Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

rich man more than the poor man, insomuch as life is more desirable to those who have the means of enjoying it, than to those who through poverty are constrained to endure privations and labour almost from the cradle to the grave. Besides, if we consider that the whole of the medical and surgical skill in the country is in a great measure acquired through the minute investigation of the construction, uses, and constituents of the various organs which are engaged in carrying on our existence; and that this talent or skill so acquired is at the command of the wealthy, while the poor are comparatively left to chance ;-taking, I say, these advantages into consideration, it behoves the upper classes to make, at least, as great a sacrifice of feeling as the poor are called upon to surrender.

To effect the final settlement of this question, and at the same time provide the schools with a regular supply of subjects for dissection, I would propose that the number of bodies required by the profession be correctly ascertained, more especially as regards the annual supply for the anatomical schools in the metropolis, and also the average annual number of deaths within the bills of mortality; probably if the measure were confined to the capitals of the three kingdoms, viz. London, Dublin, and Edinburgh, it might answer all the ends required. Let us suppose in London (that within the bills) there are every year fifteen thousand deaths, and that there are one hundred and fifty bodies in demand for dis. section; then one out of every hundred who departed this life would be required. It appears from recent returns, that for every five who die six are born, increasing the population of Great Britain one thousand each day, and that since the year 1780 to 1821 the mortality has been lessened from one in forty-five to one in fifty-eight. Notwithstanding the fears of Mr. Malthus, I shall declare these great blessings the result of our improvement in the knowledge of medicine, pathology, and physiology, all aided and advanced by the dissection of the human body. To insure a continuance of this advantage to the public without violating the feelings or the rights of any class, or interfering as little as possible with the prejudices of any falsely-educated and over-fastidious individual, let the legislature enact a law that every householder (or his successor when the master dies) shall, under the forfeiture of a heavy penalty, be compelled within twenty-four hours after the demise of any person residing upon his premises to give notice of the event, and register the same at an office to be established in each parish. The parishes to be called upon in proportion to their population to supply, upon every recurring number of deaths in succession, so many bodies for dissection, without regard to persons, property, or station. This measure would render the chances so remote, that the feelings of the most timid and nervous could scarcely be disturbed upon the subject, especially as none but the officer who keeps the books could tell on whom it fell, and this not until he announced the name, till the party was dead and unconscious of the claim made upon his remains. Under a law which could not be evaded, it is most probable every body would feel an interest in endeavouring to rally each other out of their absurd prejudices; in the end tending to induce voluntary devotion of the body to such purposes, and supersede the necessity for legislative constraint. It is an ultimate result by no means improbable, that the rich as well as the poor may, at no distant day, emulate each other, and consider it an honour to be assured that their dead and inanimate flesh will be made useful to the living.

My friend the surgeon says, if people would but consider and reflect that we are almost wholly composed of the aeriform fluids or gases under peculiar circumstances of unity, in conjunction with the principle of caloric; which, although we cannot understand as forming either the materialism of our bodies, on the principle of life, yet we are assured of the fact by the process of decomposition ; and that the substances which cover the bones resolve themselves again into the same elements or simple gases from which they had their origin, leaving only a small residuum of lime or other earthy matter to occupy the space hollowed out for a grave.

It matters not, after the spirit is detached (he says) from the body, whe. ther we lie under the earth or upon it, the substance will fly off, and probably re-combine with like or the same natures, or in new combi. nations form other animate or inanimate substances, and this is all effected by the previous process of putrefaction or decomposition of the body. It would be thought that minds of nicety, and possessed of cleanly notions, would be anxious to get through the unpleasant process as speedily as possible when the subject presents itself to them, and this, all informed on the subject know, is promoted by dissection and division into parts, added to exposure to the atmospheric air. It is the interest of the living to bury the defunct as soon after dissolution as possible : the dead, if left entirely above ground, would the sooner be carried on the wings of the wind to re-supply the claims of nature, and (if in one state such a thought is worth encouraging whilst living) be the sooner resolved into our simple elements after our demise. Diogenes, the cynical philosopher, aware of this, consigned his carcass to the dogs. This was true delicacy of feeling for his remains. What mind possessed of correct ideas of genuine delicacy would covet to be hastily hurried into a grave, there to rot in the midst of heaps of corruption-corruption, too, of those who while living we passed in the street with a perfumed handkerchief applied to our noses. Faugh! we have civilized ourselves into idiotism, and are become refined asses. Only conceive one of our aldermen being in parliament, whose father was a nightman, affecting airs of refinement and delicacy, himself over-pampered, bloated, and plethoric, voting for cornlaws and 'starvation poor enactments, and Mr. Warburton's bill, which consigns the skeletons of those wretches who shall die in a workhouse to the knife, going every morning in his carriage to Mr. Abernethy for instructions how he may best with impunity eat at the next wardmote dinner an extra quart of turtle; and then conceive his making a will, setting apart a specific sum of money to be encased in a vault dug deep in the recesses of a well-secured cemetery, there to repose, and all his grossness to have the delicate privilege of undergoing a forty years rotting. O what a refinement of the human mind !-luxurious reflection while living, to anticipate a half century in a state of decomposition in company with worms.

