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is capable of producing the most mischievous effects on the living, and even death, should a person approach near to the corpse. But in most instances the body is not left to the slow effects of the process of putridity. Myriads of animalculæ have no other source of nutriment than our carcases, which, however, are frequently consumed exclusively by rats and mice. Any of our readers who have the opportunity of inspecting the anatomical museums of Florence, or the Dublin University, will be astonished at the specimens which, at either of these establishments, they may witness, of the havoc inflicted by rats and mice on the dead human body. In the name of common sense, then, what is the objection to the dissecting knife? Are we really consulting our own feelings, by giving up to the deleterious influence of subterraneous gases, or the rapacity of vermin, that body, which will be treated, at least, with some consideration by our fellow men; and from which our survivors will be sure to deduce an accession of knowledge, that cannot fail to multiply the means they possess of succouring human affliction, and of averting death?
Dissect the bodies of the poor, indeed! Plunge a knife into their sacred corpses ! What an outrage! What an injustice ! The rich are not so treated! Are they not, verily? Why, the kings of England, from time immemorial, have been dissected. Sir Everard Home has anatomized the two last incumbents of the imperial crown, and we are pretty certain that the body of our good King William, and the dissector's scalpel, will be yet well acquainted; but distant, we sincerely pray, may be the hour of that event. However, many as honest a tar as his Majesty, has been consigned to a more summary, and in the eyes of vulgar prejudice, a more repugnant fate. The whole of the navy force of Great Britain, a million strong, seeks neither a coffin nor a tomb; their sepulchre is the wide ocean, where the fanged shark anticipates that destruction which putridity, with not less certainty, though not so speedily, effects on the cold inhabitant of the mausoleum. Nor is the disposal of the generous soldier, when he dies, apparently less degrading. Upon the very theatre of his glorious deeds, that body, upon which his country depended, perhaps, for her protection, is, with the horse which bore him to the fight, with the saddle on which he sat, or with the worthless knapsack which he carried, indiscriminately delivered up to the flames. Is the surgeon's knife—but we will rather say, is the promotion of useful and necessary science, by dissection, more injurious to a corpse, more odious to the living relatives, than the tooth of a rapacious animal of the sea, or the consuming power of fire ?
Still it will be said, however powerful argumeut and facts may be, instinct is too stubborn to be so easily subdued. Instinct! Upon which side is it to be found, we beg to inquire? Take those nations where neither commerce, nor learning, nor emigration, bas tended, in the slightest degree, to interfere with the influence of
their instincts, and what, let us ask, have they done with their dead ? The unchanged and unchangeable Hindoos throw the bodies of their relations into the Ganges in Caffre land the dead are given up to wild beasts. The Mongols do the same. The Orinoco tribes sink the body by weights into their rivers, in order that it may become a prey to the fish. We can point out a passage in the Tusculan Questions of Cicero, where he tells us of a people who occupied one of the shores of the Caspian Sea, and who kept up a well-trained race of dogs, for the uniform destruction of their dead. Nor was the practice with them by any means a repugnant one, for the great orator expressly states, that this community regarded it as the most eligible mode of disposing of the human body. It is not our office to dispute about the tastes of different countries in the choice of their methods of getting rid of the dead, not excepting even the predilection of that people, of whom it is recorded, that they eat their deceased friends, “ esteeming,” says the old record, “theyre bellies to be the most precious place for the burial of theyre parents." The truth is, that neither instinct nor reason suggests the propriety of any very particular attention to the dead; and it would not be a difficult undertaking to show, that the practice of inhumation originated in the same natural impatience of the presence of the dead, which compelled the civilized states of antiquity to adopt the process of conflagration.
We may, then, state it as a just conclusion, that neither nature nor instinct, nor practice, nor convenience, calls upon us to evince that excessive delicacy towards the dead, which vulgar prejudice and the law of the land alike demand at our hands. The dissect. ing knife, it will be allowed, offers not more indignity to the remains of a human being, than they meet with from the worms, and the rats, and that decomposing process, which nature, of her own accord, inflicts on all animal fabrics. The monarch on his throne, the soldier and the sailor, can dispense with that " veneration” for their lifeless bodies, which is vindicated by voluntary advocates for
Is the legislature any longer to be made the dupe of a pious fraud, and to curtail the best resources of genuine science, in order to cherish the disgraceful bigotry of an intolerant mob?
