Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/62

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52 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

But it is true that the impaired vitality of the habitual drunkard transmits itself mentally in the form of a peculiar disposition which I have found to be equally characteristic of the children (and even grandchildren) of an opium-eater. They lack that spontaneous gayety which constitutes the almost misfortune-proof happiness of normal children, and, without being positively peevish or melancholy, their spirits seem to be clouded by an apathy which yields only to strong external excitants. But out-door work and healthy food rarely fail to restore the tone of the mind, and even before the age of puberty the manifestations of a more buoyant temper will prove that the patient has outgrown the hereditary hebetude, and with it the need of artificial stimulation. Temptation, of course, should always be guarded against, and also everything that could tend to aggravate the lingering despondency of the convalescent—harsh treatment, solitude, and a monotonous occupation.

"With normal children such precautions are superfluous. They will resist temptation if we do not force it upon them. No need of threats and tearful exhortations; you need not warn a boy to abstain from disgusting poisons—Nature attends to that; but simply provide him with a sufficient quantity of palatable, non-stimulating food, till he reaches the age when habit becomes as second nature. It was Rousseau's opinion that a taste for stimulants could be acquired only during the years of immaturity, and that there would be little danger after the twentieth year, if in the mean while observation and confirmed habits had strengthened the protective instincts which Nature has erected as a bulwark between innocence and vice. We need not fortify that bulwark by artificial props, we need not guard it with anxious care; all we have to do is to save ourselves the extraordinary trouble of breaking it down. After a boy becomes capable of inductive reasoning, it can, of course, do no harm to call his attention to the evils of intemperance, and give him an opportunity to observe the successive stages of the alcohol-habit, the gradual progress from beer to brandy, from a "state of diminished steadiness" to delirium tremens. In large cities, where the evils of drunkenness reveal themselves in all their naked ugliness, children can easily be taught to regard the poison-vice as a sort of disease which should be guarded against, like small-pox or leprosy.

But it should always be kept in mind that even the milder stimulant-habits have a progressive tendency, and that under certain circumstances the attempt to resist that bias will overtask the strength of most individuals. According to the allegory of the Grecian myth, the car of Bacchus was drawn by tigers; and it is a significant circumstance that war, famine and pestilence have so often been the fore- runners of veritable alcohol-epidemics. The last Lancashire strike was accompanied by whisky riots; the starving Silesian weavers tried to drown their misery in Schnapps. In France almost every general de-