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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/240

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the very moment when some important work, requiring all the best powers of the intellect, has to be performed, and rendering its performance either imperfect or completely impossible. As soon as the person goes to bed he falls asleep, and sleeps like a log till morning, when he rises with difficulty, feeling more exhausted than when he went to bed the night before, with perhaps a little tightness or pain over the forehead, eyes, or temples. After breakfast he feels somewhat revived, and will work comfortably for a short time, but about one and a half or two hours after the meal weariness overtakes him, again passing off after it has lasted a variable time. During the day this is repeated, fits of more or less energy alternating with periods of languor and exhaustion. These languid fits may be noticed two or three hours after lunch or dinner, and the sufferer is not unfrequently tempted to have recourse to the decanter of sherry or the brandy-bottle, not only to obtain relief from the feeling of personal discomfort, but to supply the energy which he feels to be necessary to enable him to do the work he has in hand. But this is a ruinous course to adopt, for not only does it pave the way to habits of confirmed drunkenness, and leads to tissue-changes which will ultimately abolish the functional activity of the most important organs of the body, and bring the individual to a premature grave; it enables him to do his work only imperfectly at the time. After an application to the decanter or bottle his powers may seem to himself to be as great as or greater than usual, but this is to a considerable extent a subjective feeling only, as he will probably be able to discover by results.

Now, how is it that such a change has come over the man in a few months, so that he seems to be a different individual from the one who returned, bright and lively, from his autumn holiday? How is it that the even-tempered man has become irritable, the clear-headed man muddled, the active lazy, the sober perhaps a tippler, and the cheerful and buoyant depressed and melancholy; that the brain performs all its functions with difficulty, and the mind is so altered that it does not seem to be that of the same individual? And yet, after all, the man is the same, and the brain is the same, at least in its essential structure, as it was a few months ago, and as it will be in a few months more, after another holiday has again put it in good working order. What has happened to it in the mean time to cause such a dreadful alteration? Not only does the brain seem exhausted, but the whole system appears to be languid and weak; instead of the man being able for a twenty or thirty miles' walk, one of a mile or two will produce fatigue, and sometimes an intense languor is felt without any exertion at all. And yet all this time he may have been trying to keep up his strength. He takes butcher's meat three times a day, perhaps also strong soups, to say nothing of wine, or brandy-and-soda, to pick him up. His tissues ought to be getting sufficient nourishment to enable them to do their work, and yet it is evident that they are not in a con-