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Pages from an Old Volume of Life; a collection of essays, 1857-1881 by Oliver Wendell Holmes
page 2 of 156 (01%)
dresses and bonnets and every-day luxuries which we can dispense with.
If the young Zouave of the family looks smart in his new uniform, its
respectable head is content, though he himself grow seedy as a
caraway-umbel late in the season. He will cheerfully calm the perturbed
nap of his old beaver by patient brushing in place of buying a new one,
if only the Lieutenant's jaunty cap is what it should be. We all take a
pride in sharing the epidemic economy of the time. Only bread and the
newspaper we must have, whatever else we do without.

How this war is simplifying our mode of being! We live on our emotions,
as the sick man is said in the common speech to be nourished by his
fever. Our ordinary mental food has become distasteful, and what would
have been intellectual luxuries at other times, are now absolutely

All this change in our manner of existence implies that we have
experienced some very profound impression, which will sooner or later
betray itself in permanent effects on the minds and bodies of many among
us. We cannot forget Corvisart's observation of the frequency with which
diseases of the heart were noticed as the consequence of the terrible
emotions produced by the scenes of the great French Revolution. Laennec
tells the story of a convent, of which he was the medical director, where
all the nuns were subjected to the severest penances and schooled in the
most painful doctrines. They all became consumptive soon after their
entrance, so that, in the course of his ten years' attendance, all the
inmates died out two or three times, and were replaced by new ones. He
does not hesitate to attribute the disease from which they suffered to
those depressing moral influences to which they were subjected.

So far we have noticed little more than disturbances of the nervous
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