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The little, or almost insensible, impressions on our tender infancies, have very important and lasting consequences: and there it is, as in the fountains of some rivers, where a gentle application of the hand turns the flexible waters into channels, that make them take quite contrary courses; and by this little direction, given them at first, in the source, they receive different tendencies, and arrive at last at very remote and distant places.
§ 2. I imagine the minds of children, as easily turned, this or that way, as water itself; and though this be the principal part, and our main care should be about the inside, yet the clay cottage is not to be neglected. I shall therefore begin with the case, and consider first the health of the body, as that which perhaps you may rather expect, from that study I have been thought more peculiarly to have applied myself to; and that also which will be soonest dispatched, as lying, if I guess not amiss, in a very little compass.
§ 3. How necessary health is to our business and happiness; and how requisite a strong constitution, able to endure hardships and fatigue, is, to one that will make any figure in the world; is too obvious to need any proof.
§4. The consideration I shall here have, of health, shall be, not what a physician ought to do, with a sick or crazy child; but what the parents, without the help of physic, should do for the preservation and improvement of an healthy, or, at least, not sickly constitution, in their children and this perhaps might be all dispatched in this one short rule, viz. that gentlemen should use their children, as the honest farmers and substantial yeomen do theirs. But because the mothers, possibly, may think this a little too hard, and the fathers, too short, I shall explain myself more particularly; only laying down this, as a general and certain observation for the women to consider, viz. that most children's constitutions are either spoiled, or at least harmed, by cockering and tenderness.
§ 5. The first thing to be taken care of, is, that children be not too warmly clad or
covered, winter or summer. The face, when we are born, is no less tender than any other part of the body: it is use alone hardens it, and makes it more able to endure the cold. And therefore the Scythian philoso pher gave a very significant answer to the Athenian, who wondered how he could go naked in frost and snow: "How," said the Scythian, can you endure your "face exposed to the sharp winter air?" "My face " is used to it," said the Athenian. "Think me all face," replied the Scythian. Our bodies will endure any thing, that from the beginning they are accustomed to..
An eminent instance of this, though in the contrary excess of heat, being to our present purpose, to show what use can do, I shall set down in the author's words, as I meet with it in a late ingenious voyage: * The heats, says he, are more violent in Malta, than in any part of Europe: they exceed those of Rome itself, and are perfectly stifling; and so much the more, because 'there are seldom any cooling breezes here. This makes the common people as black as gypsies: but yet the peasants defy the sun: they work on, in the hottest part of the day, without intermission, or sheltering themselves from his scorching rays. This has con⚫vinced me that nature can bring itself to many things,
which seem impossible, provided we accustom our 'selves from our infancy. The Malteses do so, who 'harden the bodies of their children, and reconcile them to the heat, by making them go stark naked, without shirt, drawers, or any thing on their head, 'from their cradles, till they are ten years old.'
Give me leave, therefore, to advise you, not to fence too carefully against the cold of this our climate: there are those in England, who wear the same clothes winter and summer, and that without any inconvenience, or more sense of cold than others find. But if the mother will needs have an allowance for frost and snow, for fear of harm; and the father, for fear of censure; be sure let not his winter-clothing be too warm: and
* Nouveau Voyage du Levant, 150-175.
amongst other things remember, that when nature has so well covered his head with hair, and strengthened it with a year or two's age, that he can run about by day without a cap, it is best that by night a child should also lie without one; there being nothing that more exposes to head-ach, colds, catarrhs, coughs, and several other diseases, than keeping the head warm.
§ 6. I have said [he] here, because the principal aim of my discourse is, how a young gentleman should be brought up from his infancy, which in all things will not so perfectly suit the education of daughters; though, where the difference of sex requires different treatment, it will be no hard matter to distinguish.
§ 7. I would also advise his feet to be washed every day in cold water; and to have his shoes so thin, that they might leak and let in water, whenever he comes near it. Here, I fear, I shall have the mistress, and maids too, against me. One will think it
too filthy; and the other, perhaps, too much pains to make clean his stockings. But yet truth will have it, that his health is much more worth than all such considerations, and ten times as much more. And he that considers how mischievous and mortal a thing, taking wet in the feet is, to those who have been bred nicely, will wish he had, with the poor poople's children, gone bare-foot; who, by that means, come to be so reconciled by custom, to wet their feet, that they take no more cold or harm by it, than if they were wet in their hands. And what is it, I pray, that makes this great difference between the hands and the feet in others, but only custom? I doubt not, but if a man from his cradle had been always used to go bare-foot, whilst his hands were constantly wrapped up in warm mittins, and covered with handshoes, as the Dutch call gloves; I doubt not, I say, but such a custom would make taking wet in his hands as dangerous to him, as now taking wet in their feet is to a great many others. The way to prevent this, is to have his shoes made so, as to leak water; and his feet washed constantly every day in cold water. It is recommendable for its cleanliness: but that which I aim at in it, is health. And therefore I
limit it not précisely to any time of the day. I have known it used every night, with very good success, and that, all the winter, without the omitting it so much as one night, in extreme cold weather: when thick ice covered the water, the child bathed his legs and feet in it; though he was of an age not big enough to rub and wipe them himself; and when he began this custom, was puling and very tender. But the great end being to harden those parts, by a frequent and familiar use of cold water, and thereby to prevent the mischiefs, that usually attend accidental taking wet in the feet, in those who are bred otherwise; I think it may be left to the prudence and convenience of the parents, to choose either night or morning. The time I deem indifferent, so the thing be effectually done. The health and hardiness procured by it, would be a good purchase at a much dearer rate. To which if I add the preventing of corns, that to some men would be a very valuable consideration. But begin first in the spring with lukewarm, and so colder and colder every time, till in a few days you come to perfectly cold water, and then continue it so, winter and summer. For it is to be observed in this, as in all other alterations from our
Alterations. ordinary way of living, the changes must be made by gentle and insensible degrees; and so we may bring our bodies to any thing, without pain, and without danger.
How fond mothers are like to receive this doctrine, is not hard to foresee. What can it be less than to murder their tender babes to use them thus? What! put their feet in cold water in frost and snow, when all one can do is little enough to keep them warm! A little to remove their fears by examples, without which the plainest reason is seldom hearkened to; Seneca tells us of himself, ep. 53 and 83, that he used to bathe himself in cold spring water in the midst of winter. This, if he had not thought it not only tolerable, but healthy too, he would scarce have done, in an exuberant fortune, that could well have borne the expence of a warm bath and in an age (for he was then old) that would have excused greater indulgence. If we think his
stoical principles led him to this severity; let it be so, that this sect reconciled cold water to his sufferance: what made it agreeable to his health? for that was not impaired by this hard usage. But what shall we say to Horace, who armed not himself with the reputation of any sect, and least of all affected stoical austerities? yet he assures us he was wont in the winter season to bathe himself in cold water. But perhaps Italy will be thought much warmer than England, and the chilliness of their waters not to come near ours in winter. If the rivers of Italy are warmer, those of Germany and Poland are much colder, than any in this our country; and yet in these, the jews, both men and women, bathe all over, at all seasons of the year, without any prejudice to their health. And every one is not apt to believe it is a miracle, or any peculiar virtue of St. Winifred's well, that makes the cold waters of that famous spring do no harm to the tender bodies that bathe in it. Every one is now full of the miracles done, by cold baths, on decayed and weak constitutions, for the recovery of health and strength; and therefore they cannot be impracticable, or intolerable, for the improving and hardening the bodies of those who are in better circumstances.
If these examples of grown men be not thought yet to reach the case of children, but that they may be judged still to be too tender and unable to bear such usage; let them examine what the Germans of old, and the Irish now do to them; and they will find that infants too, as tender as they are thought, nay, without any danger, endure bathing, not only of their feet, but of their whole bodies in cold water. And there are, at this day, ladies in the highlands of Scotland, who use this discipline to their children, in the midst of winter; and find that cold water does them no harm, even when there is ice in it.
§ 8. I shall not need here to mention swimming, when he is of an age able to learn, and has any one to teach him. It is that saves many a man's life: and the Romans thought it so necessary, that they ranked it with letters; and it was the common phrase to mark one ill-educated, and good for