Natural Theology Part Three
OF THE VESSELS OF ANIMAL BODIES
THE circulation of the blood, through the bodies of men and quadrupeds, and the apparatus
by which it is carried on, compose a system, and testify a contrivance, perhaps the best understood of any part of the animal frame. The lymphatic system, or the nervous system, may be more subtile and intricate; nay, it is possible that in their structure they may be even more artificial than the sanguiferous; but we do not know so much about them.
The utility of the circulation of the blood, I assume as an acknowledged point. One grand purpose is plainly answered by it; the distributing to every part, every extremity, every nook and corner, of the body, the nourishment which is received into it by one aperture. What enters at the mouth, finds its way to the fingers' ends. A more difficult mechanical problem could hardly I think be proposed, than to discover a method of constantly repairing the waste, and of supplying an accession of substance to every part, of a complicated machine, at the same time.
This system presents itself under two views: first, the disposition of the blood-vessels, i. e. the laying of the pipes; and, secondly, the construction of the engine at the centre, viz. the heart, for driving the blood through them.
- The disposition of the blood-vessels, as
far as regards the supply of the body, is like that of the water-pipes in a city, viz. large and main trunks branching off by smaller pipes (and these again by still narrower tubes) in every direction, and towards every part in which the fluid, which they convey, can be wanted. So far the water-pipes, which serve a town, may represent the vessels which carry the blood from the heart. But there is another thing necessary to the blood, which is not wanted for the water; and that is, the carrying of it back again to its source. For this office, a reversed system of vessels is prepared, which, uniting at their extremities with the extremities of the first system, collects the divided and subdivided streamlets, first by capillary ramifications into larger branches, secondly, by these branches into trunks; and thus returns the blood (almost exactly inverting the order in which it went out) to the fountain whence its motion proceeded. All which is evident mechanism.
The body, therefore, contains two systems of blood-vessels, arteries and veins. Between the constitution of the systems there are also two differences, suited to the functions
which the systems have to execute. The blood, in going out, passing always from wider into narrower tubes; and, in coming back, from
narrower into wider; it is evident, that the impulse and pressure upon the sides of the blood-vessel, will be much greater in one case than the other. Accordingly, the arteries which carry out the blood, are formed of much tougher and stronger coats, than the veins which bring it back. That is one difference: the other is still more artificial, or, if I may so speak, indicates, still more clearly, the care and anxiety of the artificer. Forasmuch as in the arteries, by reason of the greater force with which the blood is urged along them, a wound or rupture would be more dangerous than in the veins, these vessels are defended from injury, not only by their texture, but by their situation; and by every advantage of situation which can be given to them. They are buried in sinuses, or they creep along- grooves, made for them in the bones; for instance, the under-edge of the ribs is sloped and furrowed solely for the passage of these vessels. Sometimes they proceed in channels, protected by stout parapets on each side; which last description is remarkable in the bones of the fingers, these being hollowed out, on the under-side, like a scoop, and with such a concavity, that the finger may be cut across to the bone, without hurting the artery which runs along it. At
other times, the arteries pass in canals wrought in the substance, and in the very middle of the substance, of the bone; this takes place in the lower jaw; and is found where there would, otherwise, be danger of compression by sudden curvature. All this care is wonderful, yet not more than what the importance of the case required. To those, who venture their lives in a ship, it has been often said, that there is only an inch-board between them and death; but in the body itself, especially in the arterial system, there is, in many parts, only a membrane, a skin, a thread. For which reason, this system lies deep under the integuments; whereas the veins, in which the mischief that ensues from injuring the coats is much less, lie in general above the arteries; come nearer to the surface; are more exposed.
It may be further observed concerning the two systems taken together, that though the arterial, with its trunk and branches and small twigs, may be imagined to issue or proceed; in other words, to grow from the heart; like a plant from its root, or the fibres of a leaf from its foot-stalk (which however, were it so, would be only to resolve one mechanism into another), yet the venal, the returning system, can never be formed in this manner.
The arteries might go on shooting out from their extremities, i. e. lengthening and subdividing indefinitely; but an inverted system, continually uniting its streams, instead of dividing, and thus carrying back what the other system carried out, could not be referred to the same process.
- The next thing to be considered is the engine which works this machinery, viz. the heart. For our purpose it is unnecessary to ascertain the principle upon which the heart acts. Whether it be irritation excited by the contact of the blood, by the influx of the nervous fluid, or whatever else be the cause of its motion, it is something which is capable of producing, in a living muscular fibre, reciprocal contraction and relaxation. This is the power we have to work with: and the inquiry is, how this power is applied in the instance before us. There is provided, in the central part of the body, a hollow muscle, invested with spiral fibres, running in both directions, the layers intersecting one another; in some animals, however, appearing to be semicircular rather than spiral. By the contraction of these fibres, the sides of the muscular cavities are necessarily squeezed together, so as to force out from them any fluid which they may at that time contain; by the
relaxation of the same fibres, the cavities are in their turn dilated, and, of course, prepared to admit every fluid which may be poured into them. Into these cavities are inserted the great trunks, both of the arteries which carry out the blood, and of the veins which bring it back. This is a general account of the apparatus; and the simplest idea of its action is, that, by each contraction, a portion of blood is forced by a syringe into the arteries: and, at each dilatation, an equal portion is received from the veins. This, produces at each pulse, a motion, and change in the mass of blood, to the amount of what the cavity contains, which in a full-grown human heart I understand is about an ounce, or two tablespoons full. How quickly these changes succeed one another, and by this succession how sufficient they are to support a stream or circulation throughout the system, may be understood by the following computation, abridged from Keill's Anatomy, p. 117, ed. 3: Each ventricle will at least contain one ounce of blood. The heart contracts four thousand times in one hour; from which it follows, that there pass through the heart, every hour, four thousand ounces, or three-hundred-and-fifty pounds of blood. Now the whole mass of blood is said to be about
twenty-five pounds; so that a quantity of blood, equal to the whole mass of blood, passes through the heart fourt eentimes in one hour; which is about once every four minutes. Consider what an affair this is, when we come to very large animals. The aörta of a whale
is larger in the bore than the main pipe of the water-works at London-Bridge: and the water roaring in its passage through that pipe is inferior, in impetus and velocity, to the blood gushing from the whale's heart. Hear Dr. Hunter's account of the dissection of a whale:--The aörta measured a foot diameter. Ten or fifteen gallons of blood are thrown out of the heart at a stroke with an immense velocity, through a tube of a foot diameter. The whole idea fills the mind with wonder (Note: Dr. Hunter's Account of the Dissection of a Whale. (Phil. Trans.)).
