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Smoking and Drinking (Illustrated)
     

Smoking and Drinking (Illustrated)

by James Parton
 

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"The next very important thing that man has to attend to is his health.

In some other respects, progress has been made during the last hundred years, and several considerable obstacles to the acquisition of a stable happiness have been removed or diminished.

In the best parts of the best countries, so much knowledge is now freely offered to all the

Overview

"The next very important thing that man has to attend to is his health.

In some other respects, progress has been made during the last hundred years, and several considerable obstacles to the acquisition of a stable happiness have been removed or diminished.

In the best parts of the best countries, so much knowledge is now freely offered to all the young as suffices to place within their reach all existing knowledge. We may say with confidence that the time is not distant when, in the United States, no child will live farther than four miles from a school-house, kept open four months in the year, and when there will be the beginning of a self-sustaining public library in every town and village of a thousand inhabitants. This great business of making knowledge universally accessible is well in hand; it has gone so far that it must go on till the work is complete.

In this country, too, if nowhere else, there is so near an approach to perfect freedom of thinking, that scarcely any one, whose conduct is good, suffers inconvenience from professing any extreme or eccentricity of mere opinion. I constantly meet, in New England villages, men who differ as widely as possible from their neighbors on the most dividing of all subjects; but if they are good citizens and good neighbors, I have never observed that they were the less esteemed on that account. Their peculiarities of opinion become as familiar as the color of their hair, or the shape of their every-day hat, and as inoffensive. This is a grand triumph of good sense and good nature; or, as Matthew Arnold would say, of the metropolitan over the provincial spirit. It is also recent. It was not the case fifty years ago. It was not the case twenty years ago.

The steam-engine, and the wondrous machinery which the steam-engine moves, have so cheapened manufactured articles, that a mechanic, in a village, may have so sufficient a share of the comforts, conveniences, and decencies of life, that it is sometimes hard to say what real advantage his rich neighbor has over him. The rich man used to have one truly enviable advantage over others: his family was safer, in case of his sudden death. But a mechanic, who has his home paid for, his life insured, and a year's subsistence accumulated, is as secure in this respect as, perhaps, the nature of human affairs admits. Now, an American workingman, anywhere out of a few largest cities, can easily have all these safeguards around his family by the time he is forty; and few persons can be rich before they are forty.

We may say, perhaps, speaking generally, that, in the United States, there are no formidable obstacles to the attainment of substantial welfare, except such as exist in the nature of things and in ourselves.

But in the midst of so many triumphs of man over material and immaterial things, man himself seems to dwindle and grow pale. Not here only, but in all the countries that have lately become rich enough to buy great quantities of the popular means of self-destruction, and in which women cease to labor as soon as their husbands and parents acquire a little property, and in which children sit in school and out of school from five to nine hours a day, and in which immense numbers of people breathe impure air twenty-two hours out of every twenty-four. In the regions of the United States otherwise most highly favored, nearly every woman, under forty, is sick or sickly; and hardly any young man has attained a proper growth, and measures the proper size around the chest. As to the young girls and school-children, if, in a school or party of two hundred, you can pick out thirty well-developed, well-proportioned, robust, ruddy children, you will do better than I have sometimes been able to do.

This begins to alarm and puzzle all but the least reflective persons. People begin to wonder why every creature, whether of native or foreign origin, should flourish in America, except man.

Not that there is anything mysterious with regard to the immediate causes of this obvious decline in the health and robustness of the race. Miss Nightingale tells us that more than half of all the sickness in the world comes of breathing bad air. She speaks feelingly of the time, not long passed, when the winds of heaven played freely through every house, from Windsor Castle to the laborer's cottage, and when every lady put forth muscular effort in the polishing of surfaces. That was the time when bread was an article of diet, and the Devil had not invented hot biscuit. The agreeable means of self-destruction, now so cheap and universal, were unknown, or very costly; and the great mass of the people subsisted, necessarily, upon the plain fare which affords abundant nourishment, without overtasking the digestive powers.

Product Details

BN ID:
2940148787457
Publisher:
Lost Leaf Publications
Publication date:
10/24/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
328 KB

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