A young wife and mother, absent from home, took a severe cold, the usual symptoms being soon com plicated with those of low nervous fever, which con ditions, with intervals of partial relief, finally yielded without serious illness. Her husband, who remained with her during the two weeks of temporary indis position, was in usual health. The daughter who at this period received the unfortunate inheritance of an enfeebled and highly susceptible nervous organi zation is now in early womanhood, and has all her life been an object of care and tender solicitude to her pa rents, and can never be strong. In both the instances cited, the other members of the family were exempt from the marked peculiarities shown in these chil dren.
IV. By the best mental and bodily condition of parents, I mean as fair an estate of vigor as they may with wise care attain. Few persons are well, almost every one having some burden or limitation they must bear through life. For this reason every child may justly claim from its parents, in the lowest as well as the highest ranks of life, that preparation for reproduction which is only reached by the self-sac rificing gift of all that is best in both. This condition is secured by a strong purpose to do right, choosing a period when free from active disease, or those chronic affections which are vital in their character, as well as from nervous exhaustion or great mental distur bance. Such fitness would secure to the children of comparatively weak parents a bodily vigor equal, if not superior, to the best possessed by either one of them, as well as many intellectual gifts which they could not otherwise bestow. The favorable condi tions so clearly necessary to rational procreation must exist some weeks previously at the least, in order to secure a proper development of the germi nal cells. Highly excitable men and women, and active brain-workers, use vitality very rapidly in every way. Such persons must have a rest from mental and nervous strain, seek out-door physical employment and recreation, and often a period of separation from each other, in order to attain the physical vigor needed for the creative work which has no possibility of repair if not well done.
No human being is at the best when not rested, the reservoir •of vital power being low. After the point of full fatigue is exceeded, excitability then comes on, and is not only a sign, but in turn the source, of diminishing power. Quiet and restful ner vous equipoise not only indicates strength, but aids its preservation. The unrest and fretfulness of little children, when overtired, is seen constantly in adults; they are averse to rest, fretted at everything, and if there is any unbalanced or vicious tendency in the nature, it asserts itself then. Do not mistake such a time as this in yourself for a time of vigor or health, for it is neither. The physician ever looks with grave anxiety upon the incessant unrest of one function, or of the entire nervous system, and it should be so regarded by those having such symp toms. Every man or woman who has borne the labor and cares of life, or been exhausted by its excesses, knows, when simple weariness has passed to the stage of unrest and irritability, how dominant the accustomed indulgences become. The desire for tea, coffee, tobacco, snuff, opium, alcoholic bev erages, the inclination to gluttonous or venereal ex cess, gambling, or social excitement, at such times urges on its subject with a sharper goad than those of quiet, healthful appetites can ever know. It is sad, but tr.ue, that such a disturbed condition may become permanent, and the excited passions clamor more loudly as the balancing power of will and nervous strength is withdrawn, until they are stilled by exhaustion, though it be at the expense of the whole vital being. Such influences in the parents stamp upon children great excitability, little vigor, and tendencies to vicious proclivities. Perturbed or distressing mental conditions — anger, hate, jealousy, revenge, fear, over-strain in mental labor, or harass ing business cares, long anxiety, and loss of sleep in watching over the sick, and excessive social plea sures, exhaust the fountains of life-force. At such
periods parents can give only the remnants of their vitality, and such a time should never be chosen for the execution of life's highest, most sacred work.
V. For every reason I should urge that the marital relation should be consummated only in the morning, or after full rest, never at a time of fatigue or great excitability. Men and women working intensely and habitually in intellectual occupations sometimes have no children; vitality is used so rapidly in brain work, that the germinal cells are not well formed, and sometimes not elaborated at all, during intense brain activity. This is one reason why the children given to such parents are often so unlike and inferior to themselves in their best characteristics, often even below the general average of organization. More children are born to those who work hard physically; but if the labor be inordinate, and full rest is not attained from each day's fatigue, the children are born with a limited amount of vigor that leaves them always tired, or with great nervous intensity in a feeble and often an ill-formed body, with large extremi ties, and lacking a rounded contour of face and form. For some time before procreation every effort should be made to secure restful immunity from all ex hausting influences. Muscular exercise should be sufficient each day to bring moderate fatigue and good digestion, and all the powers of heart and in tellect should have free, happy play, and be crowned with the most unselfish human affection. Full rest should be secured each night, and all the forces re served for not more than three or four of the fullest and happiest possible genesic acts, within ten days after the close of the menstrual epoch. I have many times observed that the finest children in the family were begotten after an absence of the parents from each other for a few weeks, and meeting in health and full of affectionate interest. Excesses in the genetic relations of marriage result in certain and subtle injury to children. In some families whose , history I have known for nearly half a century, I have been directly conversant with cause and result. In one case both parents were unusually vigorous and well formed physically, and not unusually hard workers, having ten children, — seven sons and three daughters. The children when born were large and of good size, but showed little resistance to disease, even of the slight passing ailments of childhood, and lacked the usual buoyancy and elasticity of ordi nary youth. There was premature growth of body, and less than the average scope of intellect, and in every one save the two elder a decline came on between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five years, originating evidently in a failure of the forces of organic life. Digestion and assimilation failed, and under the varying names of marasmus, consumption of the bowels, catarrhal, bronchial, or pulmonary con sumption, eight of the number died, two in one year; the same constitutional lack of vitality seeming to be the underlying cause in each one, and medical skill was almost powerless to stay the progress of the dis ease. The two remaining children have all they can do to prolong lives now extended to middle age. These parents chose their happiness in sacrificing the strength of soul and body for a few moments of self-gratification daily, with only occasional intervals. They paid for it by years of care and sorrowing days and nights, which were repeated fourfold in the per sonal suffering of their children. I could repeat many instances showing various forms of ill result from like causes; but enlargement will not make the truth more fixed or inviolable than it is.