Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

miting, on himself, that the one-twentieth part of a grain of tartarized antimony was sufficient to produce a convulsive action of the parts concerned in vomiting. As a general principle, however, remedies lose their effect by habit, and this is particularly the case with tonics; but if another tonic be substituted for a day or two, and then the former be resumed, it will produce all its previous effects.

Association, employed abstractedly, is a principle of the animal economy nearly allied to habit. When two or more impressions of any kind have been made upon the nervous system, and repeated for a certain number of times, they become associated; and if one of them only be produced it will call up the idea of the others. It is a principle, which is largely invoked by the metaphysician, and by which he explains many interesting phenomena of the human mind, especially those connected with our ideas of beauty, or the contrary; our likes and dislikes, and our sense of moral propriety.⁕ Darwin employed it to explain many complicated functions of the economy; and he laid it down as a law, that all animal motions, which have occurred at the same time or in immediate succession, become so associated that when one of them is reproduced, the other has a tendency to accompany or succeed it The principle has, doubtless, great agency in the production of many of the physical, as well as mental, phenomena; but its influence has been overrated; and many of the consecutive and simultaneous actions, to which we have referred under the head of correlation of functions, take place, apparently, as well the first time they are exerted, as subsequently. Sucking and deglutition are good cases of the kind. Soon after birth, the muscles of the lips, cheeks, and tongue are contracted to embrace the nipple, and to diminish the pressure in the interior of the mouth; and as soon as the milk has flowed to the necessary extent into the mouth, certain voluntary muscles are contracted. These propel the milk into the pharynx, where its farther progress is accomplished by muscles, associated or connected functionally, but not in the sense we are now employing the epithet; for here one action could not suggest another, according to the definition we have given of association, which requires that the acts should have been executed previously. Many of the cases, in fact, ascribed by Darwin and Hartley to the agency of this principle, are instinctive actions, in which a correlation, as in the

The effect of this principle is forcibly and feelingly expressed by one of the most illustrious of British bards:

“ And slight withal may be the things which bring

Back to the heart the weight, which it would fling
Aside for ever: it may be a sound,
A tone of music, summer's eve, or spring,
A fower, the wind, the ocean, which shall wound,
Striking th' electric chain wherewith we're darkly bound;
And how and why we know not, nor can trace
Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind."

Childe Harold, Canto iy.

case of deglutition, exists, but without our being able to explain the nature of such correlation, any more than we can explain other complicated actions and connexions of the nervous system, of which this is doubtless one.

Some of the most obstinate diseases are kept up by habit, or by accustomed associated motions; and, frequently, the disease will seem to continue from this cause alone. Whenever intermittent fever, epilepsy, asthma, chorea, &c. have been long established, the difficulty of removing the influence of habit, or the tendency to recurrence, is extreme.

Lastly, the principle of imitation falls appropriately under this section. It may be defined as—that consent of parts, depending on similar organization, which, under the influence of the brain, enables them to execute acts similar to those executed by the same parts in another individual. Imitation, consequently, requires the action of the brain; and differs from those actions that are natural or instinctive to organs. For example, speech requires the action of imitation; whilst the ordinary voice or cry is effected by the newborn, and by the idiot, who are incapable of all observation, and consequently of imitation. The mode in which speech is acquired, offers us one of the best examples of this imitative principle, if we may so term it. At a very early period, the child hears the sounds addressed to it, and soon attaches ideas to them. It discovers, moreover, that it is capable of producing similar sounds with its own larynx, and that these sounds are understood, and are inservient to the gratification of its wants; and, in this way, speech, as we have elsewhere seen, is acquired. The difficulty is to understand in what manner this singular consent is produced. Sir Gilbert Blane has properly remarked, that the imitation of gestures is, at first sight, less unaccountable than that of sounds; as they are performed by members which are objects of sight, and would seem therefore to be more readily transferable to the corresponding parts of another person: but he probably errs, when, farther on, he remarks, that when children begin to articulate, they first attempt those letters, in the pronunciation of which the motions of the organs are the objects of sight; such as the p and b, among consonants, and the broad a, among the vowels, “ giving occasion to a well-known etymology, from the infantile syllables, expressive of father and mother in all languages." We do not think that this explanation is happy; and have elsewhere attempted to show, that the combination of letters, and the words referred to, are first enunciated, because they are the easiest of all combinations; and that the expressions of mama, papa, &c. are employed long before the child has acquired the power of imitation, and long prior to his attaching the meaning to the words which he is subsequently made to adopt.

