Punch,  57 (1869), 95.

Phrenology and Frenzy

Jeremiah Bumps


Letter, Spoof


Politics, Observation, Entomology, Reasoning, Evolution, Darwinism, Human Development, Amusement, Controversy, Medical Practitioners, Mental Illness, Hospitals, Phrenology, Charlatanry, Superstition

People mentioned:

Astley P Cooper

    Begins by noting that with the cessation of the 'lively, pithy, and concise debates of the [parliamentary] Session [...] the British Public, betake ourselves for intellectual recreation to the fields of science'. Emphasises that this requires us to exercise 'our observant faculties on swarms of ladybirds' and employ 'our reasoning powers in arguments about the origin of species, particularly those relative to the dispute touching the human pedigree' and our descent from anthropoid apes. Suggests that those who pose scientific questions at this time of year will be contributing to the 'public stock of harmless amusement', and will not be bores. Accordingly, turns to the 'divers reviews' of Memoir of John Conolly, M.D., the 'rational and reforming mad doctor' who 'succeeded in abolishing the system of mechanical restraint at Hanwell'. Proceeds to discuss James Deville, the 'gas-fitter' and phrenologist who argued that 'order was maintained at Hanwell without force' by classifying inmates according to 'the craniological conformation of their heads'. Suggests that if this was the case then it constitutes 'a very considerable reply' to the claim that phrenology is humbug. Contests that 'phrenology is not all humbug if available for the government of lunatics' and believes it is not a superstition even if it is a 'mistake'.

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