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SIR,-I have the honour to belong to a Literary Society in this place, the members of which are much divided on the subject of Phrenology. In a late debate, I ventured to assert, that if a skull was forwarded for the consideration of the Society of which you are the distinguished President, I had no doubt they would be able to detail the character of the individual to whom it belonged. It was agreed that I should do so by this day's coach. I have directed to you the skull of a person with whose previous history they are acquainted.
May I beg you to submit the said skull to the investigation of the Society, and to favour me with the opinion they entertain of its development. On receiving the same I shall in return forward you the history of the subject to whom the skull belonged. The Society is at liberty to take a cast of the skull,- I beg the original may be returned to me.
Requesting your indulgence for an intrusion which has the promotion of the science for its only object, I am, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
Chatham, January 6, 1827.
To A. R., Esq., Surgeon, Chatham. SIR-I exhibited the skull, with which you favoured me, to the London Phrenological Society at their last meeting, and we were all perfectly agreed upon the character of its original possessor. The Society, however, never delivers a judgment upon character on any phrenological point ; but,
.when an opinion is desired, leaves any member, or private individual who may think proper, to do so.
I take it for granted, that the deceased was of sound mind; but to be accurate, we should likewise know how far he had been educated, and whether his constitution was active or indolent.
Ignorant of these particulars, I should say, that he was a man of excessively strong passions-that these were far an overbalance for his intellect, that he was prone to great violence, but by no means courageous,--that he was extremely cautious and sly, and fond of getting-his sexual desires must have been strong, but his love of offspring very remarkable. I can discover no good quality about him, except the love of his children, if he had any. The most striking intellectual quality in him, I should think, was his wit. This must have been not only great, but probably of a dry cast. He might also have been a good mimic. I have the honour to remain Your obedient humble servant,
John ELLIOTSON. Grafton Street, London, January 29, 1827.
To Dr Elliotson.
Chatham, February 3, 1827. : Sir,-I had the honour to receive your letter of the 29th ultimo, and much regret that I was unable to forward my notes of the individual whose skull you did me the favour to examine, at the date you requested; they will, however, reach you before the next meeting of the Society. In the mean time, I can assure you, that your explanation of his character is singularly correct in every particular, affording a new and powerful proof of the truth of Phrenology.
There are, however, some gentlemen unable to overturn the facts of the case, who now turn round and say,
that between the period of receiving my communication (6th January
last) and your answer, there was ample time for you to inquire and find out that I had the medical charge of the convicts at this place; that you would naturally suppose that this was the skull of a felon, and that you could not err much if you ventured to assign to his character all the baser passions. There is only one mode of replying to such opponents, namely, by a straight-forward question and answer between us. And, first, until the receipt of this letter, had you any knowledge of my public professional employment ? Secondly, Is your
detail of this felon's character drawn solely and entirely from the shape of the skull? Thirdly, Had you any previous information whatever as to his past life, habits, or education ?
The answer which I anticipate to these questions will, I doubt not, afford us matter of triumph. I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obliged servant,
A. R. I beg the favour of an early answer. The lower jaw-bone was not in the box. I am in hopes to be able to present the skull to the P. S.; it had better, therefore, not be lost.
To A. R., Esg. SIR, I beg to assure you that I drew my conclusions as to the character of the individual solely from the size of the various parts of the skull, and that, up to the moment of receiving your letter yesterday, I was totally uninformed respecting him, and indeed respecting yourself, except that it appeared from your letter and your card that your name was R., and that you were a surgeon at Chatham. I was ignorant of the existence of convicts at Chatham, and had had no communi. cation with any person upon any particular in the matter, nor indeed considered any circumstance for an instant, except the character of the skull.
The delay in returning both it and my answer arose from
the circumstance of the box arriving the day after the meeting of our Phrenological Society, to which you requested me to show the skull, so that a fortnight elapsed before I could execute
wishes; and when I did so, of a member requesting the loan of it to make a cast, and detaining it nearly a fortnight. But for this I would have returned it the same day; for an examination of five minutes would have been am. ply sufficient to enable me to draw the conclusions I sent you.
The suggestion, that I had gained some knowledge privately of the individual, or had taken a hint from any circumstance whatever, might have annoyed me were I not unknown to the gentleman, were I not conscious of detesting every species of duplicity, and were there not something irresistibly laughable in seeing the plain facts of Phrenology give one such power as to produce an astonishment in the minds of those ignorant of them, not dissimilar from that which a little chemical or physical knowledge excited in times of darkness. In those days the power of knowledge was ascribed to the devil; at the present time, such agency being universally disbelieved, the manifestation of power is pronounced a deception. The Phrenologist, conscious of the truth, views the incredulity of the world as a correct measure of the magnitude of his science.
Some gentlemen do not believe I could have drawn so correct a character from examining the skull; but they will cease to wonder, if they find that they themselves can with perfect ease do exactly the 'converse-pronounce upon the size of the various parts of the skull from their knowledge of the individual. If they know the individual to have been prone to acts of violence, they may assert, that the skull should be very large at the organs of Destructiveness; if
very cautious, very large at the organs of Cautiousness; if
very fond of children, very large at the organs of Philoprogenitiveness, &c. In Mr G. Combe's excellent Elements of Phrenorogy, the average measurement of twenty heads in several points is given. The average breadth at Destructiveness is 518 inches ; at Cautiousness 544 inches; the average length
from the meatus auditorius externus to Philoprogenitiveness 4 inches. These were taken from heads covered with integuments, and, moreover, above the common average, because among these twenty were several large heads, and not one small. Yet similar measurements on this bare skull will be found, 53–53—47.
Allow me earnestly to recommend to the members of your Society Gall's Fonctions du Cerveau. It is wortli all the other works on Phrenology together, and full of splendid truths for the metaphysician, the moralist, and the legislator, no less than for the physician and the physiologist.
I have the honour to remain
John ELLIOTSON. Grafton Street, London, February 8, 1827.
P.S. You will oblige me by sending, with the history of the individual, a copy of my former letter, as it was hastily written, and I have no notes of it. The lower jaw was forgotten, but is safe.
Account of J. L. J-L was received into the Dolphin convicthulk at Chatham in February 1824, from Ce, under sentence of transportation for life. He was in
tall and athletic, with a fine erect carriage, and a stern unbending countenance. He was born of respectable parents at M, and all his relations were of the class of yeomen, . His education, however, was limited to reading and writing. During his early life he evinced an ardent attachment to every species of vulgar sensual enjoyment; the alehouse, games of chance, and particularly cock-fighting : of this worst species of gambling he was for years the noted and well-known supporter. He was also an active poacher, but only of that class denominated hare-panyers or snarers. At the period