STUDY AND STIMULANTS;
THE USE OF INTOXICANTS AND NARCOTICS IN RELATION TO INTELLECTUAL LIFE,
AS ILLUSTRATED BY PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS ON THE SUBJECT, FROM MEN OF LETTERS AND OF SCIENCE.
EDITED BY A. ARTHUR READE.
The real influence of the intoxicants and narcotics in common use has been a matter of fierce and prolonged controversy. The most opposite opinions have been set forth with ability and earnestness; but the weight they would otherwise carry is lessened by their mutually contradictor-y character. Notwithstanding the great influence of the physician's authority, people are perplexed by the blessings and bannings bestowed upon tobacco and the various forms of alcohol.
What is the real influence of stimulants and narcotics upon the brain? Do they give increased strength, greater lucidity of mind and more continuous power? Do they weaken and cloud the intellect, and lessen that capacity for enduring a prolonged strain of mental exertion which is one of the first requisites of the intellectual life? Would a man who is about to enter upon the consideration of problems, the correct solution of which will demand all the strength and agility of his mind, be helped or hindered by their use? These are questions which are asked every day, and especially by the young, who seek in vain for an adequate reply. The student grappling with the early difficulties of science and literature, wishes to know whether he will be wiser to use or to abstain from stimulants.
The theoretical aspect of the question has perhaps been sufficiently discussed; but there still remains the practical inquiry,—"What has been the experience of those engaged in intellectual work?" Have men of science—the inventors, the statesmen, the essayists, and novelists of our own day—found advantage or the reverse in the use of alcohol and tobacco?
The problem has for years exercised my thoughts, and with the hope of arriving at data which would be trustworthy and decisive, I entered upon an independent inquiry among the representatives of literature, science, and art, in Europe and America. The replies were not only numerous, but in most cases covered wider ground than that originally contemplated. Many of the writers give details of their habits of work, and thus, in addition to the value of the testimony on this special topic, the letters throw great light upon the methods of the intellectual life.
To each writer, and especially to Dr. Alex. Bain, Mr. R. E. Francillon, Mark Twain, Mr. E. O'Donovan, Mr. J E. Boehm, Professor Dowden, the Rev. Dr. Martineau, Count Gubernatis, the Abbe Moigno, and Professor Magnus, who have shown hearty interest in the enquiry, I tender my best thanks for contributing to the solution of the important problem of the value of stimulants; also to Mr. W. E. A. Axon for suggestive and much appreciated help. I should, however, be glad of further testimonies for use in a second edition.
II. LETTERS FROM:
Abbot, The Rev. Dr.
Allibone, Mr. S. Astin
Argyll, The Duke of, F. R. S.
Arnold, Mr. Matthew
Bain, Dr. Alexander
Ball, Professor Robert S., LL. D., F. R. S.
Bancroft, Mr. Hubert Howe
Baxendell, Mr. Joseph, F. R. A. S.
Beard, Dr. G. M.
Bert, Professor Paul
Blackie, Professor John Stuart
Blanc, M. Louis
Boehm, Mr. J. E., R. A.
Brown, Mr. Ford Madox, R. A.
Buchanan, Mr. Robert
Burnaby, Captain Fred
Butler, Lieut. Col. W. F.
Burnton, Dr. Lauder, F. R. S.
Camp, Madame du
Carpenter, Dr. W. B., C. B., LL. D., F. R. S.
Chambers, Mr. William, LL. D
Childs, Mr. George W.
Claretie, M. Jules
Clarke, Mr. Hyde, F. S. S.
Collins, Mr. Wilkie
Conway, Mr. Moncure D., M. A.
Dallenger, Rev. W. H., F. R. S
Dawkins, W. Boyd, M. A., F. R. S., F. G. S.
D'Orsey, The Rev. Alex. J. D., B. D.
O'Donovon, Mr. Edmund
Dowden, Professor, LL. D.
Ellis, Mr. Alex. J., F. R. S., F. S. A.
Fairbairn, Professor R. M.
Francillon, Mr. R. E.
Freeman, Mr. Edward A., D. C. L., LL. D.
Furnivall, Mr. F. J., M. A.
Gardiner, Mr. Samuel R., Hon. LL. D.
Gladstone, Rt. Hon. W. E., M. P.
Greville, Mdlle. II
Guenin, M. L. P.
Guy, Dr. William
Haeckel, Professor Ernst
Hamerton, Mr. Philip Gilbert
Hardy, Mr. Thomas
Harrison, Mr. Frederic
Henty, Mr. G. A.
Holmes, Mr. Oliver Wendell
Holyoake, Mr. George Jacob
Hooker, Sir J. D., F. R. S.
Howells, Mr. W. D.
Joule, Dr. J. P.
Lansdell, The Rev. Henry
Leathes, Rev. Stanley, D. D.
Lecky, W. E. H.
Lees, Dr. F. R.
Levi, Mr. Leone, F. S. A.
Lubbock, Sir John, Bart. M. P.
Maitland, Mr. Edward, B. A.
Martin, Sir Theodore, K. C. B.
Martineau, The Rev. James, D. D.
Maudsley, Dr. Henry
May, Sir Thomas Erskine, K. C. B., D. C. L.
Mayor, Rev. John E. B., M. A.
Moigno, The Abbe
Morrison, Rev. J., D. D.
Mongredien, Mr. Augustus
Murray, Dr. J. A. H.
Murray, Mr. D. Christie.
Pattison, The Rev. Mark, B. D.
Payn, Mr. James
Pitman, Mr. Eizak
Plaute, M. Gaston
Plummer, The Rev. A.
Pocknell, Mr. Edward
Rawlinson, Professor George
Reade, Mr. Charles
Reed, Mr. Thomas Allen
Rodenberg, Dr. Julius
Russell, Dr. W. H.
Ruskin, Mr. John
Sen, Keshub Chunder
Simon, M. Jules
St. Hilaire, M. Barthelemy
Spottiswoode, Mr. W., D. C. L., LL. D.
Siemens, Dr. C. W., D. C. L., F. R. S.
Smith, Mr. G. Barnett
Trollope, Mr. Anthony
Thomson, Sir William, M. A., LL. D., D. C. L., F. R. S.
Tyndall, Professor, LL. D., F. R. S.
Tourgueneff, Mr. Ivan
Walford, Mr. Cornelius, F. S. S., F. I. A.
Watts, Mr. G. F., R. A.
Wilson, Professor Andrew, Ph. D., F. R. S. E.
Winser, Mr. Justin
Bennett, Dr. Risdon
Brooke, The Rev. Stopford A., M. A.
Bryant, William C.
Chambers, Dr. King
Fraser, Professor Thomas R.
Herkomer, Hubert, A. R. A.
Higginson, Colonel Thomas Wentworth
Kingsley, The Rev. Charles
Proctor, Mr. R. A., F. R. S.
Richardson, Dr. B. W., F. R. S.
Sala, Mr. George Augustus
Thompson, Sir Henry, F. R. C. S.
Williams, Mr. W. Mattieu, F. R. A. S., F. C. S.
Yeo, Dr. Bumey, M. D.
STUDY AND STIMULANTS
THE REV. DR. ABBOT, EDITOR OF THE "CHRISTIAN UNION," NEW YORK.
I have no experience whatever respecting tobacco: my general opinion is adverse to its use by a healthy man; but that opinion is not founded on any personal experience, nor on any scientific knowledge, as to give it any value for others. My opinion respecting alcohol is that it is a valuable and necessary ingredient in forming and preserving some articles of diet—yeast bread, for example, which can only be produced by fermentation—and that its value in the lighter wines, those in which it is found in, a ratio of from 5 to 10 per cent., is of the same character. It preserves for use other elements in the juice of the grape. As a stimulant, alcohol is, in my opinion, at once a deadly poison and a valuable medicine, to be ranked with belladonna, arsenic, prussic acid, and other toxical agents, which can never be safely dispensed with by the medical faculty, nor safely used by laymen as a stimulant, except under medical advice. As to my experience, it is very limited; and, in my judgment, it is quite unsafe in this matter to make one man's experience another man's guide: too much depends upon temperamental and constitutional peculiarities, and upon special conditions of climate and the like.
1. I have no experience respecting distilled spirits; I regard them as highly dangerous, and have never used them except under medical advice, and then only in rare and serious cases of illness. 2. Beers and the lighter wines, if taken before mental work, always—in my experience—impair the working powers. They do not facilitate, but impede brain action. 3. After an exceptionally hard day's work, when the nervous power is exhausted, and the stomach is not able to digest and assimilate the food which the system needs, a glass of light wine, taken with the dinner, is a better aid to digestion than any other medicine that I know. To serve this purpose, its use—in my opinion— should be exceptional, not habitual: it is a medicine, not a beverage. 4. After nervous excitement in the evening, especially public speaking, a glass of light beer serves a useful purpose as a sedative, and ensures at times a good sleep, when without it the night would be one of imperfect sleep.
