-- --
(3) Diseases and remedies [[27-31]]

[[27]] The periodical appearance of a fatal epidemic, cholera [[28]] morbus, within the last ten years, all over India, has produced no small alarm for the safety of adventurers to that fertile region of the globe, encreased by the want hitherto of some satisfactory and judicious treatment of this terrible disease: in which it has often been found that an antidote in one case has proved so perfectly the bane in another, as to frighten the best practitioners from adopting any rational method of cure for general use, and the common weal of their fellow creatures.

In the absence of all other assignable causes for this new calamity in the East, can the extensive introduction of vaccination have the smallest effect, or have any similar visitations in other parts of the world been traced to this apparent improvement on inoculation, and the natural smallpox? Be this conjecture what it may, every thinking person will grant that a mind seasonably fortified against unreasonable apprehension on this score, with a body kept in the most healthy state by moderation and care, bids fairest to escape all such perils in every country which, like Hindoostan, is on the whole rather salubrious than the reverse.

In the absence of all hereditary tendency to bodily complaints, there exist a few very ordinary predisposing causes to a great variety of subsequent evils, which might be easily prevented at first, in lieu of being cured with no small risk and expense afterwards. Excess in eating, drinking, exercise, and in every corporeal indulgence or mental function, may be stated as the first grand stumbling block of juvenile health and spirits, however buoyant or robust. It of course should be constantly avoided, as the rock whereon the best constitution may be irrecoverably shattered to pieces during the outward passage, leaving a miserable wreck behind, ill fitted to brave the storms of any foreign clime.

Constipation is the next [[29]] impediment in the way of well doing. Induced chiefly by the transition from a landman's to a seafarer's life, it falls insensibly upon the heedless lads on board ship, especially when bashfulness prevents all idea of consultation, whether with a medical man, or with considerate shipmates more experienced than the patient's self. Thus may he prematurely cherish the dangerous seeds of hepatic affections long before his arrival in British India, unless he is forewarned of this danger in due time.

The safest remedy is undoubtedly some innocent but efficient diet, in the way of a light supper, regularly taken -- say, stewed prunes, thin sago, or flummery, with spruce or other beer; in short, any simple food which creates a periodical summons to the water-closet, at least once a day, and, if practicable, very early in the morning, as that is the hour least liable to interruption of any sort.

All the natives of the Asiatic peninsula, from habit alone, become as long as they live, a species of machines whose clock-work, in this lower department, never almost goes wrong, and consequently needs no extraneous aid from the apothecary's shop, till some unforeseen morbid state of the bowels forces them also to take advice and physic from their doctors, though much more rarely than among Europeans, who are seldom so regular and abstemious as the Asiatics in matters of this description.

There, customs, which become a second nature, give the natives a better chance of good health than ordinary sojourners can well enjoy until they imitate such salutary examples, including those partial ablutions and cleanly expedients which are soon deemed indispensable by every British Indian.

No person who ventures on so long a salt water excursion, as Hindoostan, should omit carrying with him a few boxes of aperient pills, that he may take one or two every [[30]] night pro re nata. Among a long list of such nostrums those prepared by Hume of Long Acre, the king's chemist, at two shillings per box of 48 pills, are probably the safest and best, as many respectable persons have experienced, by taking one only every day immediately before dinner, whence they are denominated dinner pills, and enjoy an extensive sale commensurate with their acknowledged efficacy in obviating all costive tendency and stomach disorders from that source, without inducing the smallest inconveniences in shape of piles or any other local affection.

That the vulgar prejudices at what are termed quack medicines are frequently too well founded, nobody will dispute, till a fair trial has fully established their reputation, as in the instance of James's Powders, and some others of the same sterling worth, among which the dinner pill may most beneficially be included.

One objection still remains, more plausible in appearance, though not in reality, as the sequel will demonstrate. A person solicitous to ward off as long as he can indigestion, constipations, head-aches, &c., with their endless train of familiar ills and habitual miseries of even a temperate life, proposes to commence a daily preventative in the form of a pill, taken previous to his principal meal, in a spoonful of plain water; but some sapient friend jeers [at] poor Pill Garlic on the idea of learning a bad practice, by swallowing a nauseous substance ephemerally, which, without farther discussion perhaps, is deemed conclusive logic, and the specific is rejected at once, however harmless in taste, smell, and every such property it may be.

Yet what are salt, pepper, mustard, vineger, and a whole string of culinary ingredients, but medicines in a more customary form? And should man or beast entirely renounce the use of salt, on the simple plea that it is [[31]] found essential in nearly every dish we eat, at all hours of the day or night?

An adequate supply of Hume's dinner pills may enable certain constitutions to weather an Indian climate effectually for many years, which would otherwise have required renovation at home. One remarkable example has actually occurred of a gentleman whom stubborn costiveness drove from Hindoostan in his youth, but whose malady has so happily yielded to the prescription in question which he carried out with him, at a more advance period of his age, that he is now enabled to bid perfect defiance to the whole catalogue of his quondam ailments.

The water taken on board, being strongly impregnated with filth of various kinds and colours, soon becomes too nauseous for the use of delicate persons. The quantity of animalculae it contains could not be credited by a person who had not seen it! On this account, several filtering-stones are used, through which it finds a passage, leaving the impurities behind. This percolation is, however, extremely tedious, and does not entirely remove the taint; though it assuredly so far sweetens it as to render the water very drinkable. The fecula left in the hollow of the drip-stone are perfectly putrid.

The ordinary beverage is table beer, or perhaps porter. In warm weather excellent spruce beer abounds; sometimes, indeed, the whole crew are supplied with from one to two quarts daily. Nor is the punch-bowl suspended for empty shew! By means of prepared lemon-juice, aided by a good stock of the fresh fruit, carefully suspended in nets in the stern-gallery, &c., good punch, lemonade, and negus are often served to the company.

-- --
 ~~ next part ~~ Gilchrist index page ~~ Glossary ~~ FWP's main page ~~