« AnteriorContinuar »
peace, and exertion be restrained within limits. It was a world about which we need not fret ourselves, and our interests in which we might hold lightly.' Yes, our brain was never meant to be whipped and spurred. It was designed to combine rest and work; to rest, not indolently, to work, but not rapaciously, and so fulfil its functions in a healthful state. It is a remarkable fact that people who only read novels and newspapers, and give their brain no proper work, frequently suffer therefrom in diminished vitality through all their system. But the contrary error has committed decided havoc in those delicate cells. For instance, the average of life among the leader writers of the daily press is not high; but there are other cases still more sad. A lawyer is making a large practice, an architect or engineer occupies a great position, and they discover that beyond their normal incomes they can make large additional gains by working double tides. While others pity them for losing the good and freshness of life, they say, like a great English dramatist of yesterday: 'I must do it now-in three or four years some other clever fellow will kick me off the stool.' If they call in a physician, perhaps they receive peremptory orders to break off even necessary work. The order may come too late, or it may be disobeyed. Oftener the whole goodness of the soil has been noiselessly but completely exhausted. The cleverest and most
hard-working man I ever knew-a Balliol man— quietly died one morning without any disease, from sheer exhaustion.
This is the sort of plan which a clever fellow and another well-known Scotchman, Dr. James Hamilton, sketches out for himself, in utter ignorance of the very first principles of life :—
'Rise at a quarter to seven; read Henry's Commentary; attend Greek and logic classes from halfpast seven to half-past nine; breakfast; ten to eleven, write logic lectures; eleven to twelve, attend the logic class; twelve to two, write letters, prepare for Greek, write notes of the logic lectures, get books from the library, etc.; two to three, Greek class; three to four, walk, dine; four to six, Greek class; six to seven, logic; seven, tea; half-past seven to nine, logic; nine, worship; half-past nine to half-past twelve, read two chapters of Greek Testament, and go to bed.'
It will be observed that our young student allows one hour only for exercise and dinner, and does not allow himself anything for rest afterwards. Under such circumstances, neither his dinner nor exercise would do him much good. Practically these diaries are not always severely carried out. It is probable, however, in Hamilton's case there was a vigorous attempt to do so. We are not surprised to find his biographer observing afterwards: Already the waste caused by nervous prostration has begun. A race
like that does tend to take the breath away, and shorten the runner's days.' It is a lamentable thing that men should be willing propter vitam vivendi perdere causas, knock off years from their lives. Of course there are occasions when a brave man will
cheerfully expend his life. A clergyman or doctor working in a vast parish, people engaged in messages of mercy on the battle-plain, may be well content to lose their own lives rather than pause in ministrations that may save the lives of many. But it is sad to hear of men dying at fifty or sixty who, by abstaining from undue work, might have lived many years longer. We are very far from saying that it is a bad thing for a man to die off at fifty or sixty; but if a man loses his life for the sake of some secondary object in life, he is really defeating his own object. That is a very poor plan and philosophy of life that concentrates all interest and work on the labour of the brain, mental work being only one of the constituent elements of a balanced life.
Charles Dickens tried hard to avoid the error by taking as many hours' hard walking as he had hard writing; but to a man of Dickens' active mind and observant eye the walking must have been a constant kind of brain-work. But sometimes men wilfully neglect—we need not give instances when all may recall some—to guard against the error, and so incur its tremendous penalty.
T was the keen saying of Voltaire's that physicians were required to work a miracle-namely, to reconcile health with intemperance. Perhaps this goes far to account for the immense amount of talk which we hear at the present day about dyspepsia. We are in an age which almost resembles the Lower Empire in the degree to which men have brought the art of high feeding. It must be owned, however— such are the inequalities of fate in this life—that some men who can dine voraciously seem to possess metallic interiors, and some poor, thin eaters cannot take chicken broth without suffering tortures. Dr. Chambers says that one day a patient came to him complaining that he felt where his stomach was, and knew where his food went to. And the patient was No healthy
right. He had business to be alarmed. man ought to be conscious of the existence of his digestive organs. The perception of this fact might be the simplest form of derangement, but it might lead up to the most serious consequences. Indigestion
is always chronic, and often dangerous, and frequently passes into a most painful and obscure state of disease. The late Sir F. Slade, writing, as one of the last acts of his life, to the late Bishop of Bath and Wells, said that he was suffering from what the doctors called indigestion but he called the pains of hell. Some of our readers may be acquainted with the life of the last Earl of Aberdeen, where the narrative of his fatal illness of dyspepsia occupies so prominent a place. It terminated in extreme atrophy and disorder of the nerves, and indeed presented features which were quite inexplicable to the physicians.
Now, in this day of hard work and intense excitement, men cannot ruminate gently and quietly after their refection, and so they become dyspeptic. though their dyspepsia may not be so serious as in the cases we have indicated, it is quite enough to make them utterly gloomy and unhappy. Great generals have lost their battles, and great lawyers have lost their cases, because they have committed some indiscretion in their diet on the eve of a momentous issue. And in our everyday life, every man who registers or even notes his passing mental and bodily moods, finds out, often with infinite dissatisfaction, how much he is at the mercy of outward events. A thick gloom settles on a man's mind. thinks all bad things of all men. His health is