Robert Smith.

The Friend : a religious and literary journal (Volume 16) online

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vided with warm stables. The human spe-
cies is protected by the clothing which once
protected the animal from the same influence.
It is not correct to suppose that the Laplander
and the Sa(noide are impervious to cold, or
become accustomed to it. That is an error.



They are more susceptible of cold than the
inhabitants of more temperate zones ; but they
do not expose themselves to it. This circum-
stance surprises strangers during their first
winter's residence in Russia. They are
astonished to find the natives enveloping
themselves in warm clothing at the com-
mencement of autumn, when their own
moderately-warm dress proves quite sufficient
for them. What astonished them at the com-
mencement, ceases to do so in time. As they
sojourn longer in the climate they feel the
cold less — inasmuch, only, as they are better
provided against it. They do not get accus-
tomed to the cold, but to the customs of the
natives, who never brave it but by dire neces-
sity. It was not absolute cold which destroy-
ed the French army. It was retreat, discom-
fiture, hunger, fatigue, discouragement, and
total absence of every comfort. The soldiers
of Gustavus Adolphus resisted the winter's
cold in the thirty years' war, because they
were warmly clad, and were victorious. The
soldiers of Napoleon ultimately perished from
the cold itself, and hunger, because they were
unprovided against those causes of fatality,
and they had not the resisting stimulus of vic-
tory to guaranty them against the effects of
physical wants. Let the soldier rob the sheep
of his skin, fashion it into a pelisse ; let him
take as much from the bear as will make him
a cap to cover his head and ears, and the back
of his neck ; put double soles to his long
boots, and line them with fur, and he will
never perish from cold alone, between the
Neva and the Niemen ; for, having done all
this, he has accomplished no more than does
every peasant who resists the cold — from no
constitutional animal power, but from artificial
protection against its influence. So armed,
he may bivouack, night after night, with im-
punity, provided he have sufficient means of
sustenance, and labours not under the influ-
ence of depressing moral causes.

" Such is the peasant's external condition.
Follow him into his dwelling, and see how
that is constructed.

" A log hut, made of entire trees, the corn-
ers dovetailed into each other, the spaces
between the balks filled up with moss, or
oakum, (calked,) no hreath of air can pene-
trate the room, for its boundaries present no
crevices. His door shuts close, his window-
frames are double, two feet by three, the
glass, or oiled paper fixed in. In the corner
of his room is a stove, whose chimney finds
exit through the roof, no wide open space to
allow of heat to ascend, and cause a continual
draft of air. His hut is insupportable to those
who are unaccustomed to such in-door tem-
perature. The flies, congregated in some
corner, hang down like a swarm of bees,



happy and buzzing, in the winter season. He
himself lies prostrate on his stove, which
serves him for a bedstead. This man is a rare
subject for consumption. Still, I repeat, it is
not the man who resists the cold. It is the
man's clothing, it is the provision he makes
against the cold. Herein lies the proof: —
Remove liini from this sphere of life, put him
into livery, let him remain for hours behind a
carriage in the winter season ; let him impru-
dently traverse the courtyards without his
hat, and with no clothing beyond what he
wears in the warm halls, and then what awaits
hiiTi? Pleurisy, dropsy, slow death.

" Ascending higher in the scale, how does
the man in easy circumstances sustain the
cold? By opposing to it its fell antagonist,
warmth — not himself; he knows better. You
enter his chamber. ' How warm your rooms
are, Ivan Ivanowitch.' ' Slava Boga Yospa-
din,' — heat breaks no bones.* You dare not,
as in England, enter his parlour with a great-
coat upon your back. That would be a woful
offence — a reflection upon him — as much as
to say, ' You have economized j'our fuel ; you
have not heated your stoves.' Such conduct
would be an absolute misdemeanor. On quit-
ting his rooms, he does not leave warmth
behind him. He conveys it about with him,
close confined, in a fur pelisse, whose non-con-
ducting qualities will never suffer animal heat
to escape from within, nor cold to penetrate
from without. These precautions are not regu-
lated by whim or pleasure. 'I'hey are pe-
remptory. He watches the mercury in the
thermometer, and he has clothing which de-
fies every degree of cold."

