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tions of the stomach, that she was often under the necessity of giving up every kind of vegetable food ; even the best fermented bread becamé uneasy; so much so that her diet has been for weeks solely of an animal nature. I saw her once under these circumstances, when she had many symptoms of the scurvy, such as spongy gums, livid spots on her arms and legs, etc. At this time she lost one or two of her teeth ; but the indigestion wore off, and she ate pot herbs for some time without any inconvenience.”—Potter, on Scurvy, p. 36.
We see, then, that though this lady suffered less pain of the stomach from animal food, the abstaining from vegetables still injured the system, and produced deep scorbutic symptoms. It is, therefore, highly probable, that this lady lost more than she gained by the plan she pursued; and that it would have been better for her to have suffered the pain, than to have purchased ease in the manner she did.
It has been said, that the great fondness that men have for animal food is proof enough that nature intended them to eat it; as if men were not fond of wine, ardent spirits, and other things, which cut short their days; as if the Russians were not fond of tallow; the Esquimaux of train oil; and savages (I might say, perhaps, some of our own vulgar) of blood, entrails, and all sorts of garbage, the thoughts of which sicken a civilized man. The raw and almost putrid flesh of the seal is the delight of the Pesserais of the Tierra del Fuego; and of this the rank fat is to their taste the most delicious part.
But those who think that a simple declaration of their liking a thing is a sufficient apology for the use of it, I would beg to consider whether it is not an argument that proves a great deal too much. A savage has been seen to gnaw a bone of a human body with just as much relish as we suck a bone of mutton. Forster says, “In the province of Matto-grosso, in Brazil, a woman told his excellency, Chevalier Pinto, who was then governor, that human flesh was extremely palatable, especially if taken from a young person. And during the last dearth in Germany, a shepherd killed first a young person, to satisfy the cravings of hunger with his flesh, and afterward several more, in order to please his luxurious palate.” Man's flesh, then, is as good as the flesh of the ox or the hog; and the assertion of Swift, on which he has grounded his “ Modest proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents or country,” is not only groundless, viz., “that a young healthy child, well nursed, is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether
stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled.” Some animals devour their own offspring; and if we do not the same, it is not because their flesh would be disgustful to the palate.
Whether, therefore, the taste of animal food be naturally pleasing to the organs of man, or not, is what I am wholly ignorant of. But it is certain that our having contracted a liking for it is no proof of the affirmative; no, not if there are infants who like it, as soon as they see the light. Infants bring with them into the world the morbid constitutions and morbid appetites of their parents. The flexibility of our organs, by which we contract a fondness for things indifferent and offensive is, however, a quality highly useful, and, indeed, the source of much of our happiness. Men, in consequence, become attached to what is within their reach, and to that to which they are habituated; but not so much but that they have the power to change, if the circumstances of life render it necessary. But this blessing, like every other, may, by its abuse, be converted into a curse.
Wretched are they who are so much enslaved to habít that they find it impossible to change. But there are an abundance of these wretched beings who would rather renounce their lives than forego a momentary gratification. Nothing is more common in this very article of eating. And yet so artificial is the relish we have contracted for our food, that even in European countries we may find those who cannot bear what Englishmen are the most fond of. Mr. Hooker has related a curious instance of this strength of habit. In his journey through Iceland, a beggar accompanied him on his way. Observing the miserable condition of this poor creature, he offered him some food. But he says, “I was extremely surprised and mortified to find that this wretched being, who could scarcely crawl along, but who kept company with us some way on one of our relay horses, was not able to eat a morsel of the ship bread and meat which I gave him, so accustomed had he been to a milk and fish diet, and such a stranger was he to any kind of food essentially different both in flavor and hardness.”
Eamus quo ducit gula, was the answer of a very worthy friend of my own, whom I in vain exhorted to change his regimen. And it led him where he was evidently tending, but not very fast, when the advice was given-to the grave.
My reason for objecting to every species of matter to be used as food, except the direct produce of the earth, is founded-as may be seen in my last publication-on the broad ground that no other matter is suited to the organs of man, as indicated by his structure. This applies then with the same force to eggs, milk, cheese, and fish, as to flesh meat. The different salubrity of each article ought to be estimated by the different degrees of longevity enjoyed by persons, as far as it is influenced by diet. But to obtain any thing approaching to correct calculation on such subjects is obviously impracticable. As far, however, as I can form a judgment from a few facts picked up in the course of desultory reading, fish is the sort of food which, if made the principal article of sustenance, is the most unfavorable to health and longevity.
Fish is a kind of diet which the bulk of the people, who have been accustomed to other food, never use voluntarily as a chief article of sustenance. Servants, where fish is cheap, bargain that they shall not be forced to eat it more than once or twice a week. But it is for the most part with us scarce and dear, hence it is a favorite with the rich, who like whatever is of high price. But even with them it is the cookery which gives it its principal relish.
