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• We mentioned the rotation in the surgical department at the Edinburgh Infirmary, from the recollection of the practice there many years ago. Every regular singeon in Edinburgh had it then in his power to attend for a few months, in turn, at the Infirmary; and we have known instances, in which the term of attendance has been transferred from one practitioner to another. We cannot ascertain the present mode of attendance : but we alluded to the general surgical practice in the house, not to that of the clinical wards. We must beg leave to observe that we did not mean to insinuate any inferiority of the surgeons in Edinburgh, by our remark: we only' stated that the plan of rotation had not there produced a greater number of capital operators, than the exclusive plan of the London hospitals had furnished, during an equal period. This fact is, in some degree, an objection to Dr. Beddoes's scheme. The Doctor has misunderstood us, perhaps because our expressions prof. were sufficiently explicit, concerning the supposed superiority of hospital practitioners. We meant to point out the hardship of removing a man who should really be intent on improving medical science, from the train of inquiry which he had opened ; and the cruelty of depriving the poor of his assistance, when they should have formed a confidence in his abilities, We hope that there are such hospital-practitioners. There is much difference between the simple addition of new practitioners, and the dismission of veterans, who are active and useful in their stations.
Notwithstanding the ingenious reasoning of Dr. Beddoes, we must still think that there is something better than chimæra in medical science. An arrangement of facts may be considerable, and may ba valuable, without being complete. Indeed, in what science can the arrangement of facts be said to be complete ? And if a knowlege of the ultimate structure of the subject be indispensable, we must despair of attaining just notions, in many departments of natural history. The description of diseases must be carried to greater perfection, before any important discoveries in pathology can be expected.
In this amicable discussion, we have delivered our own views of the subjects treated by Dr. Beddoes with the freedom due to our office, but, we hope, with the respect due to the Doctor ; and, as we always endeavour to give an unbiassed opinion, we shall ever be ready to acknowlege any of the errors, from which professional criticism is not more exempted than other intellectual employments.
Fer.... We must differ from A. Z. respecting the use of the conjunction nor, for or, in a line of Miss Seward's Translation of the Ode to Thaliarchus. (See Rev. Aug. p. 365.] Our correction is supported by the practice of the best English poets; ex. gr. froin Milton :
6. But neither breath of Morn, when she ascends
Or glitt'ring star-hight, without thee is sweet."
posing that the first nor, employed by Miss Seward, signifies either :
Much more might be said on this subject: but we think that the line struction, &c. is in this case easily to be drawn, and very apparent." "Hutt?
A Friend assures us that “ the Confessions of the Countess of
In the last Appendix, p.511. . 17. for ' awaken,' r. awakened
In the Rev. for Sept. p. 18. 1. 2. dele the word ' author's.?
126,140, 146, 155, 193, 2177,223, 239,
For NOVEMBER, 1799.
Art. I. General Biography; or Lives, Critical and Historical, of
the most eminent Persons of all Ages, Countries, Conditions, and Professions, arranged according to Alphabetical Order.–Chiefly composed by John Aikin, M. D. and the late Rev. William Enfield, LL.D. Vol. I. 4to. PP. 560. 11. 55. Boards. Robine
sons, Kearsley, &c. 1799. Of History, which is one of the most attractive and delight
ful of studies, much of the power to charm and instruct is derived, probably, from that quality which assimilates it to biography ;- from the details which it furnishes of the lives of particular men, and from its frequent delineation of individual character. If History, then, can delight while it exhibits a distant view of human life, at once obscured by the remoteness of the scene, confused by the multiplicity of objects, and scarcely perceptible from the light and rapid pencil with which its outline is traced, how grateful must be the pleasure imparted by particular biography, which, placing the object of contemplation at the proper distance for distinct vision, enables the mind to observe its minutest parts, to trace its most delicate features, and to catch the symmetry and beauty of the whole. Great, certainly, are the advantages of this pleasing and popular branch of human knowlege ; and perhaps they are yet greater than we generally apprehend. Let him, who wishes to make a just estimate of them, review the tenor of his past life : and let him reflect how often he has been excited to virtue or deterred from vice,-how often his indolence has been shamed, and his activity animated,--and in how many instances he has been impelled to pursuits which have led to wealth or fame, to happiness or to honour,- by reading the account of some of the illustrious dead, who have left an example of virtue, industry, and fortitude.
