Obrázky na stránke
[graphic][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

199.91 Jn918 6 JET ODNIEJ

10 bs9
90 orante

is doir:
t1990 even erit
- forgey leaños
por 901


20 102- ori niniw LOUBOLTOS ED

It is in cases like the present that those apparent contradictions of character, which were so puzzling before the discovery of Phrenology, occur. Individuals so constituted exhibit opposite phases of disposition, according as the animal or the human faculties happen to have the ascendency. In the heat of passion they do acts which the higher powers afterwards loudly disapprove, and may truly be said to pass their days in alternate sinning and repenting With them the spirit is often willing, but the flesh'is weak. Their lives are embittered by the continual struggle between passion and morality; and while, on the one hand, they have qualities which inspire love and respect, they are, on the other, not unfrequently regarded, even by their friends and admirers, with some degree of suspicion and fear. In treating of this species of character, in an essay read to the Edinburgh Ethical Society last winter, I adduced, as illustrations of it, the cases of Samuel Johnson and Robert Burns; and the cast now under consideration shews that, with respect to the latter, my estimate was not at fault. The mind of Burns was indeed a strange compound of noble and debasing qualities. “ In large and mixed parties,” says Dr Currie,“ he was often silent and dark, sometimes fierce and overbearing; he was jealous of the proud man's scorn, jealous to an extreme of the insolence of wealth, and prone to avenge, even on its innocent possessor, the partiality of fortune. By nature kind, brave, sincere, and in a singular degree compassionate, he was, on the other hand, proud, irascible, and vindictive. His virtues and his failings


had their origin in the extraordinary sensibility of his mind, and equally partook of the chills and glows of sentiment. His friendships were liable to interruption from jealousy or disgust, and his enmities died away under the influence of pity or selfaccusation."

Throughout the correspondence of Burns, as well as in his poems, many allusions to the internal struggle in his mind are to be found. In a prayer written in the prospect of death, the strength of his passions is thus adverted to:

“ O Thou, Great Governor of all below!

If I may dare a lifted eye to Thee,
Thy nod can make the tempest cease to blow,

Or still the tumult of the raging sea ;
With that controlling pow'r assist ev'n me,

Those headlong furious passions to confine:
For all unfit I feel my power to be,

To rule their torrent in th' allowed line:

O, aid me with thy help, Omnipotence Divine !" It appears, then, that none of the regions of Burns's brain was, in relation to the others, deficient; its total size, we have also seen, was great, and its activity was very extraordinary. Hence the force of character for which he was remarkable; the respect which men instinctively paid him; the strong impression which he has made upon the public mind; the impressiveness and originality of his conversation; the dread which his resentment inspired; and the native dignity with which he took his place among

the more learned and polished, but less gifted, literary men of his day. With a small or lymphatic brain, such things would have been altogether impossible.“ In conversation," says Professor Walker, “ he was powerful. His conceptions and expression were of corresponding vigour, and on all subjects were as remote as possible from common places.”

The same author relates a very characteristic ineident, which took place before Burns had come before the public. “ Though Burns," says he, “ was still unknown as a poet, he already numbered several clergymen among his acquaintance: one of these communicated to me a circumstance which conveyed more forcibly than many words, an idea of the impression made upon his mind by the powers of the poet. This gentleman had repeatedly met Burns in company, when the acuteness and originality displayed by the latter, ihe depth of his discernment, the force of his expressions, and the authoritative energy of his understanding, had created in the former a sense of his power, of the extent

• This is a good specimen of the old method of accounting for mental phenomena. Sensibility only adds to the activity of existing faculties; and from these faculties it is that virtues and vices take their origin. Sensibility is sometimes accompanied by eminent virtue, sometimes by strong passions, and sometimes, as in the case of Burns, by a mixture of both. Hence, some other cause than sensibility must be looked for.


of which he was unconscious till it was revealed to him by accident. The second time that he appeared in the pulpit, he came with an assured and tranquil mind; and though a few persons of education were present, he advanced some length in the service, with his confidence and self-possession unimpaired. But when he observed Burns, who was of a different parish, unexpectedly enter the church, he was instantly affected with a tremor and embarrassment, which apprized him of the impression his mind, unknown to himself, had previously received." The Professor adds that this preacher was not only a man of good talents and education, but « remarkable for a more than ordinary portion of constitutional firmness."*

Professor Dugald Stewart has thus recorded the impression made by Burns upon him. “ The idea which his conversation conveyed of the powers of his mind exceeded, if possible, that which is suggested by his writings. Among the poets whom I have happened to know, I have been struck in more than one instance with the unaccountable disparity between their general talents and the occasional inspirations of their more favoured moments. But all the faculties of Burns's mind were, as far as I could judge, equally vigorous; and his predilection for poetry was rather the result of his enthusiastic and impassioned temper, than of a genius exclusively adapted to that species of composition. From his conversation, I should have pronounced him to be fitted to excel in whatever walk of ambition he had chosen to exert his abilities."

I now proceed to compare the development of the individual organs with the strength of the corresponding faculties.

