Imágenes de páginas




The inhabitants of a city may easily be distinguished from those of the country, by the pallor of their complexions. The care-worn countenance, last alluded to, is generally sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," but the etiolation or blanching which I am now to notice, takes place independently of much thinking or mental anxiety. It cannot, in fact, boast of such an intellectual origin as the other. It is the result of physical, rather than of moral causes—more especially of bad air, inexposure to the light of Heaven, sedentary avocations, inactivity, late hours, &c. I have used the word etiolation, because I think it perfectly appropriate. When a gardener wishes to etiolate, that is, to blanch, soften, and render juicy a vegetable, as lettuce, celery, &c. he binds the leaves together, so that the light may have as little access as possible to their surfaces. In like manner, if we wish to etiolate men and women, we have only to congregate them in cities, where they are pretty securely kept out of the sun, and where they become as white, tender, and watery as the finest celery. For the more exquisite specimens of this buman etiolation, we must survey the inhabitants of mines, dungeons, and other subterranean abodes--and for complete contrasts to these we have only to examine the complexions of stage-coachmen, shepherds, and the sailor“ on the high and giddy mast.” Modern Babylon furnishes us with all the intermediate shades of etiolation, from the

green and yellow melancholy' of the BAZAR MAIDEN, who occupies somewhat less space in her daily avocations and exercise, than she will ultimately do in her quiet and everlasting abode, to the languishing, listless, lifeless Albinos of the boudoir, etiolated in HOTHOUSES, by the aid of “ motley-routs and midnight madrigals,” from which the light as well as the air of Heaven is carefully excluded! Thus penury and wealth, obscurity and splendour, industry and idleness, the indulgence of pleasure and the endurance of pain, all meet at the same



point, and, by the mysterious workings of an over-ruling Provi-
dence, come to the same level, in this respect, at last! That
voluntary dissipation should suffer all the evils attendant on
necessary and unavoidable avocation, no one can regret :-but
that useful toil and meritorious exertion should participate, and
more than participate in the miseries which follow in the train
of the gay licentious proud,” is a melancholy reflection. The
longer we live in this world, however, and the more narrowly
we watch the ways and the fate of man, the more we shall be
convinced that vice does not triumph here below—that pleasure
is invariably pursued by pain—that riches and penury incur
nearly the same degree and kind of taxation—and that the
human frame is as much enfeebled by idleness as it is exhausted
by labour.
: But to return to etiolation. What does this blanching indi-
cate ? In the upper classes of society, it indicates what the long
nails on the fingers of a Chinese indicate-NO AVOCATION. In
the middling and lower orders of life, it indicates UNHEALTHY
AVOCATION—and among the thinking part of the community, it
is one of the symbols or symptoms of wear and tear of con-
stitution. But different people entertain different ideas respect-
ing etiolation. The fond and fashionable mother would as soon
see green celery on her table as brown health on the cheek of
her daughter. When, therefore, the ladies venture into the
open carriage, they carefully provide themselves with parasols
to aid the dense clouds of an English atmosphere in preventing
the slightest intrusion of the cheerful, but embrowning rays of
Phæbus. In short, no mad dog can have a greater dread of
water, than has a modern fine lady of the solar beams. So
much does this Phobophobia haunt her imagination, that the
parasol is up, even when the skies are completely overcast, in
order apparently, and I believe designedly, to prevent the attri-
tion of the passing zephyr over her delicate features and com-
plexion !

I have alluded to the mark of gentility in the male sex of
China-long nails on their fingers. I would strongly recom-

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

mend the British fair to imitate the Chinese ladies, by compressing their feet into pretty little toys, for ornament rather than for use. As they never walk during the day, the crippling process will not be attended with any inconvenience-while it will prevent them from jumping (or to use a more fashionable term, gallopading) six hours every night, in an atmosphere somewhat similar to that of the black-hole in Calcutta, by which a prodigious WEAR and TEAR of their constitutions will be saved.


