unwearied perseverance, than to any natural abilities. His own letter affords sufficient evidence of this fact. Still, there are some conditions in his organisation which are calculated to favour, decidedly, mental pursuits, and could not fail to have important bear. ings on the course and character of any individual.

His temperament is nervous bilious, creating a greater fondness for mental, than for physical exercise. His constitution is very strong and vigorous, giving great powers of application and endurance. His head appears to be considerably above the average size, and, as indicated by the cut, is very fully developed in the anterior region. The reader will perceive, by the cut, how great the distance is from the ear to the forehead-particularly to the organs of Individuality and Comparison. The anterior lobes of the brain (which are the seat of the intellectual faculties) are decidedly large, compared with the middle and posterior lobes. The organs of the perceptive faculties, as a class, are remarkably developed. And it is these faculties, with Eventuality and Comparison, which have so distinguished him as a scholar in the acquisition of languages. The organ of Language may have its influence, but this faculty aids more essentially in learning by conversation to speak a foreign language, than by study to translate merely its meaning from books. Comparison, Eventuality, Individuality, Form, and Size, are the most important faculties concerned in the study of different languages ; and all these Mr. Burritt possesses, very strongly developed. The cut also shows a very large organ of Firmness, and rather deficient Self-esteem, which explains his extreme diffidence and modesty as manifested in his letter. The organs of Benevolence and Veneration appear also very large. We would state, that the above cut is drawn from a plaster bust, which was taken from the living head, and is therefore a correct representation of the same.

The following correspondence, respecting the history and attain. ments of Mr. B. appeared first in the Southern Literary Messenger, and we present it entire, as it will explain the particulars on the subject better than any statements of our own can do. We may have occasion to refer to this case again at some future time :

We invite the attention of the public to the subjoined communication of Dr. Nelson, of this city, accompanied by a letter to him from Mr. Burritt, already distinguished by Governor Everett as the learned blacksmith of Massachusetts. Mr. Burritt's extraordinary acquirements, under the peculiar circumstances of bis life, are only equalled by the modesty with which he shrinks from notoriety. We doubt whether there is a parallel instance on record of the same application to mental improvement, under such striking disadvantages. The most learned linguist now living, we believe, is Mezzofanti, the Professor of Oriental Languages in the University of Bologna, Italy. He is said to speak and write fluently, eighteen ancient and modern languages, and twenty-iwo different dialects of Europe; but Mezzofanti has not been obliged to labour one-third of his time at the anvil for subsistence. Lord Byron said of him-"He is a monster of languages—the Briareus of parts of speech-a walking polyglot; and one who ought to have existed at the lime of the lower of Babel, as universal interpreter.” What would Lord Byron have said to the self-taught Massachusetts linguist, whose wonderful acquisitions have been treasured up amid toil and poverty, and in those intervals which are usually devoted to repose or recreation ? If any of our readers should be incredulous in this matter, we need only refer them to the address of Governor Everett, and also to the personal testimony and observation of Dr. Nelson, of whom it may be said that Do declaration of ours is necessary to entitle his statement to the fullest confidence.-Ed. Messenger.

To the Editor of the Southern Literary Messenger. With a few friends, wbo have seen the following communication, I entirely concur in the opinion that it ought to be given to the public. It is a brilliant, an unsurpassed example of what may be achieved by persevering application to study. To all persons, especially to the young mechanics of our country, it may prove a beacon of light to guide them to higher destinies, by a diligent improvement of their "little fragments of time."

Of the verity of the statement made by the writer, there cannot be a doubt. In the summer of 1838, Governor Everett, of Massachusetts, in an address to an association of mechanics in Boston, took occasion to mention that a blacksmith of that state had, by_bis unaided industry, made himself acquainted with fifty languages. In July of the following year, I was passing through Worcester, the place of his present residence, and gratified my curiosity by calling to see him. Like any other son of Vulcan, Mr. Burritt was at his apvil. I introduced myself to him, observing that I had read with great pleasure, and with unfeigned astonishment, an account of him by the governor of his state, which had induced me to take the liberty of paying him a visit. He very modestly replied that the governor had done him more than justice. It was true, he said, that he could read about fifty languages, but he had not studied them all critically: Yankee curiosity had induced bim to look at the Latin grammar; he became interested in it, persevered, and finally acquired a thorough knowledge of that language. He then studied the Greek with equal care. A perfect acquaintance with these languages had enabled him to read with facility the Italian, the French, the Spanish, and the Portuguese. The Russian, to which he was then devoting his "odd moments," he said, was the most difficult of any he had undertaken.

