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These considerations show sufficiently how pain may be produced in the system independent of the ingesta. They evince further that the production of pain or uneasiness may form no solid objection against the propriety of the regimen recommended in chronic disease; on the contrary, it may be an evidence of its beneficial influence.
I have heard it said that the only advantage of vegetable diet is, that by it excess is avoided, and that it is excess which is alone injurious; and excess of animal food is acknowledged to be more so than of vegetable. I answer, that the different effects of excess, according to the kind of matter employed, show an essential difference in the operation of these matters upon the body. Excess of vegetable matter produces only simple distension; excess of animal matter, an insuperable loathing and disgust; sometimes horrible nausea and serious illness. These matters then are essentially different, when first applied to the body. They are different, also, in their operation upon all the functions. But of this enough has been said already.
I cannot but think that the ancients, whether physicians or philosophers, who certainly understood much less of drugs than the moderns, had, to balance it, a far more correct knowledge of the influence of food upon the health, the morals, and the intellect. Socrates, Plato, Zeno, Epicurus, and others of the masters of ancient wisdom, adhered to the Pythagorean diet, and are known to have arrived at old age with the enjoyment of uninterrupted health. Celsus asserts, that “the bodies which are filled in the manner of the athlete (that is, with much animal food), become the most quickly old and diseased." To the same purpose the poet writes
“Immodicis brevis est ætas et rara senectus.”—Martial.
The doctrine of Galen is, that "food which affords the most nutriment to the body, taken in excess, generates cold diseases." It was proverbial, that the ancient athletæ were the most stupid of men. The cynic Diogenes, being asked what was the cause of this stupidity, is reported to have answered, “because they are wholly formed of the flesh of swine and oxen.” Theophrastus says, that “ abstinence restores the use of reason ; because eating much, and feeding upon flesh destroys it, and makes the mind more dull, and drives it to the very extremity of madness.” In these passages, we find the general doctrine very clearly indicated, that animal food diminishes the
sensibility of the system, predisposes to diseases, and abridges
If the sensibility of the nervous system is impaired, it must follow that every function which depends upon the protection and integrity of this system, must be impaired or deranged likewise. It is impossible, therefore, to suppose that the intellectual functions, depending immediately upon the brain, can be performed with proper freedom and clearness by persons habitually using a gross diet. In conformity to which, it has been always remarked that the southern nations, who live mostly upon light food, are more lively and spiritual than the northern, whose habits are opposite. We may observe this even in countries nearly under the same latitude, but where the habits of life are considerably different; as when we compare the English with the French, or even with the Irish.
The instruments of the will are subject to the same influence. When the nervous power is perfect, the muscular power will be perfect likewise ; when it is oppressed and benumbed, we may expect diminished muscular power, less agility, slower movements. Sir George Mackenzie observed this strongly characterized in the natives of Iceland, to whom the supply of vegetable food is more scanty than in any other European country, Lapland, perhaps, excepted. His account is in these words: “ Our servants professed to be well acquainted with the country we wished to examine, and being young and stout, we flattered ourselves we should have little occasion to reproach them with laziness; but we soon found that, like all other countrymen, they were systematically slow in their movements; and that every attempt, either in the way of entreaty or of threat, to make them alert, was quite fruitless. Every one who undertakes to travel in Iceland, must resolve to submit with patience to the tardiness of his attendants.”
When it is said that the use of animal food “drives the mind to the very extremity of madness,” it must be understood with the same limitations as must be applied to all other constitutional diseases, that it does this in those predisposed to the disease. This predisposition is an original peculiarity of constitution; its essence escapes the senses, but its existence is matter of daily experience. It is equally matter of experience that animal food aggravates the disease. I shall cite in proof of this the testimony of Dr. Hallaran, whose opportunities of observation have been ample, he having been physician to the Lunatic Asylum of Cork, from the year 1789. It contains important information on more points than one. He says:
" it may be necessary to premise, that the unfortunate persons í allude to are, with very few exceptions, composed of the indigent and friendless idiots and insane of the county and city of Cork. It therefore has been wisely resolved that their common diet shall consist of the farinaceous fare to which, from former habits, they have been more accustomed.
“It has been on many occasions a source of satisfaction to me, and to the governors at large, to find, in compliance with the necessary economy inseparable with the existence of so large an institution, that this simple faré has not only been proved fully competent to the comfortable maintenance of the great majority of persons confined there, but also on a dietetic principle more immediately suited to the prevention of those inconveniences for which aperient medicines must otherwise be in more frequent demand. There are some, it is true, whose previous habits of living render a diet of this description rather unpalatable, and among those may be ranked the incorrigible drunkard, whose excesses so often reduce him to this level, and to the necessity of accepting as the only indulgence the beverage of all others the most likely to correct his depraved appetites, and to restore him to an inclination for the natural food of man. Daily observation shows that these unhappy people, after having forced Nature from her fastnesses, will still, by being obliged to submit to a strict observance of this opposite mode of living, regain their former cheerful aspect, and even from its salutary consequence gave evident proofs of returning intellect.
