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No. 195 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Saturday, October 13, 1711.

[Greek: Naepioi oud’ isasin hos_o pleon haemisu pantos,

Oud’ hoson en malachaete de asphodel_o meg honeiar.].


There is a Story in the ‘Arabian Nights Tales’ [1] of a King who had long languished under an ill Habit of Body, and had taken abundance of Remedies to no purpose. At length, says the Fable, a Physician cured him by the following Method: He took an hollow Ball of Wood, and filled it with several Drugs; after which he clos’d it up so artificially that nothing appeared. He likewise took a Mall, and after having hollowed the Handle, and that part which strikes the Ball, he enclosed in them several Drugs after the same Manner as in the Ball it self. He then ordered the Sultan, who was his Patient, to exercise himself early in the Morning with these rightly prepared Instruments, till such time as he should Sweat: When, as the Story goes, the Vertue of the Medicaments perspiring through the Wood, had so good an Influence on the Sultan’s Constitution, that they cured him of an Indisposition which all the Compositions he had taken inwardly had not been able to remove. This Eastern Allegory is finely contrived to shew us how beneficial bodily Labour is to Health, and that Exercise is the most effectual Physick. I have described in my Hundred and Fifteenth Paper, from the general Structure and Mechanism of an Human Body, how absolutely necessary Exercise is for its Preservation. I shall in this Place recommend another great Preservative of Health, which in many Cases produces the same Effects as Exercise, and may, in some measure, supply its Place, where Opportunities of Exercise are wanting. The Preservative I am speaking of is Temperance, which has those particular Advantages above all other Means of Health, that it may be practised by all Ranks and Conditions, at any Season or in any Place. It is a kind of Regimen into which every Man may put himself, without Interruption to Business, Expence of Mony, or Loss of Time. If Exercise throws off all Superfluities, Temperance prevents them; if Exercise clears the Vessels, Temperance neither satiates nor overstrains them; if Exercise raises proper Ferments in the Humours, and promotes the Circulation of the Blood, Temperance gives Nature her full Play, and enables her to exert her self in all her Force and Vigour; if Exercise dissipates a growing Distemper, Temperance starves it.

Physick, for the most part, is nothing else but the Substitute of Exercise or Temperance. Medicines are indeed absolutely necessary in acute Distempers, that cannot wait the slow Operations of these two great Instruments of Health; but did Men live in an habitual Course of Exercise and Temperance, there would be but little Occasion for them. Accordingly we find that those Parts of the World are the most healthy, where they subsist by the Chace; and that Men lived longest when their Lives were employed in hunting, and when they had little Food besides what they caught. Blistering, Cupping, Bleeding, are seldom of use but to the Idle and Intemperate; as all those inward Applications which are so much in practice among us, are for the most part nothing else but Expedients to make Luxury consistent with Health. The Apothecary is perpetually employed in countermining the Cook and the Vintner. It is said of Diogenes, [2] that meeting a young Man who was going to a Feast, he took him up in the Street and carried him home to his Friends, as one who was running into imminent Danger, had not he prevented him. What would that Philosopher have said, had he been present at the Gluttony of a modern Meal? Would not he have thought the Master of a Family mad, and have begged his Servants to tie down his Hands, had he seen him devour Fowl, Fish, and Flesh; swallow Oyl and Vinegar, Wines and Spices; throw down Sallads of twenty different Herbs, Sauces of an hundred Ingredients, Confections and Fruits of numberless Sweets and Flavours? What unnatural Motions and Counterferments must such a Medley of Intemperance produce in the Body? For my Part, when I behold a fashionable Table set out in all its Magnificence, I fancy that I see Gouts and Dropsies, Feavers and Lethargies, with other innumerable Distempers lying in Ambuscade among the Dishes.