Phrenological bust by LN FowlerPhrenological bust by LN FowlerThe History of Phrenology on the Web

by John van Wyhe

George Combe's A System of Phrenology, 5th edn, 2 vols. 1853.

Vol. 1: [front matter], Intro, Nervous system, Principles of Phrenology, Anatomy of the brain, Division of the faculties 1.Amativeness 2.Philoprogenitiveness 3.Concentrativeness 4.Adhesiveness 5.Combativeness 6.Destructiveness, Alimentiveness, Love of Life 7.Secretiveness 8.Acquisitiveness 9.Constructiveness 10.Self-Esteem 11.Love of Approbation 12.Cautiousness 13.Benevolence 14.Veneration 15.Firmness 16.Conscientiousness 17.Hope 18.Wonder 19.Ideality 20.Wit or Mirthfulness 21.Imitation.
Vol. 2: [front matter], external senses, 22.Individuality 23.Form 24.Size 25.Weight 26.Colouring 27.Locality 28.Number 29.Order 30.Eventuality 31.Time 32.Tune 33.Language 34.Comparison, General observations on the Perceptive Faculties, 35.Causality, Modes of actions of the faculties, National character & development of brain, On the importance of including development of brain as an element in statistical inquiries, Into the manifestations of the animal, moral, and intellectual faculties of man, Statistics of Insanity, Statistics of Crime, Comparative phrenology, Mesmeric phrenology, Objections to phrenology considered, Materialism, Effects of injuries of the brain, Conclusion, Appendices: No. I, II, III, IV, V, [Index], [Works of Combe].


EVERY one knows what is meant by wit, and yet no word presents more difficulties in its definition. Dr Gall observes, that, to convey a just idea of the faculty which produces it, he could discover no better method than to describe it as the predominant feature in the minds of Rabelais, Cervantes, Boileau, Racine, Swift, Sterne, Voltaire. In all these authors, and in many other persons who manifest a similar talent, the anterior-superior-lateral parts of the forehead are prominent and rounded. When this development is excessively large, it is attended with a disposition, apparently irresistible, to view objects in a ludicrous light.

Wit, however, is not the only cause of laughter. Laughing, like crying, may arise from a variety of faculties. I was acquainted with a boy in whom Acquisitiveness was large, and who laughed when one gave him a penny. Another youth, who possessed a large Love of Approbation, laughed when unexpected praise was bestowed upon him. A lady, in whom Destructiveness is large, told me that she involuntarily laughs when she sees instantaneous misfortune happen to any one, such as the breaking of an arm, or falling in the mud. She is sensible that the laugh is unamiable ; but adds that it is instinctive and irresistible. It is only of momentary duration. It appears to me to proceed from the unexpected gratification of Destructiveness. These facts, to which many more might be added, shew that we may smile from any pleasing affection of the sentiments, or even of some of the propensities ; and that the cause of a smile is not always the ludicrous. This view is confirmed by the circumstances which occur in hysterical affections.

1 Phrenological Journal, vol. xii. p. 194.

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It is not uncommon to see a lady or child laugh and cry alternately and involuntarily, apparently on account of some varying affection of the whole mental system, rather than from any particular ludicrous or distressing idea presenting itself by turns to the fancy. I have noticed farther, that a large development of Hope, Benevolence, and Wonder, producing happy emotions, predisposes the possessor to laugh ; while Cautiousness, Veneration, Conscientiousness, and Reflection, when predominant, give rise to a natural seriousness and gravity, adverse to laughter, the tone of these faculties being grave and solemn.

There may be much excellent wit, without exciting us to laugh. Indeed, Lord Chesterfield lays it down as a characteristic feature of an accomplished gentleman, that he should never laugh ; and although this rule is absurd, yet there may be a high enjoyment of wit without laughter. The following are instances in point. There is a story of a Nottinghamshire publican, Littlejohn by name, who put up the figure of Robin Hood for a sign, with the following lines below it ;

" All ye that relish ale that's good,
Come in and drink with Robin Hood ;
If Robin Hood is not at home,
Come in and drink with Littlejohn."

This is genuine wit, what even Chesterfield would allow to be so : and yet it does not force us to laugh. Another instance is the following. Louis XV. once heard that an English nobleman (Lord Stair) at his court was remarkably like himself. Upon his Lordship's going to court, the king, who was very guilty of saying rude things, observed, upon seeing him, " A remarkable likeness, upon my word !-My Lord, was your mother ever in France ?" To which his Lordship replied, with great politeness : " No, please your majesty, but ray father was." This also is admirably witty ; but it does not excite laughter.

In these instances, every one must perceive wit. although

492 WIT.

no inclination to laughter is excited. In the following cases again, the risible muscled are affected, though in fact the real point of wit contained in them is infinitely less.

