« AnkstesnisTęsti »
HE whole world knows that of late an enthusiast in New York
tality by trying to live an unprecedented time without solid food. The tree of knowledge is flourishing so widely in these days that works of grand order, which a half-century ago would have won true immortality in the eyes of the admiring world, are now passed over as nine-day wonders, their authors soon forgotten and concealed in the blaze of their own priinary conceptions. For a modern man, therefore, to acquire what he feels to be fame, he must needs do something that shall appear out of the order of nature ; then, from very eccentricity, he will gain what he desires, if he be lucky enough to attract attention, and if, as he goes on, he gathers more and more a crowd of minds to consider and to speculate on his effort.
I do not mean to suggest by these observations that Dr. Tanner, the latest of the designers out of the field of nature, had such a design before him as is above stated. His intentions may have been unambitious to a fault, for anything I know to the contrary ; they may have been due to a mere enthusiasm to prove an assumed impossibility a possibility. I only feel that, be his motive what it might, he was working out of Nature, in defiance to her, and that he stands up only before iis as a phenomenon who has for a long but not for an unprecedented time defied the mistress of human fate.
Supposing that all has been quite square in the experiment on himself wlrich Dr. Tanner has carried out, it does not seem fair to declare, as so many have declared, that there is no lesson to be extracted from his experiment. Let us call it a foolish experiment if we will, but even then we need not fail to extract whatever is in it that may be useful.
The first question, therefore, that comes before os for a solution in respect to this late feat of starvation, is the question of its good faith. Did the man live for forty days without solids, taking as food nothing more than water ?
It is not to be disputed that those who question the mode in which the experiment was carried out have some grounds for their discontent. It must be conceded that in observation there was much want of detailed precision. The best physiologists in America seem to have kept apart from the experiment, either because they were not asked to observe, or because they did not care to take part in it. One great physician and physiologist whom we in England should have trusted implicitly, Dr. Weir Mitchell of Philadelphia -- was in this country at the time the fast was in progress, and none of those whom we would have relied on as we should on him have left, as far as I know, any line or report which throws light on the facts, giving to them real scientific value. Further, it must not be forgotten that in the course of the proceedings there was at one time an actual doubt raised in reference to the introduction of food; and, although Dr. Hammond's note removes this doubt in so far as the expression of one good opinion is concerned, there are, I understand, many who still continue in the belief that the doubt is not dispelled.
For my part, if the evidence of the possibility of the long fast of forty days rested only on this one announcement of the results of experience or experiment, I might be inclined to join with the doubters. But there is evidence already in hand which leads me rather to the other side. I mean to say, that there is evidence which indicates already that forty days of fasting is within the range of human possibility when water is taken as drink, and thereupon I do not see a necessity to assume that Dr. Tanner has not in this wise fasted for forty days.
The papers have contained lately many examples of long fasting, many of which are full of interest, and some of which are strongly confirmatory of the possible validity of Dr. Tanner's successful attempt. I have, however, seen none that run quite parallel; though I know of two instances which do run parallel up to the period of forty days, and which then differ only in one respect, viz. that the perpetrators of the experiment, not content with forty days, continued longer to withstand natural law, and fell victims to their own temerity and the unswerving justice of Nature.
A FIFTY-THREE DAYS' Fast,
The first of these examples is given by Dr. M‘Naughton in the June number of the “ Transactions of the Albany Institute” for the year 1830. The faster in this case lived for fifty-three days, and his history, tersely told by the narrator who observed it, runs as follows. The individual who subjected himself to the fast was a youth named Reuben Kelsey. Until three years before he commenced his fatal fast he was considered a young man of great promise, remarkable for the correctness of his conduct and for his diligence in the prosecution of his studies. After having received the ordinary advantages at the Academy at Fairfield, he entered on the study of medicine, and read in the office of Dr. Johnson. In the year 1825 he attended the lectures at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District.
Although, among so many, it is not always possible to know what proficiency each makes, yet, from all that could be gathered, he must have at least equalled his companions in the progress he made in his studies. His health seemed good, and there was nothing very peculiar in the operations of his mind. But in the course of the summer, after the close of the session of the college, his health began to decline, and his mind seemed to have undergone a change. His spirits, which were never very buoyant, became more sedate, and his thoughts seemed habitually to dwell on the subject of religion. He quitted Dr. Johnson's office and went home. From that time until his death he never left his father's house, even for a day. For the three years immediately preceding his death he almost constantly kept his room, apparently engaged in meditation. His only companion was his Bible. He read nothing else, and his whole thoughts seemed fixed upon another world. He shunned society, even that of the pious; but he seemed happy and full of hope. To his family he was kind and attached, and, with the exception of the deep cast of his devotional feelings, the equilibrium of his intellect did not Seem, to his friends at least, to be materially disturbed.
