Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/117

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ON BRAIN-WORK AND HAND-WORK.

lawyers, physicians, merchants, scientists, and men of letters—live very much longer than the muscle-working classes; that the greatest and hardest brain-workers of history have lived longer on the average than brain-workers of ordinary ability and industry; that clergymen are longer-lived than any other great class of brain-workers.

The first of these propositions admits of statistical proof or disproof. The life-lengths of the classes of men above mentioned can be ascertained, and their average duration compared with the mean length of life prevalent in their times and countries. But is the superior longevity of these classes due to the fact that they are brain-workers, or must it not be traced to a complication of causes? If brain-work is per se salutary and conducive to long life—which I do not deny—and if, as we may gather from Dr. Beard's second proposition here given, its beneficial influence is proportionate to its intensity, we should find the men whose brain-work is devoted to origination stand highest in the list. As such I should undoubtedly rank discoverers in science, inventors in the industrial arts, poets, musical composers, and painters (not of portraits). But the third proposition entirely clashes with this conclusion. Dr. Beard tells us that, of all brain-workers, clergymen are the most long-lived. Yet they can scarcely be called the hardest brain-workers, since what is demanded from them is not origination, creation, but expression. If a clergyman initiates new doctrines he is in danger of becoming a heretic. He is expressly forbidden to do what is expressly demanded from the man of science or the author. Indeed, till a comparatively recent date, the life of an English country clergyman has always been considered as one of the easiest of all careers, making no heavy demands either upon brain or muscle.

Indeed, Dr. Beard, when he undertakes a formal explanation of the great longevity of the clergy, makes some very important concessions. He remarks that "their calling admits of a wide variety of toil"—"In their manifold duties their whole nature is exercised"—"Public speaking, when not carried to the extreme of exhaustion, is the best form of gymnastics that is known." Dr. Beard here admits, what I also maintain, that the most healthful work is that which duly and harmoniously calls into play all the various faculties of a man. Brainwork is in itself good and wholesome—undoubtedly better than pursuits which exercise the muscles alone, leaving certain regions of the nervous centers inactive. But it is still inferior to work which exercises the entire system. Whatever calling effects this most thoroughly and equally will be the ideal vocation. But it may be said that the duties of the physician call a wide circle of powers into play. Why, then, is he less long-lived than the clergyman? In his case there is wanting any physical exercise which may take the place of public speaking, and he is more exposed to death from contact with malignant disease.

As an instance of the especial benefit to be derived from an exer-