Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 8, No. 46, August, 1861 by Various

Part 5 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Shall Memory come to dream upon it.


_Currents and Counter-Currents in Medical Science._ With other Addresses
and Essays. By OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES. Boston; Ticknor & Fields. 12mo.

This volume contains seven occasional addresses and essays, written at
various periods between 1812 and 1860. The subjects of which it treats
are "Homoeopathy, and its Kindred Delusions," "Puerperal Fever, as
a Private Pestilence," "The Position and Prospects of the Medical
Student," "The Duties of the Physician,"--a Valedictory Address to
the Medical Graduates of Harvard University,--"The Mechanism of Vital
Actions," "Some more Recent Views of Homoeopathy," and "Currents
and Counter-Currents in Medical Science." They are characterized by
extensive information, fertile thought, strong convictions, keen wit,
sound sense, and unflinching intellectual courage and self-trust. They
are valuable contributions to the literature of the medical profession,
and at the same time have that peculiar fascination which distinguishes
all the productions of Dr. Holmes's ingenious and opulent mind. The
style is clear, crisp, sparkling, abounding in originalities of verbal
combination and felicities of descriptive phrase. In its movement, it
bears the marks of a kind of mental impatience of the processes of
slower, more dogged, and more cautious intellects, natural to a keen,
bright, and swift intelligence, desirous of flashing the results of its
operation in the briefest and most brilliant expression. The argument,
though founded on premises which have been gathered by careful
observation and study, often disregards the forms of the logic whose
spirit it obeys, and, by its frequent use of analogy and illustration,
may sometimes dazzle and confuse the minds it seeks to convince. In
regard to opponents, it is not content with mere dialectic victory, but
insinuates the subtle sting of wit to vex and irritate the sore places
of defeat and humiliation.

The reputation which Dr. Holmes enjoys, as one of the most popular poets
and prose-writers of the day, has made the public overlook the fact that
literature has been the recreation of a life of which medical science
has been the business. By far the larger portion of his time, for the
last thirty years, has been devoted to his profession. Perhaps the
value and validity of the conclusions he records in this volume may be
questioned from the very circumstance that he expresses them in the
lucid and vigorous style of an accomplished man of letters. "People,"
says Macaulay, "are loath to admit that the same man can unite very
different kinds of excellence. It is soothing to envy to believe that
what is splendid cannot be solid, that what is clear cannot be profound.
Very slowly was the public brought to acknowledge that Mansfield was a
great jurist, and that Burke was a great master of political science.
Montagu was a brilliant rhetorician, and therefore, though he had
ten times Harley's capacity for the driest parts of business, was
represented by detractors as a superficial, prating pretender." Indeed,
that peculiar vital energy which is the characteristic of genius carries
the man of genius cheerfully through masses of drudgery which would
dismay and paralyze the vigor of industrious mediocrity. The present
volume, bright as it is in expression, is full of evidences that the
author has submitted to the austerest requirements of his laborious
profession; and if his opinions generally coincide with those which have
been somewhat reluctantly adopted by the most eminent physicians of the
age, it is certain that he has not jumped to his conclusions, but has
reached them by patient and independent thought, study, and observation.

The courage which Dr. Holmes displays throughout this volume is of a
refreshing kind. His frank, bold utterance of his convictions not only
subjects him to the adverse criticism of a numerous and powerful body
of able men in his own profession, but brings him into direct hostility
with many persons who, outside of his profession, are among the warmest
lovers of his literary genius. Some of the most intelligent admirers
and appreciators of "The Autocrat" and "The Professor" are adherents of
Homoeopathy; and of Homoeopathy Dr. Holmes is not only a scientific, but
a sarcastic opponent. He both acknowledges and satirizes the fact, that
intellectual men, eminent in all professions but that of medicine, are
champions of the system he derides; but he does not the less spare one
bitter word or cutting fleer against the system itself. By thus daring,
provoking, and defying opposition both to his professional and literary
reputation, he seems to us to indicate a real, if somewhat impatient
love of truth. He valorously invites and courts the malicious sharpness
of the most unfriendly criticism. Some people may call by the name of
conceit this honest and unwithholding devotion of his whole powers to
what he deems the cause of truth; but, we must be allowed to object,
conceit is commonly anxious for the safety of the individual, while
Dr. Holmes intrepidly exposes his individuality to the fire of hostile
cannon, which are prevented from being discharged against each other
only by the lucky thought that they can do more execution by being
converged upon him. Had he appeared as an intelligent, knowing, and
efficient controversialist on the side of the traditions of his
profession, his wholesale denunciation of quackery, vulgar or genteel,
might be referred to conceit; had he turned state's evidence against the
accredited deceptions of his own profession, and gone over entirely to
the enthusiasts who think that medicine is not an experimental science,
but a series of hap-hazard hits at the occult laws of disease, he might
be accused of conceit; but we think the charge is ridiculously false as
directed against a man who boldly puts his professional and literary
fame at risk in order to advance the cause of reason, learning, and
common sense. Nobody can justly appreciate Holmes who does not perceive
an impersonal earnestness and insight beneath the play of his provoking
personal wit. We admit that he makes enemies needlessly; but all fair
minds must still concede that even his petulances of sarcasm are but
eccentric utterances of a love of truth which has its source in the
deepest and gravest sentiments of his nature.

