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- Study and Stimulants - 6/26 -


When I am ill (I am suffering from gout at this very moment) tobacco is the best friend that my irritable nerves possess. When I am well, but exhausted for the time by a hard day's work, tobacco nerves and composes me. There is my evidence in two words. When a man allows himself to become a glutton in the matter of smoking tobacco, he suffers for it; and if he becomes a glutton in the matter of eating meat, he just as certainly suffers in another way. When I read learned attacks on the practice of smoking, I feel indebted to the writer--he adds largely to the relish of my cigar.

WILKIE COLONS. February 10, 1882.


My experience of stimulants has been insufficient to enable me to give any important opinion about them. As to tobacco, my strong hope is that my own sons will never use it; but if they should develop peculiar and excitable nerves, or become very emotional, or have much trouble, it is so likely that they might take to some worse habit that I would prefer they should smoke.

M. D. CONWAY. February 22, 1882.


I am not a pledged abstainer: I have used both tobacco and alcohol in various forms. Neither is at all necessary to my vigour of either body or mind. My use of tobacco has been but slight. I have never Used alcohol for years. I could never think deeply after the use of tobacco; I have felt a quickening of thought at times after a slight use of good wine; but I know, from physiological evidence, what practice has certainly proved, that no permanent benefit to either body or mind must be sought from its use. I have employed it with great benefit at times--that is, where it was better to afford the exhaustion following a mere stimulant, than to submit to an exhaustion which the stimulant could for the moment counteract. This is the only advantage, save to the palate, that I have known to be derived personally from the use of alcohol.

W. H. DALLINGER. February 11, 1882.


I drink a glass of wine daily, and believe I should be better without any, though all doctors urge me to drink wine, as I suffer much from giddiness. I have taken snuff all my life, and regret that I ever acquired the habit, which I have often tried to leave off, and have succeeded for a time. I feel sure that it is a great stimulus and aid in my work. I also daily smoke two little paper cigarettes of Turkish tobacco. This is not a stimulus, but rests me after I have been compelled to talk, with tired memory, more than anything else. I am 73 years old.

CH. DARWIN. February 9, 1882.


I have received your note asking about the effect of alcohol on my health and work. I cannot say that they influence either; I find, however, that I cannot drink beer when I am using my brain, and, therefore, do not take it when I have anything of importance to think about. I look upon tobacco and alcohol as merely luxuries, and there are no luxuries more dangerous if you take too much of them. I find quinine the best stimulant to thought.

W. BOYD DAWKINS. February 16, 1882.


For my own part, I am decidedly averse to the use of tobacco and stimulants. I am myself a total abstainer (not pledged), and I have never smoked in my life. I always do my utmost to dissuade young and old alike to abstain from even the moderate use of tobacco and stimulants, as in the course of a long and laborious life, speaking much and preaching without notes, I have always felt able to grapple with my subject, with pleasure to myself and with profit, I trust, to my hearers.

A. J. D. D'ORSEY. March 17, 1882.


As far as my experience goes, the use of stimulants enables one at moments of severe bodily exhaustion to make mental efforts of which, but for them, he would be absolutely incapable. For instance, after a long day's ride in the burning sun across the dry stony wastes of Northern Persia, I have arrived in some wretched, mud-built town, and laid down upon my carpet in the corner of some miserable hovel, utterly worn out by bodily fatigue, mental anxiety, and the worry inseparable from constant association with Eastern servants. It would be necessary to write a long letter to the newspapers before retiring to rest. A judicious use of stimulants has, under such circumstances, not only given me sufficient energy to unpack my writing materials, lie on my face, and propped on both elbows, write for hours by the light of a smoky lamp; but also produced the flow of ideas that previously refused to come out of their mental hiding places, or which presented themselves in a flat and uninteresting form. I consider, then, the use of alcoholic and other stimulation to be conducive to literary labours under circumstances of physical and mental exhaustion; and very often the latter is the normal condition of writers, especially those employed on the press. Perhaps, too, in examining into the nature of some metaphysical and psychological questions the use of alcohol, or some similar stimulant, aids the appreciation of _nuances_ of thought which might otherwise escape the cooler and less excited brain. On the other hand, while travelling in the East during the past few years, and when, as a rule, circumstances precluded the possibility of obtaining stimulants, I found that a robust state of health consequent on an out-door life, made the consumption of alcohol in any shape quite unnecessary. In brief, then, my opinion is, that at a given moment of mental depression or exhaustion, the use of stimulants will restore the mind to a condition of activity and power fully equalling, and in some particular ways, surpassing its normal state. Subsequently to the dying out of the stimulation the brain is left in a still more collapsed situation than before, in other words, must pay the penalty, in the form of an adverse reaction, of having overdrawn its powers, for having, as it were, anticipated its work.

E. O'DONOVAN. Feb. 17, 1882.


I distinguish direct and immediate effect of alcohol on the brain from its indirect effect through the general health of the body. I can only speak for myself. I have no doubt that the direct effect of alcohol on me is intellectually injurious. This, however, is true in a certain degree, of everything I eat and drink (except tea). After the smallest meal I am for a while less active mentally. A single glass even of claret I believe injures my power of thinking; but accepting the necessity of regular meals, I do not find that a sparing allowance of light wine adds to the subsequent dulness of mind, and I am disposed to think it is of some slight use physically. From one to two and a half _small_ wine glasses of claret or burgundy is the limit of what I can take--and that only at dinner--without conscious harm. One glass of sherry or port I find every way injurious. Whisky and brandy are to me simply poisons, destroying my power of enjoyment and of thought. Ale I can only drink when very much in the open air. As to tobacco, I have never smoked much, but I can either not smoke, as at present, or go to the limit of two small cigarettes in twenty-four hours. Any good effects of tobacco become with me uncertain in proportion to the frequency of smoking. The good effects are those commonly ascribed to it: it seems to soothe away small worries, and to restore little irritating incidents to their true proportions. On a few occasions I have thought it gave me a mental fillip, and enabled me to start with work I had been pausing over; and it nearly always has the power to produce a pleasant, and perhaps wholesome, retardation of thought--a half unthinking reverie, if one adapts surrounding circumstances to encourage this mood. The only sure brain stimulants with me are plenty of fresh air and tea; but each of these in large quantity produces a kind of intoxication: the intoxication of a great amount of air causing wakefulness, with a delightful confusion of spirits, without the capacity of steady thought; tea intoxication unsettles and enfeebles my will; but then a great dose of tea often does get good work out of me (though I may pay for it afterwards), while alcohol renders all mental work impossible. I have been accustomed to make the effects of tea and wine a mode of separating two types of constitution. I have an artist friend whose brain is livelier after a bottle of Carlowitz, which would stifle my mind, and to him my strong cup of tea would be poison. We are both, I think, of nervous organization, but how differentiated I cannot tell. My pulse

Study and Stimulants - 6/26

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