Dr. Cheyne says of fish, “'Tis always observable that those who live much on fish are affected with scurvy, cutaneous eruptions, and the other diseases of a foul blood. And every body finds himself more thirsty and heavy than usual after a full meal of fish, let them be ever so fresh, and is forced to have recourse to spirits and distilled liquors to carry them off. So that it is become a proverb among those that live much upon them, that brandy is Latin for fish. Besides that, after a full meal of fish, even at noon, one never sleeps so sound the ensuing evening, as is certain from constant observation.” ,
These are not random and unfounded remarks, but are conformable to many authentic observations. Fish does not impart the strength of animal food, but it is as oppressive to the stomach as flesh, and it is more putrescent, as may be concluded from the nauseous and hepatic eructations of the stomach after it has been eaten.
I have already noticed (p. 59) the disappearance of incurable cutaneous diseases, in the isle of Ferro, by the substitution of agriculture to fishing. In Iceland the same diseases have taken deep root, doubtless from the same cause, fish being a principal part of the sustenance of the inhabitants. The following is an extract from Van Troil's letters, illustrative of this point:
“You may ask, sir, how this disease (the elephantiasis) came to be so firmly rooted in Iceland, as it has so decreased in the south, that it has almost disappeared there? I believe that this is not so much owing to the climate as to the manner of
life and diet. People, whose continual occupation is fishing, are night and day exposed to wet and cold, frequently feed upon corrupted rotten fish, fish livers and roes, fat and train of whales, and sea dogs, as likewise congealed and sour milk. They commonly wear wet clothes, and are exposed to all the hardships of poverty. The greater number of these are therefore to be met with in the lower class; on the contrary, where less fish and sour whey are eaten, and more Icelandic moss (Lichen Islandicus), and other vegetables, this disease is not so prevalent, according to an observation made by Mr. Paterson in the above-mentioned transactions."— Transoctions of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The recent testimony of Mr. Hooker is to the same effect. He says, “The Icelanders in general do not attain to an advanced period of life, though many live to the age of seventy, and enjoy a good state of health; but this is among the higher class of people. Scurvy, leprosy, and elephantiasis are no where perhaps more prevalent; and they are likewise, according to Van Troil, peculiarly afflicted with St. Anthony's Fire, the jaundice, pleurisy, and lowness of spirits.” In another passage he testifies “ that the elephantiasis is cured by the use of antiscorbutic vegetables.”
A vulgar notion has been prevalent, that a fish diet is favorable to the powers of generation, and that persons living on it are more than commonly prolific. But this opinion appears to be wholly erroneous. On the contrary, among such persons the increase of the race is very small. Forster says, “In Greenland and among the Esquimaux, where the natives live chiefly upon fish, seals, and oily animal substances, the women seldom bear children oftener than three or four times ; five or six births are reckoned a very extraordinary instance. The Pesserais, whom we saw, had not above two or three children belonging to each family, though their common food consisted of muscles, fish, and seal flesh. The New Zealanders absolutely feed on fish,* and yet no more than three or four children were found in the most prolific families; which seems strongly to indicate that feeding on fish by no means contributes to the increase of numbers in a nation.”
Our knowledge of the average length of life, to which the fish-eating tribes of mankind arrive, is necessarily scanty, they not being numerous, and of a very low degree of civilization. But as far as our information reaches, it tends to show that this period is very short. I shall bring forward two distinct evidences for this conclusion, of which the coincidence of the testimony is very remarkable.
* The writer must mean that it is the only animal food (if I may so speak) they use. We know that they eat the roots of ferns, and are not wholly ignorant of agriculture.
The first is that of Captain Cook, who informs us that at Onalashka (an island on the north-west coast of America), fish forms a principal part of the food of the inhabitants. They dry large quantities of it in summer, which they store in small huts for their winter stock. Of these people this very sagacious observer remarks : “ They do not seem to be long-lived. I nowhere saw a person, man or woman, whom I could suppose to be sixty years of age, and but very few who appeared to be above fifty.”
An account given by Bruce of the length of life of the inhabitants of the largest island of the Red Sea entirely corresponds with this. He says, “At Dalahac, the sustenance of the poorer sort is entirely shell and other fish” (they have also a good deal of goats' milk, and some millet, but no bread). “I could not observe a man among them that seemed to be sixty years old.”.
These observations are the more worthy of notice, as being made in very different latitudes; and as there are few places indeed so unhappily circumstanced, as not to possess a few with constitutions strong enough to carry them to four-score. They are, in general, conformable to a remark of Friar Bacon, who says, “Bread yields a moisture safer from destruction than flesh, and flesh produces a moisture more removed from corruption than fish.” Facts such as these should be well weighed by those who institute and support societies for supplying the poor with fish, and those who are so anxious to promote the fisheries at the expense of agriculture. For it is to be obseryed that they cannot both prosper in the same places; the occupation of fishing being most lucrative and secure at the season when the husbandman ought to be most busy.
Of all the other substances which enter largely into human diet, the milk of herbivorous animals is, probably, that which approaches most nearly in salubrity to pure vegetable matter. Being secreted almost immediately after taking in food (as nurses constantly experience), it partakes the most of the properties of the food. Accordingly, we find that milk is impregnated with a saccharine substance, and that it is susceptible of the vinous and acetous fermentations. Hence milk is in part vegetable food ; and as such, is used by all pastoral nations, and serves in a measure as a substitute for it. The Brit