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A PHRENOLOGICAL EVENING.
THE experience I am about to chronicle occurred
when the Beecher-Tilton scandal was at its height;
and I was attracted by the somewhat ambiguous
title "Burns upon Beecher."
Mr. James Burns, the spirited proprietor of the Progressive Library, Southampton Row, having devoted himself to the study of phrenology, has for some time past held a series of craniological sťances on Tuesday evenings, at which he "takes off" the head of some well-known person, or your own, if you like, whether you are well-known or born to blush unseen, not in the way of physical decapitation, but by the method of phrenological diagnosis. I greatly regretted having, on a previous occasion, missed the analysis of Dr. Kenealy's cerebral developments. I believe the Claimant himself was once the object of Mr. Burns' remarks; but when Mr. Beecher's cranium was laid down for dissection at the height of the Beecher-Tilton sensation, I could resist no longer, but, despite all obstacles, repaired to the Institute of Progress.
[-278-] About a score of people were gathered in that first-floor front where I had seen so many strange things. Of these persons some formed the regular phrenological class conducted there weekly by Mr. Burns. The others were, generally speaking, of the ordinary lecture-audience type. One stout lady occupied an easy-chair in a corner, and slept from first to last.
The first part of the lecture was a little discursive, I fancy for my especial benefit, and summarized Mr. Burns' system, which is to a great extent original. Beginning by a disavowal of all dogmas, he began by advancing what was to me the entirely novel doctrine, that the brain was not the sole organ of the mind, but that the whole organism of man had to he taken into account in the diagnosis of character, since the entire body was permeated with the mind. The bones, fluids, and viscera were all related to mental phenomena. The lecturer even questioned whether the science he promulgated was properly termed phrenology. It certainly did not answer to the conventional idea of that craft. Referring to a calico diagram which was pinned to the curtains of the fist-floor front, and at which he pointed with a walking-stick, Mr. Burns notified four divisions of the animal frame -1, the vital organs; 2, the mechanical; 3, the nervous (which in the lower orders were ganglionic only) ; 4, the cerebral apparatus. He defended the animal powers from the debased idea usually attached to them, and pointed out their close connexion with [-279-] the spirit; nearer to which they were placed than any portion of the economy.
He then proceeded to apply his preliminary remarks to preachers in general. Theodore Parker, for instance, was a man of spare body and large brain. He was surrounded by intellectual people, and his disciples were quite sui generis. On the other hand, Spurgeon was a man of strong animal and perceptive powers, and so able to send the Walworth shopkeepers into ecstasies. His ganglions were big, as was the case in all great preachers. Emotion, he said, was more a matter of bowels than of brain. The ganglionic power carried the brain; but there were, of course, combinations of all grades.
In the case of Henry Ward Beecher, two of whose photographs he held in his hand, he dwelt on the disadvantage of having only the shadow instead of the substance of his head to deal with. Here, he said, we had all the elements on a large scale. The brain, thoracic system, osseous structure, and abdominal development were all in excess. The face was, as it were, the picture of all. Henry Ward Beecher was emphatically a large man. The blood was positive; the circulation good. The digestion was perfect, and the man enjoyed good food. Especially the length from the ear to the front of the eyebrows denoted intellectual grasp. There was not much will power. Whatever he had done (and Mr. Burns emphatically disclaimed passing any judgment [-280-] on the "scandal") he had not done of determination, but had rather "slid into it." He was no planner. He gathered people round him by the "solar" force of his mind. If he had been a designing man - if largely developed behind the ears-he would have gone to work in a different way. There was good development in the intellectual, sympathetic, and emotional part of his nature ; and this combination made him a popular preacher. There was more than mere animal magnetism needed to account for this; there was intellectual power, but not much firmness or conscientiousness. If he were present, he would probably acknowledge that something had led him on to do whatever he had done in spite of himself. What was very peculiar in the man was his youthfulness. He had been before the world for forty years. Mr. Fowler, the phrenologist, of Ludgate Circus, had been a fellow student of Beecher, and had measured his head, which he ascertained to have grown an inch in ten years. Beecher was essentially a growing man-growing like a boy. The ganglionic power was that which kept people always growing, and was the great means of their getting a hold over other people.
Mr. Burns then passed in review the three portraits of Beecher, Tilton, and Mrs. Tilton respectively, in the Pictorial World. Mrs. Tilton he described as a negative person, inclined to be hysterical and "clinging." There was in her a high type of brain, [-281-] morally, intellectually, and spiritually. Still the brain, he said, did not make us good or bad. Again repudiating all judgment as to the scandal, he dwelt upon the close social relationships between Beecher and Mrs. Tilton, and recurred to the strong vital influence of the former, comparing it to that of Brigham Young upon his "spiritual affinities." In all probability, taking into account the different natures of Beecher and Mrs. Tilton, whatever had occurred "the people couldn't help themselves."
Then as to Theodore Tilton. Mr. Burns had read the Golden Age, and pronounced it a smart publication. There was, however, in Tilton a want of ganglionic power; he was all brain. He was a man who might be read, but he could not lecture or preach. His was a higher mind than Beecher's, but not one that would command much human sympathy. Suppose Mrs. Tilton were not the wife of either, her relations to each might be conscientious, but still violate the laws of monogamic life. The influence of Beecher over her would be ganglionic as well as intellectual ; that of Tilton purely intellectual : when lo, a gust of ganglionic power would supervene on the latter, and carry all before it.
Concluding his analysis of Mr. Beecher thus, Mr. Burns discovered that he had two clerics among his audience, and asked us - for I was one of them - if we would be examined. I readily consented, and handed my notes to Miss Chandos (the young lady [-282-] mesmerist, whose sťance I reported a few pages back) to report progress. She, therefore, is responsible for the diagnosis that follows.
Handling me from head to foot, much as a fancier does a prize ox at Smithfield, Mr. Burns found the life power good, and the muscles well nourished, the working faculties being in a high state of activity. The head - I blushed to hear - measured one inch beyond the average of a man of my size, and the cerebral faculties were harmoniously organized. I had large perceptive powers; and my human nature (wherever that may be located) was full, as was also firmness. The thinking sphere was good. I should have made, Mr. Burns informed me, a good sculptor or artist.
Omitting one or two complimentary remarks which Miss Chandos has faithfully, if not flatteringly, reported, and the enunciation of which quite confused me as I sat the centre and cynosure of that wondering group, I was glad to learn that I was an open man, though possessed of sufficient caution and not defective in moral courage. In fact "pluck" was large. I really wished Mr. Burns would relieve me by finding some bad bumps; but no - the worst he could say of me was that I was restless. What chiefly seemed to strike him, though, were my vital powers, and he really covered me with confusion when he began to calculate my Beecher powers on a possible Mrs. Tilton. However, he toned down this [-283-] remark by noticing that my domestic faculties were well developed. My faith and hope were small. I was a "doubting" man. The positive and negative were well blent in me, and I was also "mediumistic." The diagnosis of two ladies concluded the evening's exercises, but neither of these personages displayed any very remarkable traits; Mr. Burns declaring he felt some difficulty in discovering the bumps under the "back hair."