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By the kindness of Professor Syme, we had an opportunity of examining this patient when in the Infirmary, and of observing the singular affection of language, which the Professor describes. The patient seemed to understand perfectly whatever was said to him, but had scarcely any recollection of written or printed words. The great puzzle in such cases has always been to explain how the patient could understand what was said to him, when, at the very same time, he could neither attach words to his own ideas, nor comprehend the meaning of written or printed language. We do not pretend to be able fully to solve the difficulty; but we think that Mr Syme's case admits, in one sense, of an easier explanation than most of the others.
The general intelligence which the patient manifested, is perfectly accounted for by the healthy state of both anterior lobes of the brain, which constitute the organs of the intellectual faculties. The only morbid appearance affecting them, was the softening on their inferior surface over the cribriform plate of the ethmoid bone, which must have implicated the convolutions belonging to the organ of Form on both sides. We were not present at the dissection, but were told by a phrenologist who witnessed it, that the softening extended to the organs of Language also. Professor Syme's description applies, however, almost exclusively to the organ of Form, which was undoubtedly diseased.
As spoken language was understood, while that which was written or printed and presented to the eyes was not, may not the disturbance of function in the organ of Form have been the real cause why the association between certain visible forms or letters and their meaning no longer existed? We believe that it may, but are far from affirming that even the proof of its being so would solve all our difficulties.-Considering that the chief disorganization had its seat in the middle lobe, containing the organs of propensities alone, and that those of intellect, with the single exception above stated, were uninjured, we see no reason for the surprise which the Professor expresses at the little disorder which prevailed in the mental faculties. At the same time, it is only by means of phrenology that the circumstance can be easily accounted for.
We take this opportunity to repeat a caution already given more than once in the pages of this Journal, on the subject of injuries of the brain. According to the ordinary way of speaking, a patient like Professor Syme's, who manifests no striking disorder of mind, is said to retain all his faculties unimpaired. But on what evidence is this strong assertion made? Moodie could not speak, so that no one could obtain any clew to the actual degree of intelligence which he retained. He looked intelligently when addressed, and answered connectedly by signs; but experience of this limited extent is far too imperfect to be
admitted as a philosophical proof of the FULL retention of former powers. Even a person in a state of mild delirium will become collected for a moment, and answer rationally when spoken to; but is that held to prove that the mind is unaffected? We observed, and heard it remarked by others, that Moodie's expression became vacant and null when he lay on his bed without any one addressing him; and we think it not unlikely, that had he been able to converse, those who knew him intimately would have recognised a change in the vigour of his mind. Are we not all conscious, in fact, of our mental powers being affected and our tempers rendered irritable by a feverish cold or fit of indigestion? and is this effect not to be held as a reality, merely because we still continue to act and speak as rational beings? It is time to attend to such distinctions, and no longer to propound vague generalities in the place of precise and accurate knowledge.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CARIBS.
WE had occasion lately to look into an extremely well written book, entitled, "Histoire Naturelle et Morale des Iles Antilles," published at Rotterdam in 1658; and were much amused, as well as interested, by a very careful description of the Caribs, then inhabiting St Vincent's and several others of the West India Islands. The author seems to have taken great pains in observing and recording the manners and customs of these savages, and to have been unusually free from the prejudices so often attached to civilization. He evidently possessed an extensive acquaintance with the natural and civil history of man; and in noticing the prominent features and practices of Carib life, he makes his narrative doubly instructive, by constantly comparing them with similar traits and customs not only among contemporaneous savages in other parts of the world, but also among the rude inhabitants of Europe, as displayed in its earliest authentic records.
The race of Caribs having now almost disappeared, it is interesting to go back a hundred and seventy years to the pages of an author who gathered his information from persons who had lived amongst them while their numbers were still great, and their natural character comparatively pure. Even at that time, indeed, they had been driven from several of the islands by the fire-arms and superior intelligence of the whites; but they still abounded in St Vincent's and a few other places, in
each of which modifications of character were to be found. The author warns the reader that his description is applicable chiefly to the Caribs of St Vincent's.
Our readers are well acquainted with the flattened and uniutellectual forehead presented by the Carib skull. The author says: "Admiration being the daughter of ignorance, we ought not to be surprised that the Caribs should be seized with a profound astonishment at every thing of which they cannot see the cause, and that they should be brought up in so much simplicity, that in the greater number of this poor people, one would take it for brutal stupidity." "Most of them were persuaded that gunpowder was the seed of a plant, and many insisted on having some to sow in their gardens," where they thought it would grow like cabbage. They never could get over their astonishment at muskets, or conceive how they were discharged. They saw the match applied to the cannons, and thus accounted for their discharge; but believed that Matoya, their evil god, set fire to the muskets. The Caribs were as bad as those American Indians who, being employed by the Spaniards to carry letters and dispatches, could not conceive how the news contained in them was conveyed, and at last fancied the letters to have eyes and ears, and to tell what they saw. Acting on this belief, a party in charge of a letter, fearing its watchfulness, hid it below a stone, that it might not see them steal and eat some of their master's melons!
