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Title: Phrenological Development of Robert Burns - From a Cast of His Skull Moulded at Dumfries, the 31st Day of March 1834
Author: Combe, George, 1788-1858
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  George Combe.

  Engraved & Published by W. & A.K. Johnston, Edinburgh. April 1834.

  from a Cast of his skull

  With Remarks by
  George Combe,

  [Illustration: MAUSOLEUM,
  Erected at Dumfries, to the Memory of
  Robt Burns]

  Engraved & Published by W. & A.K. Johnston, Edinburgh 30 April 1834.

  Reprinted January 1859.




Robert Burns was born on 25th January 1759, and died at Dumfries on 21st
July 1796, in the 37th year of his age, and, on the 26th, was interred in
St Michael's Churchyard. Eighteen years afterwards, a Mausoleum was
erected by subscription to his memory in that cemetery; and, on the 19th
September 1815, his remains were privately exhumed and transferred to the
vault attached to it. Mrs Burns, the Poet's widow, having died on 26th
March 1834, the vault was opened for the purpose of depositing her remains
beside those of her husband; and the gentlemen who took charge of the
proceedings, being aware of the anxiety which had long been generally felt
to obtain a Cast of the Poet's Skull, resolved to avail themselves of the
opportunity to gratify this desire. The consent of the relatives having
been obtained, Mr M'Diarmid, the Editor of the _Dumfries Courier_, went
with several other gentlemen to the vault, and successfully effected their

The following description is written by Mr Archibald Blacklock, Surgeon:
"The cranial bones were perfect in every respect, if we except a little
erosion of their external table, and firmly held together by their
sutures; even the delicate bones of the orbits, with the trifling
exception of the _os unguis_ in the left, were sound and uninjured by
death and the grave. The superior maxillary bones still retained the four
most posterior teeth on each side, including the dentes sapientiæ, and all
without spot or blemish; the incisores, cuspidati, &c., had, in all
probability, recently dropped from the jaw, for the alveoli were but
little decayed. The bones of the face and palate were also sound. Some
small portions of black hair, with a very few grey hairs intermixed, were
observed while detaching some extraneous matter from the occiput. Indeed,
nothing could exceed the high state of preservation in which we found the
bones of the cranium, or offer a fairer opportunity of supplying what has
so long been desiderated by Phrenologists--a correct model of our immortal
Poet's head; and in order to accomplish this in the most accurate and
satisfactory manner, every particle of sand or other foreign body was
carefully washed off, and the plaster-of-Paris applied with all the tact
and accuracy of an experienced artist. The Cast is admirably taken, and
cannot fail to prove highly interesting to Phrenologists and others.

"Having completed our intention, the Skull, securely enclosed in a leaden
case, was again committed to the earth precisely where we found it.

  DUMFRIES, _1st April 1834_.



  Greatest circumference,                                           22-1/4
  From Occipital Spine to Individuality, over the top of the head,  14
   ... Ear to Ear vertically over the top of the head,              13
   ... Philoprogenitiveness to Individuality (greatest length),      8
   ... Concentrativeness to Comparison,                              7-1/8
   ... Ear to Philoprogenitiveness,                                  4-7/8
   ... Ear to Individuality,                                         4-3/4
   ... Ear to Benevolence,                                           5-1/2
   ... Ear to Firmness,                                              5-1/2
   ... Destructiveness to Destructiveness,                           5-3/4
   ... Secretiveness to Secretiveness,                               5-7/8
   ... Cautiousness to Cautiousness,                                 5-1/2
   ... Ideality to Ideality,                                         4-5/8
   ... Constructiveness to Constructiveness,                         4-1/2
   ... Mastoid process to Mastoid process,                           4-3/4


   1. Amativeness, rather large,                                        16
   2. Philoprogenitiveness, very large,                                 20
   3. Concentrativeness, large,                                         18
   4. Adhesiveness, very large,                                         20
   5. Combativeness, very large,                                        20
   6. Destructiveness, large,                                           18
   7. Secretiveness, large,                                             19
   8. Acquisitiveness, rather large,                                    16
   9. Constructiveness, full,                                           15
  10. Self-Esteem, large,                                               18
  11. Love of Approbation, very large,                                  20
  12. Cautiousness, large,                                              19
  13. Benevolence, very large,                                          20
  14. Veneration, large,                                                18
  15. Firmness, full,                                                   15
  16. Conscientiousness, full,                                          15
  17. Hope, full,                                                       14
  18. Wonder, large,                                                    18
  19. Ideality, large,                                                  18
  20. Wit, or Mirthfulness, full,                                       15
  21. Imitation, large,                                                 19
  22. Individuality, large,                                             19
  23. Form, rather large,                                               16
  24. Size, rather large,                                               17
  25. Weight, rather large,                                             16
  26. Colouring, rather large,                                          16
  27. Locality, large,                                                  18
  28. Number, rather full,                                              12
  29. Order, full,                                                      14
  30. Eventuality, large,                                               18
  31. Time, rather large,                                               16
  32. Tune, full,                                                       15
  33. Language, uncertain,
  34. Comparison, rather large,                                         17
  35. Causality, large,                                                 18

_The scale of the organs indicates their relative proportions to each
other; 2 is Idiotcy--10 Moderate--14 Full--18 Large--and 20 very Large._

The cast of a Skull does not show the temperament of the individual, but
the portraits of Burns indicate the bilious and nervous temperaments--the
sources of strength, activity, and susceptibility; and the descriptions
given by his contemporaries of his beaming and energetic eye, and the
rapidity and impetuosity of his manifestations, establish the inference
that his brain was active and susceptible.