The story of the Nottingham publican, named Littlejohn, who erected the sign of Robin Hood, goes on to say, that Mr Littlejohn having died, his successor thought it a pity to lose so capital a sign, and so much excellent poetry, and accordingly retained both; only, erasing his predecessor's name, he substituted his own in its place. The lines then ran thus :-

" All ye who relish ale that's good,

Come in and drink with Robin Hood;
If Robin Hood is not at home,

Come in and drink with Samuel Johnson."

The whole wit is now gone, and yet the lines are much more laughable than before. In like manner, when a servant let a tongue fall from a plate, and a gentleman at the table said, "Oh, never mind; it's a mere lapsus linguce" there was genuine wit in the remark ; but when another servant, who had heard that this was witty, let fall a shoulder of mutton, and thought to get off, by styling this accident, too, lapsus linguae, the whole wit was extinguished, but laughter would be more irresistibly provoked. Now, in what does the wit of the first instances consist ? and what is the cause of the more laughable effect of the second class of cases, in which the wit is actually extinguished ?

This leads me to a definition of wit. Locke describes it as " lying most in the assemblage of ideas, and putting those together with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resemblance or congruify, thereby to make up pleasant pictures, and agreeable visions in the fancy." Now, it may be demonstrated, that this definition is erroneous. For example, when Goldsmith, in his beautiful verses on hope, compares that great blessing of humanity to the light of a

1 Essay on the Human Understanding, b. ii. c. xi. § 2

WIT. 493

taper, he adds a circumstance of resemblance, which, according to Locke's definition, is the perfection of wit.

" Hope, like the glimmering taper's light,

Adorns and cheers the way, And still, as darker grows the night, Emits a brighter rat/.''

But this, in point of fact, is only exquisitely beautiful, and not in the least witty. When we analyze the images here presented, we are able to refer them to Comparison and Ideality as their origin ; the suggestion of simple resemblance, adorned with beauty, being their constituent elements.

Wherein, then, do the comparisons which are witty, such as those already cited, or Hudibras's famous simile,

" When, like a lobster boiled, the morn From black to red began to turn,"

differ from those which are not witty ? This brings us at last to the consideration of the real nature of wit, and to the main object of all these remarks, the function of the organ now under consideration.

The authority of the metaphysicians tends to support the idea that the talent for perceiving resemblances is distinct from that which discriminates differences. Malebranche observes, that ' There are geniuses of two sorts. The one remarks easily the differences existing between objects, and these are the excellent geniuses. The others imagine and suppose resemblances between things, and these are the superficial minds."1 Locke makes the same distinction. After speaking of wit as " lying most in the assemblage of ideas wherein any resemblance or congruity can be found," he proceeds thus : " Judgment, on the contrary, lies quite on the other side, in separating carefully, one from another, ideas wherein can be found the least difference, thereby to avoid being misled by similitude, and by affinity to take one thing

1 Rech, de la Vérité, liv. ii. 2d part, c. ix.

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for another ?n Lord Bacon says, that " the chief and (as it were) radical distinction betwixt minds in regard to philosophy and science is this-that some minds have greater power and are more fitted for the observation of the differences, others for the observation of the resemblances, of things."

These ideas will be better understood by an illustration. The objection is sometimes stated, that Phrenology is no science, because a large organ of Destructiveness and a large organ of Benevolence may be found in the same head, and then they will neutralize each other, like an acid and an alkali. This objection would spring from a mind in which the power of perceiving resemblances was greater than that which perceives differences, and would appear conclusive at first sight to minds similarly constituted. But a person having a large endowment of the faculty for perceiving distinctions, would discriminate in a moment the difference between two inorganic substances, placed in a state of chemical mixture, and two organs subsisting separately, having distinct functions, and calculated for acting on different occasions ; and he would see that the analogy had no force whatever.

Supposing, then, that the faculty of Comparison, to be afterwards treated of, perceives resemblances, the question occurs, Which is the faculty that perceives differences \ Mr Scott has been led to believe that this depends upon the faculty of Wit, and that the primitive function of the power is to distinguish differences. He conceives that in all the foregoing instances in which wit is recognised, there is "a mixture of congruity and incongruity, or that incongruity appears where congruity was expected," which in principle is the same thing. This is nearly the definition of wit given by Beattie, and it approaches closely to that given by Campbell and Dr Thomas Brown. Now, he says that the proper function of the faculty under discussion is to perceive difference.,-to observe, in short, incongruity',-and that it is only when this is done that wit is at all recognised. The wit in Lord Stair's reply lies in the incongruity between the answer

1 Essay, &c. b. ii. c. xi. sect. 2.

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which Louis received, and that which he 'expected. He evidently anticipated that Stair would say that his mother had been in France ; and the king meant it to be inferred, that she had been false, and that Stair was his brother. His Lordship's reply, on the contrary, completely turned the tables on the king. " No, but my father was," implied that Louis by parity of reason, was descended of Stair's father. In like manner, when Kitty, a young lady of quality, celebrated in one of Prior's songs,

" Obtained the chariot for a day And set the world on fire,"

we perceive the comparison between the young beauty's exploit and that of Photon with the chariot of the Sun ; and the difference or incongruity is so striking, that we feel it as an essential ingredient in the description, and relish it as wit. In the comparison of hope to the taper, on the other hand,

" Which still as darker grows the night Emits a brighter ray/'

we attend only to the resemblance, which is very striking and beautiful, and not to the points of difference ; and then the image strikes us as a pure comparison, and not as implying any incongruity,-and, in consequence, it is not felt as witty.

