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- Study and Stimulants - 20/26 -
At the same time it is true that many eminent men, and especially eminent lawyers, who in their early days worked immensely hard, studied through many long nights, and caroused, some of them, deeply through others, yet attained to a good old age, as Lords Eldon, Scott, Brougham, Campbell, Lyndhurst, and others. To what are we to attribute this longevity under the circumstances? No doubt to iron constitutions derived from their parentage, and then to the recuperative effect of those half-yearly flights into the Egypt of the country, which make an essential part of English life. To a thorough change of hours, habits, and atmosphere in these seasons of villeggiatura. To vigorous athletic country sports and practices, hunting, shooting, fishing, riding, boating, yachting, traversing moors and mountains after black-cock, grouse, salmon, trout and deer. To long walks at sea-side resorts, and to that love of continental travel so strong in both your countrymen and women, and ours.
These are the _saving_ causes in the lives of such men. Who knows how long they would have lived had they not inflicted on themselves, more or less, the destroying ones. There is an old story among us of two very old men being brought up on a trial where the evidence of "the oldest inhabitant" was required. The Judge asked the first who came up what had been the habits of his life. He replied, "Very regular, my lord; I have always been sober, and kept good hours." Upon which the Judge dilated in high terms of praise on the benefit of regular life. When the second old man appeared, the Judge put the same question, and received the answer, "Very regular, my lord; I have never gone to bed sober these forty years." Whereupon his lordship exclaimed, "Ha! I see how it is. English men, like English oak, wet or dry, last for ever."
I am not of his lordship's opinion; but seeing the great longevity of many of our most eminent lawyers, and some of whom in early life seemed disposed to live fast rather than long, I am more than ever confirmed in my opinion of the vitalizing influences of temperance, good air, and daily activity, which, with the benefits of change and travel, can so far in after life save those whom no original force of constitution could have saved from the effects of jollity, or of gigantic efforts of study in early life. For one' of such hard livers, or hard brain-workers who have escaped by the periodical resort to healthful usages, how many thousands have been "cut off in the midst of their days?" A lady once meeting me in Highgate, where I then lived, asked me if I could recommend her a good doctor. I told her that I could recommend her three. She observed that one would be enough; but I assured her that she would find these three more economical and efficient than any individual Galen that I could think of. Their names were, "Temperance, Early Hours, and Daily Exercise." That they were the only ones that I had employed for years, or meant to employ. Soon after, a gentleman wrote to me respecting these "Three Doctors," and put them in print. Anon, they were made the subject of one of the "Ipswich Tracts;" and on a visit, a few years ago, to the Continent, I found this tract translated into French, and the title-page enriched with the name of a French physician, as the author. So much the better. If the name of the French physician can recommend "The Three Doctors" to the population of France, I am so much the more obliged.
May 20, 1871. _Hygiene of the Brain_, New York, 1878.
THE REV. CHARLES KINGSLEY
Found great benefit from the use of tobacco, though several times he tried to give it up. He smoked the poorest tobacco, however, and Mr. C. Kegan Paul thus describes the care Charles Kingsley took to minimise the dangers of the habit:--
"He would work himself into a white heat over his book, till, too excited to write more, he would calm himself down by a pipe, pacing his grass-plot in thought, and in long strides. He was a great smoker, and tobacco was to him a needful sedative. He always used a long and clean clay pipe, which lurked in all sorts of unexpected places. But none was ever smoked which was in any degree foul, and when there was a vast accumulation of old pipes, they were sent back again to be rebaked, and returned fresh and new. This gave him a striking simile, which in 'Alton Locke,' he puts into the mouth of James Crossthwaite, 'Katie here believes in Purgatory, where souls are burnt clean again, like 'bacca pipes.'"
I was deeply impressed by something which an excellent clergyman told me one day, when there was nobody by to bring mischief on the head of the narrator. This clergyman knew the literary world of his time so thoroughly that there was probably no author of any mark then living in England with whom he was not more or less acquainted.
It must be remembered that a new generation has now grown up. He told me that he had reason to believe that there was no author or authoress who was free from the habit of taking pernicious stimulants, either strong green tea or strong coffee at night, or wine, or spirits, or laudanum.
The amount of opium taken to relieve the wear and tear of authorship was, he said, greater than most people had any conception of, and all literary workers took something.
