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(PROM THE SPECTATOR, NUMBER 195.]
Fools, not to know that half exceeds the whole,
There is a story in the Arabian Nights' Tales, of a king who had long languished under an ill habit of body, and had taken abundance of remedies to no purpose. At length, says the fable, a physician cured him by the following method: He took a hollow ball of wood, and filled it with several drugs; after which he closed it up so artificially that nothing appeared. He likewise took a mall, and after having liollowed the handle, and that part which strikes the ball, he inclosed in them several drugs, after the same manner as in the ball itself. He then ordered the sultan, who was his patient, to exercise himself early in the morning with these rightlyprepared instruments, till such time as he should sweat; when, as the story goes, the virtue of the medicaments perspiring through the wood, had so good an influence on the sultan's constitution, that they cured him of an indisposition, which all the compositions he had taken inwardly had not been able to remove. This eastern allegory is finely contrived, to show us how beneficial bodily labor is to health, and that exercise is the most effectual physic. I have described in my hundred and fifteenth paper, from the general structure and mechanism of a human body, how absolutely necessary exercise is for its preservation : I shall, in this place, suggest another great preservative of health, which, in many cases, produces the same effects as exercise, and may, in some measure, supply its place, where opportunities of exercise are wanting. The preservative I am speaking of, is temperance, which has those particular advantages above all other means of health, that it may be practised by all ranks and conditions, at any season, or in any place. It is a kind of regimen into which every man may put himself without interruption to business, expense of money, or loss of time. If exercise throws off all superfluities, temperance prevents them; if exercise clears the vessels, temperance neither satiates nor overstrains them ; if exercise raises proper ferments in the humours, and promotes the circulation of the blood, temperance gives nature her full play, and enables her to exert herself in all her force and vigor; if exercise dissipates a growing distemper, temperance starves it.
Physic, for the most part, is nothing else but the substitute of exercise or temperance. Medicines are indeed absolutely necessary in acute distempers, that cannot wait the slow operations of these two great instruments of health ; but, were men to live in a habitual course of exercise and temperance, there would be but little occasion for them. Accordingly we find, that those parts of the world are most healthy, where they subsist by the chase ; and that men lived longest when their lives were employed in hunting, and when they had little food besides what they caught. Blistering, cupping, bleeding, are seldom of use but to the idle and intemperate: as all those inward applications, which are so much in practice among us, are, for the most part, nothing else but expedients to make luxury consistent with health. The apothecary is perpetually employed in countermining the cook and the vintner. It is said of Diogenes, that, meeting a young man who was going to a feast, he took him up in the street, and carried him home to his friends, as one who was running into imminent danger, had he not prevented him. What would that philosopher have said, had he been present at the gluttony of a modern meal? Would not he have thought the master of a family mad, and have begged his servants to tie down his hands, had he seen him devour fowl, fish, and flesh; swallow oil and vinegar, wines and spices; throw down sallads of twenty different herbs, sauces of a hundred ingredients, confections and fruits of numberless sweets and flavours? What unnatural motions and counter-ferments must such a medley of intemperance produce in the body! For my part, when I behold a fashionable table set out in all its magnificence, I fancy I see gouts and dropsies, fevers and lethargies, with other innumerable distempers lying in ambuscade among the dishes.
Nature delights in the most plain and simple diet. Every animal, but man, keeps to one dish. Herbs are the food of this species, fish of that, and flesh of a third. Man falls upon every thing that comes in his way; not the smallest fruit or excrescence of the earth, scarce a berry or a mushroom, can escape him.