I expressed my surprise at his youthful appearance. He informed me he was but twenty-seven years of age-10 which statement I gave ready credence; that he had been constantly engaged at his trade from boyhood to that hour, and that his education, previous to his apprenticeship, had been very slender.

Mr. Burritt removed from a village near Hartford, in Connecticut, where he was born, and where he learned his trade, to Worcester, tó enjoy the benefit of an antiquarian library, stored with rare books, lo which the trustees gave him daily access. “Yes, sir," said he, “ I now have the key to that library," showing it as if it were the most precious jewel, the real key to knowledge, "and there I go every day, and study


eight hours. I work eight hours, and the other eight I am obliged 10 devote to animal comforts and repose.”

The stage drove up, and I most reluctantly left him, exacting, however, a promise that he would write me some account of himself-of his past and present studies.

The following is the first, but not the only letter which he has done me the favour to write. I have assurance that Mr. Burritt would not be so false to his professions as to object to its publicity. But I am equally well assured that it will give him more pain than pleasure.

Ta. Nelson. Richmond, Feb. 4th, 1840.

WORCESTER, Dec. 10th, 1839. Dear Sir,-I sit down to write to you under a lively apprehension that you will accept of no apology that I can make for my long silence. Bul before you impute to me indifference or neglect, I beg you, my dear sir, to consider the peculiar nature of my occupations—to reflect that my time is not at my disposal, and that my leisure moments are such as I can steal away from the hours which my arduous manual labours would incline me to allow to repose. I deferred writing some time, thinking lo address you a letter on your return from the Springs; but the nature of my business became such in the fall, that I was compelled to labour both night and day up to the present time, which is the first leisure hour that I have had for several months. I cannot but be gratefully affected by the benevolent interest which you manifest in my pursuits, both in our interview in Worcester, and in the letter for which I am indebted to your courtesy and kind consideration. I thank you most cordially for those expressions of good-will. They are peculiarly gratifying-coming as they do from one whose personal acquaintance I have not lung had the means and pleasure of enjoying; a fact which proves, I fear, that I have been thrust before the world very immaturely. An accidental allusion to my history and pursuits, which I made, unthinkingly, in a letter to a friend, was, 10 my unspeakable surprise, brought before the public as a rather ostentatious debut on my part to the world; and I find myself involved in a species of notoriety, not at all in consonance with my feelings. Those who have been acquainted with my character, from my youth up, will give me credit for sincerity, when I say, that it never entered my heart to blazon forth any acquisition of my own. I had, until the unfortunate denoument which I have mentioned, pursued the even tenor of my way unnoticed, even among iny brethren and kindred. None of them ever thought that I had any particular genius, as it is called; I never thought so mysell. All that I have accomplished, or expect or hope to accomplish, bas been, and will be, by that plodding, patient, persevering process of accretion which builds the ant-heapparticle by particle, thought by thought, fact by fact. And if I ever was actuated hy ambition, its highest and farthest'aspiration reached no farther than the hope to set before the young men of my country an example in employing those fragments of time called "odd moments." And, sir, I should esteem it an honour of cosilier water than the tiara encircling a monarch's brow, if my future activity and attainments should encourage American working-men to be proud and jealous of the credentials which God has given them to every eminence and immunity in the empire of mind. These are the views and sentiments with which I have sat down, night by night, for years, with blistered hands and brightening hope, toʻstudies which I hoped might be serviceable to


that class of community to which I am proud to belong. This is my ambition. This is the goal of my aspirations. But not only the prize, but the whole course lies before me-perhaps beyond my reach. “I count myself not yet to have attained” to any thing worihy of public notice or private mention; what I may do, is for Providence to determine.

