Have you any conception of what the phrase means? Can youform any image of what would be your feeling if every organ in your body were functioningperfectly? Perhaps you can go back to some day in your youth, when you got up earlyin the morning and went for a walk, and the spirit of the sunrise got into your blood,and you walked faster, and took deep breaths, and laughed aloud for the sheer happinessof being alive in such a world of beauty. And now you are grown older–and what wouldyou give for the secret of that glorious feeling? What would you say if you weretold that you could bring it back and keep it, not only for mornings, but for afternoonsand evenings, and not as something accidental and mysterious, but as something whichyou yourself have created, and of which you are completely master?
This is not an introduction to a new device in patent medicineadvertising. I have nothing to sell, and no process patented. It is simply that forten years I have been studying the ill health of myself and of the men and womenaround me. And I have found the cause and the remedy. I have not only found goodhealth, but perfect health; I have found a new state of being, a potentiality oflife; a sense of lightness and cleanness and joyfulness, such as I did not know couldexist in the human body. "I like to meet you on the street," said a friendthe other day. "You walk as if it were such fun!"
I look about me in the world, and nearly everybody I knowis sick. I could name one after another a hundred men and women, who are doing vitalwork for progress and carrying a cruel handicap of physical suffering. For instance,I am working for social justice, and I have comrades whose help is needed every hour,and they are ill! In one single week's newspapers last spring I read that one wasdying of kidney trouble, that another was in hospital from nervous breakdown, andthat a third was ill with ptomaine poisoning. And in my correspondence I am toldthat another of my dearest friends has only a year to live; that another heroic manis a nervous wreck, craving for death; and that a third is tortured by bilious headaches.And there is not one of these people whom I could not cure if I had him alone fora couple of weeks; no one of them who would not in the end be walking down the street"as if it were such fun!"
I propose herein to tell the story of my discovery of health,and I shall not waste much time in apologizing for the intimate nature of the narrative.It is no pleasure for me to tell over the tale of my headaches or to discuss my unrulystomach. I cannot take any case but my own, because there is no case about whichI can speak with such authority. To be sure, I might write about it in the abstract,and in veiled terms. But in that case the story would lose most of its convincingness,and some of its usefulness. I might tell it without signing my name to it. But thereare a great many people who have read my books and will believe what I tell them,who would not take the trouble to read an article without a name. Mr. Horace Fletcherhas set us all an example in this matter. He has written several volumes about hisindividual digestion, with the result that literally millions of people have beenhelped. In the same way I propose to put my case on record. The reader will findthat it is a typical case, for I made about every mistake that a man could make,and tried every remedy, old and new, that anybody had to offer me.
I spent my boyhood in a well-to-do family, in which goodeating was regarded as a social grace and the principal interest in life. We hada colored woman to prepare our food, and another to serve it. It was not consideredfitting for children to drink liquor, but they had hot bread three times a day, andthey were permitted to revel in fried chicken and rich gravies and pastries, fruitcake and candy and ice-cream. Every Sunday I would see my grandfather's table witha roast of beef at one end, and a couple of chickens at the other, and a cold hamat one side; at Christmas and Thanksgiving the energies of the whole establishmentwould be given up to the preparation of delicious foods. And later on, when I cameto New York, I considered it necessary to have such food; even when I was a poorstudent, living on four dollars a week, I spent more than three of it on eatables.
I was an active and fairly healthy boy; at twenty I remembersaying that I had not had a day's serious sickness in fourteen years. Then I wrotemy first novel, working sixteen or eighteen hours a day for several months, campingout, and living mostly out of a frying-pan. At the end I found that I was seriouslytroubled with dyspepsia; and it was worse the next year, after the second book. Iwent to see a physician, who gave me some red liquid which magically relieved theconsequences of doing hard brain-work after eating. So I went on for a year or twomore, and then I found that the artificially-digested food was not being eliminatedfrom my system with sufficient regularity. So I went to another physician, who gavemy malady another name and gave me another medicine, and put off the time of reckoninga little while longer.