The account which we have here stated, of the injection of blood into the arteries by the contraction, and of the corresponding reception of it from the veins by the dilatation, of the cavities of the heart, and of the circulation being thereby maintained through the blood-vessels of the body, is true, but imperfect. The heart performs this office, but it is in conjunction with another of equal
curiosity and importance. It was necessary that the blood should be successively brought into contact, or contiguity, or proximity, with the air. I do not know that the chymical reason, upon which this necessity is founded, has been yet sufficiently explored. It seems to be made appear, that the atmosphere which we breathe is a mixture of two kinds of air; one pure and vital, the other, for the purposes of life, effete, foul, and noxious; that when we have drawn-in our breath, the blood in the lungs imbibes from the air, thus brought into contiguity with it, a portion of its pure ingredient, and at the same time, gives out the effete or corrupt air which it contained, and which is carried away, along with the halitus, every time we expire. At least; by comparing the air which is breathed from the lungs, with the air which enters the lungs, it is found to have lost some of its pure part, and to have brought away with it an addition of its impure part. Whether these experiments satisfy the question, as to the need which the blood stands in of being visited by continual accesses of air, is not for us to inquire into; nor material to our argument: it is sufficient to know, that, in the constitution of most animals, such a necessity exists, and that the air, by some means or
other, must be introduced into a near communication with the blood. The lungs of animals are constructed for this purpose. They consist of blood-vessels and air-vessels, lying close to each other; and whenever there is a branch of the trachea or windpipe, there is a branch accompanying it of the vein and artery, and the air-vessel is always in the middle between the blood-vessels(Note: Keill's Anatomy, p. 121.). The internal surface of these vessels, upon which the application of the air to the blood depends, would, if collected, and expanded, be, in a man, equal to a superficies of fifteen feet square. Now, in order to give the blood in its course the benefit of this organization (and this is the part of the subject with which we are chiefly concerned), the following operation takes place. As soon as the blood is received by the heart from the veins of the body, and before that it
is sent out again into its arteries, it is carried, by the force of the contraction of the heart, and by means of a separate and supplementary artery, to the lungs, and made to enter the vessels of the lungs; from which, after it has undergone the action, whatever it be, of that viscus, it is brought back by a large vein once more to the heart, in order, when thus concocted and
prepared, to be thence distributed anew into the system. This assigns to the heart a double office. The pulmonary circulation is a system within a system; and one action of the heart is the origin of both.
For this complicated function, four cavities become necessary; and four are accordingly provided: two, called ventricles, which send out the blood, viz. one into the lungs, in the first instance; the other into the mass, after it has returned from the lungs: two others also, called auricles, which receive the blood from the veins; viz. one, as it comes immediately from the body; the other, as the same blood comes a second time after its circulation through the lungs. So that there are two receiving cavities, and two forcing cavities. The structure of the heart has reference to the lungs; for without the lungs, one of each would have been sufficient. The translation of the blood in the heart itself is after this manner. The receiving cavities respectively communicate with the forcing cavities, and, by their contraction, unload the received blood into them. The forcing cavities, when it is their turn to contract, compel the same blood into the mouths of the arteries.
The account here given will not convey to
a reader, ignorant of anatomy, any thing like an accurate notion of the form, action, or use of the parts, (nor can any short and popular account do this); but it is abundantly sufficient to testify contrivance; and although imperfect, being true as far as it goes, may be relied upon for the only purpose for which we offer it, the purpose of this conclusion.
The wisdom of the Creator, saith Hamburgher, is in nothing seen more gloriously than in the heart. And how well doth it execute its office! An anatomist, who understood the structure of the heart, might say beforehand that it would play; but he would expect, I think, from the complexity of its mechanism, and the delicacy of many of its parts, that it should always be liable to derangement, or that it would soon work itself out. Yet shall this wonderful machine go, night and day, for eighty years together, at the rate of a hundred thousand strokes every twenty-four hours, having, at every stroke, a great resistance to overcome; and shall continue this action for this length of time, without disorder and without weariness!
But further; from the account which has been given of the mechanism of the heart, it is evident that it must require the interposition
of valves; that the success indeed of its action must depend upon these; for when any one of its cavities contracts, the necessary tendency of the force will be to drive the enclosed blood, not only into the mouth of the artery where it ought to go, but also back again into the mouth of the vein from which it flowed. In like manner, when by the relaxation of the fibres the same cavity is dilated, the blood would not only run into it from the vein, which was the course intended, but back from the artery, through which it ought to be moving forward. The way of preventing a reflux of the fluid, in both these cases, is to fix valves, which, like flood-gates, may open a way to the stream in one direction, and shut up the passage against it in another. The heart, constituted as it is, can no more work without valves, than a pump can. When the piston descends in a pump, if it were not for the stoppage by the valve beneath, the motion would only thrust down the water which it had before drawn up. A similar consequence would frustrate the action of the heart. Valves, therefore, properly disposed, i. e. properly with respect to the course of the blood which it is necessary to promote, are essential to the contrivance. And valves so disposed, are accordingly provided.
A valve is placed in the communication between each auricle and its ventricle, lest when the ventricle contracts, part of the blood should get back again into the auricle, intead of the whole entering, as it ought to do, the mouth of the artery. A valve is also fixed at the mouth of each of the great arteries which take the blood from the heart; leaving the passage free, so long as the blood holds its proper course forward; closing it, whenever the blood, in consequence of the relaxation of the ventricle, would attempt to flow back. There is some variety in the construction of these valves, though all the valves of the body act nearly upon the same principle, and are destined to the same use. In general they consist of a thin membrane, lying close to the side of the vessel, and consequently allowing an open passage whilst the stream runs one way, but thrust out from the side by the fluid getting behind it, and opposing the passage of the blood, when it would flow the other way. Where more than one membrane is employed, the different membranes only compose one valve. Their joint action fulfils the office of a valve: for instance; over the entrance of the right auricle of the heart into the right ventricle, three of these skins or membranes are fixed, of a triangular figure,
the bases of the triangles fastened to the flesh; the sides and summits loose; but, though loose, connected by threads of a determinate length, with certain small fleshy
prominences adjoining. The effect of this construction is, that, when the ventricle contracts, the blood endeavouring to escape in all directions, and amongst other directions, pressing upwards, gets between these membranes and the sides of the passage; and thereby forces them up into such a position, as that, together, they constitute, when raised, a hollow cone (the strings, before spoken of, hindering them from proceeding or separating further; which cone, entirely occupying the passage, prevents the return of the blood into the auricle. A shorter account of the matter may be this: So long as the blood proceeds in its proper course, the membranes which compose the valve, are pressed close to the side of the vessel, and occasion no impediment to the circulation: when the blood would regurgitate, they are raised from the side of the vessel, and, meeting in the middle of its cavity, shut up the channel. Can any one doubt of contrivance here; or is it possible to shut our eyes against the proof of it?
This valve, also, is not more curious in its
structure, than it is important in its office. Upon the play of the valve, even upon the proportioned length of the strings or fibres which check the ascent of the membranes, depends, as it should seem, nothing less than the life itself of the animal. We may here likewise repeat, what we before observed concerning some of the ligaments of the body, that they could not be formed by any action of the parts themselves. There are cases in which, although good uses appear to arise from the shape or configuration of a part, yet that shape or configuration itself may seem to be produced by the action of the part, or by the action or pressure of adjoining parts. Thus the bend, and the internal smooth concavity of the ribs, may be attributed to the equal pressure of the soft bowels; the particular shape of some bones and joints, to the traction of the annexed muscles, or to the position of contiguous muscles. But valves could not be so formed. Action and pressure are all against them. The blood, in its proper course, has no tendency to produce such things; and, in its improper or reflected current, has a tendency to prevent their production. Whilst we see, therefore, the use and necessity of this machinery, we can look to no other account of its origin or formation than
the intending mind of a Creator. Nor can we without admiration reflect, that such thin membranes, such weak and tender instruments, as these valves are, should be able to hold out for seventy or eighty years.
Here also we cannot consider but with gratitude, how happy it is that our vital motions are involuntary. We should have enough to do, if we had to keep our hearts beating, and our stomachs at work. Did these things depend, we will not say upon our effort, but upon our bidding, our care, or our attention, they would leave us leisure for nothing else. We
must have been continually upon the watch, and continually in fear; nor would this constitution have allowed of sleep.
