Thirdly, I wished that the German rational outdoor treatment of consumptive patients, when once they have caught tuberculosis, or are so constituted that they are likely to catch it, should be understood and practised in England.
The strides that have been made towards the accomplishment of these three wishes of mine during the last year is simply astonishing. The newly formed National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis, whose office is in Hanover Square, has for its great object to instruct people on the infectiousness of tuberculosis and the best methods of arresting it. Everyone who read the account of the first meeting of this society at Marlborough House must have been struck with the fact that when the Queen's herd of cows were tested, thirty-six of them were condemned to be slaughtered.
A century ago, when first invalids were sent to the Riviera and Madeira, all the doctors distinctly taught that the disease was hereditary and not infectious. The natives of these health resorts soon discovered, to their cost, that the disease was infectious; for it spread amongst the population in the same way as it now has at Davos, where tuberculosis was formerly unknown. The superstition, as the doctors of the 'forties thought it, of the peasants round Nice - who held that consumption was really catching - made such an impression on my mother, whose whole soul was bent on saving her children from the disease of which their father died, that she brought us up on the lines of that belief, and kept us from everyone whom she in any way suspected of being consumptive, even when their complaint may have been but a constitutional cough.
Perhaps this training is what has made me somewhat sceptical about the medical science of any day being absolutely conclusive. I sometimes think that the implicit faith that people are apt to place in doctors may be injurious to the community, and that experience and quackery sometimes turn out to be scientifically truer than the medical theory of the hour. Shocking as many will think the suggestion, I believe this may eventually prove to be the case even with regard to vaccination as a necessary preventive against small-pox epidemics, the great decrease of which may have been effected by many other circumstances. The itch, scurvy, and leprosy have practically also disappeared in England with improved food and cleanliness. Nowadays why should not a case of small-pox be stamped out as the plague was this year in Vienna? Before Jenner's great discovery, even the most primitive methods of preventing infection were unknown. It is only within the last twenty years that these have been brought to anything like perfection, and only in the last ten years with regard to crowded localities.
To return to tuberculosis. In spite of Tyndall's wonderfully clear, instructive, and interesting letters to the 'Times,' published more than twenty years ago, and which explained most thoroughly the infectiousness of consumption, the public have remained curiously ignorant on the subject. As an illustration of this, a sad case occurred this year not far from here. A signalman who was mortally ill of consumption remained at his work in his signal-box on the line as long as it was possible for him to get there. When the day came that he had to give in and remain at home to die, a young and healthy man replaced him in the signal-box, which had in no way been disinfected or whitewashed, and which, from its construction, was a sun-trap and the best dust-and-germ-producer that could be. A cattle-truck would have been differently treated! The young man caught the disease and died in a few months.
I find in talking even to educated people a considerable tone of resentment on this subject. 'What!' they say, 'are our consumptives to be treated like lepers?' The poetry that hung about consumption in the early days of this sentimental century, its association with the South, with Madeira's orange groves and the sunshine of the Mediterranean, is now not easy to eradicate. The modern cure is stern, rough, and unattractive, and it is difficult at first to believe it to be the best for the hard, hacking cough and hectic flush of the patients.
The homeward journey from Germany was much less pleasant than my journey out had been, in consequence of the fatal date having come which decides that German railway carriages shall be heated - or, as we English think, over-heated. This causes considerable suffering to those who stupidly, like myself, forget that an almost summer dress is required with plenty of wraps to prevent any chill on leaving the carriage. We passed Coblentz at early winter sunset-time, and I never saw anything more beautiful than all the tones of blues and pearly-grays under a sky spread with wave upon wave of bright pink clouds. Not Turner himself could have come near to the delicate yet brilliant effect. Skies are fleeting enough, and the waves of rosy clouds quickly disappear, but the despairing swiftness of an express train is the quickest of all; and in a moment Coblentz, with its towers, its fortress, and its beautiful sunlit sky, was out of sight.
I do think that if we would enjoy the Rhine in its beauty we must visit it in winter, when we see it as Turner saw it. What a pleasure it is now to go to those rooms on the ground floor of the National Gallery where Turner's sketches are! I went there again the other day to see the Rhine of one's youth. What a king and creator of Impressionist sketching was Turner in his later manner! He lifted the hilltops till they grew pink in the setting sun, and he trailed the long reflections to fathomless depths in the broad river. And was not the fortress defiantly impregnable in those days, and so rendered by him in those two wonderful pink and yellow and blue Ehrenbreitstein sketches? How quickly and easily all his effects and gradations are produced! If they were not consummate, we should now call them cheap. I had not seen these rooms in the National Gallery for some years. They are beautifully arranged - so warm, so light, and alas! so empty. At least, when I was there I wandered alone. How true it is that what we can have always we care for so little, and how we toil as tourists in foreign towns!
It seems rather ridiculous to have brought back from Germany a French poem. But I heard there for the first time one of Tosti's earlier songs, the words of which seemed to me sympathetic and full of charm. They are written by a Comtesse de Castellane, and, as they are very little known apart from the music, I quote them here for the benefit of the non-singing world - which, after all, is rather a large one: