« AnteriorContinuar »
some future time; and let them for the present be subject to the viceregal authority of their former rulers. Let Venice be declared independent, and a free port, and placed under the joint protectorate of Austria, France, and Great Britain. We believe that this compromise would be really for the good of all Italy. Italy would be wholly Italian; but Austria would preserve her honour, and France her plighted word. Naples would have a constitution; yet the rights of treaties would be respected.
Siquid novisti rectius istis
CIGARS AND TOBACCO.
EVERY autumn in London, when parliament and the Italian
Opera are closed, when even the law-courts are deserted, and when the shooting season, with its extraordinary feats of keen-eyed, dexterous sportsmen has already been exhausted of the few and well-known paragraphs without which no newspaper in the month of September is considered complete, then the “Thunderer" for a time is enveloped in clouds of dulness, like his own Printing-house Square in a November fog; and as no subject of actual interest, out of which the least light can be struck, exists, the editor in self-defence, and to expel the darkness which would otherwise be “felt” in his columns, is obliged to invent one.
We are not disposed to undervalue the talent of the journalist who does this with success. For the most part, he has not only to furnish the major part of the discussion, but also the materials to be discussed. He is, in fact, in' the position of the talker who finds himself called upon to faire les frais de la conversation, which is an art—perhaps a gift—that only the most accomplished talkers possess.
Russian dinnersy French wines, matrimony, and the grave, have in turn, though not in the precise order in which we have mentioned them, been brought forward in the columns of the Times, to see whether something could not be extracted from such promising subjects to amuse, perhaps even instruct, the reader during the terrible mornings of the dull season in London. Every one remembers, a few years ago, the morte saison being enlivened with letters and leaders pointing out the advantages of cheap burials. “Nous sommes presque tous mortels," as the courtly preacher observed in his agreeable funeral sermon, and why should money be wasted at “nearly all” our interments? It might, to be sure, have been urged on the other side, if there were any literary undertakers (in addition to the editors of memoirs and biographies), that the profession of undertaker is sometimes the most painful, and always the most disagreeable, in the world, and that bad—in the sense of disagreeable—work ought to be well paid. A man will give his poems for nothing to a publisher, or will even pay to have them brought out in the hope of gaining a pleasant reputation; he will also, with similar motives, act for nothing in an amateur play; but when it comes to a question of "funerals performed,” we can understand that the performer wants money, and plenty of it. It must be remembered that in France, which the correspondents of the Times used to speak of as an enviable country to live in, because one can get buried there so reasonably, funerals are under government direction, and a man goes into the “Pompes funèbres ” as into the post-office or the government bank.
There then was the question of early marriages, and, above all, of getting married on three hundred a-year-a plan which found but little favour with those who had tried it, but which those who had married on three thousand a-year, and those who persisted in remaining single, seemed to think might have its advantages.
The evident superiority, in a sanitary as well as in a gustatory point of view, of French wine over British spirits, has been called attention to in the Times during more than one autumnal recess, and was adverted to quite recently in connection with the new. tariff. Then, in the eating way, the necessity of dining in the Russian style, if you happened to have enough servants, was insisted upon last year nearly every day for three months ; the great supporter of the Muscovite mode displaying, by the way,
his gross ignorance of Russian dinatory customs, by recommending his epicurean followers to conclude their banquets with "caviar on buttered toast," which, we venture to say, would disconcert even the grease-proof stomach of an Esquimaux. “G. H. M.” has since been to Moscow, and has learned that caviar must be eaten not at the end, but at the beginning of dinner, and not on buttered toast, but, if with any thing solid, then with dry bread, and in any case with an obbligato accompaniment of some tonic wine or liqueur, in the style of Madeira, or the vermuth of Turin, or the “bitter” of Amsterdam.
