« AnteriorContinuar »
function is partially performed, and the blood imperfectly oxygenated-an irregularity of itself sufficient to bring on a low state of health, and a disposition to disease.
The want of conformity between these organs and the bones they are in contact with, causing interference between the parts, an irritable condition of the lungs may be engendered, disposing to acute inflammation, or to the slow development of chronic disease.
Having given some notion of the nature of the affections brought on by mistakes during the time of education, I shall advert now to their causes.
The general causes of these derangements are those things that weaken the constitution. They may be physical or mental. Among the most important physical causes are, want of the exercise proper to develop the powers of the body, and the taking of food improper in quantity or quality. The mental causes may be a too constant occupation of the mind in study; the influence of feelings or passions of a depressing nature, &c.
The facts that show the want of exercise to be one of the greatest causes of these affections, and of the weakness that induces them, are very numerous. On the one side, we observe that young people, brought up to hardy and laborious occupations, whether they are males or females, do not suffer in this way. The sons and daughters of farmers and labourers, for example, never exhibit the deformities spoken of, except in cases where there is a great scrofulous defect by inheritance.
A still more remarkable fact of a general nature may be seen, on a comparison in this respect between the
two sexes. The lateral distortion of the spine is almost wholly confined to females, and is scarcely ever found existing in the other sex. The proportion of the former to the latter is at least nine to one. In truth, I may say that I have scarcely ever witnessed a remarkable distortion, of the kind now spoken of, in a boy. What is the cause of the disparity? They are equally well formed by nature; or, if there be any difference, the symmetry of all parts is more perfect in the female than in the niale. The difference in physical organization results from a difference of habits during the school education. It is not seen till after this process is advanced. The girl, when she goes from school, is, as we have before said, expected to go home, and remain, at least a large part of the time, confined to the house. As soon as the boy is released, he begins to run and jump and frolic in the open air, and continues his sports till hunger draws him to his food. The result is, that in him all the organs get invigorated, and the bones of course become solid; while a defect exists in the other proportionate to the want of physical motion.
A question may fairly be asked, why these evils are greater now than formerly, when females were equally confined ? The answer, in reference to the young females of our country, is, that they then took a considerable share in the laborious part of the domestic duties; now, they are devoted to literary occupations, of a nature to confine the body, and require considerable efforts of the mind.
I shall not, in this place, say anything of the second of the physical causes of weakness spoken of, as it will be adverted to hereafter. The next of these causes which
presents itself to our view, is of a inoral nature ;-the influence of too great occupation of the mind in study, and that of feelings and passions of a depressing nature.
The operation of mental causes on the bodily frame is not unknown to any of us; though they may not perhaps have been thought, in regard to education, to be of very great importance. As it is not in my power to enter fully into the subject, I would barely present it for
The effects of anxiety, grief, and other feelings, in diminishing strength and wearing away health, are quite familiar. The loss of property and of friends has been known to bring on diseases ; and it has sometimes happened, that an agreeable reverse or a favourable incident has speedily removed them. Confidence in a physician is a great help towards receiving benefit from his prescriptions; and many of the cures wrought by empirical or quack medicines are to be attributed rather to the operation of the mind than to the action of the medicines on the disease.
The production of physical changes in a sudden and sensible way, by the action of moral causes, is comparatively rare, and difficult to comprehend. Yet medical men do sometimes have an opportunity of observing changes effected by this power, which might appear incredible, and almost miraculous, to those not aware of the force of mental operations on the human organs. I could adduce many such cases. Perhaps it will be proper to state one or two in detail.
When, some years ago, the metallic tractors were in the height of their reputation for the cure of diseases by external application to the part affected, the following
experiment was performed by Dr. Haygarth of Bath. Two tractors were prepared, not of metal but of a substance different from the genuine tractors, and made to resemble them. These were applied, in a number of instances, with all the good effects of the real tractors. Among other remarkable cures was that of a person with a contraction of the knee joint, from a disease of six months' duration. After a few minutes' application this man was directed to use his limb, and, to the surprise of all present, he was able to walk about the room. Such instances are not very unusual. Many empirics succeed by calling into action the same principle. The patient, after a number of contortions of the part affected, is directed to make use of his limb; and though this call on his imagination does not infallibly succeed, it is not wonderful that it occasionally does so.
I will relate another case of this kind. Some time since, a female presented herself to me with a tumour or swelling of the submaxillary gland of the neck, which had become what is commonly called a wen. about the size of an egg, had lasted two years, and was so very hard that I considered any attempt to dissipate it by medicine to be vain, and advised its removal by an operation. To this the patient could not bring her mind; therefore, to satisfy her wish, I directed some applications of considerable activity to be made to the part, and these she pursued a number of weeks, without any change. After this she called on me, and, with some 'hesitation, begged to know whether an application recommended to her would in my opinion be safe. This consisted in applying the hand of a dead man three times to the diseased part. One of her neighbours now lay dead, and she had an opportunity of trying the ex
periment, if thought not dangerous. At first I was disposed to divert her from it; but, recollecting the power of the imagination, I gravely assured her she might make the trial without apprehension of serious consequences. Awhile after she presented herself once more, and, with a siniling countenance, informed me she had used this remedy and no other since I saw her ; and, on examining for the tumour, I found it had disappeared.
The possibility of operating powerfully on the corporeal organization by moral causes being admitted, it is clear that the long exertion of intellectual efforts, and still more the frequent action of depressing passions, may, and even must, have a great influence on the condition of the body, at the flexible period when education and growth are going on together. A close and constant occupation of mind too long continued lessens the action of the heart; and a languid circulation thus being induced, prevents the full growth of the body. Depressing passions act more conspicuously. You may possibly have noticed, though the case is rare in this country, the condition of children subjected to a persevering system of harshness at home. They are pale and shrivelled, and their growth is checked.
In the present modes of education great pains are taken to excite the imagination by competition. These efforts are attended with but too much success in susceptible minds. An anxiety to excel becomes the predominant passion. The health, the sports, and too often the friendships of youth, are sacrificed to the desire of surpassing those around. When this becomes an all-absorbing passion, the result is most unfriendly