I have never in my life used tea or coffee, alcohol or tobacco;but for seven or eight years I worked under heavy pressure all the time, and atevery irregularly, and ate unwholesome food. So I began to have headaches once ina while, and to notice that I was abnormally sensitive to colds. I considered thesemaladies natural to mortals, and I would always attribute them to some specific accident.I would say, "I've been knocking about down town all day"; or, "Iwas out in the hot sun"; or, "I lay on the damp ground." I found thatif I sat in a draught for even a minute I was certain to "catch a cold."I found also that I had sore throat and tonsillitis once or twice every winter; also,now and then, the grippe. There were times when I did not sleep well; and as allthis got worse, I would have to drop all my work and try to rest. The first timeI did this a week or two was sufficient but later on a month or two was necessary,and then several months.
The year I wrote "The Jungle" I had my first summercold. It was haying time on a farm, and I thought it was a kind of hay-fever. I wouldsneeze for hours in perfect torment, and this lasted for a month, until I went awayto the sea-shore. This happened again the next summer, and also another very painfulexperience; a nerve in a tooth died, and I had to wait three days for the pain to"Iocalize," and then had the tooth drilled out, and staggered home, andwas ill in bed for a week with chills and fever, and nausea and terrible headaches.I mention all these unpleasant details so that the reader may understand the stateof wretchedness to which I had come. At the same time, also, I had a great deal ofdistressing illness in my family;' my wife seldom had a week without suffering, andmy little boy had pneumonia one winter, and croup the next, and whooping-cough inthe summer, with the inevitable "colds" scattered in between.
After the Helicon Hall fire I realized that I was in a badway, and for the two years following I gave a good part of my time to trying to tryingto find out how to preserve my health. I went to Battle Creek, and to Bermuda andto the Adirondacks; I read the books of all the new investigators of the subjectof hygiene, and tried out their theories religiously. I had discovered Horace Fletchera couple of years before. Mr. Fletcher's idea is, in brief, to chew your food, andchew it thoroughly; to extract from each particle of food the maximum of nutriment,and to eat only as much as your system actually needs. This was a very wonderfulidea to me, and I fell upon it with the greatest enthusiasm. All the physicians Ihad known were men who tried to cure me when I fell sick, but here was a man whowas studying how to stay well. I have to find fault with Mr. Fletcher's system, andso I must make clear at the outset how much I owe to it. It set me upon the righttrack--it showed me the goal, even if it did not lead me to it. It made clear tome that all my various ailments were symptoms of one great trouble, the presencein my body of the poisons produced by superfluous and unassimilated food, and thatin adjusting the quantity of food to the body's exact needs lay the secret of perfecthealth.
It was only in the working out of the theory that I felldown. Mr. Fletcher told me that "Nature" would be my guide, and that ifonly I masticated thoroughly, instinct would select the foods. I found that, so faras my case was concerned, my "nature" was hopelessly perverted. I invariablypreferred unwholesome foods--apple pie, and toast soaked in butter, and stewed fruitwith quantities of cream and sugar. Nor did "Nature" kindly tell me whento stop, as she apparently does some other "Fletcherites"; no matter howmuch I chewed, if I ate all I wanted I ate too much. And when I realized this, andtried to stop it, I went, in my ignorance, to the other extreme, and lost fourteenpounds in as many days. Again, Mr. Fletcher taught me to remove all the "unchewable"parts of the food--the skins of fruit, etc. The result of this is there is nothingto stimulate the intestines, and the waste remains in the body for many days. Mr.Fletcher says this does not matter, and he appears to prove that it has not matteredin his case. But I found that it mattered very seriously in my case; it was not untilI became a "Fletcherite" that my headaches became hopeless and that sluggishintestines became one of my chronic complaints.
