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OF INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AMONGST MANKIND.
The differences, which we observe amongst the individuals of the great human family, are as numerous as the individuals themselves; but this dissimilarity is not confined to man or to the animal kingdom; the vegetable exhibits the same; for whilst we can readily refer any plant to the species and variety to which it may have been assigned by the botanist, accurate inspection shows us, that, in the precise arrangement of the stalk, branches, leaves, or flowers, no two are exactly alike. We shall not, however, dwell on these trifling points of difference, but restrict ourselves to the broad lines of distinction, that can be easily observed, and an attention to which is of some moment to the physician. Such are the temperaments, constitutions, idiosyncrasies, acquired differences, and the varieties of the human species or the different races of mankind. Of these, the last belongs especially to the natural historian, and consequently will be but briefly noticed.
Sect. I. Of the Temperaments.
The temperaments are defined to be,—those individual differences, which consist in such disproportion of parts, as regards volume and activity, as to sensibly modify the whole organism, but without interfering with the health. The temperament is, consequently, a physiological condition, in which the action of the different functions is so tempered as to communicate certain characteristics, which may be referable to one of a few divisions. These divisions are by no means the same in all physiological treatises. The ancients generally admitted four,—denominated from the respective fluids or humours, the superabundance of which in the economy was supposed to produce them;—the sanguineous, caused by a surplus of blood; the bilious or choleric, produced by a surplus of yellow bile; the phlegmatic, caused by a surplus of phlegm, lymph, or fine watery fluid, derived from the brain; and the atrabiliary or melancholic, produced by a surplus of black bile,—the supposed secretion of the atrabiliary capsules and spleen.
This division was continued for ages without modification, and still prevails, with one or more additional genera. The epithets have been retained in popular language without our being aware of their parentage. For example, we speak of a sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, or melancholic individual or turn of mind, with precisely the acceptation given to them by the Hippocratic school,—the possessors of these tem
peraments being presumed to be, respectively, full of high hope and buoyancy; naturally irascible, dull and sluggish; or gloomy and lowspirited. Metzger admits only two, the irritable, (reizbare,) and the dull or phlegmatic, (träge.) Wrisberg eight,—the sanguine, sanguineo-choleric, choleric, hypochondriac, melancholic, bœotian, meek, (sanftmüthige,) and the dull or phlegmatic. Rudolphi also eight,—the strong or normal, the rude, athletic or bœotian, the lively, the restless, the meek, the phlegmatic or dull, the timorous, and the melancholic;—whilst Broussais enumerates the gastric, bilious, sanguine, lymphalico-sanguineous, anemic, nervous, bilioso-sanguine, nervoso-sanguine, and melancholic.
It is obvious, that if we were to apply an epithet to the possible modifications, caused by every apparatus of organs, the number might be extended much beyond any of these. Perhaps the division most generally adopted is that embraced by Richerand, who has embodied considerable animation, with much that is fanciful, in his description. In this division, the ancient terms have been retained, whilst the erroneous physiological basis, on which they rested, has been discarded. A short account of these temperaments is necessary, rather for the purpose of exhibiting what has been and is still thought by many physiologists, than for attesting the reality of many of the notions that are mixed up with the subject. With this view, the temperaments may be divided into the sanguine, the bilious or choleric, the melancholic, the phlegmatic, and the nervous.
1. The sanguine temperament. This is supposed to be dependent upon a predominance of the circulatory system; and hence is considered to be characterized by strong, frequent, and regular pulse; ruddy complexion; animated countenance; good shape, although distinctly marked; firm flesh; light hair; fair skin; blue eyes; great nervous susceptibility, attended with rapid successibilité, as the French term it; that is,—facility of being impressed by external objects and of passing rapidly from one idea to another; quick conception; ready memory; lively imagination; addicted to the pleasures of the table; and amorous. The diseases of the temperament are generally violent; and are chiefly seated in the circulatory system,—as fever, inflammations and hemorrhages.
The physical traits of this temperament, according to Richerand, are to be found in the statues of Antinous and the Apollo Belvidere: the moral physiognomy is depicted in the lives of Mark Antony and Alcibiades. In Bacchus, both the forms and the character are found; and no one, in modern times, in M. Richerand's opinion, can be found to exhibit a more perfect model of it than the celebrated Duke De Richelieu;—amiable, fortunate and valorous, but light and inconstant to the termination of his brilliant career.
If individuals of this temperament apply themselves to labours of any kind that cause the muscles to be greatly exerted, these
organs become largely developed, and a subdivison of the sanguine temperament is formed, which has been called the muscular or athletic. This is characterized by all the outward signs of strength; the head is small; the neck strong; the shoulders broad; the chest large; the hips solid; the muscles prominent, and the interstices well marked. The joints, and parts not covered with muscles, seem small; and the tendons are easily distinguished through the skin, by their prominence. The susceptibility to external impressions is not great; the individual is not easily roused; but when he is, he is almost indomitable. A combination of the physical powers, implied by this temperament, with strong intellect, is rarely met with.
The Farnesian Hercules is conceived to offer one of the best specimens of the physical attributes of the athletic temperament.
2. The bilious or choleric temperament. This is presumed to be produced by a predominance of the liver and biliary organs in general. The pulse is strong, hard, and frequent; the subcutaneous veins are prominent; the skin is of a brown colour, inclining to yellow; hair dark; body moderately fleshy; muscles firm and well-marked: the passions violent, and easily excited; the temper abrupt and impetuous; great firmness and inflexibility of character; boldness in the conception of projects, and untiring perseverance in their fulfilment. It is amongst the possessors of this temperament that the greatest virtues and the greatest crimes are met with. Richerand enumerates ALEXANDER, JULIUS CESAR, BRUTUS, MAHOMET, CHARLESXII, Peter the Great, CROMWELL, SEXTUSV, and the Cardinal Richelieu. To these Good has added, Attila, Charlemagne, Tamerlane, Richard III, Nadir Shah, and Napoleon.
