« PreviousContinue »
Eating and drinking! These two little words comprise the whole practical philosophy of a very important subject of contemplationlife ; and I shall endeavour, in a brief and concise manner, to offer a few remarks on the best-that is, the most prudent-management of these important and interesting operations.
If I were to enumerate the number of volumes, which have been published on this very subject, I should speedily exhaust the space, which the Editor has allowed me, and, what is, perhaps, of more consequence-the patience of the good-natured reader; I will omit this matter, then, and come, at once, to my subject.
To eat is one thing—to eat properly is another; and as every movement of the animal machine depends upon this proper mode of eating, I will briefly explain what I mean by it. Gluttony is, of course, abominable, and entails more evils upon its silly victims, than they can be well aware of. I verily believe from the experience I have had in such matters, that an indulgence in eating, is quite as pernicious as an indulgence in drinking, and, perhaps, more so: why, I will forthwith endeavour to explain.
The human stomach is an organ, gifted with several very extraordinary peculiarities and powers. It is a membranous bag, shaped very like the pouch of a bag-pipe, and capable of containing a considerable quantity of food. Its inner lining is a very beautiful and inost Vascular coating-extremely sensitive, and particularly liable to the various impressions, which the food is capable of producing upon it. It is this inner “coat" or lining, which produces the peculiar digestive fluid, called the gastric juice, or rennet, and as this is produced by the stimulus or irritation of the swallowed food, it is very clear, that the quality, as well as the quantity of such food, is a matter of no trifling importance. Important, however, as all this is, a great deal more fuss has been made about it, than is
VOL. II. NO. X
either necessary or agreeable. Mr. Accum, the chemist, was one of the first writers that commenced this absurdity, and when he published his book, on the adulteration of food, garnished with that fearful motto “ There is death in the pot,” all the world was frightened at the communication, and regarded the most ordinary compound substances with extreme suspicion, not to say horror. They may, now, look--according to the dieturn of the learned, with an eye, equally distrustful and tremulous, upon the different kinds of meat and vegetables; for the cunning hand of chemistry will detect in them some properties-not, indeed, of sophistication, for dame Nature scorns such knavery-but, nevertheless, prejudicial—that is chemically prejudicial-to the human stomach. But, in all this close and rigid analization, one trifling fact has been entirely overlooked and abandoned ; namely, that the human stomach is neither a crucible nor a copper ;-neither a retort nor a furnace ;-neither, to speak learnedly, a vas leviter clausum, nor a balneum aquosum, nor a balneum arenæ, but simply and emphatically, as Dr. Hunter used to say a stomach gentlemen-a stomach !"
There is another circumstanice which the sagacious dieteticians have neglected to consider; they have placed nothing to the account of the habits and feelings-nor, even to the constitution of their readers. But this is wrong, and decidedły unjust. If the hypochondriac-Heaven help him !-cannot take food, without referring to some pseudo-popular work on diet, his situation is very similar to that of a helpless and puling child in leading strings, and his fears will be constantly excited by the peril of transgression. Truly, there hath been much nonsense thrust upon mankind, by these minatory denunciations against feeding; and our habits, feelings, and even, our most innocent inclinations have been exposed to the crucible, and denounced as perilous,
As eating has been so savagely anathematized, so, also, has drinking, and with the same bigotry, virulence, and indiscrimination. Of course, if taken to excess, fermented liquors, like any thing else, become prejudicial and pernicious: but it shews a sad lack of wisdom or candour to condemn the use of meat and drink, because their abuse is attended with ill effects. Why should we act and feel as if this " bountiful world, brilliant in beauty, and overflowing in blessings, was a collection of steel-traps and spring guns, set to catch the body and shoot the soul ?" Is it not much better and wiser to avail ourselves of the many blessings which Providence has placed within ởur reach, than to set ourselves to work, to detect poison in our meat, and Heaven knows what in our drink? It savours of learning, doubtless, to do all this, and of the “musty" air of the schools; but, cui bono?
“ Preach not to me your musty rules,
Ye drones, that mould in idle cell-
The senses always reason well.”
Of course they do, and our grandfathers and their lusty progenitors were well convinced, that a good cup of “Sherris sack” or muscadine, comforted the heart, and aided digestion; and why the same opinion should not influenceus, we nzust leave to the chemists to decide.
