« PreviousContinue »
of philosophic views, who have both seen themselves and recommended to others this course of procedure.*
Neither is the deficiency so absolute as M. Quetelet's expressions would lead us to suppose. So far at least as the statistics of disease are concerned, some material progress may be reported. Medical science, imperfect as it is, has at least succeeded to a certain extent in classifying diseases under more or less general heads and identifying them with sufficient distinctness to attribute to each something like its due share in contributing to the total annual mortality. This is a great step. It enables us at once to compare the prevalence of particular disorders (in that degree of intensity at least which leads to a fatal termination with that of other statistical elements or with meteorological registers, and so to work our way by sure though perhaps slow degrees from the detection of tendencies in some certain atmospheric conditions, food, habits, &c. to their production, up to a knowledge of their proximate or remote causes, and thus to devise measures of an administrative kind, not indeed for their cure in particular cases, but for their general mitigation and possible final extinction (as in the case of the sea scurvy): And doubtless much greater progress might be made in this direction, would medical practitioners agree (or were it made incumbent on them as a condition of their status) to forward classified returns of the cases under their treatment to some common sanitary centre,- the form of classification and nature of the entries to be prescribed on uniform and well considered principles, and the results authori
----- - - * The following striking passage occurs in Dr. Holland's • Medical • Notes and Reflections':-A very especial advantage has been the • application of numerical methods and averages to the history of
disease; thereby giving it the same progress and certainty which • belong to statistical inquiry on other subjects. Averages may in some sort be termed the mathematics of medical science. The principle is one singularly effectual in obviating the difficulties of evidence already noticed ; and the success with which it has been employed of late by many eminent observers affords assurance of the results that may hereafter be expected from this source. Through • medical statistics lies the most secure path into the philosophy of
medicine. The inquiries which so greatly distinguish M. Louis * as a pathologist may be noted as eminent examples of this method, ' which is now pursued with great success by many physicians in our country.'— On Medical Evidence, vol. i. p. 5.
The Dissertations of the late Sir Gilbert Blane abound with statistical statements well collected and ably reasoned on, to the attainment of most important results.
of the brother selve fetually the ring profe
tatively published at stated intervals. Publicity indeed is the sine quâ non of statistical science, and the grand condition of its useful application, not merely by reason of the openings thereby afforded for the detection of error and the exposure of unfairness of registry, but what is of infinitely more consequence, letting in the broad good sense of the thinking part of mankind on the subjects themselves abstractedly presented to them, — than which nothing so effectually tends to clear away professional prejudices and errors, and to bring professions themselves (as every profession ought to be brought, for its own sake as well as that of the public) under the watchful inspection of its laity.
The statistics of cure are necessarily more imperfect than those of disease. Excessive difficulties must lie in the way of tabulating the medical treatment of cases upon anything like uniform and intelligible principles of classification and registry, owing to the multitude of particulars to be embraced, the difficulty of recognising diseases in their earlier stages, the necessity of continually swerving from a uniform preconceived system of treatment in accommodation to age, sex, habits of life, and constitutional peculiarities — the absurd system of administering mixtures of mixtures of medicaments so as to render it next to impossible to say what quantities of the prima medicamenta have been really swallowed — and all the thousand and one causes which conspire to render medical practice tentative and uncertain, and the statements of its degree of success untrustworthy. Supposing these difficulties overcome, if not in all, yet in selected classes of disease; supposing every essential particular intelligibly registered, and the result candidly stated, it has still to be borne in mind that such registers must necessarily exclude all cases in which nature has been left to her own unaided resources, and nearly all in which the natural remedies of rest, regulated diet, ventilation, cleanliness, &c. may have been alone resorted to. It would require a physician of no common forbearance to abstain in fifty out of each hundred cases from the use of all active medicines and of no common candour and defiance of professional censure to declare that he had done so, and to put on record the failures of this line of treatment.
"To judge,' says M. Quetelet, of the advantages which therapeutics may present, we must commence by inquiring what would become of a man afflicted with such a malady if abandoned to the force of nature only. Perhaps we might be led to conclude that in doubtful and difficult cases it is better to give up the patient to the efforts of nature than to the remedies of art, confining ourselves to the use of a careful diet. Different kinds of treatment have less influence on mortality than is generally supposed. A respected and learned man, Dr. Haw
kins, thus expresses himself:-“A friend took private notes on the “ comparative mortality under three doctors in a hospital. The one “ was eclectic, the second pursued the expectant system, and the third " the tonic regimen. The mortality was the saine; but the duration “ of indisposition, the character of the convalescence, and the chances “ of relapse very different." Thus the mortality was the same. We might draw the same conclusions from the documents collected in the principal hospitals of Europe: the mortality varies between very narrow limits, and depends more on the general maintenance and supervision of the hospitals,' [de la tenue des hôpitaux,-most incorrectly translated on the principals of the hospitals'] “than on the therapeutic means employed. . .. . Did I not fear being taxed with exaggeration, I should say that a good administration saves more patients in hospitals than the science of the most skilful doctors. (Transl. p. 235.)