Wit, therefore, appears to consist chiefly in an intellectual perception of difference, of incongruity amid congruity ; and hence wit, like an argument, may be retailed a thousand times, from mind to mind, without losing its intrinsic qualities ; while humour, which is ascribed chiefly to Secretiveness, is entirely personal, and must be witnessed at the first hand to be at all enjoyed.1 These are the ideas of Mr Scott, who has treated the subject at great length in The Phrenological Journal. It is impossible to give here a comprehensive abstract of his views, and I shall therefore quote only one paragraph. " I strongly incline," says he, " to think that this

1 The theory of humour is explained on p. 303,

496 WIT.

is an intellectual faculty, and that while its function, as well as that of Comparison and Causality, is to compare ideas or feelings together, its special function consists in the peculiar manner of comparing. It does not compare, as Comparison does, to discover resemblances or analogies, nor, as Causality does, to draw refined distinctions, or to observe close philosophical relations ; but it compares for the purpose of discovering broad, violent, extravagant contrasts, and of bringing together ideas the most incongruous, disproportionate, and opposite in existence" (vol. iv. p. 195). Dr Spurzheim, on the other hand, is of opinion, that " the same power which perceives resemblances, perceives differences also. I see no reason," says he, " for adopting two faculties for the act of discrimination. The same power perceives the harmony and disharmony of tones ; there is only one power of Colouring ; and the proportion and disproportion in dimensions are felt by the same faculty of Size ; in the same way, I think that Comparison alone distinguishes similitudes and dissimilitudes, differences, analogies, or identities." It must, however, be remarked on this passage, that the ultimate or simple function of Comparison is still under discussion, and that there seems to be a difference between the comparisons made by it and those made by Size, Form, Tune, and Colouring.1 Dr Spurzheim considers the faculty now under consideration to be " a sentiment which disposes men to view every thing in a gay, joyful, and mirthful manner." He regards it as " given to man to render him merry and gay-feelings not to be confounded with satisfaction or contentment : these are affections of every faculty, whilst gaiety and mirthfulness belong to that which now occupies our attention.'' According to this view, wit consists in conceptions formed by the intellectual powers, imbued with the sentiment of the ludicrous ; in the same way as poetry consists in the produc-

1 On this point, which it is unnecessary to discuss here in detail, see The Phrenological Journal, vi. 384, and ix. 435, 495 ; also the section on Comparison in this work.

WIT. 497

tions of the other faculties, acting in combination with, and elevated by, Ideality. Dr Spurzheim observes, that even granting Mr Scott's supposition that one faculty perceives resemblances and another differences, it still appears necessary to admit a special feeling of Mirthfulness. " We may excite Mirthfulness, it is true, by making comparisons of things which differ ; but/' says he, " we may do so also by comparing things which resemble each other. If, amidst incongruity and difference, we seek for analogies, the faculty of Comparison is active, and combined with Mirthfulness it will undoubtedly make us laugh. But we may laugh heartily at a single object, without allusion to any difference. Those who are the most disposed to laugh and to be merry, are not always the most intelligent and the most skilful in distinguishing either analogies or differences. The feeling of Mirthfuluess, therefore, seems to be special. It may be excited by pointing out differences or resemblances, by the agency of various feelings, by playing tricks, or by inspiring fear. The fundamental power, then, cannot be wit. This is only one of its applications, and results from its combination with intellect." An ingenious writer in The Phrenological Journal, vol. iv. p. 364, supports with much ability Mr Scott's opinion, that the power of discrimination arises from the organ No. 20 ; but also states weighty reasons for considering the sense of the ludicrous as a distinct mental power, not intellectual but affective, the organ of which is not yet ascertained, but which he is disposed to look for between the organs of Wit, Wonder, and Imitation. The locality of the organ No. 20, in the forehead, among those of the intellectual faculties, certainly is a ground for presuming that its function is not affective. Mr Hewett Watson, however, thinks that Mr Scott's ideas are untenable, " inasmuch as the poet Moore, in whose mask Wit is but moderately developed, evinces a very considerable perception of difference."1

Mr Schwartz of Stockholm, in an able paper, communicated to the Phrenological Journal, says, " I see every reason

