Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/509

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

large a percentage of women, even in the "upper" classes, are shown never to feel the need of rest at this period; the fact that in so large a proportion of those who suffer the suffering dates from the first menstruation, and hence precedes the habits of occupation sometimes supposed to induce it; the fact that in no case did rest alone succeed in averting pain or in curing its cause, and hence proved anything but the "panacea" the reviewer supposes it to be (page 244)—these facts appear plainly on the tables of the essay, and are certainly of importance in regard to the question at issue.

For the reason already surmised it may be that the reviewer has failed to see that the third section of the essay, which he describes as "containing a review of the various theories of menstruation," is devoted not to summarizing these, but to criticising them; and that an effort is made to replace one of the famous current doctrines of menstruation by another, substantially in agreement with those universally held prior to the writings of Bischoff and Pouchet and Raciborski, but claiming to contain some original details and suggestions for a new line of experiment. This effort is, to the intention of the author, the main subject-matter of the essay. That the reviewer has either overlooked this, or its bearing on the conclusions, or has not deemed it so worthy of notice as lesser details, is shown by his remark that the "experiments" were made "before, after, and during ovulation" (page 243), whereas the essay has ranged itself upon the side of those more modern thinkers whose researches are tending to reject the famous ovulation theory.

The reviewer further criticises the essay for a "strained meaning put upon the word rhythmic," and for confounding "reproduction with the conditions essential to reproduction" (page 243). It is true that a philosophical conception of causation compels us to regard every phenomenon as the result of a chain of sequences, and thus every intermittent phenomenon recurring at regular periods as the result of a rhythmic chain of sequences; and thus, in one sense, there can be no antagonism between "periodical" and "rhythmic." But the essay was compelled to consider not only facts in themselves, but certain popular preoccupations about those facts, and especially in regard to the intermittence of the menstrual hæmorrhage. The aim of the essay has been to show that this phenomenon is only one of a chain succeeding each other as continuously as do those involved in the processes of digestion, a detail of a rhythmic movement accomplished in the organism, and not—as much popular belief goes—a periodical accident happening to it. Again, it is true that in the essay the term "reproduction" is used as equivalent for the process by which material is accumulated in the parent organism for the function of reproduction. This restriction is justified by examples of the eminent biologists who, studying reproduction in its most general and abstract aspect, consider the whole process as a form of nutrition. (I may mention, as one example out of many, the lectures of Claude Bernard, published in the "Revue des Cours Scientifiques" for 1874.) For all those classes of animals in whom the conjugation of reproductive cells is effected externally to the parent organisms, it is evident that the influence of reproduction upon those organisms terminates with the formation of the reproductive cells and the accumulation of the material required for their nutrition. Hence, philosophically speaking, the most general view of reproduction coincides exclusively with this nutritive process—its type is discoverable in vegetable organisms, and the varying phenomena of animal life involved in the conjugation of reproductive cells may be considered apart. For its special purposes the essay was doubly justified in using the term "reproduction" in the sense thus defined.

It is because the essay was exclusively concerned with menstruation that "the derangements due to matrimony receive no attention," although the reviewer, in the preceding rather singularly-worded sentence, implies that they should.

In the same sentence the reviewer declares that the "motive of the book [is] to demonstrate woman's capacity for continuous work during certain periods." The only "motive" of the book was the desire to inquire in what way the relations of the female nutrition to the cost of reproduction might be theoretically expected to modify the capacity for exertion of the female nervo-muscular system. The reviewer is certainly in error in saying that the author "does not inform us whether ill-arrangement of work has reference to time or not;" for many pages of the essay are devoted to showing—at least in the opinion of the author—that the question of time is of great importance in regard to the nervo-muscular energies of women, but not time in regard to the period of the menstrual hæmorrhages. Morbid conditions, entailed with other diseases of civilization, may compel reference to such time; but the real necessity lies much deeper, and (theoretically) should compel more frequent intermittences in exertion, in order, roughly speaking, to allow of the accumulation in the blood of reproductive material. The essential danger of overwork in women, aside from the dangers common to both sexes, is that, if due provision be not made for "the needs of supplemental nutrition," this will be formed at the expense of the nutrition of the parent organ-