our modern notions were known to the earliest writers, and were only improved in succeeding ages, as in like manner our present doctrines will in all probability be advanced by future generations. The destruction of kingdoms and of chronicles, the inroads of barbarism,—the more destructive inroads of ignorance and bigotry, have not been able to produce a void in the world of science; the catenation of philosophic inquiry has never been broken in its connexions. Oppression only riveted the chain more firmly, as if to resist the united power of man and time. Adversity, which
Like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in its head,
has always been considered the best school of practical wisdom: and it is thus that, amidst the portentous events which have shaken every institution, and which perhaps still menace further dissolution, the fane of science has oftentimes been more vividly illumined by the surrounding conflagration.
The evils that desolate society too frequently arise from the hasty acts of intemperate men, who deem it necessary to meet the tumultuous demands of the multitude with decided and energetic, but, at the same time, perilous measures: the progress of science, on the contrary, is gradual, and of course more likely to be eventually permanent. While political speculations are daily becoming more uncertain in their operations, the triumph of intellectual superiority over prejudice is every where apparent;—unjust disabilities are being abolished, and the gates of learning thrown open to every candidate, whatever may be his religious or his political tenets.
In our country, more than in any other, industry and perseverance have ever had a fairer chance of attaining social pre-eminence, despite the shackles imposed upon the candidate for fame by institutions framed in the darker ages. What then may we not expect, when we behold the bright era that opens before us,—when exclusive institutions will be considered the obsolete remnants of expiring bigotry and intolerance! May we not indulge in the most sanguine hope, that our former glories are only the historic earnest of still more glorious days? If the spirit of the immortal Locke could hover over our earth, he would feel, with some degree of pride, that his admonitions have not been unheeded; and that “those who live mewed up within their own contracted territories, and will not look abroad beyond the boundaries that chance, conceit, or laziness have set to their inquiries, but live separate from the notions, discourses, and attainments of the rest of mankind,” have at last felt the necessity of yielding to the voice of reason, or rather of their own welfare.
In the following work I merely rank myself as a compiler. I have only sketched—sometimes perhaps with too fanciful a pencil, subjects of great importance, which, by being thus rendered popular, may induce abler pens to imbody them in a more permanent form. The variety of matter introduced has obliged me to be discursive, and to have recourse to some repetitions that were necessary to illustrate subjects not easily abridged. Whenever I have held up errors and evil passions to exposure, I have not, in one single instance, I trust, been influenced by any hostility towards men or parties—ranks or creeds. If I have unwillingly and unwittingly given offence, I shall most sincerely lament it. My materials have been gleaned from the works of many contemporaries, whose well-known and justly-appreciated names will in general appear: but I should be wanting in candour, did I not avow that I have derived much valuable information from Le Dictionnaire des Sciences Médicales, an elaborate compilation, containing more “Curiosities of Medical Experience” than any existing work.
48, Eaton Square,
|Voice and Speech
|Varieties of Mankind
|On the Inhumation of the Dead in Cities
|Lunar Influence on Human Life and Diseases
|Medical Powers of Music
|The Food of Mankind