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WHEN one has to maintain an argument, he will be listened to more willingly if he is known to be unbiassed, and to express his natural sentiments. The reflections contained in these pages have not been suggested by the occasion of the Bridgewater Treatises, but arose, long ago, in a course of study directed to other objects. An anatomical teacher, himself aware of the higher bearings of his science, can hardly neglect the opportunity which the demonstrations before him afford, of making an impression upon the minds of those young men who, for the most part, receive the elements of their professional education from him; and he is naturally led to indulge in such trains of reflection as will be found in this essay.
So far back as the year 1813, the late excellent vicar of Kensington, Mr Rennell, attended the author's lectures, and found him engaged in maintaining the principles of the English school of Physiology, and in exposing the futility of the opinions of those French philosophers and physiologists, who represented life as the mere physical result of certain combinations and actions of parts, by them termed Organisa
That gentleman thought the subject admitted of an argument which it became him to use, in his office of "Christian Advocate." This will show the reader that the sentiments
and the views, which a sense of duty to the young men about him induced the author to deliver, and which Mr Rennell heard only by accident, arose naturally out of those studies.
It was at the desire of the Lord Chancellor Brougham that the author wrote the essay on "Animal Mechanics ;" and it was probably from a belief that the author felt the importance of the subjects touched upon in that essay, that his Lordship was led to do him the further honour of asking him to join with him in illustrating the "Natural Theology" of Dr Paley.
That request was especially important, as showing that the conclusions to which the author had arrived were not the peculiar or accidental suggestions of professional feeling, nor of solitary study, which is so apt to lead to enthusiasm; but that the powerful and masculine mind of Lord Brougham was directed to the same objects; that he, who in early life was distinguished for his successful prosecution of science, and who has never forgotten her interests amidst the most arduous and active duties of his high station, encouraged and partook of these sentiments.
Thus, from at first maintaining that design and benevolence were everywhere visible in the natural world, circumstances have gradually drawn the author to support these opinions more ostentatiously and elaborately than was his original wish.
The subject which he has to illustrate in this volume, belongs to no definite department; and is intermediate between those * An office in the University of Cambridge.
sciences which have been assigned to others. The conception which he has formed of its execution is, that setting out as from a single point, he should enlarge his survey, and show the extent of the circle, and the variety of subjects, upon which it bears; thence deducing the conclusion, that as there is a relation of one part to the whole, there must be a system, and universal design.
The author cannot conceal from himself the disadvantages to which he is exposed in coming before the public, not only with a work in some measure extra-professional, but with associates distinguished by classical elegance of style, as well as by science. He must entreat the reader to remember that he was, early and long, devoted to the study of anatomy; and with a feeling (right or wrong) that it surpassed all others in interest and usefulness. This made him negligent of acquirements which would have better fitted him for the honourable association in which he has been placed: and no one can feel more deeply that the suggestions which occur in the intervals of an active professional life must always be unfavourably contrasted with what comes of the learned leisure of a College.
The author has to acknowledge his obligations to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and the late President of the Royal Society, for having assigned to him a task of so much interest. When he undertook it, he thought only of the pleasure of pursuing these investigations, and perhaps too little of what the public were entitled to expect from an Essay composed in circumstances so peculiar, and forming a part in this "great argument."
BROOK STREET, 1832.
NOTE. The fourth edition of this Treatise was the last revised by the Author himself. In that which followed, upon permission having been kindly granted, some extracts were introduced from the two works noticed in the Preface. These are marked by being contained within brackets. To the present edition there has been prefixed a general Account of the Author's Discoveries in the Nervous System.
CAVENDISH SQUARE, 1860,