Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

He recollected that there lived at Lyons an old miserly banker, of the name of Cornu, who had accumulated immense wealth by usury and extortion, and whose conscience appeared often to be ill at ease, in consequence of the means he had made use of; and it immediately struck him that M. Cornu was the very character that might answer his purpose. To Lyons, therefore, he went instantly post-haste, commenced an immediate acquaintance with M. Cornu, and on every interview took especial care, on entering into conversation with him, to contrast the pure happiness enjoyed by the man whose conscience could look back, like M. Cornu's, as he was pleased to say, on a life devoted to acts of charity and benevolence, with the horrors of the wretch who had amassed heaps of wealth by usury and injustice, and whose tormented mind only gave him now a foretaste of what he was to expect hereaster. The miser was perpetually desirous of changing the conversation; but the more he tried, the more his companion pressed upon him with it; till finding, on one occasion, that he appeared more agitated than ever, the ventriloquist conceived such an occasion to be the golden moment for putting his scheme into execution; and at that instant a low, solemn, sepulchrai mutter was heard, as in the former case, which was at last found to be the voice of M. Cornu's father, who had been dead for some years, and which declared him to have passed all this time in the tortures of purgatory, from which he had now just learned that nothing could free him but his son's paying ten thousand crowns into the hands of Lewis Brabant, then with him, for the purpose of redeeming Christian slaves from the hands of the Turks. All, as in the last case, was unutterable astonishment; but Lewis Brabant was the most astonished of the two: modestly declared that now for the first time in his life he was convinced of the possibility of the dead holding conversation with the living: and admitted that, in truth, he had for many years been benevolently employed in redeeming Christian slaves from the Turks, although his native bashfulness would not allow him to avow it publicly. The mind of the old miser was distracted with a thousand contending passions. He was suspicious without having any satisfactory reason for suspicion; filial duty prompted him to rescue his father from his abode of misery: but ten thousand crowns was a large sum of money even for such a purpose. He at length resolved to adjourn the meeting till the next day, and to change it to another place. He required time to examine into this mysterious affair, and also wished, as he told his companion, to give his father an opportunity of trying whether he could not bargain for a smaller sum. They accordingly separated; but renewed their meeting the next day with the punctuality of men of business. The place made choice of by M. Cornu, for this rencounter, was an open common in the vicinity of Lyons, where there was neither a house, nor a wall, nor a tree, nor a bush that could conceal a confederate, even if such a person should be in employment. No sooner, however, had they met than the old banker's ears were again assailed with the same hideous and sepulchral cries, upbraiding him for having suffered his father to remain for four-and-twenty hours longer in all the torments of purgatory; denouncing that, unless the demand of the ten thousand crowns was instantly complied with, the sum would be doubled; and that the miser himself would be condemned to the same dolesul regions, and to an increased degree of torture. M. Cornu moved a few paces forward, but he was assaulted with still louder shrieks: he advanced a second time, and now instead of hearing his father's voice alone, he was assailed with the dreadful outcry of a hundred ghosts at once, those of his grandfather, his great-grandfather, his uncles and aunts, and the whole family of the Cornus for the last two or three generations; who, it seems, were all equally suffering in purgatory—and were included in the general contract for the ten thousand crowns; all of them beseeching him in the name of every saint in the calendar to have mercy upon them, and to have mercy upon himself. It required more fortitude than M. Cornu possessed to resist the threats and outcries of a hundred and fifty or two hundred ghosts at a time. i. instantly paid the ten thousand crowns 2

