Page images
PDF
EPUB

tions. But it ought to be recollected that these concretions are never found in a great number of the carniverous tribes of animals, so that something more than the mere circumstance of food must be connected with a constitutional disposition to secrete the uric acid.

Our author cites, with much apparent triumph, in support of his principle, the case of an individual who was, from the fluctuations of commerce, repeatedly subjected to considerable reverses of fortune, and who, during the periods of his opulence, and the corresponding mode of luxurious living, was invariably subject to gravel and gout, both which complaints as regularly left him when poverty compelled him to plainer fare. This instance, however, only proves, what had been already sufficiently substantiated, that the greater the call made upon the stomach and digestive organs, the greater is the liability to derangement in the secretions, and in the whole physical, we might add, moral man.

And this leads us to notice a second objection against Dr. Magendie's principles, on the ground of the tendency they evince to apply mere chemical laws to the explication of vital phenomena. Uric acid,' says our author, 'contains in its composition a large proportion of azote; animal food is azotic, and therefore, animal food must favour the generation of substances in which uric acid abounds. But it ought to be recollected, that the quantity and quality of animal secretions, by no means bear this regular proportion to the kind and measure the ingesta, and that the very essence of vital support consists in the faculty possessed by the living principle, of assimilating or converting aliment into a new product.* That this law has its limits, must be conceded; and it would be flying in the face of facts, to deny that several substances taken into the first passages, are afterwards detected in the secretions and emunctories of the body, almost unchanged. But this is by no means generally the case: the state of the stomach, relative to the integrity of its functions, has more influence upon the secretions, excretions, and exhalations of the body, than the nature or quality of the matter received in the shape of aliment. Nay, the mind itself will occasionally operate a remarkable variety in the particular referred to, without the assistance of any 'material agency: the hearing of unpleasant news will often impart a disagreeable odour to a breath, which, but the moment before, was free from it; and it is more than probable, that in Dr. Magendie's example of his commercial patient, the mental feelings incident to his varied fortunes, had a conjunctive influence with his diet, in regulating his alternate subjection to, and immunity from disease: Individuals, suffering from gout or gravel, have been known to forget their complaints in the bustle and anxiety of contested elections, although during the whole of the time, they were taking into their stomach quite as large quantities of azotic aliment as they had before been accustomed to.

* It is the same thing with vegetable life. The marine plant, (for instance,) the ashes of which form soda, if sown in a box filled with earth, that does not contain a particle of that alkali, and moistened with distilled water, furnishes it id as great quantity as if the plant bad been growing on the borders of the sea, in a soil always inundated by brackish or salt water.

In noticing Dr. Marcet's work, we stated, that while lithic or uric acid concretions are allowed to be the most usual form of calculous, a great number of other kinds are frequently met with. This circumstance, however, is unfortunate for professor Magendie's azotic hypothesis, and accordingly we find him reluctant to admit the fact. All the calculi, he says, subjected to his own examination, have consisted of uric acid; and the varieties detailed by Wollaston, Marcet, and others, are of exceedingly rare occurrence. Are these contradictory statements to be reconciled by the supposition, that in France, uric concretions are more common than in this country? Or are we to seek assistance in the explanation of the enigma, by recollecting the proneness of speculatists to make facts bend to theory?

Such, in brief, are Dr. Magendie's arguments for his chemical theory of calculous formation, and such are the objections to which it is exposed. His practice, however, we believe to be better than his theory; and we have great pleasure in referring to his work for some useful hints, both on the dietical and ihe medicinal management of the complaints in question.* To regulate and simplify the diet, will be found a most important ingredient in our curative or preventive indications in gravel and stone; and vegetable, as being more digestible, and more easily assimilated by some weak stomachs, than animal food, is often much more appropriate fare for individuals subject to these disorders. I have often, says Mr. Brande, “known a week's abstinence only, from animal food, relieve a fit of uric gravel, where the alkalies were of little avail; and in other cases, the same plan has been most successfully adopted; at the same time, it must be remembered, that if flatulency and other stomach symptoms arise from the want of usual animal diet, mischief will in most instances result.'t In the paper

from which we have made the above extract, are to be found some very philosophical intimations, and some very useful directions on the subject of calculous. Mr. Brande, we feel convinced, has duly appreciated chemical influences in the rationale, and treatment of the disorders under consideration, without having failed to recognise the modifications such influences must receive from the peculiar circumstances that regulate the phenomena of life.

" It is,' he says, ' of the utmost importance, that the early symptoms of gravel should be carefully attended to; for we are often

* An English translation of it has been published.

+ Observations on the Medico-Chemical Treatment of Calculous Disorders.' By W. T. Brande. Quarterly Journal of Science and Art.

able, with little difficulty, to check their progress, and to form useful anticipations of the probable duration and extent of the complaint. It is in this stage, and this only, that we may rationally speak of solvent medicines; and that it is really in our power to prevent that kind of accumulation which ends in stone, either of the kidney or bladder.' Mr. Brande then proceeds to inculcate the necessity of bearing in mind, that there are not very often to be found more than three varieties of gravelly or sabulous deposit: there are, first, and principally, the uric acid; secondly, the phosphate of lime; and thirdly, the phosphate of ammonia and magnesia. The two last constitute a white sediment in the urine, while the first, forms a red deposit. Of the white, or phosphate calculi, acids are the particular correctives; while for the red or uric gravel, alkalies prove the best remedies. Such is the general principle which, in the indications of practice, or the institution of preventive measures, ought never to be lost sight of. Instances sometimes occur, as, indeed, was before intiinated, of persons taking alkaline medicines, such as magnesia and lime, as supposed correctives of gravel, and solvents of calculous, which have added to, in place of diminishing the offending material, by encouraging the deposition of fresh matter. Soda water, for instance, not unfrequently produces abundance of white sand, which,' remarks Mr. B.the ignorance of the patient, and his medical attendant, lead them to refer to the solvent power of the medicine upon

the stone, whertas great mischief is doing, by giving the urine more than its usual tendency to deposit the phosphates, and consequently to augment the size of the calculus.' To counteract, then, the tendency to the formation of this white sand, acid medicinals ought to be employed, (viz. the nitric, the sulphuric, the muriatic), which often operate a decidedly beneficial change upon the urinary secretion, in the course of a very few days. The vegetable acids also are occasionally very serviceable, and these are especially adapted to cases of disorder in children, in which the white sand appears in abundance. It is to be remarked, by the way, that both in young persons, and in individuals of a more advanced age, this white sediment often takes place as a mere temporary consequence and indication of digestive derangement; in such cases, its appearance ought not to excite any alarm as to future or permanent dispositions.

As acids are correctives of the white concretions, so are alkalies of the red: and soda, potash, magnesia, and ammonia, are, according to the circumstances of the individual, to be had recourse to, as remedies for the lithic or uric calculi. Magnesia possesses the double advantage of being aperient as well as alkaline, and is often most conspicuously serviceable; but some caution is requisite even in the use of this medicinal, simple as it may appear. "Very mischievous consequences have been known to result from its lodgement in the first passages, and when carried to an extreme, there is also danger of its encouraging that kind of deposit from the urine, which constitutes one of the species of the white sand. On the alkalies, both mild and caustic, and on the question of their mode of operating, we have already treated in analysing Dr. Marcet's volume.

We need not recapitulate. Our object, it will be perceived, has been throughout, to guard against illegitimate generalization, in reference both to diet and medicinals; and to prevent the reveries and abstractions of enthusiastic speculatists from gaining ground, to the exclusion of sober theory and scientific inference.

