« PreviousContinue »
term at the head of our article. Banting and Bantingism are now on everybody's lips, and form the theme of many facetious allusions in public and private. We have heard some fruitless attempts to form a verb out of the name of the new prophet, whereby to describe the act of conforming to his rules. This is the view of the matter that presents itself to most people: the fact being, that only a small minority of the people are so overgrown as to require special treatment for the purpose of curtailing their too fair proportions. But, undoubtedly, there are a number of persons of such a development that a considerable loss thereof would be to them an immense gain. To those with whom Mr. Banting was erewhile a fellow sufferer, he addresses himself with an earnestness that must be partly due to his diminished size. It appears from his confessions that our portly friends, whose magnitude has been popularly ascribed to their happy dispositions, and whom we have been accustomed to point to as illustrations of contentment, are really the victims of untold sorrows. That the fat and rosy countenance which beams upon us, when we protest by a look of alarm against being overshadowed by the huge bulk of the proprietor, when travelling by 'bus or seated at a concert, is but the visor which hides unlimited vexation and woe. Such a revelation of gnawing grief and sorrow, as made in the pamphlet, comes upon us as a great surprise. "There is a skeleton in every house," says the proverb; but, in the present case, the horror is fleshly or fatty, and not bony. But that his readers are expected to be the corpulent, who are in the secret, rather than the uninitiated—and therefore any imposture would be at once found out and denounced-we should strongly suspect the truthfulness of the picture presented. However, as the book is addressed to the initiated, we are bound to suppose the mysteries revealed are verities. Henceforth the ponderous frame will be to us the symbol of a secret and unuttered sorrow, and of our pleasant delusion not a wrack will remain behind. Too rudely, alas! has the faith so long cherished been shaken. There are some things about which it is not pleasant to be undeceived. We never feel grateful for the knowledge that the world is worse than we believed it, nor for the information that a dear friend had a long time ago used a harsh expression about us; neither can we feel under any obligation when a pleasant illusion is dispelled, and we are brought face to face with a cruel reality. So unless Mr. Banting has something valuable to offer in return for his undeceiving candour, we shall be disposed to wish he had kept silent. Let us see, then, what he has to say.
In a preface to the third edition he tells us, the second edition consisting of 1,500 copies, is exhausted, thereby showing the interest the public have felt in the work; next he explains that he seeks no profit from the sale, and will devote any profits to a charitable object. So far good. It is clear that the writer's motives are unexceptionable. True, a gossipping London correspondent of a newspaper suggests that the author is an undertaker, and that he looks for his profits indirectly. This operation, which we have heard described as fishing with a long line, is too barbarous to be credible, and few persons, we should suppose, would treat that idea seriously. We append the paragraph, that our readers may judge for themselves :
"I doubt if the followers of Mr. Banting are acquainted with the calling of their master. When we are ill we would rather be without the friendly inquiries of an undertaker, however intimately we may be acquainted with him, and it is possible that some persons would have looked with suspicion upon Mr. Banting's system if they had known that its originator was one of the largest employers of black horses and plumes and palls to be found in the world. That Mr. Banting should have waxed fat in his business is, considering the extent of it, not more wonderful than
that the ungrateful mute in Steele's comedy should have looked the jollier in proportion as his master paid him higher wages to look lugubrious. Nevertheless this very fact would have made the reader suspicious. When an undertaker gives away a book on the means of curing disease the world is very apt to say Timeo Danaos, and yet in this case the suspicion would be wholly groundless. Mr. Banting is the most benevolent of men, and the curtailment in the size of coffins that would follow the adoption of his regimen would not for one moment deter him from recommending it. At the same time I am bound to say that Banting-ism carried to the excess which it now is, is likely to produce diseases more painful, if less inconvenient, than a corporation à la Falstaff."