into the hands of Lewis Brabant, and felt some pleasure that by postponing the payment for a day, he had at least been able to rescue the whole family of the Cornus for the same sum of money as was at first demanded for his father alone. he dexterous ventriloquist, having received the money, instantly returned to Paris, married his intended bride, and told the whole story to his sovereign and the court, very much to the entertainment of all of them. It is certain, that hitherto no satisfactory explanation has been offered of this singular phenomenon; and I shall, therefore, take leave to suggest, that it is, possibly, of a much simpler character than has usually been apprehended; that the entire range of its imitative power is confined to the larynx alone, and that the art itself consists in a close attention to the almost infinite variety of tones, articulations, and inflections the larynx is capable of producing in its own region, when long and dexterously practised upon, and a skilful modification of these effects into mimic speech, passed for the most part, and whenever necessary, through the cavity of the nostrils, instead of through the mouth. The parrot, in imitating human language, employs the larynx and nothing else; as does the mocking-bird, the most perfect ventriloquist in nature, in imitating cries and intonations of all kinds. But the parrot and the mocking-bird, it may, perhaps, be said, open their mouths and employ their tongues, which the ventriloquist, on many occasions, does not do; and that hence the organ of the tongue is equally necessary to inarticulate and to articulate language. Such, I well know, is the general opinion; but it is an opinion opposed by a variety of incontrovertible facts, and facts of a most important and singular nature, though they have seldom been attended to as they deserve. Every bird-breeder knows that it is not necessary for birds to open their bills in the act of singing, except for the purpose of uttering the note already formed in the larynx, that would otherwise have to pass through the nostrils, which, in birds, prove a much less convenient passage for sound than in man; and of so little use is the tongue towards the formation of sound, that instances are not wanting of birds that have continued their song after they have lost the entire tongue by accident or disease. But without dwelling upon these points, which are of subordinate consideration, I pass on to ob. serve, and to produce examples, that it is not absolutely necessary for a man himself to be possessed of a tongue, or even of an uvula, for the purpose either of speaking or singing; or for that of deglutition or taste. In a course of physiological study, and in a lecture upon the nature and instruments of the voice, this is an inquiry, not only of grave moment, but immediately issuing from the subject before us. Among almost innumerable instances of persons who have been able to articulate and converse without a tongue, too loosely recorded in ancient times to be fully depended upon, we occasionally meet with examples that are far better entitled to our credit. Such is the assertion of the Emperor Justin," who affirms, that he had seen venerable men “whose tongues having been cut out at the root, complained bitterly of the torture they had suffered;" and who tells us, in another place, of some others, upon whom Honorichius, king of the Vandals, had exercised the same barbarity; and who had, notwithstanding, “perfectly retained their speech.”f Upon the irruption of the Turks into Austria, in 1683, this cruelty was again ut in practice upon many of those who unfortunately fell into their hands. #. whose veracity no man will lightly impeach, was at this time informed that one of the sufferers had escaped, and had recovered, and was still in possession of the use of speech, and residing at Wesop, in Holland; and, half doubtful of the truth of the common report, to Wesop he immediately set off, to satisfy himself by a personal examination. He saw the man, and found that he could not only speak, but could articulate those consonants and words which seem chiefly to depend upon the tip of the tongue for their

• Con. Tit, de Off Praet. f Phil. Trans, 1742, p. 143; ib. 1747, 621; in the Abridg. viii. 586. ix. 375.

