology"—Mesmerism—Facts Recorded and Facts Observed
—Progress of Phrenology—Liebig's Works—The Disruption—Ems—Religion and Pain—Italy—Italian Heads— Madame Catalan!—Life in Rome—" Phrenology applied to Painting and Sculpture"—Raphael's Skull and Development—Cardinal Mezzofanti—Roman Prisons—The Neapolitans—Heidelberg Revisited—Clermiston—The " Vestiges of Creation"—The Education of the Prince of Wales, 154-200
1845-1846—Work and Correspondence—Dr W. B. Carpenter and the Physiology of the Brain—" The New Reformation in Germany"—Death of Dr Welsh—Combinations of Organs—Charles Young, the Tragedian—Tour in Belgium— Gustav von Struve—Andersonian University—A Chair of Phrenology—David Stow and the Glasgow Normal School —London in 1846—Hanwell—Dr Con oily—Buckingham Palace—Presented to Prince Albert—Richard Cobden— Influence of Religious Sentiment on National Progress— Dublin—Irish National Schools—Pupils and Teachers— Archbishop Whately in Edinburgh, .....
1847-1848_Education—Physiology the Scientific Foundation of Morals—" Remarks on National Education"—Importance of Religion to Society—" Godless" Education—Why he could speak Plainly—" The Relation between Religion and Science"—Letter to Mrs Whately—Difficulty in defining Secular Education—The Government Scheme—The Manchester Movement—" What should Secular Education embrace ? "—Reception of the Pamphlets—The Government of this world Revealed—First Soirée of the Glasgow Athenaeum—The Liberal Cause—Charles Dickens, . . 227-242
1847-1848 Continued — Proposed Educational Association— William Ellis—Obstacles to Educational Progress—The Williams Secular School—Objects of the Teaching—Tour in Germany—The Spurzheim Family—The Death of Andrew Combe—Character of the French—The Tomb of Gall—Dr Vimont—Dr Voisin—Phrenology and the Paris Academy of Medicine—Termination of the Phrenological Journal—Robert Cox—Biography of Dr Combe—The Combes at Home—The Sabbath—The French Revolution —The Labouring Classes—Ireland and the Irish—Jury Trials in Ireland—Lord John Russell—Lord Clarendon— The Currency Question, ....... 243-275
1849-1851—Biography of Andrew Combe—Parents—"Causes and Cure of Pauperism"—Barracks and Ventilation— Remedies for Ireland—Heligoland—Germany and Revolutions—" Germany Revisited in 1849-50"—The Pulszkys— Refugees in London—Spies—Proposed New Works— Death of Marion Cox—" Reasons for Declining to Subscribe the Resolutions in favour of National Education in Scotland"—The Objects of the Secularists—Lord Melgund's Bill—Lord John Russell and Education—A Lecturing Tour—Edward Lombe—Rev. Dr Robert Buchanan and the " Constitution of Man "—Demonstration in Manchester— Last Public Speech—Illness—London—The Birkbeck Schools—The Queen—Letter from Prince Albert—The Existence of God . ...... 276-301
FROM FIRST DRAFT OF "THE CONSTITUTION OF MAN' Facsimile of George Combe's handwriting . 1827.
LIFE OF GEORGE COMBE.
1837-1838.——A NEW LIFE —— BARRISTERS AND ATTORNEYS —— LOCAL PREJUDICES——UNPOPULARITY IN EDINBURGH——CONTINUED OPPOSITION TO THE " CONSTITUTION OP MAN "——LECTURES IN MANCHESTER—— RICHARD COBDEN——CAUSES OF PHRENOLOGY BEING DEAD IN GERMANY
——MIRACLES——CLAIMS OF GALL AND SPURZHEIM——PROJECTED COURSE OF LECTURES IN GERMAN——GALL ON THE CEREBELLUM——TUNE——LECTURES IN BATH AND BIRMINGHAM——THE QUEEN——BARON STOCKMAH
——EDUCATION FOR THE LEGAL PROFESSION——REASON AND GOD—— DEPARTURE FOR AMERICA.
combe entered upon a new life at the beginning of the year 1837. The long-desired epoch had arrived when, with a substantial private income, he could devote all his time and energy to the propagation of phrenology. How ardently he had yearned for this privilege has been shown in the frequent expression of his hope that he might one day attain it. He had now the proud satisfaction of knowing that he had attained it by hard and zealous work. He began the new life quietly, and at once entered upon a systematic arrangement of the tasks which he proposed to perform ; they were to be the continuation of those which he had been already engaged in, and the completion of their objects so far as time and health might permit. Phrenology and education obtained his first thoughts, and in these subjects his mind embraced everything that could tend to the moral and social improvement of man-
%" VOL. II. A
2 Life of George Combe.
kind. For himself he was as eager to acquire knowledge as in his youth : he continued his studies in anatomy and physiology and chemistry, and he gave an hour every morning, before breakfast, to the German language. He did not seek leisure in his independence, but the means to do good in a wider sphere than had been hitherto open to him.