I next read the books of Metchnikoff and Chittenden, whoshowed me just how my ailments came to be. The unassimilated food lies in the colon,and bacteria swarm in it, and the poisons they produce are absorbed into the system.I had bacteriological examinations made in my own case, and I found that when I wasfeeling well the number of these toxin-producing germs was about six billions tothe ounce of intestinal contents; and when, a few days later, I had a headache, thenumber was a hundred and twenty billions. Here was my trouble under the microscope,so to speak.
These tests were made at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, whereI went for a long stay. I tried their system of water cure, which I found a wonderfulstimulant to the eliminative organs; but I discovered that, like all other stimulants,it leaves you in the end just where you were. My health was improved at the sanitarium,but a week after I left I was down with the grippe again.
I gave the next year of my life to trying to restore my health.I spent the winter in Bermuda and the summer in the Adirondacks, both of them famoushealth resorts, and during the entire time I lived an absolutely hygienic life. Idid not work hard, and I did not worry, and I did not think about my health exceptwhen I had to. I live in the open air all the time, and I gave most of the day tovigorous exercise--tennis, walking, boating and swimming. I mention this specifically,so that the reader may perceive that I' had eliminated all other factors of ill-health,and appreciate to the full my statement that at the end of the year's time my generalhealth was worse than ever before.
I was all right so long as I played tennis all day or climbedmountains. The trouble came when I settled down to do brain-work. And from this Isaw perfectly clearly that I was over-eating; there was surplus food to be burnedup, and when it was not burned up it poisoned me. But how was I to stop when I washungry? I tried giving up all the things I liked and of which I ate most; but thatdid no good, because I had such a complacent appetite--I would immediately take toliking the other things! I thought that I had an abnormal appetite, the result ofmy early training; but how was I ever to get rid of it?
I must not give the impression that I was a conspicuouslyhearty eater. On the contrary, I ate far less than most people eat. But that wasno consolation to me. I had wrecked myself by years of overwork, and so I was moresensitive. The other people were going to pieces by slow stages, I could see; butI was already in pieces.
So matters stood when I chanced to meet a lady, whose radiantcomplexion and extraordinary health were a matter of remark to everyone. I was surprisedto hear that for ten or fifteen years, and until quite recently, she had been a bed-riddeninvalid. She had lived the lonely existence of a pioneer's wife, and had raised afamily under conditions of shocking ill health. She had suffered from sciatica andacute rheumatism; from a chronic intestinal trouble which the doctors called "intermittentperitonitis"; chronic catarrh, causing deafness. And this was the woman whorode on horseback with me up Mount Hamilton, in California, a distance of twenty-eightmiles, in one of the most terrific rain-storms I have ever witnessed! We had twountamed young horses, and only leather bits to control them with, and we were poundedand flung about for six mortal hours, which I shall never forget if I live to bea hundred. And this woman, when she took the ride, had not eaten a particle of foodfor four days previously!
That was the clue to her escape: she had cured herself bya fast. She had abstained from food for eight days, and all her trouble had fallenfrom her. Afterwards she had taken her eldest son, a senior at Stanford, and anotherfriend of his, and fasted twelve days with them, and cured them of nervous dyspepsia.And then she had taken a woman friend, the wife of a Stanford professor, and curedher of rheumatism by a week's fast. I had heard of the fasting cure, but this wasthe first time I had met with it. I was too much burdened with work to try it justthen, but I began to read up on the subject--the books of Dr. Dewey, Dr. Hazzardand Mr. Carrington. Coming home from California I got a sunstroke on the Gulf ofMexico, and spent a week in hospital at Key West, and that seemed to give the coupde grave to my long-suffering stomach. After another spell of hard work I found myselfunable to digest corn-meal mush and milk; suddenly I was ready for a fast.
I began. The fast has become a commonplace to me now; butI will assume that it is as new and as startling to the reader as it was to myselfat first, and will describe my sensations at length.
