« PreviousContinue »
A LETTER FROM DOCTOR BRIGHAM TO David M. REESE, M. D., Author of 'Phrenology
Known by its Fruits. pp. 24.
The author of ' Phrenology Known by its Fruits' is exhibited, by this Letter of Dr. BRIGHAM, in a most humiliating and ridiculous aspect. By copious extracts from his work, and from the book it professes to review, he is convicted of gross professional mistakes; of using language which would disgrace a political libeller; of altering and mutilating sentences he professes to quote, so as entirely to pervert their original meaning; of ascribing to Dr. Brigham passages which are quotations in his work, and are marked as such; and even of inserting as extracts from his book, sentences and sentiments, the substance of which, either in meaning or language, is not to be found in that volume. Dr. Brigham asserts, and so far as we have examined, he proves, that every one of Dr. Reese's charges against his work, is based upon some palpable misstatement of his recorded opinions, or misquotation of his words. The'Fruits of Phrenology' was evidently intended by its author for circulation among those who would probably never see the work it affects to refute. The misquotations are too glaring, to be accounted for on any other theory. And no doubt the author's end will in a measure be attained, since his book will be read by many who may never see the work it pretends to discuss, nor the modest vindication contained in this Letter; and the charges of ignorance,'' stupidity,'' infidelity,'' heresy,'and' falsehood,' so rudely made, will pass unrefuted. So far at least, however, as the twenty or thirty thousand readers of this Magazine are concerned, it is our intention to obviate this result.
The pamphlet before us is written with such condensation as to render it difficult to make any satisfactory abstract. Dr. Brigham, in his former work, examined the influence of religious rites upon the physical condition of mankind, in all ages and in all countries. Among these, he discussed the fanatical proceedings of some Christian sects, in former times and at the present day; taking care to avow his belief in the 'divine origin' of Christianity-in its 'inconceivable beauty and philanthropy;' and averring that it alone 'was sufficient for man's salvation. These expressions, though there are many others of similar import, were sufficiently explicit, in a treatise not theological, but purely medical. Dr. Reese endeavors to create the impression that Dr. Brigham treated only of the Christian religion, in its purest forms, and charged to its legitimate influence the horrid rites of human sacrifices, mutilations, etc. "These enormities,' says Dr. Brigham, in reply, 'I never thought of attributing to true religion, and your motives for attempting to make your readers suppose I have done so, I leave you to explain.'
Dr. Reese's book is entitled, 'Phrenology Known by its Fruits ;' and these fruits, as contained in the work of Dr. Brigham, are said to be infidelity,'' falsehood,' stupidity,' and an assault upon medical truth. The Letter before us contains a summary of the peculiar doctrines of phrenology, as given by Professor Dunglinson, in his
Physiology, and conclusively shows, that not one of those doctrines is contained in his book. On the contrary, he adds, that he has 'never been a full believer in phrenology;' that observation has compelled him to believe in the plurality of the intellectual faculties, and of the organs of the brain by which they are exhibited; but that he has had neither time nor opportunity to verify the other doctrines of this science, though he confesses, in the words of Dr. Abernethy, his inability to offer any rational objections to Gall and Spurzheim's system of phrenology, as affording a satisfactory explanation of the nature of human actions. It is evident, therefore, that the conclusions of Dr. Brigham are not the 'Fruits of Phronology,' whatever else they may be. Indeed, Dr. Reese's knowledge of that science is rendered very questionable, by sundry absurd mistakes in his allusions to it. For instance, he asserts that Dr. Gall
located the organ of memory in the eyes!' and that all phrenologists agree in attributing the faculty of speech, and the power of articulating sounds, to the eyes!' These are mistakes which would hardly be made by any one of common reading, much less by a physician and a 'phrenologist !