His retirement from the legal profession caused much regret amongst his clients, who, with few exceptions, accepted his recommendation to transfer their business to his friend and former assistant, Mr Eobert Aiaslie. The directors of the Shotts Iron Company, whom he had served for ten years as secretary, passed an unanimous vote of thanks to him, accompanied by the presentation of a handsome piece of plate. He was, naturally, gratified by these tokens of esteem, because they gave proof that in his devotion to science he had in no way neglected business. One of his last acts in connection with his profession was to write a defence of its respectability against what he regarded as an implied slur upon it in the biography of Sir Walter Scott.
Barristers and Attorneys.
" In Sir Walter Scott's autobiography, just published by John Gibson Lockart, his son-in-law, Sir Walter states various reasons for declining an offer made to him by his father to become his partner as a writer to the signet, to which profession Sir Walter had served an apprenticeship with his father, and for preferring the bar, the import of which is disparaging to the inferior branch of the profession. I do not know what might be the relative character in moral and intellectual respectability of writers to the signet and advocates in Sir Walter's day, but I know what they have been in mine, and I am twenty years his junior, and I differ considerably from his estimate. The points on which there can be no dispute are, that the gentlemen of the bar have by their education and professional practice greater knowledge of composition, written and oral, more comprehensive views of the principles of law; and greater talents of reasoning, than the writers to the signet ; and if Sir Walter had confined himself to this claim of superiority it would have been undoubtedly well founded.
Barristers and Attorneys. 3
But he insinuates that the morale, of the attorney is inferior to that of the barrister, and to this I demur.
" In Scotland, writers to the signet are employed in various branches. Some act chiefly as agents in litigations. These are the men with whom the barristers come chiefly into contact ; and as litigation is a warfare in which victory is contended for at all hazards, within the limits of the rules prescribed by the la.w and by the forms of court, it is naturally to be supposed that the most adroit, energetic, and able combatant will be preferred by those who need to hire a champion. The writers to the signet, whose chief occupation lies in conducting litigations, are men whose natural qualities fit them for this duty ; and while some of them acknowledge the obligation of natural morality in their mode of conducting their cases, and preserve their individual character as gentlemen, there are others who acknowledge no law, human or divine, but the law of Scotland, and even this only in so far as it presents an obstacle to the attainment of the objects of their clients which they can neither evade by subtlety nor subvert by falsehood. This latter division in my day was small, not comprehending more than five or six individuals of the whole profession, and they were well known. They used to be designated as ' agents,' in contradistinction to gentle-
'This class of writers comes most into contact with the barristers, because almost the exclusive occupation of the latter is to conduct litigation. And if these be unprincipled agents who scruple at nothing, he will be a bold man who will deny that there are always to be found men at the bar (of great and undoubted respectability) who lend their services most cordially to back and support these agents in their most desperate cases. We used to speak familiarly of an agent, now do more, who was accustomed to manufacture evidence, and to invent facts in his cases, or at least to alter the aspects of facts to such an extent that they might fairly be viewed as new. And this agent had a highly respectable and religious counsel in his usual employment who brought forward these new facts with all the confidence of a man who knew personally their truth ; and he had another counsel, of great rank at the bar and influence with the bench, who acted as senior to the,other,and threw the mantle of his respectability over the whole proceedings of his agent and junior brother. It used to be said of this man that he would gain any case that was in itself debateable, and depended on evidence, if he got money enough. On one occasion, when a W.S. himself was prosecuted for an
6 Life of George Combe.
understand my real position and not to be led away by your own generous enthusiasm in overestimating my pretensions. Do not suppose that I am complaining or unhappy. The friends whom I have are invaluable, and although not numerous they are sufficient for my enjoyment ; and the texture of my own mind renders me very indifferent to the rest of the world. I am sometimes forced to wish for a little more general respect for Mrs Combe's sake. She lived, till she married me, in the focus of public and spontaneous admiration. She has passed all at once into the very opposite condition. But she finds a compensation in the truths which I have taught her, in the improvement of her own nature, and in the affection of which she is the ceaseless object—and we are happy."