ronunciation. This is a case the more worthy of attention, because the man ad been so cruelly mutilated at the roof of the mouth, that he could not swallow the smallest quantity of food, without thrusting it into the esophagus with his forefinger.” In the third volume of the Ephemerides Germanicae, is another case of a similar kind, and most credibly authenticated. It relates to a boy that had lost his tongue at eight years of age by the small-pox, but was still able to speak. The boy was minutely examined in a full court before the members of the University of Saumur, in France, who had suspected some deception; the report, however, was found correct; and the University, in consequence, gave their official attestation to it, in order that posterity might have no room to doubt its validity. To these let me add one more instance that occurred in our own country, in what may be almost called our own day, and which is very minutely detailed and authenticated in the Transactions of the Philosophical Society that were published between the years 1742 and 1747. The case, as drawn up by Dr. Parsons, relates to a young woman of the name of Margaret Cutting, of Wickham Market, near Ipswich, in Suffolk, who, when only four years old, lost the whole of her tongue, together with the uvula, from what is said to have been a cancerous affection; but who still retained the power of speech, deglutition, and taste, without any imperfection whatever; articulating, indeed, as fluently, and with as much correctness as other persons; and, like the individual whose history is given by Tullius, articulating those peculiar syllables which ordinarily require the express aid of the tip of the tongue for exact enunciation. She also sang to admiration, and still articulated her words while singing, and could form no conception of the use of a tongue in other people. Neither were her teeth, in any respect, able to supply the place of the deficient organs; for they were but few in number, and rose scarcel higher than the surface of the gums, in consequence of the injury to their sockets from the disease that had destroyed the tongue. The case thus introduced before the Royal Society, was attested by the minister of the parish, a medical practitioner of repute, and another respectable person. From its singularity, however, the Society evinced a commendable tardiness of belief. They requested another report upon the subject, and from another set of witnesses, whom they themselves named for the purpose ; and for whose guidance they drew up a line of categorical examination. This second report soon reached the Society, and minutely coincided with the first ; and to set the question completely at rest, the young woman was shortly afterward brought to London, and satisfied the Royal Society in her own person.f It appears obvious, then, that the tongue, though a natural and common organ in the functions of voice, taste, and deglutition, is not absolutely necessary to these functions; that on various occasions it has been, and therefore, may be, totally lost, while the functions theimselves continue perfect. In singing, every one knows that the larnyx is the only organ employed, except when the tones are not merely uttered but articulated: it is the only organ employed, as I have already observed, in the mock articulations of parrots and other imitative birds: it is the only organ of all natural tones, or natural language; and hence Lord Monboddo ingeniously conjectures, that it is the chief organ of articulate language in its rudest and most barbarous state, “As all natural cries,” he observes, “even though modulated by music, are from the throat and larynx, or part of the throat, with little or no operation of the organs of the mouth; it is natural to suppose that the first languages were, for the greater part, spoken from the throat; and that what consonants were used to vary the cries, were mostly guttural; and that the organs of the mouth would at first be but very little employed.") I have thus endeavoured to account for the chief difficulty, and the most extraordinary phenomenon that occurs in the art of ventriloquism," that I mean of speaking without appearing to speak, or discovering any motion of the lips: the larynx alone, by long and dexterous practice, and, perhaps, by a peculiar modification in some of its muscles or cartilages, being capable of answering the purpose and supplying the place of the associate organs of the mouth. It is this curious power in the art of ventriloquism that most astonishes us, and puts us off our guard; for the two other powers connected with it, of imitating various cries or voices, and of appearing to throw the voice from remote objects, are far more common and comprehensible. The power of vocal imitation where the tongue is allowed to be employed is possessed, by most persons, to a certain extent; and, by many, to a degree of accuracy, that would certainly deceive us in the dark; or if, by any other means, the performer were concealed from us. While the only point necessary to give the voice the semblance of issuing from a distant or unusual object, is to take a nice measure of the distance itself, and of the nature of the object from which it is to be presumed to issue, and so to modulate or inflect it as to produce the natural tone it may be supposed to possess, if thrown from such a distance or from such a form. It must be obvious, however, that the surprise resulting from the mystery of thus imitating voices and distances must be powerfully aided in ventriloquism by the additional mystery of the artist's motionless mouth; in consequence of which we are totally incapable of referring it to himself. In hearing, as in seeing, habit is our only guide: in both we only judge by accustomed comparisons; and we are exactly in the same manner deceived by the painter, and even allow ourselves to be deceived in regard to objects of vision, as we are . the ventriloquist, and without such allowance, in regard to objects of sound. In respect to both senses, indeed, we often deceive ourselves in judging of the most common phenomena: and hence it is not at all to be wondered at that we should be comF. imposed upon by the nice delusions of art. Thus the evening sky, egirt with gold-green clouds at the extremity of the horizon, is often mistaken for the ocean, studded with islands; and the rumbling of a cart over pavement, or hard ground, is not unfrequently believed to be a thunder-clap in the heavens; and, under the influence of this last deception, we immediately transfer all the awfulness and magnificence of the celestial meteor to this clumsy piece of machinery, and are as alarmed as if the fiery bolt were about to descend upon us.

* Tulpii Observ. Medicap, Amsterd. f In their abridged form, vol. viii. 586, and iz. 375 t §. of Med. i. 499, edit. 1, where other examples are noticed.

§ Orig. and Progr. of Lang, vol. i. 6; iii. ch. 4

[ocr errors]

LECTURE IX. ON NATURAL OR INARTICULATE, AND ARTIFICIAL or ARTICULATE LANGUAGE.

