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PHRENOLOGY AND THE MEDICAL SOCIETY.
This gave the affair a totally new aspect; it became a question vitally affecting the rights of the conductors of a periodical journal, and the liberty of the press; and a duty was imposed on us to resist all pretensions which might circumscribe the one or the other. After
After a brief correspondence with the law-agent of the Medical Society, we were served with an application to the Court of Session for an interdict, (in England, injunction), to restrain us from publishing the debate, until farther orders of Court.
The Editor lodged answers to the bill, in which, after narrating the circumstances which had laid him under the necessity to publish the debate in vindication of the science which he advocated, he pleaded, first, that there is no literary property in words spoken, so that even the speakers themselves could not claim a legal right in their speeches, and on this ground, prevent their publication, -and much less could the Society do so; and, secondly, that as there is no censorship of the press in this country, no person has a right in law to prohibit the publication of any writings, on the allegation, that the matter contained in them will prove false or libellous, or disagreeable; the proper remedy consisting in an action for damages and reparation after publication, if just grounds for such a claim shall be given.
Lord Eldin, as Lord Ordinary on the bills, passed the bill, and granted the interdict, pro tempore. The effect of this would have been to restrain us, in the meantime, from publishing the debate till a final decision of the question at law, whether that restraint should be rendered perpetual, or be recalled? We have, however, no intention to prosecute the litigation farther. Lord Eldin has viewed the question as one which does not involve the liberties of the press, but only the privileges of a private society. These we have neither interest nor inclination to abridge ; and our leading object in regard to phrenology is already gained by the proceedings that have taken place. To explode for ever the pretension of the Medical Society that they had refuted phrenology, it was imperative on us either to lay the whole
discussion fairly and fully before the public, or to shew, that we were prevented from doing so by the hand of power, at the instigation of the Society itself. The latter alternative has occurred, and no person can now, for a moment, listen to any member of that Society who may affirm that its efforts were fatal, or even formidable, to the science which we defend.
After what has been said, few observations will be necessary on the moral propriety of the course which we have pursued. Nothing was farther from our wishes than to injure the Medical Society in thought, word, or deed; but encompassed as phrenology is with opponents of every description, and in every quarter, it was impossible for us, when that Society boasted a victory, to remain silent, and acquiesce in their pretensions. The course we followed appeared the most manly and honourable that could be adopted; and now that matters are placed upon their proper footing, we assure the Society that we have no desire to do any thing that may be disagreeable to it as a body, or its members as individuals. The assertion, that we designed to hold up to ridicule the private proceedings of a juvenile society, to which we had been courteously admitted as visitors for the night, is a gross misrepresentation, both of our intentions and of the circumstances of the case. It must be obvious to every reader, that our object was to give an impartial report of the discussion; and we have already set to rights the notion, that the speakers in opposition to phrenology were youths destitute of general information and experience. On the statement, that the meeting was private, we have only to observe, that at least four hundred persons were present, of whom more than a half were visitors. At the commencement of the proceedings on the second evening, about forty persons were admitted in a body, on a motion by a member of the Society, without tickets, and without their names being so much as known. Not only so, but we could produce individuals who entered during the discussion, both on the first and second evening, without any questions being asked, or
interruption offered at the door, who neither had tickets, nor had heard of the Society having passed any vote authorising their admission, but believed the assembly to be public and open to all who chose to enter.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
