Изображения страниц

" that

to attend to their actions and their habits, and to make them familiar with him. The fiercer animals were those to which he was most partial, and he had several of the bull kind from different parts of the world. Among these was a beautiful small bull he had received from the Queen, with which he used to wrestle in play, and entertain himself with its exertions in its own defencé. In one of these conflicts, the bull overpowered him and got him down; and had not one of the servants accidentally come by, and frightened the animal away, this frolic would probably have cost him his life.” On another occasion, "“ two leopards,” says the same biographer, were kept chained in an out-house, had broken from their confinement, and got into the yard among some dogs, which they immediately attacked. The howling this produced alarmed the whole neighbourhood. Mr. Hunter ran into the yard to see what was the matter, and found one of them getting up the wall to make his escape, the other surrounded by the dogs. He immediately laid hold of them both, and carried them back to their den; but as soon as they were secured, and he had time to reflect upon the risk of his own situation, he was so much affected that he was in danger of fainting."

Mr. Hunter died in the sixty-sixth year of his age, in 1793. After his death, his museum was purchased by Parliament for the sum of fifteen thousand pounds; and it is now deposited in the hall belonging to the Royal College of Surgeons, in Lincoln's Inn Fields. It is understood to contain about twenty thousand anatomical preparations, which are arranged so as (in the language of Sir Everard Home) " to expose to view the gradations of nature, from the most simple state in which life is found to exist, up to the most perfect and most complex of the animal creation ---man himself.” The extreme beauty

[ocr errors]

of these preparations is striking even to an unlearned eye; and their scientific value is such as to render the collection one of the most precious of its kind in the world. It is certainly one of the most splendid monuments of labour, skill, and munificence, ever raised by an individual.

It is important to remark, that, with all his powers, this wonderful man never entirely overcame the disadvantages entailed upon him by the neglect in which he had been allowed to spend his early years. He used to dwell, we are told, on the advantage which is gained in regard to clearness of conception by the committing of one's ideas to writing,—comparing the process to the taking of stock by a tradesman, without which he cannot know with certainty either what he has or what he wants. Yet he himself continued to the end of his life an awkward, though by no means an unpractised, wřiter. After coming to London, he entered himself of St. Mary's Hall, Oxford, probably with the view of being able to maintain at least some pretension to scholarship, but it does not appear that he carried his assumption of the academical character much farther. He attained little acquaintance with the literature even of his own profession; and it not unfrequently happened indeed, we are told, that upon communicating a supposed discovery of his own to some one of his more erudite friends, he had to suffer the disappointment of learning that the same thing had been already found out by some other well known anatomist. But he felt his literary deficiencies chiefly as a lecturer, the capacity in which his more regularly educated brother so greatly excelled. It is asserted by Dr. Adams, who has written a life of John Hunter, that he always used to swallow thirty drops of laudanum before going to lecture. If these were heavy penalties, however, which he had to pay for what


was not so much his fault as that of others, the eminence to which he attained in spite of them is only the more demonstrative of his extraordinary natural powers, and his determined perseverence.

The portrait which we have given of this great man, is engraved from an original painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the property of the College of Surgeons (by the permission of whose council our engraver has had access to it); it was also engraved by the late Mr. Sharp. Sharp's plate has now become of considerable rarity.* The picture is reputed to be a very happy and characteristic likeness, and certainly bears on it the impress of great vigour and originality of mind. Every eye will acknowledge the justice of the remark made upon it by Lavater, This man thinks for himself.”

We do not quote these names as those of individuals, the single or chief peculiarity in whose history is, that they commenced life in a low station, and ended it in a high, or a higher, one.

If it were our object to exemplify either the freaks of fortune in lifting humbly-born inen to the upper places of society, or that particular sort of talent or dexterity in- men themselves, which fits them to battle with fortune, and in either way to elevate themselves to conspicuous stations, as it were in spite and mockery of all her endeavours to keep them downit would be easy to bring together an assemblage of far more extraordinary and surprising instances than any we have yet noticed, of such good luck or persevering and triumphant ambition. But our business


* Sharp was himself a very extraordinary character. He raised himself from the lower walks of his profession as an engraver chiefly by his print of Hunter. He worked for a year

on this plate. In England, it found few purchasers, originally; but coming into great demand on the Continent as a specimen of art, it gradually became valued in this country." See

or more

page 59.

[graphic][merged small]

Printed by ; ir Jishwa o Reynolds, CORSI Shouared by T. Highet


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »