Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/253

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239
IDIOTS SAVANTS.

His head was small, his hayre long on the same;
One ear was bigger than the other farre;
His forehead full, his eyes shined like a flame,
His nose flat, and his beard small, yet grew square;
His lips but little, and his wit was lesse.
But wide of mouth, few teeth, I must confesse.

His middle thick, as I have said before;
Indifferent thighs and knees, but very short;
His legs be square, a foot long and no more;
Whose very presence made the king much sport.
And a pearl spoone he still wore in his cap,
To eat his meate he loved, and got by hap.

A pretty little foot, but a big hand,
On which he ever wore rings rich and good.
Backward well made as any in that land,
Though thick; and he did come of gentle blood.
But of his wisdom ye shall quickly heare.
How this fat fool was made on everywhere.

This court fool could say bright things on occasion, but his main use to the ladies and lords of the palace was to serve as victim to practical jokes, cruel, coarse, and vulgar enough to be appreciated perhaps in the Bowery.

Any quick-witted imbecile or feeble-minded individual in those days had no difficulty in securing a good livelihood, and sometimes even prosperity and fame. Under such conditions it became common for normal individuals to adopt the calling of the jester or buffoon, and these were known as artificial fools.

Conclusions.—The aptitudes of various kinds described above as not infrequently encountered in idiots are all of rather low order. They are never found in any but the congenitally defective, who usually present the stigmata of degeneration. They consist chiefly of great powers of memory, visual or auditory, and of facility in imitation. There is no spontaneous invention. The idiots savants are mere copyists in music, modeling, designing, or painting; yet at the same time their talents stand out in strong contrast to their general feeble-mindedness. As a rule, the aptitudes are precociously developed, and are frequently lost before reaching adult life. The physical basis of such talents must be a precocious perfection of the cerebral organization in certain areas, together with a true hyperplasia of tissue in such regions and a tendency to early degeneration. There must be an increased number of cellular elements and sensori-motor combinations and associations in definite parts of the brain. Cases have been described in cerebral pathology of misplaced aggregations of such tissues in the brain under the name of heterotopia of gray matter, and it is possible that some such unequal distribution of the