Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/119

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109
THE "AUTOBIOGRAPHY" OF GEORGE COMBE.

modified by phenomenon. Law reacts upon law. All she knows is lawful, but all is not yet intelligible. With patience and sure faith she advances to the goal; the road is long, but the reward is great. — Fraser's Magazine.

 
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THE "AUTOBIOGRAPHY" OF GEORGE COMBE.[1]
By ELIZA A. YOUMANS.

GEORGE COMBE has been dead twenty years, and his name is almost forgotten. Many of his teachings, which were bitterly opposed when he uttered them, are now quietly accepted. His theories of religion, of education, of the treatment of the insane and criminal classes, are more or less approved, and even the doctrine that mind is a function of the brain, which he, was among the first to assert, and for which he was denounced as an infidel, has taken its place among the data of science. But the system of phrenology to which he gave himself with such intense devotion is discredited by science, and, like Mr. Combe himself, is now seldom heard of. There is much, however, in his biography to. interest those who remember him, and who sympathized with his career as a reformer. But it is not to the biography at large that we now call attention, but to a fragment of autobiography which occupies the opening pages of the book, and embraces the period of his childhood and early youth. For, although he was born in another country (Scotland), and a former century (1788), yet the essential experiences of the home, the play-ground, and the school, were the same there that they are here, and the same then as now. Combe understood the conditions of well-being for both mind and body, and the far reaching consequences of conduct. He had made his "bringing up" a matter of serious study, and he wrote this sketch, as he spent his life, for the good of others. We have found it by far the most interesting-portion of a very ably-written biography. But, since we can not print the whole of it, we give that portion which treats of his education, with such explanations as are needed to make it intelligible.

For the benefit of our youthful readers, it may be well to state that from 1817 to 1836, while still practicing the legal profession, Mr. Combe kept up a fierce warfare in defense of phrenology and certain principles of right living, which he published in a work entitled "The Constitution of Man." This book had an immense circulation, and was translated into the leading languages of Europe. In 1837 he retired from his profession and gave the rest of his life to the dissemination of his principles. He traveled in England, America, and Germany, and

  1. The Life of George Combe, author of "The Constitution of Man." By Charles Gibbon. In two vols. London: Macmillan & Co., 1878. Price, $8.00.