Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/123

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113
AMERICAN CLIMATE AND CHARACTER.

he supposes due to the dry northeast wind. This wind, from which England and the Continent suffer so much, is very much worse than any wind known to that chief part of America which extends from the Atlantic to the far side of the Mississippi Valley; and, so far as it produces results in exaggerated nervous activity and excesses of the national character, England and Germany are much worse off than America. In England especially, exaggerated nervous activity and excesses of national character are very much worse than they are in America, and, if northeast wind really causes such things, the atrocious blast certainly rages across England as it never does in America. What Matthew Arnold calls the effusion and the confusion and the vulgarity of the middle-class Englishman, that is, of the average Englishman, is something very much worse than any American development, and, so far as climate plays upon and excites this, England has ten days of irritating rawness, dryness of cold wind, and poison of dust, to one that America has.

As for heat, the mistake is no less complete. England suffers more from 78° than America from 98°. There is never a chance to change to summer dress with any security, and heat, when it does come, has to be undergone without preparation. It commonly, moreover, comes with excess of moisture, and has an effect more dangerous than twenty degrees more of American heat. Dr. von Pettenkofer has not done wisely in comparing the case of a person living in dry air with that of one living in damp air. Americans do not live in dry air. and Englishmen, with excess of damp much of the time, do not develop fat, or phlegmatically nervous temperament, or a sluggish want of intense energy. The mad chase after the material things of the world is more mad and feverish and violent in Manchester and its cotton-spinning neighbors than it is in Chicago and the Northwest of America. I think circumstances and not climate chiefly explain it, but for climate the American is much less likely than the English to produce the effect. The European hygienists, who are dealing with the subject by means of speculative observations, ought to try a winter and spring in Oldham, Blackburn, Bolton, or Wigan, and see what a cold wind can do, with dust and coal-smut, to create dry torment, and to sting the bony, skinny, fierce operative into communistic madness. If they would study a Lancashire mob and an English east wind, and would read the tale of speculation, fierce competition, and fraud in manufacture, which the Manchester men know so well, there would be an end of the shallow philosophy into which a totally wrong report of the facts has betrayed them.

Dr. Büchner could not have gone more astray than in his astonishing conclusion that Americans are tending toward the Indian type, not only in the face and form, but in the gestures and movements. The inference can not rest with Dr. Büchner on any adequate observation, either of Indians or of Americans, and its extravagance is wild