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Jun 29, 2013

The Melancholic Temperament

 Editor’s Note: While reading Homeopathic Materia Medica, in every other medicine, we find the mention of “temperaments”, although the temperaments are not much important in prescribing homeopathic medicine in a clinical setup, but we need to know what is exact prevalent meaning of “temperaments” at time of development of material medica in 19th century. Following is an article from The Philadelphia Journal of Homeopathy, June 1855, Vol IV, No. III on Temperaments.
For convenience of readers article is divided in three parts,
Part I Sanguineous Temperament
Part II Bilious Temperament

Part III Melancholic Temperament



Journal of Homoeopathy

Vol IV  - June, 1855 – No. III


Part III

“The Melancholic Temperament”

“Observe the pensive man, who stand musing apart from the rest, and whom we should think bilious, but for the compression of his chest. His countenance is pallid or sallow, and his features are expressive of melancholy. He is lean, yet of great muscular vigor; his eyes are clear and brilliant, yet of a somber expression. His hair is dark, and does not readily curl. He is rather tall. And not ill-formed, yet slender; his breast is narrow, and confines the play of his lungs; he stoops as he sits or walks. His internal organization is marked by energy and life, but the action of the system meets with obstructions. His nerves are extremely sensitive, yet generous warmth is wanting to mollify and expand their extremities. His blood circulates with languor, and if he is long exposed to the cold in a state of inactivity, it is soon chilled. His stomach is apt to become indolent; he is liable to the anguish of difficult digestion. Such are the physical peculiarities of the melancholy temperament.”
“The man of this class unites a habitual distrust of himself and weal indecision in common affairs, with obstinate persistence in matters in which he is decided, and undaunted perseverance in pursuing one object. When he has no strong motive to fix him, his wavering exposes him to the reproach of pusillanimity, and he might find it difficult to repeal the charge, were it not that it is impossible to make him swerve from a purpose once adopted beauty has an inconceivable and mysterious power over him. He deserts the society of the wise and learned, the disputes of politicians and the discussions of men of business, for the unquiet enjoyment he finds in its vicinity. Yet while he yields to the temporary influence and dominion of any one who is lovely, he is slow to form an attachment, and if his affections are once engaged, his love bears the seal of eternity. In his intercourse with men he avoids all society which does not suit his habits of mind; but he is sincere in his friendships, and, we must add slow to forgive an injury. The recollection of a wrong remains imprinted almost indelibly on his memory. In society his manners are embarrassed, and often awkward; yet he does not fail to excite interest and sentiment akin to compassion. When he converses, his imagination exerts itself powerfully, and he often uses original and singularly expressive forms of language. Indeed, the imagination is at all times the strongest faculty of his mind; it creates a world for him, all unlike the real one. He does not see things as they are but beholds in them only the reflections of his own representations. His delight is in profound sentiment, and he excels in the delineation of strong passions and intense suffering. Powerful motives are required to bring him to action. If suddenly called upon when he is not moved, he falters, can decide on nothing, and appears to exhibit a complete inefficiency and unsuitableness for business. But if strong excitement accompanies the unexpected summons, he comes with energy and decision to the guidance of affairs, pours forth his ideas in a torrent of extraordinary and irresistible eloquence, and surpasses all expectations. It is a weakness of the melancholic man that he is always contemplating himself; the operations of his own mind, the real, or more probably the imaginary woes of his own experience. The sanguineous man is happy in his fickleness; the bilious enjoys himself in the stir of action; the phlegmatic is content if he is but left alone to repose undisturbed; the melancholic is quite satisfied, only when discoursing or musing in himself and his sorrows. So far he is liable to the charge of vanity but no further. He does not form too high an estimate of himself; self-conceit is the peculiar foible of the sanguineous. Love is the ruling passion of the sanguineous; ambition of the bilious; the melancholy man is haunted by a longing for glory. This gives an impulse to his patriotism; this kindles his imagination and leads him to beautiful designs; this prompts him to enter on the career of letters; this not unfrequently drives him with irresistible power to nightly vigils and immoderate toil, in hope to enshrine his name among the immortal. He is
