« AnteriorContinuar »
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW-YORK, «.
BE IT REMEMBERED, Thai on the 3d dir of Janoary, A D. 1B31, In the fifty-firth year of the Indeprndeoeo of *fie United StilM of America, J. ft J. HARPF.R. of (he nid dbtrict, ban deposited Id this office ibe title of a book, the right « hereof they claim aa Proprietors, is the words following, to wit:
The Rook of Nature. Pv John Mason Good, M.D. F.R.S. F.RJ.L. Mem. Am. i hil. Soc and F.L.S. of Philadelphia. To which b now Prefixed, a Sketch of the Author1! Life."
In conformity to the Ad of trw Ongra o( the Unl'ed State*, entitled ** An Act tor the eocnuratement of Learning, by aeeurtaff (he copie* of naps, charU, and bonks, to ihe author* ami proprietor! of rich enpin. during the units therein n>m<inned.n AM al*o to aa Act entitled, "An Act, supplementary to an Act, entitled an Art f«r 'be enmuragrinenl of Learning, by securing thai copies of maps, chart*, and hooka, to Ihe authors and proprietor! of tu<*i copies, duriu the tintea therein mentioned, and ex* wading the bnrjeAli ibareof to the art* cf designing. engraTing, and etching bittoncal and otbei prims."
FREDERICK J. RETTS,
SKETCH OF THE AUTHOR'S LIFE.
In attempting to furnish the readers of "The Book of Nature" with a delineation of the life and character of its distinguished author, even a more experienced biographer might approach the task with hesitancy. The writer of the following sketch will not therefore affect to conceal his apprehensions that in so brief a space as is allotted to him, he may fail of doing justice to the name and memory of one possessed of such rare intellectual and moral endowments. Happily, however, the name of Dr. John Mason Good has become identified with the history of our own times, and his numerous and able contributions to our stock of knowledge, of a literary, professional, and religious nature, furnish a monument to his memory more imperishable than brass. His friend and contemporary, Dr. Olinthus Gregory, in his "Memoirs," embracing his life, writings, and character, has given to the world ample testimonials of his surprising genius, untiring industry, and extraordinary erudition. And though the lines are Jraced by the hand of affection, yet we discover no marks of fulsome adulation or enthusiastic eulogy. The writer seemed to feel that to depart from the simple and artless narrative of facts would but detract from the merits of the individual whose learning and virtues constituted his theme. Little else than a summary of this interesting biography will be attempted in the present sketch.
Dr. John Mason Good was the son of the Rev. Peter Good, a minister of the Independent or Congregational class of Dissenters, at Epping, in Essex. He was born May 25th, 1764, and received his name from the celebrated John Mason, author of the treatise on "Self-knowledge," who was his maternal uncle.
His first studies were under the superintendence of his father; who, for the sake of educating his sons to his own mind, organized a seminary, in which were also the sons of a few of his personal friends,— the number of pupils being limited to sixteen. There he very early acquired those habits of study, and that taste for literary pursuits, in which he was destined to excel in after-life. He acquired, while very young, an accurate knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and French languages, and thus laid the foundation for his subsequent high attainments as a linguist.
When he was a little more than twelve years of age, his indefatigable studies began very seriously to impair his health, and his sedentary habits produced a curvature of the spine, which interrupted his growth, and well nigh destroyed his constitution. But even then, it was only at the fervent importunity of his honoured father, that he consented to partake with his companions of those rural and healthful sports, so necessary to mental relaxation and corporeal strength. And although he seemed to have no relish for these puerile pursuits at first, yet their effect upon his body and mind was such, that he soon engaged in them with his characteristic ardour, and became as healthful, agile, and erect as any of his youthful associates.
At fifteen years of age he was apprenticed to Mr. Johnson, a surgeon apothecary, at Gosport. Here he quickly acquired and performed the pharmaceutic functions; and, by reading and practice, very soon became a very valuable assistant to his master. Within the first year, notwithstanding his multifarious avocations, he commenced his career as a writer, by composing a "Dictionary of Poetic Endings," and a number of little poems of sterling merit. Next, he employed his leisure hours in drawing up "An abstracted View of the principal Tropes and Figures of Rhetoric in their Origin and Powers," illustrated by a variety of examples.
Before he had completed his sixteenth year, Mr. Johnson's illness threw upon his apprentice an unusual weight of responsibility; and the business of conducting the establishment, almost entirely without superintendence, engrossed most of his time. He nevertheless began under these embarrassing circumstances to study the Italian language, of which he soon made himself master; and his commonplace book shows with what zeal, industry, and effect he pursued this and his other studies.
Shortly afterward, however, Mr. Johnson's continued indisposition rendered it necessary to engage a gentleman of skill and experience to conduct his extensive business; and he selected for this purpose Mr. Babington, then an assistant-surgeon at Harlem Hospital, and since well known as a physician of high reputation in London.
The death of Mr. Johnson occurring soon after the consummation of this arrangement, Dr. Babington and Mr. Good were separated, after having formed a mutual and endearing attachment, each having availed himself of opening prospects which simultaneously presented themselves. Afterpursuing his studies a short time under the direction of a skilful surgeon at Havant, into whose family he was received, he was offered a partnership with a reputable surgeon at Sudbury. To qualify himself for this situation he went to London in 1783, and attended the lectures of Dr. Fordyce, Dr. Lowder, and other eminent professors; and availing himself of the advantages of hospital practice, he became an active member of a society for the promotion of natural philosophy, then existing among the students of Guy's Hospital. He soon distinguished himself by the part he took in the discussions, and by his original essays, one of which, "On the Theory of Earthquakes," is said to have been peculiarly ingenious, elaborate, and classical.
