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see that he has brought it into discussion. Indeed we would strongly recommend Cartonensia' to general attention. It bears about it all the marks of a liberal and accomplished mind, cordially devoted to the prosperity of the fine arts; and we trust that its criticisms, founded as they generally are in good sense, and always elegantly expressed, will exercise a salutary influence upon the public taste.

ART. IV.- The Life of Sir Humphry Davy, Bart., LL.D., late President of the Royal Society, Foreign Associate of the Royal Institute of France, &c. &c. &c. By John Ayrton Paris, M.D., Cantab., F.R.S., &c. Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. 4to. London: Colburn and Bentley. 1831.

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Ir Dr. Paris proposed, in conformity with laudable precedents, to hold up Davy as a useful example to mankind, he ought, in all conscience, to have shown some slight manifestations of the influence of that example on himself. But what can be more opposed to the dignified simplicity of the great philosopher's life, than the redundant and turgid quarto before us? The worst of our author is, that he has two heroes to celebrate instead of one. Davy is the ostensible theme: but Dr. Paris is the real one. A divided empire over this quarto of five hundred and fifty pages, is, in fact, maintained by this medical Cæsar, with the Jupiter of

chemical science.

The Doctor essays to shine as a great master of rhetoric.—Simile appears to be his favourite figure. He says of Davy's mind :



Nothing was too mighty for its grasp, nothing too minute for its observation; like the trunk of the elephant, it could tear up the oak of the forest, or gently pluck the acorn from its branch (!)'—p. 14.


His life flowed on like a pure stream, under a sky of perpetual sunshine; not a gust ruffled its surface, not a cloud obscured its brightness. .... Davy in closing the door of his laboratory, opened the temple of science (!)'—p. 118.

This last sentence is a miserable imitation of one of Grattan's bold exaggerations, in his character of the celebrated Kirwan. The phrase was pardonable in a political orator and an Irishman-but to any one possessed of the qualifications that are necessary to relish the history of such a man as Davy, this language must appear conceited and foolish.

The Doctor celebrates Davy's early talent for poetry, and assumes a very ludicrous tone of pathos in mourning the destiny that transferred him from the flowery regions of fancy, to the dusky caverns of the mineral kingdom.. But we really believe that Davy and his poetical capacity, would never have been thought worthy

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of the slightest reminiscence in this memoir-only that they most fortunately enabled the Doctor to display his curious learning and ingenuity. He says:

If we regret that Davy's Muse, like Proserpine, should have been thus violently seized, and carried off to the lower regions, as she was weaving her native wild flowers into a garland, we may console ourselves in knowing that, like the daughter of Ceres, she also obtained the privilege of occasionally visiting her native bowers: for it will appear in the course of these memoirs, that in the intervals of more abstruse studies, Davy not unfrequently amused himself with poetical composition.-p. 30.

Now to warn the Doctor, and all aspirants with similar pretensions to what is called fine writing, against the hasty employment of classical illustrations, we beg to inform him, that his elaborate period is altogether a complete failure. The resemblance between Proserpine and Davy's Muse holds only for a very short way indeed. The mistake of the erudite Doctor consists in his supposing that the latter goes down to the lower regions, as well as the former, which is not the case. On the contrary, it is Davy that performs the infernal expedition, leaving his Muse behind him. How then is Davy's Muse 'like Proserpine' ?-She is not like her at all-No license can allow the Doctor to represent that the said Muse descended into the bowels of the earth with Davy. If he sang of minerals-if he endeavoured to embalm granite and wackè in natural verse, there would, indeed, be some pretence for the theory that supposed a Muse to accompany Davy to the infernal regions. But when we know that the fact, even as it is understood by Dr. Paris, is quite otherwise-when we find that instead of making his Muse a companion in his subterranean expedition, Davy altogether abandoned her before he started, then we are at liberty to tell the Doctor that he is ignorant of the conditions upon which a similitude in writing should be constructed, and that in endeavouring to be unusually fine, he has succeeded only in being uncommonly ridiculous.

