Images de page
PDF
ePub

66

It is now easy to understand that in the salting of meat, when this is pushed so far as to produce the brine above-mentioned, a number of substances are withdrawn from the flesh which are essential to its constitution, and that it therefore loses in nutritive quality in proportion to this abstraction. If these substances be not supplied from other quarters, it is obvious that a part of the flesh is converted into an element of respiration, certainly not conducive to good health. It is certain, moreover, that the health of a man cannot be permanently sustained by means of salted meat if the quantity be not greatly increased, inasmuch as it cannot perfectly replace by the substance it contains those parts of the body which have been expelled in consequence of the change of matter, nor can it preserve in its normal state the fluid distributed in every part of the body, namely, the juices of the flesh."-pp. 134, 135.

We cannot help thinking that the present state of our knowledge regarding the aliment of man can be expressed in simpler terms than it has hitherto been. The human frame may be regarded as a congeries of a few of the elementary bodies of nature; but which bodies, in a chemical point of view, are precisely similar to those forming parts of inorganic matter, rocks, earth, stones, and the like. The instant, however, any of these elements become part of the human body, they become endowed with vitality, and fit to perform those peculiar functions and actions which we term vital. None of these elements, however, are capable of remaining long in this state, and they soon become incapable of performing these vital actions. They may be said to die, and portions of us do die daily, and require to be cast away from the system as useless. Thus the lungs and the liver excrete carbon, thus the kidneys excrete nitrogen, phosphorus, soda, &c., thus the lungs excrete also oxygen, and so forth. This constant death of particles of our bodies demands a constant renewal of the elements of which we are composed, and this, during healthy life, is frequently done. If from disease it be not, the whole frame perishes; so likewise does it if the system loses its power of controlling the chemical and mechanical properties of its elements and of imparting vitality to them.

Perhaps the most convenient plan is to consider whatever elementary body is necessary for the support of the healthy state of the body as food. In this view the lungs and the stomach are the two organs which receive the elements of which the body stands in need. Whatever is taken into the latter, is, by a peculiar or vital process, vital

ized, and is then poured into the blood by the channel of a vessel in the thorax. The elements the lungs select are added immediately to the blood in them. Moreover, it is a law of nature that the vital action of assimilation, as well as other vital actions, cannot go on without the presence of water.

It remains, then, to consider where to obtain water; next, to enquire of what elements is the body composed; and, lastly, as these elements are continually being rejected from the body, to ascertain where a fresh supply of each of them is to be obtained.

Water is, as every one knows, most abundantly supplied to us, and forms a large portion of what, under the direction of our appetites, we take as food and drink. Besides drinking it in its uncombined state, it constitutes a very large portion of our ordinary drinks-wine, infusions. of tea and coffee, and the like. Moreover, it forms a large proportion of the substance of vegetables, fruit, and flesh. Water is indeed indispensable to us, but nature has taken every precaution that we shall not be in want of it.

The human body consists mainly of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. Other elements-as phosphorus, sulphur, sodium, &c.-enter into its constitution in very small proportions.

Man derives a great part of his nitrogen from the flesh of animals. Substances derived from animals -as eggs, cheese, or milk-also contain it. As before mentioned, the vegetable principles, vegetable gluten, albumen, and caseine, also have nitrogen in their composition, and contain about fifteen per cent of it. As wheat and the other cerealiæ are rich in gluten, they afford a large supply of nitrogen, and hence have become important articles of food. Further, it is possible that a portion of the nitrogen of the atmosphere is absorbed for assimilation by the lungs.

By the process of respiration, a large quantity of oxygen is regularly and frequently taken into the system. Moreover, there are few articles of food which do not contain more or less of this element, and if water, as is probable, be decomposed in the system, we have another abundant source of oxygen.

So, also, do most articles of food contain hydrogen; and, as every one knows, supposing water to be decomposed, hydrogen would be abundantly supplied to the

economy.

The wants of the system require daily a large supply of carbon. There is no doubt but that, when the animal temperature becomes low, we can raise it by administering additional carbon. Many of the articles of food which nature dictates to us to use, are rich in it. Animal fat, and butter, vegetable oil, starch, gum, and sugar are instances. Another abundant dietetical source of carbon, is the product of the fermentation of grape or other sugar -wine, spirits, beer, &c. Very absurd statements are sometimes made by wandering lecturers and the like to the effect that these liquids contain no nourishment, as they term it, and are therefore of no use in the economy. By nourishment they seem to understand nitrogen, as if the body did not require as constant a supply of the other ingredients composing it as of azote. Indeed, were we unaware of the chemical nature and composition of alcoholic drinks, we might be sure, from the antiquity and invariability of their use, that they were a means of supply-. ing some natural want. The manner in which nature guides man to another source of carbon when one fails him, is very interesting. The Hindoo, for example, who takes neither much animal fat nor wine, consumes a large quantity of rice. We have another curious instance nearer home. Those who from habit or principle are members of temperance societies, to satisfy a craving of nature, eat a great deal of heavy (fatty) pastry and sweet cakes; so also do children and many females, while men, who habitually consume a quantity of wine, rarely partake of these supplies of carbon.