We have just had occasion to notice a serious mistranslation, throwing upon an individual the responsibility of the general success or failure of an establishment, contrary to the plain meaning of the passage in the original French, and we wish it bad been possible for us to conclude this article without further remark on the manner in which the translator of the work before us has executed his task. It is full of such misrenderings, which betray a palpable ignorance of the language of the original, issuing in expressions which are neither French, English, nor sense. Thus we have revoquer en doute' (to call in question) continually rendered by 'to revoke in doubt (p. 2. &c.); * exceptionnel (p. 18.) is rendered by exceptionable ; temps • affreux,' shocking weather (p. 23.), by «frightful times ;' mo
deste,' moderate (p. 28.), by modest;' parties,'(p. 34.), games, by parts ; ' • lunettes' (telescopes), by lunettes ;' hasardes' (precarious), .by . hazarded ; ' • siècles' (ages), by centuries,' the definite for the indefinite sense, -giving an almost puerile air to the passage in which it occurs: Our planet is but a 'very secondary body, a grain of dust lost in immensity, and
yet centuries have been required to bring it to the state in • which we now see it.' (P. 133.) In p. 147. we have the idiomatic phrase, “On aurait lieu de plaindre un pays' (a country would be to be pitied), perverted into, ' He would have
to complain of a country.' Again (p. 228.) we have all in• distinctly (indistinctement, indiscriminately) collect statistics, but • some confide their results to their memories, others to paper; some even collect them unwittingly, like M. Jourdain does
prose,' ( comme M. Jourdain faisait de la prose,')—as Moliere's M. Jourdain (with whom we should have thought every one at all conversant with the language must be familiar) used to make prose.
whicinal, issuanse. Threndere
• Who can affirm,' says the translator, that this principle' (the law of gravity) is not a particular case of a much more
general law, or that the results deduced from it are not values • sufficiently approximative, since the neglected quantities are ' not appreciable in the present state of science. M. Quetelet's expression is, 'ne sont pas des valeurs suffisamment approxima• tives pour que les quantités négligées ne soient pas apprétiables,' &c., (are not mere approximations, sufficiently such, however, that the quantities neglected shall be inappreciable, &c.) Obvious errors, and misprints too, in the original, are transferred uncorrected into the translation. Thus, in p. 81., we have the important and mischievous misprint-.01 instead of 0:1 twice repeated. M. Quetelet, with the usual laxity of a foreigner, is privileged to misspell our English names, but it does not become an English writer on Probabilities to acquiesce in the transformation of the honoured name of Stirling into Stierling. We must add, too, that the manner in which the French metrical system used in the original is converted into British equivalents in the translation is such as to interfere materially with a clear understanding of the purport. Thus, in the table of the limiting heights of giants, tall and short men, and dwarfs, in p. 103., the limits are given in the original to millimetres, while in the translation they are stated only to the nearest inch, and that in one instance erroneously. We notice these blemishes, not in the spirit of cavil, but in order that they may be removed in a subsequent edition.
The letters on the use of statistics to the administration and on the ulterior prospects of this branch of science, though they can hardly be said to contain anything very new or striking, yet come opportunely at a period like the present, when vast changes, both legislative and economical, are in progress, and when opportunities are lapsing of seizing in transitu results which will one day be most valuable for future comparison. Steam, railroads, and free-trade principles are making such inroads into all that used to be considered fixed or slowly alterable, that it will be of the utmost interest to have secured points of departure in the new career which opens on society. :
• Statists should be eager to register, from this time forward, all the facts which may assist in the study of this vast transformation in the social body, which is in process of accomplishment.
A government in modifying its laws, especially its financial laws, should collect with care documents necessary to prove, at a future state, whether the results obtained have answered their expectation. Laws are made and repealed with such precipitation that it is most frequently impossible to study their influence.'
These words deserve to be written in letters of gold. They point to an evil whose tendency is to degrade social policy from the list of sciences of observation and experiment to the rank of an empirical art. Avant nous le Cahos ! Après nous le Déluge ! should be the motto of that statecraft which, under a momentary sense of pressure from those whom even the uneasiness of change makes restless and impatient, urges on the social movement faster than a sound philosophy can count the revolutions of its mechanism or register the work accomplished; or of that which, by the sinultaneous alteration of every condition, makes the separate estimation of any single effect hopelessly impracticable.
ERRATUM. The Reader is requested to correct the following Erratum in our Article on the Kosmos of Baron von Humboldt, Ed. Rev. No, clxxv, p. 194. line 19. — For minute read hour. A very exaggerated impression is conveyed by the passage as it stands.
Art. II.- History of the Romans under the Empire. By the
Rev. CHARLES MERIVALE. 2 vols. London: 1850. W E have read these volumes with great pleasure, and we
close them with even greater expectation. They comprise the period that intervened between the establishment of the first Triumvirate and the death of Cæsar, and are the first instalment of a work which, from the specimen now afforded of it, promises to fill up a void in our historical literature. For, notwithstanding the prominence of the language and history of Rome as organs of education, although libraries have been written upon them, and proficiency in them is rewarded by college-prizes and fellowships, even although the University of Oxford enforces the reading of Cicero and discourages the reading of Burke, we have at present in our language no complete or satisfactory account of Rome and her institutions, - especially in their transition state. Mr. Merivale is indeed debarred, by several causes, from the advantage of novelty in his theme; but he compensates for the want of it by his original and comprehensive manner of dealing with this vast and varied subject.
We admit that much has been done to his hands. For centuries the scholar, the lawyer, and the statesman have laboured in this field. No armoury is better furnished, no trophies have been more sedulously cherishea, than those of the Roman worthies. From them the man of action and the man of speculation have alike derived their models of valour, policy, and philosophy. Three great schools of philology,- the Italian,