Billeder på siden

The custom of flesh eating, as much as that of covering our persons with clothes,' appears to have arisen from the migration of man into the northern climates, and the reaction of that circumstance, conjoined with the increasing ill effects of an unnatural diet. The cultivation of the earth, especially where its productions are not, as in the southern climates, spontaneous, implies a certain degree of intellectual progress unnecessary to him who contents himself with breaking a stick from a tree, and demolishing the first poor defenceless animal he meets with. The argument of the agreeable flavor proves nothing, I apprehend, by proving too much. If taste be admitted as a test in the present question, how shall we explain the attachment of some Africans to the eating of dirt; and that with such contumacy, that in various instances no persuasion, no interference of authority, can check or impair this inveterate appetite ; in indulging which the unhappy sufferers become swollen in parts of the body, emaciated in others, linger miserably, and at length, though the form were originally herculean, they perish in contempt of the nice art, as the poet calls it, of the physician. I fear that we cannot be impartial judges in this dispute. Our habits have taken too firm a hold on our desires to permit us to decide whether they are all right and natural. The Eskimaux delight in train oil and rotten desh; prefer them perhaps to roast beef; and I am not disposed to contend very eagerly for the reasonableness of our choice in opposition to theirs.

I have been leaning for the last quarter of an hour on my elbow, endeavouring to recollect any other objections which I may

1 The inhabitants of the South Sea Isles, who have not yet given in to this custom, go to the river twice a day and wash themselves from head to foot. How much more pleasing is it to contemplate this habit of cleanliness, than if we allow the imagination to glance upon the filthy consequences of personal neglect which is by much too prevalent; neglect of which many would be ashamed, were it not for the protection they insidiously derive from their covering. This reminds me of a question which a lady, eminent for her acquirements, but rather too careless of her person, put to me one day on my observing that it was doubtful whether men need drink at all.

“ And pray, sir, what do you conceive that water was intended for by the Creator?" The reply was obvious. “ For a purpose, madam, to which I have often had to regret that it was not more industriously applied." To be serious: It is a deep disgrace on this forishing kingdom, with its annual expenditure of nearly a hundred millions sterling, that in such a city as London, having a great command of water, there should be no such thing as a public bath. What must be the apartments, and their contents, from which those dirty people daily issue whom one passes hastily, even in the open streets, to avoid being unpleasantly assailed? Were I Chancellor of the Exchequer, I assuredly would not rest until I saw these things put into a train of being on a very different footing.


have heard to a general vegetable diet ; that either I might omit to anticipate. nothing which merits a reply, or, should I not succeed in that, might furnish perhaps some additional weapon, if the book be answered, to the hostility of an antagonist. One observation more I do remember to have combated. It has been said, that “ Since trees have their disorders, why should we hope

escape them ?” The truth is, that so many trees are exotics in the latitudes where they grow, that it cannot be expected that they should be as thriving as, and in all respects similar to, those which florish in the soil and climates more adapted to them. I think it appears in general that trees, after they have reached a certain growth, perish very gradually, and that where this is not the case, they are injured by some accidental cause.

I have seen abroad several orange-trees droop from having ants' nests under their roots.

But even if trees should, with all possible advantages of soil and climate, be liable to such derangements of their substances as may justify the use, without a metaphor, of the term diseases, still it would be a little dangerous to reason strictly from vegetable to animal life, when, in reasoning on the latter alone, we are so often perplexed by facts which obstruct our conclusions. Do not some animals feed on henbane ; quails and goats on hellebore ; starlings and hares on hemlock? Do not dogs swallow arsenic with comparative impunity; and some kinds of fish dart in health through the sea with poison in their bowels? The yellow-bill sprat, for example, charges its intestines with no inconsiderable portion of matter to us poisonous, on the precipices of copper which stretch for miles through the unseen bosom of the deep, and yet enjoys all the vigor of which it is capable ; while a single sprat, only four inches long, has been known to kill two men who divided it between them. How might I multiply these instances, if it were worth the trouble ; but I shall

press no longer this argument on the reader, whom I can readily imagine not much inclined to adopt the opinion, that because the elm, the beech, or even the indigenous crab apple, happen to have an excrescence on the bark, he must therefore be doomed to lingering atrophy and asthmatic suffocation ; to the taint of syphilis, or the torture of the stone.

Among a great variety of authorities which might be brought in support of a suspicion and ill opinion of meat and fish in every form, I will select a few, and lay them before the reader.

« And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins: and his meat was locusts and wild honey."-ST. MATTHEW, iii. 4.

Thus we see that the Deity frowns not on this humble fare, since the only sustenance of John the Baptist, the favored of

heaven, and the forerunner of Christ, consisted of wild honey and the fruit of the locust tree.

“ Maintenant pour nous nourrir, il faut répandre du sang, malgré l'horreur qu'il nous cause naturellement; et tous les rafinemens dont nous nous servons pour couvrir nos tables, sufficent à peine à nous déguiser les cadavres qu'il nous faut manger pour nous assouvir. Mais ce n'est là que la moindre partie de nos malheurs. La vie déjà raccourcie s’abrége encore par les violences qui s'intro. duisent dans le genre humain. L'homme qu'on voyoit dans les premiers temps épargner la vie des bêtes, s'est accoutumé à n'é. pargner plus la vie de ses semblables.”

« Now blood must be shed for our support, in spite of the horror with which it naturally inspires us; and all the refinements that we make use of in covering our tables, are scarcely sufficient to disguise the carcases which are required to appease our appetites. But this is the smallest part of our misfortunes. Life, already curtailed, is still further abridged by the violences which prevail among the human race. Man, who in the early ages of the world was seen to spare the lives of the animals, has accustomed himself no longer to spare even the lives of his fellow-creatures." -Bossuet, Hist. UNIV. p. 22.