I must repeat that my experience is very limited; that in my judgment the cases which justify a man in so overtaxing his system that he requires a medicine to enable him to digest his dinner or enjoy his sleep must be rare; and that my own use of either wine or beer is very exceptional. Though I am not in strictness of speech a total abstinence man, I am ordinarily a water drinker.
LYMAN ABBOT. March 11, 1882.
MR. S. AUSTIN ALLIBONE, NEW YORK.
I have no doubt that the use of alcohol as a rule is very injurious to all persons—authors included. In about 17 years (1853-1870), in which I was engaged on the "Dictionary of English Literature and Authors," I never took it but for medicine, and very seldom. Moderate smoking after meals I think useful to those who use their brains much; and this seems to have been the opinion of the majority of the physicians who took part in the controversy in the Lancet about ten or twelve years since. An energetic non-smoker is in haste to rush to his work soon after dinner. A smoker is willing to rest (it should be for an hour), because he can enjoy his cigar, and his conscience is satisfied, which is a great thing for digestion; the brain is soothed also.
S. AUSTIN ALLIBONE. March 27, 1882.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL, F. R. S.
In answer to your question, I can only say that during by far the greatest part of my life I never took alcohol in any form; and that only in recent years I have taken a small fixed quantity under medical advice, as a preventive of gout. Tobacco I have never touched.
ARGYLL. October 2, 1882.
MR. MATTHEW ARNOLD.
In reply to your enquiry, I have to inform you that I have never smoked, and have always drunk wine, chiefly claret. As to the use of wine, I can only speak for myself. Of course, there is the danger of excess; but a healthy nature and the power of self-control being presupposed, one can hardly do better, I should think, than "follow nature" as to what one drinks, and its times and quantity. As a general rule, I drink water in the middle of the day; and a glass or two of sherry, and some light claret, mixed with water, at a late dinner; and this seems to suit me very well. I have given up beer in the middle of the day, not because I experienced that it did not suit me, but because the doctor assured me that it was bad for rheumatism, from which I sometimes suffer. I suppose most young people could do as much without wine as with it. Real brain-work of itself, I think, upsets the worker, and makes him bilious; wine will not cure this, nor will abstaining from wine prevent it. But, in general, wine used in moderation seems to add to the agreeableness of life—for adults, at any rate; and whatever adds to the agreeableness of life adds to its resources and powers.
MATTHEW ARNOLD. November 4, 1882.
Has no very definite opinions as to the effects of tobacco and alcohol upon the mind and health, but as he is not in the habit of either taking alcohol or of smoking, he cannot regard those habits as essential to mental exertion.
April 21, 1882.
DR. ALEXANDER BAIN, LORD RECTOR OF ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY.
I am interested in the fact that anyone is engaged in a thorough investigation of the action of stimulants. Although the subject falls under my own studies in some degree, I am a very indifferent testimony as far as concerns personal experience. On the action of tobacco, I am disqualified to speak, from never having used it. As to the other stimulants—alcohol and the tea group—I find abstinence essential to intellectual effort. They induce a false excitement, not compatible with severe application to problems of difficulty. They come in well enough at the end of the day as soothing, or cheering, and also as diverting the thoughts into other channels. In my early intercourse with my friend; Dr. Carpenter, when he was a strict teetotaler, he used to discredit the effect of alcohol in soothing the excitement of prolonged intellectual work. I have always considered, however, that there is something in it. Excess of tea I have good reason to deprecate; I take it only once a day. The difficulty that presses upon me on the whole subject is this:—In organic influences, you are not at liberty to lay down the law of concomitant variations without exception, or to affirm that what is bad in large quantities, is simply less bad when the quantity is small. There may be proportions not only innocuous, but beneficial; reasoning from the analogy of the action of many drugs which present the greatest opposition of effect in different quantities. I mean this—not with reference to the inutility for intellectual stimulation, in which I have a pretty clear opinion as regards myself—but as to the harmlessness in the long run, of the employment of stimulants for solace and pleasure when kept to what we call moderation. A friend of mine heard Thackeray say that he got some of his best thoughts when driving home from dining out, with his skin full of wine. That a man might get chance suggestions by the nervous excitement, I have no doubt; I speak of the serious work of composition. John Stuart Mill never used tobacco; I believe he had always a moderate quantity of wine to dinner. He frequently made the remark that he believed the giving up of wine would be apt to be followed by taking more food than was necessary, merely for the sake of stimulation. Assuming the use of stimulants after work to aid the subsidence of the brain, I can quite conceive that tobacco may operate in this way, as often averred; but I should have supposed that any single stimulant would be enough: as tobacco for those abstaining entirely from alcohol, and using little tea or coffee.
ALEXANDER BAIN. March 6, 1882.
PROFESSOR ROBERT S. BALL, LL. D., F. R. S., ANDREWS PROFESSOR OF ASTRONOMY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF DUBLIN, AND ROYAL ASTRONOMER OF IRELAND.
I fear my experience can be of little use to you. I have never smoked except once—when at school; I then got sick, and have never desired to smoke since. I have not paid particular attention to the subject, but I have never seen anything to make me believe that tobacco was of real use to intellectual workers. I have known of people being injured by smoking too much, but I never heard of anyone suffering from not smoking at all.
ROBERT S. BALL. February 13, 1882.
MR. HUBERT HOWE BANCROFT, SAN FRANCISCO.
In my opinion, some constitutions are benefited by a moderate use of tobacco and alcohol; others are not. But to touch these things is dangerous.
H. H. BANCROFT. May 6, 1882.
MR. JOSEPH BAXENDELL, F. R. A. S.
I fear that my experience of the results of the use of stimulants will not aid you much in your enquiry. Although I am not a professed teetotaler or anti-smoker, practically I may say I am one: and when I am engaged in literary work, scientific investigations, or long and complicated calculations, I never think of taking any stimulant to aid or refresh me, and I doubt whether it would be of any use to do so.
JOSEPH BAXENDELL. February 20, 1882.
DR. G. M. BEARD, FELLOW OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF MEDICINE.
In reply to your enquiries, I may say—first: I do not find that alcohol is so good a stimulant to thought as coffee, tea, opium, or tobacco. On myself alcohol has rather a benumbing and stupefying effect, whatever may be the dose employed; whereas, tobacco and opium, in moderate doses, tea, and especially coffee, as well as cocoa, have an effect precisely the reverse.
Secondly: there are many persons on whom alcohol in large or small doses has a stimulating effect on thought: they can speak and think better under its influence. The late Daniel Webster was accustomed to stimulate himself for his great speeches by the use of alcohol.
Thirdly: these stimulants and narcotics, according to the temperament of the person on whom they are used, have effects precisely opposite, either sedative or stimulating; while coffee makes some people sleepy, the majority of persons are made wakeful by it. Some are made very nervous by tobacco in the form of smoking, while on others it acts as a sedative, and induces sleep. General Grant once told me 'that, if disturbed during the night, or worried about anything so that he could not sleep, he could induce sleep by getting up and smoking a short time—a few whiffs, as I understood him, being sufficient.
If I were to judge by my own experience alone—which it is not fair to do—I should say that coffee is the best stimulant for mental work; next to that tobacco and quinine; but as I grow older, I observe that alcohol in reasonable doses is beginning to have a stimulating effect.
GEORGE M. BEARD. March 13, 1882.
PROFESSOR PAUL BERT.
My views on tobacco and alcohol, and their action on the health, may be summed up in the following four propositions:—
1.—Whole populations have attained to a high degree of civilization and prosperity without having known either tobacco or alcohol, therefore, these substances are neither necessary nor even useful to individuals as well as races.
2.—Very considerable quantities of these drugs, taken at a single dose, may cause death; smaller quantities stupefy, or kill more slowly. They are, therefore, poisons against which we must be on our guard.
3.—On the other hand, there are innumerable persons who drink alcoholic beverages, and smoke tobacco, without any detriment to their reason or their health. There is, therefore, no reason to forbid the use of these substances, while suitably regulating the quantity to be taken.
4.—The use of alcoholic liquors and of tobacco in feeble doses, affords to many persons very great satisfaction, and is altogether harmless and inoffensive.
We ought, therefore, to attach no stigma to their consumption, after having pointed out the danger of their abuse. In short, it is with alcohol and tobacco as with all the pleasures of this life—a question of degree.
As for myself, I never smoke, because I am not fond of tobacco: I very seldom drink alcoholic liquors, but I take wine to all my meals because I like it.
PAUL BERT. March 1, 1882.
PROFESSOR JOHN STUART BLACKIE.
My idea is, that work done under the influence of any kind of stimulants is unhealthy work, and tends to no good. I never use any kind of stimulant for intellectual work—only a glass of wine during dinner to sharpen the appetite. As to smoking generally, it is a vile and odious practice; but I do not know that, unless carried to excess, it is in any way unhealthy. Instead of stimulants, literary men should seek for aid in a pleasant variety of occupation, in intervals of perfect rest, in fresh air and exercise, and a cultivation of systematic moderation in all emotions and passions.
J. S. BLACKIE. February 9, 1882.
M. LOUIS BLANC.
In answer to your letter, I beg to tell you that I do not know by experience what may be the effects of tobacco and alcohol upon the mind and health, not having been in the habit of taking tobacco and drinking alcohol.
