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killed or captured. Captain L. was sent out with two troops of horse to search for them, having with him an Arab on whom he could depend. After sunset, when it was completely dark, they heard the trampling of horses' feet, and Captain L. joyfully concluding that his missing countrymen were coming up, ordered the trumpeter to blow, to welcome them. "Stop, stop," said the Arab guide, "hush! no shouting, no trumpeting. These riders may be Arabs, for aught that we know. Let us listen till we hear them speak." L. and his men listened and listened, but could not hear one word. But, in a few minutes, the Arab said—" Yes, they are French—at least, they are not speaking Arabic." He could hear words articulated, where an European ear could not discern a syllable."— Letters from the South, vol. i. p. 171.
At other times, when speaking of certain muscles, situate in the front of the bowels, the transverse bands of which are so fixed, as to admit of their being made to act independently of each other, he was accustomed to mention the instance of a madman, who not only fancied that he had a living animal within him, but made many, who saw him, believe so too, from the varied abdominal distortions to which he had habituated the different portions of the muscles in question. But it is not my present purpose to accumulate anecdotes such as these; there are graver matters connected with his lectures, to which I am anxious to proceed; and I shall, therefore, merely say a word or two more of his friend John Hunter, and then have done with him for some time.
"Mr. Hunter," he tells us,* "was a man of very considerable humour. His views of subjects in general, were quick and peculiar; and when so disposed, he could place them in very ludicrous points of view. Of this, I could give abundant proofs, but they would be unsuitable to the gravity proper to be maintained upon this occasion. I have heard some express their wonder, that very sensible men have sometimes condescended to appear foolish; yet it ought not to excite surprise, for it only shows the activity of their minds, which occasionally relieve themselves from the uniformity of thoughtful exertion, by sportive and irregular actions. They find it 'dulce desipere,' and have no fear, as others might have, to indulge themselves in this propensity. Thus, strong and healthy people, after the labour of the day, derive recreation from the continued efforts of a lively dance, or some agile sport. Mr. Hunter's sagacity led him to discover and detect those impositions, which persons are sometimes induced to practise on those around them. A patient in the hospital, feigned to be afflicted with catalepsy, in which disorder persons are said to lose all volition and consciousness, yet remain in the very attitude, in which they were, when suddenly seized with this extraordinary suspension of the intellectual functions. He began to comment before the surrounding students on the strangeness of the latter circumstance, and, as the man stood with his hand a little extended and elevated, he said, 'You see, gentlemen, that the hand is supported merely in consequence of the muscles persevering in that action to which volition had excited them, prior to the cataleptic seizure. I wonder,' continued he, 'what additional weight they would support;' and, so saying, he slipped the noose of a cord round the wrist, and hung to the other end a small weight, which produced no alteration in the position of the hand. Then, after a short time, with a pair of scissors he imperceptibly snipped the cord. The weight fell to the ground, and the hand was as suddenly raised in the air, by the increased effort which volition had excited for the support of the additional weight. Thus was it manifested that the man possessed both consciousness and volition, and the impostor stood revealed."
* Hunterian Oration, p. 54.
The next is a parallel anecdote to the former, which I shall transcribe from my own notes of Abernethy's relation of it at one of his lectures. A woman, said to be labouring under catalepsy, was admitted as a patient into St. George's Hospital, but was soon suspected by Mr. Hunter of being an impostor. Accordingly, after making his pupils acquainted with his suspicions, he took an early opportunity of exhibiting, before them, another plan of detection which had occurred to him. In real catalepsy the eyes are fixed and immoveable; when, therefore, Hunter, surrounded with his pupils, approached the subject of his experiment, he said to them,'You are not, perhaps, aware, gentlemen, that in this extraordinary disease, although every other part of the frame is rigid, there is a perpetual movement of the eyes.' This observation he took good care that the lady should overhear, when, sure enough, it fell out as he had predicted; the eyes were perceived to be in as "fine frenzy rolling" as could have been wished; and the spell was forthwith dissolved by exposing the attempt at imposition amidst the plaudits of the spectators.
Here my "story-telling" ought to end; but another anecdote, so much in keeping with the two former, occurs to my recollection, that I must even proceed with it. At the time of my residence as a Student at Gottingen, a brute of a showman exhibited there what he pretended to be a newly discovered animal. It attracted much attention, and prodigiously astonished the unlearned in natural history. But no sooner did Professor Blumenbach see and examine it, than he ascertained that this surprising animal was no other than some unhappy bear deprived of its natural thick clothing by close clipping. He was the man of all others to know how to deal with such a trick; so, losing no time in announcing his discovery to his pupils of his natural-history class, who were quite satisfied with his view of the matter, he appointed to meet them at a certain hour at the showman's booth.
There they accordingly assembled; and the Professor, whilst professing to explain to them the extraordinary phenomenon presented to their view, by ingenious questions and the evasive answers they elicited, so puzzled the showman, that he soon stood fully convicted before them, and no party could have enjoyed the joke more than such an assemblage of German students, with Blumenbach at their head.
Abernethy, equally with John Hunter, was sensible of the great advantages to be derived from comparative anatomy, with reference to the main objects of his lectures— the structure, namely, physiology and pathology of the human frame. But, desirous, as he was, of availing himself to the utmost of the instructive analogies which a comparison of the infinitely varied structure and functions of different animated beings, one with the other, affords, he abhorred unnecessary cruelty for the gratification of mere curiosity, or the elucidation of points of no essential importance; and he shuddered at the mention of Spalanzani's achievements of this kind.