Fierce death hath shaken thee down, and thou dost fit
Thy bed within a pit.
Night, endless night, hath got thee,
To clutch and to englut thee;
And rottenness confounds
Thy limbs and their fat rounds :
And thou art stuck there, stuck there in despite,

Like a foul animal in a trap at night. O what a sad republican rascal of a leveller is that same fellow, Death! even while I write this, I feel that I am not much better conditioned than those numbers I have stuffed into the unconscionable cor. morant's maw. He is ever craving; taking both the criminal and the judge in their turn—the saint and the sinner, the king and the beggarall blend (as the surgeon saith) after death and mix in air, their passage to which is through life and death; the first is bad enough, but the latter is the most revolting: the grave-it is a gloomy prospect! The ana. tomists and the fishes offer us a shorter course to the end than the tomb, especially if it be an hermetically sealed one, such as royalty and aris. tocratical pride are soldered in.

(To be continued.)

THE

METROPOLITAN.

SEPTEMBER, 1835.

LITERATURE.

NOTICES OF NEW WORKS.

The Philosophy of Morals; an investigation by a new and extended

Analysis of the Faculties and the Standards employed in the determination of Right and Wrong, illustrative of the principles of Theology, Jurisprudence, and General Politics. By ALEXANDER Smith, M.A. 2 Vols. Smith, Elder, and Co., Cornhill.

The first half of the first volume of this work is occupied by endeavouring to discover whether the perception of right and wrong, as regards actions, be a mere intuitive physical sensation, like hunger, or the effect of a process of the reasoning faculties—whether, in a word, there be a sixth sense—that is, the moral sense. In doing this, the author has been compelled to tilt right and left, before and behind him, with all who have ever written upon the subject, some affirming too much, some too little. For ourselves, we see no occasion for the argument, for we conceive the reasoning faculties nothing more than the sentient ones, drawn together by the aid of memory. We know an action to be right or wrong, hurtful or beneficial, not instantaneously the first time we may have witnessed such action, but by comparing it with the remembrance of some other action, or many actions. The impulse to take that which we want, if it lies before us, we cannot know, in the first instance, to be a wrong one; nor shall we know it till we are taught it is so, by the consideration of many other actions- that is, by the union of many individual sensations, which union, we generally call reason. We certainly have a moral sense, not separate from, but concomitant with, our natural ones. Mr. Smith comes to the conclusion that reason is, and reason alone, a judge of moral distinctions, which is no more than affirming, under another term, what his opponents do not deny, and denying, what they in reality do not affirm. It is, after all, only an argument on definitions. Mr. Smith then proceeds, “ I am fully aware that the whole hinge on which my argument turns is this, that there is something, be it what it will, immutable in moral truth. This I am forced to assume, prove it I cannot. Grant this

-and all I contend for will follow,-deny this, and, indeed, the whole argument will fall to the ground.” Ay, there's the rub! Grant this. What! that truth is truth. Yes, it will be immutable enough ; but the great question is, what is this moral truth? It avails us nothing to as.

Sept. 1835.-VOL. XIV.--NO. LUI.

sert, that if we discover truth, it must be true. Give us one abstract truth as regards morality, which, being offered for the first time to the mind, we shall acknowledge it with as little hesitation as we do that two and two make four, and then we shall get on. But why does the talented author descend to beg the question, when we think a path so much more noble lies open before him? In another part of the book the learned author draws a parallel between geometrical and moral truths, and asserts that they are equally self-evident and irrefutable. This, we humbly conceive, is not so. “All the dogmatical assertions about morals, as "the action which produces fit effects is obligatory,” &c., still leave the first principle unproved—what is fit? It is no more than saying, if we could find the truths, that it is obligatory to use them. So far are moral axioms conventional, therefore not only not immutable, but very mutable indeed, that the act so generally abhorrent as homicide, is, after all, merely what the existing laws and feelings of the community, or of the individual, may make it. The killing of a man would not be criminal in the mind of the provoked and untutored savage-the duellist often thinks his slaying to be meritorious, the warrior always-yet, in all these perpetrations, the mischief is actually the same to the sufferer. We have only two things to hold by, the law of God, and the national law. These are quite sufficient to give us the discriminating moral perception. The first is certainly and unconditionally true; the second must be held to be true as regards logcal society, and together these give us sufficient of the moral sentiment, without seeking for that which does not exist out of the word of God-a fundamental, abstract, immutable, moral truth. After all, the word morality means only such a right direction of our conduct as shall be pleasing to God, and productive of the greatest possible degree of happiness to man. The Almighty has pointed out in the revelation, that he has so graciously vouchsafed to us, all the essentials to this - the va. riety and mutable accessories will always be as varying and mutable as the circumstances of man himself. After the reader has waded through the metaphysics of these volumes, which, the less he endeavours to com. prehend, will be perhaps the better for him, he will find every thing smooth and pleasant before him.. No man can read the latter portions without becoming wiser or better, excepting the principle of improvement be utterly obliterated by obstinacy or infidelity. The style of this work is extremely lucid, the author is never mistaken in the meaning which he wishes to convey, though he is often forced to confess he cannot carry his reasoning sufficiently far. This publication would be valuable for no other reason than that of its removing so many errors propagated by names that have become respectable, and even authorities, in ethics. We wish that time had been afforded us to read this work twice, and to have made a longer commentary upon it. But we can only say, if we have not acted up to our impression of what the work deserves, that our miscellany is not a review, but a magazine.

