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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/341

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TOWN-LIFE AS A CAUSE OF DEGENERACY.

cal aspects of the case. But it must not be lost sight of that there is a large class who are not able to procure much nourishing food of any kind, but, on the contrary, are forced by poverty to be content with less sustaining dietary, and they adopt another kind of food, not less injurious, but in another way—a diet mainly consisting of bread, tea, and such-like aliments. The time-honored fashion so prevalent among well-to-do people, of five-o'clock tea, may be attended with many advantages socially, but woe to those who take tea four or five times a day, and rely upon it alimentarily!

But it is not the male sex alone that we have to consider. The factors I have briefly enumerated tell a terrible story on the lives of mothers of this part of future England, and their offspring pay the penalty Nature imposes upon those who fail to fulfill her laws. Their children evidence constitutional disabilities of the frame, which is badly and slowly developed, while their mental precocity shows itself in a peculiar adroitness in all the arts of cunning acquisitiveness. It is supposed by some that the effects of mental activity thus early developed interfere with the development of the physique. No doubt the scanty necessaries of life induce a standard of craftiness and cunning which passes muster for intellect at an age which would imply precociousness and superiority, while the country child remains in its first simplicity.

But to the important question, "Is the town-dweller degenerating in stature, or is he not?" there is yet no satisfactory answer supplied. It has been said that such a thing as a pure cockney of the fourth generation is a rarity, and so it may be said of all other large towns. The immigration of country-folk of both sexes into our large towns is a well-known fact, and it is impossible to trace how far marriage supplies an admixture of new blood into the worn-out stock, and thus renovates it and becomes an antidote to decay. Taking the best evidence we possess, we can only approximately arrive at a solution of the problem. I have said that the degeneracy probably is more found in the loss of enduring tone and physical vigor than in inch-measurement. The constant and ever-recurring immigration of the strong and robust countryman into the cities constitutes a steady counterpoise to the downward tendency, and the balance is fairly well sustained. Hence the difficulty of solving the problem. Seven years ago, at the request of the Anthropometric Society, I obtained the measurement of three hundred men of various nationalities, some born in towns, some in the country, of various occupations, of different complexions and temperaments, and of various habits. I failed to discover any satisfactory evidence to lead to the conclusion that in actual inch-measurement the town-bred man was appreciably inferior to the country-bred man. But, so far as my observation enabled me