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How sweet were once thy prospects fresh and fair,
Of Addison, Dr. Johnson says, as a describer of life and manners he must be allowed to stand perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, as Steele observes, is peculiar to himself, is so happily diffused as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never outsteps the modesty of nature, nor raises merriment, nor wounds by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can be hardly said to invent: yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.
“As a teacher of wisdom he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious; he appears neither weakly credulous, nor wantonly sceptical; his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor impracticably rigid. All the enchantment of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shown sometimes as the phantom of a vision; sometimes appears half veiled in an allegory; sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy; and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason.
“His prose is the model of the middle style; on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not grovelling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. Addison never deviates from his track to snatch a grace; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendour. What he attempted, he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied amplitude nor affected brevity; his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison."
Perhaps it is not too much to say, that higher praise than this can be bestowed upon the writings of no man. Addison was doubly fortunate, in that his character was thought worthy almost of equal eulogy with his writings.
Who does not remember the exquisite couplet
“ He taught us how to live ; and, oh! too bigh
A price for knowledge ! taught us how to die"?
And, in another place, on the burial of Addison, hear the poet and the friend
“ Ne'er to these chambers, where the mighty rest,
Since their foundation came a nobler guest,
At BROMPTON, in this parish, Cromwell was said to have resided in an ancient mansion, called Hale House; but there is no reason to suppose that such was the fact : almost every parish around London has a Cromwell's house, and this among the rest.
Henry Cromwell resided in this house before he was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland. He married, at Kensington, a daughter of Sir Francis Russell, of Chippenham. The garden of Curtis, the botanist, was at Brompton.
The most distinguished and memorable inhabitant of Brompton was the great John Hunter. At Earl's Court, in this neighbourhood, he purchased a piece of ground, where he kept numbers of wild animals for the purposes of investigating their structure and functions, as well as for the facility of trying upon them such experiments as might, applied to the human subject, tend to the cure of disease or the alleviation of pain.
John Hunter was born July 14, 1728, at Long Calderwood in the county of Lanark. His father dying when the youth was about ten years old, his education was neglected, and he was suffered to spend his time unprofitably in rural amusements. One of his sisters having married a cabinet-maker, settled at Glasgow. John became his apprentice, but the failure of his brother-in-law prevented his continuance in that situation. It is not unlikely, however, that while in this humble employment he may have manufactured professors' chairs, utterly unconscious that he was himself one day to become the most distinguished occupant of that erudite furniture. The reputation his elder brother enjoyed in London as a lecturer and teacher
of anatomy about this time, inspired Hunter, now about twenty years of age, with a desire for more active employment; and having made a proposal to William to become his assistant, he was invited to take up his residence in the metropolis, where he was ere long destined to a bright career of fortune and fame. It is probable that the habits of manual dexterity he acquired in his mechanical may have had their beneficial influence even upon his scientific pursuits ; certain it is, that one of the earliest duties imposed upon him in the dissecting-room, that of preparing the muscles of an arm for his brother's demonstration in anatomy, was performed with such dexterity and skill, as to leave no doubt in the mind of Dr. William Hunter that he had secured in his brother an effective assistant. But in this humble condition, so disagreeable to an original mind, John Hunter was not long destined to continue. In the summer of 1749 he attended Mr. Cheselden, then surgeon to Chelsea Hospital, and laboured hard, under that excellent master, in the acquisition of the elementary principles and practice of his future profession. In the subsequent winter he almost altogether devoted himself to the office of demonstrating in anatomy to his brother's numerous pupils; Dr. William Hunter, at this time, finding so much of his leisure taken up with his professional avocations as to give to the brother an easy opportunity of perfecting himself as a lecturer. John Hunter, continuing his attendance at Chelsea in the summer of 1750, in the winter of that year became pupil at St. Bartholomew's, where he constantly attended the operations of surgery in that noble institution.
Conscious probably of some inferiority, real or imaginary, arising from the want of a university education, Hunter entered as a gentleman commoner at St. Mary Hall, but soon relinquished the idea of a regular academic course. He still continued to labour with unremitting assiduity at his professional studies, becoming a pupil at St. George's Hospital, where two years afterwards he was appointed house-surgeon.
