« PrécédentContinuer »
deduction from the accuracy of the records in question on the score of traditionary claims and conceits, there still remains a sufficiency of testimony to the fact that the Chinese had been familiar with the small-pox many centuries before the Arabian writers described it; and its early existence in Japan and Hindostan is likewise presuinable from several striking particulars connected with Hindoo mythology and worship.
Assuming then the fact that Asia was acquainted with the disease in question long before its establishment in any part either of Africa or Europe, and very far antecedent even to the time of Hippocrates, it becomes a question of interest 'how it happened that the infection did not extend into Persia, and thence into Greece, long before the
of the last mentioned author.' That a communication was established between Persia and India by the invasion of the latter country at a very early period is universally acknowledged; and it is also admitted that the rapacious invaders who went froni Persia would of course be attacked by the diseases which prevailed in the countries they laid waste; but, adds Mr. Moore, the numbers which perished, the time which was spent in so distant a warfare, and the extent of the deserts which were recrossed, appear to have secured their native country from being contaminated by the few survivors of those expeditions. With respect to the commercial intercourse subsequently established between the more western and the eastern countries, and the probability of diseased communication from that source, we are likewise to recollect the obstacles which in those times existed to ready communication, either by land or sea, from one part of the globe to another.'
Among the many traditionary fancies respecting the origin of small-pox, there is one which supposes it to have been first imparted to man by the camel : this notion probably took its rise from the circumstance that land commerce from Egypt to India was only practicable by means of this animal. But such kind of traffic was tedious and difficult, and it is conjectured that no person known to have the small-pos upon him would ever have been suffered to join himself to a caravan. Again, the tediousness of coasting voyages, the only ones then attempted, gave time for contagion to be extinguished, if by accident any of the sick were admitted into the hoineward bound ships from the east.
Such are the explanations proposed by Mr. Moore and others of the exemption of Europe from small-pox for so long a time subsequent to its prevalence in the east; and these certainly appear the only plausible conjectures on the assumed fact. Yet when we recollect the extreme subtlety, and insinuating and transportable nature of the virus, it seems extraordinary that even such an interrupted and difficult commerce as was carried on at the time alluded to did not prove a medium of conveying the poison from China and Hindostan to the more western nations.
• If the Persians,' says Mr. Moore, ' had engaged early in maritime commerce, froin their vicinity to India, they would probably have soon brought into their country the small-pox. But the ancient historians declare, that the Persians entertained an insuperable superstitious aversion to the sea; and Robertson asserts, that “ no commercial intercourse seems to have been carried on by sea between Persia and India.” The spirit of commerce, when once excited, is however active and persevering; and the European demand for the muslins, the silks, the spices, the pearls, and the diamonds of the east, perpetually aug, mented. To facilitate their transportation, a busy coasting trade spread on both sides of the peninsula of Hindostan to the islands eastward, to the kingdom of Siam, and even to China. The luxurious productions of these distant countries were thus brought to the most convenient harbours to be conveyed to Alexandria and diffused through the Roman empire. This lucrative trade was so tempting, that towards the beginning of the sixth century, the Persians began to surmount their aversion to maritime affairs, and their harbours were filled with trading vessels. They soon monopolized the silk trade; for their vicinity to India gave them great advantages over the Egyptian merchants; but it also augmented the danger of transporting the variolous contagion. Indeed whatever attention might have been paid by the commanders of these merchant vessels, it was impossible that this calamity should have been avoided much longer; and as ships coming from India, both in their passage to the Persian Gulph, and to the Red Sea, frequently touched at the Arabian ports, that country was peculiarly exposed, and there accordingly it was first observed.'
Dr. Reiske, who was celebrated for his acquaintance with Arabian antiquities, in an inaugural Dissertation which he published in the year 1746, gave a translation of an Arabian manuscript found in the Leyden library, which dates the introduction of small-pox into Arabia in 572,
birth to Mahomet. Other testimonies seem to accord with the statement that it was at the siege of Mecca by Abrahah that the Arabians first became obnoxious to this pestilence.
