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Jun 29, 2013

The Bilious 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,

Journal of Homoeopathy

Vol IV  - June, 1855 – No. III

Part II

“The Bilious Temperament”

“We turn to the consideration of the class of men to whom the destinies of the world are generally committed; who rule in the cabinet and on the exchange; who control public business and guide the deliberations of Senates, and who, whether in exalted or private stations, unite in the highest degree instant sagacity with persevering energy. They possess, like the sanguineous, quickness of perception and rapidity of thought; but they at the same time have the power of confining their attention to a single object. They have good practical judgment; they see things as they are, and are never deceived by contemplating measures in a false light; they have a clear eye to pierce the secrets of the human heart – to read the character and understand the motives of others. They are patient and inflexible in their purposes; and however remote may be the aim of their desires; they labor with unwearied toil even for a distant and apparently uncertain success. They are prone to anger, and yet can moderate or conceal their indignation. Their strongest passion is ambition; all other emotions yield to it; even love vainly struggles against it; and if they sometimes give way to beauty, they in their pleasures resemble the Scythians of old, who at their feasts used to strike the cords of their bows to remind themselves of danger. The men of whom we are speaking are urged by constant restlessness to constant action. A habitual sentiment of disquietude allows them no peace but in the tumult of business; the hours of crowded life are the only ones they value; the narrow road of emulation the only one in which they travel.
“The moral characteristics are observed to be connected with a form more remarkable for firmness than for grace. The complexion is generally not light; and not unfrequently of a sallow hue; the hair is dark; the skin dry; the flesh not abundant, but firm; the muscular force great in proportion to the volume of the muscles; the eye vivid and sparkling. The appetite is voracious, rather than delicate; the digestion rapid. Of the internal organs the liver is proportionably the largest and most active, and its copious secretions give a name to the class.”
“Such is the nature of those who belong to bilious temperament. They are to be employed wherever hardiness of resolution, prompt decision and permanence of enterprises are required. They unite in themselves in an eminent degree the manly virtues which lead to results in action. At their birth all the gods came to offer gifts; the graces alone remained away. They stand high in the calendar of Courts, and know how to court the favor of citizens of republics; but Cupid, indignant at their independence of him, degrades them in his calendar. They do not reign in the world of fashion, and the novel-writer could make an Oxenstiern or a Sully an imposing picture, but not the hero of a sentimental tale.”
“Will you learn from living examples what the nature of the bilious temperament is? Walk to the Exchange and ask who best understands the daring business of insurance? Discover by whom the banks are managed which give the surest and largest dividends! Go to our new settlements in the West and mark the men who are early and late riding through the majestic forests of virgin nature, where the progress is impeded, it is true, by no underwood, but where every hardship must be endured, streams forded, nights be spent under the open sky, hunger be defied, and a thousand dangers be braved by the keen speculator, who will take nothing on trust. Or watch the arena of public strife, and see who it is that most skillfully and yet most secretly touches the springs of national action, and controls the distribution of praise and emoluments in the very court of honor!”
“Or if you will not trust yourself with scrutinizing the motives of the living, consult the Muse of History, and with her trumpet-tongue she will tell you of those who are the elect of her heart, those who fill the universe with their fame, and have swayed their times by their prowess and their mental power; from the mighty conquerors of earliest antiquity, whose names float to us through the wrecks of unknown Empires, to the last wonderful man, who in our own times dealt with States as with playthings, and by the force of his despotic will shook the civilized world to its center.”
“Ancient history furnishes perhaps no more exact illustration of this temperament, than in the character of Themistocles. In his boyhood he shunned boyish sports, but would compose declamations and harangues. He says of himself that he had learned neither to tune the harp nor handle the lyre, but that he knew how to make a small and inglorious city both powerful and illustrious. He could not sleep for the trophies of Miltiades. When his superior in the command raised a staff to repel disagreeable advice by a blow, he coolly said, “Strike – but hear me,” rendering patient sublime by his patriotism. Having been a poor and disinherited child, he made his way to the highest honors in Athens, and for a season controlled the civilized world. “He was the first men,” says Thucydides, “for practical judgment.” Of Romans we might name as of the bilious temperament the elder Brutus, the glorious hypocrite, who hid the power of his genius till he could exert it for liberty. The greatest foreigner in the days of the Republic on the Roman soil was Hannibal, and he, not less than Julius Caesar, was of the bilious class.”
“But were we to select an example among those who at any time have been masters of the Seven Hills, we should name the wonderful Montalto, Pope Sextus V. In early life he exerted astonishing industry and talent, made himself the favorite preacher in the cities of Italy, and afterward won the hearts of Spaniards till he was at last made Cardinal. Then of a sudden his character seemed changed; and for almost twenty years he played the part of a deceiver with unequalled skill. He lived in a retired house, kept few servants, was liberal in his expenses for charities, but parsimonious toward himself; contradicted no one; submitted even to insults with perfect good humor; and in short, acquired the name of being the most meek, the most humble, and the most easily guided of the Cardinals. Of the forty-two Cardinals who entered the conclave, Montalto seemed nearest to another world. A crutch supported the declining strength of his old age; and a distressing cough indicated that life was fast consuming away. Six parties divided the assembly; and fourteen Cardinals deemed themselves worthy of the tiara. On balloting, Albano, the most powerfully supported, had but thirteen votes. Let us take this good-natured, dying old man, thought they; he will be easily managed; and four parties of the six united for Montalto. The ballot was ended: “Gods! I am Pope of Rome,” exclaimed the hale old man. Casting from him the cloaks in which he was muffled, he threw his crutch across the room, and bending back, spit to the ceiling of the high chamber of the Vatican, in which he was to show the vigor of his lungs. Never did a wiser man hold the keys of St. Peter. He punished vice even in the high places with inexorable severity; he established the library of the Vatican; placed the magnificent obelisk in front of St. Peter’s; caused the matchless cupola to be built; conducted water to the Quirinal Hill; erected a vast hospital for the poor; made the splendid street, called from his name Felice; reformed the finances of the States of the Church; and while he exercised great influence on the affairs of Christendom, he himself kept at peace. Since his time the Catholic Church has not had at its head a man of superior genius.”     

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