LOUIS BLANC. March 9, 1882.
MR. J. E. BOEHM, R. A.
It will give me great pleasure if I can in any way contribute to your so very interesting researches, and I shall be glad to know whether you have published anything on the subject you have questioned me on. I find vigorous exercise the first and most important stimulant to hard work. I get up in summer at six, in winter at seven, take an hour and a half's hard ride, afterwards a warm bath, a cold douche, and then breakfast. I work from ten to seven generally; but twice or thrice a week I have an additional exercise—an hour's fencing before dinner, which I take at 8 p.m. I take light claret or hock to my dinner, but never touch any wine or spirits at any other times, and eat meat only once in twenty-four hours. I find a small cup of coffee after luncheon very exhilarating. I smoke when hard at work—chiefly cigarettes. After a long sitting (as I do not smoke while working from nature), a cigarette is a soother for which I get a perfect craving. In the evening, or when I am in the country doing nothing, I scarcely smoke at all, and do not feel the want of it there; nor do I then take at evening dinner more than one or two glasses of wine, and I have observed that the same quantity which would make me feel giddy in the country when in full health and vigour, would not have the slightest effect on me when taken after a hard day's work. I also observed that I can work longer without fatigue when I have had my ride, than when for any reason I have to give it up. I have carried this mode of life on for nearly twenty years, and am well and feel young, though forty-eight. I never see any one from ten to three o'clock; after that I still work, but must often suffer interruption. I found that temperament and constitution are rarely, if ever, a legitimate excuse for departure from abstinence and sober habits. I have the conviction that in order to have the eye and the brain clear, you ought to make your skin act vigorously at least once in twenty-four hours.
J. E. BOEHM. February 20, 1882.
DR. BREDENCAMP, ERLANGEN.
In reply to your letter, I am accustomed to smoke. If I do not smoke, I cannot do my work properly; and it is quite impossible to do any work in the morning without smoking. Strong drink I do not need at all, but I drink two glasses of Bavarian beer, which contains very little alcohol.
E. BREDENCAMP. April 18, 1882.
MR. FORD MADOX BROWN, R. A.
I have smoked for upwards of thirty years, and have given up smoking for the last seven years. Almost all my life I have taken alcoholic liquors in moderation, but have also been a total abstainer for a short period. My experience is that neither course with either ingredient has anything to do with mental work as capacity for it; unless, indeed, we are to except the incapacity produced by excessive drinking, of which, however, I have no personal experience.
F. M. BROWN. Feb. 28, 1882.
MR. ROBERT BUCHANAN.
I am myself no authority on the subject concerning which you write. I drink myself, but not during the hours of work; and I smoke-pretty habitually. My own experience and belief is, that both alcohol and tobacco, like most blessings, can be turned into curses by habitual self-indulgence. Physiologically speaking, I believe them both to be invaluable to humankind. The cases of dire disease generated by total abstinence from liquor are even more terrible than those caused by excess. With regard to tobacco, I have a notion that it is only dangerous where the vital organism, and particularly the nervous system, is badly nourished.
ROBERT BUCHANAN. March 7, 1882.
DR. BUDDENSEIG, DRESDEN.
I have no decided opinion whatever as to the question you ask. I can only say that I am a very small smoker, taking one or two cigars daily, and I drink Rhine wine, but not daily, as most scholars or those working with their brains generally do. There can be, I should think, no question that immoderate use of alcohol produces most destructive results.
E. BUDDENSEIG. Feb. 20, 1882.
CAPTAIN FRED BURNABY.
In my humble opinion, every man must find out for himself whether stimulants are a help to his intellectual efforts. It is impossible to lay down a law. What would, perhaps, enable one man to write brilliantly would make another man write nonsense. I myself, although not an abstainer, should think it a great mistake to seek inspiration in either tobacco or alcohol.
F. BURNABY. March 2, 1882.
LIEUT.-COL. W. F. BUTLER.
In reply to your communication, asking for a statement of my experience as to the effects of tobacco and alcohol upon the mind and health, I beg to inform you that as I have not been in the habit of using the first-named article at any period of my life, I am unable to speak of its effects, mental or otherwise. With regard to alcohol, I have found that although the brain may receive a temporary accession to its production of thought, through the use of wine, etc., such increased action is always followed by a decided weakening of the thinking power, and that on the whole a far greater amount of even mental work is to be obtained without the use of alcohol than with it.
W. F. BUTLER. Feb. 18, 1882.
DR. LAUDER BURNTON, F. R. S.
I am unable to give you personal experience as to the use of tobacco, inasmuch as I do not use it in any form. From observation of others it appears to me that, when not used to excess, it is serviceable both as a stimulant during work, and as a sedative after work is over.
LAUDER BURNTON. Feb. 9, 1882.
MAXIME DU CAMP.
I have never been able to make any experiences on the influence of alcohol upon the mind. I never drink it, and have never been tipsy. I smoke very much, but only the pipe and cigarette. I take two meals every day—one at eleven, consisting of a mutton chop, vegetables, and a cup of tea. I make a hearty dinner at seven, and drink a bottle of Bordeaux wine. I never work in the evening; and go to bed at half-past ten. I think the use of tobacco very useless and rather stupid. As to alcohol, I consider it very hurtful for the liver, and highly injurious to the mind. The life of mental workers should be well regulated and temperate in all respects. Bodily exercises, such as riding, walking and hunting, are very necessary for the relaxation of the mind, and must be taken occasionally. In my opinion, all intellectual productions are due to a special disposition of the cerebro-spinal system, upon which tobacco and alcohol can have no salutary action. I fear that my answer will be of little help to you; for in these matters I esteem theory nothing. There are, as the Germans say, idiosyncrasies.
MAXIME DU CAMP. Feb. 17, 1882.
DR. W. B. CARPENTER, C. B., LL. D., F. R. S.
In reply to your enquiry, I have to inform you that I have never felt the need of alcoholic stimulants as a help in intellectual efforts; on the contrary, I have found them decidedly injurious in that respect, except when used with the strictest moderation. For about eleven years of the hardest-working period of my life, that in which I produced my large treatises on Physiology, edited the Medical Quarterly Review, and did a great deal of other literary work, besides lecturing, I was practically a total abstainer, though I never took any pledge. I undoubtedly injured myself by over-work during that period, as I have more than once done since under the pressure of official duty; but the injury has shown itself in the failure of appetite and digestive power. After many trials, I have come to the practical conclusion that I get on best, while in London, by taking with my dinner a couple of glasses of very light Claret, and simply as an aid in the digestion of the food which is required to keep up my mental and bodily power. But when "on holiday" in Scotland, or elsewhere, I do not find the need of this. I have never smoked tobacco, or used it in any form. I need scarcely say that I have never used any other "nervine stimulants." You are at perfect liberty to make use of this communication.
WM. B. CARPENTER. Feb. 17, 1882.
MR. WILLIAM CHAMBERS, LL. D.
In reply to your note, I have only time to say that I never used tobacco in any form all my life, and I can say the same thing regarding my brother, Robert.
WILLIAM CHAMBERS. February 10, 1882.
MR. GEORGE W. CHILDS, PHILADELPHIA.
I fear I shall be unable to add to your fund of information. Never having used spirituous or vinous stimulants, or tobacco in any form, I have no personal "experience" of the way they affect the mental faculties of those who use them.
G. W. CHILDS. Sept. 30, 1882.
M. JULES CLARETIE, PARIS.
I should have been glad to reply to your question from my personal experience, but I do not smoke, and have never in all my life drunk as much as a single glass of alcohol. This plainly shows that I require no "fillip" or stimulant when at work. Tobacco and alcohol may cause over-excitement of the brain, as does coffee, which I am very fond of; but, in my opinion, that alone is thorough good work which is performed without artificial stimulant, and in full possession of one's health and faculties. The reason we have so many sickly productions in our literature arises probably from the fact that our writers, perhaps, add a little alcohol to their ink, and view life through the fumes of nicotine.
M. JULES CLARETIE. Feb. 26, 1882.
MR. HYDE CLARKE, F. S. S.
As I am not an adherent of the teetotal abstinence movement, I beg that everything I write may be accepted with this reservation. I have never seen that any great thinker has found any help or benefit from the use of stimulants-either alcohol or tobacco. My observations and experiences are unfavourable to both classes of stimulants. In my own case, I gave up smoking before my scientific work began. Alcoholic drinks I used moderately, but I was a water drinker chiefly. Of late years, from illness, I have given up alcoholic drinks; but were I in full health, I should use them moderately. In the course of a public life of about forty years, I have seen the ill-effects of drinking upon many journalists and others; but it appears to me that smoking produces still greater evil. A man knows when he is drunk, but he does not know when he has smoked too much, until the effects of accumulation have made themselves permanent. To smoking are to be traced many affections of the eyes, and of the ears, besides other ailments. I have heard much said in favour of smoking and drinking, but never saw any favourable result. The communication of the evil results of these stimulants to offspring appears to me to constitute a further serious objection to them, I approve fully of your object, but as I do not go to the length of total abstinence advocates, I am desirous not to be misunderstood. Several years of my life were spent in the East, and my experience there only confirms me the more. I have known many drunkards among literary men, and the stimulants they took never helped their work; and it was only because they were men of exceptionally strong brain that their excesses did not incapacitate them. There are many excesses of this kind that are equally misunderstood by those who indulge in them, and by temperance writers. There are, in fact, many men of enormous power, who can smoke and drink all day long. They constitute no standard: so far as I have seen, the consequences show themselves only in the offspring, though in this case it must be taken into account, that the children are sometimes born before a man's health has been seriously injured. A man of exceptional strength misleads and encourages others to indulge.
