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AN ANECDOTE OF A WIT.

237

REDNESS OF THE SKIN.

Poor Bardolph suffered many a fling from fat Falstaff for his red face and fiery nose, which Sir John averred had saved him a thousand marks in links and torches, walking in the night twixt tavern and tavern. Not many, who are afflicted with this permanent and mortifying redness of the skin, can bear it as philosophically as Bardolph did, though they have it from a far more innocent cause.

Some persons suffer with it particularly in the nose, a situation that gives rise to unpleasant suspicions.

6 Where could I have gotten this nose?” exclaimed Madame d'Albret once, in the presence of Matta, a wit of the Court of Louis XIV., a tendency to flushing being visible in that feature.

66 At the sideboard, madam,” was the prompt suggestion of the wit.

Not only the face, but the hands too, are liable to become suffused with a lasting flush, and not from any inclination to sack and sugar either, though an uncharitable world is ever ready to lend an ear to such a whisper.

Sometimes, as we have remarked, it comes from long exposure to heat, as in cooks, and those much in the sun.

More frequently it is a debility of the minute vessels in the skin. Their coats become relaxed, and allow the blood to accumulate in their meshes. The treatment is therefore twofold. The debility must be

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removed by gentle friction, cold bathing, tonics of iron and bark, ergotin, and similar drugs, while the vessels are stimulated by astringent washes, such as the following:

Take

Tannic acid fifteen grains ;
Camphor water

five ounces. Dissolve, and use several times a day, letting it dry on the surface.

Simple spirits of camphor is another suitable lotion when the redness is not decided. But when it is gone to the extent that on closely examining the skin fine red veins are perceptible, traversing it in various directions, then the case demands more active remedies, which can only be properly administered by a physician.

ARSENIC-EATING, AND SECRET WASHES.

Within a few months we have noted three deaths attributed by the newspapers to eating arsenic in order to improve the complexion. The fact that such a custom has been widely prevalent for years is no secret to most physicians. There is a preparation largely sold by the shops under the attractive name poudre rajeunissante, the active principle of which is simply arsenic, or “ratsbane,” as the old folks call it. The custom has been immemorial in the Austrian Alps. The peasants commence taking a small portion of hidri, as they term it, an arsenical compound, four or five times

THE ARSENIC EATERS.

239

a week, when they are about eighteen or twenty years of age, and continue the habit, gradually increasing the quantity but not the frequency of the dose, as long as they live. Elderly people take as much as four grains at a time.

It does not seem to shorten their lives, or undermine their strength. On the contrary, they are, as we can say from personal observation, a handsome, sturdy, long-winded, and long-lived set. But the habit once commenced, it is said that it cannot with safety be discontinued, as either symptoms of poisoning or else some fatal disease soon carries the victim off.

The value of this potent drug in treating diseases and discolorations of the skin cannot be over-estimated. But the propriety of using it constantly for its cosmetic effects is, in spite of the example just quoted, open to very grave objections.

In the first place, there are constitutions on which it has, even in the minutest doses, a violently irritating effect. Again, if once commenced it may become unsafe to discontinue it, and who would wish to be tied down to this unnatural diet all their lives?

There are other reasons not less weighty. Within the last score of years, since wall-papers colored with arsenical dyes (especially green paper) have come into vogue, physicians have been obliged to treat a number of persons poisoned by the minute amounts of arsenic floating in the atmosphere of rooms thus papered. Such being

the case, it is altogether likely that a woman who is an arsenic-eater exhales from her person a sufficient amount of the poison to render her most undesirable for a wife, unless she occupies a separate apartment. Otherwise, she may share the fate of the damsel Sara, mentioned in the Apocrypha, the heroine of the book of Tobit, who had had seven husbands, all of whom were destroyed on the marriage night by an evil spirit. For the emanations from her body will certainly carry with them minute particles of the poisonous metal. The only reason that this is not the fate of the Styrian and Tyrolese damsels is, that with them lover and lady are both accustomed to use the drug. Like Mithridates, they have by long habit rendered themselves poison-proof.

It is somewhat singular that the drugs which at present are most in renown as cosmetics for the skin, are precisely the most deadly poisons known in the whole catalogue of chemical products. They are arsenic, prussic acid, corrosive sublimate, and caustic potash. As there are always dealers unscrupulous enough to sacrifice their own consciences (if they keep the article) and their customers' lives by selling, under sounding names, these perilous stuffs, we urgently warn all persons to be exceedingly cautious in making such purchases.

AN OBSOLETE THEORY.

241

ERUPTIONS OF THE SKIN.

Most skin diseases are characterized, and indeed classified in books, by an eruption or breaking-out on the surface. These affections are so numerous, and often so difficult to distinguish apart, that it is out of the question for us to do more than glance at some which are common, and readily recognized. It would seem as if nature had designed to dash the pride of beauty by imposing on the skin of woman a greater liability to such defects. Or if you wish a less recondite cause, it is because, as a rule, she has a thinner, finer, and more sensitive skin.

She is unusually subject to such disorders at what are called in scientific language her “climacteric periods,” that is, at puberty, during pregnancy, and at the change of life. Diseases peculiar to her sex lead to them with almost inevitable certainty, and the physician must first acquaint himself with her most intimate history, ere he can intelligently prepare to combat these blots on the scutcheon of beauty. Often, too, he will with the Roman general Fabius,

“Qui cunctando restituit rem," counsel delay as the best part of valor and the wisest act of practice. Not that he will be much afraid of " driving in” one of these eruptions. This terror belongs to an obsolete epoch of medical science. Except at the periods we have just referred to, we can

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