Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/48

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38
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of climate. Modern French, scientists are nothing if not methodical, and have repeatedly called attention to the curious regularity in the geographical distribution of certain vices and virtues: intemperance, for instance, north of the forty-eighth parallel; sexual aberrations south of the forty-fifth; financial extravagance in large seaport towns; thrift in pastoral highland regions. It is, indeed, a remarkable circumstance that in the home of the best wine-grapes, in Greece and southern Spain, drunkenness is far less prevalent than in Scotland, or in Russian Poland, where Bacchus can tempt his votaries only with nauseous vodka. The idea that a low temperature begets an instinctive craving for alcoholic tonics seems disproved by the teetotalism of the Patagonian savages, who horsewhip every Spanish stimulant-monger without benefit of clergy. The Lesghian mountaineers, too, observe the interdict of the Koran in the icy summit-regions of the Caucasus; but there is no doubt that the bracing influence of a cold climate affords a certain degree of immunity from the debilitating effect of the alcohol-vice, and that a Scandinavian peasant can for years survive the effects of a daily dose of alcohol that would kill an Egyptian fellah in a single month. But it is equally certain that the temperance of south-land nations is considerably facilitated by the abundance of non-alcoholic pastimes. The Spaniards have their fandangos and bull-fights; the Greeks their border-raids, cocking-mains, and horse-races; while the Scotchman, after six days of hard work, is confronted with the choice between the delirium of an alcohol-fever and the appalling tedium of Sabbatarian asceticism, and naturally chooses the less dismal alternative.

The question, though, remains, if religious gloom itself is not an outcome of climatic influences. Cardinal de Retz, indeed, held that orthodox loyalty is a flower that can not flourish north of the Alps; but it is more than probable that the survival of that plant has been greatly assisted by the conniving bonhomie of south European ecclesiastics, who, centuries ago, began to appreciate the wisdom of extending the practice of renunciation to the claim of consistency. The "climate of superstition" can not be defined by geographical specifications; but, as the gilded clouds of the South float grizzly over the moping firmament of the North, dogmas which the inhabitants of the lower latitudes manage to reconcile with a good deal of secular beatitude are apt to assume a gloomy character in the land of the hyperboreans, whose rational rigorism, however, may recalcitrate against self-contradictory tenets, and accept a thoroughly uncomfortable more readily than an illogical doctrine. Thus we find the Nahagathas, the Protestants of Buddhism, confined to Japan and northern China, and the schismatic Shiites to the