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With Brains, Sir
by [?]

And what is genius? and what is sense? Genius is a peculiar native aptitude, or tendency, to any one calling or pursuit over all others. A man may have a genius for governing, for killing, or for curing the greatest number of men, and in the best possible manner: a man may have a genius for the fiddle, or his mission may be for the tight-rope, or the Jew’s harp; or it may be a natural turn for seeking, and finding, and teaching truth, and for doing the greatest possible good to mankind; or it may be a turn equally natural for seeking, and finding, and teaching a lie, and doing the maximum of mischief. It was as natural, as inevitable, for Wilkie to develop himself into a painter, and such a painter as we know him to have been, as it is for an acorn when planted to grow up into an oak, a specific quercus robur. But genius, and nothing else, is not enough, even for a painter; he must likewise have sense; and what is sense? Sense drives, or ought to drive, the coach; sense regulates, combines, restrains, commands, all the rest–even the genius; and sense implies exactness and soundness, power and promptitude of mind.

Then for the young doctor, he must have as his main, his master faculty, SENSE–Brains–{nous}, justness of mind, because his subject-matter is one in which principle works, rather than impulse, as in painting; the understanding has first to do with it, however much it is worthy of the full exercise of the feelings, and the affections. But all will not do, if GENIUS is not there,–a real turn for the profession. It may not be a liking for it–some of the best of its practitioners never really liked it, at least liked other things better; but there must be a fitness of faculty of body and mind for its full, constant, exact pursuit. This sense and this genius, such a special therapeutic gift, had Hippocrates, Sydenham, Pott, Pinel, John Hunter, Delpech, Dupuytren, Kellie, Cheyne, Baillie, and Abercrombie. We might, to pursue the subject, pick out painters who had much genius and little or no sense, and vice versa; and physicians and surgeons, who had sense without genius, and genius without sense, and some perhaps who had neither, and yet were noticeable, and, in their own sideways, useful men.

But our great object will be gained if we have given our young readers (and these remarks are addressed exclusively to students) any idea of what we mean, if we have made them think, and look inwards. The noble and sacred science you have entered on is large, difficult, and deep, beyond most others; it is every day becoming larger, deeper, and in many senses more difficult, more complicated and involved. It requires more than the average intellect, energy, attention, patience, and courage, and that singular but imperial quality, at once a gift and an acquirement, presence of mind–{anchinoia}, or nearness of the {nous}, as the subtle Greeks called it–than almost any other department of human thought and action, except perhaps that of ruling men. Therefore it is, that we hold it to be of paramount importance that the parents, teachers, and friends of youths intended for medicine, and above all, that those who examine them on their entering on their studies, should at least (we might safely go much farther) satisfy themselves as far as they can, that they are not below par in intelligence; they may be deficient and unapt, qua medici, and yet, if taken in time, may make excellent men in other useful and honorable callings.

But suppose we have got the requisite amount and specific kind of capacity, how are we to fill it with its means; how are we to make it effectual for its end? On this point we say nothing, except that the fear now-a-days, is rather that the mind gets too much of too many things, than too little or too few. But this means of turning knowledge to action, making it what Bacon meant when he said it was power, invigorating the thinking substance–giving tone, and you may call it muscle and nerve, blood and bone, to the mind–a firm gripe, and a keen and sure eye; that we think, is far too little considered or cared for at present, as if the mere act of filling in everything forever into a poor lad’s brain, would give him the ability to make anything of it, and above all, the power to appropriate the small portions of true nutriment, and reject the dregs.