I was very hungry for the first day--the unwholesome, raveningsort of hunger that all dyspeptics know. I had a little hunger the second morning,and thereafter, to my very great astonishment, no hunger whatever--no more interestin food than if I had never known the taste of it. Previous to the fast I had hada headache every day for two or three weeks. It lasted through the first day andthen disappeared--never to return. I felt very weak the second day, and a littledizzy on arising. I went out of doors and lay in the sun all day, reading; and thesame for the third and fourth days--intense physical lassitude, but with great clearnessof mind. After the fifth day I felt stronger, and walked a good deal, and I alsobegan some writing. No phase of the experience surprised me more than the activityof my mind: I read and wrote more than I had dared to do for years before.
During the first four days I lost fifteen pounds in weight--somethingwhich, I have since learned, was a sign of the extremely poor state of my tissues.Thereafter I lost only two pounds in eight days--an equally unusual phenomenon. Islept well throughout the fast. About the middle of each day I would feel weak, buta massage and a cold shower would refresh me. Towards the end I began to find thatin walking about I would grow tired in the legs, and as I did not wish to lie inbed I broke the fast after the twelfth day with some orange juice.
I took the juice of a dozen oranges during two days, andthen went on the milk diet, as recommended by Bernarr Macfadden. I took a glassfulof warm milk every hour the first day, every three quarters of an hour the next day,and finally every half-hour--or eight quarts a day. This is, of course, much morethan can be assimilated, but the balance serves to flush the system out. The tissuesare bathed in nutriment, and an extraordinary recuperation is experienced. In myown case I gained four and a half pounds in one day--the third--and gained a totalof thirty-two pounds in twenty-four days.
My sensations on this milk diet were almost as interestingas on the fast. In the first place, there was an extraordinary sense of peace andcalm, as if every weary nerve in the body were purring like a cat under a stove.Next there was the keenest activity of mind--I read and wrote incessantly. And, finally,there was a perfectly ravenous desire for physical work. In the old days I had walkedlong distances and climbed mountains, but always with reluctance and from a senseof compulsion. Now, after the cleaning-out of the fast, I would go into a gymnasiumand do work which would literally have broken my back before, and I did it with intenseenjoyment, and with amazing results. The muscles fairly leaped out upon my body;I suddenly discovered the possibility of becoming an athlete. I had always been leanand dyspeptic-looking, with what my friends called a "spiritual" expression;I now became as round as a butter-ball, and so brown and rosy in the face that Iwas a joke to all who saw me.
I had not taken what is called a "complete" fast--thatis, I had not waited until hunger returned. Therefore I began again. I intended onlya short fast, but I found that hunger ceased again, and, much to my surprise, I hadnone of the former weakness. I took a cold bath and a vigorous rub twice a day; Iwalked four miles every morning, and did light gymnasium work, and with nothing savea slight tendency to chilliness to let me know that I was fasting. I lost nine poundsin eight days, and then went for a week longer on oranges and figs, and made up mostof the weight on these.
I shall always remember with amusement the anxious cautionwith which I now began to taste the various foods which before had caused me trouble.Bananas, acid fruits, peanut butter--I tried them one by one, and then in combination,and so realized with a thrill of exultation that every trace of my old trouble wasgone. Formerly I had had to lie down for an hour or two after meals; now I coulddo whatever I chose. Formerly I had been dependent upon all kinds of laxative preparations;now I forgot about them. I no longer had headaches. I went bareheaded in the rain,I sat in cold draughts of air, and was apparently immune to colds. And, above all,I had that marvellous, abounding energy so that whenever I had a spare minute ortwo I would begin to stand on my head, or to "chin" myself, or do someother "stunt," from sheer exuberance of animal spirits.
