time of his death. At two years of age he required two nurses to lift him in and out of bed, one of whom in a fit of anger he felled to the floor with a blow of his hand.
At Trenaw in Cornwall, there was a man, known by the name of Grant Chillcot, who weighed four hundred and sixty pounds; one of his stockings could contain six gallons of wheat.
Our poet Butler must have met with some such enormous creatures in the type of his Saxon Duke, who, in Hudibras,
———did grow so fat,
That mice (as histories relate)
Ate grots and labyrinths to dwell in
His postique parts, without his feeling.
If obesity has been the subject of ungenerous jokes, leanness has not passed unnoticed. An anecdote is related of a reverend doctor of a very ghostly appearance, who was one day accosted by a fellow with the following salutation: “Well, doctor, I hope you have taken care of your soul?” “Why, my friend?” said the divine. “Because,” replied the impertinent interlocutor, “your body is not worth caring for.”
A poor diminutive Frenchman being ordered by his Sangrado to drink a quart of ptisan a day, replied, with a heavy sigh, “Alas! doctor, that I cannot do, since I only hold a pint.”
When the Duke de Choiseuil, a remarkably meager man, came to London to negotiate a peace, Charles Townshend being asked whether the French government had sent the preliminaries of a treaty, answered, “He did not know, but they had sent the outline of an ambassador.”
That change of spare diet to a more nutritious food may bring on some corpulence, is evidenced in an anecdote of Colly Cibber, who relates that a poor half-starved actor, who used to play the Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet, to the life, and with great applause, received an augmentation of salary in consequence of his popularity. Unfortunately, increase of wealth led him to increase his fare, until he gradually assumed a plumpness which unfitted him for the worn-out pharmacopolist; and not being able to perform in any other line, the poor man was discharged. However, poverty once more brought him down to his original condition, when he reappeared upon the boards as triumphantly as ever.
If embonpoint is generally a sign of good-humour and a cheerful disposition, leanness frequently betokens a sour, crabbed, and ill-natured character. Solomon has said, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” This observation, however, cannot be considered a rule in forming a judgment of various tempers. This is by no means an easy attempt in our intercourse with the world, when physiognomy is not always a sure guide in the selection of our companions. Dr. Franklin tells a singular story on this subject:
“An old philosophical gentleman had grown, from experience, very cautious in avoiding ill-natured people. To endeavour to ascertain their disposition he made use of his legs, one of which was remarkably handsome, the other, by some accident, crooked and deformed. If a stranger at the first interview regarded his ugly leg more than his handsome one, he doubted him; but if he spoke of it, and took no notice of his handsome leg, that was sufficient to determine the philosopher to have no further acquaintance with him. Every body has not this two-legged instrument; but every one, with a little attention, may observe signs of this carping, fault-finding disposition, and take the same resolution of avoiding the acquaintance of those infected by it. I therefore advise those querulous, discontented, unhappy people, if they wish to be respected and beloved by others, and happy in themselves, to leave off looking at the ugly leg.”
Various expedients, in addition to a better diet, have been resorted to, to restore lean persons to a better case; but amongst the most singular that we have on record is that of flagellation. Galen says, that horse-dealers having been observed to fatten horses for sale by flogging them, an analogous method might be useful with spare persons who wish to become stouter. He also mentions slave-dealers who employed similar means. Suetonius informs us that Musa, the favourite physician of Augustus, used to fustigate him, not only to cure him of a sciatica, but to keep him plump. Meibomius pretends that nurses whip little children to fatten them, that they may appear healthy and chubby to their mothers. No doubt but flagellation determines a greater influx of blood to the surface, and may thus tend to increase the circulation, and give tone to parts which would otherwise be languid. With this intention, urticatio, or whipping with nettles, has been frequently used in medical practice with great advantage. Xenophon thawed his frozen soldiers by flagellation. In amorous despondency and grief, Cœlius Aurelianus recommended this process, and Elidœus Paduanus advises it to bring out tardy eruptions. The most singular effect of this castigation is recorded by Meibomius, in his work De flagrorum usu, &c., dedicated to a councillor of the Bishop of Lubeck, with the following epigraph:
Delicias pariunt Veneri crudelia flagra.
Dum nocet, illa juvat; dum juvat, ecce nocet.
Menghus Faventinus had long before extolled this practice, mentioned also by Cœlius Rhodiginus, and various ancient writers, and more recently recognised as effectual by Rousseau, in his Confessions.
A remarkable case of leanness is mentioned by Lorry in a priest, who became so thin and dry in all his articulations, that at last he was unable to go through the celebration of mass, as his joints and spine would crack in so loud and strange a manner at every genuflexion, that the faithful were terrified, and the faithless laughed. One of these miserable laths once undertook a long journey to consult a learned physician on his sad condition, and having begged to know, in a most piteous tone, the cause of his desiccation, was favoured with the following luminous answer: “Sir, there is a predisposition in your constitution to make you lean, and a disposition in your constitution to keep you so.” Another meager patient being told that the celebrated Hunter had fattened a dog by removing his spleen, exclaimed, with a deep sigh, “O, sir! I wish Mr. Hunter had mine.”
We can scarcely believe that the ancients gave any credence to the fabulous accounts of dwarfish nations, or could be persuaded of the existence of those pigmies spoken of by Aristotle and other writers, who, in all probability, described as such a species of diminutive monkeys.
Athenæus mentions a race of dwarfs who were in perpetual war with cranes, who harnessed partridges to their chariots, and were obliged to cut down corn with felling-axes, like forest trees. Pliny asserts that their constant enemy, the crane, drove them out of Thracia, but that they still were to be met with in Ethiopia, near the source of the Nile, and above the rise of the Ganges, where they were named Spithania, their stature not exceeding three palms. Nicephorus Calixtus, in his Ecclesiastical History, mentions an Egyptian who was not longer than a partridge, and who, at the age of twenty-five, displayed considerable mental endowment. Strabo, however, judiciously observed that these stories arose from the circumstance of the small size of every animal in intemperate regions. Various modern travellers have recorded the most absurd stories of diminutive men, as well as of gigantic nations; but to most of them we may apply the words of Congreve—
Fernandez Mendez Pinto was but a type of thee,
Thou liar of the first magnitude.
It is nevertheless true, that man exhibits differences of stature in various climes. The Laplanders and