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PHYSIC FOR THE MIND.
Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, Scene 3. WHOEVER has read the ingenious lucubrations of Dr. Gustaldy, must be aware that when a "rai Amphitryon” has provided himself with an
artiste,”(i.e. a French cook,) and a large fortune to expend on his table, he will still be a hundred miles off from a good dinner, unless he engages with mounseer to take an occasional dose of physic, just to keep his organs of taste in proper tone, which from the heat of the kitchen, and a constant ingurgitation of degustatory morsels, are apt to get half a note above or below concert pitch, to the utter destruction of all harmony in the “entrés" and soups. A true connoisseur, therefore, in noting his “menu” with a pencil, as he eats his way through the three courses, if he finds many“ too sours," “ too sweets," “ too much peppers," "insipids," "fades," or the like, always concludes with a gentle admonition, and a reference to the “peptic persuaders” of Dr. Kitchiner, the rhubarb and magnesia, or the five grains of calomel, as the case may require. In this practice there is involved much recondite philosophy ; and it affords another instance in which the animal instincts of the species do more for civilization, than all the speculatíve theories imaginable. The idleness of a playful boy produced that improvement in the steam engine which renders it a self-acting machine, and the flying a child's kite led to the invention of lightning conductors. So likewise may this casual experiment made in the chylopoietic functions of a Frenchman by an ultra gastronome, be considered as containing the germ of an entirely new science ; which in process of time may effect a total revolution in morals and in political philosophy. In the laboratory of nature, great effects are perpetually flowing from little causes ; and there is no fact so trifling, that its discovery may not give birth to vast changes in human affairs. When the attraction developed in a stick of sealing-wax by friction was first noticed, who would have imagined that the discovery involved all which is at once brilliant and solid in the present advanced state of chemical science? To those, therefore, who have made nature their study, the hardiness of my proposition will create neither surprise nor distrust. They will at once perceive that the sympathetic connexion existing between the viscera and the organs of sense, which prevents the “chef de cuisine" from doing his duty when his stomach is out of order, is not an insulated fact; but belongs to an extended series of phenomena, important alike to the physiologist and the moralist.
The intimate connexion between moral disposition and physical temperament has been known from the earliest times; and there is not a child who does not couple red hair with a passionate and angry character. Every body too is more or less aware of the influence of particular states of the constitution, over the feelings and actions of the individual. No one, for instance, who has the least “gumption," would think of asking a favour from a hungry man at the instant when the servant has announced the dinner not to be ready. I need not mention to my literary brethren, or to any one who has scraped the slightest acquaintance with the “ sacræ camoenæ," that when the stomach is
* Almanac des Gourmands.
oppressed, it is as difficult to write as to fry; as impossible to dress up an ode or an epigram as to cook a dinner. Dryden always took physic as a preparative for writing ; and Apollo is alike the god of medicine and of verse. In fact, an attentive observer might detect in himself a thousand nuances of temper, the indulgence of which has been more or less injurious to his affairs, which could be readily traced to an indigestion or a fit of bile. The likening the passions to the attacks of bodily disease is a favourite simile with the poets
There heats and colds still in our breasts make war,
Agues and fevers all our passions are. But simile non est idem ; and this likening of two things perfectly identical, instead of being poetical, is a flat niaiserie. So strictly is the body dependent on mind, and so truly are all our excesses of passion bodily infirmities, that with a little ingenuity the history of nations might be converted into a course of pathology. There is indeed scarcely an event of any importance, which, if it could be traced to its true causes, would not be found to turn upon the caprice of some individual ; and that caprice in its turn would be seen to bave arisen out of some hitch in the animal machine, some poco più or poco meno in the animal fluids, or some morbid irritation of an internal organ. Thus the downfall of monarchy in Rome is an obvious consequence of Tarquin's having suffered from a plethoric distension of the veins; and the execution of Louis the Sixteenth (and therefore the rise and fall of Napoleon, and the triumphs of the Holy Alliance,) as notoriously were occasioned by that monarch's having, while on his journey to Varennes, laboured under bulimia, a disease which, in common language, may be defined an inordinate appetite for mutton chops. “It is but increasing," says an ingenious writer, “or diminishing the velocity of certain fluids, to elate the soul with the gayest hopes, or sink her into the deepest despair ; to depress the hero into a coward, or advance the coward into a hero." Now this being the case, who shall say that there was more than a dose of physic of difference between a Whitelock and a Wellington? Who shall say that if Napoleon had slily slipped some medicament into the breakfasts of our grenadiers, on the morning of the battle of Waterloo, <if he had found some “ rhubarb, senna, or some purgative drug," to have“ drugged their possets” with on that eventful morn, he might not indeed have "scoured these English hence," and turned the tide of his fortunes once more in his favour? So likewise, if some pharmaceutic preparation had caused a metastasis, and removed the velocity from King James's heels to his animal spirits, on the day of the battle of the Boyne, who knows but popery and wooden shoes might not have had a better chance in old England ? Where then would have been our glorious constitution, the American war, our national debt, and all other consequences since the great Revolution?
