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ties, such as shipwreck and the like, know anything of the later stages. We all know what it is to be hungry, even very hungry; but the terrible approaches of protracted hunger are exceptional experiences. From materials furnished by sad experiences, both familiar and exceptional, I will endeavour to state the capital phenomena and their causes.
In every living organism there is an incessant and reciprocal activity of waste and repair. The living fabric in the very actions which constitute its life, is momently yielding up its particles to destruction, like the coal which is burned in the furnace: so much coal to so much heat, so much waste of tissue to so much vital activity. You cannot wink your eye, move your finger, or think a thought, but some minute particle of your substance must be sacrificed in doing so. Unless the coal which is burning be from time to time replaced, the fire soon smoulders, and finally goes out; unless the substance of your body which is wasting be from time to time furnished with fresh food, life flickers, and at length becomes extinct. Hunger is the instinct which teaches us to replenish the empty furnace. But although the want of food, necessary to repair the waste of life, is the primary cause of Hunger, it does not, as is often erroneously stated, in itself constitute Hunger. The absence of necessary food causes the sensation, but it is not itself the sensation. Food may be absent without any sensation, such as we express by the word Hunger, being felt; as in the case of insane people, who frequently subject themselves to prolonged abstinence from food, without any hungry cravings; and, in a lesser degree, it is familiar to us all how any violent emotion of grief or joy will completely destroy, not only the sense of Hunger, but our possibility of even swallowing the food which an hour before was cravingly desired. Further, it is known that the feeling of Hunger may be allayed by opium, tobacco, or even by inorganic substances introduced into the stomach, although none of these can supply the deficiency of food. Want of food is
therefore the primary, but not the proximate, cause of Hunger. I am using the word Hunger in its popular sense here, as indicating that specific sensation which impels us to eat; when the subject has been more fully unfolded, the reader will see how far this popular sense of the word is applicable to all the phenomena.
We can now understand why Hunger should recur periodically, and with a frequency in proportion to the demands of nutrition. Young animals demand food more frequently than the adult; birds and mammalia more frequently than reptiles and fishes. A lethargic boa-constrictor will only feed about once a-month, a lively rabbit twenty times a-day. Temperature has also its influence on the fre
quency of the recurrence: cold excites the appetite of warm-blooded animals, but diminishes that of the coldblooded, the majority of which cease to take any food at the temperature of freezing. of freezing. Those warm-blooded animals which present the curious phenomenon of" winter sleep," resemble the cold-blooded animals in this respect; during hybernation they need no food, because almost all the vital actions are suspended. It is found that, at this temperature of freezing, even digestion is suspended. Hunter fed lizards at the commencement of winter, and from time to time opened them, without perceiving any indications of digestion having gone on; and when spring returned, those lizards which were still living, vomited the food which they had retained undigested in their stomachs during the whole winter.*
Besides the usual conditions of recurring appetite, there are some unusual conditions, depending on peculiarities in the individual, or on certain states of the organism. Thus during convalescence after some maladies, especially fevers, the appetite is almost incessant ; and Admiral Byron relates that, after suffering from a month's starvation during a shipwreck, he and his companions, when on shore, were not content with gorging themselves while at table, but filled their pockets that they might eat during the intervals of
*HUNTER: Observations on Certain Parts of the Animal Economy.
meals. In certain diseases there is a craving for food which no supplies allay; but of this we need not speak here.
The animal body is often compared with a steam-engine, of which the food is the fuel in the furnace, furnishing the motor power. As an illustration, this may be acceptable enough, but, like many other illustrations, it is often accepted as if it were a real analogy, a true expression of the facts. As an analogy, its failure is conspicuous. No engine burns its own substance as fuel its motor power is all derived from the coke which is burning in the furnace, and is in direct constant proportion to the amount of coke consumed; when the coke is exhausted, the engine stops. But every organism consumes its own body: it does not burn food, but tissue. The
fervid wheels of life were made out of food, and in their action motor power is evolved. The difference between the organism and the mechanism is this: the production of heat in the organism is not the cause of its activity, but the result of it; whereas in the mechanism the activity originates in and is sustained by the heat. Remove the coals which generate the steam, and you immediately arrest the action of the mechanism; but long after all the food has disappeared, and become transformed into the solids and liquids of the living fabric, the organism continues to manifest all the powers which it manifested before. There is of course a limit to this continuance, inasmuch as vital activity is dependent on the destruction of tissue. The man who takes no food lives like a spendthrift on his capital, and cannot survive his capital. He is observed to get thin, pale, and feeble, because he is spend ing without replenishing his coffers; he is gradually impoverishing himself, because Life is waste; for Life moves along the stepping-stones of change, and change is death.
If we examine the blood of a starving man, we shall find its elementary composition to be precisely similar to that of the same man in his healthy state, but the proportions of that
composition will be greatly altered ; the globules-which may be denominated the nutritive solids of the blood-are much diminished in quantity, the inorganic constituents, which are the products of destroyed tissues, much increased. In fact, these inorganic products, like the pawn-tickets found in the spendthrift's desk, are significant of the extravagance and the poverty which point to ruin.
We cannot say how long such a spendthrift life may continue, because Time has no definite relation to the phenomena of starvation; these depend on certain specific changes going on in the body, which may occur with indefinite rapidity. Within the same period of time the whole cycle of change necessary for destruction may have completed itself, or only a few of the stages in this cycle may have been gone through; a man under certain conditions will not survive six days' fasting, and under other conditions he will survive six weeks. But if we cannot with any precision say how long starvation will be in effecting its fatal end, we can say how much waste is fatal. From the celebrated experiments of Chossat on Inanition, it appears that death arrives whenever the waste reaches an average proportion of 0.4. That is to say, supposing an animal to weigh 100 lb., it will succumb when its weight is reduced to 60 lb. Death may of course ensue before that point is reached, but not be prolonged after it. The average loss which can be sustained is 40 per cent; sometimes the loss is greater, especially if the animal be very fat: thus in the Transactions of the Linnæan Society, a case is reported of a fat pig which was buried under thirty feet of chalk for one hundred and sixty days; his weight fell in that period no less than 75 per cent. Curiously enough, as an illustration of what was just said respecting Time not being an index, fishes and reptiles were found by Chossat to perish at precisely the same limit of weight as warmblooded animals, but they required a period three-and-twenty times as long to do it in: thus if the experiment be performed of starving a bird and a
* CHOSSAT: Recherches Expérimentales sur l'Inanition. 1843.
frog during the warm weather, although both will perish when their loss of weight reaches 40 per cent, the one will not survive a week, the other will survive three-and-twenty weeks.
Having clearly fixed these principles, we may proceed to consider the many remarkable cases of prolonged fasting which appeal to the credulity of the public, and which find a place even in very grave treatises, as well as in the less critical columns of newspapers. Are we to believe these marvels, or reject them? and on what grounds are we justified in rejecting them? Such questions the reader will frequently be called upon to answer; and as a contribution towards the formation of a definite and philosophical judgment, I will state some of the most striking cases on record, and the physiological principles implied in them.