It might perhaps be expected, that an organ so precious, of such central and primary importance as the heart is, should be defended by a case. The fact is, that a membranous purse or bag, made of strong, tough materials, is provided for it; holding the heart within its cavity; sitting loosely ande asily about it; guarding its substance, without confining its motion; and containing likewise a spoonful or two of water, just sufficient to keep the surface of the heart in a state of suppleness and moisture. How should such a loose covering be generated by the action
of the heart? Does not the enclosing of it in a sack, answering no other purpose but that enclosure, show the care that has been taken of its preservation?
One use of the circulation of the blood probably (amongst other uses) is to distribute nourishment to the different parts of the body. How minute and multiplied the ramifications of the blood-vessels, for that purpose, are; and how thickly spread, over at least the superficies of the body, is proved by the single observation, that we cannot prick the point of a pin into the flesh, without drawing blood, i. e. without finding a blood- vessel. Nor, internally, is their diffusion less universal. Blood-vessels run along the surface of membranes, pervade the substance of muscles, penetrate the bones. Even into every tooth, we trace, through a small hole in the root, an artery to feed the bone, as well as a vein to bring back the spare blood from it; both which, with the addition of an accompanying nerve, form a thread only a little thicker than a horse-hair.
Wherefore, when the nourishment taken in at the mouth, has once reached, and mixed itself with, the blood, every part of the body is in the way of being supplied with it. And this introduces another grand topic, namely,
the manner in which the aliment gets into the blood; which is a subject distinct from the preceding, and brings us to the consideration of another entire system of vessels.
- For this necessary part of the animal conomy, an apparatus is provided, in a great measure capable of being, what anatomists call, demonstrated, that is, shown in the dead body;--and a line or course of conveyance, which we can pursue by our examinations.
First, the food descends by a wide passage into the intestines, undergoing two great preparations on its way, one, in the mouth by mastication and moisture,--(can it be doubted with what design the teeth were placed in the road to the stomach, or that there was choice in fixing them in this situation?) the other, by digestion in the stomach itself.
Of this last surprising dissolution I say nothing; because it is chymistry, and I am endeavouring to display mechanism. The figure and position of the stomach (I speak all along with a reference to the human organ) are calculated for detaining the food long enough for the action of its digestive juice. It has the shape of the pouch of a bagpipe; lies across the body; and the pylorus, or passage by which the food leaves it, is somewhat higher in the body than the cardia, or orifice by which it enters;
so that it is by the contraction of the muscular coat of the stomach, that the contents, after having undergone the application of the gastric menstruum, are gradually pressed out. In dogs and cats, this action of the coats of the stomach has been displayed to the eye. It is a slow and gentle undulation, propagated from one orifice of the stomach to the other. For the same reason that I omitted, for the present, offering any observation upon the digestive fluid, I shall say nothing concerning the bile or the pancreatic juice, further than to observe upon the mechanism, viz. that from the glands in which these secretions are elaborated, pipes are laid into the first of the intestines, through which pipes the product of each gland flows into that bowel, and is there mixed with the aliment, as soon almost as it passes the stomach; adding also as a remark how grievously this same bile offends the stomach itself, yet cherishes the vessel that lies next to it.
Secondly, We have now the aliment in the intestines, converted into pulp; and, though lately consisting of ten different viands, reduced to nearly an uniform substance, and to a state fitted for yielding its essence, which is called chyle, but which is milk, or more nearly resembling milk than any other liquor
with which it can be compared. For the straining off this fluid from the digested aliment in the course of its long progress through the body, myriads of capillary tubes, i. e. pipes as small as hairs, open their orifices into the cavity of every part of the intestines. These tubes, which are so fine and slender as not to be visible unless when distended with chyle, soon unite into larger branches. The pipes, formed by this union, terminate in glands, from which other pipes of a still larger diameter arising, carry the chyle from all parts, into a common reservoir or receptacle. This receptacle is a bag of size enough to hold about two table-spoons full; and from this vessel a duct or main pipe proceeds, climbing up the back part of the chest, and afterwards creeping along the gullet till it reach the neck. Here it meets the river: here it discharges itself into a large vein, which soon conveys the chyle, now flowing along with the old blood, to the heart. This whole route can be exhibited to the eye; nothing is left to be supplied by imagination or conjecture. Now, beside the subserviency of this structure, collectively considered, to a manifest and necessary purpose, we may remark two or three separate particulars in it, which show, not only the contrivance, but the perfection
of it. We may remark, first, the length of the intestines, which, in the human subject, is six times that of the body. Simply for a passage, these voluminous bowels, this prolixity of gut, seems in no wise necessary; but, in order to allow time and space for the successive extraction of the chyle from the digested aliment, namely, that the chyle, which escapes the lacteals of one part of the guts, may be taken up by those of some other part, the length of the canal is of evident use and conduciveness. Secondly, we must also remark their peristaltic motion; which is made up of contractions, following one another like waves upon the surface of a fluid, and not unlike what we observe in the body of an earth-worm crawling along the ground; and which is effected by the joint action of longitudinal and of spiral, or rather perhaps of a great number of separate semicircular fibres. This curious action pushes forward the grosser part of the aliment, at the same time that the more subtile parts, which we call chyle, are, by a series of gentle compressions, squeezed into the narrow orifices of the lacteal veins. Thirdly, it was necessary that these tubes, which we denominate lacteals, or their mouths at least, should be made as narrow as possible, in order to deny admission
into the blood to any particle, which is of size enough to make a lodgement afterwards in the small arteries, and thereby to obstruct the circulation: And it was also necessary that this extreme tenuity should be compensated by multitude; for, a large quantity of chyle (in ordinary constitutions, not less, it has been computed, than two or three quarts in a day) is, by some means or other, to be passed through them. Accordingly, we find the number of the lacteals exceeding all powers of computation; and their pipes so fine and slender, as not to be visible, unless filled, to the naked eye; and their orifices, which open into the intestines, so small, as not to be discernible even by the best microscope. Fourthly, the main pipe which carries the chyle from the reservoir to the blood, viz. the thoracic duct, being fixed in an almost upright position, and wanting that advantage of propulsion which the arteries possess, is furnished with a succession of valves to check the ascendmg fluid, when once it has passed them, from falling back. These valves look upward, so as to leave the ascent free, but to prevent the return of the chyle, if, for want of sufficient force to push it on, its weight should at any time cause it to descend. Fifthly, the chyle enters the blood in an odd place, but
perhaps the most commodious place possible. viz. at a large vein in the neck, so situated with respect to the circulation, as speedily to bring the mixture to the heart. And this seems to be a circumstance of great moment; for had the chyle entered the blood at an artery, or at a distant vein, the fluid, composed of the old and the new materials, must have performed a considerable part of the circulation, before it received that churning in
the lungs, which is, probably, necessary for the intimate and perfect union of the old blood with the recent chyle. Who could have dreamt of a communication between the cavity of the intestines and the left great vein of the neck? Who could have suspected that this communication should be the medium through which all nourishment is derived to the body? or this the place, where, by a side-inlet, the important junction is formed between the blood and the material which feeds it?
We postponed the consideration of digestion, lest it should interrupt us in tracing the course of the food to the blood; but, in treating of the alimentary system, so principal a part of the process cannot be omitted.
Of the gastric juice, the immediate agent by which that change which food undergoes
in our stomachs is effected, we shall take our account from the numerous, careful, and varied experiments of the Abbé Spallanzani.
- It is not a simple diluent, but a real solvent. A quarter of an ounce of beef had scarcely touched the stomach of a crow, when the solution began.
- It has not the nature of saliva; it has not the nature of bile; but is distinct from both. By experiments out of the body it appears, that neither of these secretions acts upon alimentary substances, in the same manner as the gastric juice acts.