1 Phren. Journ. vi. 451.


498 wit. to believe that the organ of Wit forms a fourth intellectual faculty, allied to the three already named, and to regard it as the faculty which considers objects in their relation of means to an end (nexus finalis), or which enables us in thought to arrange and combine circumstances as leading to one aim. I know no name which designates it so well as the denomination faculty of combination" He also speaks of the faculty as giving " presence of mind," and as " inventive talent." He states no cases in support of his opinions. In The Phrenological Journal, vol. vi. p. 451, Mr Watson has given a different analysis of this faculty from that of Mr Scott, and ably illustrated it. He regards it as an intellectual power, whose function is to take cognizance of the nature or intrinsic properties of things, the office of Causality being to perceive the " relations of causation and dependence in general.5' According to him, the ludicrous is a mode of manifestation of all the intellectual faculties, and he gives examples in which Sheridan and Moore display great wit, chiefly from Individuality and Comparison. The faculty now under discussion, also produces wit as a mode of manifestation ; but he conceives that it does so always by comparing or contrasting the intrinsic qualities of objects. The study of character " is included in the functions of Wit, not merely the actions performed, but the real dispositions." " Let us now take up," says he, " the sentimental Tour of Sterne, in whose mask Causality and Wit are predominating organs. Almost the whole tenor of this work, unlike that of most tourists, consists of disquisitions concerning the dispositions and inherent qualities of persons and things ; for, instead of narrating whom and what he saw, his attention seems to have been absorbed in speculations as to their conditions, dependences, nature, and qualities. " Sheridan enjoyed no slight reputation as a wit ; but any one taking the trouble to analyze his manifestations in that way, will soon perceive that the wit of this remarkable individual almost always consists of comparisons, or contrasts of proportion, position, objects, and events, with little or no

WIT. 490

reference to their attributes or inherent properties. For instance, he compares a tall thin man with a short fat wife, to a church and steeple ; beaux flirting with a lady seated in a very high carriage, to supporters hanging half way up the door ; a tall thin man, to a tree run up against a wall ; and such an one with his arms spread, to a cross on a Good-Friday bun."

" As therefore, in the works of individuals noted for the large development of Wit, we find a peculiar tendency to dwell on the essential properties of things, and, at the same time, in some of them an equal tendency to ridicule all fancy, philosophy, and reasoning, wherein there appears neglect or ignorance of these attributes ; as we are not aware of any other organ which can include perceptions of this nature in its function ; and as the inherent properties of the constituent parts of creation seem to be intellectual perceptions, equally distinct from those of condition or dependence as those of objects are from those of their position and physical properties; there seems no slight probability for supposing the existence of some distinct organ for such perceptions ;-and, further, if we find them manifested strongly when the organ of Wit is large ; if the peculiar wit and satire believed to be connected with the function of this organ is found to depend essentially on such perceptions : and if other kinds of wit-that of Curran and Sheridan, for instance-may exist with a moderate or deficient endowment of this organ ; we shall be almost necessarily forced to the conclusion that perception of inherent properties does depend on the organ of Wit, unless it can be shewn to exist powerful when the organ is feebly developed, which we have in vain looked for.

" It hence appears that the range of this faculty is far more extensive, and that it forms a much more essential ingredient in our philosophic capacities, than could be predicated from only observing its manifestations when acting along with Secretiveness, Self-Esteem, Combativeness, and Destructiveness, to produce irony, sarcasm,"; ridicule, and satire : or, with other intellectual powers, to sparkle in the

500 WIT.

sallies of wit. Directed towards man, it probably gives a tendency to investigate the real character, instead of resting content with observing appearances or actions, which seems to have been greatly the bent of Sterne's mind, and considerably so of that of Franklin. Taking the direction of religion, it will inquire into the nature and attributes of God» as manifested in creation. Cowper affords an example of this, and Socrates may be also named. In physiology, primary or essential function, as distinct from modes of manifestation, and particular actions and directions, will be its aim. To the metaphysician it will impart a strong desire for ascertaining the nature and inherent powers of mind, and of creation in general. Phrenology, being an union of the two latter-the metaphysician and the physiologist-its founders will afford us a suitable illustration. In the bust of Dr Gall the organ is represented much less developed than in that of Dr Spurzheim ; and the superiority of the latter in discriminating modes of manifestation, and particular directions of the mental powers, from the powers themselves, is familiar to all phrenologists. Perhaps, too, we shall not err in adducing Locke as a negative instance of the faculty. In the portraits of this philosopher, Comparison and Causality appear greatly larger than Wit ; and his system derives not only ideas, but the mental feelings, from external impressions ; but as he was obliged to give the mind a capability of being affected by impressions on the external senses, he endowed it with the faculties of perception, contemplation, memory, comparison, and abstraction, which are in reality but modes of activity, not inherent powers. His grounds for denying the innateness of ideas were their non-manifestation, or various modifications in different individuals, from which it would seem that modes of being were to him in lieu of innate powers.

