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ART. I.-The Psychology of Shakspeare. By JOHN CHARLES BUCKNILL, M.D. Lond., Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians; Fellow of University College, London; Medical Superintendent of the Devon County Lunatic Asylum; editor of 'The Journal of Mental Science,' and joint-author of 'The Manual of Psychological Medicine.'-London, 1859. pp. 264.
THAT a physician devoted to the treatment of "the mind diseased," but especially one who has proved himself to be so intimately acquainted with the physiological and pathological psychology as Dr. Bucknill has, should find in Shakspeare much subject for study and contemplation, is not to be wondered at. What but the reality of his characters, their vitality and truthfulness, the absence of mere histrionic conventionalities, has made Shakspeare the poet of the world ? He, indeed, as our author well says, is the great mind which, containing all possibilities within itself, and combining the knowledge of others with the knowledge of self, was able to conceive and to delineate every variety of character possible in nature. As Shakspeare's representations of the normal manifestations of character surpass the representations of all other authors of fiction, so do we nowhere find the transition from the healthy to the morbid condition of the mind, the various phases of insanity and the difference between real and feigned madness, delineated as we see it in the plays of our immortal poet. Opportunities, our author tells us, were plentiful for observing the phenomena of mental derangement in the good old days. The insane members of society were not in those times confined in lunatic asylums or placed under the protection of Commissioners in Lunacy. If their symptoms were prominent and dangerous, they were indeed thrust out of sight very harshly and effectually, but if their liberty was in any degree tolerable, it was tolerated, and they were permitted to live in the family circle or to wander the country." Hence, Shakspeare had not to seek far for subjects of study, and his great mind sufficed "to convert these opportunities into psychological science."
Dr. Bucknil shows how Shakspeare's knowledge of the mental physiology of human life was brought to bear upon all the obscurities and intricacies of its pathology; how he, above all men, had the faculty of unravelling the motives of human action. In the work before us the
author analyses, in a masterly manner, the mental phenomena of several of the more prominent characters of the world's poet, and brings ample proofs how, even in her morbid manifestations, Shakspeare mirrors Nature as none else has done. It has been a source of great pleasure to us to read Dr. Bucknill's book, and we hope soon again to peruse it, when, under his guidance, we have gone over carefully the dramas upon which he descants. We congratulate the literary world upon the appearance of a work which must be a great boon to all ordinary commentators, to whom the human mind is only known in a few of its features. But Dr. Bucknill opens to us new views; he gives us additional grounds for paying our homage, we had almost said devotion, to the creative genius of Shakspeare; and his inquiries are not vague and vain speculations, but put before us in language worthy of its subject, arguments based upon a kind of knowledge which no previous commentator of Shakspeare has possessed. The series commences with an inquiry into the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth; its general scope may be gathered from the following introductory remark
'Although Macbeth is less pervaded with the idea of mental disease than its great rival tragedies of Hamlet and Lear, and contains but one short scene in which a phase of insanity is actually represented, it is not only replete with passages of deep psychological interest, but in the mental development of the bloody-handed hero and of his terrible mate, it affords a study scarcely less instructive than the wild and passionate madness of Lear, or the metaphysical motive-weighing melancholy of the Prince of Denmark."
Dr. Bucknill commences his analysis by demonstrating that the moral basis of Macbeth's character is by no means one of innate badness, but that his natural tendencies are to bravery and kindness. His ambition is the idol which, under the fostering influence of the baneful prophecy, and of the still more ambitious wife, leads him to the commission of his first foul deed, and having once overstepped the bounds of morality and humanity, his career in wickedness can no longer be arrested. Let us hear our author's words
'Macbeth is no villain in grain, like Richard III. or Iago, revelling in the devil's work because he likes it; but a once noble nature, struggling, but yielding, in a net of temptation, whose meshes are wound round him by the visible hand of the Spirit of Evil. Slave as he is to that soldier's passion, the love of fame and power, he is not without amiable qualities. He was once loved even by his arch-enemy Macduff, to whom Malcolm says
"This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues,
Dr. Bucknill urges further arguments on the same side, but he has no wish in that way to palliate the guilt of Macbeth
"In a moral point of view this is impossible. If his solicitings to crime are supernatural, combined with fate and metaphysic aid, he is not blinded by them. With conscience fully awake, with eyes open to the foul nature of his double treachery, although resisting, he yields to temptation. He even feels that he is not called upon to act to fulfil the decrees of destiny
"If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me,
"Had he with more determination resisted the temptations of the woman, he might have falsified the prophecies of the fiend, and put aside from his lips the poisoned chalice of remorse, maintained from rancours the vessel of his peace, and above all, have rescued the eternal jewel of his soul."
