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utility, worth a bulky quarto of ingenious speculation, decorated with all the dazzling but evanescent splendours of a Darwin's intellect.
And we, while kings, and statesmen, and conquerors, attract the gaze and the acclamations of an admiring multitude, gladly turn aside from the passing pageant, to contemplate human excellence in its purer, though less splendid and imposing garb; and offer our feeble tribute of veneration to the man, who, after a long life honourably devoted to the culture of a beneficent art, shall descend to his grave (and far from that grave be the venerable Dr. Duncan yet removed), amid the lamentations of that science, and the benedictions and regret of that community, which he has so signally benefited and adorned.
Biographical Memoir of the late Henry Reeve, M. D. F. R. S. of
Norwich. [From the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, for April, 1815.]
It would be an act of injustice to the memory of our late estimable friend and colleague, were we to permit another number of this journal to appear, unaccompanied by some memorial of his talents and worth, some public testimony of our sincere and deep regret for his premature loss. In attempting to detail the incidents of his short but active life, we shall probably, indeed, incur the imputation of standing forward as the partial eulogists, rather than as the unbiassed biographers of our friend. But we know not how to avoid such an imputation, where simple description will be construed into eulogy. To review the career of those individuals, whose moral excellence and intellectual endowments have been conspicuous in every situation in which they were placed, tends to elevate our views of the human character; and the task, though melancholy, cannot be devoid of interest and improvement.
Henry Reeve was born, in the year 1780, at Hadleigh, in Suffolk, in the vicinity of which his father is in possession of considerable property. After having received the usual preliminary instruction, he was sent, at the age of nine, to a school of great reputation at Dedham, in Essex, under the care of Dr. Grimwood, where he entered for the first time upon the study of Latin. Possessing an excellent memory, and uniting great diligence with quickness of apprehension, he made an uniform and rapid progress in this new department of study, and out-stripped most of his contemporaries in his classical acquirements; nevertheless, though his acknowledged superiority necessarily raised him to the favour of the master, vet his affability and benevolence, so characteristic of his disposition in after-life, averted all envy, and secured him the esteem and attachment of his school-fellows. Many an exercise, indeed, was shown up by the indolent or less expert boys, which he had penned in addition to his own. Yet with these habits of industry, he united great activity in the ordinary exercises of school-boys, was distinguished as a cricket-player, and took the lead in some other active pursuits. On one occasion, especially, when an alarm reached the school.room, that a boy had fallen into the river, and was in danger of being drowned, Reeve was the first to reach the brink, and to plunge, at the hazard of his own life, to the rescue of his school-fellow. The confidence which his worthy preceptor placed in the steadiness and humanity of young Reeve, induced him to place under his immediate care an only child, of delicate habit, who was sent to Dedham, at a very early age, and who found a kind protector, as well as a tutor, in his new friend. The success with which Reeve cultivated classical literature, and especially the Latin language, was very considerable, for he subsequently wrote that language with fluency and elegance; of which his thesis, and especially his dedication to Mr. Martineau, affords abundant evidence; the point and neatness of the expression in the latter, as well as the sentiments which it contains, were, indeed, highly creditable to his taste and feeling. In addition to his love of the classics, he evinced, while at school, much of that disposition to the examination of natural objects, and to the pursuits of agriculture, which subsequently occupied his attention; and he was sometimes found by his school-fellows when at their play, employing himself in the dissection of a bird or a mouse.
This propensity to the investigation of nature, probably determined his choice of the medical profession; and, on quitting school in the year 1796, he was placed with Mr. Martineau, a surgeon of great ability and reputation, at Norwich. Under such a preceptor, who ever retained his warmest esteem and attachment, his assiduity, his zealous spirit of inquiry, and his facility in the acquisition of the objects of his pursuit, could not fail to procure for him a store of fundamental knowledge in his profession, which the earlier studies of the art rarely afford. Accordingly, after passing four years in circumstances thus favourable to his improvement, he went to the university of Edinburgh, in the autumn of 1800, much farther advanced in medical and surgical knowledge, and better prepared to profit by the course of academical studies, which he was about to commence, than the generality of students who repair thither. VOL. VI.