" It has been supposed that the organ of Wit gives a tendency to view every thing in a ludicrous light ; but if the ideas here proposed concerning its functions prove correct, such a supposition must be untenable ; and that it is so, in point of fact, may be shewn by reference to nature. The

WIT. 501

masks of Drs Cullen, Franklin, and Spurzheim, exhibit a greater development of the organ than do those of Cur ran, Swift, and Sheridan. And further, let any one appeal to his own private friends in whom the organ is largely developed, and ask whether they are not oftener pained than pleased by things of opposite and unharmonizing nature brought into unnecessary contact ; and, on the other hand, delighted by harmonies between the properties or attributes, whether real or imaginary, of different objects."

" It seems that almost all amusing wit consists in a slight resemblance addressed to the function of one organ, and at the same time a difference to that of another,-thus coming still nearer to Mr Scott's theory of laughter than his own view of wit could do. For, if there were distinct organs to perceive resemblance and difference, each would be similarly excited by the specimens of wit ; but if these be modes of activity common to all the intellectual powers, then one of them is agreeably excited by the similarity, and the other jarred by the contrast, producing different states of excitement. We say ' jarred,' because the more any organ is developed, the more are similarities and harmonies between its perceptions sought after ; Tune, Colour, and Number, for example."

My own view is, that the organ in question manifests the sentiment of the ludicrous, and that wit consists in any form of intellectual conception combined with this sentiment. If this opinion is adopted, another question arises, namely, What are the objects of the sentiment of the ludicrous \ We are able to point out certain forms, colours, and proportions* which are intrinsically beautiful, and to specify them as the external objects to which Ideality is related. An ingenious friend stated the idea that there are also external objects which in their own nature are ludicrous, and which stand in an established relation to the sentiment of gaiety. He specified nightcaps, the nose, the elbow, a sailor with a wooden leg, and a windmill, as examples. It appears to me that the ludicrous is merely a mode of existence, of which almost all natural objects

502 WIT.

are susceptible, but which is not the sole or necessary characteristic of any of them. The nose, for example, when perfect in form and harmonious in colouring, in relation to the other features, naturally excites the sentiment of the beautiful, and calls up emotions of pleasure and admiration, and not at all any ludicrous feeling : let its proportions, however, or its colour, be changed, so that it shall be too long or too short, too high or too low, too red or too white, and it will instantly excite the sentiment of the ludicrous. There are several other sentiments which possess the characteristic of having no special objects in nature related to them, but of being liable to be excited by certain modes of existence. There is no object, for instance, that, in all its modes of existence, is specially and directly terrible, or instituted apparently for the direct purpose of rousing Cautiousness. A lion in a cage, or the sea in a calm, is not terrible : but both become highly so when lashed into fury, and threatening to devour us. The conclusion which I draw from this view is, that although a sentiment of the ludicrous has been bestowed on us by a benignant Creator, to contribute to our amusement, yet there is no object in nature which in itself is essentially and necessarily ludicrous or absurd. If any part of the human form, for example, or any imperfection or disproportion in its parts, were necessarily ludicrous, he in whom such aberrations occurred would be doubly afflicted-first by the physical inconvenience : and, secondly, by being a natural and inevitable object of merriment to the whole human race, the latter being by far the greater evil of the two. Byron seems to have entertained the notion that some such impression was excited in the minds of spectators by his lame foot, and it rendered him extremely miserable. It would be in vain to attempt to educate a child by precept and example to feel compassion instead of mirth, on seeing an old sailor with a wooden leg, if a maimed man, supplying his defect by art, were necessarily a ludicrous object. But it would be quite possible to do so, if the ludicrous be only a mode of existence, and not an inherent quality in objects. By directing the child's atten-

WIT. 503

tton to the cause of the sailor's imperfection, probably fighting in defence of his country, and to the inconvenience which he suffers from it, he might be rendered an object of interest to Benevolence and Veneration, and thus excite feelings of kindliness and respect, instead of those of the ludicrous.

This view explains also why the most acute writers have failed in giving a satisfactory definition of wit. If no object whatever be in its own nature ludicrous, and if every mundane object may assume a ludicrous aspect as one of its modes of existence, it is clear that any definition, or even description of the ludicrous, as a specific entity, must be impossible.

As the essential function of a faculty is most strikingly manifested when its organ is in excess, I have watched the manifestations of several individuals in whom Wit predominated over Causality, and perceived in them a striking love of the purely ludicrous, with a regardlessness equally of the intrinsic and of all the other philosophical qualities of things. Their great delight was to heap absurd and incongruous ideas together, to extract laughter out of every object, and to enjoy the mirth which their sallies had created. In consequence of these observations,. I so far embrace Dr Spurzheim's views as to regard the sentiment of the ludicrous as the primitive function of the organ.

The different degrees of development of the organ, in different individuals, explain why some men see the ludicrous in objects in which it is not perceived by others,- the larger the organ, the greater, caeteris paribus, is the tendency to discover ludicrous appearances.

