Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

ities except their musical pitch. As to the vowel sounds, the articulations, the timbre and qualities in the human voice which gives it pathos and character, I found myself a quick observer. I had frequently been struck with the difficulty of making a person hear whose attention was not already fixed upon the person hailing him, and I knew that in my own case no such difficulty existed, but that on the contrary it was impossible for me to avoid hearing any conversation that was audible, whether in the room or on the street, no matter how I might be engaged. Phrenology offered me no explanation of these differences, as it did not pretend to recognize in the brain any special organs for the external senses or for the perception of sound. But since men possess, and possess in very different degrees, the power of perceiving sound and an innumerable variety of its qualities besides those which constitute music, we are bound to seek in the brain the locality in which this function is performed. To suppose this the function of the auditory nerve, would be contrary to physiology and indeed ridiculous; as well might we suppose the eye alone capable of conceiving objects and events because they are perceived by the instrumentality of the eye. The external senses are but the means by which the brain receives the impressions of external objects. Consciousness exists only in the cephalic hemispheres, for whatever is transacted out of them, is absolutely unknown until the impression is transmitted by some nervous cord to the brain. Even Dr. Roget would sneer at the supposition that hearing was merely a function of the auditory nerve.

Looking then to the brain for the most appropriate seat of the auditory function, we would of course look to the perceptive range of the intellectual organs. In this we find but one place appropriate to the purpose—the organ to which is already assigned a similar function—the organ of Tune. Without controverting the opinion of Gall and Spurzheim, we may well suppose that the musical faculty which they assigned to this organ, is but a small part of its functions.

Induced thus to suppose the perception of sound in general the real function of the organ of Tune, I found my conclusions uniformly sustained by the observation of nature. In my own case it was peculiarly satisfactory. The auditory had always been my nost vigorous perceptive faculty. However I might have been unconscious of objects or persons in my presence, I never failed to recognize their movements when they produced any sound, and never found it possible to be unconscious of the language uttered in my presence. Impressions on the ear were even more effective and more permanent than those on the eye. The sound of the voice or the sound of a name would be remembered when the recollection of the countenance had faded. The sound always

a

made a stronger impression on the feelings than sight; the cry of fire through the streets of a city, or the ringing of the alarm bell, had a thrilling influence on the feelings, which beholding the most extensive conflagration would not produce. The sound of the human voice under excitement, was much more interesting and exciting than the sight of the countenance. The voice indeed seemed to be far more effective in revealing the character; it seemed to be a positive and distinct embodyment of the whole character—the very presence of the soul-compared to which, the countenance seemed a foreign or mechanical appendage. Keenly appreciating sound as a medium of thought, feeling and eloquence, I found infinitely variable pleasure derivable from the human voice. Unable to appreciate the higher order of scientific music or the opera, I found pleasure in the simplest airs, and listened with rapture to the loud and animated songs of Methodist meetings, and with vivid pleasure to the simple music with which our negroes enliven their toils. The sounds of Nature were more interesting than her spectacles. The thunder was a more imposing phenomenon than the lightning's flashand the sound of the breeze booming through the forest, conveyed more majestic ideas than the forest itself, or the wildest scenery of nature.

From the vigor of this faculty, it sought abundant gratification, and silence was painful. The amount of noise which was a vexation to others, was generally a pleasure to me. In the log cabin schools of the

' West at an early period, it was often the custom of the scholars to learn their lessons aloud; each one reading or spelling in a loud voice for his own benefit, so that at times you might hear the school at the distance of half a mile-some twenty or thirty voices rattling through their lessons at full speed. This I found very agreeable; the confusion of sound filled the ear agreeably, and it was impossible for any voice to be so distinct as to fix the attention. This Babel of sound served as effectually as stopping the ears to keep off all interruptions of the attention. But when I found myself in a school where strict silence of the pupils was enforced, the silence itself was an embarrassment, and when the teacher or one of the pupils spoke, my attention was rivetted upon the one speaking. If I sought solitude or closed the ear, the faculty became so excited as to compel attention to the faintest sounds that could be perceived. On all occasions, the ear snatched attention from the eye, and so superior was it as an avenue to the mind, that the most admirable book was less instructive than a conversation or lecture, and made a much less permanent impression. So much was this the case, that I recollected for years the names and the conversation of persons, who might pass me a few months after our interview, entirely unrecognized.

a

The very opposite of these peculiarities was much more common. Bishop Smith, of Ky., once remarked to me that he had been a thousand times thrilled through every fibre of his frame by impressions on the eye to one by impressions on the ear. In him the oculo-perceptive organs were remarkably large, so as to produce a fondness for the physical sciences, natural history, architecture, &c., but the organs of Tune and Language were as remarkably small. The general superiority of the eye over the ear as the avenue of knowledge, is shown in the different degrees of attention received by a speaker who addresses the ear alone, and one who also gives to his audience an animated countenance and gestures, or a display of specimens, the subjects of his address. The lecturer upon anatomy, experimental chemistry, or practical craniology, receives a more general and pleasing attention than those who speak only to the intellect and upon subjects that do not admit of ocular illustration. In all medical classes there are some who learn better from the book than from their professor, who are very imperfect in answering questions as to what the speaker said, but very correct in all the knowledge they have gained from authors. There are others who with very slight attention are enabled to note down or to retain in the mind all that the professor utters, and who greatly prefer learning from him to studying books. I have uniformly observed that in the former the oculo-perceptive organs were large, and the organ of auricular perception moderate, while in the class of those who learn best by listening, the reverse was true. I have sometimes found gentlemen (in whom the auricular overruled the ocular developement) sitting before me and giving close attention, without looking at either myself or my means of illustrationwho would prefer instead of examining a skull for themselves, to listen to my description of it, and who seemed to retain my remarks and catch my meaning even better than those who looked most earnestly. I easily discover in a class, whose attention I can command by the voice, and whom I must instruct through the eye; in this respect, the developements indicating auricular and ocular perception have never yet deceived me.