It is impossible for us to accompany Dr. Bucknill in his wanderings through those realms which Shakspeare has opened to us, but which, like so many other good and glorious things that lie within our reach, we but rarely appreciate and love as they merit. We may vaguely admire his works, as a man of taste feels his heart warmed by the picturesque scenery of the mountains and valleys of Wales or Scotland; but deeper knowledge and a larger mind than that which indulges only in dilettantism, is necessary to enjoy to the full, the grandeur or loveliness of nature; and alike, those wonderful representations of man in all the phases in which he treads the earth, which Shakspeare places before us.
Willingly would we dwell longer upon this interesting and fruitful theme. We feel that were we able to devote more space to it, we could but feebly follow in the footsteps of Dr. Bucknill, whose knowledge and appreciation of Shakspeare's characters makes him a fit expositor of his favourite poet. No one, we conceive, has so admirably and consistently traced the unity of character that pervades Hamlet— the most wonderful, as well as the most intricate, of Shakspeare's dramas. Sincerely do we hope that Dr. Bucknill will continue his sketches, and more particularly that he will at once carry out the plan which he has already formed, of giving to the world his views regarding Shakspeare's knowledge of medicine.
ART. II.-Five Essays. By JOHN KEARSLEY MITCHELL, M.D., late Professor of Practice of Medicine in Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, Member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Fellow of the Philadelphia College of Physicians, &c. Edited by S. WEIR MITCHELL, M.D., Lecturer on Physiology in the Philadelphia Association for Medical Instruction. delphia, 1859. pp 371.
THE five essays which constitute this volume have all-four in toto, one in extract—been already before the public of the United States; some of our readers may therefore have become acquainted with them. They now, however, for the first time make their appearance in a collected form, and we may thank the editor for having performed what the Charlestown Medical Journal' terms an act of filial reverence in publishing them together. The book itself gives us no clue to the relationship that links the two names together which are found on the title-page.
The first of these essays discusses the cryptogamous origin of malarious and epidemic fevers, in which the author presents us with "a theory, not to be esteemed devoutly true, but as, in the present state of knowledge, the most perfect explanation of the known phenomena of the case; and as the least exposed to the many objections easily brought against any other hypothesis."
This passage conveys the drift of the writer's argument, and the
conclusion he arrives at. He brings together much evidence, necessarily altogether of a circumstantial and indirect kind, but to the author's mind incontrovertible. The essay is worth reading, because it is elaborated with much care and thought, though it fails to convince us that the presence of a fungus in the system is the essential and uniform cause of all malarious and epidemic fevers. Suffice it to say that the conclusions of Dr. Mitchell necessarily depend entirely upon the mode in which he views certain facts capable of various interpretations. He gives no positive observations showing the introduction or germination of fungi in or upon the body that are not already familiar to all educated medical men. As a sample of the urgency with which Dr. Mitchell has subpoenaed the witnesses in behalf of his cause, take the following:
"Immemorially, the sleeping in damp sheets has been thought hazardous to health; but the keepers of hotels and boarding-houses know that the danger is very slight, unless the sheets have been put away in a damp state, and have acquired a mouldy smell. The constant practice of the hydropathists shows the little hazard of a wet sheet, while daily experience demonstrates the certainty of at least stiffened muscles and an arrest of the Schneiderian secretions, after spending an hour or two between damp and musty bedclothes. The Scottish Highlanders are said to dip themselves, dress and all, into the sea, when obliged to sleep out of doors, after being drenched by rain. As water is supposed to act unfavourably by means of its coldness, we cannot easily explain the known benefit of this substitution, except by a reference to the acknowledged power of salt to prevent the growth of fungi."