- Digestion is not putrefaction: for, the digesting fluid resists putrefaction most pertinaciously; nay, not only checks its further progress, but restores putrid substances.
- It is not a fermentative process: for, the solution begins at the surface, and proceeds towards the centre, contrary to the order in which fermentation acts and spreads.
- It is not the digestion of heat: for, the cold maw of a cod or sturgeon will dissolve the shells of crabs or lobsters, harder than the sides of the stomach which contains them.
In a word, animal digestion carries about it the marks of being a power and a process completely sui generis; distinct from every other; at least from every chymical process
with which we are acquainted. And the most wonderful thing about it is its appropriation; its subserviency to the particular conomy of each animal. The gastric juice of an owl, falcon, or kite, will not touch grain; no, not even to finish the macerated and half-digested pulse which is left in the crops of the sparrows that the bird devours. In poultry, the trituration of the gizzard, and the gastric juice, conspire in the work of digestion. The
gastric juice will not dissolve the grain whilst it is whole. Entire grains of barley, inclosed in tubes or spherules, are not affected by it. But if the same grain be by any means broken or ground, the gastric juice immediately lays hold of it. Here then is wanted, and here we find, a combination of mechanism and chymistry. For the preparatory grinding, the gizzard lends its mill. And, as all mill-work should be strong, its structure is so, beyond that of any other muscle belonging to the animal. The internal coat also, or lining of the gizzard, is, for the same purpose, hard and cartilaginous. But, forasmuch as this is not the sort of animal substance suited for the reception of glands, or for secretion, the gastric juice, in this family, is not supplied as in membranous stomachs, by the stomach itself, but by the gullet,
in which the feeding glands are placed, and from which it trickles down into the stomach. In sheep, the gastric fluid has no effect in digesting plants, unless they have been
previously masticated. It only produces a slight maceration; nearly such as common
water would produce, in a degree of heat somewhat exceeding the medium temperature of the atmosphere. But provided that the plant has been reduced to pieces by chewing, the gastric juice then proceeds with it, first by softening its substance; next by destroying its natural consistency, and, lastly, by dissolving it so completely, as not even to spare the toughest and most stringy parts, such as the nerves of the leaves.
So far our accurate and indefatigable Abbé.--Dr. Stevens, of Edinburgh, in 1777, found, by experiments tried with perforated balls, that the gastric juice of the sheep and the ox speedily dissolved vegetables, but made no impression upon beef, mutton, and other animal bodies. Dr. Hunter discovered a property of this fluid, of a most curious kind; viz. that, in the stomachs of animals which feed upon flesh, irresistibly as this fluid acts upon animal substances, it is only upon the dead substance, that it operates at all. The
living fibre suffers no injury from lying in contact with it. Worms and insects are found alive in the stomachs of such animals. The coats of the human stomach, in a healthy state, are insensible to its presence: yet, in cases of sudden death (wherein the gastric juice, not having been weakened by disease, retains its activity), it has been known to eat a hole through the bowel which contains it(Note: Phil. Trans, vol. lxii. p. 447.). How nice is this discrimination of action, yet how necessary!
But to return to our hydraulics.
III. The gall-bladder is a very remarkable contrivance. It is the reservoir of a canal. It does not form the channel itself, i. e. the direct communication between the liver and the intestine, which is by another passage, viz. the ductus hepaticus, continued under the name of the ductus communis; but it lies adjacent to this channel, joining it by a duct of
its own, the ductus cysticus; by which structure it is enabled, as occasions may require, to add its contents to, and increase, the flow of bile into the duodenum. And the position of the gall-bladder is such as to apply this structure to the best advantage. In its natural situation, it touches the exterior surface of the stomach, and consequently is compressed by
the distension of that vessel: the effect of which compression is, to force out from the bag, and send into the duodenum, an extraordinary quantity of bile, to meet the extraordinary demand which the repletion of the stomach by food is about to occasion(Note: Keill's Anat. p. 64.). Cheselden describes(Note: Anat. p. 164.) the gall- bladder as seated against the duodenum, and thereby liable to have its fluid pressed out, by the passage of the aliment through that cavity: which likewise will have the effect of causing it to be received into the intestine, at a right time, and in a due proportion.
There may be other purposes answered by this contrivance; and it is probable that there are. The contents of the gall-bladder are not exactly of the same kind as what passes from the liver through the direct passage(Note: Keill (from Malpighius), p. 63.). It is possible that the gall may be changed, and for some purposes meliorated, by keeping.
The entrance of the gall-duct into the duodenum, furnishes another observation. Whenever, either smaller tubes are inserted into larger tubes, or tubes into vessels and cavities, such receiving-tubes, vessels, or cavities, being subject to muscular constriction,
always find a contrivance to prevent regurgitation. In some cases, valves are used; in other cases, amongst which is that now before us, a different expedient is resorted to; which may be thus described: The gall-duct enters the duodenum obliquely: after it has pierced the first coat, it runs near two fingers' breadth between the coats, before it open into the cavity of the intestine(Note: Keill's Anat. p. 62.). The same contrivance is used in another part, where there is exactly the same occasion for it, viz. in the insertion of the ureters in the bladder. These enter the bladder near its neck, running obliquely for the space of an inch between its coats.(Note: Ches. Anat. p. 260.) It is, in both cases, sufficiently evident, that this structure has a necessary mechanical tendency to resist regurgitation; for, whatever force acts in such a direction as to urge the fluid back into the orifices of the tubes, must, at the same time, stretch the coats of the vessels, and thereby compress that part of the tube, which is included between them.
- Amongst the vessels of the human body, the pipe which conveys the saliva from the place where it is made, to the place where it is wanted, deserves to be reckoned amongst the most intelligible pieces of mechanism
with which we are acquainted. The saliva, we all know, is used in the mouth: but much of it is produced on the outside of the cheek, by the parotid gland, which lies between the ear and the angle of the lower jaw. In order to carry the secreted juice to its destination, there is laid from the gland on the outside, a pipe, about the thickness of a wheat straw, and about three fingers' breadth in length; which after riding over the masseter muscle, bores for itself a hole through the very middle of the cheek; enters by that hole, which is a complete perforation of the buccinator muscle, into the mouth; and there discharges its fluid very copiously.
- Another exquisite structure, differing indeed from the four preceding instances in that it does not relate to the conveyance of fluids, but still belonging, like these, to the class of pipes or conduits of the body, is seen in the larynx. We all know that there go down the throat two pipes, one leading to the stomach, the other to the lungs; the one being the passage for the food, the other for the breath and voice: we know also that both these passages open into the bottom of the mouth; the gullet, necessarily, for the conveyance of food; and the wind-pipe, for speech and the modulation of sound, not
much less so: therefore the difficulty was, the passages being so contiguous, to prevent the food, especially the liquids which we swallow into the stomach, from entering the wind-pipe, i. e. the road to the lungs; the consequence of which error, when it does happen, is perceived by the convulsive throes that are instantly produced. This business, which is very nice, is managed in this manner. The gullet (the passage for food) opens into the mouth like the cone or upper part of a funnel, the capacity of which forms indeed the bottom of the mouth. Into the side of this funnel, at the part which lies the lowest, enters the wind-pipe, by a chink or slit, with a lid or flap, like a little tongue accurately fitted to the orifice. The solids or liquids which we swallow, pass over this lid or flap, as they descend by the funnel into the gullet. Both the weight of the food, and the action of the muscles concerned in swallowing, contribute to keep the lid close down upon the aperture, whilst any thing is passing; whereas, by means of its natural cartilaginous spring, it raises itself a little, as soon as the food is passed, thereby allowing a free inlet and outlet for the respiration of air by the lungs. Such is its structure: And we may here remark
the almost complete success of the expedient, viz. how seldom it fails of its purpose, compared with the number of instances in which it fulfils it. Reflect how frequently we swallow, how constantly we breathe. In a city-feast, for example, what deglutition, what anhelation! yet does this little cartilage, the epiglottis, so effectually interpose its office,
so securely guard the entrance of the wind-pipe, that whilst morsel after morsel, draught after draught, are coursing one another over it, an accident of a crumb or a drop slipping into this passage (which nevertheless must be opened for the breath every second of time), excites in the whole company, not only alarm by its danger, but surprise by its novelty. Not two guests are choked in a century.