HYDE CLARKE. October 14, 1882.
MR. WILKIE COLLINS.
When I am ill (I am suffering from gout at this very moment) tobacco is the best friend that my irritable nerves possess. When I am well, but exhausted for the time by a hard day's work, tobacco nerves and composes me. There is my evidence in two words. When a man allows himself to become a glutton in the matter of smoking tobacco, he suffers for it; and if he becomes a glutton in the matter of eating meat, he just as certainly suffers in another way. When I read learned attacks on the practice of smoking, I feel indebted to the writer—he adds largely to the relish of my cigar.
WILKIE COLONS. February 10, 1882.
MR. MONCURE D. CONWAY, M. A.
My experience of stimulants has been insufficient to enable me to give any important opinion about them. As to tobacco, my strong hope is that my own sons will never use it; but if they should develop peculiar and excitable nerves, or become very emotional, or have much trouble, it is so likely that they might take to some worse habit that I would prefer they should smoke.
M. D. CONWAY. February 22, 1882.
REV. W. H. DALLINGER, F. R. S.
I am not a pledged abstainer: I have used both tobacco and alcohol in various forms. Neither is at all necessary to my vigour of either body or mind. My use of tobacco has been but slight. I have never Used alcohol for years. I could never think deeply after the use of tobacco; I have felt a quickening of thought at times after a slight use of good wine; but I know, from physiological evidence, what practice has certainly proved, that no permanent benefit to either body or mind must be sought from its use. I have employed it with great benefit at times—that is, where it was better to afford the exhaustion following a mere stimulant, than to submit to an exhaustion which the stimulant could for the moment counteract. This is the only advantage, save to the palate, that I have known to be derived personally from the use of alcohol.
W. H. DALLINGER. February 11, 1882.
I drink a glass of wine daily, and believe I should be better without any, though all doctors urge me to drink wine, as I suffer much from giddiness. I have taken snuff all my life, and regret that I ever acquired the habit, which I have often tried to leave off, and have succeeded for a time. I feel sure that it is a great stimulus and aid in my work. I also daily smoke two little paper cigarettes of Turkish tobacco. This is not a stimulus, but rests me after I have been compelled to talk, with tired memory, more than anything else. I am 73 years old.
CH. DARWIN. February 9, 1882.
W. BOYD DAWKINS, M. A., F. R. S., F. G. S. PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY, OWENS COLLEGE, MANCHESTER.
I have received your note asking about the effect of alcohol on my health and work. I cannot say that they influence either; I find, however, that I cannot drink beer when I am using my brain, and, therefore, do not take it when I have anything of importance to think about. I look upon tobacco and alcohol as merely luxuries, and there are no luxuries more dangerous if you take too much of them. I find quinine the best stimulant to thought.
W. BOYD DAWKINS. February 16, 1882.
The Rev. ALEX. J. D. D'ORSEY, B. D., LECTURER ON PUBLIC READING AND SPEAKING AT KING'S COLLEGE, LONDON.
For my own part, I am decidedly averse to the use of tobacco and stimulants. I am myself a total abstainer (not pledged), and I have never smoked in my life. I always do my utmost to dissuade young and old alike to abstain from even the moderate use of tobacco and stimulants, as in the course of a long and laborious life, speaking much and preaching without notes, I have always felt able to grapple with my subject, with pleasure to myself and with profit, I trust, to my hearers.
A. J. D. D'ORSEY. March 17, 1882.
MR. EDMUND O'DONOVAN, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT OF THE "DAILY NEWS."
As far as my experience goes, the use of stimulants enables one at moments of severe bodily exhaustion to make mental efforts of which, but for them, he would be absolutely incapable. For instance, after a long day's ride in the burning sun across the dry stony wastes of Northern Persia, I have arrived in some wretched, mud-built town, and laid down upon my carpet in the corner of some miserable hovel, utterly worn out by bodily fatigue, mental anxiety, and the worry inseparable from constant association with Eastern servants. It would be necessary to write a long letter to the newspapers before retiring to rest. A judicious use of stimulants has, under such circumstances, not only given me sufficient energy to unpack my writing materials, lie on my face, and propped on both elbows, write for hours by the light of a smoky lamp; but also produced the flow of ideas that previously refused to come out of their mental hiding places, or which presented themselves in a flat and uninteresting form. I consider, then, the use of alcoholic and other stimulation to be conducive to literary labours under circumstances of physical and mental exhaustion; and very often the latter is the normal condition of writers, especially those employed on the press. Perhaps, too, in examining into the nature of some metaphysical and psychological questions the use of alcohol, or some similar stimulant, aids the appreciation of nuances of thought which might otherwise escape the cooler and less excited brain. On the other hand, while travelling in the East during the past few years, and when, as a rule, circumstances precluded the possibility of obtaining stimulants, I found that a robust state of health consequent on an out-door life, made the consumption of alcohol in any shape quite unnecessary. In brief, then, my opinion is, that at a given moment of mental depression or exhaustion, the use of stimulants will restore the mind to a condition of activity and power fully equalling, and in some particular ways, surpassing its normal state. Subsequently to the dying out of the stimulation the brain is left in a still more collapsed situation than before, in other words, must pay the penalty, in the form of an adverse reaction, of having overdrawn its powers, for having, as it were, anticipated its work.
E. O'DONOVAN. Feb. 17, 1882.
PROFESSOR DOWDEN, LL. D.
I distinguish direct and immediate effect of alcohol on the brain from its indirect effect through the general health of the body. I can only speak for myself. I have no doubt that the direct effect of alcohol on me is intellectually injurious. This, however, is true in a certain degree, of everything I eat and drink (except tea). After the smallest meal I am for a while less active mentally. A single glass even of claret I believe injures my power of thinking; but accepting the necessity of regular meals, I do not find that a sparing allowance of light wine adds to the subsequent dulness of mind, and I am disposed to think it is of some slight use physically. From one to two and a half small wine glasses of claret or burgundy is the limit of what I can take—and that only at dinner—without conscious harm. One glass of sherry or port I find every way injurious. Whisky and brandy are to me simply poisons, destroying my power of enjoyment and of thought. Ale I can only drink when very much in the open air. As to tobacco, I have never smoked much, but I can either not smoke, as at present, or go to the limit of two small cigarettes in twenty-four hours. Any good effects of tobacco become with me uncertain in proportion to the frequency of smoking. The good effects are those commonly ascribed to it: it seems to soothe away small worries, and to restore little irritating incidents to their true proportions. On a few occasions I have thought it gave me a mental fillip, and enabled me to start with work I had been pausing over; and it nearly always has the power to produce a pleasant, and perhaps wholesome, retardation of thought—a half unthinking reverie, if one adapts surrounding circumstances to encourage this mood. The only sure brain stimulants with me are plenty of fresh air and tea; but each of these in large quantity produces a kind of intoxication: the intoxication of a great amount of air causing wakefulness, with a delightful confusion of spirits, without the capacity of steady thought; tea intoxication unsettles and enfeebles my will; but then a great dose of tea often does get good work out of me (though I may pay for it afterwards), while alcohol renders all mental work impossible. I have been accustomed to make the effects of tea and wine a mode of separating two types of constitution. I have an artist friend whose brain is livelier after a bottle of Carlowitz, which would stifle my mind, and to him my strong cup of tea would be poison. We are both, I think, of nervous organization, but how differentiated I cannot tell. My pulse goes always rather too quickly; a little emotional disturbance sets it going at an absurdly rapid rate for hours, and extreme physical fatigue follows. My conviction is that no one rule applies to all men, but for men like me alcohol is certainly not necessary, and at best of little use. I have a kindlier feeling towards tobacco, though I am only occasionally a smoker.
P.S.—Since writing the above, I have asked two friends (each an intellectual worker of extraordinary energy) how alcohol affects them. Both agreed that a large dose of alcohol stimulated them intellectually, but that the subsequent physical results were injurious.
E. DOWDEN. March 3, 1882.
I think chewing tobacco acts as a good stimulant upon anyone engaged in laborious brain work. Smoking, although pleasant, is too violent in its action; and the same remark applies to alcoholic liquors. I am inclined to think that it is better for intellectual workers to perform their labours at night, as after a very long experience of night work, I find my brain is in better condition at that time, especially for experimental work, and when so engaged I almost invariably chew tobacco as a stimulant.
THOS. A. EDISON, April 4, 1882.
