Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the article aforesaid? Like the wise old Greeks he has taken for his motto fir/Sh' ayav, do nothing too much. His universal nostrum for all the ills that flesh is heir to is, in one word, moderation; moderation in all things, in eating and drinking, in exercise of brain and body. Now, if there be one thing more distasteful than another to our generation it must surely be this same moderation. The proofs lie thick around us. Quicquid agunt homines—in religion and politics, in art and letters, in our business and in our amusements, in all things man puts head or hand to, whatever else may be, moderation surely is not the ruling spirit. We can labour terribly, and we do. But,

Moderate tasks and moderate leisure,
Quiet living, strict-kept measure.
Both in suffering and in pleasure,

it is not for these things that our nature seems to yearn. And it is surely the fact that in the matter of diet, and of liquids especially, many men, not commonly prone to extremes, find it easier to be ascetic than to be moderate. Mr. Goldwin Smith propounded a different view the other day, in a paper that mightily warmed the gloomy brewers' souls. "An ordinary English gentleman," he said, "takes a glass of wine daily at dinner without feeling any more tempted to swallow the whole contents of the decanter than he is to swallow the whole contents of the mustard-pot from which he takes a spoonful with his beef." With the greatest possible respect to Mr. Goldwin Smith's opinion on all subjects, we are a little sceptical on this one. We venture to doubt whether the ordinary English gentleman who drinks wine at all is content with a single glass daily. We venture to suspect that he would find it much easier to leave the decanter alone altogether than to stop at the single glass. It was so with Johnson, and if we may be pardoned for thrusting into such honourable company, it is so with our feeble selves. To dine without wine is no hardship to us ; but we frankly con

fess to find the greatest difficulty in con tenting ourselves with a single glass. Many men, we feel tolerably confident, who are in no sense of the word intemperate, will join in this confession. We may feel pretty sure then that the good doctor in recommending this golden mean is not courting the popular voice after the fashion of Bithynian Asclepiades, but rather giving advice which his experience of mankind must suggest will not be very generally followed,—except on compulsion. "The devil was sick," &c.; every man will be able to finish the quotation for himself.

And after all this is but as it should be, for the doctors' sake. Whether by following the extremely simple and sensible rules laid down by our guide, we should all or any of us reach those ripe old ages he tantalizes us with, may be open to question; but it is certain that by following them we should, while we lived, keep many a guinea in our pockets that now finds its way into the doctors'. For here we have Tiberius proved true indeed. The man who has reached the age of thirty without having discovered that if he indulges immoderately in the pleasures of the table he will suffer for it, must either be blessed (or cursed, for the blessing is equivocal) with such a digestion that he may laugh all the College of Physicians to scorn, with all Apothecaries' Hall thrown in, or he must be a fool whom it were well the world should be rid of so soon as possible lest he hand down his foolishness to posterity. A poet indeed pointed out that a mind of this simple philosophy comes not only with the ripening years, but is practically a part of our natural outfit for life, when he sang that among the general truths shared by him and his well-loved schoolfellow was the certain conviction

That cakes

Were to be bought at four a penny, And that excruciating aches

Resulted if we ate too many.

But in truth this newErasistratus makes no pretence at discovery ; his wisdom is the wisdom of years, which for our part makes us reverence it the more, being of those old-fashioned creatures who think more nobly of experience than experiment. All the wise men are on his side, in theory at any rate if not in practice; on his side and on the side of Tiberius, for with the English doctor they preach moderation and with the Roman emperor they preach (what fortunately for our countryman few if any practice) that each man must be a law unto himself. There is that extremely wise man Jesus, son of Sirach: "Sound sleep cometh of moderate eating: he riseth early, and his wits are with him; but the pain of watching, and choler, and pangs of the belly, are with an unsatiable man. . . . "Wine is as good as life to a man, if it be drunk moderately; what life is there to a man without wine f for it was made to make men glad. ... Be not insatiable in any dainty thing, nor too greedy upon meats: for excess of meats bringeth sickness, and surfeiting will turn into choler. By surfeiting have many perished; but he that taketh heed prolongeth his life." There is Plutarch warning his friends against too solid a diet, on the ground that it is oppressive to the intellect and apt to leave behind malignant relics. There is Shakespeare with his old Adam—so different a being from the old Adam of most of us!

Though I look old, yet I am strong and

lusty;
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood,
Nor did not with unbashful forehead

woo
The means of weakness and debility;
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter
Frosty but kindly.

