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When he is seized with the cramp in the leg, the method of driving it away is to give to the parts affected a sudden, vigorous and violent shock; which he may do in the air, as he swims on his back.
During the great heats of summer, there is no danger in bathing, however warm we may be, in rivers which have been thoroughly warmed by the sun. But to throw one's self into cold spring water, when the body has been heated by exercise in the sun, is an imprudence which may prove fatal. I once knew an instance of four young men, who, having worked at harvest in the heat of the day, with a view of refreshing themselves, plunged into a spring of cold water: two died upon the spot, a third the next morning, and the fourth recovered with great difficulty. A copious draught of cold water, in similar circumstances, is frequently attended with the same effect in North America.
The exercise of swimming is one of the most healthy and agreeable in the world. After having swam for an hour or two in the evening, one sleeps coolly the whole night, even during the most ardent heat of summer. Perhaps the pores being cleansed, the insensible perspiration increases, and occasions this coolness. It is certain, that much swimming is the means of stopping a diarrhoea, and even of producing a constipation. With respect to those who do not know how to swim, or who are affected with a diarrhoea at a season which does not perinit them to use that exercise, a warm bath, by cleansing and putrifying the skin, is found very salutary, and often effects a radical cure. I speak from my own experience, frequently repeated, and that of others, to whom Í have recommended this.
You will not be displeased if I conclude these hasty remarks by informing you, that as the ordinary method of swimming is reduced to the act of rowing with the arms and legs, and is consequently a laborious and fatiguing operation when the space of water to be crossed is considerable; there is a method in which a swimmer may pass to great distances with much facility, by means of a sail. This discovery 1
fortunately made by accident, and in the following
When I was a boy, I amused myself one day with flying a paper kite; and, approaching the back of a pond, which was near a mile.broad, I tied the string to a stake, and the kite ascended to a very considera ble height above the pond, while I was swimming. In a little time, being desirous of amusing myself with iny kite, and enjoying at the same time the pleasure of swimming, I returned, and loosing from the stake the string with the little stick which was fastened to it, went again into the water, where I found, that, lying on my back, and holding the stick in my hands, I was drawn along the surface of the water in a very agreeable manner. Having then engaged another boy to sarry my clothes round the pond, to a place which I pointed out to him, on the other side, I began to cross the pond with my kite, which carried me quite over without the least fatigue, and with the greatest pleasure imaginable. I was only obliged occasionally to halt a little in my course, and resist its progress, when it appeared that, by following too quick, I lowered the kite too much; by doing which occasionally I made it rise again. I have never since that time practised this singular mode of swimming, though I think it not impossible to cross in this manner from Dover to Calais. The packet-boat, however, is still preferrable.
NEW MODE OF BATHING.
EXTRACTS OF LETTERS TO M. DUBOURG.
London, July 28, 1768.
I GREATLY approve the epithet which you give, in your letter of the 8th of June, to the new method of treating the small-pox, which you call the tonic o bracing method; I will take occasion, from it, to mention a practice to which I have accustomed my.
self. You know the cold bath has long been in vogue here as a tonic: but the shock of the cold water hath always appeared to me, generally speaking, as too violent, and I have found it much more agreeable to my constitution to bathe in another element-I mean cold air. With this view I rise early almost every morning, and sit in my chamber without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing. This practice is not in the least painful, but on the contrary, agreeable; and if I return to bed afterwards, before I dress myself, as it sometimes happens, I make a supplement to my night's rest of one or two hours of the most pleasing sleep that can be imagined. I find no ill consequences whatever resulting from it, and that at least it does not injure my health, if it does not in fact contribute to its preservation.-I shall therefore call it a bracing, or tonic bath.
March 10, 1773.
I SHALL not attempt to explain why damp clothes occasion colds, rather than wet ones, because I doubt the fact; I imagine that neither the one nor the other contribute to this effect, and that the causes of cold are totally independent of wet, and even of cold. I propose writing a short paper on this subject, the first moment of leisure I have at my disposal. In the mean time, I can only say, that having some suspicions that the common notion, which attributes to cold the property of stopping the pores and obstructing perspiration, was ill-founded, I engaged a young physician, who is making some experiments with Sanctorius's balance, to estimate the different proportions of his perspiration, when remaining one hour quite naked, and another warmly clothed.He pursued the experiment in this alternate manper for eight hours successively, and found his per•piration almost double during those hours in which ne was naked.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE GENERALLY PREVAILING
To the same.
Your observations on the causes of death, and the experiments which you propose for recalling to lif: those who appear to be killed by lightning demonstrate equally your sagacity and humanity. It ap pears that the doctrines of life and death, in general, are yet but little understood.
A toad buried in the sand will live, it is said, un til the sand becomes petrified; and then, being inclosed in the stone, it may live for we know not how many ages. The facts which are cited in support of this opinion, are too numerous and too circumstantial not to deserve a certain degree of credit. As we are accustomed to see all the animals with which we are acquainted eat and drink, it appears to us difficult to conceive, how a toad can be supported in such a dungeon. But if we reflect that the necessity of nourishment which animals experience in their ordinary state, proceeds from the continual waste of their substance by perspiration; it will appear less incredible, that some animals, in a torpid state, perspiring less, because they use no exercise, should have less need of aliment; and that others, which are covered with scales or shells, which stop perspiration, such as land and sea turtles, serpents and some species of fish, should be able to subsist a considerable time without any nourishment whatever. A plant, with its flowers, fades and dies immediately, if exposed to the air without having its roots immersed in a humid soil, from which it may draw a sufficient quantity of moisture to supply that which exhales from its substance, and is carried off continually by the air. Perhaps, however, if it were buried in quick-silver, it might preserve, for a considerable space of time, its vegetable life, its smell and colour. If this be the case, it might prove a commodious method of trans porting from distant countries those delicate plant which are unable to sustain the inclemency of the
weather at sea, and which require particular care and attention.
I have seen an instance of common flies preserved in a manner somewhat similar. They had been drowned in Madeira wine, apparently about the time it was bottled in Virginia, to be sent to London. At the opening of one of the bottles, at the house of a friend where I was, three drowned flies fell into the first glass that was filled. Having heard it remarked that drowned flies were capable of being revived by the rays of the sun, I proposed making the experiment upon these. They were therefore exposed to the sun,upon a sieve which had been employed to strain them out of the wine. In less than three hours, two of them by degrees began to recover life. They commenced by some convulsive motions in the thighs, and at length they raised themselves upon their legs, wiped their eyes with their fore feet, beat and brush ed their wings with their hind' feet, and soon after be gan to fly, finding themselves in Old England, without knowing how they came thither. The third continued lifeless until sun-set, when, losing all hopes of him, he was thrown away.
I wish it were possible, from this instance, to invent a method of embalming drowned persons in such a manner, that they may be recalled to life at any period, however distant: for, having a very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America an hundred years hence, I should prefer to an ordinary death, the being immersed in a cask of Madeira wine, with a few friends, until that time, then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country! But since, in all probability, we live in an age too early, and too near the infancy of science, to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection, I must, for the present, content myself with the treat, which you are so kind as to promise me, of the resurrection of a fowl or a turkey-cock.