MR. ALEX. J. ELLIS, F. R. S., F. S. A., PRESIDENT OF THE PHILOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
I am 67 3/4. I never took tobacco in any shape or form. For twenty-five years I have taken no sort of stimulant, not even tea or coffee. But for eight years in and amongst these twenty-five, but not part of them, I took a little wine. This is eight years ago. I did not find wine increased my power of work. I have led a working literary life, always occupied, except when obliged to rest from over work. The longest of these rests was three years, from 1849, while I was still drinking wine. It is possible that wine may whip one up a bit for a moment, but I don't believe in it as a necessity. I am not a teetotaler or temperance man in any way, and my rejection of all stimulants (my strongest drink being milk and much water) is a mere matter of taste.
A. J. ELLIS. February 22, 1882.
In reply to your letter, I have to say that I think all stimulants, whether in the form of alcoholic drinks, tea or coffee, or tobacco, should be very moderately used. For my own part, I have never smoked or snuffed, and my daily allowance of alcoholic drinks is a so-called pint bottle of beer or two glasses of wine. I have more frequently suffered from nervous excitability due to tea or coffee, than from any other kind of stimulant. I can compose best when my brain is coolest and my digestion easiest. I do not believe in artificial stimulus to literary effort.
J. D. EVERETT. February 22, 1882.
PROFESSOR R. M. FAIRBAIRN, CHAIRMAN OF THE CONGREGATIONAL UNION OF ENGLAND AND WALES.
I cannot say anything as to the effects of tobacco and alcohol upon the health. I never use either, and so can only say that in my case work has been done without their help. In the absence of data for comparison as to the effects of indulgence and abstinence, it would be foolish in me to express any comparative judgment; but it is only fair to say that so far as I am capable of forming any opinion on the matter, the abstinence has been altogether beneficial.
R. M. FAIRBAIRN. February 16, 1882.
MR. R. E. FRANCILLON.
It so happens that your question belongs to a class of topics in which I have taken much theoretical interest. For my general views, I cannot do better than refer you to a paper of mine in the Gentleman's Magazine of March, 1875, called "The Physiology of Authorship;" but I fully agree with you that the settlement of the question can only depend upon the collection of individual experience. I have consciously studied my own, and can state it shortly and plainly. I am a very hard, very regular, and not seldom an excessive worker; and I find that my consumption of tobacco, and my production of work are in 'almost exact pro-portion, I cannot pretend to guess whether the work demands the tobacco or whether the tobacco stimulates the work; but in my case they are inextricably and, I believe, necessarily combined. When I take a holiday, especially if I spend it in the open air, I scarcely smoke at all; indeed, I find that bodily exercise requires no stimulant of any kind whatever. If I read, I smoke little; but if I produce, tobacco takes the form of a necessity, I believe—for I am indolent by nature, and tobacco seems to me to be the best machine for making work go with the grain that I can find. [Footnote: The wisdom of occasionally using these various stimulants for intellectual purposes is proved by a single consideration. Each of us has a little cleverness and a great deal of sluggish stupidity. There are certain occasions when we absolutely need the little cleverness that we possess. The orator needs it when he speaks, the poet when he Versifies, but neither cares how stupid he may become when the oration is delivered and the lyric set down on paper. The stimulant serves to bring out the talent when it is wanted, like the wind in the pipes of an organ. "What will it matter if I am even a little duller afterwards?" says the genius; "I can afford to be dull when I have done." But the truth still remains that there are stimulants and stimulants. Not the nectar of the gods themselves were worth the dash of a wave upon the beach, and the pure cool air of the morning.— Philip G. Hamerton, in Intellectual Life, p. 21.] I have a very strong suspicion that if I did not smoke (which I find harmless) I should have to conquer really dangerous temptations. As things are, though I am a very moderate wine-drinker (spirits I never touch, and abhor), alcohol, practically speaking, bears no appreciable part in my life's economy. I believe that to some people tobacco is downright poison; to some, life and health; to the vast majority, including myself, neither one thing nor the other, but simply a comfort or an instrument, or a mere nothing, according to idiosyncrasy.
My general theory is, that bodily labour and exercise need no stimulant at all, or at most very little; but that intellectual, and especially creative, work, when it draws upon the mind beyond a quickly reached point, requires being a non-natural condition non-natural means to keep it going. I cannot call to mind a single case, except that of Goethe, where great mental labour has been carried on without external support of some sort; which seems to imply an instinctive knowledge of how to get more out of the brain machine than is possible under normal conditions. Of course the means must differ more or less in each individual case; and sometimes the owner of a creative brain must decide whether he will let it lie fallow for health's sake, or whether for work's sake he will let life and health go. I always insist very strongly upon brain work-beyond an uncertain point-being non-natural, and, therefore, requiring non-natural conditions for its exercise. I can quite believe the feat of the Hungarian officer [Footnote: The surprising endurance of the Hungarian officer, who lately swam a lake in Hungary, a distance of eleven miles, is ascribed to his abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.— Thrift, for February, 1882.] would be impossible to a man who smoked or drank. But I cannot at all believe in that officer's powers of writing, instead of swimming, with a mind at full stretch, for the half of eleven hours. As to economy, tobacco costs me a good deal; but I look upon it as the investment of so much capital, bearing better interest than any other investment could bear.
R. E. FRANCILLON. April 4, 1882.
MR. EDWARD A. FREEMAN, D. C. L., LL. D.
I can tell you nothing of the effects of smoking tobacco, having had no experience. I tried once or twice when young, but, finding it nasty, I did not try again. Why people smoke, I have no notion. If I am tired of work, a short sleep sets me up again. I really have nothing to say about alcohol—I have never thought about it. I drink wine like other people, and I find brandy an excellent medicine on occasion. I used to drink beer, but some of the doctors say it is not good for me, and some have recommended whisky instead; but I really have no views on the subject. I have drunk wine and beer, as I have eaten beef and mutton, without any theories one way or another.
E.A. FREEMAN. October 29, 1882.
MR. F. J. FURNIVALL, M. A.
Though I have no claim to be considered as one of the great thinkers and popular authors, I am a small thinker and a decidedly unpopular author, who has nevertheless done some work, I answer, that I have been a teetotaler since the summer of 1841, when I was 16, and I have never smoked except as a lark at school. I was a Vegetarian for about 25 years. I believe alcohol to be highly detrimental to head work. Tobacco has, I think, done good in only one case that has come under my notice during 40 years; it quieted an excitable man. My father, who was a medical man of wide practice, was very strong against much use of tobacco. He knew two cases of speedy death from the oil in the bowl of a tobacco-pipe being applied to aching teeth. He had several cases of much impaired digestion from smoking.
F. J FURNIVALL. March 8, 1882.
MR. SAMUEL R. GARDINER, HON. LL. D. PROFESSOR OF MODERN HISTORY IN KING'S COLLEGE.
In reply to your letter, I beg to say that I never smoked in my life, and don't intend to begin. I take beer at luncheon and dinner, and occasionally a glass or two of wine, but very often I am four or five days without doing that.
SAMUEL R. GARDINER. March 9, 1882.
RT. HON. W. E. GLADSTONE, M. P.
In answer to your questions, I beg to say that Mr. Gladstone drinks one glass or two of claret at luncheon, the same at dinner, with the addition of a glass of light port. The use of wine to this extent is especially necessary to him at the time of greatest intellectual exertion. Smoking he detests, and he has always abstained from the use of very strong and fiery stimulants.
HERBERT J. GLADSTONE. November 29, 1882.
MDLLE. H. GREVILLE.
Being a lady, though my nom de plume be a man's, I have little experience of either alcohol or tobacco. I must fairly say that though claret agrees with my constitution when properly mixed with water, wine without water, and every kind of liqueurs, makes me very ill, especially when taken between my meals, which are only two in number— breakfast at twelve, and dinner at seven. I never use any stimulant. My sleep being scanty, I want sedatives rather than stimulants. I must add, nevertheless, that once or twice in a year, when I felt very tired, and had some work to conclude, especially at night, I happened to smoke one cigarette or Russian papyrus, which revived me promptly, and enabled me to finish my work. If you may be interested in my fashion of working, I may inform you that I work very fast, two hours at once, and then take a rest, or dinner. After resting two hours, I can write two hours again. I write without scratching, or blotting, about 100 lines of any French newspaper feuilleton, not the Temps, which is larger, but the Figuro, or any similar paper, in half-an-hour's time. I don't think that any-body could write more quickly; I seldom make any corrections, and never copy my work, which is sent to the printer as I write it. I use no stimulants of any kind, but sometimes eat an orange or two. After working towards midnight, I sometimes feel hungry, but I never eat for fear of spoiling my night's rest. I lived many years in Russia, and my experience is, that people who smoke too much suffer from their throat. Emile Augrer has been very ill with his stomach, from smoking too many strong cigars. He ceased, and has been completely healed.
