Billeder på siden

too long neglected. With reference to the curability of insanity, which is abundantly shown by statistics, Dr. Robinson says:

"My own experience is wholly in favour of the idea, that in the great majority of cases insanity is directly or indirectly the effect of sources of mental disturbance originating in the will or feelings of the persons affected, and which may therefore properly be considered as moral in their nature. The mental affection itself may not be immediately produced by the moral disturbing cause, but if the latter excite in the system a series of disordered actions terminating in the former, and which would not otherwise have been in operation, we are surely warranted in regarding it as essentially productive of the attack of insanity. Moreover, in proving that the great majority of cases of insanity arise from moral causes, we prove that it is in general a preventible disease, Many physical agencies and bodily infirmities cannot be altogether prevented. But, inasmuch as sound religion and sound philosophy alike enjoin constant warfare against the evil tendencies naturally existing in mankind, we are justified in believing that mental disorders, arising from those moral weaknesses, are by no means necessary and inevitable afflictions. It is no part of man's duty to bow down tamely to miseries of his own creation, and allow the light of his reason, and the best and holiest of his spiritual attributes to be polluted by the offspring of his own vices and infirmities, and when educated communities can once be made to understand and feel that the preservation of their mental health is to a very great extent in their own hands, we may expect many of the most fertile sources of mental disorder to be speedily and effectually checked."

In one important point Dr. Robinson differs with almost all the recent writers on insanity, including Pinel, Esquirol, Pritchard, &c., who have maintained the reality of a morbid condition, to which the designation "moral insanity" has been given, and which, in Dr. Pritchard's words, is characterized by "a morbid perversion of the feelings, affections, and active powers, without any illusion or erroneous conviction impressed upon the understanding; it sometimes coexists with an apparently unimpaired state of the intellectual faculties." Dr. Robinson does not deny that the moral sense and feelings in the partially insane is frequently impaired, but argues that there are few in whom the powers of the will, the reason, and the conscience are so far undermined as to render them altogether incapable of self-control, and consequently irresponsible. This is no doubt perfectly true, but the advocates of the doctrine of moral insanity do not contend, as Dr. Robinson seems to think, that this condition, if ever so satisfactorily shown to exist, should be admitted as a bar to all punishment. No doubt the doctrine has been carried too far, and Dr. Robinson has some reason for saying that

"This assumption of the possible existence of 'irresistible' and 'uncontrollable' impulses in persons admitted to be intellectually sane, is the root of all the difficulties surrounding the subject."

And we agree with him that

"The only effective and legitimate mode of reconciling the requirements of social security with the exculpatory recognition of human weakness and man's natural proneness to crime, consists in the mitigation of our criminal laws, and the substitution of the reformatory for the retaliatory principle, as the ground of the punishments inflicted by them."

But Dr. Robinson recognises the fact, that there are large numbers of persons of unaffected intellect in whom the governing power of the mind is so far enfeebled, that they are "habitually incapable of resisting criminal impulses or vicious cravings," and this surely amounts to something very like "irresistible impulse." He is so well aware that this moral weakness is a fertile source of misery, that he believes in these cases the general interests of the community to be more involved than in those of individuals "morbidly" affected. We are inclined to think that Dr. Robinson's unwillingness to regard moral weakness as a morbid condition, depends very much upon his fear that it should be confounded with natural depravity and vice, and admitted as a bar to punishment when pleaded in extenuation of crime. We think there are few impulses which are altogether irresistible, if there be a sufficiently powerful motive to exercise control over the actions, and, therefore, few who can properly be said to be irresponsible; but we think few will deny that the responsibility attaching to individuals differs in degree, and that in many it is of a very limited kind by reason of mental weakness, the result of morbid action in these cases. We would on no account contend for immunity, but if punishment is to be inflicted it ought surely to be modified in proportion to the presumed incapacity to resist criminal impulses.

