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Phrenological Delineations


PHRENOLOGY, by which is indicated the delineation of a person’s characteristics and mental powers by the conformation of his skull, had a very wide vogue from the 1840’s to the end of the century. While discounted in some respects by modern knowledge, it must be admitted that many of its ablest exponents were very shrewd in their judgments of those they examined. Readers of the Life of Robert Roberts will remember that he was employed by L. N. Fowler, the American phrenologist, when he visited England. The general recognition of phrenology as a science at the time caused Mrs. Campbell to persuade her husband to go to Fowler as the leading practitioner in New York. The result is expressed in the following phrenograph:


Phrenograph of Alexander Campbell


      “You are from a long-lived family, and have a strongly-marked physical organization (a), being a predominance of the motive and mental temperaments. You are naturally very industrious, and fond of both mental and physical exercise; are seldom weary; can work longer and easier, think harder, and have more business on hand, without sinking under it, than most men (b). You enjoy out-door physical action much; are seldom, if ever, sick, and know but little, experimentally, of the effects of medicines, as you seldom, if ever, patronise the physicians (c). Your phrenological developments are distinctly marked, and your character must be a positive one. You are disposed to strike out a path of your own, and have energy sufficient to meet almost any emergency. You do not shrink because of opposition, but nerve yourself the more to meet it. The strongest trait of your character is firmness, which gives will, and unyielding perseverance. You have uncommon presence of mind and power of determination in times of danger. You have a self-directing mind, lean on no one, and care but little for the opinions of men; are neither vain, showy, affected, nor over-polite, and ceremonious, but very independent; and although not so manly and dignified as some, yet you are ambitious, and anxious to excel in everything you undertake. You have tact and management when the occasion requires, yet generally are frank, open-hearted and free-spoken. You are sufficiently cautious to be safe, but not so much so as to be timid. You look upon money as only the means to accomplish the desire of other faculties, and not as an end of enjoyment. You will use, rather than lay up money. Your moral faculties are fully developed, excepting marvellousness. The general power of your moral brain, connected with your will, is greater than your selfish feelings.”


        “AMBITION, acting in harmony with moral desires, would give you great influence, and desire to be constantly employed. You are strong in your hopes and anticipations: never look upon the dark side; no enterprise, sanctioned by reason, is too great for you to undertake (d). Conscientiousness, Veneration, and Benevolence are all distinctly developed and have an active influence; yet not so controlling as to modify your energy, ambition, or desire for information. You do good as you have an opportunity, repent when you have done wrong, and adore, venerate, and respect, when and what the occasion requires. You are naturally much wanting in faith and sense of the spiritual and supernatural, and require proof for everything (e). If you have any faith at all, it is the result of grace. You are always ready to give a reason for ‘the hope that is within you” (f). Your ability to use tools, make, and construct, is limited; but your ability to plan, lay out work, and judge of work when executed, is very good (g). You have fair imagination, and sense of the sublime and grand, but naturally prefer the true to the fanciful, the philosophical to the poetical. Your language is more forcible than flowery, more direct and pointed than imaginative and elegant (h). You do not easily fall into the ways of others, nor can you mimic successfully, but act out your own feelings in your own way; hence, you are more like yourself than like anybody else (i).”


        “You are not backward in appreciating or enjoying a joke, yet your jokes are generally more true, pointed, and sarcastic, than witty and amusing.”


        “Your intellectual powers are of the available kind. You are decidedly a matter-of-fact man; a great student of nature; always learn something from both great and small; your range of observation is most extensive, and what you see and know only increases your intellectual appetite. You have correct ideas of proportion, shape, outline, and mechanical execution. You are neat, systematic, and have your plans well arranged (j). Your memory is good, especially of what you see and do; also by association; but isolated facts you are liable to forget.”


        “You have full powers of speech, and when much excited may be quite eloquent and copious, yet generally have more ideas than words. Your argumentative powers are great (k). You reason most successfully by analogy and association. You readily see the adaptation of principles and the relation of things; have a full development of Causality, enabling you to see the relations of cause and effect, giving originality of thought and ability to plan. All your intellectual powers are available, and you are most emphatically a utilitarian; have much intuitiveness of mind, which enables you to decide at once the right and wrong of subjects, the real motives of others and the most direct way to accomplish an object. You have strong attachments to place, much general application and unity of thought and feeling, and naturally a strong appetite. You enjoy the company of friends much, but are not as social, nor as fond of general society, as some, and have always been able to regulate your social feelings. More of the warming influences of Adhesiveness would be an advantage to you.”


