Online Encyclopedia

HEALTH

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 122 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HEALTH, a condition of physical soundness or well-being, in which an organism discharges its functions efficiently; also in a transferred sense a state of moral or intellectual well-being (see HYGIENE, THERAPEUTICS and PUBLIC HEALTH). " Health " represents the O. Eng. hcellh, the condition or state of being hdl, safe or sound. This word took in northern dialects the form " hale," in southern or midland English hole, hence " whole," with the addition of an initial w, as in " whoop," and in the pronunciation of " one." " Hail," properly an exclamation of greeting, good health to you, hence, to greet, to call out to, is directly Scandinavian in origin, from Old Norwegian heill, cognate with the O. Eng. hdl, used also in this sense. " To heal (0. Eng. hcelan), to make in sound health, to cure, is also cognate. Drinking of .Healths.—The custom of drinking " health " to the living is most probably derived from the ancient religious rite of drinking to the gods and the dead. The Greeks and Romans at meals poured out libations to their gods, and at ceremonial banquets drank to them and to the dead. The Norsemen drank the " minni " of Thor, Odin and Freya, and of their kings at their funeral feasts. With the advent of Christianity the pagan custom survived among the Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples. Such festal formulae as " God's minne!" "A bowl to God in Heaven!" occur, and Christ, the Virgin and the Saints were invoked, instead of heathen gods and heroes. The Norse " minne " was at once love, memory and thought of the absent one, and it survived in medieval and later England in the " minnying " or " mynde " days, on which the memory of the dead was celebrated by services and feasting. Intimately associated with these quasi-sacrificial drinking customs must have ever been the drinking to the health of living men. The Greeks drank to one another and the Romans adopted the custom. The Goths pledged each other with the cry "Hails ! " a greeting which had its counterpart in the Anglo-Saxon " waes hael " (see WASSAIL). Most modern drinking-usages have had their equivalents in classic times. Thus the Greek practice of drinking to the Nine Muses as three times three survives to-day in England and elsewhere. The Roman gallants drank as many glasses to their mistresses as there were letters in each one's name. Thus Martial: " Six cups to Naevia's health go quickly round, 'And be with seven the fair Justina's crown'd." The English drinking phrase—a "toast," to "toast" anyone— not older than the r7th century, had reference at first to this custom of drinking to the ladies. A toast was at first invariably a woman, and the origin of the phrase is curious. In Stuart days there appears to have been a time-honoured custom of putting a piece of toast in the wine-cup before drinking, from a fanciful notion that it gave the liquor a better flavour. In the Taller No. 24 the connexion between this sippet of toast and the fair one pledged is explained as follows: " It happened that on a publick day " (speaking of Bath in Charles II.'s reign) " a celebrated beauty of those times was in the cross bath, and one of the crowd of her admirers took a glass of. the water in which the fair one stood, and drank her health to the company. There was in the place a gay fellow, half fuddled, who offered to jump in, and swore, though he liked not the liquor, he would have the toast. He was opposed in his resolution; yet this whim gave foundation to the present honour which is done to the lady we mention in our liquor, who has ever since been called a toast." Skeat adds (Etym. Diet., 1908), "whether the story be true or not, it may be seen that a ` toast,' i.e. a health, easily took its name from being the usual accompaniment to liquor, especially in loving cups," &c. Health drinking had by the beginning of the 17th century become a very ceremonious business in England. At Christmas 1623 the members of the Middle Temple, according to one of the Harleian MSS. quoted in The Life of Sir Simonds D'Ewes, drank to the health of the princess Elizabeth, who, with her husband. the king of Bohemia, was then suffering great misfortunes, and stood up, one after the other, cup in one hand, sword in the other, and pledged her, swearing to die in her service. Toasts were often drunk solemnly on bended knees; according to one authority, Samuel Ward of Ipswich, in his Woe to Drunkards (1622), on bare knees. In 1668 at Sir George Carteret's at Cranbourne the health of the duke of York was drunk by all in turn, each on his knees, the king, who was a guest, doing the like. A Scotch custom, still surviving, was to drink a toast with one foot on the table and one on the chair. Healths, too, were drunk in a definite order. Braithwaite says: " These cups proceed either in order or out of order. In order when no person transgresseth or drinkes out of course, but the cup goes round according to their manner of sitting: and this we call a health-cup, because in our wishing or confirming of any one's health, bare headed and standing, it is performed by all the company " (Laws of Drinking, 1617). Francis Douce's MSS. notes say: " It was the custom in Beaumont and Fletcher's time for the young gallants to stab themselves in the arms or elsewhere, in order to drink the health of their mistresses." Pepys, in his Diary for the 19th of June 1663, writes: " To the Rhenish wine house, where Mr Moore showed us the French manner when a health is drunk, to bow to him that drunk to you, and then apply yourself to him, whose lady's health is drunk, and then to the person that you drink to, which I never knew before; but it seems it is now the fashion." A Frenchman visiting England in Charles II.'s time speaks of the custom of drinking but half your cup, which is then filled up again and presented to him or her to whose health you drank. England's divided loyalty in the 18th century bequeathed to modern times a custom which possibly yet survives. At dinners to royalties, until the accession of Edward VII., finger-glasses were not placed on the table, because in early Georgian days those who were secretly Jacobites passed their wine-glasses over the finger-bowls before drinking the loyal toasts, in allusion to the royal exiles " over the water," thus salving their consciences. Lord Cockburn (1779–1854),, in his Memorials of his Time (1856), states that in his day the drinking of toasts had become a perfect social tyranny; "every glass during dinner had to be dedicated to some one. It was thought sottish and rude to take wine without this, as if forsooth there was nobody present worth drinking with. I was present about 1803 when the late duke of Buccleuch took a glass of sherry by himself at the table of Charles Hope, then lord advocate, and this was noticed afterwards as a piece of direct contempt." In Germany to-day it is an insult to refuse to drink with any one; and at one time in the west of America a man took his life in his hands by declining to pledge another. All this is a survival of that very early and universal belief that drinking to one another was a proof of fair play, whether it be in a simple bargain or in matters of life and death. The ceremony surrounding the Loving Cup to-day is reminiscent of the perils of those times when every man's hand was raised against his fellow. This cup, known at the universities as the Grace Cup, was originated, says Miss Strickland in her Lives of the Queens of Scotland, by Margaret Atheling, wife of Malcolm Canmore, who, in order to induce the Scots to remain at table forgrace had a cup of the choicest wine handed round immediately after it had been said. The modern "loving cup" sometimes has a cover, and in this case each guest rises and bows to his immediate neighbour on the right, who, also rising, removes and holds the cover with his right hand while the other drinks; the little comedy is a survival of the days when he who drank was glad to have the assurance that the right or dagger hand of his neighbour was occupied in holding the lid of the chalice. When there is no cover it is a common custom for both the lef t-and the right-hand neighbour to rise while the loving cup is drunk, with the similar object of protecting the drinker from attack. The Stirrup Cup is probably the Roman poculum boni genii, the last glass drunk at the banquet to a general " good night." See Chambers, Book of Days; Valpy, History of Toasting (1881); F. W. Hackwood, Inns, Ales, and Drinking Customs (London, 1909).
End of Article: HEALTH
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