Size in the brain, other conditions being equal, is the measure of mental
power. The Skull of Burns indicates a large brain. The length is 8, and
the greatest breadth nearly 6 inches. The circumference is 22-1/4 inches.
These measurements exceed the average of Scotch living heads, _including
the integuments_, for which four-eighths of an inch may be allowed.

The brain of Burns, therefore, possessed the two elements of power and

The portions of the brain which manifest the animal propensities are
uncommonly large, indicating strong passions, and great energy in action
under their influence. The group of organs manifesting the domestic
affections (Amativeness, Philoprogenitiveness, and Adhesiveness), is
large; Philoprogenitiveness uncommonly so for a male head.

The organs of Combativeness and Destructiveness are large, bespeaking
great heat of temper, impatience, and liability to irritation.

Secretiveness and Cautiousness are both large, and would confer
considerable power of restraint, where he felt restraint to be necessary.

Acquisitiveness, Self-Esteem, and Love of Approbation, are also in ample
endowment, although the first is less than the other two; these feelings
give the love of property, a high consideration of self, and desire of the
esteem of others. The first quality will not be so readily conceded to
Burns as the second and third, which, indeed, were much stronger; but the
Phrenologist records what is presented by nature, in full confidence that
the manifestations, when the character is correctly understood, will be
found to correspond with the development, and he states that the brain
indicates considerable love of property.

The organs of the moral sentiments are also largely developed. Ideality,
Wonder, Imitation, and Benevolence, are the largest in size. Veneration
also is large. Conscientiousness, Firmness, and Hope, are full.

The Knowing organs, or those of perceptive intellect, are large; and the
organs of Reflection are also considerable, but less than the former.
Causality is larger than Comparison, and Wit is less than either.

The Skull indicates the combination of strong animal passions, with
equally powerful moral emotions. If the natural morality had been less,
the endowment of the propensities is sufficient to have constituted a
character of the most desperate description. The combination, as it
exists, bespeaks a mind extremely subject to contending emotions--capable
of great good or great evil--and encompassed with vast difficulties in
preserving a steady, even, onward course of practical morality.

In the combination of very large Philoprogenitiveness and Adhesiveness,
with very large Benevolence and large Ideality, we find the elements of
that exquisite tenderness and refinement, which Burns so frequently
manifested, even when at the worst stage of his career. In the combination
of great Combativeness, Destructiveness, and Self-Esteem, we find the
fundamental qualities which inspired "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled," and
similar productions.

The combination of large Secretiveness, Imitation, and the Perceptive
organs, gives the elements of his dramatic talent and humour. The Skull
indicates a decided talent for Humour, but less for Wit. The public are
apt to confound the talents for Wit and Humour. The metaphysicians,
however, have distinguished them, and in the phrenological Works their
different elements are pointed out. Burns possessed the talent for satire:
Destructiveness, added to the combination which gives Humour, produces it.

An unskilful observer looking at the forehead might suppose it to be
moderate in size; but when the dimensions of the anterior lobe, in both
length and breadth, are attended to, the Intellectual organs will be
recognised to have been large. The anterior lobe projects so much that it
gives an appearance of narrowness to the forehead which is not real. This
is the cause, also, why Benevolence appears to lie farther back than
usual. An anterior lobe of this magnitude indicates great Intellectual
power. The combination of large Perceptive and Reflecting organs
(Causality predominant), with large Concentrativeness and large organs of
the feelings, gives that sagacity and vigorous common sense for which
Burns was distinguished.

The Skull rises high above Causality, and spreads wide in the region of
Ideality; the strength of his moral feelings lay in that region.

The combination of large organs of the Animal Propensities, with large
Cautiousness, and only full Hope, together with the unfavourable
circumstances in which he was placed, accounts for the melancholy and
internal unhappiness with which Burns was so frequently afflicted. This
melancholy was rendered still deeper by bad health.

The combination of Acquisitiveness, Cautiousness, Love of Approbation, and
Conscientiousness, is the source of his keen feelings in regard to
pecuniary independence. The great power of his Animal Propensities would
give him strong temptations to waste; but the combination just mentioned
would impose a powerful restraint. The head indicates the elements of an
economical character; and it is known that he died free from debt,
notwithstanding the smallness of his salary.

No Phrenologist can look upon this head, and consider the circumstances in
which Burns was placed, without vivid feelings of regret. Burns must have
walked the earth with a consciousness of great superiority over his
associates in the station in which he was placed--of powers calculated for
a far higher sphere than that which he was able to reach--and of passions
which he could with difficulty restrain, and which it was fatal to
indulge. If he had been placed from infancy in the higher ranks of life,
liberally educated, and employed in pursuits corresponding to his powers,
the inferior portion of his nature would have lost part of its energy,
while his better qualities would have assumed a decided and permanent

The Drawings of the Skull are ably executed by GEORGE HARVEY, Esq., S.A.

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