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But it is not as a mere Rhetorician that the Doctor challenges our criticism; a very extraordinary assumption of originality upon a particular subject, invites our attention for a moment, as it indeed excites our wonder. The following words occur at page 49.

'It was a very ancient opinion that life, being in its own nature æriform, is under the necessity of renewing itself by inspiring the air. Modern chemistry, by teaching us the nature of the atmosphere, has dispelled many fanciful theories of its action, but it has not yet explained why respiration, the first and last act of life, cannot be suspended even for a minute without the extinction of vitality. When we reflect upon this fact, it is scarcely possible not to believe that the function has been ordained for some greater purpose than that of removing a portion of carbon from the circulating blood. Is it unreasonable to conclude that some principle is thus imparted, which is too subtle to be long retained in our vessels, and too important to be dispensed with even for the shortest period? "I

offer this opinion," as Montaigne says, "not as being good, but as being my own.'


We say nothing of the very loose and incorrect manner in which Dr. Paris, as a scientific man, acquainted with the theory of respiration, expresses himself in the first part of this paragraph. We only ask the reader's attention to his words: "I offer this opinion as being my own." Simple men would instantly conclude that this notion about a "subtle principle" in the air communicating itself through the medium of the lungs to the blood, was an original, and perfectly peculiar, conception of the Doctor's. But what will the world think when we declare that this very opinion of the Doctor's own,-aye, and almost in the very words too which the Doctor has used,-was already promulgated by Sir H. Davy! We quote two short passages from that beautiful philosophic Romance, The Consolations of Travel, which, for the sake of a curious comparison, we shall place in juxtaposition with two from the Doctor.


'It is scarcely possible not to believe that the function (of respiration) has been ordained for some greater purpose than that of removing a portion of carbon from the circulating blood."

'Is it unreasonable to conclude that some principle is thus imparted, which is too subtle to be long retained in our vessels, and too important to be dispensed with even for the shortest period?'


'It would appear as if the only use of respiration were to free the blood from a certain quantity of carbonaceous matter. But it is probable that this is only a secondary object, and that the change produced by respiration upon the blood is of a much more important kind.

It is not easy to avoid the supposition that it (air) contains some very subtile matter which is capable of assuming the form of heat and light. My idea is that the common air inspired, enters into the venous blood entire, in a state of dissolution, carrying with it its subtile or ethereal part, which in ordinary cases of chemical change is given off.'-pp. 195, 196.

So much for the originality of Dr. Paris. The account which we have here of the early life of Davy is full of the most ridiculous affectation. For instance we are told

It is a fact worthy of being recorded, that he would at the age of about five years turn over the pages of a book as rapidly as if he were merely engaged in counting the number of leaves, or in hunting after pictures; and yet, on being questioned, he could generally give a very satisfactory account of the contents,'-p. 4.

Does the Doctor take his readers for a parcel of patients that he ventures to gull them after this fashion? No writer, whom habit


had not rendered callous almost to public opinion, would have presumed to put forward such nonsense. Some other anecdotes of a similar character are added, but deserve little attention. The rock upon which these common-place biographers so often split is the necessity which they uniformly feel of making the subject of their works a downright hero from his cradle. He can neither eat, drink, nor sleep, like other infants, but he must have a method of his own for getting through the most natural operations at least the biographers will endeavour to persuade us that it is so; thus seeking rather to make his book a melodrama than a history. Why is it that these men cannot be content with the plain truth? How is it that they do not understand the law of the development of genius better than to expect to find its manifestations in the infancy of those who really possess it? As if precocity in childhood was not a certain sign of an imbecile and useless maturity. Passing over the conceits and trifles with which Dr. Paris has nigh overwhelmed the early portion of Davy's life, we shall proceed to a brief narrative of its principal