For several months after this experience I lived upon a dietof raw foods exclusively mainly nuts and fruits. I had been led to regard this asthe natural diet for human beings; and I found that so long as I was leading an activelife the results were most satisfactory. They were satisfactory also in the caseof my wife and still more so in the case of my little boy: the amount of work andbother thus saved in the household may be imagined. But when I came to settle downto a long period of hard and continuous writing, I found that I had not sufficientbodily energy to digest these raw foods. I resorted to fasting and milk alternately--andthat is well enough for a time, but it proves a nervous strain in the end. Recentlya friend called my attention to the late Dr. Salisbury's book, "The Relationof Alimentation to Disease." Dr. Salisbury recommends a diet of broiled beefand hot water as the solution of most of the problems of the human body; and it maybe believed that I, who had been a rigid and enthusiastic vegetarian for three orfour years, found this a startling idea. However, I make a specialty of keeping anopen mind, and I set out to try the Salisbury system. I am sorry to have to say thatit seems to be a good one; sorry, because the vegetarian way of life is so obviouslythe cleaner and more humane and more convenient. But it seems to me that I am ableto do more work and harder work with my mind while eating beefsteaks than under anyother regime; and while this continues to be the case there will be one less vegetarianin the world.
The fast is to me the key to eternal youth the secret ofperfect and permanent health. I would not take anything in all the world for my knowledgeof it. It is nature's safety valve, an automatic protection against disease. I donot venture to assert that I am proof against virulent diseases, such as smallpoxor typhoid. I know one ardent physical culturest, a physician, who takes typhoidgerms at intervals in order to prove his immunity, but I should not care to go thatfar; it is enough for me to know that I am proof against all the common infectionswhich plague us, and against all the "chronic" troubles. And I shall continueso just as long as I stand by my present resolve, which is to fast at the slightesthint of any symptom of ill-being--a cold or a headache, a feeling of depression,or a coated tongue, or a scratch on the finger which does not heal quickly.
Those who have made a study of the fast explain its miraclesin the following way: Superfluous nutriment is taken into the system and ferments,and the body is filled with a greater quantity of poisonous matter than the organsof elimination can handle. The result is the clogging of these organs and of theblood-vessels--such is the meaning of headaches and rheumatism, arteriosclerosis,paralysis, apoplexy, Bright's disease, cirrhosis, etc. And by impairing the bloodand lowering the vitality, this same condition prepares the system for infection--for"colds," or pneumonia, or tuberculosis, or any of the fevers. As soon asthe fast begins, and the first hunger has been withstood, the secretions cease, andthe whole assimilative system, which takes so much of the energies of the body, goesout of business. The body then begins a sort of house-cleaning, which must be helpedby an enema and a bath daily, and, above all, by copious water-drinking. The tonguebecomes coated, the breath and the perspiration offensive; and this continues untilthe diseased matter has been entirely cast out, when the tongue clears and hungerreasserts itself in unmistakable form.
The loss of weight during the fast is generally about a pounda day. The fat is used first, and after that the muscular tissue; true starvationbegins only when the body his been reduced to the skeleton and the viscera. Fastsof forty and fifty days are now quite common--I have met several who have taken them.
Strange as it may seem, the fast is a cure for both emaciationand obesity. After a complete fast the body will come to its ideal weight. Peoplewho are very stout will not regain their weight; while people who are under weightmay gain a pound or more a day for a month. There are two dangers to be feared infasting. The first is that of fear. I do not say this as a jest. No one should beginto fast until he has read up on the subject and convinced himself that it is thething to do; if possible he should have with him someone who has already had theexperience. He should not have about him terrified aunts and cousins who will tellhim that he looks like a corpse, that his pulse is below forty, and that his heartmay stop beating in the night. I took a fast of three days out in California; onthe third day I walked about fifteen miles, off and on, and, except that I was restless,I never felt better. And then in the evening I came home and read about the Messinaearthquake, and how the relief ships arrived, and the wretched survivors crowdeddown to the water's edge and tore each other like wild beasts in their rage of hunger.The paper set forth, in horrified language, that some of them had been seventy-twohours without food. I, as I read, had also been seventy-two hours without food; andthe difference was simply that they thought they were starving. And if at some crisisduring a long fast, when you feel nervous and weak and doubting, some people withstronger wills than your own are able to arouse in you the terrors of the earthquakesurvivors, they can cause their most direful anticipations to be realized.