"Why, I do not," said I; "fresh air and cold water are my stimulants."
"I believe you," he replied, "but you work in the morning, and there is much in that!"
I then remembered, when I had to work a short time at night, a physician who called on me observed that I must not allow myself to be exhausted at the end of the day. He would not advise any alcoholic wines, but any light wines that I liked might do me good. "You have a cupboard there at your right hand," said he; "keep a bottle of hock and a wine glass there, and help yourself when you feel you want it." "No, thank you," said I; "if I took wine it should not be when alone, nor would I help myself to a glass; I might take a little more and a little more, till my solitary glass might become a regular tippling habit; I shall avoid the temptation altogether." Physicians should consider well before they give such advice to brain-worn workers. --_Autobiography_.
"In labour of the head, alcohol stimulates the brain to an increase of function under the mental power, and so effects a concentrated cerebral exhaustion, without being able to afford compensating nutrition or repair. ....There is the same common fallacy here as in the case of manual labour. The stimulus is felt--to do good. 'I could not do my work without it.' But at what cost are you doing your work? Premature and permanent exhaustion of the muscles is bad enough; but premature and permanent exhaustion of brain is infinitely worse. And when you come to a point where work must cease or the stimulus be taken, do not hesitate as to the right alternative. Don't call for your pate ale, your brandy, or your wine. Shut your book, close your eyes, and go to sleep: or change your occupation, so as to give a thorough shift to your brain; and then, after a time, spent, as the case may be, either in repose or recreation, you will find yourself fit to resume your former task of thought without loss or detriment.... Look to the mental workers under alcohol. Take the best of them. Would not their genius have burned not only with a steadier and more enduring flame, but also with a less sickly and noxious vapour to the moral health of all around them, had they been free from the unnatural and unneeded stimulus? Take Burns, for example. Alcohol did not make his genius, or even brighten it.... Genius may have its poetical and imaginative powers stored up into fitful paroxysms by alcohol, no doubt: the control of will being gone or going, the mind is left to take ideas as they come, and they may come brilliantly for a time. But, at best, the man is but a revolving light. At one time a flash will dazzle you; at another, the darkness is as that of midnight; the alternating gloom being always longer than the period of light, and all the more intense by reason of the other's brightness. While imagination sparkles, reason is depressed. And, therefore, let the true student eschew the bottle's deceitful aid. He will think all the harder, all the clearer, and all the longer!"
_Alcohol: its Place and Power_. 866, p. 122.
MR. R. A. PROCTOR, F. R. S.
"I would venture to add an expression of my own firm conviction that a life of study is aided by the almost entire avoidance of stimulants, alcoholic as well as nicotian, I do not say that the moderate use of such stimulants does harm, only that so far as I can judge from my own experience it affords no help. I recognise a slight risk in what Abbe Moigno correctly states--the apparent power of indefinite work which comes with the almost entire avoidance of stimulants; but the risk is very slight, for the man must have very little sense who abuses that power to a dangerous degree. Certainly, if the loss of the power be evidence of mischief, I would say (still speaking of my own experience, which may be peculiar to my own temperament) that the use of stimulants, even in a very moderate degree, is mischievous. For instance, I repeatedly have put this point to the test:--I work say from breakfast till one o'clock, when, if I feel at all hungry, I join my family at lunch; if now at lunch I eat very lightly, and take a glass of ale or whisky-and-water, I feel disposed, about a quarter of an hour later, to leave my work, which has, for the time, become irksome to me; and perhaps a couple of hours will pass before I care for steady work again: on the other hand, if I eat as lightly, or perhaps take a heartier lunch, but drink water only, I sit down as disposed for work after as before the meal. In point of fact, a very weak glass of whisky-and-water has as bad an influence on the disposition for work as a meal unwisely heavy would have. It is the same in the evening. If I take a light supper, with water only, I can work (and this, perhaps, is bad) comfortably till twelve or one; but a glass of weak whisky-and-water disposes me to rest or sleep, or to no heavier mental effort than is involved in reading a book of fiction or travel. These remarks apply only to quiet home life, with my relatives or intimate friends at the table. At larger gatherings it seems (as Herbert Spencer has noted) that not only a heartier meal, but stimulants in a larger quantity, can be
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