As you expressed a desire in your letter for some account of my past and present pursuits, I shall hope to gratify you on this point, and also rectify a misapprehension which you, with many others, may have entertained of my acquirements. With regard to my attention to the languages, a study of which I am not so fond as of mathematics, I have tried, by a kind of practical and philosophical process, to contract such a familiar acquaintance with the head of a family of languages as to introduce me to the other members of the same family. Thus, studying the Hebrew very critically, I became readily acquainted with its cognate languages, among the principal of which are the Syriac, Chaldaic, Arabic, Samaritan, Ethiopic, &c. The languages of Europe occupied my attention immediately after I had finished my classics; and I studied French, Spanish, Italian, and German, under native teachers. Afterwards, I pursued the Portuguese, Flemish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Welsh, Gælic, Celtic. I then ventured on further east into the Russian empire; and the Sclavonic opened to me about a dozen of the languages spoken in that vast domain, between which the affinity is as marked as that between the Spanish and Portuguese. Besides those, I have attended to many different European dialects still in vogue. I am now trying to push on eastward as fast as my means will permit

, hoping to discover still farther analogies, among the oriental languages, which will assist my progress. I must now close this basty, though long letter, with the assurances of my most sincere respect and esteem.

ELIAU BURRITT. To Th. Nelson, M. D.



The reception of phrenology by the generation which witnessed its discovery, forms an interesting object of contemplation. Old and young, grave and gay, learned and unlearned, almost unanimously treated it with derision. Nevertheless, they could not themselves rely on the judgment of condemnation, which they had so confidently pronounced. In their opposition, a pertinacity of hatred and a depth of vituperation appeared, never excited by a trivial subject, or mani. fested where the mind is at ease as to its own opinions. Phrenology carried with it a weight of reason, and an array of facts, that made

* From the 19th number of the Edinburgh Phrenological Journal.

a deep impression on reflecting men, even while they publicly scoffed; and we appeal to the consciousness of many, whether in their inward thoughts the idea did not more frequently present itself, that “this doctrine may be true,” than they had courage to avow?

In a few years, when the truth of the science shall have ceased to be a subject of debate, the envious will endeavour to detract from its importance, by asserting that it communicated no information which mankind did not previously possess : but the phrenologist will point to the pages of wit, argument, and ridicule, directed against it by Jeffrey, Dugald Stewart, Gordon, Roget, and other men of undoubted talent and information, and ask, how could doctrines be familiar to an age whose leaders, on their appearance, were affected with the asto. nishment and scorn manifested by these individuals ? Of thousands, however, who are now convinced by observation of the truth of phrenology, there are few who have formed an adequate conception of its consequences. It appears to us, after the most sober and sedulous reflection, that no effort of human genius, which the world has yet seen, carries in its trains results of such magnitude as the discovery of Dr. Gall; and we shall endeavour briefly to unfold the grounds on which we entertain this opinion.

In surveying the external world, we discover that every creature, and every physical object, has received a definite constitution, and been placed in certain relations to other objects. The natural evidence of a Deity and his attributes is drawn from contemplating these arrangements. Intelligence, wisdom, benevolence, and power, characterise the works of creation; and the human mind ascends by a chain of correct and rigid induction to a great first cause, in whom these qualities must reside. But we fear that hitherto this great truth has rather excited a sublime but barren admiration, than led to beneficial practical results. Men have long been convinced, by their intellects, that God governs the world, and their moral senti. ments have exulted and rejoiced in the contemplation of his attributes; but so little has been understood philosophically of the prin. ciples of his moral government, that in secular affairs his sway has been in a great measure treated as a phantom. When God is called upon by men, a common expectation is, that he will exert some secret divine influence, or make some special exceptions from general rules, to aid them in their designs; and only the reflecting few have conceived of him as the great Architect of the Universe, who has created all things, bestowed on them a constitution, and established among them definite physical, moral, and religious relations, by acting in accordance with which, sentient beings are assisted, cherished, and benefited, while they are rendered miserable

« VorigeDoorgaan »