HAVING, in our last lecture, examined into the seat and properties of the natural voice, let us now proceed to notice the mode in which it is applied i. the formation, first, of natural language, and next, of speech, or artificial anguage.

Natural language is the instinctive appropriation of certain tones of the natural voice, to indicate certain feelings of the sensory: and with the few exceptions pointed out in our preceding lecture, every animal belonging to the three classes of mammals, birds, and amphibials, every animal possessed of lungs, is in some degree or other possessed of this kind of language. Its scope is, indeed, often very limited; but always sufficient to answer the purposes of nature. The female of every species understands the call of the male, and replies to it as intelligibly : the young understand the mandates of the mother, and the mother the petitions of the young. This amusing department of natural history was well known to the philosophers of Greece and Rome, and attentively cultivated by them : and Lucretius, in his Nature of Things, has pursued the subject not only so correctly but so copiously, that it is almost impossible, even in the present day, to add any thing of real importance to what he has already observed. I have termed this language of nature instinctive: and that it is entitled to this character is clear; because, even among birds, which possess the widest and most complicated range of natural language of all animals whatever, where two individuals of different species are bred up in the same bush, or in the same cage, or hatched and fostered by a female of a third species, each evinces and retains the note that specifically distinguishes the species to which it belongs. In the case of a goldfinch and a chaffinch this has been put directly to the proof. And it is by this native tongue, as Mr. Montague has justly observed, and not by the form or colour, that the process of pairing is achieved, and the female induced to select her paramour.” Almost every animal of the three classes just adverted to exhibits a disferent tone of voice according to the governing passion of the moment; but more especially when under the influence of grief, fear, or joy; to which, in some instances, we may add anger; but a distinct tone for anger is not so generally traced among animals as it is for the three preceding passions. Among quadrupeds, the elephant, horse, and dog appear to possess the greatest portion of a natural tongue. . They are all gregarious, particularly the two former. In Asia, the wild elephant, and in the Ukraine, between the Don and the Dnieper, the wild horse, pursue one common plan of political society, in numerous and collected troops; and are regulated by the elders of the tribe among the elephants, and by leaders chosen for this purpose amon the horses: and it is by a difference of voice, combined with a difference o gesture, that these superiors give orders, in the course of their travels from place to place, in pursuit of pasture, for the necessary dispositions and arrangements. Both kinds are extremely vigilant and active, and maintain their ranks and brigades with as much regularity and precision as if they were conducted by a human leader. Among the wild horses of the Ukraine, the captain-general seems to be commonly appointed to his station for about four or five years; at the expiration of which time a kind of new election takes place: every one appears to have a right to propose himself for the office, the ex-magistrate not excepted: if no new candidate offer, the latter is reelected for the same term of time, and if he be opposed a combat succeeds, and the victor is appointed commander-in-chief. The conduct pursued by the peaceful and amiable elephant varies in some degree from this of the wild horse; for, in the travels of these animals from place to place, the troops are led on by the eldest of the tribe, thus evincing a kind of patriarchal government: the young and feeble marching in the mid dle, and the rear being composed of the vigorous and adult.f The natural language of the monkey kind, notwithstanding the general resemblance of their structure to that of the human race, appears to be more confined than that of most quadrupeds; and it is well known that they never attempt to articulate sounds. Linnaeus, indeed, seems to have entertained a contrary opinion with respect to the ourang-outang, and asserts that he speaks with a kind of hissing noise. Buffon, however, and Daubenton, and almost . every other naturalist who has attentively watched his habits, deny that he ever employs even a hissing speech. And every comparative anatomist, who has accurately examined his vocal organs, has declared him to be physically incapable of articulation, from the peculiarity of a sac or bag, in some species of the animals single, in others double, immediately connected with the

* According to M. Magendie, whose work first appeared in our own country seven years after the delivery of the above lecture, in 1811, the larynx is supposed to be the organ chiefly or altogether operated upon in France; and ventriloquism to consist in adjusting the measure of its articulations according to the effects which the ventriloquist has observed that distance, or other circumstances, produce upon the natural Med, and Surg. Journ. lxi.577.

• Ornithological Dict. Introd. p. xxix. - -
f see note to the Author's Translation of Lucretius, vol. ii. p. 376,

« AnteriorContinuar »