There is no room for pretending that the action of the parts may have gradually formed the epiglottis: I do not mean in the same individual, but in a succession of generations. Not only the action of the parts has no such tendency, but the animal could not live, nor consequently the parts act, either without it, or with it in a half-formed state. The species was not to wait for the gradual formation or expansion of a part which was, from the first, necessary to the life of the individual.
Not only is the larynx curious, but the
whole wind-pipe possesses a structure adapted to its peculiar office. It is made up (as any one may perceive by putting his fingers to his throat) of stout cartilaginous ringlets, placed at small and equal distances from one another. Now this is not the case with any other of the numerous conduits of the body. The use of these cartilages is to keep the passage for the air constantly open; which they do mechanically. A pipe with soft membranous coats, liable to collapse and close when empty, would not have answered here; although this be the general vascular structure, and a structure which serves very well for those tubes which are kept in a state of perpetual distention by the fluid they enclose, or which afford a passage to solid and protruding substances.
Nevertheless (which is another particularity well worthy of notice), these rings are not complete, that is, are not cartilaginous and stiff all round; but their hinder part, which is contiguous to the gullet, is membranous and soft, easily yielding to the distentions of that organ occasioned by the descent of solid food. The same rings are also bevelled off at the upper and lower edges, the better to close upon one another, when the trachea is compressed or shortened.
The constitution of the trachea may sug gest likewise another reflection. The membrane which lines its inside, is, perhaps, the most sensible, irritable membrane of the body. It rejects the touch of a crumb of bread, or a drop of water, with a spasm which convulses the whole frame; yet, left to itself, and its proper office, the intromission of air alone, nothing can be so quiet. It does not even make itself felt; a man does not know that he has a trachea. This capacity of perceiving with such acuteness, this impatience of offence, yet perfect rest and ease when let alone, are properties, one would have thought, not likely to reside in the same subject. It is to the junction, however, of these almost inconsistent
qualities, in this, as well as in some other delicate parts of the body, that we owe our safety and our comfort;--our safety to their sensibility, our comfort to their repose.
The larynx, or rather the whole wind-pipe taken together (for the larynx is only the upper part of the wind-pipe), besides its other uses, is also a musical instrument, that is to say, it is mechanism expressly adapted to the modulation of sound; for it has been found upon trial that, by relaxing or tightening the tendinous bands at the extremity
of the wind-pipe, and blowing in at the other end, all the cries and notes might be produced of which the living animal was capable. It can be sounded, just as a pipe or flute is sounded.
Birds, says Bonnet, have, at the lower end of the wind-pipe, a conformation like the reed of a hautboy, for the modulation of their notes. A tuneful bird is a ventriloquist. The seat of the song is in the breast.
The use of the lungs in the system has been said to be obscure: one use however is plain, though, in some sense, external to the system, and that is, the formation, in conjunction with the larynx, of voice and speech. They are, to animal utterance, what the bellows are to the organ.
For the sake of method, we have considered animal bodies under three divisions; their bones, their muscles, and their vessels: and we have stated our observations upon these parts separately. But this is to diminish the strength of the argument. The wisdom of the Creator is seen, not in their separate but their collective action; in their mutual subserviency and dependence; in their contributing
together to one effect, and one use. It has been said, that a man cannot lift his hand to his head, without finding enough to convince him of the existence of a God. And it is well said; for he has only to reflect, familiar as this action is, and simple as it seems to be, how many things are requisite for the performing of it: how many things which we understand, to say nothing of many more, probably, which we do not; viz. first, a long, hard, strong cylinder, in order to give to the arm its firmness and tension; but which, being rigid, and, in its substance, inflexible, can only turn upon joints: secondly, therefore, joints for this purpose, one at the shoulder to raise the arm, another at the elbow to bend it: these joints continually fed with a soft mucilage to make the parts slip easily upon one another, and holden together by strong braces, to keep them in their position: then, thirdly, strings and wires, i. e.muscles and tendons, artificially inserted for the purpose of drawing the bones in the directions in which the joints allow them to move. Hitherto we seem to understand the mechanism pretty well; and, understanding
this, we possess enough for our conclusion: Nevertheless, we have hitherto only a machine standing still; a dead organization,--an
apparatus. To put the system in a state of activity; to set it at work; a further provision is necessary, viz. a communication with the brain by means of nerves. We know the existence of this communication, because we can see the communicating threads, and can trace them to the brain; its necessity we also know, because if the thread be cut, if the communication be intercepted, the muscle becomes paralytic: but beyond this, we know little; the organization being too minute and subtile for our inspection.
To what has been enumerated, as officiating in the single act of a man's raising his hand to his head, must be added likewise, all that is necessary, and all that contributes to the growth, nourishment, and sustentation of the limb, the repair of its waste, the preservation of its health: such as the circulation of the blood through every part of it; its lymphatics, exhalants, absorbents; its excretions and integuments. All these share in the result; join in the effect: and how all these, or any of them, come together without a designing, disposing intelligence, it is impossible to conceive.
OF THE ANIMAL STRUCTURE REGARDED AS A MASS
CONTEMPLATING an animal body in its collective capacity, we cannot forget to notice, what a number of instruments are brought together, and often within how small a compass. It is a cluster of contrivances. In a canary bird, for instance, and in the single ounce of matter which composes his body (but which seems to be all employed), we have instruments for eating, for digesting, for nourishment, for breathing, for generation, for running, for flying, for seeing, for hearing, for smelling; each appropriate,--each entirely different from all the rest.
The human, or indeed the animal frame, considered as a mass or assemblage, exhibits in its composition three properties, which have long struck my mind as indubitable evidences not only of design, but of a great deal of attention and accuracy in prosecuting the design.
- The first is, the exact correspondency of the two sides of the same animal; the right
hand answering to the left, leg to leg, eye to eye, one side of the countenance to the other; and with a precision, to imitate which in any tolerable degree forms one of the difficulties of statuary, and requires, on the part of the artist, a constant attention to this property of his work, distinct from every other.
It is the most difficult thing that can be to get a wig made even; yet how seldom is the face awry! And what care is taken that it should not be so, the anatomy of its bones demonstrates. The upper part of the face is composed of thirteen bones, six on each side, answering each to each, and the thirteenth, without a fellow, in the middle; the lower part of the face is in like manner composed of six bones, three on each side respectively corresponding, and the lower jaw in the centre. In building an arch, could more be done in order to make the curve true, i. e. the parts equi-distant from the middle, alike in figure and position?
The exact resemblance of the eyes, considering how compounded this organ is in its structure, how various and how delicate are the shades of colour with which its iris is tinged, how differently, as to effect upon appearance, the eye may be mounted in its socket, and how differently in different heads
eyes actually are set, is a property of animal bodies much to be admired. Of ten thousand eyes, I do not know that it would be possible to match one, except with its own fellow; or to distribute them into suitable pairs by any other selection than that which obtains.
