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Multa enim è corpore existunt, quæ acuant mentem ; multa, quæ obtundant.” * How often has the head both of man and woman been completely turned by a more than common share of personal beauty! and how often has a deformity of body led the person afflicted with it to signalize himself by extraordinary mental endowments and accomplishments. “It is good,”
“ It is good,” says Lord Bacon “to consider deformity, not as a signe, which is deceivable, but as a cause which seldom faileth of the effect. Whosoever hath any thing fixed in his person, that doth induce contempt, hath also a perpetual spur in himself, to rescue and deliver himself from scorn." +
Even the effects of stature upon the mind are not undeserving of attention. It is remarked by a very accurate and profound observer of human character, that, “ little men are commonly decisive and oracular in their opinions.” To what this is owing, it may not be easy to conjecture; but I have little doubt of the reality of the fact. The whole of the portrait I allude to is so spirited, that we may confidently conclude it was closely copied after nature.
«Nous nous arrêtames auprès de l'université pour regarder quelques affiches de livres qu’on venoit d'attacher à la porte. Plusieurs personnes s'amusoient aussi à les lire; et j'appercus parmi ceux-la un petit-homme, qui disoit son sentiment sur ces ouvrages affichés. Je remarquai qu'on l'écoutoit avec une extrême attention, et je jugeai en même tems qu'il croyoit mériter qu'on
* Cic. Tuscul. Disp. Lib.i. c. 33.
| Bacon's Essays.—This very deep and just observation was probably pointed at the Physiognomical Theories of Campanella, then much in fashion over Europe, theories in which, it cannot be denied, there is much truth; but to which numerous exceptions may be expected to occur, from the superiority of moral over physical causes, when they are fairly brought into competition with each other.
“Crine ruber, niger ore, brevis pede, lumine læsus
Rem magnam præstas, Zoile, si bonus es.”—Martial. Lib. xii. Epig. 54. The epigrammatic point in these lines is sufficiently happy; but the thought is trite and shallow, when compared with the hint suggested by to attend chiefly, in such cases, to the probable effect, upon a powerful mind, of these physical disadvantages, in rousing a noble ambition to surmount the obstacles which they oppose to its progress.
For some ingenious and pleasing illustrations of this idea, see an Essay on Deformity, by William Hay, Esq. London, 1754. VOL. IJI.
l'écoutât. Il paroissoit vain, et il avoit l'esprit décisif, comme l'ont la plupart des petits hommes.” *
I have often thought that it would furnish an interesting and important subject of inquiry, to examine the effects produced on the intellectual faculties by the different pursuits to which men betake themselves in a civilized society; and with this view, in treating of the power of Abstraction, have suggested a few hints with respect to the effects resulting from habits of speculation considered in contrast with habits of business. These very slight remarks, however, were confined to the most general and obvious cases of the problem, and throw but little light on those more delicate peculiarities which take their rise from particular studies, and which distinguish the different classes of literary men from each other. The metaphysician, (for example,) tħe mathematician, the poet, the critic, the antiquary, strengthen by their respective pursuits, à corresponding combination of faculties and principles, while they suffer others to remain without due cultivation: And it is surely an inquiry which promises to be at once curious and useful, to ascertain, with somewhat of logical precision, in what respects their intellectual characters may be expected to be severally marked and discriminated.
Before, however, I proceed to this subject, I shall avail myself of the present opportunity to add a few observations of a more general nature, in farther prosecution of those which I have offered in my first Volume.
In reflecting on the endless varieties of Human Character, one of the most important, and, at the same time, one of the most obvious distinctions that occur to us, is between those men who, in the conduct of life, are guided by steady and systematical views; and that much more numerous class who, without any fixed principles, are influenced from day to day, by immediate prospects of interest and ambition ; by the force of passion ; by the caprice of the moment; or by the everchanging opinions and manners of the times. It is evident, that of neither of these two descriptions of indi
• Gil Blas, Liv. iv. chap. 6.
viduals, can any just estimate be formed from a hasty survey, or an occasional acquaintance. The weakest and most unprincipled, if seen at some lucky conjuncture, when interest, or humor, or fashion, happens to point out the same path with reason and duty, may be supposed to be actuated by motives to which he is a stranger; while, on the other hand, a man of the most decided character, and the most comprehensive sagacity, if judged of by an observer of a more limited mind than himself
, may be censured as wavering and inconsistent in his purposes, from a hasty view of those very measures, which, if combined with the other parts of his history, would afford the most unequivocal proofs of the unceasing constancy with which he had prosecuted bis object. It is they alone who are acquainted with all the circumstances of a long voyage, with the variable winds and the accidental currents, according to which the pilot was forced, from time to time, to shape his course, who are able to pronounce on his attention and skill as a navigator. To a spectator who happened only to observe the ship when on a particular tack, how different might its destination appear from what it was in reality! And how essentially necessary may have been this apparent deviation, to steer it to the harbour for which it was bound !