It is certainly singular how the child can learn to imitate sounds, where the action of the organs concerned is completely concealed from view. The only possible way of explaining it is to presume, that it makes repeated attempts with its vocal ap

paratus to produce the same sound which it hears; and that it recollects the sensation produced by the contraction of the muscles when it succeeds, so as to enable it to repeat the contraction of the muscles, and the sensation, at pleasure. This is, however, a case, in which volition is actively exerted. We have others, where the action occurs in spite of the individual, as in yawning. We see the action in a second person, and, notwithstanding all our attempts to the contrary, the respiratory organs are excited through the brain, and we accomplish the same act. Nay, even thinking of the action will be sufficient to arouse it. Of a like nature to this, is the sympathetic contraction of the uterus, which comes on, where a pregnant female is in the lying-in chamber during the accouchement of another, and to which we have referred under the head of Sympathy.

Many morbid phenomena are excited in a similar manner;—of these, squinting and stammering are familiar examples.

Sect. IV. Of the Varieties of Mankind. To determine the number of varieties, into which the great human family may be divided, is a subject which has been considered to belong so completely to the naturalist, that we shall pass it over with a brief inquiry.

If we cast our eye over the globe, although we may find that mankind agree in their general form and organization, there are many points in which they differ materially from each other. With those forms, proportions and colours, which we consider so beautiful in the fine figures of Greece,—to use the language of Mr. Law. RENCE,—contrast the woolly hair, the fiat nose, the thick lips, the retreating forehead, advancing jaws, and black skin of the negro; or the broad, square face, narrow oblique eyes, beardless chin, coarse, straight hair, and olive colour of the Calmuck Compare the ruddy and sanguine European with the jet black African, the red man of America, the yellow Mongolian, or the brown South-Sea Islander; the gigantic Patagonian, or the dwarfish Laplander; the highly civilized nations of Europe, so conspicuous in arts, science, literature, in all that can strengthen and adorn society, or exalt and dignify human nature, to a troop of naked, shivering, and starved New Hollanders, a horde of filthy Hottentots, or the whole of the more or less barbarous tribes, that cover nearly the entire continent of Africa; and although we must refer them all to the same species, they differ so remarkably from each other as to admit of being classed in a certain number of great varieties; but, with regard to the precise number, naturalists have differed materially.

Whatever changes have been impressed upon mankind, can, of course, apply only to the descendants of Noah. The broad distinctions, we now meet with, could not have existed in his immediate family, saved with him at the time of the deluge. They must necessarily have all been of the same race. None of our investigations on this subject can, consequently, be traced back into antediluvian

periods. Hence the point, on which the ark rested, must be looked upon as the cradle of all mankind.

The question of the original residence of man has frequently engaged the attention of the philologist. It is one which could be answered positively by the historian only, but unfortunately the evidence we possess of an historical character is scanty in the extreme, and the few remarks, in the sacred volume, not sufficient to lead us to any definite conclusion. As far back as the date of the most remote of our historical records, which extend to about two thousand years prior to the Christian era, we find the whole of Asia and a part of Africa,—probably a large part,—peopled by different nations, of various manners, religion, and language; carrying on extensive wars with each other, with here and there civilized states, possessing important inventions of all kinds, which must have required a length of time for discovery, improvement, and diffusion.