Combe was sensitive about his unpopularity in Edinburgh, although he philosophically resigned himself to it, and looked forward to the day when the truths which he advocated would be generally acknowledged. As for Mr Scott's book, " The Harmony of Phrenology with Scripture," which was extensively advertised as a complete refutation of the philosophical errors of the " Constitution of Man," Combe wrote a brief paragraph in the Phrenological Journal stating that the book was full of perversions and misrepresentations of the doctrines taught in his work. He regarded the attack as "an example of the immolation of truth, reason, and philosophy at the shrine of political and religious prejudice." He declined to answer it in detail, because the " Constitution of Man " had obtained such an extensive circulation that it could not suffer from misrepresentation ; and " if its merits were not sufficient to support it against attacks ten times more powerful than this, it deserved to fall." This was rightly understood to be Combe's manifesto, and no reply was expected from him. But Professor Nichol in the Scotsman, and Mr H. C. Watson in a pamphlet, undertook the defence. Mr Watson, by collating a single chapter of the " Harmony " with the text of the " Constitution," exposed so many misquotations and perversions of the sentences that, although a second edition and a " people's " edition of the attack were announced, they never appeared.
Unpopularity in Edinburgh. 7
Combe's unpopularity affected the Society, and it continud iu a somewhat languid state. He was therefore glad to see the " Edinburgh Ethical Society " formed by the young men who had attended his lectures. He believed that it was from the rising generation he was to expect the full fruits of his philosophy. Mr Robert Cox acted as secretary of this society until, resigning the law (although only twenty-five) at the same time as his uncle, in order to devote himself to literature and science, he accepted the post of secretary to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool, and consequently removed from Edinburgh. It is worth noting the fact that at this period of local persecution Combe was placed by the authorities on the Commission of the Peace.
Whilst Combe was made to feel uncomfortable in his native city, the invitations to lecture from other towns in Scotland and from England became more numerous than ever, and the requests for his presence in the United States more urgent. He was consoled, too, by many proofs that his much-assailed book was producing its effect upon his countrymen in awakening their minds and causing them to look at nature with their own eyes. Attempts were made to turn it out of many local libraries on the ground of its infidelity : but this sometimes revealed unexpected defenders,—as at Leith, where, on the proposal being made to ban the book, the leading member of the library committee declared in favour of the " Constitution," and said that if it were expelled he would go with it. Thereupon the hostile movement was abandoned. As the sale and influence of the book increased, the opposition multiplied in proportion. The clerical party, in their publications and from the pulpit, denounced it and Combe as direct emanations from Satan. There was even an " Appeal to the People of Scotland " got up against it, but this effort proved futile. «It is the ' Constitution of Man' which has brought all this visitation on my head," Combe wrote, " yet the sales of it are enormous for a book of its kind, and all my other works enjoy a degree of
8 Life of George Combe.
public favour that assures me that I have written against only the prejudices or the interests of a class, and not against the common sense, or common morality, of human nature."
Amongst other consolations for whatever discomforts the Edinburgh evangelical party inflicted on him was the recognition he obtained from men who laboured like himself to advance the education and morals of the people. Various philosophical and educational works were dedicated to him : Mr Samuel Smiles sent him his first work—on " The Physical Education of the Young "—soliciting his opinion of it, because the subject was one which had been most ably dealt with by him. On 7th December 1837, William Chambers wrote to him :—
" dear sie,—Allow me to present you with two small treatises on the early departments of natural philosophy, the second of which has just been finished, and is about to be put in circulation. If we were in the way of dedicating books, I do not know any one to whom these treatises could be more appropriately addressed than to yourself. In writing them I have throughout been governed by the philosophical principles—the doctrine of human improvability—which you have so ably elaborated ; and have taken some pains to render the subject intelligible in a way which I should hope will meet the approbation of those who wish to see the spread of scientific education."
Combe gave warm praise to the treatises referred to, and in regard to the general work in which the brothers Chambers were engaged he said : " I can only repeat that you are doing more for the physical, moral, and intellectual improvement of the United Kingdom than all its established clergy put together." He added, in reference to himself : " It gives me great pleasure to learn that the philosophical principles which I have endeavoured to unfold serve you in any useful way iii your important labours. Such assurances fortify me in living tranquilly under the odium which the bigoted and ignorant endeavour to excite against me."
