Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

The same picture is exhibited in the progress of the human infant to its highest perfection, only more enriched and diversified. At first the infant is as destitute and naked of every accomplishment as the spawn of an oyster, but the various tricks and movements of those of its kind, who are repeatedly, and often studiously exhibiting themselves in its view, gradually strike upon its imitative faculty, it possesses itself of one attainment after another, and learns insensibly, by repeated trials, to speak, to walk, to run, to dance, together with ten thousand other movements of its body, hands, and eyes, which words are unable with distinction to express. The animal has not in itself any sense of propriety, to which the several objects of its imitation are adapted, and whereby it selects one more than an

enough to have suggested the whole theory: but however great the honour of being even the scholar of so eminent a master, in this I have preceded him ; for this essay was read to a learned body near thirty years before the Zoonomia was given to the public.

other ;

other ; but all are alike indifferent, to all it is alike propense; and to more, or even totally opposite, if more or opposite were equally presented to its view. If the infant should never see a human figure erect, it would never raise itself upon two supporters, while four presented themselves to die vide the burthen, but be, and for ever continue, as supine as any four-footed beast of the field *. No use of its limbs, no position of its organs, seems to be more natural to it than any other. The child, which is educated with those who have acą quired an oblique direction of the eye, a particular cast of the head, a wriggle in their gait, or other bodily peculiarity, will be sure almost to squint, to carry its head awry, and have a serpentine motion in its walk. I have little doubt, that if a few of St. Vitus's dancers were generally presented to the view of a child, it would without any bodily infirmity dance as naturally and as

See lord Monboddo and other authorities,


rapidly as the merriest of them all. Nay, the more difficult and eccentric any object of imitation is, the more deeply is the sense impressed with it, and the more itching propensity is excited to the resemblance. This may solve a difficulty, which has puzzled the whole Galenic tribe; and to save the honour of their mechanic theories has led them boldly to deny the best authenticated facts. Because, forsooth, they see not how the imagination is to perform the office of a painter or an amputator, and impress a figure of a particular colour, or to cut off a limb in the womb, it must therefore be granted to them, against all testimony, that such an effect has never existed. Now the solution is easy; for the imitative faculty of the parent is strongly impressed and' irritated by the object presented to her, whether from its novelty, or its sudden appearance ; but the imitation is too difficult to be effected on her hardened and unyielding body; while the perfect sympathy, which subsists in the womb between the parent and the embryo, 8.


[ocr errors]

renders the operation easy enough upon its pliant mass, and in consequence a glowing strawberry is impressed upon its breast, or a limb is taken off with all the dexterity of the most practised chirurgeon. In some instances the impression of the


from the incidental presence of an object of alarm is strong enough to convert the human form divine into that of a wolf, a cat, or a monkey.

But to return to the effects of this principle after birth. The faculty of imitation is found to have even a negative power, and enables the infant to decline and intercept the progress of habits, and even of bodily parts, which were already commenced. It is well attested in history, that the human face once existed with tails, though how this desirable ornament of the human body came to be lost to our kind is not recorded *., Conjecture has however supplied


# See lord Monboddo and others. The Jewish rabþis are not ignorant, that the tail was originally de

the defect of historical information; and it so well accords with my theory, that I am inclined to give a perfect credence to the conjecture. It is supposed then, that, at some early period, when the human race was comprised in a few families, a distinguished patriarch lost by accident this ornament of his posteriors; and that, from an unmanly complaisance to their mutilated su, perior, the whole of the human kind then existing submitted to an amputation, and thus voluntarily reduced themselves to the same unfortunate condition. The offspring are however to this day born with the rudiments of a tail, as is well known to every anatomist. But the imitative faculty having no similar object in their parents presented

signed to be an appendage of mạn, but they account for his being deprived of it in a manner very different from what is supposed in this essay. They assert, that the Creator formed the woman out of the tail of the man, This is merely an invidious representation of the origin of woman. But it confirms the tradition, that a tail was originally designed to be a part of the human figure,


« AnteriorContinuar »