Rosamund Gray; Recollections of Christ's Hospital, fc. fc. By

CHARLES LAMB, Author of the “ Essays of Elia.” Edward Moxon, Dover Street.

The most opulent among us would hail with heart-warm feelings of gratitude that person, who should discover to us that we possessed unknowingly a great and a secret treasure. If such would be the reward of him who could give us the possession of sordid gold, how ought we to honour the memory of the man, who, with the master key of the human mind in his hand, discloses to us the unsuspected wealth of our own bosoms? We never rose from the perusal of any of this author's works without feeling our characters elevated, and acknowledging some rich

[ocr errors]

ness in the nature that we enjoy in common with the rest of our species, of which we were before unconscious. He furnishes us not only with new thoughts, but with new capabilities of thought. He points out to us not only that which is within our reach, and that is glorious to obtain, but tempts us on lovingly to go even beyond it. We are sure that Elia's much wisdom was taught him by the spirit of universal love. He sits down cheerfully to warm our hearts by the philanthropic and pure fire of his own, and we find, in the joyous and tender process, our minds enlightened also. We said to ourselves, retiring into our inmost study, for the first reading of Elia's work should always be alone, “ Come, we will give up ourselves to the best feeling of our nature, for we hold another book of Lamb's,” and we read “ Rosamund Gray.” As we expected, the intensity of our emotion, great as it was, was nothing to the new sources of light and joy the narrative opened to us, although in its nature deeply pathetic. The paths of affection and the kindly feelings lead us to a sweet consciousness of the innate nobility of the soul, and go far to prove its immortality. “The Recollections of Christ's Hospital,” are just enough tinged with the esprit du corps, to make us at once smile at and love the earnestness with which he advocates the noble establish. ment that first ushered him through the awful portals of learning. They are remembrances full of the finest associations. - The Essays on the Tragedies of Shakspeare” are bold and subtle disquisitions. They place the actor on his proper level. We can conceive that few persons could exceed the possession of mental enjoyment that was the lot of “ Elia,” when bathing his spirit in the ethereal stream of Shakspeare's poetry. The poet and the commentator were kindred spirits. The former deserved no listener less spiritualized and exalted than the latter, the latter was well worthy to be soothed, exalted, and rapt, by such a poet as the former. However, we hope the time will never arrive that shall see Shakspeare's plays banished from the stage, mar them as it does. Let us give the groundlings” all that they are capable of receiving. If Mr. A. never can personate Hamlet, or Mrs. B. Lady Macbeth, they can approximate, and that is, at least, one step towards the elevation of mind we wish to see the property of all classes who write themselves English. We think the Essay on “ the genius of Hogarth” one of the most masterly of Charles Lamb's productions. He nobly vindicates the original and farseeing painter from the imputation of being low-low, that word so often in the mouths of the emptiest of the creation. If intellect be the scale by which we measure man's loftiness, there are but few who will take precedence of Hogarth; they only are truly low, who, buried in the mire of selfishness, cannot appreciate the grandeur of thought. « Elia” has beautifully displayed to us the sublimity of some of those scenes, that my Lord Orford, Mr. Barry, and others of the well-dressed class, have pronounced as “ so very low." We do not think that the various papers reprinted from the “Reflector" in this volume, enhance, though they do not deteriorate from, the author's reputation. The “ Farce in Two Acts” is decidedly indifferent. The public taste is generally in the right. The audience showed much discrimination in damning it. There is in the farce no one character or incident to which we can ally even our humorous sympathies. The plot is unnatural, the characters are vapid, and the dialogue Joe-Millerized. Is it quite certain that Charles Lamb, the veritable, quaint, original Charles, the author of the “ Essays of Elia” is the author of this farce? Is it not a Lamb of another flock? Some plagiary wolf in Lamb's clothing? Be it as it may, our admiration of “ Elia” will not dazzle us into panegyric of that which me really find blameable. In conclusion, we must say that it will be long before we again meet with a look that we shall read with such a mingled web of emotion, in which pleasure, regret, and a thousand sweet and bitter feel. ings, are so intimately twisted together.

« AnteriorContinuar »