ART. VII.- Iceland; or, The Journal of a Residence in that Island,

during the years 1814 and 1815. Containing, Observations on the Natural Phenomena, History, Literature, and Antiquities of the Island; and the Religion, Character, Manners, and Customs of its Inhabitants: with an Introduction and Appendix. By Ebenezer Henderson, Doctor in Philosophy, &c. &c. Octavo, 2 vols. 377 and 412 pages. Edinburgh, 1818. THE 'HE author of these travels was not driven from his home by

that want of employment from without, and of resource from within, which has so often excited a passion for rambling. The allurements of pleasure did not tempt him to wander in pursuit of luxury and fashion, nor did a taste for knowledge lead him to in. dulge, by travelling, in an extensive survey of manners, and of the works of nature and art. He appears to have been much the man of business, and, though learned, to have given, comparatively, little of his attention to any other object, than that which was the occasion of his voyage to Iceland. This object was not of a political or a commercial nature. Dr. Henderson was sent as the agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, in order to disseminate the sacred scriptures in a country which had great need of them, to investigate the wants of its inhabitants with respect to these repositories of divine truths, and to establish a Bible society among the Icelanders.

The author was not, however, by any means without a spirit of liberal inquiry, and has given us, in his introduction, a brief sketch of the island and its inhabitants. We extract the description of the yokuls, or ice mountains, which is peculiarly interesting.

. Celebrated as this island is, for its volcanoes and hot springs, it is scarcely less remarkable on account of the enormous ice mountains which occupy a vast portion of its surface. To these mountains, the natives give the name of yokuls, which signify large masses of ice. They have, generally, terreous and rocky mountains for their basis; and, in many places, exhibit magnificent glaciers, which commence at a great height, and run down, with a very rapid descent, into the plains.

•Though covered with coats of ice of immense thickness, when the internal parts of the mountains become ignited, the mass of ice,

or indurated snow, is cracked and rent by the explosion which ensues; a great quantity of it is melted by the flames, or the exundations of hot water; and whole fields of ice are sometimes deposited on the neighbouring plains. Some of these yokuls are remarkable for their vacillation; not remaining in a settled position, but moving forwards, and receding again, at certain indefinite periods.

Iceland, we are informed by the author, was discovered by Naddoda, a Norwegian pirate, about the year 860. It was visited in 864, by Gardar Ivafarson, a Swede, who called it Gardarsholm, or the island of Gardar. It is recorded that Floki, another celebrated pirate, incited by the favourable accounts given by Gardar, made use of a singular expedient to assist him in finding out the island. On his voyage, probably when he supposed himself not far distant from the object of his search, he let loose three ravens, one of whom bent its course to Faroe, at which Floki had touched, another returned to the ship, but the third. flew towards the island, and thus supplied to the navigator, his want of a compass. But this expedition did not prosper; for Floki, too much occupied in fishing, neglected his harvest; and, during the following winter, the cattle which he had brought with him, died. After a further stay of about eighteen months, this navigator returned to Norway.

A permanent settlement was, at last effected, A. D. 874, and the colonization of the country was assisted by the tyranny exercised by Harald Harfagra, over the Norwegians.

After remaining republicans for three hundred and thirty-three years, the Icelanders fell under the dominion of Norway, and since 1387, have been subject to Denmark.

The author has advanced the position supported by particular narratives in the Icelandick history, that the Icelanders were the discoverers of America; and has asserted that this took place in 1001.

It is the opinion that Iceland was, formerly, much more populous than at present. The author has related that, in the fifteenth century, an epidemic disease, called the black death, produced a fatal result to nearly two thirds of the inhabitants; and in the years 1707 and 1708, sixteen thousand persons died of the small-pox. In 1801, the population, we are told, was forty-seven thousand two hundred and seven, and that it is calculated, three thousand have been added since that time.

Dr. Henderson describes the general temper of the Icelanders in the following terms.

It has been said, that in general, the Icelanders are of a sullen and melancholy disposition; but, after paying the strictest attention to their appearance and habits, I must pronounce the statement inaccurate, and one which could only have been made by those who have had little or no intercourse with that people. On the contrary, I have been surprised at the degree of cheerfulness

58

VOL. XIV.

« PreviousContinue »