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of our health; and such a belief appears to be founded on reason: for, if a number of persons,
slowly some amendment in nervous diseases, yet we know of no instance in which similar passions effected instantaneous cures of diseases, particularly of such violent and determined local affections, connected with diseased structure of parts, as marked the fortunate subjects of the many miraculous cures, professedly operated in divine attestation of the sanctity of the Catholic Church. When we consider likewise the number and succession of these miracles of various sorts, which are recorded on the testimony of numerous witnesses, from the earliest period of history to the present day, it will appear impossible, agreeable to the doctrine of chances, to suppose that the workers of them, ignorant as they were of meteorology, should, by a fortunate coincidence of events, have pretended to perform them at the precise period of atmospheric changes. Let us only examine the early miracles of Holy Writ, those afterwards recorded by SS Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, those by St. Francis Xavier, by St. Cyprian, and a host of other Saints and Fathers down to the celebrated Miracle of St. Winefred's Well, to that just now performed at Toulouse, that at Chelmsford last May, and to others of the present day, and we shall find such a regular series of them on record, various in their nature but all having one object and aim, that we must either believe that they really happened by miraculous interposition, or else we must stigmatize, as a league of impostors acting in succession, hundreds of the most learned and pious men of every age of Christianity. Such an opinion, as a learned Bishop observes, would invalidate the strongest proofs of divine inspiration, would tend to destroy the value of human testimony in general, and would consti
of various ages, of dissimilar constitutions and habits of life, and at different places, become the subjects of disorder at the same time, which appears often to be the case, it is rational to attribute their malady to some general cause then prevailing. And the occurrence of disorder in particular kinds of weather, at particular monthly and daily periods, or at stated seasons of the year, which some persons experience, naturally suggests the idea that such cause resides in the air.
But it appears to me, that it is not the heat, nor cold, nor dampness, nor drought of the air, which is chiefly concerned in producing disorders, nor the sudden transition from one to another of those states; but that it is some inexplicable peculiarity in its electric state, as I have before hinted at in section the seventh. The pain felt in limbs which have been formerly
tute one of the severest libels on human nature ever uttered by any misanthropist whatever. Between these alternatives, I do not presume to offer any opinion of my own, nor would I willingly involve myself in so fearful a dilemma; but having taken the trouble to examine whatever journals of the weather I could get at for years past, I am enabled to say that, at the period of the alledged cures, there were no particular changes recorded, as having taken place in the electricity, heat, weight, or moisture of the air.
broken, previous to a change of weather, and the disturbed state of the stomachs of many persons before and during Thunderstorms, are sufficient, I think, to warrant such a conjecture.
During what has been denominated unhealthy weather, when medical practitioners have spoken of the general ill health of their patients, I have remarked circumstances which appeared to denote an irregular distribution of the atmospheric electricity. The manner of the distribution, and the continual multiform changes of the Curlcloud, ramifying about and extending its fibres in every direction; the rapid formation and subsidence of the Sondercloud and the Wanecloud in different places, and the irregular appearance of the compound modifications; the intermitted action of De Luc's Aërial Electroscope; strong and varying winds; and the abundance of luminous Meteors by night; are the circumstances to which I allude. A kind of weather too which appears to be remarkably unwholesome is characterised by all the clouds having confused indefinite edges.†
* I must beg leave to refer the reader to my Observations on Periodical and Atmospheric Diseases, Underwood, London, 1817.
+ In people of what are called nervous and susceptible
A change of wind, particularly a change from any other quarter to East, makes most
constitutions, I have frequently noticed a remarkable variety in the appearance of the hairs on the head: they have appeared, at times, diminished in quantity: at others, superabundant. I have examined them carefully, in each of their states, and found their apparent diminution to consist in the shafts themselves becoming smaller, dryer, losing their tension, and lying in closer contact. I was once inclined to attribute their closer contact to a diminution of their electricity, by which they would become less mutually repulsive: this, however, does not seem sufficient to account for their decrease in size. The shaft may possibly be organized throughout, and its enlargement may be caused by an increased action of its vessels; there may also be an aëriform perspiration into its cavity, on an increase of which it may be more distended: and the increased size and tension of the shaft may result from the co-operation of these two causes. The increased size, strength, and tension of the hair, appear to accompany health, while the opposite state seems to be connected with disorder. The sympathies between the skin and the stomach have been frequently adverted to by physiologists: the skin has been found to be alternately dry and hot, moist and hot, dry and cold, and moist and cold; and these varieties have been attributed to varieties in a state of the stomach, between which and the skin a very direct symathy is believed to exist. But the varieties in the appearance of the hair do not appear to have been noticed. I have observed, that small doses of mercury have changed the appearance of the hair very soon after their administration. From being flaccid, dry, and small, it has become tense, strong, and moister. Now mer
people feel uncomfortable, and produces headaches in persons who are subject to them. Similar changes have the most violent effects when they happen about the new or full Moon.
It is difficult to ascertain in what degree the directions and changes of Wind are under the influence of electricity, but there are many circumstances which would incline one to believe that these changes are dependent on some similar principle to that which causes atmospheric diseases in the human body; for certain Winds, as well as certain changes of Wind, are
cury may increase an aëriform perspiration into the cavity of the shaft, if such an one exist; it may also rectify a disordered state of the digestive organs, and, by that means, cause a stronger and more healthy action of the vascular system, and of the vessels of the hair among the rest. I think it by no means follows that hairs are not vascular, because we cannot demonstrate their vessels. On this subject, I think, we may reason thus: if all nourishment be effected by the action of vessels, it follows, either that there must be some vessels not nourished at all, or that vascularity must extend ad infinitum. Can we demonstrate those small arteries which ramify in the coats of, and nourish the smallest vasa vasorum? Such reflections as these ought to prevent our denying organization to any part of a living body, even to the cuticle or the enamel of the teeth. Minute inquiries like these in all the sciences, would end, when pushed to the extent of human knowledge in metaphysical questions like the above.