Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/816

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

told her his age. When she said "Sixty," he answered in the affrmative. Some months afterward he suddenly became paralyzed on the right side, and a few months later died from an attack of apoplexy. His brain was found extensively diseased in the white portion of the anterior lobe of the left hemisphere.

This case was purely and simply an impairment of external speech. On looking over the medical literature on the subject I have been unable to find as striking a case of impairment of internal speech, and this fact can be readily understood when we consider that a lesion necessary to produce this condition would be a destruction of the gray or cortical matter of the brain, and when this is injured the whole intellect becomes disjointed, as we see in the maniac, where the simple mechanical power of speech is perfect, but the incoherency and the wrong interpretation of external impressions are evident. I have said that these cases of the derangement of the faculties of internal speech are chiefly found in lunatic asylums. But, when I think, I remember to have met many mild cases outside of asylums, cases which can be best described by our Americanism of "talking too much with their mouth."

I have said the faculty of speech resides in the anterior lobes of the brain. But the evidence gleaned from pathology is convincing that the faculty is confined to a comparatively limited portion of the frontal lobe of the left cerebral hemisphere. This localization of a function to a single side of the brain is a curiously interesting fact. But when it is known that the left side of the brain presides over the motions and sensations of the right side of the body, it may be conceived that because we are right-handed we are left-minded. Why we are right-handed involves a discussion which would be beyond the limits of the present essay. But that the left side of the brain is almost always larger than the right is a well-known fact, and this asymmetry of the encephalon was prominently brought before the public during the Guiteau trial, with its prominent, ghastly rhombo-cephalic.

A curiously complicated and wonderful adaptation is this faculty of speech, sometimes bearing weighty loads of truth, at other times the veriest dregs of gorged society—words, windy words. The highest and best result of education is to form our ideas into words, to crystallize them into speech. We all feel that here we fail. Our thoughts well up and almost burst their limits, but faulty speech will not give the color and glow which the soul infuses into the thoughts. We can all say with the poet:

"Our whitest pearls we never find,

Our ripest fruit we never reach;
The flowering moments of the mind

Drop half their petals in our speech."