Page images
PDF
EPUB

beauty, where a pure and serene sky pours festivity, is an instance. Among the elements, beauty owes so much to water alone, that if we believe the Indians, it caunot thrive in a country that has it not in its purity. The oracle itself attributes to the lymph of Arethusa a power of forming beauty.”.

The encouraging remark just quoted, leads me to say something of water in particular, and to request earnestly that those who may be influenced by our reasoning, will not adopt this system by halves, since a small portion of fish or meat, taken daily, will maintain irritation, and vegetable diet, without quitting the use of common water, whether drank alone, or in tea, coffee, beer, &c. will by no means insure health. Neither the Holy Well, nor the spring at Malvern, nor even the golden water of the kings of Persia, could serve as a substitute for that which has undergone distillation. Without this precaution vegetable eaters will not be exempted from violent disorders, brought on by the use of common water or of spirits. There is, indeed, no truth of greater evidence than that this liquid contains the most mischievous qualities, not unknown to some of the rudest tribes : and if we first look at home, our own Thames water has so much animal oil in it, that a cask at sea, while under spontaneous purification, has been seen to catch fire on the application of a lighted candle to its surface.

Brackish water has a tendency to inflame, and always increases thirst: in some parts of Africa the inhabitants dare not drink it for fear of worse consequences.

« The natives," as I learn from The Edinburgh Medical Journal, No. 7. “ accustomed to attribute most of their disorders to the offensive quality of bad water, are generally of opinion that this also (the guinea worm) proceeds from that source.

Singulis annis peraucti fuminis rivus Caleg vocatus, in eas urbis cavitates copiosissimam aquam evomit, quæ sequenti æstate ferè tota absumitur ; paucissimaque remanet, quæ cænosa palustrisque reddita, corrumpitur veneficaque evadit. Quamobrem veriorem causam illarum febrium esse autumo, ut multi alii quo que confirmant, usum ejusdem nuper dictæ antiquæ aquæ in potu et cibis. Quæ sanè quousque novæ confluxæ aquæ quâ ipsi ad cibum et potum tunc uti incipiunt, permista remanet, antiquaque rectè non residat, neque ab ipsâ novâ illuc confluxâ rectè expurgatur, semper usum suspectum ad eos sævos morbos reddit.” Prosper Alpinus, de Medicina Ægyptiorum, lib. i. « As the river Caleg overflows its banks every year,

it

pours into those cavities of the city its copious water, which is almost all evaporated during the following summer; and the little that remains, being foul and muddy, is corrupted, and becomes poisonous. Wherefore it is my opinion, in which I am not unsupport

ed by other writers, that the use of the stale water in food and drink is the real cause of those fevers; and that wherever it remains commixed with the water which has recently flowed in, and which the people then begin to make use of in their articles of sustenance, the old water neither settling properly nor being purified by the new, must always be suspected as the occasion of those dreadful complaints."

“ Quod sub Æquatore navigantes miserè circa penuaria et aquam imprimis experiuntur, quæ bis terve fætorem et putredinem concipit in vasis, antequam durabilis omnisque corruptionis tandem expers fiat.”—Gul. Piso, de Medicina Brasiliana, lib. i.

Because in sailing under the Æquator they suffered severely for want of provisions, and especially of water, which contracts a stench and putridity in the casks two or three times before it can be thoroughly purified.”

“ During the winter there runs through Mancora, a village on the road between Quito and Truxillo, a small rivulet of fresh water, to the great relief of the mules. But in summer, the little remaining is so brackish that nothing but absolute necessity can render it tolerable.”-Ulloa on Spanish America, vol. ii.

“ No water was found here, except a little on the sea shore. (At Moribar on the coast of Arabia Felix.) The inhabitants of a fishing village, from which the bay derives its name, bring all they use from wells several miles inland on the backs of camels.". Curtis's Diseases of India, p. 35.