The object of Dr. Holmes's volume is to bring physicians and the people
over whom they hold dominion into sensible relations with each other.
A beautiful scorn of deception and humbug shines through his clear
exposition of the facts and laws of disease. A high sense of the duties
and dignity of the medical profession animates every precept he enforces
on the attention of those who are to deal with disease. Like all the
advanced thinkers of his profession, he relies, in the art of curing,
more on Nature than on drugs; but in thus assisting to dispel the notion
that the prescriptions either of the regular doctor or the irregular
empiric possess the power to heal, he injures the quack only to aid
the good physician. The strength of the quack consists in the two-fold
ignorance of the sick,--in their ignorance of the superficial character
of their common ailments, and in their ignorance of the deadly nature of
their exceptional diseases. Panaceas, seeming to cure the former, are
eagerly taken for the latter; but it is well known that they do not cure
in either case. Physicians are tempted into quackery by the desire to
dislodge ignorant pretenders from bedsides which it is their proper
function to attend, and in ministering to sick imaginations they are too
apt to pour a needless amount of nauseous medicine into sick bodies. If
people, while in health, would heed the honest advice which Dr.
Holmes gives in this volume, they would force physicians to be less
hypocritical in their management of them when they are ill, and they
would destroy the wide-spread evil of quackery under which the world now

_History of Civilization in England._ By HENRY THOMAS BUCKLE. Vol. II.
From the Second London Edition. To which is added an Alphabetical Index.
New York: D. Appleton & Co. 8vo.

The present volume of Mr. Buckle's history consists of a deductive
application to the history of Spain and Scotland of certain leading
propositions, which, in his previous volume, he claims to have
inductively established. These are four; "1st, That the progress of
mankind depends on the success with which the laws of phenomena are
investigated, and on the extent to which a knowledge of those laws
is diffused; 2d, That, before investigation can begin, a spirit of
skepticism must arise, which, at first aiding the investigation, is
afterwards aided by it; 3d, That the discoveries thus made increase
the influence of intellectual truths, and diminish, relatively, not
absolutely, the influence of moral truths,--moral truths being more
stationary than intellectual truths, and receiving fewer additions; 4th,
That the great enemy of this movement, and therefore the great enemy of
civilization, is the protective spirit, or the notion that the good of
society depends on its concerns being watched over and protected by a
State that teaches men what to do, and a Church which teaches them what
to believe."

Mr. Buckle, with great abundance of learning and fulness of thought,
attempts to prove that the history of Spain and Scotland verifies these
propositions. The general causes which, according to him, have sunk
Spain so low in the scale of civilization are loyalty and superstition.
The Church and State have been supreme, and the consequence has been
that the people are profoundly ignorant. Under able rulers, like
Ferdinand, Charles V., and Philip II., the loyal nation attained a great
height of power and glory; under their incompetent successors, the loyal
nation, obedient to crowned sloth and stupidity as to crowned energy and
genius, descended with frightful rapidity from its high estate, thus
proving that the progress which depends on the character of individual
monarchs or statesmen is necessarily unstable. Circumstances similar
to those which made Spain loyal made it superstitious; and loyalty and
superstition early formed an alliance by which all independent energy
of conduct and thought was suppressed. According to Mr. Buckle, the
prosperity of nations, in modern times, "depends on principles to which
the clergy, as a body, are invariably opposed." This proposition is, to
him, true of Protestant as well as Catholic clergymen; and a nation
like Spain, looking to the Government for what it should do, and to the
Church for what it should believe, has necessarily become inefficient
and ignorant.

Spain has few friends among English readers, and Mr. Buckle's
contemptuous opinion of its civilization may not, therefore, rouse
much opposition that he will be compelled to heed. But it is not so in
respect to Scotland, a caustic survey of whose civilization occupies
three-quarters of the present volume. The position is taken, that
Scotland, of all the countries of Protestant Europe, has been and is
the most superstitious and priest-ridden. The only thing that saved the
people from the fate of Spain was the fact, that their insubordination
to temporal authority was as marked as their slavery to spiritual
authority. They had the good fortune to be rebels as well as fanatics;
but the reforming clergy having, after 1580, allied themselves heartily
with the people against the king and nobles, increased as patriots
the influence they exerted as priests. The love of country being thus
associated with love of the Church, the people were enslaved by the very
religious leaders who aided them in the fight against those forms of
arbitrary power they mutually detested. The tyranny of the Presbyterian
minister was lovingly accepted by the same population by which the
tyranny of bishop and king was abhorred.

Mr. Buckle, with the malicious delight which only a philosopher in
search of facts to fit his theory can know, has delved in a stratum of
theological literature now covered from the common eye by more important
deposits, in order to prove that in the seventeenth century the people
of Scotland were ruled by a set of petty theological tyrants, as
ignorant and as inhuman as ever disgraced a civilized society, and that
their ignorance and inhumanity were all the more influential from being
called by the name and acting by the authority of religion.

