Cornhill Magazine,  4 (1861), 75–93.

Food—What it Does

[James Hinton]



Relevant illustrations:

wdct. [13]


Physiological Chemistry, Nutrition, Physiology, Microbiology, Design, Psychology, Serendipity, Observation, Force, Natural Law, Eschatology

People mentioned:

George Herbert

Publications cited:

Beaumont 1838 , Lehmann 1851–54

    Describes the manifold processes of digestion by which food is 'Variously changed by the secretions and the glands appointed for that purpose, [and] is poured into the blood', becoming 'part of that river of Life from which the body ever rises afresh' (93). The albuminous material in the outer environment which forms the most suitable food for the human body is so 'akin to our own substance' (76) that there seems 'a preparedness and adaptation in the one to become the other', and the 'term "assimilation"' best expresses the 'result of the digestive process'. Indeed, although the processes of digestion are extremely complex, we should 'regard with a certain reverence [...] what Nature, and the Author of Nature, have thought worthy of so much care, and have purchased at so large an expenditure of means'. (77) In our digestive organs 'we carry about with us an entire laboratory: the whole armoury of the chemist is laid under contribution to furnish forth our digestive apparatus' (78). Much of our knowledge of the physiology of the stomach, an organ usually 'hidden from our sight and cut off from our manipulation', has come from occasional occurrences of 'accidental apertures' in that organ, especially 'the well-known one [...] experimented on and described by Dr. Beaumont of the United States army' (82). Despite the importance of healthy digestion for cerebration, it must nevertheless be recognised that the body is always 'under the dominion of the mind. Its destiny is to be not only subservient to, but in every change and action swayed by, the mental and conscious part'. By the power of his 'will' man 'rules his body as he rules the obedient horse or elephant, whose powers yet are greater than his own'. (79) The flesh of dead animals contains the force through which the body performs its various functions, and when digested into the blood is 'Entombed' like a 'living corpse within a living sepulchre', thereby fulfilling the 'Divine promise [...] to raise up again His dead' in accordance with the natural law that 'Whatever thing is given up shall be restored again' (93).


Hinton 1871

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