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MR. URBAN, We were lately presented in one of the public papers with a letter from Doctor Cirillo, Professor of Natural History in the University of Naples, to Doctor Watson, F. R. S. in which the learned Professor refutes the cominon opinion, that the bite of the Tarantula is only to be cured by music. I remember to have formerly read, with a good deal of surprise, the histories of several persons, said to be so cured, in the works of Baglivi, the celebrated Italian Physician, mentioned by the Professor; one of which, if I mistake not, (for I have not the author by me) is to the following purport. The person affected was seized immediately after the bite with a heavi. ness and stupor, and in a short time fell down in a state of insensibility. Upon this, some of the people about him procured the first musical instrument that was at hand, and played several tunes upon it for some time without effect; till at last they luckily hit upon one, which struck the man's fancy, and raised him upon his legs; when he instantly began dancing to it, and continued to do so till he sunk down quite covered with sweat, and overpowered with fatigue.He repeated the same exercise three or four days successively, with the same violence; by which means he at length got the better of the poison, and was restored to perfect health.
The account which Baglivi gives of the manner in which this very extraordinary remedy operates, is, if I remember right, something like this. He supposes, that the quick notion impressed by the impulse of the musical sounds on the air, and from thence communicated through the ear to the blood and animal spirits, gradually dissolves the coagulation which the poison had produced in them; so that by means of these repeated vibrations the humours recover their original state of Auidity, and now, circulating duly through the fine tubes of the vessels that were before obstructed, enable them to perform again their several functions. Thus the patient regains the use of sense and motion, is roused from his lethargy, springs up upon his feet, and continues to exercise them, till the great profusion of sweat, which the exercise occasions, eliminates out of the mass of blood all the remaining virulence of the poison. Now though Baglivi's reasoning, how ingenious soever, is ill-founded, as he was certainly imposed upon with regard to the facts on which it is built; yet it is equally certain, that this doctrine of the cure of disorders being effected by the powers of music, is no novel notion. We find it mentioned by Macrobius,
who, in enumerating the several virtues' ascribed to music, reckons this also among the rest : CORPORUM QUOQUE MORBIS MEDETUR. [ln Somn. Scip. lib. ii. cap. 3.] And Gellius had, before him, remarked the great efficacy of it in giving ease, particularly in the SCIATICA; adding, that Democritus speaks of it as a specific in most other diseases. Nay, he mentions a case perfectly similar to that under consideration, namely, the bite of the Viper; which he observes from Theophrastus, finds an effectual remedy in the skilful harmonious touches of the musician: and concludes with remarking,“ So intimate is the union between the bodies and the minds of men, and consequently between the disorders and the remedies, by which each is affected.”. [TANTA PRORSUS EST AFFINITAS CORPORIBUS HOMINUM MEN. TIBUSQUE, ET PROPTEREA QUOQUE VITIIS AUT MEDELIS ANIMORUM ET CORPORUM. Gell. Noct. Attic. lib. iv, cap. 13.]
I am, &c.
VIII. Dissertation on a Poison of the Ancients called Bull's Blood.
MR. URBAN, I WAS in great hopes of meeting with something, in Dr. Mead's book about the poisons of the ancients, on the Cicuta given to criminals at Athens,* the Bull's blood, &c. but I am disappointed, and I lament the disappointment, because I labour under some difficulty in regard to the Bull's blood.
Some have fancied that by Tavęs doua, or Bull's blood, some drug might be meant, just as at this day a certain
is called sanguis draconis, or dragon's blood; but that cannot be the case, since in some of the instances of persons dying by this means, express mention is made of their receiving the blood directly from the victim.
The persons recorded to have killed themselves by drinking Bull's blood, are Æson in Apollodori, Lib. I.c.9. s. 27. Midas, king of Phrygia, Strabo, Lib. I. Hannibal, Plutarch. in Flaminio; and Themistocles, according to various authors.
We are bound to understand those passages literally, for the reason given above; and the question is, whether Bull's
* Plato in Phædone.
blood be in fact a poison, that the drinking of it should bring on immediate death. I, for my part, apprehend not, and I support my opinion in this manner.
In the first place, it is pretended by Curcellæus, and other authors who think Christians are at this time bound to abstain from eating of blood, that one reason of the prohibition might be, because it is not wholesome. But there is no great force in this argument, since, as far as I can observe, those who eat blood in the moderate
that Christians do, are as long lived and as healthy as either Greeks or Jews that abstain. However, neither Čurcellæus, nor his friends, ever pretend that blood has any thing in it of the nature of poison.
2dly, I have heard it said of the Rapparees in Ireland, that it is an usual custom with them to bleed the black cattle there in the night time, and to carry off the blood for their use. No doubt but they take the blood from bulls, as well as the other cattle, cows and oxen; and yet we do not hear that this blood does them any harm.