In a further description of the method of
in-door protection, he represents the houses of
the more affluent as warmed equally in every
part, including the entries, stair-cases and bed-
chambers, and gives a vivid picture of that
" most awful of all moments" in England,
when an individual must leave his warm bed
in the morning, and with teeth chattering,
emerge into a frost-chilled room to dress, all
of which is avoided by the means above men-
tioned. He also represents the climate of St.
Petersburgh to be quite as much subject to
variations of temperature as that of any other
city in Europe, so that the exemption from
pulmonary complaints is not to be attributed
to any advantage in this respect. It is
therefore to warynih alone that he attributes
this exemption.

Dr. L. is not blind, however, to the evils of
this mode of living; and though he says no-
thin" of the danger of injury to the hmgs,
among those who are not invalids, by breath-

• " Thank God, heat breaks no bones." — A Russian
proverb.



226 „____

ino- alternately two such atmospheres as that
within and that out of doors, which people
who go out at all must necessarily do, he
alludes to other evils, as follows: — Whether
these, or those intended to be avoided, are
greatest, the reader must judge for himself.

" The most obnoxious evil which a house
warmed upon the Russian system offers to a
stranger, upon his first arrival, is the want of
fresh air in the apartments. There is univer-
sally a close, heavy, and sometimes, a sickly
smell, prevalent in Russian houses, not to be
disguised by the burning of spices. There is
not that fresh, healthy, bracing feel in a room,
whose windows are hardly opened once a
week, which is characteristic of an English
parlour at breakfast time, the doors and win-
dows of which have been opened during the
whole of the time employed in dusting the
chairs and lighting the fire. This is true ;
but, on the other hand, the lady of the Rus-
sian house does not put her fingers into the
warm water of the slop-basin to restore the
circulation. Which is preferable ? A robust,
healthy person will decide for the latter; a
consumptive one, exhausted by a fit of cough-
ing, occasioned by the transit from the bed-
room to the parlour, will prefer the former;
and to such individuals are these observations
alone addressed. Still, in candor, I must
place impurity of air among the most potent
inconveniences of equable chamber tempera-
lure. Those who are unaccustomed to it are,
at the outset, much annoyed by a depressing
influence which it has upon tlie nervous sys-
tem. They lose a certain feeling of buoyan-
cy, and a degree of inertia is engendered, an
inaptitude to exertion and to mental occupa-
tion, and an irresistible desire to sleep, as soon
as they are seated in a warm room, after
bavitig been exposed for any length of time to
the cold air. This is often accompanied by
some uneasy sensations about the head ; the
appetite is impaired ; the functions are not
performed, as they should be ; and last, not
least, there ensues a total want of sleep.

" Such are the inconveniences wliich many
experience upon their first arrival ; and the
question, in reality, shoidd be, not, ' How do
you stand the cold,' but, ' how do you bear the
heat?' Head-aches are frequent, obstinate.
Dyspepsia is not uncnmuion, and the stranger
expresses himself as being ' altogether out of
sorts;' but this wears off in time, and, by
adopting such a plan as I shall mention here-
after, he may, in a great measure, counteract
these effects, whilst he is certain to avoid any
ill consequences from frigorific influence.

