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If it had so pleased the Almighty Power which has formed us, our mind might have been associated with a material substance most unfitted for its external indications. It might have been fettered with conditions most restrictive and enslaving. No proof can be shown that it might not have been connected with inorganic and inanimate envelopment. Suppose the rock had been its accompaniment,or “the cloven pine,”—or “the knotty entrails of the oak." It might have been bound to a very inferior animal form,-masked by an elephant's face, or trailed in a serpent's chain. But there is in the human body a most wondrous contrivance, a most exact vehicle, for the thinking principle, evidently joined together by a Common Creator, for their mutual convenience and their respective ends. The Head chiefly, as primarily, impresses us in our survey of the human structure. Its form is rather elliptical, than duly spherical. The brow is piled up until it attains a certain vertex. Here are the features and the principal organs. The symbols of intellectual power and dignity are arrayed around this vault.
A system of Cranioscopy has, within a few recent years, been much discussed. We propose a slight consideration of it. Some think it so firmly proved that, like the Family of the Primroses, they “ still resolve to hold up their heads.” Others regard it as so unreasonable, that they could “brain it with a lady's fan.”
There exists a general opinion that Craniology is an anatomical study ; that it must be left for the scalpel to decide, and be referred to the dissector to adjudge, the truth of the case. The surgical and medical professions are naturally regarded as the best qualified to examine the conflicting evidence. They have constituted the principal circle, hitherto, through which
the modern enquiry has ranged,--and the school which has furnished the foremost disputants of the controversy. Whether the members of these professions be the only, or the best qualified, parties to engage in these lists, may, without any depreciation of the healing art, or of the respected class occupied in it, admit of a reasonable doubt. That the disciples of the serpenttwined rod are the most fitly accomplished for the practical research and scientific examen, is most cheerfully allowed. Such Peripatetics are within their own walk amidst these discussions. The descriptions of the head and the brain are familiar in their mouths as household words. Their prehensile extremities, as Helvetius would denominate them, have already acquired a most delicate tact and sensibility; and the rude handling of sculls by an inadept and unprofessional grasp is quite a different thing from their well-practiced manipulations. “Cuique in arte suâ perito credendum est.” But their enquiries, it is probable, will be biassed in favour of a system, which asserts the dignity of a particular corporeal substance and structure; which reflects an honour over their own pursuits, which, on this hypothesis, associate them with the highest elements, and most secret springs, of human nature; and which not only agrees and strikes in with their favourite subject of enquiry, but is calculated to fatter them that their own field comprehends the very ultimate of all the knowledge that can be attained respecting man. It is simply natural that every professor should seek the credit and the enlargement of his own sphere: it is only just that he should entertain an enthusiasm for it. And if the spirit reside in certain material formations topically described, characteristically developed, I wonder not that some ardent youths should feel exalted by so near an approach to its presence, be confident that soon they shall feel the soul as accurately as they now do the pulse, and seize the trephine as the very key which shall lay open the last recesses of the thinking being. Anatomy is denied, by those who are called phrenologists, to be either the source or the test of their science. Yet, they who have devoted themselves to the dis secting-room, have not infrequently declared their approbation
of it, and the physical impossibility they felt of arriving at any other conclusion.
These observations will, perhaps, acquit me of arrogance in attempting a sketch of the general controversy, as it relates to the popular theory of the cerebral organization and physiology,—though I can pretend to little technical, and to no professional, knowledge. If I should unfortunately differ from any, I hope, as Bacon said, it is in melius, and not in aliud : with a view to benefit, and for no purpose of dissension.