H. GREVILLE. April 28, 1882.
In reply to your favour of the 28th ult., I have the honour to inform you that I do not smoke, because nicotine acts upon my system as a most powerful poison. At the age of ten I had a Havana cigar given me to smoke; after smoking it I fainted and did not come to myself till after a deep sleep, which lasted twenty-four hours. When I was twenty, the third part of a cigar was given me to smoke as a remedy for the toothache. I could not finish it. A cold perspiration attended with vomiting and fainting ensued. I therefore judge from the effects of tobacco upon myself that it cannot be such a benefactor of mankind as people have tried to make it out. I am convinced that in any case, smoking lulls the mind to sleep, and when carried to excess tends to produce stupefaction or idiotcy.
Perhaps you are aware that in Little Russia, the people call tobacco the Devil's herb; and it is related that the devil planted it under the form of an idolater. For my part I am quite prepared to adopt the opinion of the Russian people. Before the time of Peter the Great, smoking was strictly prohibited in Russia.
The Poet Prati sang one day:
Fuma, passagia e medita E diverrai poeta.
(Smoke, ramble alone and think, and thou will soon become a poet.)
That is what he himself does, but my belief is that owing to the abuse of cigars, he so frequently raves (dotes) and his poetry is often cloudy.
As for alcohol, I take it to be proved beyond all doubt, that when taken in very small quantities it may, in certain cases, do good, but that taken in large quantities it kills. After having burnt the stomach, it deprives it of its power of digestion. I have seen a great many persons begin to use alcoholic beverages in the hope of acquiring tone, and afterwards get so accustomed to their use, that the best Chianti wine passed into their stomach like water. In this case, as in so many other cases, it is a question of measure. Alcohol has a like injurious effect upon the brain as upon the stomach.
I am by no means an authority on the question which you have been good enough to address to me, and can therefore only give you briefly a statement of my own personal experience. Speaking of stimulants, I would mention, for instance, the strange effect produced upon my rather sensitive organism by a single cup of coffee. If I take a cup of coffee at six o'clock in the evening I cannot get to sleep before six in the morning. If I take it at noon I can get to sleep at midnight I know that many people take coffee to keep awake when working through the night. My own opinion is that you cannot work any better with these stimulants. There is a sort of irritation produced by drinking coffee which I do not consider helpful to serious and sustained work. It is possible, however, that works of genius may be produced sometimes in a state of nervous excitement, I suppose when the shattered nerves begin to relax. Manzoni wrote his master pieces when in a state of painful nervous distraction, but alcohol had nothing to do with it; perhaps he had recourse to other stimulants.
(1) When we read that literary producers of any power have gone on working up to the last, even in the near approach of death, we usually find the work done has been of a not unwelcome kind, and often that it has formed part of a long-cherished design. But when the disease of which the sufferer is dying is consumption, or some disease which between paroxysms of pain leaves spaces of ease and rest, it is nothing wonderful that work should be done. Some of the best of Paley's works were produced under such conditions, and some of the best of Shelley's. Nor, indeed, is there anything in mere pain which necessarily prevents literary work. The late Mr. T. T. Lynch produced some of his most beautiful writings amid spasms of angina pectoris. This required high moral courage in the writer.... It is a curious, though well-known fact, however, that times of illness, when the eyes swim and the hand shakes, are oftentimes rich in suggestion. If the mind is naturally fertile—if there is stuff in it—the hours of illness are by no means wasted. It is then that the "dreaming power" which counts for so much in literary work often asserts itself most usefully.—The Contemporary Review, vol. 29, p. 946.
(2) When the poet Wordsworth was engaged in composing the "White Doe of Rylstone," he received a wound in his foot, and he observed that the continuation of his literary labours increased the irritation of the wound; whereas by suspending his work he could diminish it, and absolute mental rest produced perfect cure. In connection with this incident he remarked that poetic excitement, accompanied by protracted labour in composition, always brought on more or less of bodily derangement He preserved himself from permanently injurious consequences by his excellent habit of life.—Hamerton. The Intellectual Life.
I know that certain authors think they can write better when taking artificial stimulants. I do not, however, believe that an artificial irritation of the nerves can have any good effect upon our faculty of apprehension. I am even inclined to think that when we write best, it is not owing to nervous excitement, but rather because our nerves, after a period of extreme irritation, leave us a few moments respite, and it is during these moments the divine spark shines brightly. When creative genius has accomplished its task, the nerves once more relapse into their former irritability and cause us to suffer; but at the time of creation there is a truce of suffering.
I never use any stimulant to help me in my labours; yet when I have been writing works of fiction, for instance my Indian and Roman Plays, I have nearly always been subject to great nervous agitation. When I suffered most from spasms, I had short intervals of freedom from pain, during which I could write, and those around me asked in astonishment how I could, in the midst of such suffering, write scenes that were cheerful, glowing and impassioned.
I have occasionally in my time enjoyed these luminous intervals. I do not know whether those who use alcohol as a stimulant have experienced the same. No doubt they have succeeded in exciting their nervous sensibilities; but I assert that the real work of creative genius is accomplished in the intervals of this purturbation of the nerves which by some is deemed so essential to intellectual labour. When the nerves are excited to the highest pitch, they occasionally suffer, the transitory cessation from which is the divine moment of human creation. It seems to me, however, that this ought to be left to nature, and that every attempt to produce artificial excitement, for the purpose of producing creations of a higher class, is futile and beset with danger.
ANGELO DE GUBERNATIS. March 4, 1882.
M. L. P. GUENIN, REVISING STENOGRAPHER TO THE FRENCH SENATE.
I thank you for having asked my opinion upon the effects of tobacco and alcohol on the mind and the health of men who give themselves up to intellectual work; and hasten to comply with your request. I am not a very resolute adversary of tobacco, because I must admit that I smoke, and at home use wine also: but if their use appears useful or agreeable, I ought to add that whenever I have to undertake any long arduous work, and above all, the reproduction of stenographic law or parliamentary reports, of which the copy is required without delay, I then make use of nothing but pure water. I limit myself as to stimulant to the use of coffee, which enables me to pass whole days and nights without feeling any want of sleep and, so to say, without fatigue, notwithstanding the labour of the stenographic translations. As you see, I consider that tobacco and alcohol do not act as stimulants, but rather as narcotics. With me they induce after the first moment of excitement a sort of calm and somnolence altogether incompatible with severe work; and I prefer coffee, always on the condition that as soon as the effort to be accomplished is finished the use of it must cease. I will not invoke the precedents of the celebrated men who have been led to make great use of coffee without impairing their health. It is after many years' experience that I have acted as I have indicated.
L. P. GUENIN. March 11, 1582.
DR. WILLIAM GUY.
In answer to your enquiry, I may state the result of my personal experience and observation thus :-1. Alcoholic liquors, when taken in such quantity as to excite the circulation, are unfavourable to all inquiries requiring care and accuracy, but not unfavourable to efforts of the imagination. 2. Tobacco taken in small quantities is not unwholesome in its action on mind or body. When taken in excess it is not easy to define or describe its action, the chief fact relating to it being that it increases the number of the pulse, but lessens the force of the heart. 3. My personal experience of such quantities of wine as two or more glasses of port a day at my age (72) is that it produces no perceptible or measurable effect when taken for, say, three weeks or a month at a time, when compared with the like period of total abstinence. 4. It may be said in favour of temperance or even of extreme abstinence, that some of those men who have done most work in their day—John Howard, Wesley, and Cobbett, for example—have been either very moderate, or decidedly abstemious. But on the other hand, such men as Samuel Johnson, who was a free liver and glutton, and Thackeray, who drank to excess, have also got through a great amount of work.
WILLIAM A. GUY. Feb. 25, 1882.
PROFESSOR ERNST HAECKEL, JENA.
I find strong coffee very useful in mental work. Of alcohol, I take very little, because I find it of no value as a stimulant. I have never smoked.
E. HAECKEL. November 4, 1882.
MR. PHILIP GILBERT HAMERTON.
I am quite willing to answer your question about tobacco. I used to smoke in moderation, but six years ago, some young friends were staying at my house, and they led me into smoking more in the evenings than I was accustomed to. This brought on disturbed nights and dull mornings; so I gave up smoking altogether—as an experiment—for six months. At the end of that time, I found my general health so much improved, that I determined to make abstinence a permanent rule, and have stuck to my determination ever since, with decided benefit. I shall certainly never resume smoking. I never use any stimulants whatever when writing, and believe the use of them to be most pernicious; indeed, I have seen terrible results from them. When a writer feels dull, the best stimulant is fresh air. Victor Hugo makes a good fire before writing, and then opens the window. I have often found temporary dulness removed by taking a turn out of doors, or simply by adopting Victor Hugo's plan. I am not a teetotaler, though at various times I have abstained altogether from alcoholic stimulants for considerable periods, feeling better without them. I drink ale to lunch, and wine (Burgundy) to dinner; but never use either between meals, when at home and at work. At one time I did myself harm by drinking tea, but have quite given up both tea and coffee. My breakfast in the morning is a basin of soup, invariably, and nothing else. This is very unusual in England, but not uncommon in France. I find it excellent, as it supports me well through the morning, without any excitement. My notion of the perfect physical condition for intellectual work is that in which the body is well supported without any kind of stimulus to the nervous system. Thanks to the observance of a few simple rules, I enjoy very regular health, with great equality and regularity of working power, so that I get through a great deal without feeling it to be any burden upon me, which is the right state. I never do any brain work after dinner; I dine at seven, and read after, but only in languages that I can read without any trouble, and about subjects that I can read without any trouble, and about subjects that are familiar to me.