This regularity of the animal struct re is rendered more remarkable by the three following considerations.--First, the limbs, separatelytaken, have not this correlation of parts, but the contrary of it. A knife drawn down the chine, cuts the human body into two parts, externally equal and alike; you cannot draw a straight line which will divide a hand, a foot, the leg, the thigh, the cheek, the eye, the ear, into two parts equal and alike. Those parts which are placed upon the middle or partition line of the body, or which traverse that line, as the nose, the tongue, the lips, may be so divided, or, more properly speaking, are double organs; but other parts cannot. This shows that the correspondency which we have been describing, does not arise by any necessity in the nature of the subject: for, if necessary, it would be universal; whereas it is observed only in the system or assemblage: it is not true of the separate parts; that is to say, it is found
where it conduces to beauty or utility; it is not found, where it would subsist at the expense of both. The two wings of a bird always correspond: the two sides of a feather frequently do not. In centipedes, millepedes, and that whole tribe of insects, no two legs on the same side are alike: yet there is the most exact parity between the legs opposite to one another.
- The next circumstance to be remarked, is, that, whilst the cavities of the body are so configurated, as externally to exhibit the most exact correspondency of the opposite sides, the contents of these cavities have no such correspondency. A line drawn down the middle of the breast, divides the thorax into two sides exactly similar; yet these two sides enclose very different contents. The heart lies on the left side; a lobe of the lungs on the right; balancing each other, neither in size nor shape. The same thing holds of the abdomen. The liver lies on the right side, without any similar viscus opposed to it on the left. The spleen indeed is situated over against the liver; but agreeing with the liver neither in bulk nor form. There is no equipollency between these. The stomach is a vessel, both irregular in its shape, and oblique in its position.
The foldings and doublings of the intestines do not present a parity of sides. Yet that symmetry which depends upon the correlation of the sides, is externally preserved throughout the whole trunk; and is the more remarkable in the lower parts of it, as the integuments are soft; and the shape, consequently, is not, as the thorax is by its ribs,
reduced by natural stays. It is evident, therefore, that the external proportion does not arise from any equality in the shape or pressure of the internal contents. What is it indeed but a correction of inequalities? an adjustment, by mutual compensation of anomalous forms into a regular congeries? the effect, in a word, of artful, and, if we might be permitted so to speak, of studied collocation?
- Similar also to this, is the third observation; that an internal inequality in the feeding vessels is so managed, as to produce no inequality in parts which were intended to correspond. The right arm answers accurately to the left, both in size and shape; but the arterial branches, which supply the two arms, do not go off from their trunk, in a pair, in the same manner, at the same place, or at the same angle. Under which want of similitude, it is very difficult to conceive how
the same quantity of blood should be pushed through each artery: yet the result is right; the two limbs, which are nourished by them, perceive no difference of supply, no effects of excess or deficiency.
Concerning the difference of manner, in which the subclavian and carotid arteries, upon the different sides of the body, separate themselves from the aörta, Cheselden seems to have thought, that the advantage which the left gain by going off at an angle much more acute than the right, is made up to the right by their going off together in one branch(Note: Ches. Anat. p. 184. ed. 7.). It is very possible that this may be the compensating contrivance: and if it be so, how curious, how hydrostatical!
- Another perfection of the animal mass is the package. I know nothing which is so surprising. Examine the contents of the trunk of any large animal. Take notice how soft, how tender, how intricate they are; how constantly in action, how necessary to life! Reflect upon the danger of any injury to their substance, any derangement of their position, any obstruction to their office. Observe the heart pumping at the centre, at the rate of eighty strokes in a minute: one set of pipes carrying the stream away from it, another set, bringing,
in its course, the fluid back to it again; the lungs performing their elaborate office, viz. distending and contracting their many thousand vesicles, by a reciprocation which cannot cease for a minute; the stomach exercising its powerful chymistry; the bowels silently propelling the changed aliment; collecting from it, as it proceeds, and transmitting to the blood an incessant supply of prepared and assimilated nourishment; that blood pursuing its course; the liver, the kidneys, the pancreas, the parotid, with many other known and distinguishable glands, drawing off from it, all the while, their proper secretions. These several operations, together with others more subtile but less capable of being
investigated, are going on within us, at one and the same time. Think of this; and then observe how the body itself, the case which holds this machinery, is rolled, and jolted, and tossed about, the mechanism remaining unhurt, and with very little molestation even of its nicest motions. Observe a rope-dancer, a tumbler, or a monkey; the sudden inversions and contortions which the internal parts sustain by the postures into which their bodies are thrown; or rather observe the shocks, which these parts, even in ordinary subjects, sometimes receive from falls and bruises, or by
abrupt jerks and twists, without sensible, or with soon-recovered damage. Observe this, and then reflect how firmly every part must be secured, how carefully surrounded, how well tied down and packed together.
This property of animal bodies has never, I think, been considered under a distinct head, or so fully as it deserves. I may be allowed therefore, in order to verify my observation concerning it, to set forth a short anatomical detail, though it oblige me to use more technical language than I should wish to introduce into a work of this kind.
- The heart (such care is taken of the centre of life) is placed between two soft lobes of the lungs; is tied to the mediastinum and to the pericardium; which pericardium is not only itself an exceedingly strong membrane, but adheres firmly to the duplicature of the mediastinum, and, by its point, to the middle tendon of the diaphragm. The heart is also sustained in its place by the great blood-vessels which issue from it(Note: Keill's Anat. p.
- ed. 3.).
- The lungs are tied to the sternum by the mediastinum, before; to the vertebræ by the pleura, behind. It seems indeed to be the very use of the mediastinum (which is a membrane that goes straight through the
middle of the thorax, from the breast to the back) to keep the contents of the thorax in their places; in particular to hinder one lobe of the lungs from incommoding another, or the parts of the lungs from pressing upon each other when we lie on one side(Note: Keill's Anat. p. 119, ed. 3.).
- The liver is fastened in the body by two ligaments; the first, which is large and strong, comes from the covering of the diaphragm, and penetrates the substance of the liver; the second is the umbilical vein, which, after birth, degenerates into a ligament. The first, which is the principal, fixes the liver in its situation, whilst the body holds an erect posture; the second prevents it from pressing upon the diaphragm when we lie down: and both together sling or suspend the liver when we lie upon our backs, so that it may not
compress or obstruct the ascending vena cava(Note: Ches. Anat. p. 162.), to which belongs the important office of returning the blood from the body to the heart.
- The bladder is tied to the navel by the urachus, transformed into a ligament: thus, what was a passage for urine to the f tus, becomes, after birth, a support or stay to the bladder. The peritonæum also keeps the viscera from confounding themselves with, or
pressing irregularly upon, the bladder: for the kidneys and bladder are contained in a distinct duplicature of that membrane, being thereby partitioned off from the other contents of the abdomen.
- The kidneys are lodged in a bed of fat.
- The pancreas, or sweetbread, is strongly tied to the peritonæum, which is the great wrapping sheet, that encloses all the bowels contained in the lower belly(Note: Keill's Anat. p. 57.).
- The spleen also is confined to its place by an adhesion to the peritonæum and diaphragm, and by a connexion with the omentum(Note: Ches. Anat. p. 167.). It is possible, in my opinion, that the spleen may be merely a stuffing, a soft cushion to fill up a vacancy or hollow, which, unless occupied, would leave the package loose and unsteady: for, supposing that it answers no other purpose than this, it must be vascular, and admit of a circulation through it, in order to be kept alive, or be a part of a living body.