“ There are certain seasons of the year,” he proceeds, “when the humanity of the governors disposes them to extend to the poor people at the asylum a participation in the general festivity, and from the prevalence of established custom, I allow of it, as freely as circumstances do prudently admit, so far as a few generous meals of animal food. The consequences on those occasions have been uniformly the same, and so correctly anticipated are they, that the strictest precautions are invariably adopted to provide against the scene of uproar which is sure to follow. The sudden and unusual stimulus of animal food may, therefore, very fully account for this disposition to riot ; it might be inferred that, had the indulgence been more frequently permitted, such an effect would not have been so very very remarkable. This may in part apply; but the fact is a sufficient evidence that animal food tends strongly to the aggravation of insanity. It. also affords an additional argument in favor of a farinaceous diet, in preference to the admittance of animal matter, so long as there remains a prevalence of those appearances which denote the insane orgasm. It also can be ascertained that, on the first establishment of the institution, when the number within its walls was far inferior to the present, and when of course the funds were more competent, and the regular allowance of animal food stood for once a week, that then, in like manner, the effect among the insane was precisely what it now is known to be, when produced by a similar cause, at two or three festivals within the year."*
This evidence is highly important, whether considered either negatively or positively. We will examine it in each point of view.
First, it affords very decisive evidence (if it were wanting) that avoiding animal food and fermented liquors will neither prevent nor cure insanity. Such was the customary diet of the great body of these patients; and though the abuse of distilled spirits is assigned as having an active share in the increased frequency of insanity, it is neither pretended, nor is it all likely, that this abuse was universal Pinel has related the case of a young man, “an inflexible disciple of Pythagoras in his system of diet,” whe became subject, first to deep hypochondriacism, and, finally, to total insanity. In no long time he died. On this point, then, there can be no doubt; and insanity must be reckoned among the diseases which cannot be avoided, much less cured, by the strictest adherence to the established rules of temperance and abstinence from animal food.
But it is equally clear, on the other hand, that both the use of animal food, and still more of fermented liquors, aggravates and exasperates the disease. On this point the evidence of Dr. Hallaran is decisive; and it ought to be attended to in our English establishments, and a proper practice enforced by law. In all of them both the one and the other are allowed to a large extent, and in some with little or no restriction. I myself have seen a lunatic, a gross, fat man, in one of our largest private establishments, with boiled beef, porter, and a bottle of wine before him. It is high time that these abuses should be done away. Probably many might be restored to reason without
* Dr. William Saunders Hallaran, on Insanity, p. 93, etc. I have seen the facts related by Pinel on the deplorable consequences of a scanty and insufficient nutriment on the patients of the Bicetre, cited in opposition to Dr. Hallaran's testimony. (See Pinel on Insanity, p. 209.) But the mischiefs described by Pinel were not from farinaceous food, but from a deficient quantity of any kind. Indeed, he says expressly, that the reduc. tion which took place, and which did so much mischief to the poor people, was in the daily allowance of bread.
any further measure than a strict enforcement of temperance and abstinence. All certainly can not.
There can be no doubt, then, that animal food is unfavorable to the intellectual powers. In some measure this effect is instantaneous, it being hardly possible to apply to any thing requiring thought after a full meal of meat; so that is has been not improperly said of the vegetable feeders, that with them it. is morning all day long. But its effect is not confined to the immediate impression. As well as the senses, the memory, the understanding, and the imagination, have been observed to improve by a vegetable diet.
Notwithstanding those palpable and well-known observations, I see it is asked, in a tone of triumph, Whether it is possible that the species of food which has formed a Fox and a Pitt, can be unfavorable to the production of talent? Why did not the writer (see Dr. Rees's Encyclopedia, Article Man) who has used this argument carry it to its full extent, and prove that a plentiful use of the bottle does not injure the intellect? For it is well known that one of those illustrious men indulged very freely in his daily potations; nor was the other, I believe, remarkable for his temperance. But was it ever asserted that the use of animal food absolutely extinguished talent, and reduced all men to idiotcy? or that it affected all alike, so that no difference of talent can be observed among those who use it? Animal food, it is obvious, excites and stimulates for a time the whole nervous system; and as some under its influence are able to perform prodigious feats of strength, so others may, perhaps, be excited to intellectual exertions equally gigantic. But such phenomena do not prove that animal food promotes either healthy strength, or healthy intellect.*
I think it might be asked, with much more reason, how happens it that the families of the whole body of the British nobility could produce but one Fox and one Pitt to head the conflicting parties of our senate ? how happens it that the same body has produced not one man, no, not one, who is the acknowledged inheritor of the talents of these illustrious statesmen? Not one; though the prize of successful exertion is the most splendid that can be proposed to honorable ambition—the offices, the dignities, and honors of the first empire of the world.
* The habits of Milton, it is said, were what would be ordinarily termed austere. He was abstemious in diet, chaste, an early riser, and industrious. He tells us that a lyrist may indulge in wine and a freer life, but that he who would write an epic to the nations must eat beans and drink water.-S.