Page images
PDF
EPUB

serve that the thumb extends no farther than the root of the finger. The Romans used to apply the term pollex truncatus (thumb cut or truncated) to those who were considered as defective in courage, in consequence of their cutting their thumbs that they might not be taken to the wars ; hence, probably, the word poltroon. The popular expressions connected with the supposed influence exercised by the thumb are very numerous, particularly in Germany. To keep one under your thumb is a universal expression. Shakspere's witches are made to place considerable prophetic power in the thumbs

“By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.” In producing mesmeric sleep-waking, it is remarkable that the thumbs are the first parts considered necessary to secure, from proximity to the median nerve, through which power is obtained over that portion of the brain allocated to personal identity. Be all this as it may, however, in the thumb will be found the index of Will — will to do and to suffer. Generally, while a small thumb indicates vacillation and irresolution, it also indicates impartiality, toleration, and an accommodating and loving spirit. The feelings, in short, are more alive, and there is more general sympathy with the joys and the sorrows of humanity.

With the large thumb, we connect a more powerful will, but less general sympathy, a love of command, and a heart in subjection to the hand. Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Leibnitz, Condillac, Kant, and other profound and original thinkers, are believed to have possessed large thumbs. It is certain that Voltaire, whose heart was entirely under subjection to his will, had enormous thumbs, and they are handed down to us in that beautiful statue by Oudon, at the Theatre Francais, at Paris, of which there is an admirable cast at the Crystal Palace. With a small thumb and smooth fingers, whatever be the form of the exterior phalanx, there will be certainly found the germs of poetry and art

. I do not say that those so organised will necessarily be poets and artists ; but that they will possess a perception of the beauty of poetry and art, which will vary with the form of the first phalanx of the fingers. If these be conical, then there will be more of the ideal ; if square or spatular, more of the real--the ideas being confined to the sphere of

physical things. Amongst the painters and poets who have attained celebrity, this distinction is very manifest. On the one hand we have Raphael, Correggio, and Perrugino; on the other Rubens, Teniers, and Ostade. Amongst the poets, Milton and Shelley can never be confounded with Pope and Cowper; smooth fingers and small thumbs are the representatives of the poetic form ; while square or spatular phalanges, with knotty fingers, and a large thumb, are the representatives of the scientific form.

It may be further added, that large thumbs, as they exhibit a greater intensity of will, are inore capable of passing the limits of their nature than small thumbs. Thus, many learned men have arranged their systems more or less in a poetic form ; while there is not one example of which I am aware of an eminent poet having excelled in the abstract sciences. But it is not the thumb only that is characteristic of special organisation. More accurate observation will, I believe, enable us to discover that each finger is the index of certain mental faculties. The fore or index finger, for example, in proportion to its development, exhibits the power of expression generally, and the capacity to acquire a knowledge of languages ; the second finger, the reflective powers and general influence of characters the third or ring finger, the social affections; and the little finger, the domestic feelings and temper. I may further add, that the flatter the fingers, the more open the mind ; the rounder, the greater will be the power to control the feelings, and the more secretive and difficult to fathom. These views require, however, confirmation.

Mr. Beamish concluded by stating that the combination of these several elements would form the subject of his next lecture, when he hoped to show the moral to be drawn from the study of the Human Hand.

110

THE SEVEN CHAMPIONS OF THE NINETEENTH

CENTURY.

BY

J. F. DRINKWATER, ESQ.,

OF NORTHWICH.

Ho has not read of Jack the Giant Killer, and his

wonderful exploits ? or what schoolboy has not familiarised himself with the marvellous recitals of the Arabian Nights ? Who has not, at one time or other, sighed for Aladin's wonderful lamp, the wishing-cap of Fortunatus, or the magic password of Ali-baba? And when in riper years we have chanced to meet with a real Norfolk giant, or a veritable General Tom Thumb; we have involuntarily recalled those scenes amidst which Baron Munchausen was wont, in spirit, to lead us. However, whilst we repudiate the veracity of the historian of Liliput, as well as the absurd achievements ascribed to the heroes of the nursery, we are ready to admire the authentic memorials of men who have rendered their names immortal, and especially those whose position in the Temple of Fame is due, not to the mere favour of kings, or the views of a faction, but rather to their own sterling worth, and the blessings they have conferred on mankind at large. The selection we have made on the present occasion will, we trust, be fully justified by the considerations we have just named.