Another proof of the influence of his work was afforded by
Lectures in Manchester. 9
an offer which he received of the chair of mental and moral philosophy in the University of Michigan, United States, which was established in 1837. But although he would have been glad of such an appointment in one of the ancient universities of the old country, he declined the present offer, because he saw a much more extensive field of usefulness before him in teaching his science wherever there appeared to be a desire to understand it, than he could possibly have found in one of the youngest states of America. Still this offer presented an additional attraction to visit that country.
He therefore remained wonderfully tranquil and proceeded to make arrangements for his proposed course of lectures in Manchester. The absence of Mr Cobden caused a slight misunderstanding to arise between Combe and the Manchester Committee. Before pledging himself to go there he required a guarantee of an audience of at least 400. Some objections were made to this demand ; but it was the course he always adopted, for the reasons stated in the following note addressed to Mr James Adam, editor of the Aberdeen Herald :—
" Will you tell me candidly how the conditions on which I insisted preparatory to my visit to Aberdeen were viewed by yourself and the Committee. My motive for asking is this : that the same conditions have been ill received in Manchester, and I have been a good deal annoyed ; I wish to know if the fault is with me, or the Manchester Committee. My view of the matter is this : Phrenology is treated with ridicule or contempt. I am independent of the necessity of lecturing for support. My only motive, therefore, is to knock that ridicule and contempt on the head. The best way of doing so, is to make the science appear interesting and respectable. The grand element in producing this effect is to secure a large and respectable audience to hear my exposition of its merits. As people in general care nothing about the science and nothing about me, it is impossible for me to secure such an audience at a town to which I am invited. To go and lecture to a small audience would increase the prejudice, damage the interests of the science, waste my time and labour, prove injurious to my reputation, and disagreeable to my feelings. Some one, there-lore, must take steps to muster a suitable number of hearers.
10 Life of George Combe.
In requesting a committee to do so by canvassing and explanation, am I unreasonable ? In insisting for 200 at Aberdeen and 400 at Manchester, do I appear to be actuated by a mercenary spirit, and to be seeking money only ? That is what the Manchester people hint at. I paid Dr Spurzheim £2, 2s. for 12 lectures of one hour each, and he never lectured under £1, Is. for 12 lectures. To do away with the impression of my motive in insisting for a guarantee of a large number being money, I lower my fee to 10s. 6d., and I strain every nerve to give great pennyworths of information even for that sum."
The difficulty between Combe and the Manchester Committee was easily overcome, and his conditions complied with in every respect. He proceeded to that city in April, and found that 470 tickets for the course of lectures had been sold ; and at the end of the lectures he learned that there had been 1207 visitors admitted at Is. 6d. each, being an average of 86 visitors each night. The Committee handed him £264 as the proceeds of the course, after deducting all expenses, those of his hotel included. He delivered an extra lecture on education for the benefit of Mr William Bally, who had been some time an assistant to Spurzheim, and was at this time settled in Manchester as a maker and seller of casts. The single lecture cleared over £40, The foregoing facts will sufficiently indicate the impression which Combe made in Manchester. His audiences were interested and impressed by his exposition of the new science, and he won many zealous followers. The success of his lectures was so great that his stay in the city was like a constant jubilee. Mr Cobden returned from the Continent before his departure, and the friendship which they had formed in correspondence was confirmed by personal acquaintance. Writing to Dr Combe he says :—
" I examined Mr Cobden's head.* It is of an average size. The temperament nervous and bilious. The propensities are moderate ; the anterior lobe large, the lower region predominating ; and the sentiments are large. Concentrativeness is only
* Mr Cobden was at this date 33 years of age.
Richard Cobden. 11
rather full; Benevolence is very large ; Veneration large ; and Conscientiousness and Firmness full ; Combativeness is only full ; and Cautiousness and Secretiveness are large, the latter at least is so, and Cautiousness a little less. His person is slender, lungs'narrow, and his aspect refined and intellectual. He had' read the ' Constitution of Man ' before he wrote his pamphlets ; and said that it seemed to him like a transcript of his own familiar thoughts. Under the inspiration of a moderate Combativeness and large Benevolence he is adverse even to defensive warfare ; and considers that the Quakers have suffered less by submitting to every insult, and cruelty, and robbery quietly, than other men by resisting them. He has a number of curious facts in illustration of the power of mere goodness to protect against outrage. This was the only point in our discussions on which he and I differed. I regarded defence as justifiable and necessary. On my voyage home I read Mungo Park's travels in Africa, and saw to what an amazing extent mere passive submission to every robbery, insult, abuse, and privation, without murmuring or resistance, had operated as a protection from violence. If he had resisted he would have been slain in an instant. This, and the success of the Quakers, however, is obviously peculiar. They are few in the midst of an overwhelming mass of brute force, and their submission is wisdom; but for a nation like England to submit to be robbed by any invader who chooses to visit her shores seemed tome tobe nonsense; and I could account for his views only by Mr Cobden's peculiar organization."