There is Bacon—with Shakespeare, of course !" There is a wisdom in this beyond the rules of physic: a man's own observation, what he finds good of and what he finds hurt of, is the best physic to preserve health; but it is a safer conclusion to say, 'This agreeth not well with me, therefore I

will not continue it', than this,' I find no offence of this, therefore I may use it'; for strength of nature in youth passeth over many excesses which are owing a man till his age ". There is the melancholy Burton: "Our own experience is the best physician; that diet which is most propitious to one is often pernicious to another. Such is the variety of palates, humours, and temperatures, let every man observe and be a law unto himself ". There is Milton, with his Adam, whose sleep

Was aery light from pure digestion bred.

And there, too, is Pope, playing to his friend Bethel the part of Horace's Ofellus, and little careful to disguise his model's antique plainness of speech.

These are but a few; it were no hard matter to fill a volume with the prescriptions of these amateur physicians. Finally we have the old learning endorsed by the new: "No hard and fast rules can be laid down, but strict moderation should be the guiding maxim "; and this is as rare as it is gratifying, for it is not commonly our use to allow that our fathers weie so wise as ourselves. Nor when we fiDd the long result of time practically confessing that it can offer no better rules for our guidance than those preached if not practised when the world was young, need we think of Monsieur Jourdain and his unsuspected prose. Rather let us think of the Greek and his, "Give us a good thing two or three times over ". Was it not that sage young gentleman, Clive Newcome, who observed to his friend Pendennis that the best cannot be beaten 1

On one point indeed it is not quite correct to say that this new philosopher has added nothing to the discoveries of his predecessors; one new thing he has told us, one consolation given us supreme and ineffaceable. He puts the period of middle age between the years forty-five and sixty. Most of us have been used perhaps to look somewhat earlier for that grim moment when wo must turn away for ever from the primrose path of youth into the via media. But who will not cheerfully accept such a correction 1 Who will regret that the shadow of his days should run backward for how short a span soever, or grudge to find another turn of the glass to his credit before the striking of the inevitable hour? The feet of such a messenger of good tidings are indeed beautiful upon the mountains; his voice is as the voice of the blessed bird of spring, which brought back to the listening poet the golden time of his vanished youth.

Of all these old wisdoms thus recalled to our memory, perhaps none is wiser than Bacon's, "Discern of the comiDg on of years, and think not to do the same things still, for age will not be defied". Half the secret of life, we are persuaded, is to know when we are grown old; and it is the half most hardly learned. It is more hardly learned, moreover, in the matter of exercise than in the matter of diet. There is no advice so commonly given to the ailing man of middle age as the advice to take more exercise, and there is perhaps none which leads him into so many pitfalls. This is particularly the case with the brain-workers. The man who labours his brain must spare his body. He cannot burn the candle at both ends, and the attempt to do so will almost inevitably result in his lighting it in the middle to boot; the waste of tissue will be so great that he will be tempted to repair it by the use of a too generous diet. Most men who use their brains much soon learn for themselves that the sense of physical exaltation, the glow of exuberant health which comes from a body strung to its full powers by continuous and severe exercise is not favourable to study. The exercise such men need is the exercise that rests, not that which tires. They need to wash their brains with the fresh air of heaven, to bring into gentle play the muscles that have been lying idle while the head

worked. Nor is it only to this class of labouring humanity that the advice to take exercise needs reservations. The time of violent delights soon passes, and the efforts to protract it beyond its natural span is as dangerous as it is ridiculous. Some men, through nature or the accident of fortune will of course be able to keep touch of it longer than others; but when once the touch has been lost the struggle to regain it can add but sorrow to the labour. Of this our doctor makes a cardinal point; but pertinent as his warning may be to the old, for whom indeed he has primarily compounded his elixir vitas, it is yet more pertinent to men of middle age, and probably it is more necessary. It is in the latter period that most of the mischief is done. The old are commonly resigned to their lot; but few men will consent without a struggle to own that they are no longer young. And specially is this friend of man to be thanked for his warning against that most pestilential of modern here sies, the bicycle or tricycle, or whatsoever its accursed name may be. Elderly men, he,says, should eschew this unnatural mode of progression. Most cordially we hope that the warning is superfluous. The spectacle of an old man, writhing in the ungainly contortions necessary to the proper management of this "agonizing wheel ", were indeed one to make angels weep. We have ourselves no great passion for seeing even the young take their exercise in this fashion. They had far better trust to their own legs, if a horse is beyond their means. No doubt they can cover more ground that way, and to do the most possible in the shortest possible space of time appears to be one of the necessities of the age. But we are well persuaded that the country-walk that was found good enough for our fathers will serve their sons' turn better than this insane careering over hill and dale. The former refreshed mind as well as body; but what of all the pleasant sights and sounds of our fair English landscape do these young Titans enjoy, as they go staggering on,