Assuming that the organ in question manifests the sentiment of the ludicrous, we may trace the effects which it will produce when combined with the other organs in different degrees of development. I observe,

First, That any particular faculty takes the lead in impressing its character on the mental manifestations of an individual, only when in him its organ predominates over the other organs which are in their nature opposed to it

504 WIT.

Thus, if Wit full be combined in one person with large organs of Reflection, and also with large organs of Veneration, Cautiousness, and Conscientiousness, deficient organs of Hope, and moderate Benevolence,-a combination which produces a serious and sombre disposition,-the sentiment of the ludicrous, being little in harmony with the predominant feelings of the mind, will only in a slight degree communicate its peculiar quality to the manifestations. If, in another individual, Wit, also full, be combined with moderate reflecting organs, large knowing organs, moderate Cautiousness, Veneration, and Conscientiousness, large Hope and large Benevolence,-a combination which renders the intellect observant and prompt, but superficial, and the dispositions gay, careless, and disposed to enjoyment,-the sentiment of the ludicrous, being much in harmony with such a mental constitution, will appear much more prominently in the manifestations than in the preceding instance.

Again : If Wit full or large, be combined with the knowing organs large, and the reflecting organs moderate, the possessor will manifest his wit in " comparisons or contrasts of proportion, position, objects, and events,'' all derived from the knowing organs, with little or no reference to their inherent qualities or logical relations, which are perceived by the organs of reflection. This combination occurred in Sheridan, in whom the moral organs also were deficient ; so that not only a considerable love of the ludicrous, but the special character of his wit. in so far as it was original, appear to me to have been the natural results of his peculiar combination of organs.

On the other hand, when Wit full or large, is combined with large organs of Eventuality, Comparison, and Causality, and deficient organs of Individuality, it will naturally display itself in comparisons and contrasts of modes of action, suggested by Eventuality, and intrinsic qualities, or causes, and their relations, suggested by Causality.1 This combination occurred in Voltaire.

1 Mr Watson, in the Phren. Journal, vol. x., p. 368, says, " I have seen

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In Sterne, Individuality appears to have been moderate, Eventuality small, Form, Size, and Weight very large, and Causality, Comparison, and "Wit all large. From this combination we should expect few witty ideas to be drawn from substantive existences in their aggregate aspects, but many from their forms and proportions ; few from the actions of. things or persons, but many from the causes of actions and events,-in other words, from their inherent qualities and their relations ; and in accordance with these anticipations, Mr Watson remarks that, " instead of narrating whom and what he saw, Sterne's attention (in the Sentimental Journey) seems to have been absorbed in speculations as to their conditions, dependences, nature, and qualities.''

When the organ of Wit large, is combined with a large development of Comparison, Causality, and the moral organs, although it may not prominently manifest itself in witty contrasts, yet, by communicating a vivid sense of the ludicrous, it may tend to increase that character of harmony and propriety in the mental manifestations in general, which this combination naturally produces. Dr A. Combe presents an example in point. While the grave and important topics of which he treats lead him, in his published works, to suppress the direct manifestations of his large organ of Wit, yet the faculty appears to me to enhance the justness and harmony of his general mental perceptions, in the same way as Ideality, when large, imparts a tinge of beauty and elevation to the manifestations of the other powers. On occasions that are not serious, his organ of Wit shines forth in ludicrous combinations in proportion to its size ; but these instances occur only in the retirement of private life. In familiar intercourse, Dr Spurzheim also manifested a strong sense of the ludicrous ; but, apparently, for similar reasons, he seldom

three cases of living individuals which strongly tend to corroborate the views of Dr Spurzheim ; and it may be that the examples adduced by Mr Scott and myself in former volumes of the Phren. Journal are the manifestations of Wit and Causality combined."

506 WIT.

manifested it in his philosophical works. In Dr Franklin and Lord Kames, both of whom in general wrote in a grave style, the organ was large, in combination with large Comparison and Causality ; but both were, on suitable occasions, humorists, and renowned for their love of jokes, indicating the activity of the organ in question. In Horace Smith, Individuality. Eventuality, and Comparison are rather large, Causality and Imitation are large, and Wit is very large. This combination should have given him a wide range of sources from which to draw ludicrous ideas, viz., from objects themselves, from their modes of action, from their condition, their essential qualities, and the effects of these qualities when operating as causes. The displays of wit, humour, burlesque, and ridicule, of various kinds, which occur in the " Rejected Addresses,'' appear to me strongly to corroborate these ideas ; but those who have critically analysed his writings will best judge how far they support the views here propounded.

The sentiment of the ludicrous, acting in combination with Self-Esteem, produces ridicule. There is always an implied self-superiority in the individual who laughs at others. To persons possessing large reflecting and moderate knowing organs in combination with large Wit. many of the sallies of men in whom Wit only moderate or full, is combined with large knowing and deficient reflecting organs, appear sheer impertinences and absurdities ; yet such sallies are highly relished by individuals possessing the same combination with their authors. Hence an individual may, among certain persons, enjoy the reputation of being a great wit ; while others, judging from the same exhibitions, may pronounce him to be 'only a great buffoon. No spectacle is more ludicrous than that which is presented when persons of slender intellect, in overweening confidence in their own superiority, set themselves to ridicule the opinions of men of profounder understandings and more extensive information than themselves. Ideas which their

WIT. 507

shallowness alone renders them incapable of comprehending, and truths which only their ignorance leads them to doubt, are confidently assailed as intrinsically ludicrous or absurd. The contrast between the estimate which they form of their own wisdom, and the real magnitude of their folly, presents the richest features of the truly comical.