P.G. HAMERTON. February 13, 1882.
MR. THOMAS HARDY.
I fear that the information I can give on the effect of tobacco will be less than little: for I have never smoked a pipeful in my life, nor a cigar. My impression is that its use would be very injurious in my case; and so far as I have observed, it is far from-beneficial to any literary man. There are, unquestionably, writers who smoke with impunity, but this seems to be owing to the counterbalancing effect of some accident in their lives or constitutions, on which few others could calculate. I have never found alcohol helpful to novel-writing in any degree. My experience goes to prove that the effect of wine, taken as a preliminary to imaginative work, is to blind the writer to the quality of what he produces rather than to raise its quality. When walking much out of doors, and particularly when on Continental rambles, I occasionally drink a glass or two of claret or mild ale. The German beers seem really beneficial at these times of exertion, which (as wine seems otherwise) may be owing to some alimentary qualities they possess, apart from their stimulating property. With these rare exceptions, I have taken no alcoholic liquor for the last two years.
T. HARDY. Dec. 5, 1882.
MR. FREDERIC HARRISON.
Frederick Harrison never has touched tobacco in any form, though much in the society of habitual smokers, but finds many hours in a close smoking room rather depressing. Has always taken a moderate amount of alcohol (pint of claret) once in the day, and finds himself rather stronger with than without it. Age fifty, health perfect; accustomed to much open-air exercise, long sleep, and little food. Reads and writes from eight to ten hours per diem, and never remembers to have been a day unfit for work.
MR. G. A. HENTY.
In answer to your question, certainly in my own case I should find stimulants destructive to good work. I get through an immense deal of literary work in the course of the day. I rise at eight, and seldom put out my light until three in the morning. With lunch and dinner I drink claret and water, and never touch stimulants of any kind except at meals. On the other hand, I smoke from the time I have finished breakfast until I go to bed, and should find it very difficult to write unless smoking. I have a great circle of literary friends, and scarce but one smokes while he works. Some take stimulants—such as brandy and soda water-while at work; some do not, but certainly nineteen out of twenty smoke. I believe that smoking, if not begun until after the age of twenty-one, to be in the vast majority of cases advantageous alike to health, temper, and intellect; for I do not think that it is in any way deleterious to the health, while it certainly aids in keeping away infectious diseases, malaria, fever, &c.
While I consider a moderate use of wine and beer advantageous-except, of course, where beer, as is often the case, affects the liver, I regard the use of spirits as wholly deleterious, except when medically required, and should like to see the tax upon spirits raised tenfold. A glass of spirits and water may do no harm, but there is such a tendency upon the part of those who use them to increase the dose, and the end is, in that case, destruction to mind and body.
G. A. HENTY. February 22, 1882.
MR. OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
Prefers an entirely undisturbed and unclouded brain for mental work, unstimulated by anything stronger than tea or coffee, unaffected by tobacco or other drags. His faculties are best under his control in the forenoon, between breakfast and lunch. The only intellectual use he could find in stimulants is the quickened mental action they induce when taken in company. He thinks ideas may reach the brain when slightly stimulated, which remain after the stimulus has ceased to disturb its rhythms. He does not habitually use any drink stronger than water. He has no peremptory rule, having no temptation to indulgence, but approaching near to abstinence as he grows older. He does not believe that any stimulus is of advantage to a healthy student, unless now and then socially, in the intervals of mental labour.
MR. GEORGE JACOB HOLYOAKE.
I never took enough of stimulants to tell whether it is good or ill for "thinking and working." Tobacco is only good when you have a habit of working too much, as it makes you lazy-minded.
G. J. HOLYOAKE. April 3, 1882.
SIR J. D. HOOKER, F. R. S.
I have had no experience on the subject of the use of tobacco and alcohol that is of any value, or you should be welcome to it.
Jos. D. HOOKER. Feb. 13, 1882.
MR. W. D. HOWELLS.
If you will allow me to count myself out of the list of "great thinkers "and very "popular authors," I will gladly contribute my experience in the points you publish. I never use tobacco, except in a very rare, self-defensive cigarette, where a great many other people are smoking; and I commonly drink water at dinner. When I take wine, I think it weakens my work, and my working force the next morning.
W. D. HOWELLS. March 2, 1882.
DR. J. P. JOULE.
I am afraid that my experience can be of little use to you, because I have lived a very uniform life; and am therefore unable to compare the consequences from following various regimes.. I use alcoholic beverages moderately. I do not think they ever assisted or retarded my mental work. As for tobacco, it is the object of my aversion, as it must be to all non-smokers to whom the habits of the consumers of the weed must always appear more or less as an impertinence. Besides, it is difficult to imagine how the use of narcotics can be indulged in with impunity to the health.
J. P. JOULE. February 11, 1882.
THE REV. HENRY LANSDELL.
In reply to your note, I beg to say—1st, that I have never been a smoker. 2nd, that I became a total abstainer from alcoholic liquors before I had attained the age of twenty. 3rd, that I have never kept my bed, I am thankful to say, for a day, in my life. 4th, that up to the age of twenty-four I rose at seven; and up to the age of twenty-seven, at six; since twenty-seven, at five a.m. 5th, that it is a common occurrence for me to have been (for some years past) at mental employment from six a.m., to seven p.m. 6th, that I do not find the least necessity for stimulants in the form either of tobacco or of alcohol.
HENRY LANSDELL. March 13, 1882.
REV. STANLEY LEATHES, D. D.
I am not an habitual smoker, and therefore cannot speak about its effects; I find it an irritant rather than a sedative. But I am quite sensible of the virtue of an occasional glass of good wine, and am certain I can work better with than without it.
STANLEY LEATHES. April 15, 1882.
W. E. H. LECKY.
I am not a smoker, and am therefore unable to give you any evidence on the subject.
W. E. H. LECKY. February 7, 1882.
DR. F. R. LEES.
I have travelled in various parts of the world, from Greece to the Pacific, and from the Coasts of Labrador to the Southern States of North America, perhaps as much as any man living, and have never, in heat or cold, felt any inconvenience from my forty-eight years of abstinence. I have lectured for many nights consecutively on various topics during the intervals of that time, and have written thousands of articles on philosophy, temperance, physiology, politics and criticisms in papers and magazines, and published pamphlets and volumes equal to 25 octavos of small print; but have never required anything stronger than tea or coffee as a stimulant. The Alliance Prize Essay (100 guineas) of 320 pages was composed and written in 21 days. I never smoke, snuff, or chew. I have known many literary men ruined by smoking, and in all cases the continued use of tobacco is most injurious to the mind, as well as to the body. It slays the nervous recuperative energy.
F. R. LEES. November 17, 1882.
MR. LEONE LEVI, F. S. A., BARRISTER-AT-LAW, Professor of the Principles and Practice of Commerce and Commercial Law, King's College, London.
I have no hesitation in saying that I have never found the need of either tobacco or alcohol, or any other stimulants, for my intellectual efforts. I have never used tobacco in any form, and though occasionally, when my physical forces are much exhausted, I have derived benefit from a single glass of wine or ale, as a rule, and in my ordinary diet, I use nothing whatever but fresh water. This is my personal experience, and though I have worked very hard-often sixteen hours a day of continuous labour—I have always enjoyed, thanks to Providence, the best of health.
SIR JOHN LUBBOCK, BART. M. P.
I beg to say that in my opinion the use of tobacco is, in the great majority of cases, prejudicial. As to alcohol, I would rather not express any opinion.
JOHN LUBBOCK. February 17, 1882.
In reply to your enquiry respecting the use of tobacco and alcohol, I shall be glad to give you all the information I possess on this subject; though, of course, I am not in a position to judge whether my few remarks will be of any service to you.
In the first place, as regards the influence of tobacco and alcohol upon the health in general, it is clearly ascertained that under certain circumstances, it may become highly injurious.
Apart from the disturbance produced in the whole nervous system, there are serious diseases affecting certain organs of the body, which arise solely from the abuse of both these stimulants. We note a serious affection of the visual organs, which we plainly designate by the name of: "Emblyopia ex abusu nicotiano et alcoholico." The symptoms of this complaint consist chiefly in a gradual and steady decline of the power of sight, coupled with partial colour blindness. I cannot here enter into details as to the manner in which the range of sight is affected as regards each of the different colours, and can only refer to the characteristic weakening of the power to distinguish red from other hues.
It will not be necessary, I presume, to extend my remarks to the evil effects of tobacco and alcohol upon the human body, as you are sufficiently acquainted with them, especially as far as alcohol is concerned.
