S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
I do not mean, by what I have here said, that I think any one to blame for taking due care of their health. On the contrary, as cheerfulness of mind, and capacity for business, are in a great measure the effects of a well-tempered constitution, a man cannot be at too much pains to cultivate and preserve it. But this care, which we are prompted to, not only by common sense, but by duty and instinct, should never engage us in groundless fears, melancholy apprehensions, and imaginary distempers, which are natural to every man who is more anxious to live than how to live. In short, the preservation of life should be only a secondary concern, and the direction of it our principal. If we have this frame of mind, we shall take the best means to preserve life, without being over-solicitous about the event; and shall arrive at that point of felicity which Martial has mentioned as the perfection of happiness, of neither fearing nor wishing for death.
Cheerfulness is, in the first place, the best promoter of health. Repinings, and secret murmurs of heart, give imperceptible strokes to those delicate fibres of which the vital parts are composed, and wear out the machine insensibly; not to mention those violent ferments which they stir up in the blood, and those irregular disturbed motions which they raise in the animal spirits. I scarce remember, in my own observation, to have met with many old men, or with such who (to use our English phrase) wear well, that had not at least a certain indolence in their humour, if not a more than ordinary gaiety and cheerfulness of heart. The truth of it is, health and cheerfulness mutually beget each other; with this difference, that we seldom meet with a great degree of health which is not attended with a certain cheerfulness, but very often see cheerfulness where there is no great degree of health.
To be free-minded and cheerfully disposed at hours of meat, and of sleep, and of exercise, is one of the best precepts of long lasting. As for the passions and studies of the mind, avoid envy, anxious fears, anger, fretting inwards, subtle and knotty inquisitions, joys and exhilarations in excess, sadness not communicated. Entertain hopes, mirth rather than joy, variety of delights rather than surfeit of them; wonder and admiration, and therefore novelties; studies that fill the mind with splendid and illustrious objects, as histories, fables, and contemplations of nature. If you fly physic in health altogether, it will be too strange for your body when you shall need it: if you make it too familiar, it will work no extraordinary effect when sickness cometh. I commend rather some diet for certain seasons than frequent use of physic, except it be grown into a custom; for those diets alter the body more, and trouble it less.
While the nervous fibres preserve their due tension and firmness, and the spirits are transmitted to them from the brain, endowed with due strength, swiftness, and vivacity, and suffered to attend their duty, without the avocations of thoughtfulness and intense contemplation, the concoction of the meats is well performed.
Men that look no further than their outsides think health an appurtenance unto life, and quarrel with their constitutions for being sick; but I, that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that fabric hangs, do wonder that we are not always so; and, considering the thousand doors that lead to death, do thank my God that we can die but once.
My good friends, while I do most earnestly recommend you to take care of your health and safety, as things most precious to us, I would not have that care degenerate into an effeminate and over-curious attention, which is always disgraceful to a mans self, and often troublesome to others.
Edmund Burke: To R. Burke, Jun., and Mr. T. King, Feb. 1773.
There is this difference between those two temporal blessings health and money: money is the most envied, but the least enjoyed; health is the most enjoyed, but the least envied; and this superiority of the latter is still more obvious when we reflect that the poorest man would not part with health for money, but that the richest would gladly part with all their money for health.
Health and vigour, and a happy constitution of the corporeal frame, are of absolute necessity to the enjoyment of the comforts, and to the performance of the duties, of life, and requisite in yet a greater measure to the accomplishment of anything illustrious or distinguished; yet even these, if we can judge by their apparent consequences, are sometimes not very beneficial to those on whom they are most liberally bestowed.
Health is, indeed, so necessary to all the duties as well as pleasures of life, that the crime of squandering it is equal to the folly; and he that for a short gratification brings weakness and diseases upon himself, and for the pleasure of a few years passed in the tumults of diversion and clamours of merriment condemns the maturer and more experienced part of his life to the chamber and the couch, may be justly reproached, not only as a spendthrift of his happiness, but as a robber of the public; as a wretch that has voluntarily disqualified himself for the business of his station, and refused that part which Providence assigns him in the general task of human nature.