Our author notices the inability of the Caribs to count beyond the number of their fingers. Their extraordinary deficiency of Causality or reasoning power proved an insuperable obstacle to their forming any conception of an omnipotent and omnipresent God; and when the admirable arrangements of Providence were pointed out as proofs, they listened patiently, and answered, “My friend, you are very eloquent; I wish I could speak like you;" and then added, that it was the earth, and not God, that gave every thing. Monsieur de Montel, finding a Carib at work on a Sunday, told him that "the Being who made the heaven and the earth would be angry with him, as He had set apart that day for His own service." The Carib, unable to penetrate beyond what he saw with his eyes, replied coarsely, "I am angry at your God; you say he is the ruler of the world and of the seasons ;-it is he, then, who has not sent rain in due season, and has caused my manioc and potatoes to die. Since he has used me so ill, I shall work all Sunday to vex him." This brutality, the author remarks, is like that of another savage, who, when told that God was the author of thunder, remarked that he could not be good, since he took such pleasure in terrifying them with it." Remarks like these could proceed only from minds incapable of embracing general
principles, or following out a chain of reasoning to its proper results. They possess only that kind of acuteness which proceeds from active knowing faculties jumping to a visible conclusion. The Caribs were never able to comprehend the doctrines of Christianity, and although many were baptized as a means of protection against one of their own demons, they always considered Christianity as ridiculous and unworthy of men.
Justice was not publicly administered amongst them. Every one was his own avenger, and was held in contempt if he did not resent injuries. They almost never stole from each other; so that when any thing was missing from their huts, their first exclamation was, "A Christian has been here." After describing their diabolical treatment of their enemies and prisoners of war, and giving a horrid picture of atrocity and inhumanity, the author adds, "I confess that the sun would be right in abandoning these barbarians, rather than assisting at such detestible solemnities; but, to act justly, he must also retire from many of the countries of the continent of America, and even from some of those of Africa and Asia, where like cruelties are perpetrated."
The Caribs were extremely fond of their children, and the mothers were tender and excellent nurses; which trait corresponds with the great development of Philoprogenitiveness in all the Carib skulls without exception, of which the Phrenological Society possesses casts. They were scarcely less kind to the children of their neighbours, when the parents were absent in war. They left the infant the free use of its limbs, and allowed it to roll about on the ground; and by this constant exercise most of them were able to walk at six months old, and all of them were finely formed,-deformity, except from wounds, being unknown amongst them. They were carefully taught the various qualifications of an able warrior; to draw the bow, endure hunger and fatigue, and cherish revenge against their enemies. To fit them for the first of these duties, it was a common practice for the parents, almost as soon as the child was able to walk, to tie its breakfast by a thread to the branch of a tree, put a bow and arrow into its hands, and tell it to eat when it could bring it down; and no pity was shewn them if it failed. As the children grew older, the breakfast was suspended from a higher and higher branch, till at last their dexterity in cutting the thread became almost incredibly great. This may serve as a hint in our systems of education.
In accordance with their deficient reasoning powers, the author remarks, that their language cannot express any relation "which does not fall under the notice of their five senses, except the names of some good and evil spirits; but beyond this they have no word to express any thing spiritual, such as understanding,
memory, or will, and they have no comparatives or superlatives." They have names for only four colours, white, black, yellow, and red. Can this last have relation to a small development of the organ of Colouring? They are easily managed by kindness, but harshness totally fails. They have a strict regard for cleanliness, which, he says, is extraordinary in savages.
The naiveté of the author, in commenting on the omission of swaddling in the treatment of infants, as was the universal custom in Europe when he wrote, is very amusing. He says that the Carib mothers allow their infants to tumble about on beds of cotton or dried leaves, without either bandage or swaddling clothes; and that "nevertheless (neantmoins) they do not become deformed, but grow marvellously well, and most of them become so robust that they can walk when six months old,” and all of them are straight and well made!! This he seems to have considered a truly marvellous result, and it never once occurred to his simple and civilized understanding, that the savages were in this respect reaping the reward of fulfilling the intentions of Nature, while his deformed country women were enjoying the necessary fruits of their own absurd aberrations. The modern Europeans may gather an useful lesson from the testimony now quoted, if they choose to avail themselves of it.
In a future number we shall probably describe the Carib cha racter at greater length.
THE BOOK OF APHORISMS. By a MODERN PYTHAGOREAN. Glasgow: W. R. M'Phun. 1834. 12mo. Pp. 224.
THIS is a very entertaining and readable book, well fitted for the perusal of loungers who like to pick up knowledge where their aim is only to be amused. The title gives but an imperfect idea of its contents, for it contains much that can hardly be classed under the denomination of Aphorisms. Though of unequal merit, its contents display, in general, much humour, sagacity, and knowledge of human nature. The topics are extremely multifarious, but are mostly satirical, humorous, literary, pugilistic, and philosophical. The style of the Apho risms is pithy and concise. There are among them some acute phrenological allusions and remarks; a very natural circumstance in a work from the pen of the "Modern Pythagorean,”—this personage being identical with the Philosopher of Sleep, whose work, deeply tinged with Phrenology, was noticed in our 39th Number. We subjoin a few of the Aphorisms as a sample.
The Philosophy of Sleep. By Robert Macnish.