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LETTER FROM GEORGE COMBE TO FRANCIS JEFFREY, Esq.
Moved" by the sound, the King grew vain :
"THRICE he routed all his foes, and THRICE he SLEW the SLAIN."
ŠIR, An elaborate and ingenious criticism on my work on Phrenology has just appeared in the 88th number of the Edinburgh Review, which common report attributes to your pen. Finding myself assailed not only by the wit and argument of that article, but by the whole weight of your literary and philosophical reputation, I endeavoured to ascertain the grounds on which you were designated as its author; and, in addition to the strong intrinsic evidence afforded by the article itself, I have traced the statement, in numerous instances, to individuals who say that they received the information from yourself. Thus situated, I use the freedom to address this answer to you, not merely as the reputed editor of the Review, but as the individual author of the criticism in question.
In the 15th article of the 4th number of the Edinburgh Review for April, 1803, the late Dr Thomas Brown exclaimed, "Of Dr Gall and his skulls who has not heard!" After eleven pages of hostile argument, he "trusts, that his "readers are ALREADY SUFFICIENTLY CONVINCED that the prin"ciples on which Dr Gall has founded his theory are erroneous ;" VOL. IV. No XIII.
and adds, that" it is unfortunate for Dr Gall's theory that he has "entered into the detail of it with such minute exactness, as it en"ables every one too easily to compare its predictions with the "skulls of those around him."
In the 49th number of the same Review, the late Dr John Gordon exclaims, "Our readers will here recognize, "without any difficulty, the same man of skulls whom we had oc"casion to take notice of more than twelve years ago. Long be"fore this time we should have looked for his Craniologi"cal death ! !" "We look upon the whole doctrines taught "by these two modern Peripatetics, (Drs Gall and Spurzheim,) "anatomical, physiological, and physiognomical, as a piece of thorough quackery from beginning to end; and we are persuaded "that every intelligent person who takes the trouble to read a sin"gle chapter of the volumes before us will view them precisely in "the same light."-" They are a collection of mere absurdities, "without truth, connexion, or consistency, which nothing could "have induced any man to have presented to the public, under pre"tence of instructing them, but absolute insanity, gross ignorance, or the most matchless assurance."
These were pretty plain intimations to the public of the opinions of the Edinburgh Review; and if "Craniology" did not immediately thereafter give up the ghost, you, at least, were guiltless of its future inroads and ravages. The public at first believed every word of this criticism, and railed at Craniology in round set terms, furnished by your Review gave up purchasing and reading the works on the subject, and seemed, for a time, to have consigned it to oblivion. With an obstinate, but not an ignorant perversity, however, (excited partly by the first edition of the work you have just condemned,) the public "took to their old idols again;” after reflection, and observation of facts, many of them openly and audaciously professed belief in "Craniology," dignified, at length, by the name of Phrenology; and plainly showed that the two articles of your Review in 1803 and 1815 had been utter failures.
Dr Spurzheim's publisher told me, that the sale of his works completely stopped after the appearance of the 49th number of the Edinburgh Review, and did not revive till 1819, after which it went on rapidly, and it still proceeds.