The human body is in many respects so different from that of animals, especially in its complexity, that we can draw no very accurate conclusion from their powers of enduring abstinence; but after all, the differences will only be differences of degree, and the same physiological laws must regulate both, so that we may be certain of the effect of abstinence on man not being essentially dissimilar to that on all other warmblooded animals. Let us therefore first see how the case stands with animals. The experiments of Pommer establish that carnivorous animals resist starvation longer than the herbivorous; birds of prey longer than birds feeding on seeds and fruits. I think we might a priori have deduced this conclusion from the known differences in the intervals of recurring Hunger, and in the different quantities of food eaten by the two classes. The carnivorous animal eats voraciously when food is within reach, but having satisfied his appetite, he remains several hours before again feeling hungry; and in a state of nature the intervals between his meals are necessarily variable, and often much prolonged, because his food is neither abundant nor easy of access. The herbivorous animal, on the other hand, has his food constantly within reach, and is almost
always eating, because an enormous amount of vegetable food is needed to furnish him with sustenance. The lion, or the cat, becomes inured to long abstinence; the rabbit or the cow scarcely knows the feeling. It is clear, therefore, that the one will better endure long fasting than the other. Chossat's experiments on eight-and-forty birds and animals show that the average duration of life exceeded nine days and a half-the maximum being twenty days and a half, the minimum a little more than two days. The young always die first, the adult before the aged: this is true of men as of animals. Some of the simpler animals exhibit remarkable powers of endurance. Latreille pinned a spider to a cork, and after four months found it still alive. Baker kept a stag-beetle three years in a box without food, and at the end of that period it flew away. Müller relates that a scorpion not only survived the voyage from Africa to Holland, but continued without food for nine months afterwards. Rondelet kept a fish three years without food, and Rudolphi a Proteus anguineus five years! Snakes, we know, live for many months without eating; and Redi found that a seal lived, out of water and without food, four weeks. In these cases, except the fish kept by Rondelet, the animals were quiescent, and did not waste their substance by the ordinary activities; and with regard to the fish, some doubts may be entertained whether it did not find worms and larvæ in the water.
Passing from animals to man, we find that death arrives on the fifth or sixth day of total abstinence from food and drink. But this is a general statement to which various exceptions may be named. Much depends on the peculiar constitution of the individual, his age, health, and other conditions. Some die on the second and third days; others survive till the tenth, eleventh, and even sixteenth days. Again, considerable differences will result from the different situations in which the men are placed-such as those of quiescence or activity, of temperature, moisture, &c.
The examples of protracted fasting
recorded are, as usual, deficient for the most part in that rigorous authenticity which is demanded by science; inany of them are obviously fabulous exaggerations. M. Bérard has borrowed the following from Haller, adding some cases which came under his own knowledge. I give them as specimens, not as data.
“A young girl, ashamed to confess her poverty, went without food for seventyeight days, during which she only sucked
"Another woman of the same place remained four months without food, and another fasted a whole year. "Haller reports two other cases of fasting for three and four years.
"Mackenzie reports in the Philosophi cal Transactions the story of a young girl who had lockjaw for eighteen years, and had taken no food during four years.
"A Scotchwoman is reported in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. lxvii., to have lived eight years without taking anything except a little water on one or two occasions.
"A case of fasting for ten years is celebrated in many works. Fabrice de Hilden, who took precautions against deception, says that Eva Flegen neither ate nor drank during six years.
"But all these stories are surpassed by that of a woman who remained fifty years without food; it is added, however, that she sometimes took skimmed
Admitting," says M. Bérard, "that there has been deception in some of these cases, and that the love of the marvellous has presided over the narration of others,
we cannot refuse to believe that some are
authentic. Every year such cases are registered. In 1836, M. Lavigne invited me to visit a woman of fifty-two, who, after having reduced herself to a glass of milk daily during eighteen months, had taken nothing in the shape of food or drink during the last five months. In 1839, M. Parizot communicated to me the fact of
a girl at Marcilly who had taken no solid nutriment for six years, and for the last five years no liquid or solid. In 1838, M. Plongeau wrote to me to say that he had seen a woman at Ayrens, aged eight and forty, who during the last eight years had received no nourishment whatever.'
It is rather startling to find so learned a physiologist as M. Bérard recording such cases, and trying to
explain them. The possibility of deception and exaggeration is so great, that we are tempted to reject almost every one of these cases rather than reject all physiological teaching.
The following is one of the most extraordinary of the cases which are repeated by modern writers with confidence. Janet M'Leod, after epilepsy and fever, remained five years in bed, seldom speaking, and receiving food only by constraint. At length she obstinately refused all sustenance, her jaws became locked, and in attempting to force them open two of her teeth were broken. A small quantity of liquid was introduced by the aperture, none of which she swallowed, and dough made of oatmeal was likewise rejected. She slept much, and her head was bent down on her breast. In this deplorable state she continued four years, without her relatives being aware of her receiving any aliment except a little water; but after a longer interval she revived, and subsisted on crumbs of bread with milk, or water sucked from her hand.
Attention is called to the two facts ing much, because, supposing the case of Janet's seldom speaking and sleepto be true, they materially affect the question. In a state of such quiescence as is here implied, the waste of the body would be reduced to a minimum, consequently the need of food would be minimised. Nevertheless, in the present state of Physiology, Í think we are justified in asserting that some deception or exaggeration, not now ascertainable, is at the bottom of this as of all similar cases; and until a case free from all suspicion shall have been produced for the satisfaction of Science, we are bound to deny the probability of such stories; since that which all our knowledge shows to be in itself contradictory, and, as far as we can judge, not possible, must necessarily have the highest improbability, and can only be accepted on the most rigorous evidence. Either we must give up our Physiology altogether, or we must reject these stories.
For observe, on the one hand, several of the reported cases of long fasting
* BEBARD: Cours de Physiologie, 1848, vol. i. p. 538.
have been subsequently proved to be impostures, and this naturally throws a suspicion over all similar cases. On the other hand, physiological laws, established by induction from thousands of facts tested in every variety of method, pronounce these cases to be not possible; and we are called upon to decide whether it is more probable that these inductions should be wrong, or that some imposture or exaggeration should lie at the bottom of the narrated marvels? There cannot be a moment's hesitation as to which alternative we must accept; but the reader will naturally desire a clear conception of the physiological contradictions which I have asserted to be implied in these marvellous narratives-the more so as many professed physiologists do not seem to be aware of them.
Supposing the waste of the body to be reduced to a minimum by the perfect quiescence in which the patients remained, we must still bear in mind that this diminution is not total arrest of waste. The patient scarcely moves, seldom speaks, and sleeps much. Very little destruction of tissue will take place, compared with the amount destroyed by the same person in ordinary activity, and very little food will be needed to repair such waste; but although comparatively small, the amount of waste will be absolutely large; we cannot say how large it will be, we can only say that it must be large. Let us fix our attention on only two sources of this waste, and the proof will be evident. The production of animal heat is only possible through a large amount of chemical change going on in the organism; it is produced by "direct combustion" (according to the chemical school of physiologists), by "the disengagement of heat in chemical compositions and decompositions" (according to another school), and according to all schools the high temperature of the body depends on organic processes, which necessarily imply waste of tissue. The warmth of the bed in which the patient lies is not sufficient to preserve her temperature at its proper height; she must burn her own substance to keep up her animal heat; and when we think of the high
degree of temperature maintained during a period of four years, solely by the combustion of the body itself, we shall see at once that it is utterly impossible any organism, during so long a period, could sustain such waste without repair. Here, then, is the dilemma: either Janet M'Leod did maintain the ordinary temperature of the body during these four years, in which case she must have destroyed more tissue to produce that heat than she could have had originally; or she did not maintain the ordinary temperature, in which case she would have died from the very want of this animal heat, since all organisms perish when their normal temperature is considerably lowered.
Let us now consider the second source of waste. Janet breathed during these four years; gently, we may suppose, and with no deep inspirations, yet constantly, day and night without interruption. Now, what does this breathing depend on? It depends on the constant interchange between carbonic acid in the blood, and oxygen in the air. Unless there were carbonic acid in the blood, no exchange could take place, no breathing could be effected. Every moment, therefore, some small portion of carbonic acid must be separated from the blood, and replaced by oxygen. Whence came this carbonic acid? From destruction of tissue. Directly, or indirectly, carbonic acid was produced in the act of waste. Its presence implies waste, and the act of breathing implies a continuous supply of such waste. That this is no hypothesis, but the simple expression of the facts, every physiologist knows. It may be rendered generally intelligible by referring to what is observed with the hybernating animals. The dormouse begins its winter sleep well clothed with fat. It never moves for months; its respiration is slow and feeble, but it does breathe, and the waste of its fat, which this breathing causes, is very noticeable at the close of winter. Now, if we suppose Janet to have been in a state of “ suspended vitality" analogous to that of the dormouse, we shall still have to admit that her breathing alone would gradually waste her substance;