The conquests of the false prophet, and the fanaticism of his followers, soon extended themselves far and wide; and, as may easily be conceived, the ravages of the new disease accompanied every where the track of the conquerors, who, in less than balf a century, had established their dominion not only over Egypt and Syria, but a great part of Persia also. The contagion, however, was long prevented from finding its way into Europe, by the successful stand which the inhabitants of Constantinople made against the invaders. • Thus the Mahometan empire was bounded by the Hellespont, and that entrance for the small-pox into Europe barred up.' This. Α Α 4
indeed, was done so effectually, that even in the tenth century we have it recorded by a resident physician in that city, (Nonus,) that neither the small-pox vor measles was known in Constantinople in his time.
It was not till the commencement of the eighth century, when the whole southern coasts of the Mediterranean had been subdued by the Arabians, that the contagion first visited Europe ; and the landing of an army of Moors in Gibraltar and Spain, conducted by Julian, in order to revenge the outrage committed by Roderick on his daughter, is said to have been the means of introducing the disease in question into this quarter of the world.
* By this invasion,' says Mr. Moore, the small-pos must have been brought into Spain, and the victorious Saracens soon reached the Pyrenees. In the year 731, Abderame crossed these mountains, and inundated the southern provinces of France with an host of Saracens. They were opposed under the walls of Tours by Charles Martel, when Christians and Mahometans fought six days, indecisively, for victory. But in a closer combat on the seventh day, the impetuous yet slender Africans and Asiatics were crushed by the superior strength of the Germanic warriors. The Saracens and the Koran were repelled into Spain, but the small-pox and measles remained in France. No warlike efforts could drive off these infections; and the opportunities of diffusing them had at that time become innumerable. The Saracen fleets were triumphant in the Mediterranean; Sicily and Italy were frequently invaded; many cities of the coast were repeatedly captured, and Rome itself was menaced. It cannot be doubted that so much intercourse with Africa and Asia brought over these maladies, though no direct proof can be adduced, But the circumstantial evidence is sufficiently conclusive,'
It has been maintained by Mead, and since by Baron Dimsdale, that the small-pox was first brought into Europe by the crusaders; but besides that the historians of the holy wars take no notice of the Christian armies having suffered from that malady, it is very properly remarked by Mr. Moore, that the assumption is inconsistent with the fact that so early as the eleventh century treatises were published, both in Spain and Italy, upon the small-pox, as a well known and common malady. To the American continent the virus was conveyed by the Spaniards in their invasion of Hispaniola and Mexico, and thus did this destructive pestilence, commencing in Asia, successively visit Africa, Europe, and the New World.
We come now to the origin and progress of inoculation, or the practice of artificially communicating the virus, in order to render the disease of a less malignant kind and character. It is pretty generally known that this was introduced into England from Constantinople, but, from the extracts already given from Mr. Moore's publication, the artificial communication of the poison appears to have been established in China long before even the disease itself was heard of in the Byzantine capital.
Inoculation, at whatever time it originated, was most probably founded upon the accidental observation of the comparatively mild nature of the distemper in some, when compared with other instances, for no reasoning à priori would have conducted to the inference that by this mode of imparting the poison, the disease would be mitigated. Whether the suggestion or the discovery was first made by any of the faculty of medicine does not appear; as far as the imperfect accounts from Chinese records may be relied on, it seems to have been opposed very generally by the professed guardians of the public health.