Amativeness is well developed. The cerebellum appears to have had considerable latitudinal and longitudinal dimensions ; but as it does not seem to have been proportionally deep, I estimate the size of the organ at “ rather large.” Adhesiveness is superior to it, and is stated as “ very large.” Ideality also is

” great. If to all this we add the extreme susceptibility of the poet's brain, we shall have no difficulty in perceiving the source of the strong attachments which he formed, especially to individuals of the other sex,-his enthusiastic admiration of the latter,—his ardent patriotism,—and the tenderness and affection embodied in his songs. “ Notwithstanding,” says he, “ all that has been said against love, respecting the folly and weakness it leads a young inexperienced mind into, still I think it in a great measure deserves the highest encomiums that have been passed upon it. If any thing on earth deserves the name of rapture and transport, it is the feelings of green eighteen in the company of the mistress of his heart, when she repays him with an equal

Life prefixed to Morrison's Burns, p. 45.

[ocr errors]

return of affection.” Gilbert Burns states, that in early youth Robert was bashful and awkward in his intercourse with women, but that " when he approached manhood his attachment to their society became very strong, and he was constantly the victim of some fair enslaver. The symptoms of his passion,” adds Gilbert, “ were often such as nearly to equal those of the celebrated Sappho. I never, indeed, knew that he fainted, sank, and died away ; but the agitations of his mind and body exceeded any thing of the kind I ever knew in real life." **

In conformity with the views of Mr William Scott *, who regards Adhesiveness as “ the centre of true affection," and Amativeness as an auxiliary though indispensable element in the passion of love, I conceive that, in the loves of Burns, Adhesiveness was a stronger ingredient than Atnativeness-the influence of which also, however, was certainly important. Notwithstanding the licentious tone of some of his early pieces, we are assured by himself (and his brother unhesitatingly confirms the statement), that no positive vice uningled in any of his love adventures until he had reached his twenty-third year. Considerable alteration was produced on his mind and manners by a residence

a for several months on' a smuggling coast, where he mingled without reserve in scenes of riot and dissipation. In 1781-2, he spent six months at Irvine, where, to use the words of Gilbert, " he contracted some 'acquaintance of a freer manner of living and thinking than he had been used to, whose society prepared him for overleaping the bounds of rigid virtue '

which had hitherto restrained him." Subsequently to this time, he indulged the propensity with some freedom ; but I do not believe that in this respect he differed from young men in general at the same period, and in the same or perhaps any station of life. I have little doubt that Love of Approbation and Secretiveness, which are largely developed, essentially contributed to augment the number of his love adventures. Secretiveness delights in concealment, intrigue, and stolen interviews, and, combined with Individuality, gives tact and savoir faire, Its organ was certainly one of the largest in the brain of Burns, and in love affairs the tendency found abundant gratification. "A country lad," he says, “ seldom carries on a love adventure without an assisting confidant. I possessed a curiosity, zeal, and intrepid dexterity, that recommended me as a proper second on these occasions; and I daresay I felt as much pleasure in being in the secret of half the loves of the parish of Tarbolton, as ever did statesman in knowing the intrigues of half the courts of Europe t.""

• Phren. Journ, yol. iii. p. 82. + The consequences of these adventures, says Lockhart, “ are far, very far, more frequently quite harmless than persons not familiar with the peculiar manners and feelings of our peasantry may find it easy to believe."--Life,

p. 33.


It may be thought that the grøssness of Burns's unpublished correspondence indicates a still greater development of Amativeness than that which appears from the skull. In judging, however, of these letters, and drawing inferences from their language, it is very pecessary, as Mr Lockhart acutely remarks, to take into consideration the rank and character of the persons to whom they are severally addressed, and the measure of intimacy which really subsisted between them and the poet. In his letters, as in his conversation, Burns, in spite of all his pride, did something to accommodate himself to his company."- (Lockhart p: 185.)

. It seems highly probable, that while composing theșe letters, and also certain of his songs, the poet, instead of giving vent to his actual feelings, rather had his eye upon the roar of laughter and applause expected from the circle of his jovial and licentious acquaintances

. Finally, the effects of frequent carousing on the activity of the cerebellum ought to be kept in view.,

Philoprogenitiveness is very large, and the poet's affection for his children was proportionally strong. It was Pḥiloprogenitiveness that formed the chief obstacle to his emigration to America. In one of his letters, after enumerating the various motives by which he was impelled to leave Scotland, he adds, “ All these reasons urge me to go abroad, and to all these reasons I have only one answer the feelings of a father. This, in the present mood I am in, overbalances every thing that can be laid in the scale against it." He dreaded poverty more on account of his wife and children than for his own sake ; and the prospect of leaving them destitute gave him many uneasy reflections. “ There had much need,” he writes to Mrs Dunlop,“ be

many pleasures annexed to the states of husband and father, for God knows, they have many peculiar cares, I cannot describe to you the anxious sleepless bours these ties frequently give me. I's a train of helpless little folks; me and my exertions all their stay; and on what a brittle thread does the life of man hang! If I am nipt off at the command of fate, even in all the vigour of manhood as I am-such things happen every day-gracious God! what would become of my little flock ! "Tis here that I envy you people of fortune."

The Rev. James Gray, rector of the Dumfries Academy, and afterwards one of the masters in the High School of Edinburgh, states, in a letter to Gilbert Burns, that Robert“ was a kind and attentive father, and took great delight in spending his evenings in the cultivation of the minds of his children."—(Lockhart, p. 244.)

The organ of Combativeness is also very large. Burns, along with much Cautiousness, had a strong endowment of courage. In the course of his duty as an exciseman, he on one occasion headed some dragoons, waded sword in hand to a smuggling brig on the shore of Solway Firth, and was the first to board


« PredošláPokračovať »