The management of anatomical preparations was at this period very little known ; every preparation therefore, that was skilfully made, became an object of admiration. Many were wanting for the use of his lectures, and Dr. Hunter having himself an enthusiasm for the art, his brother had every advantage in the prosecution of that pursuit, towards which his own disposition pointed so strongly, and of which he left so noble a monument in his Museum of Comparative Anatomy. John Hunter pursued the study
of anatomy with an ardour and perseverance of which few examples can be found. By this close application for ten years, he made himself master of all that was already known, and struck out some additions to that knowledge. In comparative anatomy, which he cultivated with indefatigable industry, his grand object was examining various organisations formed for similar functions, to trace up as far as possible to the fountain-head the general principles of animal life.
By excessive attention to these pursuits, his health became so much impaired that he was threatened with consumptive symptoms, and being advised to go abroad, accepted the appointment of surgeon on the staff of the army, and accompanied the expedition to Belle Isle. In this service he acquired his knowledge of the nature and treatment of gun-shot wounds, which he afterwards embodied in his admirable Treatise on the Blood. On his return to London, to his emoluments for private practice, and his halfpay, he added those arising from teaching practical anatomy and operative surgery; and it was at this stage of his career that he became an inhabitant of Brompton.
In February 1767, Mr. Hunter was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society; and in order to make that situation as productive of knowledge as possible, he invited many persons to form a scientific meeting at a coffeehouse, for the purpose of philosophic discussion, and inquiry into discoveries and improvements.
Of this society, or club, Sir Joseph Banks and his friend Dr. Solander, Dr. Maskelyne the astronomer, Dr. Noothe the chymist, Sir George Schuckburgh, Sir Harry Englefield, Sir Charles Blagden, Mr. Ramsden, and Mr. Watt, were members.
In 1771 he married Miss Home, sister of Mr. afterwards Sir Everard Home, an individual who acquired an unenviable notoriety from the destruction of the unpublished MSS. of his friend, instructor, and relative.
As the family of Mr. Hunter increased, his practice and character advanced in proportion ; but the expense of his collection absorbed a very considerable part of the profits. The best rooms in his house were filled with his preparations; and his mornings, from sunrise to eight o'clock, were constantly employed in anatomical and philosophical pursuits. The volumes of the Philosophical Transactions bear testimony to his success in comparative anatomy, which was his favourite, and may be almost said to be his principal
pursuit. Where he met with natural appearances which could not be preserved in actual preparations, he employed able draughtsmen to represent them on paper, and for several years kept one in his family expressly for
In January 1776, he was appointed surgeon-extraordinary to his Majesty; in 1781, was elected into the Royal Society of Sciences and Belles-Lettres of Gottenburgh; and in 1783, into the Royal Society of Medicine, and the Royal Academy of Surgery at Paris. He was now at the height of his professional reputation as a surgeon, performing some operations with complete success which were thought by the profession to be beyond the reach of any surgical skill. The energy of this man's mind, and his capacity for corporeal as well as mental fatigue, are truly astonishing : recollecting that at this time he was engaged in a very extensive practice, was surgeon to St. George's Hospital, gave a long course of lectures in the winter, had a school of practical anatomy in his house, was continually engaged in experiments upon the animal economy, and was from time to time producing very important publications.
But it would appear that in Hunter's, as in many other instances, strength of mind was accompanied by strength of will, and that he could not only do great things well, but that he could do many great things in little time.
On the death of Mr. Adair, the professional honours of John Hunter were completed, by his appointment to the office of surgeon-general of the army.
The death of Mr. Hunter was sudden, the result of a spasmodic affection of the heart, to which he had now for several years been subject. Irritation of mind has been found by experience to produce that complaint; and in October 1793, meeting with some vexatious interference at St. George's Hospital, he constrained himself in giving expression to his feelings, and, choked with emotion, retired into another room : there, in turning round to a physician who was present, he fell and expired without a groan.
His portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and familiar to us in the well-known engraving by Sharpe, gives an accurate idea of his countenance, which is highly expressive of energy and intellect. His temper was warm and impatient; but his disposition was candid and free from reserve, even to a fault. He was superior to every kind of artifice, detested it in others, and in order to avoid it, expressed his exact sentiments sometimes too openly