Now as to the relation in which both stand to mental work. If I may be allowed to state first of all the result of observations in my own case, I must tell you that I have not found these drugs to be in any degree helpful in the performance of mental labour. I find it absolutely impossible to put any sensible thoughts on paper when I am smoking. In former years I frequently tried to smoke a pipe or a cigar over my work, but had always to give it up; I only got into proper working condition after putting tobacco aside. Indeed, of late years I have felt a growing antipathy to tobacco, so that, whilst I was formerly passionately fond of smoking, I new, very rarely, indeed, indulge in the practice.
My experience with regard to alcohol is precisely similar. I am very fond of a little beer, but not when at work. The current of my thoughts flows much more clearly and rapidly when I have had no drink. I have a special aversion for wine, which, indeed, I do not drink at all. Generally speaking, I can therefore say, that, in my own case, tobacco and alcohol have a disturbing effect, when doing mental work. This you will, of course, take as applying to myself alone. I know some very respectable scholars in this town and neighbourhood who are only capable of thinking and working properly when under the influence of tobacco.
MAGNUS. Breslau, February 28, 1882.
MR. EDWARD MAITLAND, B. A.
In reply to your enquiries, I have to say that my experience of the effects of alcohol and tobacco upon intellectual work is a very limited one, owing to the very moderate use I have made of either. So far, however, as my experience goes, my conclusions are as follows: tobacco, though it may, indeed, give a momentary fillip to the faculties, lessens their power of endurance; for by lowering the action of the heart, it diminishes the blood supply to the brain, leaving it imperfectly nourished, and flaccid, and unable, there-fore, to make due response to the demands of its owner, the man within, who seeks to manifest himself through the organism. Of an organism thus affected, as of an underpitched musical instrument, the tones will be flat. Of stimulants, the effect is the contrary. Owing to the over-tension of the strings, the music will be sharp. It is apt also to be irregular and discordant, owing to the action set up in the organism itself—an action which is not that of the performer or man. That which alone ought to find expression, is the central, informing spirit of the individual; and for both idea and expression to be perfect, the first essential is purity, mental as well as physical. Hence, however great a man and his work may be, under the influence of alcohol or tobacco, or on a diet of flesh, they would be still greater on pure natural regimen. Of course, there are cases in abundance in which persons have become so depraved by evil habits, as to be utterly incapacitated through the disuse of that to which they have been accustomed. But no sound argument in favour of the abuse can be founded on this.
EDWARD MAITLAND. March 20, 1882.
SIR THEODORE MARTIN, K. C. B.
To myself tobacco is simply poison, and I believe it is so to very many who use it. I have seen proofs that it is so among the friends of my youth, who certainly hurt their health and shortened their lives by smoking. But, on the other hand, I have known others who smoked with impunity, and even with benefit to their nervous system. These, however, are, in my experience, exceptional cases. Wine in moderation is, I am sure, beneficial to brain workers; and I feel confident that it is far better, as a rule, to assist the system by this, than by food without wine or alcohol, which, in my experience, seems always to lead to eating to an extent that is very apt to cause derangement of the functions of the body. But, really, I have not made my observations either with such care or on so wide a scale as to give them any value.
THEODORE MARTIN. February 18, 1882.
THE REV. JAMES MARTINEAU, D. D.
Having kept no record of my dietary and health, I can give you no more exact report than my memory supplies. Of tobacco, I have nothing to say, except that my intense dislike of it has restricted my travelling to a minimum, and kept me from all public places where I am liable to encounter its sickening effects. My first prolonged experience of abstinence from wine and malt liquor ran through about seven years, dating, I think, from 1842. The change was not great in itself, and I always thought it favourable in its effects. At no time of my life did I sustain a heavier pressure of work and of anxiety. But in the spring of 1849, when I was living with my family in Germany, I fell into a low state of health, indicated by fluttering circulation in going upstairs, or up-hill; and, under medical advice, I adopted the habit of taking, daily, I suppose about half-a-pint bottle of Vin ordinam. I recovered completely, and adhered for several years to the allowance (or its equivalent) which had been prescribed to me. Under this regimen, however, I became, after a time, subject to occasional slight attacks of gout, and to some disturbance of digestion and of sleep. In spite of medical advice, I determined to revert to the abstinence in which I had never lost faith. For a time of, I suppose, from twelve to fifteen years, I have persisted in this rule; not, indeed, being under any vow, but practically not taking more than half-a-dozen glasses of wine per annum. During this time, I have escaped, apparently, all tendency to gouty affections; have returned to untroubled sleep and digestion; and, notwithstanding the advance of old age (I am now 77), have retained the power of mental application, with only this abatement perceptible to myself, that a given task requires a somewhat longer time than in fresher days. Though the sedentary life of a student is not very favourable to the maintenance of muscular vigour, it has not yet forbidden me the annual delight of reaching the chief summits of the Cairn Gorm mountains during my summer residence in Inverness. I will only add that I have never found the slightest difficulty, physical or moral, in an instantaneous change of habit to complete abstinence. Instead of feeling any depressing want of what I had relinquished, I have found a direct refreshment and satisfaction in the simpler modes of life. Few things, I believe, do more, at a minimum of cost, to lighten the spirits and sweeten the temper of families and of society, than the repudiation of artificial indulgences.
JAMES MARTINEAU. December 1, 1882.
DR. HENRY MAUDSLEY.
I don't consider alcohol or tobacco to be in the least necessary or beneficial to a person who is in good health; and I am of opinion that any supposed necessity of one or the other to the hardest and best mental or bodily work, by such a person, is purely fanciful. He will certainly do harder and sounder work without them. I am speaking, of course, of a person in health; by a person not in health they may be used properly, from time to time, as any other drug would be used.
HENRY MAUDSLEY. February 13, 1882.
SIR THOMAS ERSKINE MAY, K. C. B., D. C. L.
In reply to your inquiries, I can give you my experience in a few words. I can offer no opinion as to the effects of tobacco, as I have never been a smoker. My experience of many years favours the view that moderation in food and drink is the great secret of physical health, mental activity and endurance. On several occasions while working twelve and fourteen hours a day, I tried total abstinence, but I found myself dyspeptic and stupid, and was obliged to resume my accustomed potations. I have found that any unusual amount of alcohol, while stimulating mental activity for a time, soon produced lassitude and sleepiness.
T. ERSKINE MAY. February 23, 1882.
REV. JOHN E. B. MAYOR, M. A. FELLOW OF ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE, AND PROFESSOR OF LATIN IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE.
When I was a school-boy of eight or nine, I was persuaded to buy some cigars and put one to my mouth for a moment. I threw it away, and have never touched tobacco since. I compute that I must have saved some 1500 pounds by abstaining from this narcotic. My two brothers—one 3rd wrangler, the other 2nd classic—have also abstained for life. I know no indulgence which leads people to disregard the feelings of others so utterly as smoking does; nor can I believe a deadly poison can be habitually taken without great injury to the nerves. Alcohol I have not touched for more than two years, nor flesh meat, nor tea, nor coffee. All my life long I have had no difficulty in adopting any diet whatever; but I am sure that since I confined myself to fruits and farinacea, life has gone easier with me. No one ever heard me complain of the want of a dinner, or of the quality of what was set before me; but I now know that a day or two's fasting will do me no sort of harm, [Footnote: Twice in my life I have tried the experiment of a strictly vegetarian diet (without milk, batter, eggs, fish or flesh)-once when I was about twelve years old, and again, for forty-eight days, beginning On the 25th June, 1878. I had been for some months taking regular exercise (a rare thing with me), walking on four miles every morning from six to seven, so that I was in rude health. I was just beginning a stiff piece of literary work on Juvenal, which involved the daily examination of several hundred passages of authors, chiefly Greek and Latin; and I wished to try how far vegetarian diet would enable me to resist the depressing influence of fasting. I mapped out my forty-eight days into four divisions of twelve each, intending (if all went well) to fast every other day for the first twelve; every third for the second; every fourth for the third; and every sixth for the last twelve. I thought it prudent to consult a doctor (a thing which I have scarcely ever had occasion to do), who bid me go to the prison to be weighed every two or three days and to show myself to him twice a week. I did not quite carry out my scheme, but I did complete more than half—and the severer half—with no ill effects, fasting June 25, 27, 29, July 2, 5, 7. 10, 13, completing that is, two-thirds of my design for the first twelve days, and the whole of that for the second. I drank water freely on the fasting days, but ate nothing for a period varying from twenty-eight to about thirty-five hours. On the eating days, and for the remainder of the forty-eight, I lived on fruits, vegetables, or wholemeal biscuits or wheatmeal or oatmeal porridge. I never was more fiercely eager for work in my life, nor did my pulse give way, but I lost flesh rapidly, and had never much to spare. On the whole I lost 13 lbs., and was advised by the doctor to stay there, as it is much easier to let yourself down than to pick up again. For years I have been striking off one luxury after another in my diet when alone, till at last I have come to dry bread (or biscuit or porridge) and water.— Herald of Health, September, 1881.] and that whether I dine in hall with my brother fellows, or take two or three biscuits in my own room, makes no odds. I am more independent, and certainly more able to influence the habits of the poor than I was.