• The chief diet of the natives on the coast of New South Wales being fish, it produces a disorder very similar to that we call the itch."-Cook's GEOGRAPHY, vol. i. p. 251.

“The emaciation of the limbs of the savages of New Holland was observed by Labillardiere. They have scarcely any fruits ; the cascar and the kangaroo are their only animals, and they are scarce. Therefore they live much on fish, which often fails from their emigration, so that in the interior they live on frogs, lizards, serpents, the larvæ of insects, and on caterpillars and spiders, and even upon ants.”—PERON, vol. i. p. 465.

The same defect of conformation has been remarked in the savages of Terra del Fuego.

" Their shoulders," says Foster, “ and their chests, are large and bony; the rest of their limbs so thin and slender, that in looking on the different parts separately, we could not persuade ourselves that they belonged to the same individuals.”

Cook's SECOND. VOYAGE. " We are now so used to a short life and to drop away after threescore or fourscore years, that when we compare our lives with those of the antediluvians, we think the wonder lies wholly on their side, why they lived so long; and so it doth, popularly speaking ; but if we speak philosophically, the wonder lies rather on our side, why we live so little or so 'short a time. That the

state and difficulty of this question may the better appear, let us consider a man in the prime and vigor of his life, at the age of twenty or twenty-four years, of a healthful constitution, and all his vitals sound, let him be nourished with good food, use due exercise, and govern himself with moderation in all other things; the question is, why this body should not continue in the same plight and in the same strength for many ages; or at least why it should decay so soon and so fast as we see it does. We do not wonder at things that happen daily, though the causes of them be never so hard to find out; we contract a certain familiarity with common events, and fancy we know as much of them as can be known, though in reality we know nothing of them but matter of fact; which the vulgar know as well as the wise or the learned. We see daily instances of the shortness of man's life, how soon his race is run, and we do not wonder at it because it is common; yet if we examine the composition of the body, it will be

very hard to find any good reasons why the frame of it should decay so soon."-BURNET'S THEORY OF THE EARTH.

What the discovery of Dr. Lambe may safely pretend to is this ; if for that which Burnet calls good food,” by which he intended of course a hearty meat diet, be substituted the food that is natural to man, the whole mystery will be cleared up, and the human machinery will go on much longer than it now does, because the unknown causes which the ingenious author of the “ Theory of the Earth” suspected to be operating against the lives of men, will then be removed.

From the “ Acetaria” of John Evelyn, a man of some eminence in his time, I will give several extracts. The work was printed in 1706, and dedicated to John Lord Somers.

« And now after all we have advanced in favor of the her. baceous diet, there still emerges a third inquiry; namely, whether the use of crude herbs and plants is so wholesome as is pretended ? What opinion the prince of physicians had of them, we shall see hereafter

r; as also what the sacred records of older times seem to infer, before there were any flesh shambles in the world; together with the reports of such as are often conversant among many nations and people who, to this day, living on herbs and roots, arrive to an incredible age in constant health and vigor: which, whether attributable to the air and climate, custom, constitution, &c. should be inquired into."

Before I proceed to the next extract, I must lay some stress upon the last phrase, “should be inquired into," in which sentiment I entirely coincide with this author. No subject can possibly be more interesting to mankind in general than an inquiry taken with great caution and earnestness into the means of rendering

life longer and healthier than it is. A commission, distinct from medical practice, ought to be established for that purpose. The triumph which Dr. Lambe has obtained in several instances, over incipient cancer, in all of which he has checked the

progress of that frightful disease, entitles his opinions and his plan to the fullest and fairest investigation. If it should be asked, what it is I propose to have done ? Whether I would have an act passed by king, lords, and commons, to interdict the future use of meat to all his majesty's subjects ? I answer that I know how wild would be such a project. It is nothing of this sort that I have in view ; but merely that those men under whose department or influence in the hospitals, infirmaries, or work-houses, it may fall, should collect together a dozen cancer patients, on whom to try the effect of this practice; respecting whom it should be ascertained by the first surgeons that they were decidedly cancer cases, advanced only in a certain degree, though giving little or no hope of recovery under the usual treatment. Upon these patients the experiment should be made, and if it should be found, as experience gives abundant reason to conclude it would, that the progress of those cancers were uniformly stopped during the first year, and in the second year the tumors completely absorbed, this important truth, going forth to the world properly authenticated, could not fail of attracting all the attention to which its magnitude entitles it. But here we must have no deceits practised upon the public to counteract the effects of the result which is anticipated; nothing in the manner of what was done when inoculation for small-pox was introduced into this country, a century ago; nothing like the infamous attempts which have been detected against the success of vaccination, the sinister machinations of those who rather than have a chop or a chicken the less at their table, would exultingly see the world deprived of any,

the greatest blessing. That it is of the first consequence to open


eyes of the public, as to the mischiefs of the present mode of living, is evident on account of the little hope there is of relief from the faculty, which will not be disputed by those who are aware that the statements are incontrovertible which are contained in the « Letter from an eminent physician in Edinburgh, to Dr. Harrison, on Medical Reform," which is to be found in Appendix B, of a pamphlet published last year, entitled An Address to the Lincolnshire Benevolent Medical Society, by Dr. Edward Harrison.”

The author says of a certain abominable habit, which is arrived at its height, “ The use of distilled spirits is destructive to the health,

'I refer the reader with great readiness to this letter, where he will see the above subject of Medical Reform very liberally and lumipously handled.

« ForrigeFortsæt »