Humphry Davy was born on the 17th December, 1778, at Penzance, in Cornwall, of respectable parents. He received his education at Penzance and Truro, and was subsequently bound apprentice to Mr. Borlase, a surgeon and apothecary in the former town. Davy, during his probation as an apprentice, divided his time between geology, chemistry, love, and the muses; and of his poetry some very clever specimens are preserved in this volume. Chemical investigation, however, soon monopolized all Davy's thoughts, and the originality and talent displayed by him in his rude experiments, were such as to attract the attention of some of his learned townsmen. Accident brought him in contact with Mr. Thomas Giddy and Mr. Gregory Watt, the former of whom recommended young Davy as an assistant to Dr. Beddoes, in the laboratory of the Bristol Pneumatic Institution. In October, 1798, Davy quitted Penzance for Bristol, having then scarcely attained his twentieth year. During his employment as assistant to Dr. Beddoes, a collection of papers on Physical and Medical Knowledge was printed, a considerable portion of which Davy contributed. Dr. Paris, true to the instinct of a bookmaker, gives a detailed analysis of these papers, which, however, a more judicious biographer would content himself with generally describing. Of poor Beddoes, who seems to have been a goodnatured man, we have the following anecdote :


Caught by the loosest analogies, he would arrive at a conclusion without examining all the conditions of his problem. In the exercise of his profession, therefore, he was frequently led to prescribe plans which he felt it necessary to retract the next hour. His friend, Mr. T— had occasion to consult him upon the case of his wife; the Doctor pre

scribed a new remedy; but, in the course of the day he returned in haste, and begged it might be tried on a dog!


The following anecdote, which was lately communicated to me by Mr. Coleridge, will not only illustrate a trait of character, but furnish a salutary lesson to the credulous patron of empirics. As soon as the powers of nitrous oxide were discovered, Dr. Beddoes at once concluded that it must necessarily be a specific for paralysis. A patient was selected for the trial; and the management of it was intrusted to Davy. Previous to the administration of the gas, he inserted a small pocket thermometer under the tongue of the patient, as he was accustomed to do upon such occasions, to ascertain the degree of animal temperature, with a view to future comparison. The paralytic man, wholly ignorant of the nature of the process to which he was to submit, but deeply impressed, from the representations of Dr. Beddoes with the certainty of its success, no sooner felt the thermometer between his teeth than he concluded that the talisman was in full operation, and in a burst of enthusiasm declared that he already experienced the effects of its benign influence throughout his whole body. The opportunity was too tempting to be lost-Davy cast an intelligent glance at Mr. Coleridge, and desired the patient to renew his visit on the following day, when the same ceremony was again performed, and repeated every succeeding day for a fortnight; the patient gradually improved during that period, when he was dismissed as cured, no other application having been used than that of the thermometer. Dr. Beddoes, from whom the circumstances of the case had been carefully concealed, saw in the restoration of the patient, the confirmation of his opinion, and the fulfilment of his most ardent hope. Nitrous Oxide was a specific remedy for Paralysis!'-p. 51.

It was during his connection with Dr. Beddoes that Davy pursued the most laboured, and, we may add, the most perilous of his investigations. From determining the best mode of obtaining Nitrous Oxide, he proceeded to try its respirability and other powers. These experiments were conducted literally at the hazard of the operator's life, for he did not hesitate to inspire the gas at the risk of filling his lungs with aqua fortis. The result of his daring experiment is well known. The gas acted upon him like a stimulus. He was resolved to ascertain the exact measure of its powers as such, and he proceeded to try if after having made himself nearly drunk with wine, a good inspiration of the oxide would increase or diminish the intoxication. He accordingly swallowed in eight minutes a full bottle of wine, which, as he was totally unused to liquor of any sort, soon produced the most violent conse


Whilst I was drinking," he says in one of his letters, "I perceived a sense of fulness in the head and throbbing of the arteries, not unlike that produced in the first stage of nitrous oxide excitement: after I had finished the bottle this excitement increased, the objects around me became dazzling, the powers of distinct articulation was lost, and I was unable to stand steadily. At this moment, the sensations were rather pleasurable than otherwise the sense of fulness in the head, however, soon increased,

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