The sentiment of the ludicrous acting in combination with Imitation, produces the Burlesque, the ludicrous effect of which is derived from adding to the representation of an object a certain kind and degree of exaggeration, diminution, or distortion of its real attributes, but not so great as to offend Causality and Comparison ; when it goes so far, it degenerates into the absurd.

Some individuals derive much gratification from manifestations of Imitation. When the Imitation is perfectly correct, and the objects imitated are in their own nature grave, the representations are not ludicrous, but the slightest exaggeration or diminution will render them so ; and as most imitations, either by gestures, looks, and tones-as in mimicry, for instance-or by forms, proportions, and colours, as in caricatures, are exaggerations, they excite the sentiment of the ludicrous. A moderate endowment of the organ of Wit is sufficient to enable the individual who possesses a large Imitation, to infuse the ludicrous quality into his representations.

Other faculties besides Wit are gratified by unexpected contrasts and comparisons. Secretiveness and Wonder are important elements in a talent for conundrums, charades, riddles, and enigmas. In these, difficulty in the form of mystery is presented by Secretiveness, and is addressed to Secretiveness in others, while surprise at the explanation or denouement is a gratification to the faculty of Wonder. This combination of organs occurs in persons who display most talent in these mental feats, and also in those who most enjoy them. Both must enter into the spirit of the concealment and surprise, before they can become interested in them. When Wit large is added to this combination, the conun-

508 WIT.

drums, &c., will partake more of the ludicrous quality ; when Causality large is added to it, they will partake of the ludicrous and logical, and so forth.

I do not regard the cases of Curran and Sheridan as attended with much difficulty. In Curran's mask the organs of Eventuality and Comparison are large, while those of Causality and Wit are only full. It is not surprising that with this combination he should acquire a reputation for wit of a certain kind, I suspect chiefly burlesque humour. I have searched in vain in his speeches, reported in his Life written by his Son, for proofs of the higher kinds of intellectual wit. From his biography I infer that he possessed a very active temperament, and large Destructiveness, Secretiveness, and Imitation ; and that these organs, combined with large Eventuality and Comparison, gave him fertility of invention, copiousness of illustration, savoir-faire and a command, to a certain extent, of drollery, and a coarse satirical humour. By dint of these talents he appears to have addressed himself dexterously to the prevailing sympathies of his audience for the time, and to have produced an effect on their minds much greater than either the witty or the intellectual qualities displayed in his speeches would lead a modern reader to expect.

Sheridan's literary works contain more examples of intellectual wit than the remains of Curran. In him the moral organs were only moderately developed, while he had a large development of Individuality, Eventuality, and Comparison, with Causality scarcely full. This combination would render him little prone either to seriousness of feeling or depth of reflection, and would confer on his organ of Wit a relative ascendency. The wit in Sheridan's works is more abundant, and of a higher character, than the organ of the faculty in his head would lead us to expect ; but in his biography by Mr Moore, an instructive light is cast on this apparent anomaly. Much of the wit which sparkles in Sheridan's pages was not his own, but collected in the intellectual circles in London in which he moved, noted down by him when uttered by his

WIT. 509

friends, and subsequently wrought up into his own productions. His speeches are a truer record of his own powers, and they partake much of the general character which distinguishes those of Curran. They are brilliant and clever, corresponding, with his large knowing organs, but meagre in that kind of intellectual wit which results from Causality and Comparison, acting in combination with the organ of the ludicrous. I cannot, therefore, regard either Sheridan or Curran as witty men of the same kind as Voltaire and Sterne, and the author of Hudibras. The Reverend Sidney Smith is a living example of a really witty mind. His wit is generally pertinent to the object about which he reasons. It is the seasoning to solid argument, and in fact is .often in itself argument. Sheridan, when he drew on his own resources, manifested Individuality, Eventuality, and Comparison, in enumerations and descriptions of physical objects and events, and by means of a moderate organ of Wit he tinged them with the ludicrous. Sidney Smith, on the other hand, impregnates the abstract deductions of reason with wit, presenting the strongest arguments in the most ludicrous attire, yet keeping the wit always subordinate to the logic. Causality, combined with a large organ of Wit, appears to me to be indispensable to the manifestation of these qualities.