Of the differences now remarked in the conduct of individuals, part depend on intellectual, and part on moral character. To the former class must be referred the original conception of a magnificent design, and the arrangement of the measures by which it is to be accomplished. To the latter, the steadiness, perseverance, and force of mind displayed in carrying it into execution; and, above all, its ultimate tendency with respect to the happiness and improvement of our fellow-creatures. Notwithstanding, however, the justness of this theoretical distinction, it will be found to require · less attention in the actual study of Human Nature, than might at first be expected. A comprehensive and enlightened understanding is but rarely unaccompanied with a corresponding enlargement and benevolence of heart; and still fewer are the cases, in which a weak,
shallow, and contracted head does not contrive to shape, for its own ends, a selfish, casuistical, and pettifogging code of morality.
If, from the crowd who are occupied only about their own personal concerns, we turn our thoughts to those who move in a higher sphere, and study the history of the few statesmen who have labored' to identify their fame with the permanent interests of their country and of mankind, we shall find many additional reasons for distrusting, in their case, the opinions formed with respect to them by their contemporaries. Accustomed by their habits of thought (and wisely accustomed for the objects they had in view) to look rather to general principles than to temporary expedients, they no doubt laid their account, in proportion as they were confident of the ultimate result, with sinking, in the mean time, below the level of men, who, by flattering the passions and prejudices of their times, have seemed to lead that multitude which they only followed. • The children of this world,” it is said in Scripture, “ are wiser in their generation than the children of light ;” and it is, accordingly, from generations yet to come, that they who “ shine as lights in the midst of darkness” must expect their reward.
Nor is even this reward certain, excepting where a long career of public life has completely unfolded the general principles of policy by which their conduct, amidst all its apparent anomalies, was systematically guided. What was formerly remarked with respect to projectors in the concerns of private life, is still more strikingly exemplified in the case of statesmen ; that they are often overtaken by ruin, while sowing the seeds of a harvest which others are to reap.
“ A few years more might have secured to themselves the prize which they had in view; and changed the opinion of the world, (which is always regulated by the accidental circumstances of failure or of success,) from contempt of their folly, into admiration of their sagacity and perseverance.
“ It is observed by Comte de Bussi, that time remedies all mischances, and that men die unfortunate, only because they did not live long enough. Mareschal
d'Estrée, who died rich at a hundred, would have died a beggar, had he lived only to eighty. The maxim, like most other apothegms, is stated in terms much too unqualified; but it may furnish matter for many interesting reflections to those who have surveyed, with attention, the characters which have passed before them on the stage of life ; or who amuse themselves with marking the trifling and fortuitous circumstances by which the multitude are decided, in pronouncing their .verdicts of foresight, or of improvidence.” *
But in this field, which is obviously of boundless extent, I must not indulge myself in expatiating longer. A much more limited view of the subject is all that I have destined for the matter of this Chapter ; in which I propose only to treat, and that very briefly, of the practical tendency of certain scientific pursuits to modify the intellectual powers. I begin, first, with considering the tendency, in this respect, of Metaphysical Inquiries; after which, I shall consider, secondly, the Effects of Mathematical Studies ; and, thirdly, the Effects produced by the Culture of those arts which are addressed to the Imagination. The considerations stated under these three heads, together with a few remarks which I shall add on the Characteristical Differences of the Sexes, will serve as a sufficient specimen of the disquisitions to which I allude.
I had formerly occasion to mention the etymology of the word Metaphysics, and the different acceptations in which it has, at different times, been used in the schools of philosophy. In this section, however, I employ it in that loose and popular sense in which it is generally understood in our own language ;-a sense so very extensive, as to confound together, in the common apprehensions of mankind, a great variety of studies which have
Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, Vol. II. p. 151. Third Edition.