The moral faculties are early developed; so that vast enterprises may be conceived and executed at an age when the mind is ordinarily far from being matured. The diseases are generally combined with more or less derangement of the hepatic system. The whole of the characters, however, indicate that an excited state of the sanguiferous system accompanies that of the biliary organs; so that the epithet—cholerico-sanguine—might, with more propriety, be applied to it. Where this vascular predominance does not exist, whilst derangement is present in some of the abdominal organs, or in the nervous system, we have the next genus produced.
3. Melancholic or atrabilious temperament. Here the vital functions are feebly or irregularly performed; the skin assumes a deeper hue; the countenance is sallow and sad; the bowels are torpid, and all the excretions tardy; the pulse is hard and habitually contracted; the imagination is gloomy, and the temper suspicious. The characters of Tiberius and of Louis XI, are considered to be instances of the predominance of this temperament; and, in addition to these, Richerand has enumerated TASSO, PASCAL, GILBERT, ZIMMERMANN, and JEAN JACQUES Rousseau.
4. The phlegmatic, lymphatic or pituitous temperament. In this case, the proportion of the fluids is conceived to be too great for that of the solids; the secretory system appearing to be active, whilst the absorbent system does not act so energetically as to prevent the cellular texture from being filled with the humours. The characteristics of this temperament are:—soft flesh; pale skin; fair hair; weak, slow and soft pulse; figure rounded, but inexpressive; the vital actions more or less languid; the memory by no means tenacious, and the attention vacillating; with aversion to both mental and corporeal exertion.
Pomponius Atticus—the friend of Cicero—is offered as an example of this temperament, in ancient times; Montaigne in more recent history. The latter, however, possessed much of the nervous susceptibility that characterizes the more lively temperaments. Dr. Good suggests the Emperor Theodosius as an example in earnes; and Charles IV, of Spain,—who resigned himself almost wholly into the hands of Godoy;—Augustus, King of Saxony, who equally resigned himself into the hands of Napoleon,—and Ferdinand of Sicily, who surrendered for a time the government of his people to the British,—as instances in our own day. It would not be difficult to find, amongst the crowned heads of Europe, others that are equally entitled to be placed amongst these worthies.
5. The nervous temperament. Here the nervous system is greatly predominant; the susceptibility to excitement from external impressions being unusually developed. Like the melancholic temperament, this is, however, seldom natural or primitive. It is morbid or secondary, being induced by sedentary life, sexual indulgence, or morbid excitement of the imagination, from any cause. It is characterized by small, soft, and, as it were, wasted muscles; and generally, although not always, by a slender form; great vividness of sensation; and promptitude and fickleness of resolution and judgment. This temperament is frequently combined with some of the others. The diseases, that are chiefly incident to it, are of the hysterical and convulsive kind; or those to which the epithet nervous is usually appropriated. Voltaire, and Frederick the Great are given by Richerand as examples of this tempera
Such are the temperaments, described by most writers. The slightest attention to their reputed characteristics will show the imperfection of their definition and demarcation; so imperfect, indeed, that it is extremely rare for us to meet with an individual, whom we could unhesitatingly refer to any one of them. They are also susceptible of important modifications by climate, education, &c., and may be so combined as to constitute innumerable shades. The man of the strongest sanguine characteristics may, by misfortune, assume all those that are looked upon as the indexes of the melancholic or atrabilious; and the activity and impetuosity of the bilious tempera
ment, may, by slothful indulgence, be converted into the lymphatic or phlegmatic. It is doubtful, and more than doubtful, also, whether any of the mental characteristics, assigned to the temperaments, are dependent upon them. The brain, we have elsewhere seen, is the organ of the mental and moral manifestations; and although we may look upon the temperaments as capable of modifying its activity, they cannot probably affect the degree of perfection of the intellect;—its strength being altogether dependent upon cerebral conformation. It is even doubtful whether the temperaments can interfere with the activity of the cerebral functions. In disease of the hepatic, gastric or other viscera we certainly see a degree of mental depression and diminished power of the whole nervous system; but this is the effect of a morbid condition, and continues only so long as such morbid condition endures. Nor is it probable, that any predominance of the nutritive functions could induce a permanent influence on the cerebral manifestations. Whatever might be the effect for a while, the nervous system would ultimately resume the ordinary action which befitted its primitive organization. Similar arguments to those have induced M. Georget, a young physician of great promise and experience in mental affections, now no more,—to consider the whole doctrine of the temperaments as a superstition connected with the humoral pathology, and to believe, that the brain alone, amongst the organs, has the power, by reason of its predominance or inferiority, to modify the whole economy.
That a difference of organization exists in different individuals is obvious; it is upon this that differences in constitution are dependent; but that there is an arrangement of the nutritive organs or apparatuses, which impresses upon individuals all those mental and other modifications known under the name of temperaments, is, we think, sufficiently doubtful.
The constitution of an individual is the mode of organization proper to him. A man, for example, is said to have a robust, or a delicate, or a good, or a bad constitution, when he is apparently strong or feeble, usually in good health, or liable to frequent attacks of disease. The varieties in constitution are, therefore, as numerous as the individuals themselves. A strong constitution is considered to be dependent upon the due development of the principal organs of the body, on a happy proportion between those organs, and on a fit state of energy of the nervous system; whilst the feeble or weak constitution results from a want of these postulates. Our knowledge, however, of these topics, is extremely limited, and concerns the pathologist more than the physiologist.
Sect. II.—Of Idiosyncrasy.
The word idiosyncrasy is used, by many physiologists, synonyVOL. II.