KNOX'S GREAT ARTISTS AND GREAT ANATOMISTS. * IN imitation of a
Continental fashion Dr. Knox entitles his vo- lume a study. It is rather a mélange of biography, criticism, scientific discovery so far as relates to the forms in which life is developed whether in extinct or existing being, and diatribes against a good many things more especially against "hereditary imbecilities," "commercial ending England, contrasted with scien- tific, literary, artistic France," and the jobbing, mercenary, servile spirit which animates the so-called scientific bodies in Britain and the majority of their members. The object of the book, if a judg- ment may be formed from its contents, is to trace the scientific careers of Cuvier and Etienne Geoffrey (St. Hilaire), to estimate the merit of each in scientific discovery, and to fix the character of their respective achievements. This is followed by sketches of the lives and works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, and Ra- phael, ostensibly to determine the relation of anatomy to the fine arts, but travelling into a good many other matters.
Dr. Knox is not only an admirer of France, but an imitator of the French manner. Be has their mode of address; striking at the outset from its abruptness, and imposing from a species of an- thoritative assumption, as if the person were not only a somebody but had something to say. He has also their vivid and attractive style; a little turgid perhaps still anything but dull. Dr. Knox, however, has not acquired their art of arrangement A French- man is very likely to be wrong in his principles, hasty in his
ge- neralizations, rroneous in his conclusions, and false or at least not true in his facts; but he is seldom deficient in form. Grant him all that he affirms, and the mode of affirmation will be compact and orderly enough. Dr. Knox is fragmentary in his arrange- ment; he passes from one subject to another without apparent purpose beyond that of discharging his mind of the thoughts that are uppermost ; mingling biographical events, personal traits, anecdotes of his heroes, and statements of their scientific principles, with his own estimate of them, and his ideas "de omnibus." It is probable that this want of coherent closeness may arise from the au- thor's vocation as a lecturer ; the book has much the air of having been orally delivered, though it is not announced as such. The work is animated throughout by the "nothing like leather" principle. The useful arts, the humbler kind of the fine arts, which spread comfort and humanizing influences among a people, are ignored; and their followers, or the wretches who enjoy their productions, are as dust under the philosopher's feet. Even ana- tomy, studied for the purpose of relieving humanity, though ac- cording to Cicero there is nothing more godlike is in the view of Dr. Knox little better than a trade. Morality is lost sight of altogether. We have already alluded to the comparison be- tween trading England and "scientific artistic France.' This is the kind of art in which the god of Dr. Knox's idolatry, the scien- tific Geoffrey (St. Hilaire), was engaged.
"According to his son, Geoffrey, by orders of Napoleon plundered the scientific institutions and monasteries of Portugal but so adroitly, with such urbanity, polite.sse, and kindly feeling, that the 'Portuguese themselves not only seemed insensible of the fact, but thanked him for the spoliation. Another version was given me in Paris, to which, however, I paid but little attention at the time. Geoffrey had for his companion an aide-naturaliste,' described to me as a man of low birth, and unscrupulous. The plunder col-
lected in Portugal by these employes of Napoleon the interests of science,' amounted to- seventeen large cases. Junot, to secure his own robberies, which were enormous, betrayed Lisbon into the hands of the English, and evacuated the place. The seventeen cases of plunder col- lected by Geoffrey by the commands of his master were for an instant detained by the English commandant. They were ultimately given up. On being opened, it was reported that three which were detained by the Engliah commander were found to contain anything but specimens of natural hie- tory, MSS., &c. Metallic specimens of shapes and figures on which here- tics like myself look with horror and pity, and other rich plunder, were said to have mainly composed the contents of these three cases."
Notwithstanding its assumptions of superiority and its faults of arrangement, there are some good things in this volume. The state of geology and comparative anatomy as Cuvier found them; and as he left them, are clearly though curtly explained. The origin of the theory of development in life (on which the Vestiges of Creation was founded) is pointed out succinctly, and Geoffrey's theory upon the subject explained at once clearly and truly.
"Prior to the appearance of this remarkable man, philosophic minds of various ages and various pursuits had announced the bold theory, that all animals are formed upon one plan.' Leibnitz, the great rival of New- ton, entertained this opinion; so also did Newton. . Pascal threw out in like manner this grand conjecture, for until the transcendental in anatomy arose, such it merely was. Bacon had recommended experiments to be made in order to discover the causes of forms. The mere observance and classi- fication of forms of life did not satisfy these great minds, these lights of the • Great Artists and Great Anatomists; a Biographical and Philosophical Study. By R. Knox.. M.D., F.R.S.E., Lecturer on Anatomy and Corresponding Member of the AcadCnne Nationale of France. Published by Van Voorst. earth. They desired to know whence and how originate the various forms which life assumes on this globe. What cause or causes—physical causes, they thought of none else, nor can any other even be imagined—give rise to the indefinite if not infinite variety of forms which have decorated or still decorate the earth. This, the greatest of all philosophic questions ever proposed, next to the origin of the globe itself, was thus formuled by men, not in themselves naturalists or anatomists, but who possessed a genius equal to observe all material phenomena. They considered this question as it really is, a natural, a physical question, a question of secondary laws. But they only conjectured ; theirs was an hypothesis merely. Buffon attempted its solution, but still as a mere theorist. Last came Goethe, Oken, Auten- rieth, Geoffrey : they attempted the demonstration of the causes of forms; and if they failed in this, as many still think they did, they at least proved that the living organic world and the past have been formed upon one great plan, one scheme of Nature, the basis of which is the unity of struc- ture, unity of organization."
To exhibit and enforce this theory is indeed one great object of the book. There is alsci matter of a more miscellaneous nature in it : anecdotes, and traits of Cuvier and Geoffrey, with both of whom Dr. Enox was personally acquainted; glimpses of foreign neglect of science ; pieces of smart criticism and curious facts. One of these is the description of Leonardo da Vinci's sketch-book. "I, as early as 1810, knew that there existed in the library of George the Third a unique quarto volume of drawings, sketch MS. observations: the 'Sketch-book,' in fact, of the immortal Leonardo, containing his private thoughts, ideas, conceptions, views. After long delay, I at last, a few months ago, was permitted by the kindness of Mr. Glover, librarian to the Queen— sanctioned, no doubt, by the highest authority—to examine personally and for several hours a work probably without an equal in the history of design. "It is a small folio, prepared as a sketch-book, its leaves filled with figures., drawn by Leonardo, chiefly from dissections made either by himself, or conjointly with Della Torre. It comprises also some drawings of the ve- getable world, and a few of machinery. But the figures are chiefly drawn from anatomical dissections; and in no instance could I perceive that Da Vinci ever mistook the dead for the living. As if to secure himself against the possibility of such an occurrence, he has drawn generally, and with a grace and spirit not to be surpassed, the living limb, with all its glorious ex- terior, side by side with the dead and dissected corse. He draws the dead as dead, the living as living.
"In the same work are the drawings of the broad-headed horses ascribed to Julio Romano a form of head which must, I think, have not only pre-
vailed in Italy at time, but been common near Florence. Turning the leaves hastily over, I stumbled on a drawing of the semilunar valves of the aorta, in a variety of positions, so as to show their descriptive anatomy and their physiological action. The corpuscules of Arantius have not been forgotten. Now all this occurred long before the age of Fabricius and Har- vey, and even before that of Vesalius; for Della Torre and Da Vinci pre- ceded all these.
"It may have been that he was acquainted with the circulation of the blood. Who can tell the extent of his knowledge, until the volume be carefully examined, figure by figure, line by line, page by page, by an ana- tomist ?"