The phosphorus, the sulphur, the sodium, and the other elements which enter into the constitution of the human body, are required in very small quantities, and are constituents of articles of food which are rich in one of the four more important elements. These it is not necessary to particularize. It is important to observe that, as a general rule, the elements necessary for the human body cannot be assimilated by the digestive organs, unless they have formed part of a previously existing vital structure, animal or vegetable.

The above remarks apply to the nutrition, or nutritive property, of various articles of food. Their digestibility, or the relative ease and rapidity with which they are assimilated, is another and very important question in dietetics. This is much under the control of idiosyncracy and

of habit, and by repetition articles of food, at first more or less indigestible, become easy of digestion.

Our lengthening columns, however, bid us draw these desultory remarks to a conclusion. In the profound chemical research and knowledge, and of the original genius of Liebig, no one is a firmer believer than ourselves. But we cannot disguise from ourselves the firm conviction that vital processes cannot be explained by the laws which govern dead matter. The history of medicine is full of instances of the futility of attempting it. Medicine is so connected with many other physical sciences, and its professors so much led to cultivate them, that ever and anon medical men, who have become attached to some particular science, have endeavoured by its rules to explain vital phenomena. In this way physiological and pathological actions have been attempted to be explained by the laws of chemistry, of mechanics, and of mathematics; but the attempts have always ended in nothing. We believe that the physiologist, making the proper use of the discoveries of the organic chemist, will improve his science; but we are also of opinion, that the improper application of chemistry to physiology will but end in disappointment.

ART. IX. Die Reformation: ihre innere Entwicklung, und ihre Wirkungen. (The Reformation: its interior Development and its Effects.) By J. DÖLLINGER, 3 vols. 8vo. Ratisbon, 1846-8.

HEN the lion in the fable, saw the picture of a brother-lion subdued by a man, he contented himself with observing that "if lions were painters, the figures would be reversed." The royal critic, in this observation, unconsciously enounced one of the fundamental principles of the philosophy of history. It is an established rule in historical criticism, to consider whether the evidence advanced in favour of any disputable statement, be the evidence of a friend or of an enemy; and to regard with suspicion, if not with absolute unbelief, the testimony of a writer who shall be proved to be a partisan on the matter upon which his testimony is produced.

Nor is there any department of history in which this caution is so indispensable, as the history of the Church, especially during periods of more than ordinary excitement. There are very few of the contemporary historians of the Reformation, either upon the Catholic or the Protestant side, upon whose unsupported statement it will be found safe to rely uniformly and implicitly; and, at all events, whatever may be the objective veracity of the several historians of this important period, so strongly are men impressed with the belief that absolute impartiality on such a subject is entirely beyond human attainment, that a favourable testimony from a Protestant writer, or an unfavourable one from a Catholic, is sure to be received, if not with hesitation and distrust, or at least with considerable deduction for the prejudice of the writer, to whichever party he may chance to belong. Hence it has always been a principal object with the historian, Catholic or Protestant, as the case might be, to strengthen his view of the subject by evidence from "the other side;" and to regard his statement as comparatively incomplete, except in so far as it relied upon such authority.

The elaborate and voluminous publication now before us, is an attempt to carry out this principle to its fullest extent, by composing a Catholic history of the Reformation exclusively from Protestant sources. If there be any single writer of the present day, in whose hand this bold and novel attempt might reasonably be hoped to prove successful, we cannot hesitate to say that Dr. Dollinger is that man. His various and most accurate erudition, his indefatigable industry, his clear and comprehensive perception, above all, his singularly acute and critical judgment, fit him for such a task, beyond any historian of his own or any other country. Those of our readers who know Dr. Döllinger only from the results of his research, as displayed in his compendium of Ecclesiastical History, and who are in the habit of estimating a writer's learning by the number of references which figure at the foot of his pages, may not perhaps be disposed to subscribe to this judgment in its widest extent. The truth is, that Dr. Döllinger has done himself great injustice, and has materially weakened the authority of his work, by his unwillingness to overload with references, a book intended chiefly for popular reading; and it is only after examining a few chapters of his history carefully and minutely, and

« PrécédentContinuer »