I agree with Mr Watson, that some individuals have a great talent for investigating the intrinsic qualities of things, including the primitive functions of the mental faculties and bodily organs, who yet are not distinguished for wit. Dr Reid and Mr Dugald Stewart were not distinguished for the power of discriminating between primitive faculties, the laws of their operation, and the results of their acting in combination. Mr Stewart indeed was remarkably deficient in this quality.l Dr Thomas Brown possessed much more of this

1 The following sentence, which occurs in the very threshold of his philosophical writings, affords a striking illustration of the remark in the text. " Upon a slight attention to the operations of our own mind," says he, " they appear to be so complicated, and so infinitely diversified,

510 WIT.

discriminating talent. Those differences remain to be accounted for.

In the Phrenological Journal, vol. xi. p. 381, Mr Watson

that it seems to be impossible to reduce them to any general laws. In consequence, however, of a more accurate examination, the prospect clears up ; and the phenomena which appeared at first to be too various for our comprehension, are found to be the result of a comparatively small number of simple and uncompounded faculties, or of simple and uncompounded principles of action." It is extremely difficult to comprehend the distinction between "faculties" and "principles of action" which is obviously implied in the terms of this sentence. Mr Stewart proceeds : " These faculties and principles are the general laws of out constitution, and hold the same place in the philosophy of mind, that the general laws we investigate in physics hold in that branch of science."* This is evidently erroneous. The propensity of Destructiveness, for example, is a primitive faculty, and it acts according to certain laws. One of these laws is, that it is excited by injury or provocation ; and that it lies dormant when its possessor is gratified. Under certain influences it may be excited by disease, and then it is a law of its constitution that it becomes extremely vigorous, and ungovernable by the other faculties, and that it adds greatly to the energy of muscular action. The propensity itself is a primitive faculty of our nature, and the phenomena which it exhibits take place regularly, and this regularity is metaphorically expressed by saying that it acts according to certain laws, which are called laws of our constitution ; but there is a want of discrimination in mistaking the laws which the propensity observes, or its mode of action, for the propensity itself, which Mr Stewart here obviously does. The same want of penetration is apparent in his remark in regard to the objects of our investigation in physical science. It is true, that, in astronomy, the objects of our investigation are the laws which the principle of gravitation obeys ; but in chemistry, which is equally a physical science, the elements and the inherent properties or qualities of substances, whatever these may be, are the ultimate objects of investigation, just as the primitive faculties are in mind. The modes of action of chemical ^substances, and the laws which they obey, are obviously distinct objects of study from the substances themselves. The mineralogist for instance, studies the diamond, simply as it exists ; while the chemist investigates its elements, and its modes of action, when exposed to heat and other external influences. Again, it has long been disputed, what caloric is in itself, whether it is a substance, or a state merely arising from certain modes of action in matter. But the laws which it obeys in being radiated, in being reflected, and in being concentrated, are clearly distinct objects of consideration from its substance, and yet Mr Stewart confounds them. This incapacity to dis-

* Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, 2d edit. p. 10.


has given an able summary of the various opinions entertained by Phrenologists regarding this organ, with a commentary upon them ; but no general agreement in regard to its ultimate function has yet been arrived at. Various discussions on it will be found in that work, vol. x. pp. 14,148, 168, 368 : also in vol. xi. p. 391 ; vol. xii. pp. 194 and 350 ; and vol. xiv. p. 291.

Dr Spurzheim, in the dissection of the brain, shewed that, anatomically, Ideality and Wit belong to the same department of convolutions ; whence a presumption, in his opinion, arises that their functions belong to the same class of mental faculties : and as Ideality has been uniformly regarded as a sentiment, Wit may with propriety be placed under the same head.

It will be observed, that all these differences relate to the metaphysical analysis of the faculty, and that phrenologists are agreed on the fact, that witty and mirthful manifestations are connected with the organ now under consideration. The organ and its function, therefore, may, to this extent, be regarded as ascertained.

Vol. 1: [front matter], Intro, Nervous system, Principles of Phrenology, Anatomy of the brain 1.Amativeness 2.Philoprogenitiveness 3.Concentrativeness 4.Adhesiveness 5.Combativeness 6.Destructiveness, Alimentiveness, Love of Life 7.Secretiveness 8.Acquisitiveness 9.Constructiveness 10.Self-Esteem 11.Love of Approbation 12.Cautiousness 13.Benevolence 14.Veneration 15.Firmness 16.Conscientiousness 17.Hope 18.Wonder 19.Ideality 20.Wit or Mirthfulness 21.Imitation.
Vol. 2: [front matter], external senses, 22.Individuality 23.Form 24.Size 25.Weight 26.Colouring 27.Locality 28.Number 29.Order 30.Eventuality 31.Time 32.Tune 33.Language 34.Comparison, General observations on the Perceptive Faculties, 35.Causality, Modes of actions of the faculties, National character & development of brain, On the importance of including development of brain as an element in statistical inquiries, Into the manifestations of the animal, moral, and intellectual faculties of man, Statistics of Insanity, Statistics of Crime, Comparative phrenology, Mesmeric phrenology, Objections to phrenology considered, Materialism, Effects of injuries of the brain, Conclusion, Appendices: No. I, II, III, IV, V, [Index], [Works of Combe].

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