Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/321

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TEMPERAMENTS.

has really the least to do with that subtile force called character is the one by which we chiefly recognize the man. This is the ensembled physique, the mental picture we have formed of the bodily man; it is only by long association that we come to speak of one by his mental traits, and can recall him to our minds, not by accidents of size, shape, complexion, but by the tone, manner, and quality, of the mental man. It is curious, however, to reflect that our chief means of mutual identity are the same as those by which we distinguish horse from horse, and dog from dog; and that such is the infinite variety in the merely physical development of men, that this is sufficient for the practical affairs of life. In fact, it is not within experience that two human beings ever existed who were so nearly alike that side by side they could not be distinguished.[1] But human individuality is separated from that of the brute by the refinement of a physical quality. This is called temperament. Although temperaments are purely of physical origin, yet their outlet is mainly found in the actions or the mental habits of the individual, and thus it is that temperaments, like charity, cover a multitude of sins. Even those who believe in the immateriality and separate entity of mind, do not hesitate to ascribe the fretfulness, fickleness, temper, and other mental shortcomings of their friends, to faults of temperament. This may in a measure be the result of habit, but I believe that there is about it the force of a truth that even the most spiritual of psychologists cannot escape. It exists as a physical medium, through which the mental life shines forth, tinged and refracted by its passage. The old word expresses it, humors of the body, a mythical, potent, and subtile fluid, mingling with the bodily substance, and rising, exhalation-like, into the brain, obscuring, revealing, exalting, and depressing the operations of the mind according as it is acting well or ill; as hypothetical as the interplanetary ether, yet as real as a fit of the blue devils. This was somewhat the old notion, and a well-fought battle-ground it was, over which the solidists and humoralists contended right gallantly. A standpoint upon a solid basis of fact is to this day wanting from which we may say they were wrong.

Many of these old fathers in medicine fairly reveled in the idea of temperaments. It contained just enough of the mysterious to spur on their wonder-loving minds. All there was of fact about it, however, they brought out, and all that we know about it they knew. We are to this day using their terms and classification, and have added nothing to them. It stands as a fact in physiology which we have inherited from the remotest boundary of historical medicine.

The four qualities of Hippocrates were believed to be the origin of the temperaments. In moisture and dryness, in heat and cold, not as conditions of existence but as entities in life, were found the mate-

  1. There are several remarkable cases of wonderfully close resemblance and mistaken identity on record, but none that stood the test indicated in the text.