“ But the doctors ought to give up their bodies,” exclaim the organs of the anti-dissection party. And so the doctors do, although it is difficult for us to perceive on what grounds they are particularly called on to make this contribution. Let us suppose that by to-morrow, a plan were carried into operation for effecting the total abolition of the practice of dissection. What is the necessary consequence? That every medical man in the land would be at a premium. No book-taught practitioner could compete with the dissectors for an instant, and thus the present race, at least, would be very intimately interested in wishing for the universal suspension of the study of anatomy. But let us again suppose,
that we are at this moment without the opportunity of getting the assistance of a single man who has cultivated the science of anatomy: all the faculty, we will take it for granted, surgeons and physicians as they are, know nothing of practical anatomy, as it may be acquired from dissection. Now, under such circumstances, would the public pay one penny less for medical attendance than they do at this moment ? We answer, no; and we think we could show, that in such a case they would be liable to pay much more. Then, if the remuneration to the doctor in the ignorant state be the same as that which is awarded to the doctor in the scientific state, what pecuniary interest can they expect to serve by facilitating their own acquirement of anatomy? That practice abolished, all practitioners will be on the same level so far; and individual ability, ingenuity, address, and conduct will, in such a state of circumstances, as they do now, recommend particular men to public confidence, and secure to them the same worldly advantages, which, in the present condition of things, they actually enjoy. When, therefore, we hear one of those newspaper Gracchi of the day expressing his affected indignation against the doctors, at not giving up their bodies to dissection, we set him down as a knave, who intends to mislead the unthinking, or as a fool, who does not understand the first principles of the question which he presumes to determine.
Let the public of this country, then, devote, in time, to all these considerations, the attention which their very pressing importance demands. Every man and woman in the land is armed with the warrant of the law, to exact from a medical attendant the proofs of his attainment in medical knowledge, to an extent, which dissection, and dissection alone, can enable him to reach: the law, on the other hand, forcibly depriving him of the opportunities of acquiring adequate instruction, he is compelled to have recourse, at the greatest hazard to his person and property, to clandestine courses, which, alas ! involve the possible perpetration, on the part of his agents, of crimes unutterable. Why not take away from him, who loves and pursues science, in order
that he may be a more useful benefactor, than he otherwise could be, to his fellow creatures—why not take away from him those embarrassments which only vex and retard, but do not effectually stop him in his path? Can the practice of anatomy be put down? No. Does it give rise, in the state of outlaw in which it is kept by the legislature, to crime? It does. Then let the legislature take it under its protection; let it tame and domesticate the ferocious creature, until its wild passion for prowling and for blood shall be disciplined into a legitimate appetite for such subsistence, as all the rational and kind will be happy to contribute.
Art. IX.- Lives of the Italian Poets. By the Rev. Henry Stebbing, ,
M.A., M.R.S.L. Second Edition. With Numerous Additions. In
Three Volumes, 8vo. London: Bull. 1831. We noticed the first edition of this work in terms of well-merited praise, and predicted for it a degree of popularity, which, we are happy to observe, it has since attained. We should not, therefore, have deemed it necessary to revert to the subject, if Mr. Stebbing had not made several additions to each of his former volumes, some of which justly deserve our attention. The first volume he has augmented by seven new biographical sketches; the second, by three; and the third, by four. Of the additional articles, those which are contained in the latter volume are by far the most valuable and interesting. They exhibit the lives of Melchior Cesarotti, Ippolito Pindemonte, Vincenzo Monti, and of a gentleman not unknown to English literature, Ugo Foscolo.
