Solids Feeble

By way of this New Yorker “Book Bench” post, I found the following excerpt from George Cheyne’s [ancestor of Dick?] The English Malady (1733):

I was born of healthy Parents, in the Prime of their days by disposed to corpulence… I passed my youth in close study … but upon the slightest excesses I always found slippery bowels, or a spitting to be the crise, whence afterwards upon reflection I concluded that my glands were naturally lax and my solids feeble.

Upon my coming to London, I all of a sudden changed my whole manner of living… being naturally of a large size, a cheerful temper, and tolerable lively imagination .. I soon became caressed by them and grew daily in bulk and friendship with these gay gentlemen… and thus constantly dining and supping … my health was in a few years brought into great distress, by so sudden and violent a change. I grew excessively fat, short-breathed, lethargic and listless.

My appetite being insatiable I sucked up and retained the juices and chyle of my food like a sponge and thereby suddenly grew plump, fat, and hale to a wonder, but indeed too fast. However, for near twenty Years, I continued sober, moderate, and plain in my diet and in my greatest health drank not about a quart or 3 pints at most of wine any day … never tasting any supper and at breakfast nothing but green tea, without any eatable, but by these means every dinner necessarily became a surfeit and a debauch, and in ten or twelve years I swelled so such an enormous size that upon my last weighing I exceeded 32 stone. My breath became so short that upon stepping into my chariot quickly and with some effort I was ready to faint away for want of breath and my face turned black…. I was not able to walk above one pair of stairs at a time, without extreme pain and blowing, being forced to ride from door to door in a chariot even here at bath and if I had but an hundred paces to walk was obliged to have a servant follow me holding a stool. About this time, my legs broke out all over in scorbutic ulcers, the ichor of which corroded the very skin where it lay any time and the fore parts of both legs were one continued sore.

Since our wealth has increased and our navigation has been exteneded we have ransasked all the parts of the globe to bring together its whole stock of materials for riot, luxury, and to provoke excess. The tables of the rich and great (and indeed those who can afford it) are furnish’d with provisions of delicacy, number, and plenty, sufficient to provoke, and even gorge, the most large and voluptuous appetite. … Invention is racked to furnish the materials of our food the most delicate and savoury possible: instead of the plain simplicity of leaving the animals to range and feed in their proper element, with their natural nourishment, they are physicked almost out of their lives and made as great epicures as those feeding on them, and by stalling, cramming, bleeding, laming, sweating, purging, and thrusting sown such unnatural and high seasoned foods into them, these nervous diseases are produced in the animals themselves even before they are admitted as food to those who complain of such disorders.


If you don’t have the conversion handy, 32 stone = 448(!) pounds.

I do appreciate his description of imperial epicurean excess & unwholesome pre-Industrial “factory” farming in the last paragraph… though I very much doubt that he would tolerate my insistence that animal husbandry was the sin that cast us out of Eden. One of these days I’ll post selections from the Enuma Elish or the Epic Of Gilgamesh to help make my case…


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