• No account,' says Mr. Moore, 'is handed down of the origin of this custom; but the reverence in which agriculture is beld by the Chinese, may have suggested the name (sowing the small-pox), and the usual manner of performing the operation. For they took a few dried smallpox crusts, as if they were seeds, and planted them in the nose. A bit of musk was added, in order to correct the virulence of the poison, and perhaps to perfume the crusts, and the whole was wrapped up in a little cotton to prevent its dropping out of the nostril. The crusts employed were always taken from a healthy person who had the small-pox favourably; and with the vain hope of mitigating their acrimony, they were sometimes kept in close jars for years, and at other times were fumigated with salutary plants. Some physicians beat the crusts into powder, and advised their patients to take a pinch of this snuff; and when they could not prevail upon them, they mixed it with water into a paste, and applied it in that form. In Hindostan, if tradition may relied on, inoculation itself has been practised from remote antiquity. This practice was in the hands of a particular tribe of brahmins, who were delegated from various religious colleges, and who travelled through the provinces for that purpose. The natives were strictly enjoined to abstain during a month preparatory to the operation from milk and butter; and when the Arabians and Portugueze appeared in that country, they were prohibited from taking animal food also. Men were commonly inoculated on the arm; but the girls not liking to have their arms disfigured, chose that it should be done low on the shoulders. But whatever part was fixed upon, was well rubbed with a piece of cloth, which afterwards became a perquisite of the brahmin; he then made a few slight scratches on the skin with a sharp instrument, and took a bit of coiton, which had been soaked the preceding year in variolous matter, moistened it with a drop or two of the holy water of the Ganges, and bound it upon the punctures. During the whole of this ceremony, the brahmin always preserved a solemn countenance, and recited the prayers appointed in the Attharna Veda, to propitiate the goddess who superintends the small-pox. The brahmin then gave his instructions, which were religiously observed. In six hours the bandage was to be taken off, and the pledget to be allowed to drop spontaneously. Early next morning cold water was to be poured upon the patient's head and
shoulders, * Dr. Alpeck wrote an account of his observations to Dr. Woodward, by whom it was inserted in the Philosophical Transactions of the year 1714.
shoulders, and this was to be repeated till the fever came on. The ablution was then to be omitted; but as soon as the eruption appeared, it was to be resumed, and persevered in every morning and evening, till the crusts should fall off. Whenever the pustules should begin to change their colour, they were all to be opened with a fine pointed thorn. Confinement to the house was absolutely forbidden; the inoculated were to be freely exposed to every air that blew; but when the fever was upon them, they were sometimes permitted to be on a mat at the door. This regimen was to consist of the most refrigerating productions of the climate; as plantains, water-melons, their gruel made of rice or poppyseeds, cold water and rice.'
Although it is not our design to engage in any practical discussion, it seems hardly possible to refrain from incidentally remarking the great superiority of these modes of treatment-a treatment founded on the dictates of nature-to those subsequently adopted by the Arabian and European physicians who forsook observation to follow hypothesis ; and it is worthy notice that our modern improvements in the management of febrile and eruptive complaints consist mainly in permitting nature to follow its own course. We revert to ancient simplicity, and are therefore abundantly more successful than our immediate predecessors.
It has already been said that an obscurity hangs over the actual origin of this practice. In the opinion of some it commenced in the Arabian desarts, “where neither physicians nor priests officiated; the practice being monopolized by old women.
From sowing the small
it in the course of time to be, and perhaps was originally, called buying the disease; which proceeded, it is said, from the circumstance of one child carrying to another a few dates, or raisins, the pretended price of the matter: this custom of buying the small-pox becoming general among the inferior classes along the African coast, at length found its way into Europe, and was even practised in some parts of our island.
Still, however, the faculty took no cognizance of any artificial method of communicating the poison, until the year 1703, when Dr. Emanuel Temoni Alpeck, who had graduated both at Padua and at Oxford, and who was then residing in Constantinople, was struck with the instances which he witnessed of the mitigated nature of the distemper when the virus was thus received into the human frame.*
A Venetian physician also, of the name of Pylarnus, had about the same time made the same observation of the success of the Turkish practice, of which, in 1715, he published a statement at Venice, in a tract entitled 'Nova et tuta variolas excitandi per