My Medicinal Valentine

In our great enthusiasm for all things Valentine’s Day, we’d like to offer you this sensible yet romantic 19th century medical meditation on the nature of love.

It’s drawn from an 1851 edition of Buchan’s Domestic Medicine: Or the Family Physician. (I’m pleased that this volume contains an entire section on “The Passions”.)

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Love is perhaps the strongest of all the passions: at least, when it becomes violent, it is less subject to the control either of the understanding or will than any of the rest. Fear, anger, and several other passions, are necessary for the preservation of the individual, but love is necessary for the continuation of the species itself. It was therefore proper that this passion should be deeply rooted in the human breast.

Though love be a strong passion, it is seldom so rapid in its progress as several of the others. Few persons fall desperately in love all at once. We would therefore advise every one, before he tampers with this passion, to consider well the probability of his being able to obtain the object of his love. When that is not likely, he should avoid every occasion of increasing it. He ought immediately to fly the company of the beloved object; to apply his mind attentively to business or study; to take every kind of amusement; and, above all, to endeavor, if possible, to find another object which may engage his affections, and which it may be in his power to obtain.

When love becomes a disease, it is not easily cured. Its consequences, in this case, are often so violent, that even the possession of the beloved object will not always remove them. It is therefore of the greatest importance early to guard against its influence; but when the passion has already taken too deep hold of the mind to admit of being eradicated, the beloved object ought if possible to be obtained; nor should this be deferred for every trifling cause. Those who have the disposal of young persons in marriage are too ready to trifle with the passion of love; such, for the most sordid considerations, frequently sacrifice the future health, peace or happiness of those committed to their care.

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