With deaf
Ears and labour-dimmed eyes,
Regarding neither to right
Nor left 1

There is one point we are surprised to find our friend leaving untouched. Perhaps he considers it included in the warning that no hard and fast rules for diet can be laid down; but he might have done well to be a little more explicit. We allude to the necessity for frequent changes of diet. All things are not good to all men, and all things are not always good to the same man. This was a point much insisted on by the wise minds of old. Bacon especially commends the advice of Celsus (whom he somewhat sarcastically observes must have been a wise man as well as a good physician) that "one of the great precepts of health and lasting" is "that a man do vary and interchange contraries". The man who confines his studies within one unchanging groove, will hardly find his intellectual condition so light and nimble, so free of play, so capable of giving and receiving, as he who varies them according to his mood, for the mind needs rest and recreation no less than the body; it is not well to keep either always at high pressure. One fixed, unswerving system of diet, without regard to needs and seasons, or even to fancy, is not wise. One man has not always the same stomach, any more than all men have the same stomach. What is grateful and nourishing at one time may be found insipid and even unwholesome at another. Within the lines

marked by experience it is well that the love of change which is natural to all men should be given full play. A too servile adherence to a system which has been found once beneficial in certain conditions may diminish or even destroy its value when those conditions return. The great secret of existence after all is to be the master and not the slave of both mind and body, and that is best done by giving both free rein within certain limits which, as the old sages were universally agreed, each man must discover for himself. Happy are the words of Addison and happily quoted: "A continual anxiety for life vitiates all the relishes of it, and casts a gloom over the whole face of nature, as it is impossible that we should take delight in anything that we are every moment afraid of losing". One of the best methods of avoiding that pitiful anxiety—that bloodthirsty clinging to life which is after all perhaps not confined to the English middle-class—is to learn within what limits we may safely indulge our desire for change, and then freely indulge it within them. "Oh, sweet Fancy ", sang the poet,

Oh, sweet Fancy! let her loose;
Everything is spoilt by use:
Where's the cheek that doth not fade,
Too much gazed at 1 Where's the maid
Whose life mature is ever new?
Where's the eye however blue,
Doth not weary? Where's the face
One would meet in every place t
Where's the voice, however soft,
One would hear so very oft?

And so we end as we began, by setting Digestion in the place of Love!

PROGRESS AND WAR.

War estimates increase and even in sea-girt England conscription, or something like it, is proposed. With all our enlightenment, philanthropy and democracy, after William Penn, Cowper, and Wilberforce, after Voltaire and Rousseau, after Jeremy Bentham, the Manchester School and John Bright, and alas! after nearly nineteen centuries of Christianity, we have war, still war, apparently on a larger scale than ever, taking away millions from the plough, devouring the harvests of industry, threatening again to fill the world with blood and havoc. The only question is through which of several craters, the FrancoGerman, the Panslavic, the AngloRussian, or the Austrian, the eruption will break out and the lava-torrent flow.

To the despairing secretaries of peace-societies, by an address from one of whom the present paper has been suggested, it seems as if, in the substitution of reason for the sword, no advance had been made. This is not so. In the first place war instead of being normal has among civilized nations become occasional. The Assyrian or the Persian conqueror made war as a matter of course, and spent his summer in campaigning with his mighty men of valour as regularly as the servile portion of his population spent it in gathering in the harvest. So did Timour and Genghis Khan. So did the heirs of Mahomet while their vigour lasted. So did the feudal lords, in whose lives the excitement of war was varied only by the excitement of the chase. So, it may almost be said, did the little city-republics of Italy, though these learned in time to do their fighting with mercenaries. But now war is an extraordinary occurrence; there must be a casus belli,

and diplomacy must have been tried and failed. We have had long spells of peace. Between the Napoleonic War and the Crimean War there was so long a spell of peace that the world began to think that the hounds of war would never slip the leash again.

In the second place the sentiment for peace grows. Charles the Fifth told a soldier impatient for war that he liked peace as little as the soldier himself, though policy forced him to keep the sword in the sheath at that time. Even in Chatham's day a minister could avow that he was "a lover of honourable war." Palmerston, though he felt like Chatham, would hardly have dared to use the same language. Burke was as philanthropic as any statesman of his day, yet he seemed to regard as an unmixed blessing national success in war.

In the third place fighting, whereas it used to be every man's duty and half of every man's character, at least among freemen, is now a special tradeThe Servian constitution was a polity combined with a muster-roll. The political upper class in Greece and Rome was the cavalry. The ridiculous ceremony of touching a turtlefed mayor or an old professor of science with a sword and bidding him rise up a knight reminds us that all honour was once military, and that saving in the Church there was no other high career. Conscription may be said to be a relapse into the old state of things. A relapse it is; but it is felt to be exceptional and the offspring of the present tension, while England still holds out against it, and America, even in the desperate crisis of the Civil War, resorted to it only in the qualified form of a draft with liberty of buying a substitute.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »