Friday, October 21, 2005

Buxton Letter

Extract of a Letter from Dr. J——n, at Buxton, to his friend, J——s B——II, Esq., in Scotland. (By Pepper Arden, afterwards Lord Alvanley.)

Fortune often delights to exalt what nature has neglected, and that renown which cannot be claimed by intrinsic excellence is frequently derived from accident.

The Rubicon was ennobled by the passage of Caesar, and the bubbling up of a stream in the middle of a lime quarry has given celebrity to Buxton. The waters in which it is agreed that no mineral properties reside, and which seem to have no better claim to superior heat than what is derived from comparing them with the almost Siberian atmosphere that surrounds them, are said, however, to possess a spirit which, though too volatile and unknown to receive a name from the chymists of graver ages, have, in this fanciful era, when Macaroni philosophers hold flirtation with science, taken the lead of all the other elements, and those whose nerves have not found any relief in change of sky and variety, seek for a refuge here in fixed air.

It is, indeed, amazing to see the avidity with which mankind seek after that health which they have voluntarily alienated, like Methodists who hope for salvation through faith without works. Invalids come here in hopes of finding in the well the vigour which they have lost in the bowl, and of absorbing in the bath the moisture which evaporated in the ball or the masquerade.

For this purpose they venture to this dreary spot, which I contemplates with envy the Highlands of Scotland, surrounded by barren mountains, beaten by storms almost perpetual.

Scarce an inhabitant is to be seen unless when the sun, whose appearance is justly considered as one of the wonders of the Peak, draws them out from a curiosity natural to man who wonders into what cavern the storm has retired.

Yet this is summer; and if the winter hold its natural proportion, the inhabitants of the hall—which is not thirty yards distant from the well—must pass months without any communication with it. Yet here, the same folly which created the disease for the cure of which so much is suffered, obstructs the operation of the remedy from which so much is hoped.

Animated by the appetite, which even the diluent powers of common water, assisted by the vibrations of diurnal exercise and the collisive hilarity of reciprocal salutation, would give to a body obstructed by gluttony and rest — they devour with deleterious hunger a farinaceous sponge, the interstices of which are inundated with butter, which might smile at the peristaltic exertions of an elephant, and of which the digestion would be no less an evil than the obstruction.

If obstructed, it convulses the stomach with rancid exhalations; and if by its gravity it finds its way to the bowels, it tumefies them with flatulent paroxysms by its detention: in both it becomes acrimonious and mephitic, and while its fumes arise and salute the brain with palsy, its caput mortuum descends and lays the foundation of fistula.

Very providentially, however, the evils of breakfast are not aggravated by dinner. Dinner is rather a ceremony here than a repast, and those who are delicate and sick, acquire popularity by disseminating among the multitude that food which nothing but rude health, both of body and mind, can digest. When it is finished, however, the chaplain calls upon the company to be thankful for what they have received; and the company, remembering they have breakfasted, join in the thanksgiving.

The evils of the day are likewise happily alleviated by the early hour of retiring to bed; and if sleep forsakes the pillow, even fancy itself cannot charge it on the supper. There are, notwithstanding, here upwards of two hundred people, who, by talking continually of how much nature has left undone, and how little art has done for the place, increase the spleen they come to cure.


Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

You can tell that this is the work of a self-conscious wit, I think, but it is still rather fun in its orotund syllables. Buxton is still a big tourist centre.

1:09 AM  

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