On his return to Edinburgh he made his will, leaving the copywrights and stock of all his books to Dr Combe and after him to Eobert Cox ; his estate he bequeathed in various proportions to his brother and nephews and nieces. This was preparatory to his departure for the Continent. On the 20th May, with Mrs Combe, and accompanied by Miss Stirling Graham of Duntrune, he proceeded to Germany, where they spent three months visiting the principal towns and institu-. tions as formerly, but now with more leisure at his command. It was in the course of this excursion that he became acquainted with Mr Thomas Horloch Bastard, of Charleston, Dorset, whose philanthropic nature and labours at once inspired Combe with admiration and respect. To Dr Hirschfeld (the
12Lije of George Combe.
translator into German of the "System" and the "Constitution ") he wrote when on his way home :—
kottekdam, 29th September 1837.
"You may now write to me in German, but use the Boman character, as my Form is sadly puzzled by the German written hand. I have never had an hour for reading since I entered your country, for every moment was occupied in travelling, in visiting collections, in going to theatres, &c., &c., so that I have made far less progress in the language than I ought to have done. Still, I can now clear my way in travelling by asking questions, and comprehending answers ; and I mean to devote a good deal of time this winter to the study of it. I have, at present, the intention of returning to Germany with Mrs Combe to reside for a longer or shorter time, and if I find myself capable of acquiring as much of the language as to lecture in it, I would visit Prussia and Bavaria, and Hanover, and lecture in the chief towns ; but I fear that at my period of life, approaching fifty, this is too difficult an enterprise. I cannot decide until I go home, and I would not, in any circumstances, leave Scotland before May next. I shall be glad to hear what you think of the idea ? Would your countrymen come to hear me ? All that I could expect would be to excite an interest in the subject, and set them agoing to study it.
"The causes of phrenology being dead in Germany are several :—1st, It appears to me never to have been alive in it : Drs Gall and Spurzheim delivered a few oral instructions at a time when the doctrine was very far from being matured. They made no practical pupils—that is, they taught nobody to observe. They published no works in German which could enable their disciples to advance in the doctrine, and the interest which they excited was merely temporary. 2d, The war and the misfortunes of Germany prevented the public mind from taking an interest in a mere doctrine. 3d, Political power frowned upon it ; and in Austria, where most had been done to disseminate the doctrine, power is omnipotent. Lastly, There is a good deal of truth in your remark that the Germans are not easily persuaded to attend to facts which do not in the first instance satisfy their reasoning faculties. They appear to me, but I am so ignorant that I cannot pretend to judge, to be fond either of the sentimental without reason, or of abstract metaphysical conceptions without sentiment ; and that a relish for a philosophy which shall combine and harmonize both feelings and strict logical reasoning is new to them, and is one for which their minds are not yet prepared. My present visit has
done nothing for phrenology in Germany, because I have merely shown my face, and disappeared. The only cause, of hesitation whether I shall return to Germany is, that a vast field of usefulness is open to me in the United States of America. I know the language of that country, they esteem my books, and their free institutions and active minds fit them to receive instruction. I could do little good in Germany in comparison with what I could accomplish there, and I am almost ashamed to own that my reason for preferring Germany is a personal one. Mrs Combe and I are led to fear that we should not like the climate, the manners, and the modes of living in America, while we are charmed with dear Germany, as we call it. Time must decide."
