Page images

as a potato should contain within itself all the elements necessary to the composition of an eye, an ear, or a tooth! That this unheeded and unvalued root should be capable, within a few hours, of being changed, by commixture with the juices of the body, and by exposure to common air in the lungs, into blood ; and that from this single fluid, made out of this single potato, should be produced all those diversified and heterogeneous matters which make up the total of the body :-the brittle bones, the soft and pulpy brain, the hard and horny nails, the silky hair, the flesh, the fat, the skin, the bitter bile, the sweet milk, the salt perspiration—every thing, in fact, from the corn on my lord's toe, to the down on my lady's cheek-from the sweat on the brow of Labour, to the dew on the lip of Beauty! Does it not seem incredible that the ear which can take cognizance of the subtile impression of a ray of sound, appreciating with such accuracy the value of musical tones—that the eye wherewith the astronomer numbers the stars, taking in, at a glance, the half of heaven's whole orrery—nay, that the very brain wherewith he thinks, and calculates his problems, and his logarithms, and his equations—that the very brain itself of a Newton and a Shakspeare, should own no better or nobler source than that of a despised potato! And then to think that brain must die—must rot and be resolved into its parent earth! Yet this is but the simple truth ; and thus, like Ixion's, revolves for ever the wheel of all existence—round, and round, and round-in an eternal circle of successive changes.

I shall now take leave to call your attention to certain facts which necessarily result from what I have said; and of which I wish you to také especial note.

First, then, you will observe, in following the food from the mouth, through all its intermediate changes, until it has become blood, that almost all those intermediate changes are wrought upon it by the agency of the several fluids, juices, or secretions which it meets with in the mouth, stomach, and bowels; and that, consequently, its due conversion into healthy blood depends upon the healthy quality and abundant quantity of these secretions. But these secretions, like every thing else in the body, are formed out of the blood; and their quality and quantity will, consequently, depend upon the quantity of Fermilion blood wherewith the organs in which they are produced are supplied. And the quantity of blood with which these organs are furnished, must depend upon the vigour and activity of the heart and arteries whose office it is to convey it. Thus, then, it becomes clearly manifest that a vigorous circulation is absolutely necessary to the assimilation (vulgarly called digestion) of our food. Whatever causes and habits of life, therefore, are calculated to give strength and activity to the circulationas, for instance, exercise—is clearly of the first importance to the nutrition, and therefore to the health and strength of the body; and whatever causes and habits have a tendency to depress the energy of the circulation—to allow the blood to creep languidly through the body instead of dancing along its channels cheerily and energetically—as, for instance, laziness, which rides when it might walk-must, of necessity, have the direct effect of impairing assimilation, and therefore of enfeebling the strength and sapping the very foundations of health.

But the energy of the circulation must exclusively depend upon the energy of the heart and arteries ; and the energy of these, as has been already shown, must depend upon the energy of their contractility, and energetic contractility depends on an energetic circulation, and is incompatible with a high degree of sensibility. Hence it directly follows that whatever causes are calculated to increase sensibilityto make us tender, if you will tolerate a vulgar expression have an immediate and powerful effect in impeding the conversion of our food into blood, and therefore of impairing the process of nutrition. Hence arise the incalculable mischiefs of a daily indulgence in what are miscalled the comforts of life; but which are, in reality, most pernicious and unnatural luxuries. A few of these are tableindulgences, lounging on couches, warm, carpeted rooms, windowcurtains, bed-curtains, blazing fires, soft beds, wearing flannel, (I speak of the healthy, not of the sickly invalid,) novel reading, hot suppers, and, though last, by no means least, that precious humbug, called passive exercise—that is, lolling along at ease in a stuffed and cushioned carriage. Not that I would totally abolish any one of these, except perhaps hot suppers and soft beds; but that I wish, by proving to you their evil influences, to induce you to use them as sparingly as the conventual habits of society will permit. Though I confess, for my own part, I see no reason why any man should feel himself called upon to injure his health-to blur the beauty of God's noblest work—solely to gratify the capricious whim of that many-headed monster, called SOCIETY.