« In many places of both hundreds (in Essex) they suffer much from want of water, especially in the islands called Wallis, Foulness, and Convey; having no other means of preserving it (and that rain water) than by digging pits ; which they line with chalk rubbish, forming a sort of cement; and in this way they are often obliged to keep it for months, especially in summer, which by corrupting becomes a grievous unhealthy circumstance. To remedy in some measure this inconvenience, for several years before I left Essex I recommended them to filter the water through stones made for the purpose, which appeared to improve it, at least rendered it more agreeable to the eye. In many other places of late they have been fortunate enough to procure that valuable article by means of sinking wells to a great depth, no less than five hundred feet; which, with the improvements before-mentioned, has contributed much to benefit the health of the people; as will appear from the following fact. An intelligent apothecary residing at Walden informed me, that in consequence of a well having been sunk to nearly the depth I mentioned, and of good water, in the parish of Steeple, Dengy Hundred, where he has practised many years, the inhabitants are so much improved in health, that

in place of receiving from many farmers in that parish the sums of twenty, thirty, or forty pounds yearly, he does not now take so many shillings."- Dr. Kirkland's Letter to Sir John Sinclair, Code of Health, v. ii. p. 215. It appears

from Dr. Kirkland's letter that this Essex water was so bad as to have immediate ill effects upon those who used it. But even after the purification which it underwent, there was undoubtedly still enough of a pernicious quality in the water to produce very mischievous consequences in the course of years. Upon this account it is recommended either to cease to drink at all, which one is less inclined to do on a vegetable, than on an animal diet; or to purify the water which we use in the only way that is effectual, viz. by distillation. In a still of five and twenty or thirty gallons, the first three gallons distilled, each time, should be thrown away ; because water (my own experience is of London water) is charged with so much septic matter that the fluid which first runs off in distilling will not keep many days, though what comes off later is almost imputrescible. Three or four gallons must likewise be left at the bottom of the still, on account of the residuary filth which they contain. The following is a test of the purity of water, familiar to every chemist. Drop into a glass of water a few drops of nitrate of lead. If the water is properly distilled, it will remain clear ; if not, it will be clouded. And to prove the existence of putrid animal matter in water, add to a sufficient quantity of water a solution of acetate of lead. If the precipitate be collected and heated with its own weight of a fixed alkali, a portion of lead will be found reduced. Hence the pricipitate itself must have furnished the inflammable matter necessary to the reduction of the lead.

Again from Sir John Sinclair, vol. iii. “Vitruvius informs us that the ancients inspected the livers of animals in order to judge of the nature of the water of a country, and the salubrity of its nutritive productions. From this source they derived instruction respecting the choice of the most advantageous situations for building cities. The size and condition of the liver is, in fact, a pretty sure indication of the unhealthiness of pasture grounds, and of the deleterious quality of the water, which, especially when it is stagnant, produces in cows, and particularly in sheep, fatal diseases that have often their seat in the liver ; as for instance, the rot,' which

See Dr. Harrison's excellent treatise on the rot in sheep, where the reader will find evidence almost conclusive, that the disease has its cause in the poisonous residuum of water. The author says, and I have heard it from others, that on a dry-limed ley, or fallow ground in Derbyshire, a flock of sheep will rot in one day; and on some water-meadows in that neighbourhood, when the weather is warm, in half an hour.

frequently destroys whole flocks in marshy countries. The spleen also is a viscus very apt to be affected by those qualities."

Dry summers are followed by unhealthy springs.

« The air of Buckminster is very sharp, and the place is accounted, by those who know it, one of the healthiest towns in these parts. Yet it hath been observed after a dry summer (as in the years 1719, 1723, 1727) that in the springs following, the burials in that parish have surprisingly increased; whether by stagnation of the air, or by the scarcity and badness of the water (it being generally bad when scarce) or by surfeits got after the preceding autumn, I pretend not to determine."--History and Antiquities of Leicestershire, page 124.