During his tour he received from the secretary of the Association for Popular Lectures an application to deliver a course of phrenology in Edinburgh in the ensuing winter ; and in reply he announced his determination not to lecture again in his native town for several years to come. That resolve was made partly because of the indifference with which the majority of his fellow-townsmen regarded the science, and partly because he believed that the hostile feeling towards it was directed more against him personally than against phrenology ; and he believed that the Association could find a teacher who would be able to give instruction without this disadvantage. In any case, he considered that in the meantime it would be better for the cause he advocated, more agreeable to his own feelings, and ultimately more advantageous to the Edinburgh public for him to leave them alone for a few years. By and by perhaps the progress of the new philosophy in other cities and countries might dispose the citizens to receive its lessons in a spirit different from that which they displayed at present. One more indication of the opposition to his philosophy reached him about this time : Dr Fossati's translation of the " Elements of Phrenology " was placed by the Pope on the Index •tixpurgatorius.
He was glad to be able to turn from these unpleasant experiences to the first important work of his friend Professor
14 Life of George Combe.
Nichol, entitled " The Architecture of the Heavens," which he regarded as " valuable in a high degree as a means of destroying superstition." In reference to superstition, he wrote the following comments on Mr Babbage's calculations of the testimony to miracles in the 9th " Bridgewater Treatise."
" Your brother kindly lent me Babbage's 9th ' Bridgewater Treatise,' which I read with much interest. It is a curious specimen of a vigorous mind wanting the science of man's nature to render its views harmonious and sound. Whewell's taunt that mathematicians are oftenincapable of general reasoning is true when the mathematician is distinguished only by large knowing organs. (Whewell himself belongs to some extent to this class, and I do not regard him as so profound and comprehensive a thinker as he apparently believes himself to be.) But his remark does not hold good when applied to mathematicians in whom the reflecting organs also are large as well as the knowing ones, which I infer to be the case with Babbage. His argument, or rather miscalculation, about the extent of testimony necessary to prove a miracle, appears to me to be unsound. First, his miraculous event is no miracle. It seems to be one only to ignorant men; but if the Deity pre-arranged all the operations of nature to produce a certain event at a certain stage of evolution, that event is obviously natural, and is the direct result of the changes that preceded it, and man would see it in this light if he could comprehend the causes. It is a trick, therefore, to make him believe that it is a miracle. Farther, an event happening in the course of nature can never logically be adduced as proof of a religious doctrine. Suppose some philosopher had discovered the cause of the November meteors before any one else had observed them, and had announced a new religion, and said that ' on the 12th of November 1836,1 shall cause stones to fall from heaven to prove it,' this might have passed for proof until the fall was discovered to he the result of purely physical causes, acting altogether independently of religious principles and considerations ; after this discovery was made, it would become a proof of the existence and action of these physical causes, but of nothing else.
Again, Babbage takes the number of instances in which men speak the truth to be one in a hundred. If the fact spoken to relates to everyday events, and if the attention of the observers was specially called to them, this may be nearly correct. But if it be one of an unusual and unnatural kind, there is not one man
Gall and Spiirzheim.
in ten thousand who has testified to such events and has been found by experience to speak the truth. How much testimony have we that men have seen the devil, have seen the spirits of the dead, or the bodies of the absent (facts which the doctrine of spectral illusion explains); and yet who believes these testimonies ? If 100,000,000 of lies of this kind have been told since the world began, and if not one single instance of the real appearance of any of these persons has yet occurred, Mr Babbage has to find the proportion between that number and nothing, and then discover by his calculating machine how many times Zero would counterbalance 100,000,000 ; and then he will have a logical case or formula for determining what amount of testimony will suffice to prove that a man truly dead came alive again. These phenomena all belong to the class of the extra or ultra-natural ; and there is a want of logic in holding that the same amount of truth in testimony which occurs in regard to natural events also occurs in favour of supernatural. All this, however, I fear is blaspheming and unbelief, to use the current cant of the day."