During the three years, which are required by the statutes of the university, to be dedicated to study by those who graduate there, he was assiduous in his attendance on the different lectures appertaining to his profession, and was led, by his general love of science, to extend his exertions in this way beyond the bounds prescribed by the university to the students of medicine. Thus, in his first year, he attended the valuable course on Natural Philosophy, delivered by professor Robinson; in his second, the interesting and eloquent course of professor Dugald Stewart, on the subject of Ethics; and, in his third year, he not only became a pupil of Dr. Barclay, for the sake of more minute anatomical research than the college then afforded, and of Mr. Allen, whose able and elegant course on the subject of Animal Economy was the select resort of the most ingenious and zealous among the students;—but he also attended, with great assiduity, the lectures of professor Coventry, on Agriculture and Rural Economy.
Within the pale of the college, no distinctions are conferred to stimulate industry or to reward merit. The individual who can barely struggle through the ordeal of his final examinations, and he who passes the most rigorous trial with facility, and with an exuberant display of knowledge, equally receive the common degree. Nevertheless, there are, annexed to the system of education at Edinburgh, sources of distinction, and therefore of emulation, not the less calculated to call forth the energies of the students, because they originate and exist exclusively among themselves. In the societies, at which the most respectable of the students meet weekly, for the discussion of scientific topics, the zeal and industry of the members are excited, not only by the prospect of reputation, in consequence of the display of extensive information and ingenuity in the debates, but by the hope of attaining the power and dignities of office, especially of the presidential chair, which are conferred annually on four of the most distinguished members, by their own free ballot. The value, which is attached to these truly honourable stations, may be estimated by the constant exhibition of the titles in the front of the inaugural dissertations. Mr. Reeve having joined the Royal Medical Society, entered at once into the discussions which were carrying on, displaying an intelligence and facility of elocution, unusual in so
young a member, and in one unaccustomed to speak in a public assembly. The modesty and mildness of his demeanour, his knowledge of the subject, and the flashes of humour with which he enlivened the gravity of debate, contributed also to obtain for him the early esteem of the members; and in the following year, the second only of his residence at Edinburgh, he was elected to a seat in the presidential chair,-an honour seldom obtained before the third year. He was also elected to the same honourable office, the following year, in a smaller society instituted for the investigation of natural history. His attachment to free discussion, induced him also to become a member of the “Speculative Society," established in the college for the cultivation of eloquence,-a society in which many of the rising ornaments of the senate and of the bar at that time exercised their early talents.
In June, 1803, he terminated his active and honourable career at Edinburgh, by taking the degree of doctor of physic; on which occasion he evinced his continued inclination to the study of natural phenomena, by selecting for the subject of his inaugural thesis, the nature and causes of the torpidity of hybernating animals. The title of his essay was “ Disputatio inaug. de Animalibus Hyeme Sopitis.” We have already alluded to the peculiar neatness of the Latinity, with which his facilities of composition in that language enabled him to clothe this dissertation; and to the good taste and honourable feeling exhibited in the dedication to his much esteemed preceptor, Mr. Martineau. Of the contents of this essay, as he subsequently republished it in another form, we shall have occasion to speak hereafter.
Having quitted Edinburgh, Dr. Reeve spent the greater part of the two ensuing winters and of the year 1804 in London, for the purpose of extending his professional knowledge, both by learning the opinions of different practitioners, in a new field of inquiry, and by multiplying his own observations among the multitude of maladies, which the various population, and the central attraction of the metropolis, necessarily bring under view. Here he became a diligent attendant on a large hospital, and also on some of the lectures delivered by eminent teachers. He was likewise admitted a member of the Medical Society of London, which holds its meetings in Bolt