timid, and his fastidious taste is never satisfied with what he performs, though of all men he can least brook censure; so that he exhibits the apparent contradiction of relying most obstinately on a judgment which he himself distrusts. This diffidence of himself may at first seem to injure the perfection and utility oh his labors. But his doubting makes him anxious to finish his productions in the most careful manner. To what else do we owe the perfect grace and harmony of Virgil – the compact expression and polished elegance of Gray?”
“If the melancholic man errs in this practical estimate of men, he at least, studies the principles according to which they act, and carefully analyzes their motives and passions. He understands the internal operations of their minds, even while he is unsuccessful in his direct attempts at influencing them. He is himself capable of a high and continued enthusiasm. Gifted with affections which may be refined and elevated, he can feel admiration for all that is beautiful and unselfish among men; can pay homage to the fine arts; or be admitted to enjoy the serious pleasures afforded by philosophy and poetry. He has no talent for light humor and pleasantry, but he excels in bitter retorts and severity of satire. He is subject to ecstasies of pleasure no less than of pain; and the former become him less than the latter. He possesses the virtue of patience in the most eminent degree. Nothing can fatigue or subdue him. Disappointments do not weary him, nor can he be baffled by delay.”
“The history of literature and the arts is full of examples of this temperament; on the world also, it has frequently exercised a wide and lasting influence. The most eloquent of modern philosophers, the gifted child of Geneva, the outcast of fortune, offers an illustration. How brilliant is his imagination! What timidity marks his character in smaller affairs! What dauntless courage animated him when he published truths in defiance of the Roman Church and the vengeance of despots! What a power also was exercised over him by beauty! How willingly he offers his Eloise in manuscript, on gilt-edged paper, neatly sewed with ribands, to his accomplished patroness! What ignorance of the world do we find in him, and yet what discriminating delineations of the passions and hearts of men! So long as a love of truth, of liberty, of virtue, shall avail, with charity to mitigate the condemnation of vices, which a defect of education may palliate but nit excuse; so long as splendor of imagination, keen reasoning, eloquent reproofs of fashionable follies and crimes, in a word, the fine thoughts and style of genius, shall be admired, the name and the writings of Rousseau will be remembered, and the analysis of his mind explain the organization which we are describing.”
“In English poetry Cowley seems to have been of this temperament. Milton, originally bilious, acquired something of it from age and misfortunes. It was natural to the bard of Mantua; it threw the thick cloud of self-torturing gloom over the poet of chivalry and the cross, the sweetest minstrel of his country, or rather of all time, the inimitable Tasso.”
“These are instances of men devoted to letters. History describes Demosthenes as of a slender form and short breath; therefore, we infer, of a narrow chest. His physiognomy had a gloomy expression, as we know, not only from the busts of him, but from the insolent jests of Aeschines. He is represented as of unyielding fixedness of purpose; a man whom neither the factions of the people, nor the clamors of the aristocratic party, not the gold of Macedonia, could move from the career of disinterested patriotism. Arriving at early manhood, he found an object worthy of the employment of his life, and remained true to it in danger, in power, in success, in defeat – at home, on embassies, in exile, and in death. E was an ardent lover of liberty, smitten also with a true passion for glory. Moreover, in spite of his perseverance, he was naturally timid. When he was presented at the Court of Philip, he is said to have been embarrassed, and to have shown no proof of his greatness. When called from the forum of the camp, he was not at once capable of directing the battle. He was accustomed never to address the Athenians except after careful preparation; yet on great occasions, he was sometimes raised beyond himself, and if excited and compelled to speak, he did it as it were by inspiration and with irresistible force. All these things are traits of the melancholic temperament.”


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