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ART. VIII. 2. Parliamentary Abstracts; containing the Substance

of all important Papers laid before the Two Houses of Parliament during the Session of 1825 458

IX. Letters on the Church. By an Episcopalian

Notes and Additions to former Articles




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ART. I. A System of Phrenology. By GEORGE COMBE, late President of the Phrenological Society. Second Edition. 8vo. pp. 566. Edinburgh, 1825.


HIS is a long, sober, argumentative exposition of a very fantastical, and, in our humble judgment, most absurd hypothesis. The author, however, is undoubtedly a man of talent as well as industry;-and while many of his remarks indicate no ordinary acuteness, it is impossible not to admire the dexterity with which he has occasionally evaded the weak, and improved the plausible parts of his argument—and the skill and perseverance he has employed in working up his scanty and intractable materials into a semblance of strength and consistency. Phrenology, in his hands, has assumed, for the first time, an aspect not absolutely ludicrous; and, by retrenching many of the ridiculous illustrations and inconsistent assumptions of its inventors, as well as by correcting its terminology, and tempering its extravagance, he has so far succeeded in disguising its inherent absurdity as to afford a decent apology for those who are determined, or at least very willing, to believe. After all, however, that radical absurdity is so glaring, that in spite of his zeal and earnestness, we really have great difficulty in believing the author to be in good faith with us; and suspect that few reflecting readers will be able to get through the work without many starts of impatient surprise, and a general uneasy surmise that it is a mere exercise of intellectual ingenuity, or an elaborate experiment upon public credulity.

Every one, of course, has heard of Dr Gall's Craniology-and seen his plaster heads, mapped out into the territories of some VOL. XLIV. No. 88.


thirty or forty independent faculties. Long before this time, we confess, we expected to have seen them turned into toys for children; and this folly consigned to that great Limbo of vanity to which the dreams of Alchymy, Sympathetic Medicine, and Animal Magnetism, had passed before it. But it seems we had underrated the taste for the marvellous which still prevails in the world: For the science, we find, still flourishes in certain circles—and most of all, it would appear, in this intellectual city-where there is not only a regular Lecture on the subject, but a Quarterly Journal devoted exclusively to its discussion, and where, besides several smaller elementary works, this erudite and massive System, of 566 very close printed pages, has come to a second edition in the course of the present year. We do not hear that it makes much way in London or Paris -or even at Vienna or Weimar, where wonders have better fortune-and as our Northern race has not hitherto been supposed to sin on the side of over credulity, we are really something at a loss, and, to say the truth, less proud than surprised, to find that Edinburgh should be the great nursing mother of this brood of Germany. The phenomenon, we think, can only be solved by the circumstance of a person of Mr Combe's sense and energy having been led, by some extraordinary accident, first to conceive a partiality for it-and then induced, with the natural ambition of a man of talent, to make it a point of honour to justify his partiality. We cannot but wish that it had been directed to a worthier object.

In the very outset of this manifesto, the wonders of Phrenology are gravely and deliberately announced as the greatest and most important discovery ever communicated to man'kind!' and then follows a very terrible intimation, of the original purpose of its advocates to hand down to posterity the names of those who have distinguished themselves by their 'opposition to it.' In these circumstances, we felt ourselves called on, both by our curiosity, and our gallantry, to look again into the grounds of these lofty pretensions; and having now done this, very dispassionately, we propose, in spite of the denunciation of immortal infamy, to put briefly on record, a part at least, of our reasons for withholding our assent from them. We do not propose, however, by any means to dissect the huge volume before us, or to enter into any detailed examination of the interminable reasonings it contains. It is filled with elaborate wranglings upon assumptions which we entirely reject, and long statements and explanations addressed only to those who concur in its fundamental positions. Nay, no inconsiderable portion of it is dedicated to the exposition or reconcile ment of the schisms which seem already to threaten this in

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