THERE is a strong prejudice (in baser natures amounting to hatred) constantly lurking in the public mind against phrenology, just as the same feelings have been exhibited against all discoveries equally new and important, and it breaks out into the most ludicrous and fantastic forms. If any strong and striking fact in favour of the science is published by us, or in some of the friendly journals, all the hostile part of the press forbears to notice it. If a work in favour of phrenology, ably written, and powerful in argument and fact, such as the Transactions, appears, that part of the press passes it over in solemn silence. When, how, ever, the silliest nonsense against the science appears in any miserable journal, it is greedily seized upon, and goes the round of Great Britain and Ireland. So low, indeed, has this spirit descended, that Blackwood's version of the turnip, borrowed from our first number, has travelled widely over England and Ireland, (not Scotland, the Scotch editors have too much Conscientiousness), in the newspapers, omitting altogether the correction given by us, and which is by far the best joke in the story. We smile at such paltry prejudices and intellectual absurdities. The phrenologists pitted against the evil passions of the world would be feeble indeed; but wo to the wight who encounters the humblest champion of truth with nature as his protector! Here lies our strength,-it is mighty and we repose in it with most assured confidence of victory. The operation of nature, indeed, is already conspicuous in
the contest, and our readers must have remarked it. If phrenology be true, no man can possibly oppose it who is not either uninformed concerning it,-limited in intellect, so as to be unable to comprehend it, or destitute of honesty to admit the conviction which he feels. If any person, of good sentiment and penetrating understanding, will carefully peruse every piece of wit or reasoning employed against the science, he will be struck with the truth of this observation. The pitiable displays of drivelling in opposition, with which the press has teemed, betray, in the strongest manner, one or other of the deficiencies here imputed. Wherever an honest and able man has advanced to the charge, he has uniformly displayed unacquaintance with the subject; and we know, on the other hand, of some noble minds who have buckled on their armour in the ranks of the enemy, but who enrolled themselves as friends the moment they had closely examined the fabric they meant to attack.
This prejudiced feeling shewed itself strongly in the late case of Thurtell. The most stupid notice that we ever saw in print, on the subject of phrenology, appeared in the Medical Adviser, and it was instantly copied into the English newspapers with eager haste. A refutation of it was given,they were silent as to it. We speak in general terms, for there are exceptions. The Scotch newspapers did not so generally commit this piece of silliness as the English and Irish,--and some of these, too, were candid, and gave both versions. The organ of Conscientiousness is large in the people of Britain in general, and certain are we that such methods of deception will soon meet their merited reward.
The same spirit manifests itself in other and equally ludicrous forms. It was currently reported here, about six weeks ago, that phrenology was refuted, because Mr who has not written plays like Shakspeare, has as large an organ of Ideality as the greatest poet of England. A worthy bailie of a far-famed city, brought forth this fact as overturning the whole science. A phrenologist present mentioned, thateven supposing Ideality to be the only source of
Shakspeare's genius, which it was not, no cast of his head from nature was in existence, and that the skull was in his tomb, and, therefore, that no human being could know the size of the organ of Ideality in it, or tell whether it was greater or less than in the gentleman's head referred to. The laugh went against the bailie; and we afterwards learned, that the head in question had been measured along with a mask taken from a small artificial bust of Shakspeare, of which hundreds, of erery variety of size, are sold in the shops, and that hence the story had arisen.
About the same time, we were told that phrenology was refuted, because Madame Catalani had no organ of Tune, and the name of a learned professor was attached to this fact as the authority on which it rested. In the head of the lady in question, the organ is conspicuously large to the eye, and we are able to add, that we have been permitted even to manipulate the head, and will forfeit our own if the organ of melody is not very largely developed in it.
Another assertion, emanating, it is said, also from a professor of this university, is now running its course, namely, that Tiedeman and Rudolphi* have refuted phrenology in Germany. This is a poor compliment to the learned heads of Britain who have attempted its refutation, and who, by this professor's not alluding to them, are admitted to have failed. It is cruel, when the pupils of a class in the University of Edinburgh are to be warned against phrenology, to pass over the labours of Dr Gordon, Dr Roget, and Dr Barclay, which are quite accessible to them, and to refer them to German refutations, in works which they cannot procure, and in a language which they do not understand. We presume, the German professors will find it equally convenient to refer their students to the refutation of phrenology in England by the great authors now mentioned, who have so little honour paid to them at home.
We have seen Rudolphi's objections. They are weaker than Dr Barclay's. We shall notice them in our next.