It is impossible to lay down any determinate rule for temperance, because what is luxury in one may be temperance in another; but there are few that have lived any time in the world, who are not judges of their own constitutions, so far as to know what proportions
of food do best agree with them. Were I to consider my readers as my patients, and to prescribe such a kind of temperance as is accommodated to all persons, and such as is particularly suitable to our climate and way of living, I would copy the following rules of a very eminent physician : “Make your whole repast out of one dish. If you indulge in a second, avoid drinking any thing strong,
you have finished your meal; at the same time, abstain from all sauces, or at least such as are not the most plain and şimple.” A man could not be well guilty of gluttony if he stuck to these few obvioụs and easy rules. In the first case, there would be no variety of tastes to solicit his palate, and occasion excess ; nor in the second, any artificial provocatives to relieve satiety, and create a false appetite. Were I to prescribe a rule for drinking, it should be formed upou a saying quoted by Sir William Temple: The first glass for myself, the second
for my friends, the third
for good humour, and the fourth for mine enemies. But because it is impossible for one who lives in the world to diet himself always in so philosophical a manner, I think every man should have his days of abstinence, according as his constitution will permit. These are great reliefs to nature, as they qualify her for struggling with hunger and thirst, whenever any distemper or duty of life may put her upon such difficulties; and, at the same time, give her an opportunity of extricating herself from her oppressions, and recovering the several tones and springs of her distended vessels ; besides that, abstinence well timed, often kills a sickness in embryo, and destroys the first seeds of an indisposition. It is observed by two or three ancient authors, that Socrates, notwithstanding he lived in Athens, during that great plague which has made so much noise through all ages, and has been celebrated at different times by such eminent hands; I say, notwithstanding he lived in the time of this devouring pestilence, he never caught the least infection, which those writers unanimously ascribe to that uninterrupted temperance which he always observed.
And here I cannot but mention an observation which I have often made, upon reading the lives of the philosophers, and comparing them with any series of kings or great men of the same number. If we consider these ancient sages, a great part of whose philosophy consisted in a temperate and abstemious course of life, one would think the life of a philosopher, and the life of a man, were of two different dates. For we find, that the generality of these wise men were nearer a hundred than sixty years of age, at the time of their respective deaths. But the most remarkable instance of the efficacy of temperance, towards the procuring long life, is what we meet
vith in a little book published by Lewis Cornaro, the Venetian ; which I rather mention, because it is of undoubted credit, as the late Venetian ambassador, who was of the same family, attested more than once in conversation, when he resided in England. Cornaro, who was the author of the little treatise I am mentioning, was of an infirm constitution, till about forty, when, by obstinately persisting in an exact course of temperance, he recovered a perfect state of health ; insomuch that, at fourscore, he published his book, which has been translated into English under the title of, Sure and certain Methods of attaining a long and healthy Life. He lived to give a third or fourth edition of it; and after having passed his hundredth
year, died without pain or agony, and like one who falls asleep. The treatise I mention has been taken notice of by several eminent authors, and is written with such a spirit of cheerfulness; religion, and good sense, as are the natural concomitants of temperance and sobriety. The mixture of the old man in this work, is rather a recommendation than a discredit to it.
It is universally agreed, that custom, with time, becomes a second nature, forcing men to use that, whether good or bad, to which they have been habituated : nay, we see habit, in many instances, gain an ascendancy over
This is so undeniably true, that virtuous men, by conversing with the wicked, very often fall into the same vicious course of life. The contrary, likewise, we see sometimes happen; viz. that as good morals easily change to bad, so bad morals change again to good. For instance, let a wicked man, who was once virtuous, keep company with a virtuous man, and he will again become virtuous; and this alteration can be attributed to nothing but the force of habit. Seeing many examples of this; and besides, considering that, in consequence of this
force of habit, two bad customs have got footing in Italy, within a few years, even within my own memory; the first, flattery and ceremoniousness, which some have most preposterously embraced; the second, intemperance; and that these vices, like so many cruel monsters, leagued, as indeed they are, against mankind, have gradually prevailed so far as to rob civil life of its sincerity, the soul of its piety, and the body of its health ; seeing and considering all this, I say, I have resolved to treat of the last of these vices, to prove that it is an abuse, in order to extirpate it if possible. As to the former, I am certain, that some great genius or another will soon undertake the task of exposing its deformity, and effectually suppressing it. Therefore,