Conswering the little exercise he took, his general health during the jured was as gixdas could have been expected. He came to the but every meal when called, and seemed not deficient in
The only sickness of any consequence he experienced His sera was an attack of cholera morbus in the summer me tha he soon recovered, and seemed to enjoy his
and it the latter end of May 1829. At this time his 1. etas. petite was failing. It continued to Ramon atout the beginning of July, when it **** Taurrez For some weeks he had eaten !!*** Ty te declined eating altogether,
:,:** it was the mill of the Almighty that
Limited with an arretite. For the first * Prezime moming, and washed
of wher with him into the
house. With this he used occasionally to wash his mouth; he also used it for drink. His parents think that the quantity of water he took in twenty-four hours did not exceed, if it equalled, a pint. When he had fasted about a week his parents became alarmed, and sent for medical aid.
Compulsory means to make him take food were found unavailing. On one occasion he went three days without taking even water ; but this was probably more than he could persist in, as on the fourth morning he was observed to go to the well and to drink copiously and greedily.
On the eleventh day of his fast, he replied to the expostulations of his friends that he had not felt so well nor so strong in two years as at that moment, and consequently denied the necessity of taking food. For the first six weeks he walked out eve day, and sometimes spent a great part of the day in the woods. His walk was steady and firm, and his friends even remarked that his step had an unusual elasticity. He shaved himself until about a week before his death, and was able to sit up in bed to the last day.
His mental faculties did not seem to become impaired as his general strength declined, but, on the contrary, his mind was calm and collected to the end. His voice, as might have been expected, towards the last became feeble and low, but continued, nevertheless, distinct. Towards the close of his life he did not go into the fields, nor during the last week even to the well, but still he was able to sit up and go about his room. During the first three weeks of his abstinence he fell away very fast, but afterwards he did not seem to waste so sensibly. His colour was blue, and, towards the last, blackish. His skin was cold, and he complained of chilliness. His general appearance was so ghastly that children were frightened at the sight of him. Of this he seemed himself to be aware, for it was not uncommon to observe him covering his face when strangers were passing by. He died on the fifty-third day. At the time of his death Mr. Kelsey was twenty-seven years of age.
Dr. M'Naughton very reasonably supposed that the system in this case, as in the cases of hybernating animals, lived on its own resources. When the body is emaciated, the fatty part is taken up by the absorbents and conveyed into the blood,--the chief condition for which state of things to be carried on without causing delirium, raging fever, and death, is a supply of water to dissolve and dilute the saline and alkaline fluids. No other drink would answer the same intention in cascs of abstinence from all solid food; strong drinks would consume the vital powers, inflame the digestive canal, and
prevent absorption taking place. The nutritives, so-called, as porter, beer, and the like, would oppress the brain, and cause fever and stupefaction and dropsy.
The facts above related are in close accord with the following, which came under my own personal observation in the early part of my professional life.
A FAST OF FIFTY-FIVE DAYS.
A gentleman, about thirty-three years old, had often been subject to fits of depression and melancholy. He was a man of good social position, had somewhat distinguished himself in his scholastic life, and was always considered as extremely good-natured and thoughtful, though from his earliest age obstinate and self-willed. He was one of those of whom it is said that if "he took anything into his head nothing would turn him.” He was not subjected at any time to much restraint; and, as he was comfortably provided for by a business which called for but little personal attention, he really had as small occasion for anxiety as most men I have known. He read a great deal, cared nothing for out-door or athletic amusements, and was somewhat careless about the course of events, though he could usually be interested in political controversy, and up to his death was wont to speak on the state of political parties. He was not the only man of his turn of mind who, in my experience, whilst brooding over his own infirmities, has been inclined to political discussion; but he perhaps showed this tendency more than any other I have known. He was always nervous about himself, as I was told, and yet, at the same time, was ready-minded and even courageous in the face of sudden danger. In religion he was not enthusiastic, and his melancholy was untouched by any saddening religious sentiment; but he brooded over imaginary evils, which he almost invariably referred to the stomach, and he sought advice from men of all kinds who professed to practise medicine, having just as much faith in a pretentious quack or in the veriest old woman as in the most regular professor, so long as his whim for liking them lasted. In a word, he became, as his friends said of him, a confirmed hypochondriac. They pitied him, but considered him beyond hope of any amendment.
In stature this gentleman was tall, I should say near upon six feet. In figure he was, naturally, very slight, and he was at all times a small eater. To the best of my recollection, he took no wine nor other alcoholic drink; if he took any, it was the smallest quantity; so that, though he would be under no pledge, nor in any way connected with