It was remarked by Dr. Brigham, that'excitement of the mind increases the action of the brain.' It might be supposed that no respectable physiologist or metaphysician could entertain a doubt of the truth of this proposition. Not so Dr. Reese. He expends a considerable portion of his work in denouncing it — particularly the 'action of the brain.' He calls it 'a dogma of phrenology,' 'an imp of phrenology,' a fiction of phrenological theory,'' anatomically and physiologically false,'' a visionary fable,'' a physical impossibility,' and a' metaphysical absurdity!' The Letter under notice very cooly refutes these polite denunciations, by pointing out a similar use of the same phraseology, by a host of the best medical writers; by the illustrious Cabanis, by Vicq-d'Azyr, Richerand, Prichard, and Magendi; by Drs. Rush, Jackson, and Dunglinson, in this country, as well as by the best medical journals in Europe and America. After thus adducing the authority of nearly all the standard writers on physiology, he adds another- a very poor one, he admits — namely, Dr. Reese himself !-- and then leaves him in the dilemma of choosing 'between ignorance of the best writers in his profession, or intentional misstatement.'
Several pages of the Letter are chiefly filled with examples of sentences, either mis. quoted, or so altered as entirely to change their meaning. The mangled paragraphs are marked as quotations of Dr. Brigham's own words. We shall extract but two or three examples. They are of so gross a character, that their exposure may be a warning against other similar attempts.
The following sentence is marked as a quotation from Dr. Brigham's book, and is denounced with great asperity. When a barbarian abolishes, of his own accord, polygamy, the mutilation of the body, castes, slavery, tyranny, and fanaticism, these absurdities once gone, the barbarian becomes a Christian ! The nearest parallel sentence in Dr. Brigham's book is as follows: 'No sooner does its (the Gospel's) morality enter into the hearts of barbarians, than they abolish, of their own accord, polygamy, the mutilation of the body, the usage of castes, slavery, tyranny, which is the contempt of man, and funaticism, which is the ignorance of God. These abominations once gone, what stands before the heathen idols, in the individual? What but a Christian ?' And this sentence, the reader must furthermore be told, is a quotation by Dr. Brigham from a work of Aimè-Martin, which is spoken of by the Foreign Quarterly Review, as a 'production which teems with morality and real religion!'
Doctor Brigham cited from an article of Esquirol, in 'Le Dictionnaire des Sciences Medicales,' the following passage: 'When Christianity appeared, it directed the minds of men to the unity of God — silenced the Oracles, by enlightening men, and consecrated and extended the opinion of Plato and Socrates, as to the existence of
spirits !' Observe Dr. Reese's violent misrepresentation of the sentiment: 'Among other flagrant exhibitions of depravity and infidelity, we are here taught that Christianity Only consecrated and extended the opinion of Plato and Socrates, as to the existence of spirits! Well may Dr. Brigham exclaim, 'Oh Shame! Shame! where is thy blush!'
* Doctor Brigham broadly intimates,' says the author of ' Phrenology Known by its Fruits,' 'that theatre-going is not objectionable, on account of being injurious to the body!
Doctor Brigham answers, by the only quotation from his book that relates to the subject : 'Every one knows that attendance upon theatres and balls is injurious to health. That hundreds of females lose their lives from complaints produced by attending them, few will doubt,' etc.
Dr. Reese: "This' (viz., the influence of religion in preventing insanity) · Dr. Brigham not only overlooks, but utterly denies.' Dr. Brigham had said, 'It is important to consider it is scarcely more true, that great and violent religious excitements, like all others, are injurious to health, than that the entire neglect of devotion and religious duties is so.'
Doctor Reese professes to quote the following words from the work he reviews: ' In all ages, religion has been one of the most fruitful sources of insanity.' Dr. Brigham replies, ' You have made up this sentence, and attributed it to me.' In several sentences, also, the word 'only' is inserted, so as to distort the meaning; in others 'on' is substituted for 'by,' etc.
After a long and loathsome catalogue of similar misquotations, Dr. Brigham adds, 'If any person is not satisfied with the dishonesty of the reviewer, I will furnish twice the number of instances I have already.'
After this effectual exposure of the professional ignorance ard unfairness of his antagonist, Dr. Brigham inquires, “What possible excuse have you for the abusive epithets which are on almost every page of your book? I select a few from several hundred, to refresh your memory, in the hope - (a hope which has led us to make this abstract) — that, warned by your example, they will never again be used in a religious, medical, or any other controversy. A sufficient specimen of these epithets we have already reluctantly been forced to transcribe in this notice.
