Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

of weakly organized forms unfolded and invigorated, and of the attainment of extraordinary degrees of muscular energy and elasticity in persons in health.

The diversions of the gymnasium should constitute a regular part of the duties of all our colleges and seminaries of learning; and to give them the requisite power of excitement, the system of rewards, so dangerous when mismanaged in literary education, might be introduced without

any

ill effect. Our young men may surely find time to cultivate those exercises which Cicero and Cæsar, and some of the most studious among the ancient and modern philosophers, considered necessary, and contrived to prosecute in the midst of their studies and affairs. *

If the gymnasium is deserted because it calls for too much effort, let me entreat them at least to adopt a regular plan of walking. Two hours a day must be devoted to this business without relaxation, unless they are willing to carry the mark of disorder in the face while

*

young, and a dyspeptic, nervous, disabled frame through that part of life which requires health and activity.

* Cicero is described by Plutarch, as being, at one period of his life, extremely lean and slender, and having such a weakness in his stomach, that he could eat but little, and that not till late in the evening. He travelled to Athens, however, for the recovery of his health, where his body was so strengthened by gymnastic exercises, as to become firm and robust; and his voice, which had been harsh, was thoroughly formed, and rendered sweet, full, and sonorous.

In regard to Julius Cæsar, the same author informs us, that he was originally of a slender habit of body, had a soft and white skin, was troubled with pains in his head, and subject to epilepsy; but, by continual marches, coarse diet, and frequent lodging in the fields, he struggled against these diseases, and used war, and the exercises and hardships therewith connected, as the best medicine against these indispositions.-Sir John Sinclair.

I have often been asked how it is the German literati preserve their health without exercise. Some of them are known to pass most of their time in study, and think not of wasting their precious moments in taking care of their bodies. To this I reply: first, that they are careful to acquire a good constitution by habits of activity while they are young. The organs are properly developed, and confirmed in healthy action. Secondly, they do not break down their strength by luxurious ways of living and the free use of stiinulant drinks in early age. Thirdly, which is the great secret, they live most abstemiously. The digestive organs are not overburdened with food, and stand not in need of extraordinary efforts to relieve them.

Let those who are compelled to sedentary pursuits, seasonably lay aside one-half of their ordinary food, and they will experience no loss of time in combating the horrors of dyspepsia.

The inhabitants of the Philadelphia Penitentiary, confined to a uniform regimen, which of course limits itself, enjoy uninterrupted health. Those who were diseased from bad habits before they became its tenants are effectually cured after a short residence.

Regulation of the food is of primary consequence towards the formation of a good constitution. The most common error in relation to it consists in the use of too much food. Nature has given us organs of a certain capacity, on the presumption that, being called on to manual labour, we should then require a large quantity of food. Muscular efforts exhaust the strength, and require renovation by nutritious substances; but when the muscular efforts are small, the quantity of nourishment required is comparatively trifling ; and if, in consequence of the capacity of the gastric organ, a large quantity is taken, the result will be pernicious, directly or indirectly. Parents are uneasy when their children eat but little, and would encourage them to eat against their inclination. No mistake can be more pernicious to health; and if persevered in, disease will infallibly result from it. When the child wants appetite, instead of being compelled to take food, it must be compelled to take exercise, unless positively ill, and then it must be compelled to take medicine.

The quantity of liquid given to young persons is decidedly injurious. The principal agent in the digesting process, is a solvent juice. The more this is diluted with fluids, the weaker it is, and the less perfect the digestive action. Animal food should be sparingly taken by young persons who use little exercise; and children generally do not need it. Bread and milk, and fruit, are the best articles for those who do not labour. Wine is highly pernicious to young persons. It is a slow but certain poison. Before the body has attained its full growth, there is an overplus of excitability; and if to this is added the powerful agency of wine, or any other stimulating drink, the constitution cannot fail to be hurt. Females are more injured by stimulating drinks than males, because their system is more susceptible of physical excitement. The nervous power is more energetic ; the pulse and respiration are quicker ; and the development of animal heat greater. Hence, I suppose, it is, that they require less covering in cold weather; and suffer more inconvenience from heat than the other sex.

Females are unfortunately compelled by fashion to adopt partial and unequal coverings of the body. A part of the chest is very much covered, while another part is wholly exposed. The dangers which spring from fashion are more easily pointed out than avoided. They serve at least to place in a clearer light the necessity of inuring young females to exposure, and invigorating them by exercise.

There is one part of female dress, the dangers of which have been made known, but which still, I fear, continues to be practised; I mean the girting the chest.

In what notions of beauty this practice took its origin, I am unable to discover. The angular projections formed by a tightly drawn cord, are in direct opposition to the models of Grecian or Roman beauty. In the flowing robes of the Juno, the Vesta, and Diana, every part is light and graceful. Nor have I been able to discover, in the representation of the Muses or the Graces, any habiliment which would lead us to believe they wore stays or corsets. The taste of the other sex is uniformly opposed to the wasp-like waist and the boarded chest. Yet, strange as it seems, there is scarcely a young lady of fifteen, who has not imbibed a disposition for this species of application, and scarcely a well-dressed lady of any age, whose chest is not confined in such a manner as to impede the motions of respiration and the free use of the inuscles of the upper extremities. It is true we are constantly told that they are uncomfortable without these appendages; but this only shows what great inconveniences we can, by habit, become accustomed to. The Indian nations, who consider the flattened forehead to be a beauty, confine the heads of their infants between two pieces of board corded together, and the child exists under this pressure and may grow up. Yet there can be no doubt that diseases are generated by it; that some lose their lives, and others

their intellects. Still the fashion continues from age to age; for I have now in my possession flattened heads which must have lived some hundreds of years since, and others which have belonged to individuals of the existing generation.

Nature has so contrived the human chest that there is no superfluous play of the parts composing it. Its movements are just sufficient to give such an expansion to the lungs and such an extent of oxygenation of the blood, as are adequate to the wants of the individual under different occurrences. In females, the chest is shorter than in males; and to compensate for this, the motion of the ribs is naturally more extensive and more frequent. Whatever limits this motion is, therefore, peculiarly injurious to the sex; especially as they are more disposed to consumption and other chronic affections of the lungs. Now, the ligatures in the fashionable dress are placed precisely on that part where the motion should be greatest, that is, the lower part. It is precisely here, that, in case of fracture of the ribs, when we desire to stop the movements of the chest, we apply a tight bandage; though rarely do we venture to make it so tight as the ordinary corsets. The effect of such pressure, begun at an early period of life, will be understood from what has been stated in regard to the spine. The bones must yield to it; their shape becomes permanently altered; the lower part of the breast contracted; the space destined by nature for the heart and lungs diminished; and what the fatal results of all this on these tender and vital organs are, every day's experience shows us. The influence on the health, though slow, is certain. It may not at once produce consumption; but it lays the foundation for ills it would

« AnteriorContinuar »