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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/549

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NEW FACTS IN ALCOHOLIC HEREDITY.

the other, in which this particular alcoholic state had been acquired, and more readily responded to contagious surroundings than otherwise. In both cases, undoubtedly, heredity was present, but in the latter some previous pathological state existed. What form of brain and nerve defect, and what circumstances and conditions combined to develop this special pathological state must be determined in the future. Along this line are many psychological facts of great interest, that throw light on other mental states. Thus, actors, who essay to represent insanity or inebriety, are successful in proportion as they inherit a nervous organization predisposing them to these affections. A single glass of spirits may awaken a latent nerve defect, and soon after merge into inebriety. So the effort to imitate the manner and conduct of an intoxicated person may give impress and direction to an organism that may be permanent.

An actor, greatly praised for his skill in "Hamlet," was obliged to leave the stage, for the reason that this character was becoming so intimately his as to suggest insanity at an early day. A man who acted the part of a drunken man was, after a time, so completely intoxicated as to be unfit for his part. He could not use spirits, and had to give up this part of the play, for the same reason as mentioned above. A remarkable incident came to my notice along this line. A temperance writer, of great power and vividness of detail, said that he lived all the details of the hero he was describing, in his own mind. When the character was intoxicated, he had all the symptoms, and had to go to bed after writing that the hero did so. He suffered, was exhausted, had pain, mental agony, was joyous, happy, contented, and lived over every event which he described. This man was strictly temperate, but had a drunken father, from whom he inherited a peculiar nervous organization, that gave him power to realize the toxic state from alcohol and throw himself into it more perfectly.

He says that it would impair his health to write more on this theme, for he would be intoxicated most of the time while writing. Many of these states may be termed emotional trance states, and in some future time will be the subject of some very curious and wonderful psychological discoveries. Those who observe inebriates carefully, find them literally encyclopædias of psychological fact, that can not be understood by any present knowledge of the subject. For instance, reformed men, or those who have recently stopped the use of spirits, can not safely listen to a recital of the sufferings and struggles of others to become temperate, without taking on some form of mental shock that is fatal to their own resolutions. The more vivid and accurate the struggles of a drunkard are described, the more certainly the will of the hearer is weakened and rendered impotent to help itself. Temperance