And again-may we be pardoned calling the following, in slang metaphor, a regular sneezer?
"It may seem rather curiously nice to notice another point connected with this part of our subject; but as you are all students now, and will I hope become true scholars hereafter, I will observe, that every one who searches for knowledge among old books and manuscripts has been occasionally attacked by sternutation, and at least a temporary coryza, when he has disturbed the dust which has long slumbered within their leaves. As the dust of a room swept daily and the pulverulent clouds of a summer road do not so affect him, he seizes his microscope, and detects the cause of his sufferings in the numerous organic spores which have grown into power to torment among the dampness and darkness of the leafy envelopes."
These passages are merely selected to show upon how weak a basis the whole hypothesis must rest to require support from such evidence. The whole is, however, an interesting contribution to medical literature, and may serve as a fresh starting-point for further inquiries in the same direction.
The second essay, upon Animal Magnetism or Vital Induction, is in every way more satisfactory and complete than the first. The author no longer deals with hypothesis only, but gives us evidence based upon an intimate personal knowledge of the subject; his mode of handling it proves his entire competency to give instruction thereon. author has experimented upon a very large number of persons, and appears to have investigated, with much discrimination, the proceedings of the various mesmerists with whom he has come into contact. The following are some of the conclusions which he arrives at :
"Imagination and imitation cannot account for the uniformity of the phenomena of the mesmeric state in persons of all ages and conditions, who are totally ignorant not only of the symptoms to be produced, but of the design of the mesmeriser.
"The phenomena of artificial somnambulism are,-1. An exaltation of the circulation, without a corresponding increase of the respiration. 2. An obtunded sensibility to causes of pain, and sometimes, though rarely, its total obliteration. 3. The more or less complete obliviousness of the thoughts and events of the mesmeric state, while awake, although the memory of the events of the natural state is strong in the artificial state. 4. The retention of locomotion, and the facility of being led into suggested dreams, are also curious effects of mesmeric action."
To this property of artificial dreaming the author refers the alleged miracles of clairvoyance, intuition, and prevision. He explains the influence of phrenological manipulation in bringing out the manifestations of qualities as by the keys of a piano, upon the same principle of suggestions being acted upon by the patient. The cases brought forward to prove this, positively and negatively, are both instructive and amusing. We need not state that Dr. Mitchell utterly scouts the idea of a mesmerised subject being able to treat disease by virtue of his mesmeric intuition. In these cases we invariably find, that while the pathology or diagnosis is faulty and absurd, the remedies suggested are always exactly in keeping with the previous knowledge of the mesmerised individual. The author has found no difference in the susceptibility of the two sexes to the mesmeric influence; he believes the rapport so much spoken of as existing between patients and their mesmerisers to be entirely dependent upon the will of the patient, and to be one of the many hallucinations of the mesmeric state. He therefore entirely denies the existence of any peculiar sympathy between the operator and the subject. The mesmeric influence itself Dr. Mitchell regards as
"The effect of what the natural philosophers call induction. The will of the operator acts solely on himself, his altered system reacts by proximity on the subject of the experiment by an unexplained power, analogous to the equally inexplicable induction of the mechanician and the presence of the chemist."
Dr. Mitchell does not claim much therapeutic power for mesmerism, while he admits that it is capable of producing frightful disorders, both of body and mind, if improperly employed.
The third and fourth essays treat of the penetrativeness of fluids and gases, while the fifth is devoted to the consideration of "a new practice in acute and chronic rheumatism." The last, we are told in the preface, affected the treatment of rheumatism throughout the United States, and is still a favourite mode of practice in this formidable malady with Dr. Mitchell's countrymen. The treatment is based upon the hypothesis that the disease is dependent upon an affection of the spinal cord, and consists in the application of cups, leeches, or counter-irritation along the spine; the point of application being determined by the origin of the spinal nerves of the affected part.