Those who lose their health in an irregular and impetuous pursuit of literary accomplishments, are yet less to be excused; for they ought to know that the body is not forced beyond its strength but with the loss of more vigour than is proportionate to the effect produced. Whoever takes up life beforehand, by depriving himself of rest and refreshment, must not only pay back the hours, but pay them back with usury; and for the gain of a few months but half enjoyed, must give up years to the listlessness of languor and the implacability of pain. They whose endeavour is mental excellence will learn, perhaps, too late, how much it is endangered by diseases of the body, and find that knowledge may easily be lost in the starts of melancholy, the flights of impatience, and the peevishness of decrepitude.
We are taught by Celsus that health is best preserved by avoiding settled habits of life, and deviating sometimes into slight aberrations from the laws of medicine; by varying the proportions of food and exercise, interrupting the successions of rest and labour, and mingling hardships with indulgence. The body, long accustomed to stated quantities and uniform periods, is disordered by the smallest irregularity; and, since we cannot adjust every day by the balance or barometer, it is fit sometimes to depart from rigid accuracy, that we may be able to comply with necessary affairs, or strong inclinations. He that too long observes punctualities condemns himself to voluntary imbecility, and will not long escape the miseries of disease.
If by gaining knowledge we destroy our health, we labour for a thing that will be useless in our hands; and if by harassing our bodies (though with a design to render ourselves more useful) we deprive ourselves of the abilities and opportunities of doing that good we might have done with a meaner talent, which God thought sufficient for us, by having denied us the strength to improve it to that pitch which men of stronger constitutions can attain to, we rob God of so much service, and our neighbour of all that help which in a state of health, with moderate knowledge, we might have been able to perform. He that sinks his vessel by overloading it, though it be with gold and silver and precious stones, will give his owner but an ill account of his voyage.
In these days half our diseases come from the neglect of the body in the overwork of the brain. In this railway age the wear and tear of labour and intellect go on without pause or self-pity. We live longer than our forefathers; but we suffer more from a thousand anxieties and cares. They fatigued only the muscles; we exhaust the finer strength of the nerves.
Health is a precious thing, and the only one in truth meriting that a man should lay out, not only his time, sweat, labour, and goods, but also his life itself, to obtain it, forasmuch as without it life is injurious to us. Pleasure, wisdom, learning, and vertue without it wither away and vanish; and in the most queint and solid discourses that philosophy would imprint in us to the contrary, we need no more but oppose the image of Plato being struck with an epilepsie or apoplexy; and in this presupposition to defie him to call the rich faculties of his soul to his assistance. All means that conduce to health can neither be too painful not too dear to me.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., chap. xciv.
The humours of the body have a stated and a regular course, which impels and imperceptibly guides our will. They co-operate with each other, and exercise successively a secret empire within us; so that they have a considerable part in all our actions, without our being able to know it. Hence the necessity of attention to our bodily health.
It is a wonderful thing that so many, and they not reckoned absurd, shall entertain those with whom they converse, by giving them a history of their pains and aches, and imagine such narrations their quota of the conversation. This is of all other the meanest help to discourse, and a man must not think at all, or think himself very insignificant, when he finds an account of his headache answered by anothers asking what news by the last mail. Mutual good-humour is a dress we ought to appear in whenever we meet, and we should make no mention of what concerns ourselves, without it be of matters wherein our friends ought to rejoice.
Who would not be covetous, and with reason, if health could be purchased with gold? Who not ambitious, if it were at the command of power, or restored by honour? But, alas! a white staff will not help gouty feet to walk better than a common cane; nor a blue ribbon bind up a wound so well as a fillet; the glitter of gold or of diamonds will but hurt sore eyes, instead of curing them; and an aching head will be no more eased by wearing a crown instead of a common night-cap.
Health is the soul that animates all enjoyments of life, which fade, and are tasteless, if not dead, without it. A man starves at the best and the greatest tables, makes faces at the noblest and most delicate wines, is poor and wretched in the midst of the greatest treasures and fortunes, with common diseases; strength grows decrepit, youth loses all vigour, and beauty all charms; music grows harsh, and conversation disagreeable; palaces are prisons, or of equal confinement; riches are useless, honour and attendance are cumbersome, and crowns themselves are a burden: but if diseases are painful and violent, they equal all conditions of life, make no difference between a prince and a beggar; and a fit of the stone or the colic puts a king to the rack, and makes him as miserable as he can do the meanest, the worst, and most criminal of his subjects.