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A DISCOURSE on the SCURVY.
THE furry is a name given to fo many disorders
disorders of the body seemingly of a different kind, that it may jaftly be said to be a manifold and complicated disease. The chief fymptoms of it however are clearly described by several authors, which are such as thie : the gums rot first, then the skin is defaced with livid and black spots ; ulcers ensue, especially in the swelled legs ; and thefe are with difficulty, if ever, cured. To the last stage of the distemper, even the bones become carious.
It is therefore very plain, that this malady is a kind of corruption of the blood, and the whole mass of the bodily humours. This, when the cause is fong continued, increases to a degree of putrefaction. All writers are agreed in their opinion, that it is a northern disease ; imputing it to the cold and moist air of those climates, together with the use of stagnating and faltish waters, and the unwholesome food of hard, dried, and falted meats. They therefore observe, that it rages most, éven to be in a manner universal, among the inhabitants of the Baltic sea, ir Finland, Norway, Denmark, and the places adjacent to the Germanic ocean. And indeed not only the new Latin name, fcorbutus, but our English one too, is plainly made from the Saxon Schorbock, or schorbuck, denoting a griping or tearing of the belly *.
This is the same distemper, which Pliny, from the ulcers in the mouth and legs, calls by the name of
* Vid. Eugalen. de fcorbuto, & in primis Sennert. lib. iii. part. v.
Stomacace, or rather stomocace), and sceletyrbe ; ascribing it to the drinking of bad waters; and for which, he says, the herba Britannica, which is our hydrolapathum, or water-dock, was found to be a remedy *.
But long before this, Hippocrates + himself took notice of this disease, as a distemper of the spleen, proceeding very much from cold, raw, and turbid waters,
Such is this distemper at land. At fea, in long voyages, it is much more violent ; so far, that many are of opinion, that upon the two elements it is a malady of a different kind. But it plainly appears
from comparing what has been said of that at land, with what I am going to mention of the fame at sea, that the difference is only in the degree of malignity.
The history of the progress of this cruel enemy is fo judiciously and exactly related in Lord Anson's voyage round the world , when he came into the South fea, where his men were in a most terrible manner afflicted with it, that I cannot give a more lively description of it, than by taking out of this most entertaining and instructive book the most material circumstances which occurred in its several stages. This I am the better enabled to do, because being incited by the extraordinary events to make a full inquiry into this whole affair, I have not only had the honour of discoursing with his Lordship upon it, but have also been favoured with the original observations of his two ingenious and skilful furgeons I, from which I
* Nat. histor. lib. xxv. § vi.
+ De internis affection. $ xxxiv. & de aërib. aquis, & locis, 9 x. | Pag. 100. &c. Il Mr Ettrick and Mr Allen.
have leave to transcribe whatever I find to my purpose.
The first appearances are much the same in the two diseases at land and at sea ; but at sea they foon run to a much higher degree. Nothing is more surprifing than the malignity of this, as it were corrosive, poison exerting itself fo far, that the scars of wounds, which had been many years healed, were often forced open again. Nay the callus of broken bones, which had been completely formed for a long time, was found dissolved, and the fracture seemed as if it had never been consolidated.
This malady was likewise accompanied with many other dangerous symptoms, particularly putrid fevers, pleurifies, the jaundice, an obftinate costiveness, and, at the latter end, a difficulty of breathing. This last was found to be the most deadly of them all : for it never was without such a faintness and weakness, that many expired upon the least motion, and endeavouring to get out of their hammocks, died before they could reach the deck.
Moreover, a strange dejection of the spirits, with shiverings, tremblings, and dreadful terrours on the slightest accidents, was fo constant an attendant, that whatever discouraged the fick never failed to add new force to the distemper.
Such are the strokes of this compounded calamity : and many more might be enumerated : but it is time to proceed, and to inquire into the manner by which they are produced.
It is certain, that such bad diet as has been mentioned, will corrupt the blood and humours; but nothing is clearer from the whole history of this voyage, than this, that the air is, even more than any other agent,
concerned in bringing on the mischief *. It may indeed justly seem strange, that the writers of physic should not have observed fo remarkable a cause; but they described the land-fcurvy only. Nay, so great was the efficiency of the aërial fluid, that even a warmer climate did not mitigate the scorbutic virulency; neither did fresh provisions, and plenty of wholefome rain-water avail; although these are certainly of great importance in preserving the body from the fatal disorder. Of so much consequence it is to refift the first approaches of an enemy.
Now, the manner in which the aforesaid causes act, is this. Whoever understands the use of respiration, and the way by which the several offices necessary to life are performed by means of it, will readily comprehend how the sea-air acquires such noxious qualities.
To fer this in a clear light, it must be obterved, that air entering into the lungs does by its gravity and elasticity press upon the blood circulating in the vessels there. The effect of this pressure is twofold ; first, a comminution and division of it into smaller particles ; fecondly, fome fubtile clastic matter pafles into the blood, and exciting in it an intestine motion, disposes and prepares it for the secretions of several liquors, when, in its course round the body, it arrives at the glands contrived for the separation of such and such juices.
Whatever therefore alters this gravity and elasticity, makes the air unfit for the purposes for which it was designed. In the first place, moisture weakens its spring; next, a combination of foul particles, such as are contained in the breath of many persons croud
* See voyage, p. 294.
ed ed together, and fome perhaps diseased ; then, the filthiness of water stagnating in the bottom of the fhip ; laftly, salts imbibed from the fea, fome of which may probably have proceeded froin putrefied a. nimals in that element, may insinuate themselves into the blood, and, in the nature of a ferment, corrupt its whole mass. Neither is it ainils to add, that the animal spirits themselves must necessarily partake of the vilious disorder of the Auid, from which they are derived. This is plain from that unaccountable faintness, and weakness of the body, and dejections of mind, which, as we have before taken notice, accompany the other symptoms.
It is needless to shew how all the enumerated complaints, and indeed many more, may follow upon such a disturbed state of things, especially when the other mentioned causes concur. It may be very fatisfactory to put down the observations, which the above-named surgeons made upon the blood of their patients, and upon the dissection of dead bodies, in the several stages of the distemper.
In the beginning, as it filowed out of the orifice of the wound, it might be seen to run in different shades of light and dark streaks. When the malady was increased, it ran thin, and seemingly very black, and after standing some time in the porringer, turned thick, of a dark muddy colour, the surface, in many places, of a greenish hue, without any regular feparation of its parts. In the third degree of the disease, it came out as black as ink, and though kept stirring in the vessel many hours, its fibrous parts had only · the appearance of a quantity of wool or hair floating in a muddy substance.