From another paper we cull the following:-"We (Law Times) are happy to state that Mr. Justice Williams is at last pronounced out of danger. For weeks he has been hovering between life and death, and the decision in his favour will be hailed with delight by the public as well as by his private friends. It is to be hoped that those of our readers who are tempted to try the effect of the Banting system to reduce that obesity which nature has given them, will think a little of Mr. Justice Williams before adopting it, for it is said that the serious illness of the learned judge was thought to have been occasioned by the use of that famous system."
Notwithstanding the above, we express our unreserved belief in the bona fides of Mr. Banting; his perfect sincerity we think is unquestionable; whether the system is likely to prove beneficial to the undertaker and coffin maker or not is another matter, and one which we suppose Mr. Banting himself will admit is fairly open to debate, unless he consider his own case an illustration of every other. The secret of "the system" is said to consist not in a special dietary but in abstinence from a few things of a saccharine and oily nature, which by a humourous figure of speech are designated "human beans," meaning thereby things injurious, and therefore to be dreaded. The forbidden articles are bread, milk, butter, beer, sugar, potatoes, salmon, eels, herrings, veal, pork, parsnips, and port wine. Anything may be eaten with these exceptions that is ordinarily used for food. As an illustration of what can be had on such a system for meals, Mr. B. gives the following particulars of his own practice :
"For breakfast, I take four or five ounces of beef, mutton, kidneys, broiled fish, bacon, or cold meat of any kind except pork; a large cup of tea (without milk or sugar), a little biscuit, or one ounce of dry toast. For dinner: Five or six ounces of any fish except salmon, any meat except pork, any vegetable except potato, one ounce of dry toast, fruit out of a pudding, any kind of poultry or game, and two or three glasses of good claret, sherry, or madeira-champagne, port and beer forbidden. For tea, two or three ounces of fruit, a rusk or two, and a cup of tea without milk or sugar. For supper, three or four ounces of meat or fish, similar to dinner, with a glass or two of claret. For nightcap, if required, a tumbler of grog—(gin, whiskey, or brandy, without sugar)—or a glass or two of claret or sherry.”
An obvious inconsistency is here observable. Pork, we are elsewhere told, is excluded on account of its fattening qualities, but bacon is retained, although it has scarcely any other quality. It may be answered that some fat is essential to any dietary, and in this answer is to be found the weakness of "the system." The cases of Mr. Banting and of Justice Williams are quite consistent. When Mr. Banting lost 46 lbs. in twelve months, being reduced from 202lbs. to 156 lbs., he shows what an enormous tax was levied upon the savings of past years during that short period. When the system is continued after the reserve is exhausted it is
evident that there will be a drain on the vitality. The dietary which redresses the unequal balance is obviously unsuited to an equal condition, so to speak. Hence the grave danger of Bantingism. Our author says, with great naiveté, that since he has returned to a moderate size he has occasionally used, but moderately and seldom, all the forbidden articles without injury. It seems likely that such indulgences are requisite to the preservation of his health. The causes of corpulence are not one but several. In the case before us the diet alone seems to have been the cause, for Mr. B. did not neglect exercise, nor sleep an excessive length of time, nor does there appear to have been any abnormal action of the digestive and assimilating organs. But it would be preposterous to treat all cases alike, when perhaps exercise alone may be needed, or a purer atmosphere, or less sleep. Another fallacy is broadly asserted in the pamphlet, viz., that the quantity of food is nothing, and equality everything, in dealing with corpulence. The quantity of solids given in the above table is about 20 oz. per day. What quantity he consumed previously, when living chiefly on bread and milk, we are not informed; but that is an important item in dealing with his conclusions. That when the dietary excludes heatgiving foods there is no accretion of fat may be-must be-quite true; but that a less quantity of his old food would have kept up the same quantity of fat we think likely to be quite a mistake;—indeed he tells us that, when taking boat exercise, his sharpened appetite only increased the evil.