To coine to facts, I do not find any instance of people's dying this way arongst the Romans, and as to those Greeks and Barbarians abovementioned, Æson and Midas, they lived in the fabulous ages, and we cannot, I am of opinion, build much upon what is delivered by authors concerning them. Thucydides was aware of the report, that Themistocles had killed himself by poison, λέγουσι δε τίνες και εκούσιον Papuaxw amo lapeñv avlor, quidam autem aiunt eum sponte etiam hausto veneno secessisse, and the Scholiast very rightly explains φαρμάκω by αιματο ταυρειω; but the author himself declares, that he died of some distemper, rochoas di TeAsutã Tòs Ciov, morbo autem correptus vita est defunctus, and in this, Thucydides is followed by Corn. Nepos, upon mature judgment; • De cujus [Themistoclis] morte multimodis apud plerosque scriptum est. Sed nos eundem potissimum Thucydidem autorein probamus, qui illum ait Magnesiæ morbo mortuum, neque negat fuisse famam, venenum sua sponte sumpsisse, &c.' Geb. hardus has detected, in his note on this place, the foundation of the report of his dying by drinking Bull's blood, namely, that it was owing to a mistaken passage in a play of Sophocles, cited by the Scholiast of Aristophanes, where the Scholiast himself remarks, that those authors err who interpret those lines of the death of Themistocles. The case of this great man, methinks, is clear enough, to wit, that he did not die by means of Bull's blood, and Cicero accordingly treats this matter as a mere fable, espoused by the Rhetoricians (see him in Brutus, c. xi.) As to Hannibal,
the case is yet more improbable; he is said to have carried poison about with him in a ring, in order to be ready whenever he should want it, and that he accordingly made of it in Bithynia. It is moreover recorded, that Prusias, King of Bithynia, invested the house Hannibal was in, by which means, though the Carthaginians had contrived several secret passages of escape, yet it was out of his power: judge then what opportunity he could have of making use of Bull's blood ? In short, the best authors reckon he died by direct poison. See Corn. Nepos in Hannibal, and the Amnotations.
Something has been said above in relation to the supposed unwholesomeness of blood; here I would remark, that to make Bull's blood deleterious, and to partake of the nature of poison, they suppose it must be fresh drawn. Taurinus quidam (sanguis] recens inter venena est. Plin. xxviji. 9. This is very strange, for, in reason, it must be most innocent when fresh drawn, since it is then most fluid, most florid, and the least grumous or coagulated; however, the suicides above drank it fresh drawn, and it produced instant death, as the authors believe, for pray observe the words of Val. Maximus, speaking of Themistocles, l. v. c. 6. Themistocles autem,
-instituto sacrificio, exceptum patera, tauri sanguinem hausit, et ante ipsam aram, quasi quædam pietatis clara victima, concidit. Surely it is very difficult to believe, that Bull's blood should occasion such immediate death. It is to me very plain it will not, for Pliny having observed, as above, that it is poison when new drawn, adds but not at Ægira, "ibi enim sacerdos terræ vaticinatura tauri sanguinem bibit priusquam in specum descendat :' but how ridiculous is it, that it should be a deadly poison, in one place, and not in another? Certainly, if it might be taken safely at Ægira, it might be every where.
It is pretended, that the noxious quality of Bull's blood is owing to its coagulating so soon and hardening, Taurorum (sanguis) celerrime coit atque durescit, ideo pestifer potu maxime.' Plin. xi. 38. But this is very inconsistent with what the author has delivered above, of its being most hurtful when first drawn, neither can I think it will coagulate and harden so soon in a human stomach, as to bring on immediate death, as is implied in these cases; however, Sir, I would recommend it to gentlemen, who have a good hand at making experiments, to try the effects of new drawn Bull's blood, which I apprehend may be easily done, by transfusing it into some living animals: this, I imagine, must be the shortest way of penetrating either into the malignant or
salutary qualities of it, and consequently of determining this question; since, from its effects on other animals, much may be inferred concerning its influence on the human frame.
P.S. It is not meant, by what is said above, to disparage Dr. Mead's book in the least, for it is an excellent performance; and I cannot but admire the author's magnanimity in altering his hypothesis, and making a public profession of his former error, in his last edition. In this, I think, he truly shews the great man. That envious creature, Dr. Middleton, who was always pecking at great men, and at Dr. Mead amongst the rest, was never capable of any thing so noble as this.
IX. On Promoting the Growth of Trees.
MR. URBAN, HAVING frequently observed that trees planted in a hard soil have been little bigger in their twentieth year, than others of the same kind, planted in a light soil, have been in their sixth, I conceived a desire that my countrymen should be informed of a successful method of treating such stinted trees, recommended by a man of great learning and ability in a neighbouring nation; and have accordingly sent you an extract of M. de Buffon's Memorial on the culture of forest trees, presented to the Royal Academy at Paris.
All soils may be reduced to two species; the clay, or hard, and the light, or sandy. In order to sow in a light soil, the ground must be ploughed; an operation which will be the more cheap and successful, in proportion as the soil is more light; and which is the only labour necessary,
for the acorns may be sown by a person following the plough. And as these soils are generally dry and hot, the weeds, which the following spring produces, must not be plucked up, because they retain a moisture and coolness, and guard the young oaks from the too intense heat of the sun; and in the autumn, when the weeds wither, they serve as straw to shelter from the cold of winter, and prevent the tender fibres of the root from freezing.---In sandy soils nothing more than this is requisite; for the roots of the young trees finding a soil light,