It has been too much the fashion to impute to an indulgence in eating, all sorts and manner of dangerous disorders. Gout, and bile, and apoplexy, and palsy, and Heaven knows what abominations besides, are often placed to the aocount :of over-feeding. When Gay, the poet, discovered that gluttony was the ultra-mortal of all the mortal sins, he was eating“ baked meats” at the Duke of Queensbury's table, it is to be presumed ;-—" pleno laudat jejunia ventre.” Or did he abuse the man, who was dining on the turtle and venison, which he could only scent along the afternoon air, as he wended his way to a cow-heel and a pint of porter in a St. Giles's cellar? Whatever was the poet's situation, what let us ask, are the diseases, which are termed “
of the human race," and which are produced by want of temperance and simplicity ?
There is a Doctor Pedro Snatehaway.at every corner, where a blue bottle blazes to the evening street, as well as in Warwick Lane --that was. . If we are to throw down the gauntlet, we must therefore challenge the three colleges of physic, surgery, and pharmacy, as well as the hermaphrodite, heteroclite race which brings us into this gluttonous world, to produce one disease which is caused by the neglect of a temperance and simplicity in diet.”. We will not give them even the gout or the apoplexy; unless they will show that all gluttons have gout or apoplexy, or both; and that gout and apoplexy never attack the temperate or the poor. The facts are all against them. There are more palsies aînong
than the rich, fifty fold. There are more diseases of all
kinds; and we will appeal to their hospitals and their experience. The scourging epidemic and contagious diseases scourge the poor to spare the rich; and the average of life is far in favor of those, who live best who eat most, if the College pleases. We may ask the College, what connection there is between intemperance and the most wide spread, the most devastatory, the most accursed of human plagues, the blackest of Pandora's store, marsh miasma ? Whence comes the cholera of India? Roast beef can be measured and weighed, but the yellow fever, the remittent, the intermittent, the dysentery, are the produce of that which is invisible, imponderable, inapprehensible, which strikes in a moment, wafted along the perfume of the tropical grove, as through the fogs of a Hollander's canal. And the Hollander knows, too, that if he does not eat and drink well, he will die. So does the West Indian.
We must ask, also, whether inflammation-inflammation of the lungs, pleurisy as the College calls it--arises from eating? If it does, why is it most common among soldiers, whose diet is most rigidly temperate; or why is it most. prevalent among the poor,
generally? And when it does attack and is to be oured, physicians, know very well, that it is most difficult of cure among the temperate and the water drinkers, and that these are the very patients who require most bleeding. We may say the same of all the inflammations. The noted ophthalmia is not a disease of intemperance. The class of contagious diseases is among the most deadly and wide acting, and no one needs be told that the whole of these are counteracted by good living, and not attracted by excess of good living.
May we ask whether the plague is one, or the typhus fever, or the yellow fever, or the scurvy, or the dysentery, or the endless diseases which thin the ranks of the poor in childhood, and by which their numbers are reduced to less than the half of what they might be, had they. the means of “gluttony and intemperance?". The population of England is increasing in a ratio which æconomists (political æconomists is the phrase) call fearful, because the people eat and drink more and better than they did, even fifty years ago. It has gradually increased with their increase of food with improved food; it was kept down by want of food-by bad food. The disorders, which we have glanced at, are the great “scourges of the human race;" and those, to which our own country was once as subject as others, have diminished or disappeared -by increase of food; among some other matters.
The people have eaten them out of date. The British navy and the British seamen have eaten out the scurvy. The starving highlanders have eaten themselves into a double population within less than a century. The “land of famine” has eaten itself out of that disorder, which the British Solomon thought too great a luxury for a subject; or, at least, that which was in the skin has settled itself in the mind. The first medical school in the world has even covered the angles of its cheek bones, eaten itself into novel writing, and spawned joint stock companies !
We may ask, also, what connection there is between consumption-that heavy scourge of the youth of Britain and intemperance? On the contrary, it is notorious, that tubercular consumption is often brought on by poverty and deficiency of food, as it is by the fashionable practice of bleeding. It is equally notorious, that scrofula, in all its horrible forms, is also thus excited, where its seeds might have otherwise remained dormant; that it is thus produced among the poor, in constitutions which would not have betrayed it among the rich; and that, in this disease, an improved diet is often the only cure. If the scrofula ever appears in the
* The “noted Opthalmia” it is true, is not "a disease of intemperance," but, with all due deference to our correspondent, we humbly opine, and, indeed, well know, that a disease, very much resembling Opthalmia, is not unfrequently produced by hard drinking. The most careless observer must know, that the eye is an organ, invariably more or less affected, hy drunkenness,--and no one knows this better, (or worse) than the drunkard himself. EDITOR.