But whatever insights men may have had into the nature of things, they have never yet followed up their discoveries to a practical result. If history be but pathology seen in a particular light, morals and politics must necessarily become resolvable into therapeutics. Generalizing, therefore, the case of the French cook, and varying its application according to the nature of circumstances, it would be possible to supply by art the constitutional deficiencies of heroes, statesmen, and diplomatists; and, by a due course of medicine, to preserve their bodies in that condition in which they could best promote the welfare of the states
committed to their charge, purging away those peccant humours, those bilious and melancholic vapours, which “ ascending," as Falstaff has it, "to the brain," are so apt to disturb the peace of Europe. Thus, for example, Mr. Pitt was said uniformly to prepare himself for great debates by eating highly devilled beef-steaks, and drinking a couple of quarts of black strap; and when I think of the fact, I no longer wonder at the many “just and necessary" campaigns into which he plunged the country. If, instead of applying " hot and rebellious Auids," ay, and solids too, to his blood, he had made use of emollients and sweeteners ; if, instead of inflaming his passions by inflaming his liver, he had cooled his intellect and his pulse down to a peace establishment by watergruel and panada, who knows but he might have earned the reputation of his father, and England have been many millions the better in purse and in constitution by the regimen ?
Under the strong influence of these verities, I have employed many years in developing my ideas and reducing them by private experiments, to practice, in order to the bringing them before the public on a grand scale, and proposing the formation of a great national hospital, to be appended to a certain other national establishment in Westminster, with an infirmary ward to be applied to the especial use of the inhabitants of Downing-street. Hitherto my success has justified the most sanguine expectations; and in order that my readers may have some notion of what lies before them, I shall proceed to cite a few of my cases, not selected, as the custom is, for making the best of my story; but fairly taken without reference to their results.
Case 1.-Timothy Wildfire, Cornet of Dragoons, a blood of the first head, hits the ace of spades at twelve paces, is deep in the fancy, has fought three duels in five weeks, and pulled seven antagonists by the nose.
On entering a coffee-house full of the determination to call out a rival fire-eater whose pretensions to bullying crossed his own, I contrived to slip, unperceived, three grains of emetic tartar into his negus, while he was penning his " reproof valiant,” and before he could seal the envelope he retired to his barrack, heartily sick of the business, and at once threw up the affair, at least for the present occasion.
Case II.—Moneytrap Gobbleton, merchant, after a series of civic entertainments, disinherited his eldest son in a paroxysm of bile, on account of what he called an imprudent match. Six weeks at Cheltenham brought his skin to its colour, and his temper to serenity. He agreed to see the young couple, and cancelled his will.