      The “phrenograph” of Mr. Campbell was considered to be so accurate, that some who knew him and Dr. Thomas desired that the latter should submit himself to a similar examination. One wrote that a certain individual had described the Doctor as “the most uncompromising, stubborn, self-willed, and dogmatical person ever known; having large self-esteem and firmness, and deficient benevolence, though a good intellect, and all this hardened by a bilious temperament.” Others expressed various ideas of his character and temperament.


      Realising that there must be some organic difference between Mr. Campbell and himself, the Doctor agreed to submit to a similar ordeal. So that there should be no prejudice in the mind of Mr. Fowler, he decided to present himself to him without notice, and to subject himself incognito to his “skullographic digitations”:


      The following is the


Phrenological Description of Dr. Thomas


        “One marked feature of your whole organization is density. You can endure a great amount of both mental and physical labour, without experiencing that degree of fatigue which most persons would in accomplishing the same. You have a predominance of the bilious temperament, which gives physical strength and toughness, and favours power of will. You can resist disease with more effect than most persons; are seldom sick.”


        “You have a positive, distinct character, are never half way in any thing; have strong will and determination of mind, and are disposed to take positive and independent views of things. You think for yourself, and rely on your own resources; had rather guide than be guided; are governed more in your actions by impulse or surrounding influences.”


        “You have great courage and presence of mind; are not afraid to defend your cause, to do what you think is right, or to advocate what you consider the truth; are naturally a plain, almost blunt, spoken man; believe in acting openly and straightforward, say what you want to say without smoothing the matter over; are perhaps too harsh in your manner of expression, though experience may have taught you more policy than you naturally possess. You abominate hypocrisy and also cruelty; you have too much pride, benevolence, and sense of honour, to attack one in a defenceless condition, yet, when in a controversy with an opponent, would be strongly inclined to be sarcastic, and severe in your criticisms. You have an enterprising mind, strong hope, and bright anticipations; are seldom if ever discouraged; opposition and difficulty only stimulate you to greater exertion. You are very persevering and thorough-going in whatever you take hold of; not easily driven or conquered, especially where duty and moral principle are involved. Your religious views are rather peculiar to yourself. You have naturally a good share of devotional feeling, and a strong tendency to investigate theological subjects, but have not much respect for ‘the powers that be’; in other words, you would pay as much deference to a layman who presents truth as to an Ll.D.”


        “You have a high degree of general sympathy and philanthropy, are willing to give your influence to whatever you think is right and proper, without regard to the opposition you may meet. You are much given to reasoning and thought; are inclined to expand subjects as you become interested in them; have great powers of amplifying, and use rather extravagant language, in describing and explaining the subject treated of. You have much scope of imagination, are a lover of the sublime and magnificent, and appreciate the beautiful and perfect-like; to do business on a large scale, and bring about great results. You have a good idea of caution and prudence, but are not timid or over-anxious about consequences. You cannot bear to be idle, always have something on hand to demand your attention and keep you busy. You have a good memory of ideas, places, and faces, but memory of details and common occurrences depends upon your necessity of exercising it; are not deficient in this quality if you will give it a chance to develop. Your ability to use language is not equal to your flow of thought, hence you can write better than speak.”


        “You form strong attachments, are a kind, warm-hearted friend, interested in woman, and in the welfare and happiness of children. Have a desire to improve mankind in their social as well as moral and intellectual natures. It is more natural for you to lead the minds of others than to be led, and to exercise authority than to submit to it. You had a desire when a boy to assume the responsibilities of a man, and be your own master.”

“You are fond of order and system in physical arrangements, but appreciate it more particularly in mental operations; are rather exact in having work done to suit you.”

“You have a variety of talent, and can adapt yourself to circumstances and different kinds of society with considerable facility.”

“You make distinct impressions on the minds of others, and will be likely to have warm friends and bitter enemies.”

“To sum up the most prominent points in your character, they are: energy, perseverance, determination, independence, strength of intellect, moral courage, and vividness of imagination. —October 5th 1847.”


      On these two sets of characteristics as given by Fowler, Dr. Thomas wrote: “Such then are the two men who have been before the public for so many years. Those who are personally intimate with them, and are acquainted with their history and writings, will recognise them in their phrenographs.”


      Today little attention is paid to phrenology, but the two readings are given, so that those who read these pages may consider them, and compare the findings of Mr. Fowler with the impressions made upon readers by the history of the two men, so far as it has been related in these pages.

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