In the same year Dr Elliotson published his " Physiology of the Animal Functions," in which the doctrines of Gall regarding the nervous system were upheld, and Spurzheim was accused of having availed himself of the discoveries of his master without making due acknowledgment. In defence of his friend Combe wrote to Mr Hewett C. Watson :—
" In regard to Dr Gall, Dr Elliotson's book cannot overstate his merits as the discoverer, or overestimate the value of his physiology of the brain ; but it does overrate both his moral and intellectual character in my humble opinion. Gall was a man of splendid genius and great powers of observation and reflection ; but he had very little of the analytic spirit and talent which is necessary to reach first principles or primitive faculties in mental philosophy. He described largely and vaguely the manifestations which he saw accompanying the organs when largely developed ; but those accustomed to the precision of metaphysical thinking observe a want of definite conceptions regarding the primitive powers. Dr Spurzheim greatly excelled him in the discriminative quality, and I think, with all deference to Dr Elliotson, that he introduced great improvements into the science, by a more refined analysis than yrau ever used or seemed to be capable of. Again, Dr Gall s remarkably clear and always vigorous in his reasonings ;
Life of George Combe.16
but he writes in an exaggerated and loose style, and many of his propositions and observations require modification. He was deficient in the organ of Conscientiousness, and in his works throughout I find him aiming rather at successful and pointed objection and argument than at sober and earnest truth. I do not mean to say that his statements are not essentially true ; we know that they are ; but they are not brought forward with the care and scrupulosity of a conscientious man. They resemble more the pleading of a talented barrister determined to make the most of his case, and to supply by his own talents any defects in the facts or evidence of his client's case. Dr Spurzheim was far more conscientious, scrupulous, and philosophical. It is quite true that Dr Spurzheim was Gall's pupil, but Spurzheim's writings show that he possessed a master mind, and we know that he added many important organs to those discovered by Gall. Dr Elliotson makes out an apparent case against Spurzheim in his notes, by quoting particular passages from Spurzheim's works, omitting all the passages in which he speaks of Gall. A case diametrically opposite could be got up by selecting all the passages in which Dr Spurzheim describes what Gall did. No one who reads Spurzheim's works can fail to see that he describes Gall as the discoverer and as his master. When Spurzheim came to England in 1814, and published his physiognomical system in 1815, only two volumes of Gall's large work had been printed, and they bore their joint names ; they were little known in England ; and Spurzheim taught us all we knew of the science for many years. Gall's book was printed in 1818, and bears his own name. But Spurzheim never pretended to dispute Gall's merits. On the contrary he spoke of him always with profound respect to me. Elliotson is right, however, in blaming Spurzheim for his last alterations in the situations of the organs. He did this from some anatomical views, but I ever protested against it, and kept the Edinburgh busts and plates to the old standard. Vimont's plates and situations correspond closely with ours, and he is very accurate. My brother says that the last time that he saw Dr Spurzheim he talked with him on this subject, and Spurzheim was not so tenacious of the new markings as he had been, but seemed more disposed to give way and return to the old than he had ever found him before."
The question as to whether he was to return to Germany or to proceed to the "united States was decided in favour of the latter course. He resolved to sail for New York in the autumn
Gall's Banishment. i 7
of 1838 and to lecture in the States until May 1840 ; but on his return he proposed to go to Germany for three years to complete his knowledge of the language and to lecture there. He had so much respect for the Germans that he did not fear ridicule in attempting to teach them phrenology in their own tongue. He and Mrs Combe had enjoyed Germany so much that, apart from other considerations, they were anxious to return to it for the mere sake of living there.
As was his custom he began his preparations in good time. He wrote to his American publisher, Mr JSTahum Capen, Boston, to Dr Caldwell, Dr Channing, and others who had urged him to visit the country, to give him information as to the accommodation of halls in the various towns, the expenses, &c., in order that he might arrange his course of action. In the meanwhile, as he was not to lecture during the winter of 1837-38, he occupied himself with the preparation of a translation of Gall's work on the " Functions of the Cerebellum," to which he added the views of Vimont and Broussais, and answers to the objections urged against phrenology by Drs Eoget, Eudolphi, Prichard, and Tiedemann. In the physiological portions he was assisted by Dr Combe, and it was the latter who wrote the replies to Professor Eudolphi, Prichard, and Tiedemann. To this work Combe attached a translation by himself of Dr Gall's petition against an order by Francis I., emperor of Austria, prohibiting him from delivering lectures on the functions of the brain without special permission asked and obtained. This edict was the cause of Gall's banishment from his native country ; and the immediate cause of it is thus explained in a letter written by Combe from Vienna, 23d July 1837 :—
"Dr Gall resided in Vienna upwards of thirty years, and was recognised as an able physician. He was the friend of Dr Stoerk, physician to Maria Theresa, the Emperor Joseph, and also to Francis I. at the commencement of his reign. On a vacancy occurring in the office of medical counsellor of state, Dr Stoerk recommended Dr Gall to the Emperor Francis I.,
VOL II. B
i8 Life of George Combe.
aad the emperor expressed his readiness to give effect to the recommendation. Dr Gall, however, stated that he was not bom for a court, and that he disliked the restraints which it would impose on him, and declined the intended honour ; but he recommended Dr Stifft, who by the influence of Dr Stoerk was named to the vacant office. This occurred about the year 1794 or 1795. Dr Stifft in the course of time became physician to the emperor, and president of the faculty of medicine ; and in this capacity he advised the emperor that phrenology was dangerous and immoral in its tendency, upon which opinion Gall was prohibited from teaching. Dr Stifft was a man of no talent as a physician, but a great politician and intriguer. He was styled'Sa Majesté Médicinale' on account of his overwhelming influence and dogmatism. .... In 1814-15 the emperor of Austria saw Dr Gall at Paris after the Peace, and asked him to return to Vienna. He declined to do so, and assigned as his reason that he was now established in Paris, and would have to begin the world again if he returned to Vienna."