The question as to the increase of insanity is one upon which authorities differ, and upon which it is very difficult to form an opinion. Statistics are quoted both to prove and to disprove the position, and it is maintained with considerable show of reason, that the apparent increase is in a great measure, if not altogether, owing to the fact that more cases are brought under observation, and more attention is paid to them; but making allowance for these, the weight of evidence seems to be in favour of the opinion that there is a certain increase in the number of insane persons beyond what could be referred to the increasing proportion of the population. The chief cause of this is doubtless to be found in the wear and tear of the great battle of life, too often carried on without regard to any consideration but the gratification of an ever restless ambition, which leads men of every rank and degree to sacrifice present happiness in the fierce struggle for wealth and pre-eminence. We cannot but fear that the increasing civilization of the age of which we constantly hear such complacent commendation, is not without serious drawbacks, and that society pays for its advantages by the greater selfishness of its members and by the prevalence of a less lofty tone of morality. Dr. Robinson has expressed his views on this subject as follows:

"Notwithstanding, then, the enormous intellectual advances made during the present age, there probably never was a period in the history of this country when happiness and contentment were less generally diffused throughout the different classes of society. The increasing tendency to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, necessarily produces discontent among the many; while the incessant striving after social elevation, as one of the results of the more general equalization of education, the intensity of competition, the love of display so unnatural to the old English character, the introduction of many foreign vices, and the frequent faithlessness of men holding important trusts,

have all united to engender a state of feeling in the highest degree injurious to the mental condition of the community. And in investigating the moral causes of insanity, we shall discover ample evidence of its frequent origin in the vices of a spurious and hollow civilization."

We have derived much pleasure from the perusal of Dr. Robinson's treatise, which is evidently the production of a philosophic mind, and we trust it will be extensively read, believing that his views are generally sound, and knowing that his experience has been considerable. The suggestions also of Dr. Seymour and Mr. Eccles are well worthy of consideration, at a time when Parliament needs to be guided by the unprejudiced opinions of experienced men in legislating upon a very difficult subject, under the influence of a sort of panic created by exaggerated statements, and increased by the fears which have their origin in very imperfect knowledge of the subject on the part of the public.


1. The Oxford Museum. By HENRY W. ACLAND, M.D., Regius Professor of Medicine, and JOHN RUSKIN, M.A., Honorary Student of Christchurch.-London, 1859.

2. A Manual of Qualitative Chemical Analysis. By A. BEAUCHAMP NORTHCOTE, F.C.S., Demonstrator to the Professor of Chemistry at Oxford, late Senior Assistant in the Royal College of Chemistry, London; and ARTHUR H. CHURCH, F.C.S., of Lincoln College, Oxford, late Assistant to Professor Brodie.-London, 1858.

[ocr errors]

3. A Handbook of Chemical Analysis, adapted to the Unitary Notation. Based on the Fourth Edition of Dr. H. Will's Anleitung zur Chemischen Analyse.' By F. T. CONINGTON, M.A., F.C.S., Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.-London, 1858.

4. A Letter to the Provost of Oriel; on a Scheme for making Oxford more Accessible to Medical Students generally. From C. H. PEARSON, M.A., Fellow of Oriel College, and late of St. George's Hospital.-London, 1858.

5. A Letter to the Rector of Exeter; on Some Proposed Changes in the Residence required by the University for Degrees in Medicine. By GILBERT W. CHILD, M.B., of Exeter College, Physician to the Radcliffe Infirmary.-Oxford, 1858.

Six years have now passed since we called attention to one out of the many reforms which were then being commenced at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The school of Natural Science, which existed only in embryo, has now, in Oxford at least, attained some growth and organization. Evidence of this is appearing, not only esoterically, in the form of attendance on the professorial lectures, in the increasing number of students of the practical branches of physical science, and in the more general diffusion of appreciative respect for these pursuits among the members of the colleges; but fruit is also being borne of which the outer world can form a judgment.

We have much satisfaction in pronouncing a high estimate of the two manuals of Chemical Analysis both, wholly or in part, emanating from Oxford men, whose titles are prefixed to this article. Both of them appear to possess accuracy and fulness of detail which would do no discredit to any class of observers; while they are superior to most former works of a like character in the very points in which the advantages of Oxford training ought to be most apparent. Even the casual reader can hardly fail to be struck by a greater completeness of plan, a more accurate adjustment of subject, and a more harmonious subordination of less important parts than is usual in works of this nature. The joint authors of the larger work, by their own statement, seem implicitly to suggest this deficiency in former manuals when they "request the attention of chemists, and all those engaged in instructing pupils in Chemical Analysis, to the following features," of which we extract some of the most prominent:

"1. In the first part of the volume, at the end of each group of elements or salts, concise tables are given, which show at a glance the most striking properties of the more common substances, as well as their most characteristic reactions.