But the public had dined all through one autumn with G. H. M., and bad dined so well that they wanted no more of his repasts for the present; and that year having satisfied its hunger and allayed its thirst (as far as it was possible to do so by reading of luxurious Russian dinners and cheap French wines), it has given itself up unrestrainedly to smoking—that is to say, to writing about it in the columns of the Times, which has published letters against the practice, in favour of it, and concerning it in all sorts of ways. The grand signal for the discussion was given by Sir Benjamin Brodie, in a letter which came certainly with all possible authority except that of experience, but which was soon found not to be unanswerable, and which has hitherto been best answered, not by scientific men, but by the smokers themselves. We cannot say for our part that we think such a letter as Sir Benjamin Brodie felt it his duty to address to the Times was not needed, only we are of opinion that it would have done more good if it had not been written so evidently from a tobacco-hating point of view; and if the writer had himself been a smoker, (odious supposition for Sir Benjamin !) so that he might have spoken of the effects of the baneful drug from his own personal knowledge. It may be urged, to be sure, that a physician does not always know, from his own personal experience, what the effect of laudanum, or any other poisonous medicine that he is in the habit of prescribing, is on the human frame; but at least its effects have been carefully and scientifically studied by others, and this, we maintain, has not been the case with tobacco. All the doctors tell us about it is, that it injures us, and that it does so by reason of a noxious oil which it, contains, one drop of which suffices to kill a cat. How many drops of prussic acid, we wonder, would kill a man? Certainly very few
i but we do not for that reason refuse to eat almonds, from which prussic acid is extracted. If it be said that almonds are found by experience to be very harmless things, so we reply is tobacco, as long as it is smoked in moderation; and here the real question arises-what constitutes moderation in smoking, and what excess? If doctors would tell us this, and would also point out what form of tobacco-smoking is least likely to put us in the position of the cat who died a victim to nicotine, they would be rendering a far greater service to smokers, than they do by: wholesale condemnations of a practice which is becoming more general every day, and which every day is regarded with a greater amount of toleration by society. Reasons of a certain scientific value have been given for not eating salt; also reasons in abundance for eating it. But, whatever might be written on the subject, no man would give up taking salt with his meat because it was proved to him that it did him harm, when he was conscious that it had no such effect upon him. We know how terribly unscientific such a means of judging as we have just suggested must appear; but in matters of diet it is the one which individuals, nations, and the whole human race have followed from the earliest times. Writers who have treated the food question in a scientific or quasi-scientific style, have generally been humourists like Billat Savarin, and the very notion of showing “what to eat and drink and avoid," on scientific principles, excites in us the same feelings that we experience in reading the scenes in Molière's Bourgeois Gentilhomme, when the learned professors teach M. Jourdain very simple things in a very complicated manner. It can be demonstrated scientifically that bilious people ought not to eat fat, but, also, fat is a thing which bilious people, naturally avoid. There are good scientific reasons too for eating bread and cheese together; but they were eaten together long before the chemistry of food was invented; and if a number of ignorant food-chemists had assured us, that to combine such
things was a grave dietetic error, those who liked it, and found that it did them no harm, would have gone on eating bread and cheese just the same.
It cannot be said, however, that natural instinct prompts us to smoke tobacco, and all smokers have to go through a long and nauseating apprenticeship before they can learn to like it. Why this is done, it is scarcely worth while to inquire. Love of imitation, and the vanity belonging to most young men, of wishing to do like their elders, are doubtless among the principal reasons; but, however this may be, we accustom ourselves like Mithridates to our poison, and, when we are accustomed to it, it really seems to lose its noxious qualities, while it is very clear that it ceases to act upon us as an emetic. A man's stomach suits itself to tobacco, as his general temperament will suit itself to an unhealthy climate. To a person once acclimatized, New Orleans is no more unhealthy than any other city; and is it not. possible that tobacco may present no danger to those who have gradually habituated themselves to its use? The tobacco-smoker appears to us to be much in the position of any one who habitually drinks fermented liquors. Wine disagrees with, and is distasteful to a child; but to a man who drinks it in moderation it is uninjurious, and sometimes even beneficial. If he drinks wine to excess, he undoubtedly injures himself; and so does every one who smokes to excess, or who indulges beyond reasonable linnits in
Macnish, in his interesting essay on “Drunkenness," gives a very ingenious explanation of the fable of Prometheus and the vulture. The fire that Prometheus has stolen is alcohol, which, like a vulture, gnaws into his liver. Balzac, in his “ Traité des Excitants Modernes," assures us that coffee will consume in a similar manner those who take it to excess. It is well known that persons recovering from a severe fever, or suffering long afterwards from the effects of one which they may fancy has entirely left them, cannot with impunity take even a few spoonfuls of what, to persons in sound health, is doubtless a very harmless beverage. Chenavard, the painter (those who are acquainted with the Luxembourg gallery will remember his admirable designs for the glass windows of the Royal Chapel at