Page images
PDF
EPUB

from arriving at the retina. It may seem strange that men with such grievous defects as these, even if they existed only in one eye, should offer themselves as recruits: but they probably did so with the vain hope that their maladies, escaping observation at first, would soon entitle them to their discharge and a pension.

(6) It seems even more strange that men bearing the marks of punishment should expose themselves to a repetition of it; but the burnt child does not always dread the fire.

The diseases feigned, again, are very numerous. "For weeks or months many men have, with surprising resolution, sat and walked with their body bent double: some have continued to irritate sores in the leg, until the case became so bad as to require amputation of the limb; and many instances have occurred, in military and naval hospitals, of factitious complaints ending fatally."

A state resembling continued fever is produced by swallowing small quantities of tobacco.. Mr. Hutchinson met with a case of feigned disease, where the tongue was covered with a coating of common brown soap; and Mr. Marshall saw a case at Fort Pitt, where the tongue was brown and dry; but the artist had made too abrupt a line of demarcation between the dry and the healthy parts, forgetting the gradual transitions of nature. Mr. Marshall did not discover the means employed to brown the tongue. Inflammation of the eyes is sometimes excited by the insertion of stimulants:' the imitation often transcends the prototype, and is so vigorous as to destroy the sight. The dilatation of the pupil, which generally characterizes amaurosis, can be produced by the extract of belladonna, or of hyoscyamus, applied to the skin round the eye.

Chronic disease of the liver is often pretended:—" A recruit, having become tired of a military life, wished to obtain his discharge; and, in furtherance of that end, pretended he had a severe pain in his left side, at the same time stating he had 'liver.' Seeming to believe that this disease was of a grave nature, the recruit was confined to bed, and accommodated in a ward by himself, lest his sleep might be disturbed by the conversation of his comrades. He was kept on very reduced diet, and a solution of antim. tart, alternately with the mistura diabolica,* regularly exhibited. Under this discipline he held out for a month, and then recovered rapidly. Some time after he confessed the fraud, and swore if it had not been for his stupidity in locating the pain in his left side, the imposition would never have been discovered. He was mistaken; the imposition was evident from the first."— Marshall, p. 114.

If our readers are not amused by the following case, they must be far graver than we hope ever to be:—" A soldier asserted that he had nearly lost all power over the inferior extremities, in consequence, as he stated, of a hurt received on the loins. Active means were employed; and as he was from the commencement suspected of being an impostor, the measures were long continued. The patience of the medical officer who attended him became exhausted, and he was eventually recommended to

* "This mixture consists of salts, infusion of tobacco, assafoetida, &c. &c.: it is commonly given in very small quantities at a time, but so frequently repeated as to keep the taste continually in the mouth.** be discharged. The day he was to receive his discharge, he crawled on crutches to the office where it was to be given him. Having obtained the document, he begged one of the officers of the establishment to read it to him, which he did twice. After satisfying himself that the discharge was properly made out, he first deliberately threw away one crutch, then another, and darted forward, overturning two men who happened to be before him, and finally disappeared, springing over a car with a water-cask on it, which stood in his way."—Marshall, p. 126.

Palpitation of the heart became epidemic among the men of the marine artillery in 1821 or 1822, and was found to be occasioned by the powder of white hellebore, which not only increased the action of the heart, but occasioned distressing head-ache, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes violent purging. The use of this poison was introduced by a man who had been servant to a veterinary surgeon. He would furnish his comrades with a dose of the drug for threepence; but if he told them its name, so as to enable them to buy it at a druggist's, his charge was 3«. 6</.

We are inclined to conclude this fragment on feigned diseases, which certainly savours of the ludicrous, with two serious reflections. The first is, that the eager wish to detect feigned diseases is apt to lead the practitioner to overlook real ones; and sick soldiers may be subjected to horrible punishments because their maladies have not sufficient breadth and relief to satisfy their surgeons. This

point is touched upon by Mr. Marshall. Another reflection remains, unsuited to an army surgeon, but to which a civilian may give utterance without blame: is there not something unsound in the constitution of the service when the detection of fraudulent attempts to quit it becomes a separate branch of the medical art, and the discontented are so numerous, that it is doubtful whether they are the ride or the exception?

[graphic][merged small]

XL THE VALLEY OF CHAMOUNI.

This picturesque and secluded valley commonly enjoys the reputation of having been undiscovered till a very recent period. Thus Mariana Starke says, in speaking of Chamouni:—" This town owes its existence to a convent of Benedictines, founded by a Count of Geneva, in 1099: but the valley in which it stands might probably have been unknown at the present period, if two English gentlemen, Mr. Wyndham and Mr. Pocock, had not, in the year 1741, discovered it, and given to modern Europe details respecting a place which even the natives of Geneva, though only eighteen leagues distant, had- never heard of." Mr. Sherwill, however, the author of a little pamphlet printed at Paris in 1832, and entitled "A Brief Historical Sketch of the Valley of Chamouni," disputes the truth of this and similar passages, which he quotes from other guide-books. He observes that Reichard has qualified his assertion by saying that Chamouni was not known to travellers before 1741, but even this is not correct. The first mention of this valley is found in a Latin deed, drawn up about 1090, by which Agmon, Count of Geneva, and his son Girold, grant the whole of the Campus Munitus (i. e. Chamouni) to the monks serving God and St. Michael. Mr. Sherwill thinks the word Chamouni is derived from Campus Munitus; to us the converse seems quite as probable. There is another document bearing the date of 1292, and containing a code of laws for the government of the Priory. "These laws were sent to the Abbot of St. Maurice, who, by a note

« PreviousContinue »