To-day's post brings me this account of what is called a 'holiday doctor' in a neighbouring village. The patient, a strict vegetarian, had caught measles. She writes: 'We had a sensible young doctor who knew nothing of my ordinary way of living. He gave me no medicine, and recommended me to give up lobster and pork. He was much interested because I had rheumatism in the joints, which he said he had heard of in measles, but never seen. As to medicines, he said he never took any himself. As I said I did not like them, he said he would not offer me any till I asked him for some. "But," he added, "most people will have them, even if one only sends them a little coloured water." With high fever I have always before this had headache, but this time I had no headache. The rash rushed out, and vanished suddenly the second day. I have had a most comfortable illness, and really actually feel the better for it.' The recommendation not to eat pork and lobster makes me think of a story of forty years ago. An uncle of mine, Mr. Charles Villiers, returning from one of the German baths, told as he had been much amused by the German doctor in his parting instructions, saying, after a good deal of apologetic attempt to soften the blow, 'There is one thing I really must beg you not to eat, and that is bear's flesh!'
The oft-repeated injunction of doctors to eat chicken and fish after illness has sometimes amusing results amongst the uneducated classes. A soldier who had been off duty for some days with a severe bilious attack came back and said with pride to the inquiring officer that he was much better, and his wife had given him a 'nice dinner of tinned salmon!'
My last word is, if you want to try the diet on children, you must have both faith and knowledge enough to fight nine doctors out of ten, although in my experience, with adults, they are quite willing to leave all matters of food and even drink to the patients themselves, merely cautiously changing the wine or recommending none at all. I had one friend, a doctor, who had the honesty to say to me after years of threatening me with every kind of misfortune, 'Mrs. Earle, what would happen to doctors if everybody lived as you do?' He also confessed to me, with great generosity, that in consequence of what I had said, no doubt assisted by the way the profession recommends Plasmon,he had had great success with two inebriate female patients by making them drink dissolved Plasmon, mixed with tea, milk, barley-water, &c. Plasmon should never be used without being first dissolved by boiling it in a little water, and this must be done even when it is introduced into puddings, cakes, biscuits, or any food or drink whatsoever. Plasmon is now being so much used by those who I consider are already suffering from over-feeding, that both Plasmon and Protene, as well as many other concentrated foods, promise to be, in my opinion, a considerable danger in the future.
Sir Henry Thompson, in his most practical and temperately written book, 'Diet in Relation to Age and Activity,' says: 'Respecting the act of eating itself, it is desirable to add a few words here. Not many persons learn the importance of performing it rightly in youth and middle life. Indeed, it ought to be taught among other elementary lessons in physiology at every school in early life, a short course of which would be much more important and far more interesting than some of the other courses which the existing curriculum contains. I mean by this, a simple description of the chief internal organs connected with digestion and how they act. Every child at eight or ten years of age should know what becomes of his bread and butter, and of his meat, when he gets it. I can scarcely conceive a better subject than this for a simple and entertaining talk to a class of these young people, with a diagram on the wall showing the chief organs contained in the chest and abdomen. Another chat about respiration and the circulation of the blood would follow at a later period. The subject is regarded with suspicion by the public, from the imposing effect of the five-syllabled Greek term "Physiology," which suggests the idea that I propose to teach young children " science "! - as if that term, let me remark, whenever it is used, denoted anything more than an "exact knowledge respecting the matter in hand." '
How many mothers possess this knowledge which Sir Henry Thompson declares should be familiar to ' every child of eight or ten' ? Can it be so very abstruse and difficult if children of this age can begin to learn it through the medium of 'a simple and entertaining talk' ? A gardener who means to be successful is not content to work on hearsay; he takes care to acquaint himself with the best books on the chemistry of soils, and by careful experiment builds up for himself a first-hand knowledge of the best foods for his plants; and the same process is followed by the horse-breeder and the farmer of crops and cattle. The human animal alone, most precious and costly of all, is reared on the traditions of nurses and doctors, the mother apparently not thinking it her business to know anything of its anatomy and physiology, or of the chemistry of the food on which its healthy growth must so largely depend. For want of such knowledge, moreover, she is not really capableof judging of the fitness of either doctor or nurse. Many of the women who object that this subject is too difficult for them will spend hours every day in reading current works of fiction, history, biography, travel, politics, &c, in order to establish or keep up a reputation for being 'well-read,' 'cultured,' or whatever the phrase may be which conveys the impression that they can take intelligent, if not brilliant, part in dinner-table conversation on the interests of the hour. If part of the time now spent by women in doing as a matter of course the work which contributes towards ' social success' were to be given to the elements of physiology, hygiene, and the chemistry of food, the health of future generations might be enormously improved. These are not subjects which can give any social brilliance; they merely lay the foundation of physical, mental, and moral well-being in the family and the race. This is my reason for including at the end of this chapter a few of the books which quite clearly explain all that it is desirable to know; Dr. Allinson's books, which are read and understood by thousands of the poorer classes, supply a good deal of instruction in a popular form.