- The omentum, epiplöon, or cawl, is an apron tucked up, or doubling upon itself, at its lowest part. The upper edge is tied to the bottom of the stomach, to the spleen, as hath already been observed, and to part of the duodenum. The reflected edge also, after
forming the doubling, comes up behind the front flap, and is tied to the colon and adjoining viscera(Note: Ches. Anat. p. 167.).
- The septa of the brain probably prevent one part of that organ from pressing with too great a weight upon another part. The processes of the dura mater divide the cavity of the skull, like so many inner partition walls, and thereby confine each hemisphere and lobe of the brain to the chamber which is assigned to it, without its being liable to rest upon, or intermix with, the neighbouring parts. The great art and caution of packing, is to prevent one thing hurting another. This, in the head, the chest, and the abdomen, of an animal body, is, amongst other methods, provided for by membranous partitions and wrappings, which keep the parts separate.
The above may serve as a short account of the manner, in which the principal viscera are sustained in their places. But of the provisions for this purpose, by far, in my opinion, the most curious, and where also such a provision was most wanted, is in the guts. It is pretty evident, that a long narrow tube (in man, about five times the length of the body) laid from side to side in folds upon one another, winding in oblique and circuitous directions,
composed also of a soft and yielding substance, must, without some extraordinary precaution for its safety, be continually displaced by the various, sudden, and abrupt motions of the body which contains it. I should expect that, if not bruised or wounded by every fall, or leap, or twist, it would be entangled, or be involved with itself; or, at the least, slipped and shaken out of the order in which it is disposed, and which order is necessary to be preserved for the carrying on of the important functions which it has to execute in the animal conomy. Let us see, therefore, how a danger so serious, and yet so natural to the length, narrowness, and tubular form of the part, is provided against. The expedient is admirable: and it is this. The intestinal canal, throughout its whole process, is knit to the edge of a broad fat membrane called the mesentery. It forms the margin of this mesentery, being stitched and fastened to it like the edging of a ruffle: being four times as long as the mesentery itself, it is what a sempstress would call, puckered or gathered on to it. This is the nature of the connexion of the gut with the mesentery; and being thus joined to, or rather made a part of the mesentery, it is folded and wrapped up together with it. Now the mesentery, having
a considerable dimension in breadth, being in its substance, withal, both thick and suety, is capable of a close and safe folding, in comparison of what the intestinal tube would admit of, if it had remained loose. The mesentery likewise not only keeps the intestinal canal in its proper place and position under all the turns and windings of its course, but sustains the numberless small vessels, the arteries, the veins, the lympheducts, and, above all, the lacteals, which lead from or to almost every point of its coats and cavity. This membrane, which appears to be the great support and security of the alimentary apparatus, is itself strongly tied to the first three vertebræ of the loins(Note: Keill's Anat. p. 45.).
III. A third general property of animal forms is beauty. I do not mean relative beauty, or that of one individual above another of the same species, or of one species compared with another species; but I mean, generally, the provision which is made in the body of almost every animal, to adapt its appearance to the perception of the animals with which it converses. In our own species, for example, only consider what the parts and materials are, of which the fairest body is composed; and no further observation will
be necessary to show, how well these things are wrapped up, so as to form a mass, which shall be capable of symmetry in its proportion, and of beauty in its aspect: how the bones are covered, the bowels concealed, the roughnesses of the muscle smoothed and softened; and how over the whole is drawn an integument, which converts the disgusting materials of a dissecting-room into an object of attraction to the sight, or one upon which it rests, at least, with ease and satisfaction. Much of this effect is to be attributed to the intervention of the cellular or adipose membrane, which lies immediately under the skin; is a kind of lining to it; is moist, soft, slippery, and compressible; every-where filling up the interstices of the muscles, and forming thereby their roundness and flowing line, as well as the evenness and polish of the whole surface.
All which seems to be a strong indication of design, and of a design studiously directed to this purpose. And it being once allowed, that such a purpose existed with respect to any of the productions of nature, we may refer, with a considerable degree of probability, other particulars to the same intention; such as the teints of flowers, the plumage of birds, the furs of beasts, the bright scales of fishes,
the painted wings of butterflies and beetles, the rich colours and spotted lustre of many tribes of insects.
There are parts also of animals ornamental, and the properties by which they are so, not subservient, that we know of, to any other purpose. The irides of most animals are very beautiful, without conducing at all, by their beauty, to the perfection of vision; and nature could in no part have employed her pencil to so much advantage, because no part presents itself so conspicuously to the observer, or communicates so great an effect to the whole aspect.
In plants, especially in the flowers of plants, the principle of beauty holds a still more considerable place in their composition; is still more confessed than in animals. Why, for one instance out of a thousand, does the corolla of the tulip, when advanced to its size and maturity, change its colour? The purposes, so far as we can see, of vegetable nutrition, might have been carried on as well by its continuing green. Or, if this could not be, consistently with the progress of vegetable life, why break into such a variety of colours? This is no proper effect of age, or of declension in the ascent of the sap; for that, like the autumnal teints, would have produced
one colour on one leaf, with marks of fading and withering. It seems a lame account to call it, as it has been called, a disease of the plant. Is it not more probable, that this property, which is independent, as it should seem, of the wants and utilities of the plant, was calculated for beauty, intended for display?
A ground, I know, of objection, has been taken against the whole topic of argument, namely, that there is no such thing as beauty at all; in other words, that whatever is useful and familiar, comes of course to be thought beautiful; and that things appear to be so, only by their alliance with these qualities. Our idea of beauty is capable of being in so great a degree modified by habit, by fashion, by the experience of advantage or pleasure, and by associations arising out of that experience, that a question has been made, whether it be not altogether generated by these causes, or would have any proper existence without them. It seems, however, a carrying of the conclusion too far, to deny the existence of the principle, viz. a native capacity of perceiving beauty, on account of an influence, or of varieties proceeding from that influence, to which it is subject, seeing that principles the most acknowledged, are
liable to be affected in the same manner. I should rather argue thus. The question respects objects of sight. Now every other sense hath its distinction of agreeable and disagreeable. Some tastes offend the palate, others gratify it. In brutes and insects, this distinction is stronger and more regular than in man. Every horse, ox, sheep, swine, when at liberty to choose, and when in a natural state, that is, when not vitiated by habits forced upon it, eats and rejects the same plants. Many insects which feed upon particular plants, will rather die than change their appropriate leaf. All this looks like a determination in the sense itself to particular tastes. In like manner, smells affect the nose with sensations pleasurable or disgusting. Some sounds, or compositions of sound, delight the ear; others torture it. Habit can do much in all these cases (and it is well for us that it can; for it is this power which reconciles us to many necessities): but has the distinction, in the mean time, of agreeable and disagreeable, no foundation in the sense itself? What is true of the other senses, is most probably true of the eye (the analogy is irresistible), viz. that there belongs to it an original constitution, fitted to receive pleasure from some impressions, and pain from others.
I do not however know, that the argument which alleges beauty as a final cause, rests upon this concession. We possess a sense of beauty, however we come by it. It in fact exists. Things are not indifferent to this sense; all objects do not suit it; many, which we see, are agreeable to it; many others disagreeable. It is certainly not the effect of habit upon the particular object, because the most agreeable objects are often the most rare;
many, which are very common, continue to be offensive. If they be made supportable by habit, it is all which habit can do; they never become agreeable. If this sense, therefore, be acquired, it is a result; the produce of numerous and complicated actions of external objects upon the senses, and of the mind upon its sensations. With this result, there must be a certain congruity to enable any particular object to please: and that congruity, we contend, is consulted in the aspect which is given to animal and vegetable bodies.