Spirits and thin wines are recommended as drinks because they are not found to cause the formation of fat; thus it seems their part is negative—water is not named, because, we suppose, it never was tried. Imitations seldom show what is best in the model, and, it may be, Mr. Banting will find more of his followers scrupulous in taking at least the prescribed quantity of these beverages than in avoiding the supposed deleterious solids. It will be seen in the sequel that water may advantageously be used as the only drink in cases of corpulence. It is a much simpler matter to raise objections to this or any other system of treating corpulence that has proved successful in one or in many cases, than to explain the facts that have served for the basis of any one of them; but we may be permitted to say of this, as of all others that have been devised hitherto, that, however excellent as special remedies, they are defective as systems-being based upon the logical error of an inference from the particular to the universal, from success in one case to anticipated success in every case. If corpulence always proceeded from the same cause, and the subjects to be treated were alike in all other essential respects, we might have a system of treatment; but, at present, we are unable to explain all the phenomens of nutrition, and therefore cannot suggest a universal remedy for this complaint.
Louis Cornaro, the celebrated and long-lived advocate of temperance, disagreed with Mr. Banting entirely on the subject of quantity, for he found, after eradicating several diseases, of which corpulence was one, by eating sparingly and drinking only a small quantity of thin wine, that a change from his usual quantity of 14oz. to 160z. of solid food, produced a dangerous illness, from which he recovered with difficulty. We find another untrustworthy generalisation in regard to average weights, which is given without caution. If the several standards be worth anything, they ought to be capable of being applied by his readers; but who can apply a mere standard of height? What difference must be made for an extra inch of neck or two inches across the shoulders? How much added for short limbs or deducted for long ones? Again, what can be the meaning of the following?-"It has also been remarked that such a dietary as mine was too good and expensive for a poor man, and that I
had wholly lost sight of that class; but a very poor corpulent man is not so frequently met with, inasmuch as the poor cannot afford the simple inexpensive means for creating fat; but when the tendency does exist in that class, I have no doubt it can be remedied by abstinence from the forbidden articles, and a moderate indulgence in such cheap stimulants as may be recommended by a medical adviser, whom they have ample chances of consulting gratuitously." Could there be a finer instance of obfuscation? What are the inexpensive fattening articles the poor cannot afford? Bread? Potatoes? Milk? But we leave this point as inexplicable. When we remember the Irish peasantry principally potato-fed, and the English labourers principally fed on bread and potatoes, we find Bantingism of very doubtful value as a theory. Shakespeare's idea, too, seems much opposed to it; for Sir John Falstaff, the type of un-Bantingised mortals, is represented as feeding upon as little bread as is allowed under the system, and rather more sack, yet he grew amazingly. One thing remains to be said in favour of "the system:"-It is accompanied by reiterated recommendations to consult a medical practitioner whilst making the experiment; though this seems as inconsequential as anything it contains. He tells us of the useless endeavours he made himself to get relief at the hands of medical men, and all in vain. "I have been in dock perhaps twenty times in as many years for the reduction of this disease, and with little good effect-none lasting." After consulting many advisers-" none of them inferior"-he found one who knew how to treat him, and on the strength of that experience he is very careful to insist upon his disciples taking advice with the treatment! Should not his experience have led him to be doubtful of the trustworthiness of medical men on that disease? Seeing that they adhered to prescriptive prescription, and shunned all the aid that modern science could afford them, can he conscientiously recommend us to consult them in relation to this complaint?