In a species of composition of which the advantages are so important, it were to be wished that all who attempt it might excel. This, however, is far indeed from being the case. Of the many who have engaged in communicating to the world VOL. XXX.
the lives of those whose fortunes or merits have entitled them to its notice, perhaps fewer have excelled than in any other branch of literature. Some have collected facts which they committed to paper without order or selection ; others have selected facts, but with the sinister intention of consigning their subject to unmerited infamy, or of bedecking him with undeserved praise. Some have been impartial, but have been indolent in research, and destitute of discrimination ; while many have brought to their task impartiality, industry, and good sense, but have wanted taste, learning, and skill in composition, to illustrate and adorn the subject on which they wrote.
Few biographers, very few indeed, have united in themselves all of these qualities; and accordingly a general biography, combining fidelity with taste, and soundness of remark with fine writing, may be said still to remain a desideratum in English literature. The Biographia Britannica is entitled to great praise, and perhaps comes nearer to the character which we have described than any other general work of that kind in our language: but even that publication manifests such an inequality of execution,--the natural consequence of being written by a great variety of hands; it displays such a total neglect of selection in its subjects; and it has been, and seems likely to con. tinue, so slow in its progress; that the judicious reader cannot but feel that there exists a pressing necessity for a more perfect work.
In the production of which the first volume only is now of. fered to the public, we hope, and we think that we have reason for pronouncing, that a nearer approach towards perfection will be found. The specimen here given to us is more promising than even a sanguine reader could have expected : though much would be expected from the learning, the industry, the taste, and the well-known literary powers of the two editors who undertook the task. Indeed, few men could be better qualified for such a work than Dr. Enfield, -now, alas! no more ;-in whom an extensive share of scientific and literary acquirements, sound sense, a discriminating judgment, an inflexible love of truth, and the warmest desire of promoting the moral and physical good of mankind, rendered still more valuable a mind which was graced by the milder virtues of a truly Christian character. Of Dr. Aikin's competency for such an undertaking, the world has already received proof sufficient to render it unnecessary for us to deliver an opinion on the subject.
With qualifications such as the editors were acknowleged to possess, it was natural to suppose that they would have seen and weighed the various advantages and disadvantages, attending each mode of arrangement applicable to such a work. It is accordingly on mature reflection that they seem to have adopted the alphabetical method. This they appear to have preferred not so much on account of any positive advantages attached to it in itself, as because almost every other mode was in their opinion accompanied by greater difficulties, and liable to greater objections.
Although,' say they, 'the alphabetical order is void of all claim to ingenuity, yet its great convenience, together with the insurmountable difficulties accompanying every other method, when attempted to be put into practice, have given it the same preference with us, that it has generally obtained with our brother-writers. If any one who has conceived of peculiar advantages likely to result from some other mode of arrangement—that, for instance, according to classes of persons
will make the experiment, he will presently find so many doubts arise with respect to the classification of individuals, and such a necessity for subordinate divisions, framed upon different and incompatible principles, that he will perceive the danger of inextri. cable confusion.'
On this point, we freely own that we entertain an opinion directly adverse to that of these gentlemen. Of the alphabetical arrangement of a general biography, we have always thought that the sole advantage consists in mere convenience of reference: an advantage which, surely, an index may equally afford: but, granting that the alphabetical arrangement were more convenient for reference, yet doubtless it would be unwise to sacrifice to that single and petty accommodation, the many aids which a different classification might afford to the mea mory or the judgment. In the alphabetical assemblage, so opposite and so incongruous are the subjects which are presented in succession to the eye, that even the most phlegmatic reader cannot long proceed in continuation without displeasure ; and if he did, his reading would be inconsequent and unprofitable. In this order of position, also, every article stands unconnected and isolated; no part strengthens and illustrates another; and the whole is in fact but one large iudex, a mass of unconnected and heterogenous parts jumbled together. If, instead of this disposition, the different articles were classed according to some rational and useful principle, - whether that principle referred to order of time, to identity or similitude of pursuits, or even to locality of birth or residence,- the mind would derive some, nay very important aids from the arrangement. If, for instance, contemporaries were ranked together, and each class made to follow the preceding according to the order of time in which they lived, the reader would be enabled to collect a general view of the state of morals,