The following summer of 1784, he commenced his professional career m Sudbury, and though but twenty years of age, soon gave striking proofs of his surgical skill, which gained him the confidence of the public; and his partner soon after retired from the business, and resigned the practice in his favour. In 1785, he married Miss Godfrey, of Coggeshall, a young lady of accomplished mind and fascinating manners. But scarce had the joyous festivity of his youthful heart commenced, which he so beautifully expresses in the poem written on his marriage, before he found, alas 1 "a worm wa* in the bud of this sweet rose." In a little more than six months his beloved companion died of consumption.
Such was the shock upon his sensibilities produced by this sad and melancholy bereavement, that it seemed to have paralyzed his mental energies; during the four years of his solitary condition, he seemed to suspend those active literary employments, of which he had given so hopeful promise. In 1789, he married a second time. The object of his choice was the daughter of Thomas Fenn, Esq., a highly respectable banker at Sudbury. With this lady, who possessed superior excellence and worth, he shared the conjugal endearments during the last thirty-eight years of his life. The fruits of this marriage were six children, two only of whom with their widowed mother survive.
The year after this marriage, Dr. Good commenced the study of the Hebrew language, of which he soon acquired a critical knowledge, as was exhibited in some of the most valuable productions of his pen. The sphere of his professional labour became very extensive, and a prospect of competence and even wealth was opened before him. But too soon he proved the versatilityof all human possessions; for in 1792, by becoming legally bound for the debts of others, or by lending a large sum of money to personal friends which they were unable to pay, he became involved in great pecuniary embarrassment. Instead, however, of availing himself of the entire relief which was promptly offered by Mr. Fenn, he estimated his loss as the penal infliction for his imprudence, and therefore determined to tax his mental resources for his penance; and to his misfortune he was indebted for the developement of genius and talent of which he was till then unconscious.
He began with increasing assiduity a course of literary activity almost without a parallel. He wrote plays, made translations, composed poems and philosophical essays, which, though possessed of acknowledged merit, all failed to yield him pecuniary remuneration to any extent. At length, however, he published his fugitive pieces in "The World," the Morning Post of that day, and under the signature of the "Rural Bard," he introduced himself to popular favour.
In the year 1793, having unsuccessfully contended against the frowns of adversity, he was fortunate enough to receive a proposition to remove to London, and engage in partnership with a surgeon and apothecary of extensive practice in the metropolis, and to obtain an official connexion as surgeon in one of the prisons. He availed himself of this opening, and went to London, his spirits buoyant with hope, that a fairer and brighter day was about to dawn upon him. But again he was doomed to the sad and unavoidable defeat of his apparently well-founded expectations; for, having been admitted the same year a member of the College of Surgeons, and having received other marks of professional distinction, his partner became jealous of his rising popularity, and his envy caused him to pursue a course of conduct which resulted in the failure of their business and the dissolution of their partnership. Still he concealed from his fatherin-law, and even from his own family, the extent of his embarrassments, and shrunk from receiving full relief, though perfectly within his reach; and resolved to incur no obligation, but rely upon his own resources.
Although he was surrounded by an increasing family, frequent and unexpected vexations, and the defeat of all his favourite projects, each in its turn did not in the least dishearten him, but, on the contrary, were continual incentives to his professional activity and to the most extended literary research. For nearly four years, thus circumstanced, he concealed his anxieties from those he most loved, maintained a cheerful demeanour among his friends, pursued his theoretical and practical inquiries into every accessible channel; and, at length, by his exertions, and the blessing of God, surmounted every difficulty, and obtained professional reputation and emolument, sufficient to satisfy his tliirst for fame, and to place him in what are regarded as reputable and easy circumstances.
In 1795, he gained a premium of twenty guineas by successfully competing before the Medical Society; having presented the best dissertation on the question, "What are the diseases most frequent in workhouses, poorhouses, and similar institutions, and what are the best means of cure and of prevention." Soon after, his talents and acquirements began to be highly appreciated, and in 1797 he commenced his translation of Lucretius. To his knowledge of the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, and Italian, he now added that of the German, Spanish, and Portuguese; and, by the year 1800, he had made considerable attainments in the Arabic and Persian languages. Very soon he gave evidence in some of the Reviews of his success in these difficult languages, and attracted the attention and secured the kind offices of many of the literati of Great Britain.
He next published his " History of Medicine," which has not since been surpassed either in accuracy or style. During the few years which intervened between his temporal embarrassments and his final triumph over them, in 1812, besides multiplied productions of his pen in prose and poetry, of which a catalogue would be too prolix for our present purpose, he made a translation of the Song of Songs or Sacred Idyls, Essay on Medical Technology, Translation of the Book of Job; and, in conjunction with Dr. Gregory and Mr. Bosworth, prepared for the press the Pantologia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Words, in twelve volumes, royal octavo.
In the year 1810, he was invited to deliver a series of lectures at the Surrey Institution, "on any subjects, literary or scientific, which would be agreeable to himself." He complied with the request of the directors, and delivered a first, second, and third series of lectures during three successive winters, to crowded audiences which attended with gratification and delight. His subjects were—of the first series, "The Nature of the Material World;" the second, "The Nature of the Animate World;" and the third, "The Nature of the Mind." To these lectures we are indebted for the nucleus upon which Dr. Good afterward amplified, until the " Book of Nature" was the finished product.
He continued, in addition to these immense intellectual labours, to perform the duties of surgeon and apothecary, walking twelve or fifteen miles a day through the streets of London, until the year 1820, when he added the more elevated character of a physician, and, in his own language, "began the world afresh, with good omens and a fairbreeae." Immediately afterward, he published his "Physiological System of Nosology," and within two years, "The Study of Medicine" was finished. This work the British