Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
That Drop of Nervous Fluid
By Thomas Wentworth Higginson (18231911)
[From The Murder of the Innocents.Out-Door Papers. 1863.]
IF we fail (which I do not expect, I assure you), we fail disastrously. If we succeed, if we bring up our vital and muscular developments into due proportion with our nervous energy, we shall have a race of men and women such as the world never saw. Dolorosus, when in the course of human events you are next invited to give a Fourth-of-July Oration, grasp at the opportunity, and take for your subject Health. Tell your audience, when you rise to the accustomed flowers of rhetoric as the day wears on, that Health is the central luminary, of which all the stars that spangle the proud flag of our common country are but satellites; and close with a hint to the plumed emblem of our nation (pointing to the stuffed one which will probably be exhibited on the platform), that she should not henceforward confine her energies to the hatching of short-lived eaglets, but endeavor rather to educate a few full-grown birds.
As I take it, Nature said, some years since, Thus far the English is my best race; but we have had Englishmen enough; now for another turning of the globe, and a further novelty. We need something with a little more buoyancy than the Englishman; let us lighten the structure even at some peril in the process. Put in one drop more of nervous fluid and make the American. With that drop, a new range of promise opened on the human race, and a lighter, finer, more highly organized type of mankind was born. But the promise must be fulfilled through unequalled dangers. With the new drop came new intoxication, new ardors, passions, ambitions, hopes, reactions, and despairs,more daring, more invention, more disease, more insanity,forgetfulness, at first, of the old, wholesome traditions of living, recklessness of sin and saleratus, loss of refreshing sleep and of the power of play. To surmount all this, we have got to fight the good fight, I assure you, Dolorosus. Nature is yet pledged to produce that finer type, and if we miss it, she will leave us to decay, like our predecessors,whirl the globe over once more, and choose a new place for a new experiment.