« PreviousContinue »
tain-passes, from the appearance of the sky, and other weather-signs known to them, can generally foresee the occurrence of tourmentes, and can tell when the fall of avalanches is to be apprehended.
S 19. GOITRE AND CRETINISM.
"Quis tumidum guttur miratur in Alpibus? " —Juv.
It is a remarkable fact that, amidst some of the most magnificent scenery of the globe, where Nature seems to have put forth all her powers in exciting emotions of wonder and elevation in the mind, man appears, from a mysterious visitation of disease, in his most degraded and pitiable condition. Such, however, is the fact. It is in the grandest and most beautiful valleys of the Alps that the maladies of goitre and cretinism prevail.
Goitre is a swelling in the front of the neck (of the thyroid gland, or the parts adjoining), which increases with the growth of the individual, until. in some cases, in attains an enormous size, and becomes "a hideous wallet of flesh," to use the words of Shakspeare, hanging pendulous down to the breast. It is not, however, attended with pain, and generally seems to be more unsightly to the spectator than inconvenient or hateful to the bearer.
Cretinism, which occurs in the same localities as goitre, and evidently arises from the same cause, whatever it may be, is a more serious malady, inasmuch as it affects the mind. The cretin is an idiot-a melancholy spectacle-a creature who may almost be said to rank a step below a human being. There is vacancy in his countenance, his head is disproportionately large; his limbs are stunted or crippled; he cannot articulate his words with distinctness; and there is scarcely any work
which he is capable of executing. He spends his days basking in the sun, and, from its warmth, appears to derive great gratification. When a stranger appears, he becomes a clamorous and importunate beggar, assailing him with a ceaseless chattering; and the traveller is commonly glad to be rid of his hideous presence at the expense of a batz.
Various theories have been resorted to, to account for this complaint: some have attributed it to the use of water derived from melting snow; others, to the habit of carrying heavy weights on the head; others, again, to filthy habits; while a fourth theory derives it from the nature of the soil, or the use of spring water impregnated with calcareous matter; and a recent author has published the following statement regarding it:
"The proportion of the inhabitants of each rock, who are affected with goitre and cretinism will stand to the healthy in the following order: "Granite and gneiss-goitre, cretins, none. "Mica-slate and hornblende slate-goitre, none;
"Clay-slate - goitre,; cretins, none. "Transition-slate-goitre,,; cretins, none. Steatitic sandstone-goitre, none; cretins,
Calcareous rocks-goitre,,; cretins, .
Are we to suppose that these interesting results are the effects of chance, or of an accidental association of circumstances confined to a particular spot? When we recollect that a space of upwards of a thousand square miles has been made subject to the inquiry, and that, in every portion of this space, the same invariable circumstances attended the presence of the disease, and that its absence was invariably distinguished by the absence
of those circumstances, it is more philosophic to view them in the light of cause and effect.'
As the goitre occurs in Derbyshire, Notts, Hants, etc., where no permanent snow exists and no rivers spring from glaciers also in Sumatra and in parts of South America, where snow is unknown, it is evident that the first cause assigned is not the true one; as for the second and third, they would equally tend to produce goitre in the London porters, and in the inhabitants of the purlieus of St. Giles's. If the limestone theory be true, all other rocks should be exempt from it, which is not the case, as far as our experience goes. Goitre is found only in certain valleys; nor, when it does occur, does it exist throughout the valley. It appears in one spot; higher up it is unknown, and in another situation, a mile or two distant, perhaps, it is again prevalent.
A careful attention to the circumstances accompanying its appearance will show that it is connected with the condition of the atmosphere, and is found in low. warm, and moist situations, at the bottom of valleys, where a stagnation of water occurs, and where the summer exhalations and autumnal fogs arising from it are not carried off by a free circulation of air. It is found in places where the valley is confined, and shut in, as it were-where a free draft is checked by its sides being clothed with wood, or by a sudden bend occurring in its direction-where, at the same time, the bottom is subject to the overflowings of a river, or to extensive artificial irrigation. The conjecture which derives the disease from breathing an atmosphere of this kind, not liable to be purified by fresh currents of air to carry off the vapours, 15, perhaps, the one most deserving of consideration
The disease is much more common in females than in males, and usually occurs about the age of puberty. It becomes hereditary in a family, but children born and educated on spots distant from home and in elevated situations are often exempt from it Iodine has been applied with success as a remedy in some cases; but as it is a dangerous remedy, the administration of it must be resorted to with the greatest caution.
PLAN OF THE HAND-BOOK.
The points of the Compass are often marked simply by the letters N. S. E. W.
(rt.) right, (1) left, applied to the banks of a river. The right bank is that which lies on the right hand of a person whose back is turned towards the source, or the quarter from which the current descends.
Miles. Distances are always reduced to English miles, except when foreign miles are expressly mentioned.
The names of Inns precede the description of every place, (often in a parenthesis,) because the first information needed by a traveller is where to lodge.
Instead of designating a town by the vague words "large" or "small, the amount of the population, according to the latest census, is almost invariably stated, as presenting a more exact scale of the importance and size of the place.
In order to avoid repetition, the Routes are preceded by a chapter of preliminary information; and, to facilitate reference to it, each division or paragraph is separately numbered.
The Map is to be placed at the end of the Book.