THE AGRICULTURIST.-An individual is generally regarded as worthy of notice if his works are of general utility : what, then, shall we say of one whose labours are indispensable, and by whose good offices the physical wellbeing of a thousand million human beings is secured ? Our agriculturist is indeed a champion: only let him cease to exert himself for the common weal, and we should at once be thrown into the deadly embrace of an enemy from whom we could not escape. Gaunt famine, with his sunken eye and hollow cheek, would stare us in the face, and with an influence more potent than the spell of the

biologist, would reduce all classes to one common levelthe grave. Our hero is of no mean extraction or ignoble birth; he boasts an ancestry far more reinote than the oldest dukedom or barony in the House of Peers ; whilst few can show a fairer escutcheon. His arms are-a wheat sheaf or, on a field vert; his supporters on the sinister a ploughboy, on the dexter a milkmaid ; and the motto _“Sine qua non."

In the prosecution of his labours our hero has met with many difficulties, and surmounted them; and though his triumphs have ever been connected with the arts of peace, they are none the less important on that account. Behold that dreary waste !-an immense bog, sending forth its poisonous exhalations. Look again !-can it be the same spot? Here is a rich corn-field, there a plentiful supply of food for cattle, yonder the enlivening presence of flocks and herds. I ask, is not this a far more glorious transformation than the field of Waterloo, after its soil had been saturated with human gore?

With the rapid increase of population, greater demands have been made on the skill and enterprise of our hero, who has redoubled his efforts to meet those demands; he has drained the superfluous moisture, enriched the sterile soil, brought science and art into harmonious union; and he has received at the hand of Nature the full reward of his toil. Well, indeed, is it for us that we have this great champion of the soil in our midst ; and better still, that whilst our Transatlantic brethren are engaged in the service of Mars, so large a portion of our fellow-countrymen rejoice to follow in the wake of our hero, who delights to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and bring peace and plenty to every hearth and home in our sea-girt isle.

A marble tablet in St. Paul's Cathedral reminds the visitor that if he would see the monument of Sir Christopher Wren, he must look around him, and survey the wondrous fábric itself. So we would say of our champion. Look on the fields, with their golden grain waving so gloriously in the sun; gaze on the smiling faces of your children, as they hail the advent of the four-pound loaf; and think to whom you are indebted, instrumentally, for these things. Contrast the tears of the bereaved family on the loss of their darling boy, whose corse lies bleaching on the battle-field, with the smiling, happy faces, and

cheerful homes, where plenty and contentment reign; and then say whether the son of Mars or the son of Ceres is the more honourable champion.

THE PRACTICAL MECHANIC.—The blessings conferred upon us by our second champion, are second only to those of our first ; for, on close examination, we shall find that if we take away everything contributed by him, we shall have but little left. Could we content ourselves with the simple arrangements of an Esquimaux's hut, we might require little help at his hands; but we prefer to invest our homes with the comforts, and, as far as may be, the luxuries, of civilised life ; and although our wants are many and varied, the genius and ability of our champion has supplied those wants to a great extent. He fits up our habitations with a due regard to convenience on the one hand, and good taste on the other. Whilst external nature is clad in the chilling garb of winter, and the robin looks in supplicatingly at our window, we walk on beds of roses without a thorn, or repose on seats of luxurious softness; the rude blast and driving rain are kept at a safe distance, whilst the cheering light and genial solar rays are admitted. He provides himself with the metals and minerals, deeplying beneath earth’s bosom, and with these he produces a thousand appliances to our comfort and pleasure. tects us from robbers by night,—wakes us at whatever moment we list in the morning,—prognosticates the changes of the weather,--shields us from the lightning's flash,provides a safe and easy means of escape from fire,-erects a fountain of pure water within our dwellings,--and adapts the temperature to our varying climate. Would we travel ? no matter how long the journey, he flies away with us at a speed truly astonishing, and sets us down in safety at the spot we indicated, sending, if required, a still swifter messenger in advance to announce our approach.

Consider for a moment the forces he employs in the execution of his plans. Many volumes have been written, and many more remain to be written, on the stupendous results of the screw, the pulley, the lever, the weight, the wedge, and the inclined plane. Our hero has invested matter with a power that seems to bespeak intelligence ; witness the all but omnipotent steam engine, and the host of machines producing results not merely as satisfactory

He pro

« PreviousContinue »