After the subsidence of the deluge, the waters would first recede from the tops of the highest mountains, which would thus be the earliest habitable; and in such a situation the family of Noah increased, and thence spread abroad on the gradual recession of the waters. The earliest habitable spot was probably the elevated region of middle Asia, the loftiest in the world, -not the summits, which would be unsuitable, in every respect, for human existence, but some of the lofty plains, such as that, of which the well-known desert Kobi or Schamo forms the highest point, and from whence Asia sinks gradually towards the four quarters, and the great mountain chains proceed that intersect Asia in every

direction. This has been suggested by Herder and Adelung as the cradle of the human race. In the declivities of this elevated region, and of its mountain chains, all the great rivers arise that flow on every side through this division of the globe. After the deluge, it would therefore soon become dry, and project, like an extensive island, above the flood. The cold and barren elevation of Kobi would not itself have been well adapted for the continued residence of our second parents, but immediately on its southern side lies the remarkable country of Tibet, separated by lofty ridges from the rest of the world, and containing within itself every variety of climate. Although on the snow-capt summits the severest cold perpetually prevails, summer eternally reigns in the valleys and well-watered plains. The rice, too, the vine, pulse, and a variety of other productions of the vegetable kingdom, which man employs for his nutrition, are indigenous there; and those animals are found in a wild state, which man has domesticated and taken along with him over the earth;—the ox, horse, ass, sheep, goat, camel, swine, dog, cat, and even the valuable reindeer,--his only friend and companion in the icy deserts of polar countries. Zimmermann, indeed, asserts, that every one of the domesticated animals is originally from Asia. Close to Tibet, and immediately on the declivity of this great central elevation, is the charming region of Kaschemire, the lofty site of which tempers the southern heat into a perpetual spring,

The probabilities in favour of the cradle of mankind having been situated to the south of the elevated region of middle Asia are considered to be strengthened by the circumstance of the nations in the vicinity possessing a rude, meagre and imperfect language, such as might be imagined to have existed in the infancy of the human intellect and of the world. Not less than two hundred millions of people are found there, whose language appears to be nearly as simple as it must have been soon after its formation. Kaschemire, by reason of the incessant changes which it has experienced in ancient and modern times, has, indeed, kept pace with the rest of the world in the improvement of its language, but not so, apparently, with Tibetits neighbour—and with China, and the kingdoms of Ava, Pegu, Siam, Tunkin, and Cotschinschina. All these extensive countries and these alone in the known world, according to Adelung, betray the imperfection of a newly-formed or primitive language. As the earliest attempt of the child is a stammering of monosyllabic notes, so, says that eminent philologist, must have been that of the original child of nature; and the Tibetans, the Chinese, and their two neighbours to the south continue to stammer monosyllabically, as they must have been taught thousands of years ago in the infancy of their race. “ No separation of ideas into certain classes, whence arose the parts of speech in cultivated languages. The same sound which denotes joyful, signifies joy and to gladden, and this in every person, number and tense. No art, connexion, or subordinate ideas are united to the rude, monosyllabic root, thereby communicating richness, clearness and euphony to their meagre tongue. The rude, monosyllabic, radical ideas are placed perhaps broken and detached from each other, the hearer being left to supply the intermediate ideas. As the monosyllable admits of no inflection, the speaker either makes no distinction between cases and numbers, or he seeks for aid, in cases of great necessity, in circumlocution. The plural he forms, like the child, either by repetition,—tree, tree,—or by the addition of the words much or more, as tree much, tree more. I much or I more is the same to him as we."

From these and other circumstances Adelung infers, that these monosyllabic languages are primitive and the honorable ancestors of all others;⁕ that the immediate descendants of Noah originally occupied the favoured region, which has been described, and, as population increased, spread into the neighbouring districts, selecting, by preference, the near and charming regions of the south, east, and west. Hence we find in the countries immediately bordering on Tibet, the earliest formed states, and the oldest civilization. History refers us to the east, for the primordial germs of most of our ideas, arts and sciences, whence they subsequently

• This argument of Adelung is, however, more plausible perhaps than sound. It has been correctly remarked by the distinguished DuPoncead, that, in all languages, there is a strong tendency to preserve their original structure, and that from the most remote period to which the memory of man can reach, a monosyllabic language has never been known to become polysyllabic, or vice versa.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »