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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/681

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presence in the blood of the coloring matter of the bile. This change in the liver is usually developed slowly: sometimes, however, jaundice makes its appearance suddenly. Villeneuve mentions the case of two youths who brought a discussion to an end by grasping their swords; suddenly one of them turned yellow, and the other, alarmed at this transformation, dropped his weapon. The same author speaks of a priest who became icterical (jaundiced) on seeing a mad dog jump at him. Whatever may be said of these cases, we must reckon painful affections of the soul among the efficient causes of chronic diseases of the liver.

The digestion, says the author of a work published some years ago, is completely subjected to the influence of the moral and intellectual state. When the brain is wearied by the passions, appetite and digestion are almost gone. Whatever causes grief or fright affects the stomach more or less. In times of epidemic, or of civil war, and in all social conjunctures when any extraordinary peril threatens the masses, dyspepsia becomes more frequent, and assumes a more serious aspect. This affection commonly prevails amid the various symptoms of depression and decline produced by moral suffering. The direct pathological consequences of disordered nutrition, whose chief symptom is dyspepsia, are of the most serious nature, and there is no doubt that among them we must reckon cancer. Hence it is that Antoine Dubois located the cause of cancer in the brain.


As a vibrating chord determines vibration in a neighboring chord, so a passion produces in those who are the witnesses of it a passion or a tendency to a passion of the same kind. The infant by a smile responds instinctively to its mother's smile, and it is difficult to contemplate attentively the portrait of a smiling person, especially if we observe that the face wears a smile, without our own faces assuming a like expression. "We cannot," says Leon Dumont, "reflect on any mode of expression, but our countenances will have a certain tendency to conform itself to it." A fortiori it will so conform itself when, instead of merely reflecting on the expression, we see it. Yawning, hiccoughing, and sighing, are as contagious as laughter.

All passions, whether good or bad, are contagious. Esquirol seems to have been the first to discern and characterize moral contagion, which he defines to be that property of our passions whereby they excite like passions in others who are more or less predisposed to them. The contagion of good example is manifest, and it is certain that the worship of the saints is one of the wisest and most powerful instrumentalities devised by the Catholic religion. Unfortunately, depraved passions too have their imitators, and in this case the imitation is so prompt, so thorough, and in some sort so automatic, as often to appear irresistible. An able psychological physician, M. Prosper