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BY SAMUEL G. HOWE.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
It is a matter of custom and courtesy for a lecturer to introduce his subject by name to his audience, just as much as he would introduce a friend ; and I would gladly conform to the fashion, but I am in the condition of one who should be about to present a whole people, and as he could not repeat all their names, but would say, my friends, let me introduce to you the French nation, or the German people, so I, being unable to name over all the numerous individuals of my subject, and embarrassed by their importance and variety, can only say, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me present to you UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE.
As I have no claim to the high title of teacher, and am not well acquainted with the routine of common schools, I can have no hope of throwing any light upon the subject of special instruction ; but perhaps, by presenting a few points of the vast subject of language which may have escaped the notice of some of you, I may furnish a hint for a train of reflection in your minds, which may have useful results.
He would be presumptuous who should attempt to treat the subject of universal language, in a thorough and scientific manner, in a single volume; and surely one who has but an hour to speak upon it, will not be expected to be very methodical ; he may be allowed to skim lightly over the vast surface, and just to dip in here and there, as it it were with a swallow's wing, touching now and then a point, but leaving the great depth unexplored.
Man is eminently a social being ; there is no craving, no appetite of his nature stronger than that which impels him to interchange his feelings and his thoughts with his fellows. To gratify this primary impulse, nature provides him with the means of expressing upon his exterior what is passing within him,—of turning himself inside out as it were, which means are the use of signs, or the power of language.
Every human being has the innate disposition to exteriorise himself, (so to speak,] amounting not merely to a desire, but to an irresistible impulse, and he follows it not as a mean to an end, but without a distinct view to the end.
A living human being is necessarily a speaking being ; the infant speaks his wants in his cradle ; and though he be blind, he stretches out his arms and asks for what he never saw; though he be deaf, he utters cries, and uses language which he cannot himself hear.
Language then, came not of inspiration, it came not of invention ; but when God created man, His son, and heir to so much of His own nature, He gave him the tendency to use language ; He gave him even its rude elements, and endowed him with mental powers, by the right use of which he might improve and perfect them.
It is common and convenient, though not philosophical, to divide language into natural, and artificial or conventional.
Natural language is made up of those external signs of inward emotions, which are used by all and understood by all. The smile of benevolence, the scowl of anger, is understood by the infant, the savage, the native of every country, and even by the dumb animals; but the vocal sounds used to denote the feelings, are merely arbitrary ; we say benevolence, anger; the Frenchman says bontè, colerè ; the German says wohlwollen, erzeunen ; neither understands the other,—the infant and the dog cannot understand any one of them.
Natural language, strictly so called, is limited to those signs which are universally made and universally understood ; and it may be said to be common to men and animals. Most men, however, are so exclusive, so extremely careful to preserve the distinction of caste above all of God's other creatures, that they imagine some line must be drawn in every thing, which the latter cannot overstep ; and in regard to natural language, we may say, as a general rule, that the language of animals is confined to the expression of the emotions, and extends not to the intellect. An infant, a deaf mute, or a dog, understands the natural language of the emotions, as we express them in the countenance, but neither of them, without teaching, can understand a simple assertion or negation; the nod of the head for yes, the shake of the head for no, are unknown signs to them, because they are not natural, but arbitrary and conventional ones.
We may subdivide natural signs into active and passive ; active, as the sensible expression of emotions, passive as the insensible expression of the intellect upon the countenance.
Let us attend a little to that intimate and beautiful arrangement by which nature renders the soul of ran transparent to him who looks with the eye of knowledge; by which every feeling and every emotion is painted upon the exterior ; and by which, in course of time, the whole external man becomes as it were a locomotive monolith, covered all over with deeply graven inscriptions, which denote the character and the history of the mind within ; inscriptions which, like the hieroglyphics of an Egyptian mummy-case, are mysteries to the uninitiated, but clear as Roman capitals to those who have the key.
This key is a proper classification, division, and nomenclature of the mental faculties and emotions; and here let me pay my tribute of respect and gratitude to a study to which I owe, more than to any other, what little knowledge of myself, and what humble means of usefulness to others I may possess. I mean mental philosophy, as explained by phrenology ; not the mere doctrine of craniological organs, but the whole of that intimate and wonderful relation between the immaterial spirit and the material body, which makes the activity and power of the mind dependent upon the quality and condition of
the physical organization,—which modifies every mental manifestation, and makes the outer man to correspond with the inner. Let me heap coals of fire on the heads of those who may now be smiling in contempt at my weakness, by recommending them earnestly to study the division at least, and nomenclature of the mental faculties, as laid down by phrenologists, imperfect as it yet is, and, moreover, to teach it to their children and their pupils.
Let them, if they will, disregard the cranium and its contents, but let them impart to their pupils a general idea of that beautiful chart of the mind, which will give them a better knowledge of themselves, of their fellowmen, and of their relations to their Maker, and which will
prove a light to their paths and a lamp to their feet all their lives long.
Physiognomy is a natural language; but those who would learn to read must first know what the signs stand for. God has given to man a great variety of passions and emotions, and each one of these has its natural signs, by which is signified to the beholder the degree of rank and ascendancy wbich it holds. Solomon says, " A haughty person, a wicked man, walks with a froward mouth, he winks with his eyes, he speaks with his feet, he teaches with his fingers ;” and in Ecclesiastes we are told, “a man may be known by his looks, and one that has understanding when thou meetest him."
This language was not given in vain; it was meant to be read of men ; it forms part of the system of rewards and punishments, which nature attaches to the exercise of good or of bad emotions ; nor can it be suppressed, for although by much caution and cunning a man may conceal his real emotions, yet the skilful observer knows