That the mind expresses itself through some external sensible manifestations and conditions, is an opinion that has been very commonly received. The particular development has been variously represented. Cheiromancy, or the inference of the character from the shape of the hand, once possessed a most exalted reputation; and long before the tricks of palmistry were played off by the impostor, grey-beard-philosophers sifted intellects by shaking hands. And our contemporary, Dr. Haslam, thinks that idiots have a peculiar construction of hand, “the sentient extremities being less pulpy and expanded.”—But the adjustment of the problem, in what part of the interior the soul resides, and on what part of the superficial volumen it is indicated, has not been remarkably successful, of course, with the exception of our day! Montaigne gave little hope of reaching certainty, or acquiring satisfaction, in these studies; he has left the following pointed advice: “'T is not in the sphere of the maturest understanding to judge of us simply by our external actions, it must fathom the very soul, and find out the springs which give it motion ; but as this is a dangerous and sublime undertaking, I wish that fewer persons would attempt it.”
There has been, it must be confessed, a common disposition to elect the human head to this rank and influence : and as it holds an extensive correspondence with its constituents, answering all their applications with the greatest despatch, using its franking privilege with the kindest liberality, and withal hav
ing the tongue in its possession, (whereof the memory of man showeth not to the contrary), perhaps the body will show itself politic in ensuring its return !
No observer of the human figure can remain unimpressed with the abrupt majesty, the commanding contour, of the head. It is not horizontal, as in some animal forms: it is not prone, as in others : but it towers with a mysterious elation. The line of Horace, “Insignem tenui fronte,” will, bowever, show a difference of opinion here. Drawing the facial line, we mark the obtuse angle that is formed with the one which is carried from the floor and alæ of the nose to the passages of the ear.
It is sometimes all but rectangular, and even the brow occasionally impends over the face. Well might the ancient poet sing of “ the sublime countenance which man uplifts to the stars :" and our own bard assigns to this front,
“ A station like the herald Mercury,
New lighted on some heaven-kissing hill."
General consent has associated with that rounded mass of matter, —the actual seat of four senses,—the reflecting medium of all emotions—something indefinably ascendant. Its very wreck is terrific. Look at its hollow globe! the eyeless sockets, the grinning jaws, the ghastly nostrils, the cheek hollow, the scalp, -all proclaim a desertion and abandonment of the curious apparatus by a power which must have been great itself to have employed and wielded it. And in that sensitive and majestic orb a substance existed more delicately attenuated, more singularly configured, than any known form which corporeal matter
Its susceptibility ensured its decay. It is the skull which, of all the relics of our frame, gives its horror of expression to the charnel-house. The musings of Hamlet are perfectly natural. “ How abhorred in our imagination it is ! To what base uses may we return !" And Byron, with deep power of language and feeling, masters the similar strain :
“ Remove yon skull from out the scatter'd heaps :
Is that a temple where a God may dwell ?
“Look on its broken arch, its ruin'd wall,
Its chambers desolate, and portals foul :
Can all saint, sage, or sophist ever writ,
Our common idiomatic parlance conveys the same prepossession. A person of slow and narrow faculties is called a blockhead and a numskull; he who is quick in acquiring, has brains and a good long head. When we resolve on any measure, we take it into our heads. We often count heads, taking for granted that they own a body each. A tax cannot be more universally styled than a poll-tax. The classical scholar will recollect the frequent use and peculiar meaning of the word Caput among the Romans. It is not seldom found in Virgil and Horace: and Homer employs Kepann in the same acceptation. In the same manner and after the same analogy, ows is used by him to express a man.
There have not been wanting in past ages men of genius, who have endeavoured to reduce craniological phænomena to a system. Albertus Magnus, who flourished in the thirteenth century, in prosecuting his mechanical studies, formed a wooden image of man, fitting it with springs and contrivances for motion and sound. It will not surprise us to be informed, that the worthy Dominican was suspected of harbouring a familiar. Having thus wrought his curious imitation of the human shape and its functions, he began to reflect on our nature itself. . It is said that he proceeded to map out, upon the head, the various dispositions and faculties of the mind,-regarding the head as its seat, and those divisions as its manifestations.
Jean de Ketham, who lived between the fourteenth and fifteenth century, wrote a book in which he anticipated many modern opinions on the organology of the brain.
He particularly insists on the partition of the brain into a twofold set of energies and convolutions. The work is included in a collection