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glimpse of the Isle of Wight, turns smart for
London and his old perch on St. Paul's, to
rest a moment before he strikes due north.


THE public journals have lately told a strange
story of the fasting girl of Wales; but it seems
to be little known how frequent the instances
of a similar kind have been, in past years.

Of course the fasting which is connected
with religious ordinances is a different matter
altogether. Voluntary abstinence being a kind
of self-mortification, its inclusion amongst
moral or religious duties is easily accounted
for. The climate of the country and the habits
of the people modify the custom in different
regions; but if this were the proper place for
such a topic, it might be conclusively shown
that voluntary fasting, as a religious duty, has at
one time or other held sway throughout almost
every part of the world. Total abstinence for a
certain length of time; a limitation to certain
kinds of food; a limitation to one meal a day,
with any choice of food; one meal a day,
and of one kind of food only; these are among
the various forms which the custom has presented.

Exceptional instances, however, unconnected
with religion, and mostly arising (there is good
reason to believe) out of a fraudulent
intention to deceive, require to be well looked
into by physicians. In rare examples it is a
fasting man who appeals to our love of the
marvellous. In 1531, one John Scott acquired
much notoriety in this way. Being in a
self-reproving spirit for some crime which he
had committed, he took sanctuary in
Holyrood Abbey, and abstained from food for
thirty or forty days. This fact coming to the
knowledge of the king (James the Fifth),
Scott was shut up in a room in Edinburgh
Castle with a little bread and water, which
were found untouched at the end of thirty-two
days. Afterwards the man visited many parts
of Europe, proclaiming his power of abstaining
from food for very long periods of time
together; but there is no clear evidence whether
his alleged achievements were ever investigated
by persons competent to ferret out the truth.
In 1760, a gentleman in London was reported
to have lived ever since 1735 without meat,
and with only water to drink; but this may
not be inconsistent with what is now known
by the name of vegetarianism. About the
same time a French boy at Chateauroux was
foodless (so far as was known) for a whole
year; but his appetite returned when a
particular malady left him, not however until he
had become terribly emaciated. The journals
of 1771 told of a Stamford man who, for the
sake of a wager of ten pounds, kept himself
for fifty-one days without any kind of solid
food or milk; but here it would have been well
to state what limitation of meaning was given to
the word "solid." Dr. Willan records a case
(dated 1786), of a young man who, under the
combined influence of bodily malady and
morbid mental depression, resolved to retire from
his friends and also to abstain from food.
During fifty-one days he took no exercise,
slept very little, wrote a great deal, ate no
food, but moistened his mouth from time to
time with a little water flavoured with orange
juice, the quantity of drink thus taken being
about half a pint a day. Ten days more
passed in the same way, by the end of which
time his bodily emaciation had become terrible
to witness. His friends then found out the
place of his retreat, and brought a physician
to visit him; but ill-judged treatment failed
to restore himthe hapless young man sank
into the grave on the eleventh day, or the
seventy-second day after the commencement
of his voluntary fasting. Dr. Currie, of Liverpool,
placed upon record a case, in which an
elderly gentleman was literally starved to death
through inability to swallow, on account of
the formation of an irremovable tumour at the
very bottom of the passage to the stomach.
For twelve months he had a difficulty in
swallowing food; then solid food refused
completely to pass; then for thirteen days he
could only take a few spoonfuls of liquid in the
course of a day; and then, when all passage
to the stomach was effectually and finally
closed, he was kept alive for thirty-six days
longer by baths of warm milk-and-water,
combined with special medical treatment in other
ways. The unfortunate gentleman, who had
been both tall and stout, lessened in weight
from two hundred and forty pounds to one
hundred and thirty-eight pounds during this
process of slow starvation; at the time of his
death his mental powers were much less
affected than his friends and his physician
expected they would be.

As we have said, fasting women and girls
have made more noise in the world than fasting
men, and there has been more suspicion of
trickery in the cases recorded. Considering
the stories which the chroniclers of old days
were wont to record, we need not wonder
much at some of the narratives of fasting told
by them. But, before noticing them, a word
or two may be said concerning certain colliery
accidents which have entailed great privation
of food. Several years ago, at the Edmonston
colliery, in Scotland, some of the brickwork of
the shaft fell in, and closed up the mouth of
the working level; thirteen persons were
boxed up in darkness below for more than
two days without food, and were then liberated
by the exertions of the persons above ground.
In 1813, at Wolverhampton, the sides of a
coal mine fell in through a similar cause, and
enclosed eight men and a boy in one of the
workings, without light, without food, and
with no other water than the drippings from
the roof, which they caught in an iron pot. It
was six days and a half before these pitmen
were rescuedexhausted, but easily restored
by careful treatment. Then there was the
remarkable case at Brierly Hill, last March,
when a coal-pit was flooded by a sudden inrush