" A positive ill, and one to which almost all
the natives are subject, is found in hiemorrhoi-
dal affections. This, in a great measure, may be
avoided by proper means, for many strangers
who pursue the same modes of life as they do
in more temperate regions, are, in a great
measure, exempt from thein. The Russians
arc, during tlie winter months, an inactive
race, and what exercise they do take is of a
passive kind, so that the circulation is not
propelled by bodily motion. When within
doors, the merchant reclines upon a leathern
sofa, wrapped up in a warm morning gown.
When exposed to external air he is enveloped



THE FRIEIVD.

in a heavy fur mantle, which protects him
from cold, but allows of no vigorous motion ol
body. Hence he remains slalionaiy, stanq)-
ing his feet upon the ground, before his shop-
door, or in his ware-house; and if he be
obliged to move to any distance, he gets into
a sledge and drives passively along. These
sedentary habits are the chief cause of the
hemorrhoidal affections to which the natives
are subject. This, then, is another of the dis-
advantages which arise from the efiects of
such warm rooms upon the system. Many of
them may be counteracted, and, by adopting
Russian prudence, as regards the pernicious
influence of cold, all the salutary habits of
English life may be indulged in, not without
benefit, and with no risk.

"I am not oflering these hints to the strong
and robust — to those who can brave all things,
and who ridicule care and caution; I am
addressing those whose lives daily depend
upon these two requisites, and whose existence
is often abridged by the neglect of them. I
am endeavouring to iiispress upon those who
are already affected, or predisposed to diseases
of the respiratory organs, that the inhabitants
of northern latitudes are, in a great measure,
free from such complaints, not because that,
living under the poles, tliey are inured to cold
and ice, but because they have found out, and
never neglect, the means of protecting them-
selves from their pernicious consequences.
The cure or prevention of such ills may be said
to be a species of commutation of one evil for
another. It remains to accept or reject it —
to put up with a few of the inconveniences
which have been specified, as attendant upon
warmth, or to risk certain destruction of life.
Will the patient, who sees it in this light,
hesitate upon the choice ?"

The remainder of Dr. L.'s paper is mostly
devoted to the precautions which he thiiiks
would have great influence in England, in pre-
venting pulmonary complaints, or in preserv-
ing life after such complaints are seated. Ho
alludes to the use of the respirator among
invalids, when out of doors, as a means of
great importance. To the afi^luent he re-
commends a stricter attention to clothing and
to chamber warmth. With regard to the
poorer classes, he saj'S —

" I should like to see the inhabitants of the
northern counties in England adopt, during
the cold months of the year, the sheep-skin
pelisse of the Russian boor. It would serve
them in several capacities. It would supply
them with warm clothing ; be an additional
cover to their bed at night, and stand, instead
of fire on the hearth, where they have perhaps
no more than the means of furnishing sutlicient
fuel to cook potatoes. Wrapped up in a sheep-
skin pelisse, theworking-man might sit in his
chimney corner in comparative comfort. He
would have less inducement to go abroad ; less
temptation to seek the blazing hearth of a
neighbouring ale-house, if he had the means
of making himself more comfortable at home
It is the cold of his hovel that he has to dread,
itiore than the inclemency of the weather out
of doors. This he can brave ; his labour
may keep him warm without, but it is when
returning from his plough, and from the fields



wet, tired, and chilled with cold, that he would
feel the comforts of stripping off his working
lolhes and wrapping himself up in a woollen
armcni. By such means he would avoid
coughs and colds, which, once ccnti acted,
J of the means within his reach can serve
to abbreviate.

Let the good folks at home establish tern-
perarice societies for the lungs, as well as for
the stomach, and they will effect a quantity of
positive good. Nay, the two sister virtues
will go hand in hand. How might not the
peasants of each country gain by a change in
he habits of their lives? Introduce temperance
locieties into Russia, and icarm houses, and
:lothing among the English, and the reform
vould, so far as we can imperfectly see, be
productive of the greatest blessings to the
population of both. It is in vain to hope for
perfection at once, but time does work won-
ders, and by time is to be understood enlarged
views of mankind in general, and the promo-
tmn of these views. Let every one do some-
thing for the good of his fellow-creatures, each
endeavouring to improve their physical condi-
ti



Online LibraryRobert SmithThe Friend : a religious and literary journal (Volume 16) → online text (page 84 of 154)