Again, the brain itself is the product of the blood--it is as literally and truly made of blood as the most beautiful china vase is made of clay. Hence the qualities of the brain—the mental energies as they are called—courage, the powers of abstract thinking, fortitude, patience, generosity, and above all, good-humour,* can only exist in conjunction with, and owe their very being to, a vigorous circulation. Hence it seems scarcely too much to say that thought itself is produced from the blood, since there can be no energy of thought without energy of brain, and no energy of brain without energy of circulation through that brain.

Thought is an act of the will. It is an act by which certain ideas are, to the exclusion of all others, summoned to present themselves to the mind's eye, that judgment may marshall them, compare, and newly combine them. Thus in solving a mathematical problem, the will suffers no ideas to intrude, saving only the necessary ones of lines, angles, &c.

But the will is one of the energies of the brain, and we have just seen that these energies can only fully exist in conjunction with a vigorous circulation. When the circulation, therefore, is languid, the Will will be languidly exerted—it will be unable either to command

* If you go in search of good-bumour, you must look to find it playing on the ruddy cheek, and laughing in the unclouded eye of athletic strength. The sensibility of the athlete is too ohtuse to be easily irritated. The skin of bis mind is thick, and causes capable of excoriating others, have only power to tickle the athlete.

the presence of the ideas required, or to expel those whose presence is troublesome, and tend only to perplex and interrupt the process of thought.

When a man, with such a brain, sits down to think, he finds that all sorts of ideas wholly irrelative to the subject on which he wishes to think, are perpetually thrusting themselves into his mind, “ against the stomach of his will,” and so excluding those which a feeble and irresolute will is vainly endeavouring to summon and retain. If he be reading a book he will find, every now and then, that though his eye has been tracing the words and lines, and his hand has been mechanically turning over the leaves—he will find, I say, that his mind has been wandering far away, and knows no more of what he has just been reading than the man in the moon. In a word, he has no power of abstract thoughtno power to fix his attention. This state of mind is called reverie.

Herein consists the difference between thought and imagination. Thought, as I said before, is an act of the will, and that act, to be efficient, requires a vigorous circulation. It is the office of the will to decide, as it were, as to what ideas shall be admitted into the brain, and what refused admittance. But imagination resembles a dream, in which the will is asleep. It is a condition of the brain in which all sorts of heterogeneous ideas, in despite of the will, come and go, in tumultuous disorder, without let or hindrance, as in a dream. In this state of the brain the contractility of its arterial tissue is feeble, and therefore the circulation through it is feeble, and therefore the will, which I have shown to depend on a strong circulation, is also feeble. In this state the brain may be likened to an ideal theatre, without either check-takers or money-takers, and with all its doors thrown open, at which doors a multitudinous throng of ideas, of all colours and costumes, collected from all the corners of the earth, and every domain of nature, are perpetually making their “exits and their entrances.” And as the little pieces of coloured glass in a kaleidoscope will often arrange themselves into figures more beautiful than any art can emulate, so on the stage of this imaginary theatre, parties of these ideas will frequently frolic and gambol themselves into groups more grotesque, more picturesquely beautiful, than any effort of thought and judgment can accomplish.

Energy of will, therefore—firmness of purpose--the power of abstract thinking and reasoning--are all incompatible with a lively imagination; because the three former require an energetic circulation, while the last depends on a circulation of a contrary character.

There can be little doubt, I think, that insanity has its cause in some injury to the vigour of the circulation through some part of the brain.

That the doubts, and fears, and anxieties of the lover, have a depressing effect on the circulation, is a fact long since established. The pensive dreamy sadness, the absent mind, the fondness for solitude, the long-drawn, impassioned sigh, so characteristic of love, is equally characteristic of languid circulation.

The same condition exists in the poet; and the mental characters of all three will be found to possess no small similarity. So great, indeed, is this resemblance, that those who begin by being poets or lovers, not unfrequently end by becoming madmen. They are all three (generally) weak, wavering, wayward beings, incapable of abstracting their minds at pleasure, unable to control their thoughts, and it may almost be said of all three alike, that they have scarcely any will or purpose of their own. Hence,

“ The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,

Are of imagination all compact;" and hence, it is true, that the poet does not sit down to think what he shall write, but to write what he shall think. But the word “think,” in the last instance, is improperly used; he sits down in order to describe the ideas which his mind's eye beholds dancing in antic and ever-varying groups on the stage of his own brain's theatre—to

“ Body forth
The forms of things unknown;
Turn them to shapes, and give to airy nothings

A local habitation and a name.”
Hence, too, every true lover is a poet, and every true poet a lover.