The other danger is in breaking the fast. A person breakinga long fast should regard himself as if he were liable to seizures of violent insanity.I know a man who fasted fifty days, and then ate half a dozen figs, and caused intestinalabrasions from which he lost a great deal of blood. I would dwell more upon thistopic were it not for my discovery of the "milk diet." When you drink aglass of milk every half-hour you have no chance to get really hungry, and so youglide, as if by magic, from a condition of extreme emaciation to one of bloomingrotundity. But very frequently the milk diet disagrees with people; and these haveto break the fast with very small quantities of the simplest foods--fruit juicesand meat broths for the first two or three days at least.
I will conclude this chapter by narrating the experiencesof some other persons with the fasting cure. With the exception of one, the secondcase, they are all people whom I know personally, and who have told me their storieswith their own lips.
First, I give the case of my wife. She has always been frail,and subject to sore throats since girlhood. In the past five years she has undergonethree major surgical operations and had several serious illnesses besides. Two yearsago she had a severe attack of appendicitis. The physician made a wrong diagnosis,and kept her alive for about ten days with morphine. She was then too low to riskan operation, and was not expected to live. It was several months before she wasable to walk again, and she had never fully recovered from the experience. When shebegan the fast she was suffering from serious stomach trouble, loss of weight, andneurasthenia.
I did not think that she would be able to stand a fast. Shehad more trouble than I--some nervousness, headache and nausea. But she stood itfor ten days, when her tongue cleared suddenly. She had lost twelve pounds, and shethen gained twenty-two pounds in seventeen days. She then took another fast of sixdays with me, and with no more trouble than I experienced the second time--walkingfour miles every morning with me. She is now a picture of health, and is engagedin accumulating muscle with enthusiasm.
Second, a man well on in life, who had always abused hishealth. He suffered from asthma and dropsy, and was saturated with drugs. He hadnot been able to lie down for several years. He weighed over 220 pounds, and hislegs were "like sacks of water, leaking continually." His kidneys had refusedto act, and after his doctors had tried all the drugs they knew, he was told thathe was dying. His brother, who narrated the circumstances to me, persuaded him notto eat the supper that was brought in to him, and so he lived through the night.He fasted seven days, and went for four weeks longer on a very light diet, and isnow chopping wood and pitching hay upon his farm in Kentucky.
Third, a young physician, as a college boy a physical wreckfrom dissipation, now twenty-four. "A born neurasthenic." He was attackedby appendicitis twice in succession. He fasted five days after the last attack, andsix days later on. Gained thirty-five pounds, and is a splendidly developed athlete;he runs five miles in 26 minutes 15 seconds, and rode a wheel 500 miles in sevendays.
Fourth, a young lady, who had suffered a nervous collapsecaused by overwork and worry. The bones of her spine had softened; her hip-bonestilted upwards three-quarters of an inch; she was "barely able to crawl on twosticks." She fasted ten days, and again eight days, and took the milk diet forsix weeks. I have seen her every day for the last eight or ten weeks,, and I do notthink that I ever met a woman who impressed me as possessing more superabundant andradiant health.
Fifth, a young man, injured in a railroad wreck; a rib brokenand the outer lining of the lungs punctured. Still has an opening for drainage, causedby chafing of the membranes. Suffered in succession attacks of bronchitis, typhoid,pneumonia and pleurisy. Was reduced from 186 to 119 pounds, and had planned to takehis life. Fasted six days, gained twenty-seven pounds, and plays tennis vigorously,in spite of having an opening in his chest. Recently walked 442 miles in eleven days.