The first of these obtained much more celebrity by his translations of Ossian and Homer, than by his original writings. He was born at Padua, on the 15th of May, 1730, of a poor but noble family. He was in early life destined for the ecclesiastical state, and, for this reason, we suppose, chiefly, he spent his vacations with his uncle, a friar of the Franciscan monastery of San Antonio, who used, occasionally, to punish him, when too riotous, by locking him up in the convent library. Young Cesarotti, having nothing better to do, when thus imprisoned, was wont to amuse himself by turning over the books and manuscripts which he found there; and hence he scon acquired a taste for study, which subsequently enabled him to make rapid progress in more than one branch of learning. Having finished his education at the university of his native city, where he bestowed but a short period upon jurisprudence and theology, he eventually seems to have given up his intentions of assuming the ecclesiastical habit, and to have determined on devoting himself to the cultivation of general literature. He soon succeeded in raising himself, by his talents, to the chair of rhetoric, an office of distinction, in which he exercised all his genius and authority, in putting to flight the absurd pedantry which, even at that late period, infected the literature of Italy, and rendered much of it nothing better than a tame imitation of the writings of antiquity. He laid down rules for composition, the models for which he found in his own good sense and taste. His industry was surprising, not only in perusing works which be deemed of importance, but also in making copious extracts from them with his own hand. His earliest works consisted of translations of the Prometheus of Æschylus, and two or three tragedies of Voltaire, none of which obtained celebrity.
From Padua, Cesarotti removed to Venice, where he became a preceptor in a private family, and formed an acquaintance with an
English gentleman, named Sackville, who, about the period when the whole literary world in this country was almost up in arms, in consequence of the controversy that raged about Ossian's poems, was numbered amongst the most ardent admirers of those compositions, and assisted Cesarotti in translating the first of them into Italian. The preceptor was captivated by the imagery and heroes of those splendid inventions, and expressed himself concerning them, to Macpherson, in a style that borders on the ludicrous. Morven he looked upon as his Parnassus, and Lora his Hippocrene. The mists, deserts, thistles, and rocks, of Scotland had more charms for his eyes, than the island of Calypso, or the gardens of Alcinous. Ossian was, in his estimation, superior even to Homer, for he never slept nor babbled, was “never coarse, or languid, but always grand, always simple, rapid, precise, equal, and varied.” As the poems succeeded each other, he became better acquainted with the English language, and translated them into Italian blank verse, which met with a highly flattering reception. Cesarotti was soon after (1772) promoted to the professorships of Greek and Hebrew at his native university. His next work of importance was his translation of Homer's Iliad, which, however, he entitled “ The Death of Hector,” as, by omitting and transposing several passages, he essentially altered the original plan of the poem. It was by no means so well received as his version of the Ossianic productions, which was so great a favourite with Buonaparte, that when that conqueror subdued Italy, he provided handsomely for the translator, and appointed him a commander of the order of the Iron Crown. Mr. Stebbing's observations upon this mark of generous attention paid to literature by Napoleon, will find an echo in the bosom of, at least, every man addicted to authorship.
Reflecting minds will always regard conquerors in a very different light to that in which they are viewed by the vulgar; but how much would even their feelings of dislike to the name be abridged, did the lives of conquerors exhibit many instances of liberality, like those of Napoleon to Cesarotti, and other men of literary eminence? It is a common observation with historians, that several of the princes whose names have come down to us emblazoned with the praise of virtue, owe much of their fame to the care they took to propitiate the monks, the only literary men of former days; and it is not unlikely that some ages hence, Buonaparte may reap a similar reward for his uniform demonstration of respect to the learning and genius of his time, while not a few of his opponents will be consigned to the page, or as it is in those cases, the tomb, of history, without any of that lustre being thrown around their names, with which men of letters, fully as fond of their order as monks or nobles, love to decorate the friends of genius, in whatever nation or century they may have lived.' -vol. iii. pp. 388, 389.
In return for Napoleon's kindness, Cesarotti wrote a poem on Providence, in which he endeavoured to express his gratitude; but it is agreed on all hands to have been a decided failure. He died on the 4th of November, 1808, of an inflammation of the viscera,