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How long shall HUMAN NATURE be thy book,
In the whole compass of human intelligence, there is nothing more curious and interesting than the history of Man. Among animals who surround him, of the same origin with himself, and partakers of the same elements, who live by the same means, and make a similar exit, he is a perfect unique. Whether in society or solitude, he is uniformly the first figure and principal actor in every scene. In no part he fills, or situation he sustains, but the qualities he displays, and the duties he performs, connect him with the future as well as the present. His make, both in mind and body, appears to our limited comprehension a mass of contradiction; his genius as volatile and eccentric as the lightning, and its flashes oft-times as fatal and vivid. His intellect, fitted to dissect a gnat, or analyze a cobweb, grasps immensity at the same time, and stretches into the unfathomable abyss of eternity.
In whatever light we contemplate the form and organization of Man, he appears designed to be lord of the creation. A glorious work of the Supreme Designer, to animate a mass of clay, and to
stamp on it thought, feeling, and moral character! Art only matches pieces of work, designed by human genius; but in the great and marvellous mould, every creature seems to have been cast at once. All the parts are compact; the stock rises into a stem, that produces branches, bearing fruit and flowers; the whole being united down to the roots.
In taking a sketch of the formation and history of MAN, we will first describe
How the first embryo fibre, sphere or cube,
Before the substance, after conception, has attained any regular form, the immature child is termed an Embryo; and in the space from thence, which is about six weeks, until parturition, it is denominated a Fœtus.
To how minute an origin we owe
Young Cæsar, Ammon, and the great Nassau!
About the fifth month of conception, when the bodily conformation is perfected, and a complete circulation of the humours introduced, the act of quickening takes place in the mother-an instantaneous act of the vital principle, performed the very instant that the fœtus has acquired a competent degree of animal heat, and is completely formed; then does this principle rush, like the shock of electricity, conducted by the sanguiferous and nervous fluids,
* Upon the subjects of Birth, Infancy, Puberty, and Anatomy, some difficulty arose in placing the Author's name to every Extract; but the principal Authors, from whom extracts have been taken, will be found at page 71.
from the heart and brain of the mother, to the heart and brain of the child. At this important moment the entire circulation begins; the infant fabric is then a complete automaton, and the child, yet unborn, becomes a living soul. As soon, therefore, as the act of circulation commences, the child starts into life, and, it is hardly necessary to add, the instant the circulation ceases, life ceases. This internal act of quickening, apparently derived from an impulse of the blood, is so sensibly felt by the mother, that she often faints when it takes place.
How she unfolds the faint, the dawning strife
Of infant atoms kindling into life;
How ductile matter now meanders takes,
And slender trains of twisting fibres makes;
While the more loose flow from the vital urn,
How from each sluice a gentle torrent pours,
And floods of chyle in silver currents run,
T'exert its primo-genial heat, and stretch to Man.—GARTH.
It has been proved by many observations, that the fœtus changes its position in the womb, according to the different attitudes of the mother. It is commonly situated with its feet downwards, the breech resting upon the heels, the head bent towards the knees, the bands bent towards the mouth, the feet turned inwards; and in this position it swims like a kind of vessel in the watery fluid contained in the membranes by which it is surrounded; but how the bones (the wonderful mechanism of which will be described under the head of Anatomy) are formed and grow in the womb of her
that is with child, (Eccl. xi. 5.) is a mystery we are not called upon to enquire into, but to admire and adore that infinite wisdom that first designed the plan. Great things doeth He which we
cannot understand. (Job xxxvii. 5.)
Hath the rain a Father? or
who hath begotten the drops of the dew? Out of whose womb came the ice, and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? Job xxxviii. 28.
The length of a new-born infant is about twenty-two inches; the little bubble, or ovum, is now transformed into a child, weighing about twelve pounds. The head is large in proportion to the body, and continues so through the whole period of infancy: its surface, or skin, is extremely red, because it is so fine and transparent, as to allow the blood to shine through it. The body and other parts, at the time of parturition, appear swollen; as the infant grows, this puffiness gradually diminishes; and any subsequent appearance of fatness, produced by immoderate or improper feeding, is generally brought down by teething, and those incidental attacks to which childhood is invariably subject. The mother's milk is the only proper aliment for the child, and suckling is itself very conducive to her health. It seems appointed by the order of Providence, and it is the law to which all the viviparous part of the creation is subject, except a Lady of Fashion, who often treats her young as the crocodile does its eggs-drops them, and leaves chance to hatch them.
Time was when we were sow'd, and just began
Then Nature's hand (fermented as it was)
Moulded to shape the soft coagulated mass,
Cast on the margin of the world, he lies
In this state, Man forms a striking picture of imbecility, inertness, and incapability; hence, he needs assistance of every kind; he is frequently an image of pain and misery, and is, to all intents and purposes, more helpless and dependent than the young of any
So Man, at first a drop, dilates with heat;
Passing from the tranquil fluid, the warmth of which, as with a mantle, envelopes us in the womb, we now become exposed to external impressions of every kind; in particular, we instantly feel the effects of that circumambient element, the air; which, acting upon the olfactory nerves, and on the organs of respiration, produces a concussion not unlike that of sneezing; by which the breast is expanded, and the air rushes at once into the lungs. The infant now respires and cries; which latter action, it seems reason able to suppose, has a beneficial influence on its health and life. The greater part of other animals are blind for some days; this is not the case with infants, who open their eyes the moment they are born; but yet the sight is dull and fixed, and the eyes are commonly blue. They cannot distinguish objects, because they are unable to fix their eyes steadily on them; the organ of vision is yet imperfect; the cornea is wrinkled, which occasions an irregular refraction of the light, and the retina is, perhaps, too delicate to receive the impressions of external objects, and communicate them accurately.*
* M. PETIT accounts for this imperfection of sight in infants to their eyes being compressed by the fluid in which they are immersed previous to birth. In dogs, cats, &c. it is the same: the cornea is thick and flaccid, and the aqueous humour not sufficiently copious.-PRIESTLY ON VISION.