The preparation of the " Functions of the Cerebellum " occupied the winter months, and it was published in the spring of 1838. The book contained, besides the translation of Gall's essay, and the controversial papers already mentioned, a sketch of the structure and functions of the brain as bearing on the principles of phrenology, which was the production of George assisted by Andrew Combe. It formed the introduction to the work, and the most important part of it ; but the reader was expressly warned that some portions of the exposition of the relation between the structure and functions of the brain were conjectures from established facts, and not set forth as established facts n themselves. Making this clear distinction, he examined the experiments of Magendie and Flourens, and showed that how rer little calculated they might be " to throw light on the functions of the convolutions, they produced phenomena which harmonised with the functions ascribed to these parts by Dr Gall." His whole object was to show the harmony existing between the best established views of the structure of the brain and the functions ascribed to it by phrenologists ; and also to prove the truth of their assertion
Tune and Colouring. 19
_« that no well established anatomical or physiological facts have yet been brought to light that are inconsistent with their views."
Whilst he was occupied with this work Eobert Chambers submitted to him the proofs of an article on " Music," in order to obtain any suggestions which phrenology might afford for its improvement. Combe's organ of Tune was small ; but Mrs Combe was an accomplished musician, and under her direction and that of two other ladies, he supplied his friend with several useful notes. Music, like everything else, he regarded from a high stand-point.
" I admire very much your natural theology of Tune. I have often said that it-and Colouring are among the most conspicuous examples of the divine benevolence, for these faculties produce such an immense extent of enjoyment by means that appear so little related to their ends, according to our conceptions, that only divine benevolence could have designed them, and divine wisdom established the relations between the human mind and the external elements which produce this enjoyment. The pure benignity of God in endowing us with musical perceptions is by far too little dwelt on, in ordinary treatises about music, and you do well to supply the want."
In March 1838, he commenced a double course of lectures in Bath,—that is, he lectured on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the evening, when he had an average audience of 160 to 170 ; and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, when he had a steady attendance of 150. The Committee was composed of gentlemen in practice as physicians and surgeons ; and his discourses obtained profound attention from all. At the close of his labours the members of his classes entertained him at a public dinner, when an address, expressing the thanks of his auditors, and their belief in the value of the science which he taught, was presented to him by Dr Barlow, who was at that time the leading physician of the town. In May and June he lectured in Birmingham to a class of 300, besides casual hearers ; and here again he produced a most gratifying effect.
2O Life of George Combe.
An address and a piece of plate were presented to him at the end of his course in token of the appreciation of the benefits he had conferred on those who had attended his lectures. But the most satisfactory token of this esteem was the establishment of a Phrenological Society.
From Birmingham he proceeded on a visit to friends residing near Southampton, where Mrs Combe awaited him. Thence they made a short excursion to the Isle of Wight, and afterwards spent a week in Normandy. In this manner they delayed their visit to London in order to avoid the crush and bustle of the town during the coronation of the Queen. A few days after that event they arrived in London, and on the evening of 3d July they were at the opera ("I Puritani"). The Queen occupied a box almost directly opposite, and with the help of a good opera-glass Combe was able to observe her head very distinctly. He made the following memorandum of his observation :—
" She is fair and pale. Her head is rather above the average size for a woman, and is broader than the female head generally is. The coronal region is remarkably broad and rather high, particularly in the regions of Conscientiousness and Firmness. The middle region, comprising Veneration and Hope, seemed full ; Benevolence, Imitativeness, and Ideality were rather full. The anterior lobe seemed broad but not long from behind forward. The lower or perceptive organs were large, tbose of Form and Language very large. Time seemed large, and the upper or reflecting region was well marked, but inferior to the knowing region. The peripheral expansion is considerable, but there is a want of length in the upper region of the forehead. The expression of the countenance is that of simple good-nature and intelligence.
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