Having thus shown the substance of the pamphlet, we may add a few remarks upon a question that has been raised as to authority. Dr. John Harvey claims to have been previously in the field, and published a pamphlet substantially in agreement with Mr. Banting's, the latter replies that he was instructed by Dr. E. Harvey, and claims for the latter gentleman the honour of the discovery. A writer in "Household Words" refers to a paper inserted in that journal in 1857, being the substance of a work by Dr. Dancel, a Paris physician, but in the later article are quotations from the Saxon leeches, who professed to cure corpulence, and therefore practised what we call Bantingism. Be it remembered, that corpulence in their day could not arise from what Mr. Banting would call that "horrid bean" the potatoe, for the simple reason, that they did not know that potatoes existed, and their dietary would very closely approximate to the new régime. Before their day, Hippocrates treated it as a disease, for says he, "corpulent persons are shorterlived and more frequently die suddenly than lean people." Celsus, to whom we are indebted for our knowledge of Hippocrates, recommends to take but one meal a day. At dinner, food may be plain and lean, all poignant and stimulating sauces being dispensed with, and one dish only used; a larger proportion of vegetable than of animal food should be taken, as containing less nutriment; and upon the same principle, weak animal broths may be much used, as tending by their bulk and the distension of the stomach which they occasion, to allay the uneasy sensations of appetite, without conveying much nutritious matter to the constitution. It will be always useful to attend to the old adage of the temperate, and "rise with an appetite," or at least cease from eating before the sensations of satiety begin to
arise, and so that no heaviness or indisposition to active pursuits may ensue. In a word, whoever would rid himself of the encumbrance of a corpulent habit, must reduce the nutriment which he takes as far as prudence will suggest and his patience will enable him to submit to. Such a case as that of Edward Bright, of Malden, Essex, who grew to be 616 lbs., and died at the age of 30, would strongly support the theory of Celsus, for he ate and drank freely. But what shall we say to that of Daniel Lambert, who reached 704 lbs., and during the time he was making most fat had but one meal a day and drank only water. We conclude the present article with an account of Mr. Thomas Wood, whose case, if it were converted into a system, would prove that corpulent people ought to live only on biscuit puddings; but we hope we have said enough to show that however valuable Mr. Banting's experiment may be as an addition to our knowledge of a single fact, it can by no means be made to bear the responsibility of a new system.
Thomas Wood was a miller, at Billericay, in the county of Essex, and was born on the 30th of November, 1719, of parents who were apt to be intemperate in their manner of living, and was subject to various disorders, particularly the rheumatism, until he attained the age of 13 years. He then had the small-pox in a favourable way; and from that time he became healthy, and continued to have no complaints, to the age of about 43 years. From his attaining the state of manhood to this period, but especially during the latter part of the time, he indulged himself, even to excess, in fat meats, of which he used to eat voraciously three times a day, together with large quantities of butter and cheese. Nor was he more cautious with respect to strong ale, which was his common drink. About his 40th he began to grow very fat, but finding that he had a good appetite and digested his food without difficulty, and that his sleep was undisturbed, he made no alteration in his diet. It was in his 44th year when he began to be disturbed in his sleep, and to complain of the heartburn, of frequent sickness at his stomach, pain in his bowels, head-ache and vertigo. He was now sometimes costive, at other times in the opposite extreme; had an almost constant thirst, a' great lowness of spirits, violent rheumatism, and frequent attacks of gout. He had likewise two epileptic fits. But the symptom which appeared to him to be the most formidable, was a sense of suffocation, which often came on him, particularly after his meals. Under such a complication of diseases, every day increasing, he continued till August, 1764, when the Rev. Mr. Powley, a worthy clergyman, in the neighbourhood, observing his very ill state of health, and the extreme corpulence of his person, recommended to him an exact regimen; and pointed out the "Life of Cornaro" as a book likely to suggest to him a salutary mode of living. This book convinced him that intemperance was the cause of all his complaints, and he determined to try the effects of a change of life. At first he confined himself to one pint only of his ale every day, and used animal food sparingly. Finding this method to answer to his satisfaction (for he felt easier and lighter, and his spirits became less oppressed), he was encouraged to proceed; and after having pursued this regimen during two months, he deducted half the quantity from his allowance of ale, and was still more sparing of gross animal food. In January, 1765, he left off all malt liquor, and in the following month began to drink only water and to eat only the lighter meats. Under this degree of abstinence, although some of his complaints were relieved, yet others remained in full force; the rheumatism tormented him, and now and then he had slight fits of gout. In June, 1765, he began the exercise of the dumb bells, which he constantly persevered in. He continued to drink water only until the 25th of October, in the same