[John Birkbeck Nevins, Consulting Physician to the Stanley Hospital, Liverpool, and anti-Darwinian.] Three autograph chapters presenting the teleological argument, with reference to meteorology, botany and surgery, with emendations and illustrations.

John Birkbeck Nevins (1818-1903), surgeon and zoologist, Consulting Physician to the Stanley Hospital, Liverpool [Charles Darwin; Darwinism; theory of evolution]
Publication details: 
No place or date. [Liverpool, post 1854.]
SKU: 15314

Nevins was a passionate opponent of Darwinism, and the present item, composed any time after 1854 (the latest date of the various works referred to in the text), reflects the crisis of faith in the period leading up to the publication of the 'Origin of Species'. Nevins would set out his position on 'Natural Selection, Sexual Selection, Evolution' in his 1872 inaugural address as President of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool (Proceedings, No. 26, 1872, pp.1-26), attacking the 'imperfect and one-sided view' put forward by 'the advocates of man's lowly origins'. That address concludes: 'And whether or not or corporeal frame bears marks of its lowly descent and its relationship to the other creatures of the Creator, we shall look forward, and shall rejoice in so doing, to something for ourselves, and for those who have gone before us, far brighter and far more tangible than the prospect contained in Darwin's words, [..,] words to my mind inexpressibly cheerless; words which destroy all hope of a future for ourselves, or for the generations gone before us; words which remove all stimulus to that which is good [...] and all check upon that which is evil, [...] words, lastly, which reduce ourselves to the level of only more highly advanced brute beasts'. (For further biographical information on Nevins see the end of this description.) The present item is an autograph manuscript, with extensive emendations, of 117pp., 4to. Comprising contents page and text paginated 459-575 (497 removed). On blue-grey paper watermarked 'PIRIE | 1853'. The manuscript contains 40 illustrations by Nevins, as figs.333-349 and 350-373 (fig.350 is extracted from a printed work), of which 23 are on separate pieces of paper laid down on the leaves, including several anatomical drawings in ink and colours. Each page on a recto, with 14 of the pages with notes on facing versos. The manuscript is apparently unpublished, and part of a larger work. It is heavily amended, with numerous deletions and interpolations. Six pieces of paper carrying autograph additions have been added at pp.498, 531 and 571, and three leaves from a late 12mo printing of John Ray's 'Wisdom of God' are sewn onto p.460. The contents page lists three sections, numbered 5 to 7. Section 5 is titled 'On the Evidences of the harmony of Creation derived from the Constitution & Laws of the Atmosphere', and discusses 'the Causes of Uniform Winds, Rains & Clouds, & the Chemical Constitution of the Air, & its influence upon the Growth of Plants', as well as 'the Law of Storms'. Section 6 is 'On the Evidence of the Unity of the Creation, derived from the harmony & mutual adaptation of the various parts of Creation'. Section 7 is 'On the Evidence of the Harmony of Creation derived from the provisions for the repair of injuries & diseases - and the existence of suffering and death', and covers the 'Repair of Fractures', and of 'dead Bones', 'injuries & diseases of Arteries', 'Abscess in the Liver', 'a mortified Limb', as well as the 'Benefits of Affliction & Death'. The title of another section, not present, is deleted at the end of the contents page: 'Section 8th. P.576 to 662 | On the Beneficence of the Creator in giving the Revelation to Christianity'. Of non-conformist stock, Nevins was related on his mother's side to the eminent surgeon George Nevins (1776-1841). After attending Guy's Hospital in London, he practised for a short time in his native Leeds and in Dublin, before serving as a ship's surgeon on a Hudson's Bay Company vessel. On his return he settled in Liverpool, where he lectured in botany and medicine at the School of Medicine, 1844-1868. He was also assistant-surgeon (and later surgeon) to the Eye and Ear Infirmary, 1853-1877, and was an active member of the Liverpool Institution. Nevins's experiences at sea no doubt inform the section of the text dealing with the 'Laws of the Atmosphere', his interest in zoology is apparent in the section on the 'harmony & mutual adaptation of the various parts of Creation', and his medical training forms the basis of the final section on 'the provisions for the repair of injuries & diseases'. Nevins claims that the first of the three sections provides 'abundant proof of the harmony which exists in the various parts of Creation', while 'in the concluding portion of our work we shall somewhat change our theme and instead of speaking of nature we shall speak of nature's God, and enquire what lesson concerning Him our researches into his works are calculated to teach us'. The first section (5) is designed to prove 'the order which exists even in what we are accustomed to think the very impersonation of confusion. We have observed also how in its tranquil waters the atmosphere brings warmth to our region of the world, and tempers the burning heat of another - how it raises the moisture from the ocean to be returned in the form of rain to the earth which needs it - how the properties with which it has been endowed cause it to rain in the neighbourhood of mountains, and how the descent of rain from elevated situations enables it to bring down with it supplies of nutrient for the plants upon the earth'. In the middle section (6) Nevins shows how 'intimately connected are the Animal & Vegetable Kingdoms, and how closely they are adapted to one another. How evidently the earth and the atmosphere have been framed with reference to them both: How the air and the water are most harmoniously constructed in relation to each other, and to the animals inhabiting the latter; and how in short there is no portion of Creation which is without its influence upon the rest, and none which can say to another "I have no need of thee"'. The final section (7) describes 'the wonderful provision for the repair of injuries to which animate beings are liable from the perishable nature of their very materials', finding 'the same harmony manifest in decay and death, which we have previously seen in health and vigour'. Clearly drawing on his own experience, Nevins writes in the final section: 'How often does it fall to the lot of the physician to see impatience and overbearing petulance yield at last to the chastening effects of lingering disease, and to find the sufferer at length considerate for others and grateful for attentions which at first he received as his due, and repaid with dissatisfaction and complaint?'