- The skin and covering of animals is that upon which their appearance chiefly depends, and it is that part which, perhaps, in all animals is most decorated, and most free from impurities. But were beauty, or agreeableness of aspect, entirely out of the question,
there is another purpose answered by this integument, and by the collocation of the parts of the body beneath it, which is of still greater importance; and that purpose is concealment. Were it possible to view through the skin the mechanism of our bodies, the sight would frighten us out of our wits. Durst we make a single movement,asks a lively French writer, or stir a step from the place we were in, if we saw our blood circulating, the tendons pulling, the lungs blowing, the humours filtrating, and all the incomprehensible assemblage of fibres, tubes, pumps, valves, currents, pivots, which sustain an existence at once so frail, and so presumptuous?
- Of animal bodies, considered as masses, there is another property, more curious than it is generally thought to be; which is the faculty of standing: and it is more remarkable in two-legged animals than in quadrupeds, and, most of all, as being the tallest, and resting upon the smallest base, in man. There is more, I think, in the matter than we are aware of. The statue of a man, placed loosely upon its pedestal, would not be secure of standing half an hour. You are obliged to fix its feet to the block by bolts and solder; or the first shake, the first gust
of wind, is sure to throw it down. Yet this statue shall express all the mechanical proportions of a living model. It is not therefore the mere figure, or merely placing the centre of gravity within the base, that is sufficient. Either the law of gravitation is suspended in favour of living substances, or something more is done for them, in order to enable them to uphold their posture. There is no reason whatever to doubt, but that their parts descend by gravitation in the same manner as those of dead matter. The gift therefore appears to me to consist in a faculty of perpetually shifting the centre of gravity, by a set of obscure, indeed, but of quick-balancing actions, so as to keep the line of direction, which is a line drawn from that centre to the ground, within its prescribed limits. Of these actions it may be observed, first, that they in part constitute what we call strength. The dead body drops down. The mere adjustment therefore of weight and pressure, which may be the same the moment after death as the moment before, does not
support the column. In cases also of extreme weakness, the patient cannot stand upright. Secondly, that these actions are only in a small degree voluntary. A man is seldom conscious of his voluntary powers in
keeping himself upon his legs. A child learning to walk is the greatest posture-master in the world: but art, if it may be so called, sinks into habit: and he is soon able to poise himself in a great variety of attitudes, without being sensible either of caution or effort. But still there must be an aptitude of parts, upon which habit can thus attach; a previous capacity of motions which the animal is thus taught to exercise: and the facility, with which this exercise is acquired, forms one object of our admiration. What parts are principally employed, or in what manner each contributes its office, is, as hath already been confessed, difficult to explain. Perhaps the obscure motion of the bones of the feet may have their share in this effect. They are put in action by every slip or vacillation of the body, and seem to assist in restoring its balance. Certain it is, that this circumstance in the structure of the foot, viz. its being composed of many small bones, applied to, and articulating with one another, by diversely shaped surfaces, instead of being made of one piece, like the last of a shoe, is very remarkable. I suppose also that it would be difficult to stand firmly upon stilts or wooden legs, though their base exactly imitated the figure and dimensions of the sole
of the foot. The alternation of the joints, the knee-joint bending backward, the hip-joint forward; the flexibility, in every direction, of the spine, especially in the loins and neck, appear to be of great moment in preserving the equilibrium of the body. With respect to this last circumstance, it is observable, that the vertebræ are so confined by ligaments as to allow no more slipping upon their bases, than what is just sufficient to break the shock which any violent motion may occasion to the body. A certain degree also of tension of the sinews appears to be essential to an erect posture; for it is by the loss of this, that the dead or paralytic body drops down. The whole is a wonderful result of combined powers, and of very complicated operations. Indeed, that standing is not so simple a business as we imagine it to be, is evident from the strange gesticulations of a drunken man, who has lost the government of the centre of gravity.
We have said that this property is the most worthy of observation in the humanbody: but a bird, resting upon its perch, or hopping upon a spray, affords no mean specimen of the same faculty. A chicken runs off as soon as it is hatched from the egg; yet a chicken, considered geometrically, and with
relation to its centre of gravity, its line of direction, and its equilibrium, is a very irregular solid. Is this gift, therefore, or instruction? May it not be said to be with great attention, that nature hath balanced the body upon its pivots?
I observe also in the same bird a piece of useful mechanism of this kind. In the trussing of a fowl, upon bending the legs and thighs up towards the body, the cook finds that the claws close of their own accord. Now let it be remembered, that this is the position of the limbs, in which the bird rests upon its perch. And in this position it sleeps in safety; for the claws do their office in keeping hold of the support, not by any exertion of voluntary power, which sleep might suspend, but by the traction of the tendons in consequence of the attitude which the legs and thighs take by the bird sitting down, and to which the mere weight of the body gives the force that is necessary.
- Regarding the human body as a mass; regarding the general conformations which obtain in it; regarding also particular parts in respect to those conformations; we shall be led to observe what I call interrupted analogies. The following are examples of what I mean by these terms; and I do not
know, how such critical deviations can, by any possible hypothesis, be accounted for without design.
- All the bones of the body are covered with a periosteum, except the teeth; where it ceases, and an enamel of ivory, which saws and files will hardly touch, comes into its place. No one can doubt of the use and propriety of this difference; of the analogybeing thus interrupted; of the rule, which belongs to the conformation of the bones, stopping where it does stop: for, had so exquisitely sensible a membrane as the periosteum, invested the teeth, as it invests every other bone of the body, their action, necessary exposure, and irritation, would have subjected the animal to continual pain. General as it is, it was not the sort of integument which suited the teeth; what they stood in need of, was a strong, hard, insensible, defensive coat: and exactly such a covering is given to them, in the ivory enamel which adheres to their surface.
- The scarf-skin, which clothes all the rest of the body, gives way, at the extremities of the toes and fingers, to nails. A man has only to look at his hand, to observe with what nicety and precision, that covering which extends over every other part, is here
superseded by a different substance, and a different texture. Now, if either the rule had been necessary, or the deviation from it accidental, this effect would not be seen. When I speak of the rule being necessary, I mean the formation of the skin upon the surface being produced by a set of causes constituted without design, and acting, as all ignorant causes must act, by a general operation. Were this the case, no account could be given of the operation being suspended at the fingers' ends, or on the back part of the fingers, and not on the fore part. On the other hand; if the deviation were accidental, an error, an anomalism; were it any thing else than settled by intention; we should meet with nails upon other parts of the body. They would be scattered over the surface, like warts or pimples.
- All the great cavities of the body are enclosed by membranes, except the skull. Why should not the brain be content with the same covering as that which serves for the other principal organs of the body? The heart, the lungs, the liver, the stomach, the bowels, have all soft integuments, and nothing else. The muscular coats are all soft and membranous. I can see a reason for this distinction in the final cause, but in no other.
The importance of the brain to life (which experience proves to be immediate), and the extreme tenderness of its substance, make a solid case more necessary for it, than for any other part: and such a case the hardness of the skull supplies. When the smallest portion of this natural casquet is lost, how carefully, yet how imperfectly is it replaced by a plate of metal! If an anatomist should say, that this bony protection is not confined to the brain, but is extended along the course of the spine, I answer, that he adds strength to the argument. If he remark, that the chest also is fortified by bones, I reply that I should have alleged this instance myself, if the ribs had not appeared subservient to the purpose of motion, as well as of defence. What distinguishes the skull from every other cavity is, that the bony covering completely surrounds its contents, and is calculated, not for motion, but solely for defence. Those hollows, likewise, and inequalities, which we observe in the inside of the skull, and which exactly fit the folds of the brain, answer the important design of keeping the substance of the brain steady, and of guarding it against concussions.