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Third Edition, enlarged.




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THESE Essays formed the earliest and the latest occupation of the lamented author's leisure hours; and they now appear under the disadvantages which must attend a posthumous publication.

It was the habit of the author, in his literary compositions, to sketch his first ideas as they arose; and parts of this work were found, evidently intended to be revised and corrected. They are faithfully added to the text of the last edition, where they bear upon the subject.

The following prefatory remarks are from the pen of the late Professor Bell,* to whom, in the warmth of brotherly affection, the second edition of the work had been inscribed.

The Essays which are now presented to the public in their enlarged form, were originally composed, as the

George Joseph Bell, Professor of the Law of Scotland in the University of Edinburgh. He died September 23, 1843.

author fondly said in his dedication, "when we studied together before the serious pursuits of life began;" but were not published till the year 1806, after the author had left Edinburgh and fixed his residence in London. A second edition appeared in 1824; but he resisted every call for a new impression, until he should have had an opportunity of verifying in Italy the principles of criticism in art, by the study of the works of the great masters in painting and sculpture.

With this view he visited the Continent in 1840; and on his return he recomposed the whole for a new edition, introducing occasional extracts from his journal, sometimes to enforce the text and sometimes to shew from what authority he drew his conclusions.

In a declining state of health he had taken advantage of a recess in his professorial duties in the University of Edinburgh to revisit his friends in England. He hoped in the leisure of the country to give this work a final revisal for the press; but before he had fulfilled his wishes in this respect, his life was terminated by an access of his illness at Hallow Park, in Worcestershire, on the 29th of April, 1842.

In the speculations of which this work is the result, and in the interesting inquiries to which they led, Sir Charles Bell was accustomed to seek relief from the wearing anxiety which, from his exquisite sensibility to human suffering, had ever attended the practice of his

profession: but a still greater effect was to follow. It was from these investigations that he was first led to make those discoveries in the system of the nerves, which are now acknowledged to be the most important contributions of modern times to the science of Physiology.

Before Sir Charles Bell's time, the nerves, which pervade every the minutest portion of our frame, seemed, in the studies of anatomists, a mass of inextricable confusion and a subject of hopeless obscurity; but he believed that in the works of the Creator there is nothing imperfect or unnecessarily complex, and that the solution of this apparent confusion was not beyond the reach of human inquiry. In tracing the causes of movements in the countenance and in the frame of the body under the influence of passion or emotion, he engaged in a very careful inquiry into the origin, course, and destination of the nerves; and consequent investigations led him to those fundamental truths, hitherto unperceived, by which he, and those who have followed his course, have revealed to the medical world the beautiful simplicity of this part of the animal economy. To the physiologist it will be particularly interesting to trace in this work the steps by which the author was led to the comprehension of that most intricate portion of the nervous system, the class of nerves which he has named respiratory; a subject so difficult, that it was long before his views were acknowledged by the medical profession.

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