Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/494

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
478
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

zation moves farther and farther north. Our oracles have been transferred from Delphi to Berlin, to Edinburgh and Boston. The Muses and Graces are wearing fur cloaks. Has the sun of the south lost its stimulating power? The truth seems to be, that cold air is an antidote. The antiseptic effect of a cold climate enables us to indulge with comparative impunity in numerous vices which our southern neighbors have paid with the loss of their moral and physical health. It has been ascertained that alcoholic stimulants, instead of increasing actually decrease the temperature of the system, and that cold weather constitutes no valid excuse for the use of intoxicating drinks, but it is equally certain that a low temperature promotes recovery from the effects of intoxication. Many hyperboreans eat flesh as a stimulant rather than as a medium of calefaction; tea-drinkers contract a morbid craving for boiling-hot beverages. But climatic influences increase the activity of their digestive organs to a degree that enables Nature to compromise the violation of her laws. Gluttons and topers die in the south and survive in the north, not because a warm climate per se is incompatible with the normal vigor of the human system, but because a cold winter counteracts the effects of gluttony and intemperance in much the same way as rum counteracts the effects of a snakebite, or mercury the virus of the lues veneris. Frost is a counter-poison. Protracted impunity tempts sinners to believe in the innocence of their habits. During the two centuries when the Cæsars vied in the gratuitous purveyance of bread, oil, and circus-games, the Roman citizens had no special reason to admit the turpitude of idleness. Under the protection of the Holy Inquisition dunces were secure enough against the competition of genius to consider ignorance as a virtue. Thus the prophylactic influence of a frigid climate has made the propriety of many of our daily sins so axiomatic that the neglect of their practice excites a sort of virtuous indignation. A German proverb, traced to the table-talk of an eminent reformer, denounces the demerits of the man who fails to worship music, women, and—wine. To many minds closed bedroom-windows and three warm meals a day are essential conditions of true respectability. Even in the dog-days, the impropriety of Scotch knee-breeches would be thought worthy of a harsher name. When financial embarrassments obliged the later Caesars to abolish the free-lunch system, the astonishment of the cives Romanus was only equaled by his wrath at the injustice of the innovation; and with a similar mixture of indignation and surprise thousands of exiles from the regions of prophylactic frost denounce the malignity of a climate that fails to protect them from the logical consequences of their sins against nature. In summer weeks, when the Creoles pass the night on their flat house-roofs, with a mattress and a linen bed-sheet, and regret at the necessity of adding a mosquito-cap, the foreign resident insists on sleeping in a flannel undershirt, under woolen blankets, and the impression that his life depends on keeping