Finally, my dear John, you will observe that every thing connected with life-all the actions, the energies, and beauties of the body : all the actione, energies, and beauties of the mind, as well as the body and mind themselves, are under the dominion of the circulation of the blood, from which both mind and body must inevitably derive each its tone and character. So that “ the body and the mind are like a jerkin and a jerkin's lining-rumple the one and you rumple the other."

I have now described to you as much of the structure of the body and its functions, as I conceive to be necessary, in order to enable you to understand what I have presently to say on the subject of diet and regimen. And you must now know quite enough to be heartily convinced of the unmitigated folly of those persons who, without knowing any thing of the structure of living parts, or of their actions, or of those delicate springs, contractility and sensibility, which originate and sustain those actions— who, I say, being as ignorant as idiotism of all that concerns the nature of life and living things, are nevertheless perpetually tinkering their stomachs with quack remedies ; thus stupidly presuming to mend a machine, of the very nature, and structure, and actions of which, they are as uninformed as infant Hottentots.

The health of the body depends upon the healthy performance of the nutritive actions, and disease consists in the unhealthy performance of these actions, or of one or more of them. Medicines, therefore, with a very few exceptions, such as those which seem to cure by chemically combining with and neutralizing the poison in the system which produced the disorder--medicines, with these few exceptions, have no power over disease excepting as they have the power of increasing or diminishing the activity of the nutritive actions, absorption, secretion, circulation, &c.

The ques

When a man examines his patient, the question with him is not, Has he got a fever? or this, that, or the other disease ? tion is, Which of the living actions is going wrong? And how is it going wrong? Is it going too fast or too slow ? The patient has, perhaps, a foul tongue, a dry skin, a quick pulse. But these are not the disease; these are the symptoms—the outward signs of the disorder within. He has nothing to do with these, except as signs by which he ascertains the cause producing them. The question, therefore, is not what is good for a foul tongue, a hot skin, and a quick pulse, but what medicine possesses the power of controlling that particular living action, a disturbance in which has produced, in this particular instance, the symptoms in question. I say, in this particular instance, because, in others, the same symptoms will be produced by a disturbance in a different living action. The same symptoms, therefore, frequently require different treatment, because the cause of those symptoms is different, although the symptoms themselves are the same. I will give you a familiar instance.

One man has a foul tongue, a quick pulse, and a dry skin, produced by inflammation of one of the membranes of his brain. He therefore requires leeches to his head. Another man has the same symptoms from inflammation of the mucous membrane of the bowels. He requires leeches too—but not to the head, but to the abdomen! Again, if a medical man finds his patient in pain, he does not forthwith run home for a dose ot' opium, because opium has the power sometimes of relieving pain. But he first ascertains which of the vital actions, being disturbed, is producing that pain. If it arise from spasm, opium may be of service; but if it arise from inflammation, opium will do harm instead of good. If it were only necessary to attend to symptoms, and not to the cause of those symptoms, then the proper remedy for a foul tongue would be a scraper. One man has headache from inflammation of the brain, another from flatulence of the stomach. Brandy will cure the one and kill the other.

Again, cough may be produced by tubercles in the lungs, by inflammation of their mucous membrane, by inflammation of their coverings, by inflammation of their parenchymatous substance, by disease of the heart, by disease of the liver, by an accumulation of water in the chest, of matter in the chest, &c. &c.

I will tell you what happens every day. One of the faculty of ninnies gets a cough, and meeting with another of the same faculty, he is assured that so, or so, or so, is a “fine thing for a cough." The “fine thing for a cough” is straightway procured. Shortly he has occasion to call on his tailor, and his tailor incontinently recommends him another “fine thing." The following week his tinker brings home a mended sauce-pan; and then the tinker's “ fine thing" must have a trial also. Then comes the butcher, and the baker, and the tallow-chandler, and the knife-grinder, each armed at all points with “the finest thing in the world for a cough.” But somehow or other the cough still goes on, ugh, ugh, ugh, barking away as before. Having frittered away a month or two in these follies, he then does just what he should have done at first-he walks June 1836.–VOL. XVI.--NO. LXII.


« PreviousContinue »