Case III.-Lydia Lovesick, having, by a course of amatory poetry, fallen into an inflammatory diathesis, was on the point of eloping with a married man. Fortunately, however, the disease took another turn. She was seized with inflammation of the lungs; and the loss of thirty ounces of blood saved her from infamy and wretchedness. In two days after the bleeding, followed by other antiphlogistic remedies, she confessed the whole matter to her mother, desired back her picture and her letters, and wondered what had made her in love with a man who was neither young nor handsome.
Case IV.-Robert Sneak, esq. troubled with a constitutional coldness and timidity, has for many years laboured under a vixen wife, who snubs him before company, keeps the house, and occasionally even boxes his cars. By taking only one pint of brandy, he was enabled to
kick his donkestic torment down stairs. But like John Moody's master, though he began well“ be could na hauld it.” After six hours comfortable sleep he awoke as bad as ever, or rather I should say, much weakened by the experiment.
Case V-Benedict Snugg, bachelor, aged 65, under a paroxysm of gout, had bespoke a licence for marrying his cook. Being interested for his nephew, I advised, on the plea of general health, the abandonment of a nightly glass of hot brandy and water, and the pretermission of a warming-pan. This regimen was not without its good effects : but the patient resuming his old habits too soon, on the 1st of May 1823, this gentleman, after eating one hundred of oysters, and taking an extra tumbler over night, committed matrimony in the face of his whole parish, and in six months his nephew was disinherited by the birth of a son.
Not to trouble the reader with farther details, I have adduced sufficient evidence to shew that a judicious application of a blister, a dose of calomel, or a stimulant, might on many an occasion have saved Europe from a vast deal of calamity: so that there can be no doubt that a skilful physician attached to congresses and private meetings of sovereigns, might prevent much mischief, by a timely administration of physic to the high contracting parties." Nor should I despair, by the antiphlogistic regimen, of cooling the courage even of a Charles the XIIth., or of blistering a Henri into a declaration of war. To the immediate application of this system, there are two objections which I will not conceal. One is, that the greater part of the actual race of kings are convicted incurables. What could be done for a Ferdinand or a Francis? Another is, that it is not usual to make experiments on royal and noble patients. On these accounts, therefore, I should prefer following the customary routine of practice, and commencing “ in corpore vili” to try our hands upon such thieves and murderers as are within the reach of the law. For this purpose Newgate might be divided into two compartments ; and while Mrs. Fry carried on her operations in the one, Lawrence or Brodie might undertake the care of the other. Thus in process of time a judicious issue in the neck might supersede the hempen cravat; and a blood-letting from the arm take the place of a scarification on the loins. If these experiments were successful, we might next undertake a certain portion of the press, which every body admits requires purging. Thence the step is not far to public defaulters; though it would certainly require a strong emetic to make such persons disgorge. If any thing like a cure could be boasted in this quarter, we should be encouraged to proceed to the higher servants of the state. A certain law-officer could not but be much improved by giving him something generous. The anti-Catholic part of the cabinet might try hellebore; but if that failed, we have nothing to recommend but resignation. The Attorney-general or the members of the Constitutional Society who are offended at a strong light, might mend under the use of a green shade; and as the malady of the saints obviously proceeds from weakness, they might be encouraged to a more free use of wine and carminatives to relieve their hypochondria. Thus, then, I Aatter myself that I have at last hit off the true balance of power; and discovered the secret of a blessed millenium of peace and good will. We have indeed only to say with Shakspeare “take physic, pomp," and
all forms of government will become indifferent; for, at least in a medical sense,
That which is best administer'd is best. If there is any spirit left in this country, the force of public opinion will not fail to bring this matter to a speedy issue ; and, as the plan will supersede radical reform, the House will hardly hesitate, at least, to refer the matter to the College of Physicians, or to a committee up-stairs. When this is done, the Editor of this Journal will be enabled to do me justice, by making known to the public, who is the ingenious personage that writes in the New Monthly Magazine under the signature of
I pass :
Echoed to the mournful tone
And the winds that feebly moan,
See, for an account of the Cavern of Hoonga and romantic history of the lovers, Mariner's " Tonga Islands."