Mirror of Literature,  12 (1828), 162–65.

On National Varieties  [1/2]



Essay, Serial


Cultural Geography, Ethnology, Travel, Publishing, Race, Human Species, Reason, Instinct, Evolution, Descent, Degeneration, Biblical Authority

People mentioned:

James C Prichard, James Burnett (Lord Monboddo), François M A de Voltaire, Jean J Rousseau, Georges L Leclerc, comte de Buffon, Peter the Wild Boy

    Offers observations on 'the several causes to which the diversities in men have been referred, not pretending to any decided opinion on so nice a point, as whether these causes are wholly of a physical or of a moral kind' (162). Dismisses as 'fanciful' suggestions that 'the monkey is but another species of the human race'. Reviews instances of 'men in a savage state' and observes that the idea of 'a race of men [...] having ever existed without the possession of reason, is now deemed wholly fallacious'. Reports Friedrich von Schlegel's belief that 'the civilized state is the primitive one, and that savage life is a degeneracy from it', and describes his theory that civilization spread from the East. Argues that it is difficult 'to imagine by what gradation language could have proceeded, from the howl of savages, and the cries of nature, till it reached the eloquent music, the heart-stirring oratory of the Greek'. Seeks to relate the early history of civilization to the narrative of the early chapters of Genesis. Follows William Lawrence in suggesting that 'the general divisions of human beings' represent 'different species' of one genus. Argues for their descent from 'one common stock'. (163) Describes Johann F Blumenbach's characterization of the varieties of humans. Considers the possible causes, natural and moral, for the differences between human races, dismissing the potency of climate as a cause of change in human culture.

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