'Not content,' says Dr. Brigham, with villifying myself, you treat others no better, and 'deal damnation round' on some of the most virtuous and illustrious of our profession. Thus you pronounce Georget a French infidel, and Esquirol another French infidel. Where is the least particle of evidence of the truth of these charges? M. Georget died young — too soon for the good of science and humanity. But he lived long enough to acquire a reputation that has placed him in the front rank of disa. tinguished medical men, and endeared his memory to the enlightened members of our profession in all countries. That he was an infidel, nothing in his writings indicates; and I presume you have not the least proof of your allegation. The illustrious Esquirol is still living — still devoting himself, though at an advanced age, to the welfare of suffering humanity. If there exists a man whose private worth, arduous and meritorious services, eloquent and useful writings, should have saved him from your calumniation, it should have saved him. That he is an infidel, is not true ; and I trust there is not another medical man in our country but reyolts at your attempt to villify him; and will with me rejoice, that after this exposé, it will be of no consequence what you say of any individual.'
" In regard to your charge of infidelity against my book,' says Dr. Brigham, 'I hardly consider it necessary to reply, farther than to say distinctly that it is wholly false.' Words would have failed me, had I attempted to state, in full
, my admiration of the religion of Christ, as exhibited' in the gospel. In that religion, I see nothing but good,
and the highest good of mankind. It has already been, upon earth, the most powerful promoter of the welfare of man; but the good it is yet to accomplish, when its true spirit is generally perceived, I trust, will be far greater.
Then it will be found to be something more than a name, for hypocrites and useless drones to assume, to obtain that notoriety, and to gain that bread, to which no merit they possess, and no labors they perform, entitle them.'
Against this religion, I have never said one word; but, as a medical man, seeing evils, great evils, arising from certain practices lately introduced among some Christian sects, I ventured to address my countrymen.'
'I said that pure religion Christianity — had no such effect.'
'I stated, however, that great mental excitement and anxiety, produced by what are called religious protracted meetings sometimes protracted forty days, and sometimes exclusively for children — together with anxious meetings, camp-meetings, numerous night meetings, exciting preaching, and alarming doctrines, caused insanity, and other diseases. I remain of this opinion, and presume that every intelligent physician, every candid and well-informed man in the country, believes it to be correct.'
The 'Letter closes as follows, and every unprejudiced reader must admit, that the caustic severity of the paragraph is well deserved :
“But it is time to conclude; and I gladly do so, by submitting to the decision of my countrymen, whether I have done a good or an evil service to the country, in the work I published. To my professional brethren - to the hundreds of enlightened medical men in your city-I appeal for the correctness of the medical opinions I have advanced. Whether you have done a good service in assailing me, in the manner you have, and whether you have not been shown, in this short Letter, to be an ignoramus in your profession - a mere pretender to medical knowledge - a scurrilous controversialist - a libeller of your medical brethren, and a perverter of the truth - I also submit to the decision of the same tribunal."
The merited rebuke which public journals (including several which are religious, in the orthodox' sense of that much-abused term) have given Dr. Brigham's reviewer, since the publication of the present unanswerable and scorching exposé of his mode of warfare, together with the marked disapprobation which such unprincipled criticism has elicited, wherever in society its merits are discussed, and its injustice known, must serve to convince Dr. Reese that he acted unwisely, when he perilled the questionable controversial laurels which he had previously won, by engaging in unequal conflict with one so well qualified as Dr. Brigham to lay bare his ignorance and dishonesty. Now that his inflated pretensions are brought down to a level with his talents, by a necessary and most effective puncture, it may be hoped that the discomfitted reviewer will be less anxious than heretofore to 'obtrude the private I upon the public eye,' or, at least, more guarded in the choice and use of his weapons offensive.
GIAFAX AL BARMEKI, A TALE OF THE COURT OF HAROUN AL RASCHID.
In two vols. 12mo. pp. 446. New-York: HARPER AND BROTHERS.
Madam Rumor, a lady not always to be believed, although there is generally a portion of truth in what she says, has assigned the authorship of these hard-named volumes to a professional gentleman of this city, who has never left his native country, and whose pursuits and duties have left him little leisure to prosecute literary enterprises. This may be, and we believe is, indeed true; but most readers will find it difficult to credit it, after a perusal of this his first offering to the literary public. They will find scenes of oriental splendor, and the manners and customs of the East, depicted in such faithful colors, as to lead them at once to conclude, that none but an eastern traveler, possessed of a quick eye and a ready pen, could have spread these pictures before them.