The author then proceeds to consider the philosophical and scientific
reaction against this ecclesiastical despotism, which occurred in the
eighteenth century. Why did it not emancipate the Scottish intellect?

Because, says Mr. Buckle, the method of the philosophers, like the
method of the theologians, was deductive, and not inductive; and this,
he thinks, characterizes the operation of the intellect of Scotland in
all departments. Now the deductive method, or reasoning from principles
to facts, does not strike the senses with the force of the inductive,
or reasoning from facts to principles, and it is accordingly less
accessible to the average understanding. The result was, that the
writings of Hutcheson, Adam Smith, and Hume had little effect on the
popular intellect of Scotland, and its people are now the most bigoted
and intolerant of those of any country in Europe, except Spain. This
portion of Mr. Buckle's volume, containing an analytical estimate, not
only of Hutcheson, Hume, and Adam Smith, but of Black, Leslie, Hutton,
Cullen, and John Hunter, is full of original thought and valuable
information, however questionable may be some of its statements.

Whatever may be thought of the general ideas which Mr. Buckle enforces,
few will be inclined to dispute the extent of his learning, the breadth
of his understanding, the suggestiveness of his generalizations, the
earnestness of his purpose, the mental honesty with which he seeks
truth, the mental hardihood with which he assails what he considers
error. He has not only no intellectual timidity, but no intellectual
reserve, and is indifferent to the opprobrium which may proceed from the
collision of his speculations with the strongest of prejudices and
the most immovable of convictions. But this intrepid sincerity is not
without the alloy of arrogance. He belongs to that school of able, but
dogmatic positivists, who are apt to consider their minds the measure
of the human mind, who are intolerant of those human sentiments and
qualities in which they are deficient, and who, occupying the serene
heights of a purely scientific wisdom, look down with pitying contempt
on all intellects, however powerful, which are not emancipated from the
dominion of theological ideas. Individually, he lacks both the sympathy
and the imaginative insight by which a man pierces to the heart of a
nation, and appreciates its life as distinguished from its opinions. All
readers of those portions of the literature of Spain and Scotland in
which genius exhibits the vital manners and representative character
of those nations will feel how partial and inadequate is Mr. Buckle's
historic sketch. The fundamental idea of his system, that human progress
depends on the success with which the laws of phenomena are investigated
and the extent to which a knowledge of them is diffused, overlooks the
essential element of _movement,_ which is not abstract knowledge, but
vital force. Men and nations move in virtue of their passionate, moral,
and spiritual forces, and these determine the character of their
intellectual development and expression. A nation which knew all the
laws of phenomena, but which was utterly lacking in moral force, would
not only not be civilized, but would hardly be alive. Mr. Buckle insists
that moral truths being relatively stationary, while intellectual truths
are constantly advancing and multiplying, civilization cannot depend
upon them. But even admitting that moral truths are stationary, still
moral life, the conversion of these truths into character, is capable of
indefinite advancement. There are moral truths more universal than any
scientific truths, and it is owing to the fact that these truths have so
imperfectly passed from abstractions into conduct, that civilization
is yet so imperfect, and the achievements of the intellect still so
limited. Out of the heart, and not out of the head, are the issues of
life; and how a mere knowledge of "the laws of phenomena" can regenerate
men from selfishness, ferocity, and malignity, can purify and invigorate
the will, can even of itself stimulate the intellect to a further
investigation of those laws, Mr. Buckle has not shown. Even the
theological abuses of which he gives so exaggerated a representation are
expressions of the passions and character of the people to which the
theology was accommodated, and not of the sense and spirit of the New
Testament, which the theology violated, so far as it was false in its
ideas or inhuman in its teachings.



The Uprising of a Great People: The United States in 1861. From the
French of Count Agenor de Gasparin, by Mary L. Booth. New York. Charles
Scribner. 16mo. pp. 263. 75 cts.

Volunteers' Camp and Field Book, containing useful General Information
on the Art and Science of War. By J.P. Curry. New York. D. Appleton &
Co. 32mo. pp. 146. 25 cts.

Lloyd's Military Campaign Chart. Pocket Edition. Arranged by E.L. Viele
and Charles Haskins. New York. H.H. Lloyd & Co. 18mo. pp. 12, and Map.
50 cts.

Hints on the Preservation of Health in Armies, for the Use of Volunteer
Officers and Soldiers. By J. Ordronaux, M.D. New York, D. Appleton & Co.
24mo. pp. 142. 38 cts.

Tom Brown at Oxford. A Sequel to "School Days at Rugby." By the Author
of "School Days at Rugby," etc. Boston. Ticknor & Fields. 12mo. pp. 430.

A Day's Ride, a Life's Romance. By Charles Lever. New York. Harper &
Brothers. 8vo. paper, pp. 152. 50 cts.

The North American Review, No. CXCII., for July, 1861. Boston. Crosby,
Nichols, Lee, & Co. 8vo. pp. 300. $1.25.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest