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14 CHARACTER OF THE INHABITANTS, tion of females is large, partly owing to the exposure of the male population. One is surprised to observe so many pleasant and intelligent countenances, such a degree of good taste in dress and improvement in manners. Even to this place, by some considered a by-corner of the world, the empire of fashion has reached and exerts a powerful influence. Of the inhabitants in general and of the amiable sex in particular, it may be said with truth that they are in mind acute and sprightly ; in temperament gleeful and happy. Their sensibilities are quick, and hence they are more liable to turns of excitement and depression than the dwellers upon the continent.
The causes which have conduced to this peculiarity will be remarked upon in my next letter.
Martha's VINEYARD, 18—. In my last letter it was remarked that the Islanders are quick in their sensibilities, easily excited and easily depressed. In the present it is my intention at the first, to fulfil my promise of assigning ihe causes which have united to produce their peculiar temperament. With this the climate is generally acknowledged to have much to do, operating as it does, powerfully upon the nervous system. Other causses, co-operating with the one mentioned, are the
NERVOUS PECULIARTIES. free use of strong tea and coffee, which constitute a part, and an important part, of every meal ; the nature of sea life, which carries the men far away from their homes and exposes them to great hazards,thus depriving their families of their counsel and encouragement and keeping these in a continual state of anxiety — their out-of-the-way-of-the-world situation, having the effect to concentrate and strengthen their interests and affections, their extraordinary religious efforts and excitements, continued in times past, night after night, for months in succession. You may be surprized, Mr. Editor, at this last observation. There is no doubt, however, of the fact, and as little of the result ; for my information is derived from many persons, and especially from an intelligent physician resident upon the Island for several years. Why, Sir, this place has been the stronghold of fanatical preachers, and not seldom patients have been transferred from the hands of the clergyman to those of the physician. What think you of meetings every night in the week for six weeks, yes, for three months in succession, prolonged sometimes even into midnight, until the vestry floor, by its apparently liseless trophies, bears melancholy witness to the tremendous effects wrought upon the nervous system by the machinery of superstition? Such unwelcome statements I would not publish unless supported hy the best of evidence. They proceed from the lips of those who have been constant attendants on such occasions. But to borrow the quaint
16 phrase of an ungrammared rustic, — times a’n't as they used to was.' There has been some change for the better, though, strange as it may seem, the present Clergyman of the Trinitarian Society in Edgartown, one year since, held a meeting of no less than six weeks duration. You may form some conception of the burden of his duties, when informed that he had just entered the ministry and been ordained over his people. He told me he was pretty much run down; and well he might be. It is surprizing he ever got up again.
An anecdote occurs to me illustrative of the extent to which religious excitement has been sometimes carried. A farmer, who had been in the habit of attending the protracted meetings, was much wrought upon. One day, while boeing in his field alone, he was worked up into a state of uncontrolable ecstacy. In the wild rush of his feelings he threw his hoe into the air with all the momentum that lay in his muscles and shouted to the top of his lungs. But to return.
How far, or whether in any degree the temperament of the islanders is to be ascribed to inherited tendencies I ain unable to affirm, though intelligent and well informed gentlemen say that some of the the original settlers were constitutionally vervous, and that, in consequence of the little intercourse they had with the continent in former times and their near as well as frequent intermarriages, the evil bas been aggravated. However this may be,
-17 one thing is certain, that at the present day this characteristic is more observable in some families and their branches than in others. Cases of nervous debility,hysterics, and mental prostration are not infrequent. Taking a walk one pleasant morning I Jeft the town a mile or two behind me, pursuing my way into the interior of the island. Being somewhat fatigued, I sat down to rest myself on the edge of a forest of small oak trees. Not expecting to be greeted by the sight of a hunan being I suffered myself to fall into an idle revery. In a moment or two turning my eye into the depth of the forest, I perceived a wagoner descending a small rise of ground with a load of produce. Fearing he might be somewhat startled at the sight of me in that solitary place, I resolved to prove to him that mental alienation had not caused me to stray thither, and when he reached me, forthwith commenced conversation with him. We walked along in company. In early life, he said, he had been accustomed to the seas, but was now engaged in tilling the soil some eight or nine niles from Edgartown. He was talkative and knowng, and told me about the island, its climate, and inJabitants. Said he, a certain person, (naming him) who had been much about the world, said to my father, that. in all his travels he never saw so many
Narvous' people as on this Island, and the farmer corroborated this observation by adding that there were indeed many women in a poor way. — and some persons crackheaded.' Other items of his
"Conversation I remenaber, but this is all to my purpose.
Beside snervous disorders, which are common, consumption prevails to some extent ; but, it is thought, less than on the continent. To severs, dysentery and gout the Islanders can hardly be said to be subject. The temperature is even, the mercury seldon if ever rising above 85, or falling lower than 6 below zero. The air is remarkably pure and for most constitutions salubrious. Those who are froin the inland part of the continent, are generally braced up, and highly exhilarated by its powerful nervous action. Unless when the weather changes there is far less difference between the air in the day and night than in Boston and other parts of Massachusetts. No noxious exhalation from the ground infuses its chill and poison. There is a blandness in the breath of night that is truly delicious. For spring and mid-winter in this respect I cannot vouch, but for summer and autumn I can. The consequence is that the latter part of the day and evening are the chosen time for the fair to make their appearance. At this period there is a life and joy around that remind one of a different clime.
The length of the village is the common promenade. A favorite resort is the Breakwater, erected by the general government at an expense of seven thousand dollars. It is built very strong of plank and timber and runs an eighth of a mile into the Bay. It is wider than the foot walks of our bridges, and be