Does ETIOLATION merely indicate the nature of avocation and dissipation in civilised life? It indicates much more than these; but the complete investigation of the subject cannot be undertaken in this place. This etiolation is but the external sign of a host of internal modifications, if not changes of vital powers and functions, that exert a greater influence over our health and happiness, than is generally known or imagined. Is it to be supposed that the pallid cheek, the lack-lustre eye, the care-worn countenance, the languid gait, the flaccid muscle, and the indisposition to exertion, are purely insulated phenomena, unconnected with deep-rooted deviations from sound health of body and mind ?-No, verily! Man is a curious and compound machine, animal and intellectual. He, in company with other living beings, has organs that are not under his command, and which digest his food, circulate his blood, and repair the wear and tear of the day, without his knowledge or consent. He has voluntary muscles, by which he transports himself from place to place-erects edifices-constructs manufactures and becomes equally expert in cultivating the fields in peace, and covering them with the dead bodies of his fellow-creatures in war! But he has a sentient and intellectual system. His senses, like

ful videttes, convey to the mind intelligence of every thing that passes in the world around him; and from these impressions the mind forms its ideas, its judgments, and its determinations. That man excels all other animals in his intellectual system,

there can be little doubt; but it would not be difficult to shew that, for this superiority, he pays a heavy tax in health and happiness !

The animal and intellectual-in other words, the SPIRITUAL and MATERIAL portions of our being may be distinct essences, and the former may survive the latter in “another and a better world;”—but here below, they are linked in the strictest bonds of reciprocity, and are perpetually influenced, one by the other. Thus, let certain substances be applied to certain sensible parts of our material fabric-as antimony or Prussic acid to the nerves of the stomach. The muscles become enfeebled and the mind, even of the proudest hero, falls prostrate with its suffering companion in the animal life! Shakespeare was too observant of human nature not to notice this; and he repeatedly exemplifies it. An invisible, but a material agent, MALARIA, is made to annihilate the courage of Cæsar.

He had a fever when he was in Spain;
And when the fit was on him I did mark
How he did shake
His coward lips did from their colour fly;
Ay, and that tongue of his that bade the Romans
Mark him, and write his speeches in their books,
Alas! it cried "Give me some drink Titinius,"
As a sick girl.

SEA-SICKNESS is another familiar illustration. Whoever has crossed the Channel, for the first time, in stormy weather, and felt the horrors of Neptune's seasoning, must remember its depressing influence on every faculty of the soul! But does the mind fail to repay these acts of civility received from the body? No, indeed. More than half of our corporeal discomforts, and even diseases, are produced by perturbation and tribulation of mind. Look at the great commercial world. It may be compared to a monstrous animal whose brain or sensorium is placed on Cornhill, but whose nerves or feelers extend to the four quarters of the globe. Every event, political or commercial, that



occurs on any point of the earth's surface, vibrates along these nerves, and is tremblingly felt by the sensory “on CHANGE”. whence it radiates to every part of the capital and of the kingdom! What must be the consequence of such a state of things, when it is well known that even in the most quiet and domestic circles of life, a sudden gust of passion, a transient sense of fear, an unexpected piece of intelligence-in short, any strong emotion of the mind, will cause the heart to palpitate, the muscles to tremble, the digestive organs to suspend their functions, and the blood to rush in vague and irregular currents through the living machine? The detection of Antiochus's passion for Stratonica by the pulse, is a proof how early the influence of the mind on the heart was remarked. It is well known that Philip the Fifth, of Spain, died suddenly on learning the disastrous defeat of the army near Plaisance. Zimmerman states that, on opening his body, the heart was found burst. The minutest capillary tube through which the vital current flows, is under the influence of mental perturbation. Shame will crimson the cheek: -Let the emotion be changed to fear, and the lily usurps the seat of the rose-the face is blanched and bloodless. ANGER can rouse the vital organs into such preternatural activity as to overcome, for a time, habitual decrepitude. Thus Muley Moloc, though lying on the bed of death, worn out by an incurable disease, and not expected to live an hour, started from his litter during the important crisis of a battle between his troops and the Portuguese-rallied his army_led them to victory—and immediately expired! These and a thousand instances that might be cited, may

enable us to form some idea of the wide range of physical effects resulting from the almost unlimited “play of the passions” among so thinking, so reading, so commercial, and so political a people as the English.

It is by the brain, or organ of intellect, that man is distinguished and raised above all other animals. The nerves of sense, by which impressions are conveyed to this organ, are not so acute in the lord of the creation as in many of the inferior orders of animated beings. He is surpassed by the eagle in sight-by the

« AnteriorContinuar »