"3. In describing the salts and reactions of the various acid and basic radicals, the same order is invariably preserved. The monobasic salts come first, then the bibasic, and lastly the tribasic, the basic elements commencing with those most decidedly positive.

"4. If, in treating of any basic or acid radical, a salt of characteristic properties is described, the corresponding salt of all basic or acid-radicals subsequently spoken of is invariably noticed.

5. The most characteristic compounds of each radical are printed in a conspicuous type."

Indeed, the subsequent arrangement of this work fully justifies the hope expressed by the authors, "That they have attained some degree of unity and simplicity, as well as of completeness, in the present treatise."

Not a little of this clearness and unity of design depends on the adoption in both works of the Unitary Notation. It is somewhat remarkable that a system proposed by Gerhardt sixteen years ago, and possessing such undoubted claims to general employment, should as yet have met with only limited acceptance in England. The chemical school of Oxford has already conferred a boon on the general body of students by setting its stamp of approbation on so manifest an advance in chemical nomenclature.

We sincerely hope these may prove to be only the first of a long séries of treatises on the various sections of Experimental and Physiological Science hereafter to emanate from Oxford. For, so far from sharing the old opinion of the unfitness of the Universities as places of study for this branch of human learning, we believe them in every respect well adapted for its successful prosecution. The advantages seem to extend in a twofold manner; not only will the tone of thought and the matter of education provided at these seminaries be improved and enlarged by the addition, but all those classes of the community, whose preliminary training is in some way connected with

the Universities, and indeed many who are less closely united to them, will be furnished with new outlets of energy, and fresh means of usefulness.

One of the healthiest signs in the history of modern thought is the increasing turn towards a minute and reverent study of nature. It is in part, perhaps, a reaction from the over-great concentration and individualism which were the characteristics of the end of the last century and the beginning of the present. But, whatever be the essential cause, we cannot doubt that greater use of the observing powers, and a disposition to be more occupied by the facts of the world about us, pervades our literature, our art, our theology, and perhaps, we may add, our science; indeed, it would seem that this progress, commencing from the inner recesses of experimental investigation, had not only brought out great results for science itself, but had pervaded the tone of general thought; and that at an epoch of unexampled advance in the discovery and explanation of physical phenomena, the mind of society had, as it were, gained a tinge of this observant and watchful spirit; that where formerly it raised theory and framed system, it is now content to wait in rapt attention for the revelation of fact, for the evidence of purpose, and to labour with an earnest faithfulness to elicit germs of new truth by the closer searching of the means at its disposal.

This is the tendency of the better minds; this gave to a work like the Cosmos' of Humboldt its enthusiastic welcome even among classes little read in natural history. The same idea is reflected even in the lighter efforts of fancy; the paintings of the "Preraphaelite” school, the works of Ruskin and of Kingsley, abound in portraits of the common things about us, whose principal attraction is a close fidelity and a reverent admiration for the great design. We look upon the revival of physical science in the Universities as the expression of this general yearning. It is the wakening of a body of men unequalled for power and discipline of mind to the value of even the smallest work of nature about them as an object of study. They had long considered it almost beneath their dignity, as thinking, reasoning men, to use merely their eyes and outward senses in observation of the world around. This was at most the business of a few, specially gifted by caprice of organization, with tastes and faculties fitted for the pursuit. But the same age which speculates with wisdom on the real amount of physical process involved in the action of mind, which estimates the weight of brain substance consumed in thought; which can show almost to demonstration that memory is an actual mark and impression, insensible indeed to our present means of investigation, but none the less material for that reason, stamped on the molecules of the nervous centres; this same age has in part overthrown the false distinction of kind formerly drawn between matter and mind by a sort of unstated axiom. It has shown that reason is only the highest function of our material bodies, and that sight, hearing, and touch, are not far below it in dignity. This age has worthily accepted the practical corollaries of its foregone discoveries, and does not scorn to see

« ForrigeFortsæt »