A knowledge of these principles leads to many important results, which I have had the opportunity of verifying. I have observed the men who pronounce the English language badly, are generally defective in the organ of sound, and I have often been struck with the fine delivery of those in whom the organ was large, with large Language. I had the pleasure of being acquainted with a fine old French gentleman of Louisiana, in whom the organs of Sound and Language were remarkably large, as well as all the perceptive organs; so pleasing and distinct was

a

his enunciation, that it almost seemed as if I was listening to my native tongue. This propriety and elegance in the enunciation of language, is not dependant on education alone. The most profound scholars have frequently an imperfect elocution, while we see uneducated men and women of limited opportunities catching by ear from society a just and beautiful pronunciation. That delicately distinct and beautiful delivery in which countless inflexions of the voice mark not only the feelings of the speaker, but even the tendency and construction of his ideas, is found only in those who possess these organs in fine developement. It is in the voice that the mind and character of the speaker display their most delicate peculiarities

that we perceive the accuracy or vagueness of his ideas, the strength of his conviction and the peculiar bearing of each sentence or clause from which we infer the meaning. In the voice

“ The forms of thought blend with the hues of feeling," and through this delicate, expressive medium we establish the most perfect sympathy with the intellectual and affective nature of the speaker. The orator possessing these organs, is able to convey through his tones a great deal that cannot possibly be conveyed by words. The finest specimens of this developement are in the heads of Garrick, Whitfield and Bourdaloue. I have never known an orator deficient in the developement, to give his voice much variety and beauty.

The remarks which we have made as to learning by different methods, are peculiarly applicable to the study of languages. The study of the living languages, especially when we learn them by conversation or dictation, requires a great deal more of the auricular power than that of the dead languages, which, being acquired from books, and presenting less difficulty of pronunciation, are learned chiefly by the use of the eye and the understanding. The large developement of Tune and Language which is so common in the negroes, qualifies them well to acquire a language by the ear.

Hence it has often been remarked in Louisiana, that when a stranger arrives with his slave, the latter by mixing with the creole negroes, learns to speak the French language first, and becomes interpreter for his master. In like manner we find that in schools some of the boys while engaged in their English studies, have mastered the declensions and conjugations of the Latin, by being in the room while the Latin classes are reciting. Every teacher knows that some boys instead of hearing the recitation of other classes, scarcely hear their own names when called out. A great deficiency of the auricular developement will thus produce a species of absence of mind; upon such phenomena we may throw some light.

VOL. III.-21.

a

ARTICLE IV.

PHRENOLOGY IN GERMANY. In the last number of the Edinburgh Phrenological Journal, we find an interesting sketch of the progress of Phrenology in Germany, in a letter addressed to Mr. Geo. Combe, by R. R. Noel, Esq., who has been a resident of that country for several years. We make the following quotation from Mr. Noel's communication :

As, in every German state, the scientific and learned men look up prineipally to the court for patronage and honors, it was fortunate for Phrenology that the present king of Saxony, and his learned brother Prince John, took much interest in it, from the moment of my first arrival in Dresden, in the autumn of 1833. I had not been there long, before Prince John called upon me to explain to him the principles of the science, and examine his own head; and soon afterwards, he submitted his children to a like examination, requiring a written opinion of the cerebral organization of each. This opinion was acknowledged to shew the truth of the science, not only by Prince and Princess John themselves, but also by the distinguished individuals charged with the education of the children. Since this time, I have been again called upon, in 1835 and 1838, to visit the young princess and princesses, and point out such measures as a practical acquaintance with phrenology enabled me to recommend for adoption in their education; and I have had several conversations with their governor and governess on this head. The two last winters I have again passed in Dresden, and, having had many opportunities of conversing with the Royal Family, have seen with pleasure that their Majesties, with Prince and Princess John, continue to take a lively interest in the progress of the science. I need not call attention to the high station this royal family occupies for intellectual cultivation as well as moral conduct, as Mrs. Jameson, in her last work, “Social Life in Germany," has laid these facts before the English public. But to return to the winter 1833-4; phrenology having been thus favorably received at Court, it followed, of course, that nearly all the learned men were prepared to attend to it favorably too. The first who expressed his conviction of its truth, and who did all in his power to promote my objects, was the late Hofrath Bottiger, the celebrated archæologist. He it was who introduced me to Obermedicinalrath Seiler, in whom, by degrees, I found a friend to the science; at least, he soon acknowledged his conviction of the truth of its leading principles. I gave him your “System” and the works of Spurzheim to read, and

« VorigeDoorgaan »