Great droughts, it is well known, have always been found highly noxious in their ultimate, if not in their immediate effects. Previously to the destructive epidemical distemper which raged in the year 1783, there was a great drought in England and in other parts of Europe. The contagion proved fatal to all the countries affected with the drought, and, as I conceive, entirely through the concentration of the water. I have heard it stated that in the East Indies the servants decline going to particular situations, on account of the injurious quality of the water. In Batavia it is productive of fevers, and in the parent state, Holland, it is so bad, that it is universally abandoned for beer. Hard water affects even the productions of the soil, for gardeners let the water stand to soften before they throw it on the plants. In Anson's voyage, it is asserted that the island of Luconia is remarkably healthy, and that the water found upon it is said to be the best in the world. Lucas tells us in his first volume, that Borrichius observed the residuum of water to be inflammable, that it melted with bubbles, swelled, took fire, and burned with a clear bright flame; which gave proof of an oily substance. Hippocrates and Dr. Arbuthnot both prescribe in obstinate diseases a regimen of whey and bread, of vegetables and milk; and this is nearly the diet here recommended upon other principles, since meat and

common water form no part of either. Lind informs us that « The water of the river St. Lawrence occasioned fluxes in Sir Charles Saunders's fleet. In Canada it is bad : at Senegal, and through the whole extent of Guinea, it is very unwholesome. In the island of Antigua, there is no water but such as is preserved in tanks from the rains, which corrupts in dry seasons, and swarms with vermin.” Hence the Spaniards named it Antigua, old, dry, parched. Van Swieten writes, that the scurvy which he treated in Holland was usually much abated in spring and autumn, by making use of whey for common drink, and thereby avoiding the stagnating, unwholesome water so general in that country.

From Lind's Works. “I always observed it increased (the sea. scurvy) in frequency and violence upon the ship's small beer being exhausted, and having brandy' served in lieu of it."-Vol. i. p. 74.

“ It (the scurvy) is to be seen chiefly among the poorer sort who inhabit the low, damp parts of the provinces, and continue to live upon salted, smoked, often rancid pork, coarse bread, and who are obliged to drink unwholesome stagnating water." - Ibid.

P: 84.

“As for those who are necessarily obliged to live in low, moist places, it was hardly possible to cure them by the most powerful medicines. The disease was usually, indeed, much abated in spring and autumn, by making use of whey for common drink.”-Ibid. p. 84.

“We see it most common among the poorer sort of people in the before-mentioned situations, who feed much on dried or salted fish and flesh and unfermented mealy substances, without using green vegetables and fruits; and, for want of fresh and wholesome water, use what is either hard and brackish, or putrid and stagnating."-Vol. i. p. 87.

“Water is with difficulty preserved sweet at sea, and sometimes cannot even be procured wholesome at places where ships may touch. There are two sorts of bad water : the first is putrid and stinking; the other, a hard, heavy water, that is not putrid, but which will not incorporate with soap, or break peas when boiled in it. Both are very unwholesome."-Ibid. p. 188.

“ Besides this putrid water, sailors are often obliged to use for want of better a hard water, as it is called, replete with saline and earthy particles, which is found to be very unwholesome, though

; fresh and sweet."- Ibid. p. 191.

“ Among the diseases which mostly appear in the diocese of Bergen, which is the most unhealthful spot in all Norway, I shall first take notice of a kind of scab or itch. This is chiefly found among those that live along the coast, occasioned probably by eating great quantities of fat fish, and especially the liver of the cod. This is properly a scabies scorbutica, which may be called a leprosy."Vol. i. p. 266.

“ Bad water is, next to bad air, a frequent cause of sickness, especially of the flux, in places situated under the Torrid Zone.”

. 88. “In revising my essay on preserving seamen, there occurred to me a distress usual to mariners, which is the want of good and

a

-Vol. ii. P:

[ocr errors]

The brandy, pernicious enough in itself, was probably mixed hy the sailors with water.

« PreviousContinue »