Sixth, a lady, married, and in middle life a life-long suffererfrom stomach trouble; had experienced six attacks of inflammatory rheumatism, resultingin valvular heart disease and the loss of the use of her limbs. Fasted four times--four,eight, twenty-eight, and fourteen days. I can best describe her present conditionby saying that all this summer she arose every morning at daybreak, walked four anda half miles, went for a swim, and then walked home for breakfast.
Seventh, an Episcopal clergyman, who had suffered almostall his life from indigestion; had an acute attack of gastritis, followed by nervousprostration and complete breakdown. Specialists had diagnosed his case as "prolapsedstomach and bowels, autointoxication and neurasthenia," and told him that hecould not expect to get well in less than five years. He was so emaciated that hecould hardly creep around, and, despite the fact that he had a wife and six children,was contemplating suicide. He fasted eleven days, and then gained thirty pounds.I am prepared to testify that he is the most hard-working, cheerful and athleticclergyman it has ever been my fortune to meet.
I have taken some trouble to investigate the subject of thefast, and to meet people who have been through the experience. I could give a dozenmore cases such as the above if space permitted. I know one man who reduced his weightfrom 365 pounds to 235. I know one little girl whose spine was bent in the shapeof a letter U lying sideways, and who, by means of fasting and a diet of fruits exclusively,has come four inches nearer to straightness in a few months. She has the complexionof perfect health, and is rapidly recovering the use of arms and legs, which wereparalyzed years ago.
The reader may think that my enthusiasm over the fastingcure is due to my imaginative temperament; I can only say that I have never yet meta person who has given the fast a fair trial who does not describe his experiencein the same way. I have never heard of any harm resulting from it, save only in casesof tuberculosis, in which I have been told by one physician that people have lostweight and not regained it.
I regard the fast as Nature's own remedy for all other diseases.It is the only remedy which is based upon an understanding of the fundamental natureof disease. And I believe that when the glad tidings of its miracles have reachedthe people it will lead to the throwing of 90 percent of our present materia medicainto the wastebasket. This may be unwelcome to those physicians who are more concernedwith their own income than they are with the health of their patients; but I personallyhave never met any such physicians, and so I most earnestly urge it upon medial mento investigate the extraordinary and almost incredible facts about the fasting cure.
Shortly after the above was completed the writer had anotherinteresting experience with the fast. He had occasion to do some work which kepthim indoors for a couple of weeks, under considerable strain; and after that to spendthe greater part of a week in the dentist's chair suffering a good deal of pain;and finally to spend two days and nights in a railroad train. He arrived at his destinationwith every symptom of what long and painful experience has taught him to recognizeas a severe attack of the "grippe." (The last attack laid him up in hospitalfor a week, and left him so reduced that he could hardly stand.) On this occasionhe fasted, and although circumstances compelled him to be up and about during theentire time, every trace of ill-feeling had left him in two days. Having started,however, he continued the fast for twelve days. During this time he planned a play,and wrote two-thirds of it, and he has reason to think that it is as good work ashe has ever done. It is worth noting that on the eighth day he was strong enoughto "chin" himself six times in succession, though previous to the fastingtreatment he had never in his life been able to do this more than once or twice.
A Letter to the New York Times
(unfit to print)
Arden, Del. May 31, 1910
Editor of the Times, New York City,
Dear Sir,--Some time ago your news columns contained a despatch to the effect thatthree young ladies in Garden City, Long Island, were undertaking a three days' fastas a result of reading a magazine article recommending this measure. In your editorialreferring to this despatch, you say that the ladies are "the victims of a shallowand unscrupulous sensationalist." As I am the writer of the magazine articlein question, I presume that this means me. I did not intend to make any reply tothe remark, as I figure that I must have long ago lost whatever reputation couldbe taken from me by newspaper comments. Thinking the matter over, however, I concludedthat I would venture a mild protest, not on my own account, but for the sake of theimportant discovery of which I told in the article in question.
It is one of the privileges incidental to owning a newspaperthat one can call other people names with impunity, and can always have the lastword in any argument. Will, however, your sense of fair play give me the privilegeof asking you to state just what you meant by the slur in question? In the magazinearticle I stated that I had taken several fasts of ten or twelve days' duration,with the result of a complete making over of my health. I presume that the writerof the editorial had read the article before he condemned it. Am I to understandthat he got from the article the impression that I was telling lies, and that I hadnever really taken the fasts as I said I had taken them? Or was it his idea thatI exaggerated the benefits derived therefrom, in order to make "victims"of the three young ladies in Garden City?
I might say that I took the fasts in question in an institutionwhere hundreds of people were fasting anywhere from three to fifty days; that duringthe entire time I was under the observation of many people; my weight was taken regularlyevery day, and all the symptoms which I described were observed by physicians andfriends. May I also call attention to the fact that I published in the article twophotographs, one of which was taken four years ago, and the other of which was takenafter the fasting treatment? The contrast between these two photographs was sufficientlystriking, it seems to me, to impress anyone. May I also call attention to the factthat the article was found of sufficient interest to be published in one of the mostrepresentative of the English monthlies, the Contemporary Review? Also that the ContemporaryReview appended to the article the testimony of half a dozen people whose cases Ihad myself observed, and whose letters I have in my possession?
I fully recognize the fact that many of the things for whichI stand as a writer are abhorrent to you, but surely that is no reason for condemningrecklessly and blindly an important discovery concerning human health, simply becauseI happen to be the person who is telling about it. Setting aside all personalities,and simply in the interest of the discovery in question, I respectfully invite youto make an investigation of the claims which I have set forth in that article. Letme give you the names of some people who have fasted either under my direction orin my presence, and who will tell a representative of your paper of the results ithas brought to them. I can tell you of a dozen such people. Also, perhaps by wayof preliminary, you might be willing to publish as an appendix to this letter ofmine the communications from another of my "victims," omitting the nameof the writer unless you obtain permission to use it.
Appended to the above was the letter which the reader willfind in the Appendix, page III. The Times did not publish this letter, nor did itpay any attention to several letters of protest which followed. I leave it to thereader to judge whether the silence of the paper was one of dignity or of fear. Thefollowing despatch from the New York World of May 17, 1910, records the experiencesof the Garden City ladies, and makes clear how much in need of sympathy my "victims"were.
All three of the young women are in rare spirits. They havegone about their usual occupations and recreations, and Mrs. Trask found time yesterdayto talk about the single tax in the course of a conversation that had to do primarilywith her newer interest.
"We are getting the most extraordinary number of lettersabout this adventure of ours," Mrs. Trask said. "They began to come thefirst day, and today there were lots of them. They come from some of the most unexpectedplaces and they contain some of the most unexpected things.
"What most astonishes me is that of all those who writeto tell us that they have tried just what we are doing, not one has told us of afailure. There isn't any reason why they shouldn't write to say that we are foolishand that we can't hope to gain what we want, but dozens of them have reiterated thepromise that we'll never regret having made our experiment.
"One New York woman told us something that we had wonderedabout more than once. Her husband had suffered greatly from rheumatism and finallyhe tried fasting. Not dieting like ourselves, but fasting. He went without food ofany kind, she said, for nineteen days. He kept on at his work, too, which was thething we had been wondering about.
"We've heard from another physician too. He lives inBoston and has made a specialty of dietetics. He warned us not to stick too closelyto milk, because we 'd find that after a day or two it would quit being of the serviceit had been at first. People we never heard of tell us that thus and so was theirexperience, and when we measure our own discoveries beside theirs we find new andconvincing evidence that we picked the true way to the end we hoped to reach.
"I know that for myself I'll have reason to be gratefulalways that I took this up. We have been greatly benefited."