Letters on England HTML version

11. On Inoculation
It is inadvertently affirmed in the Christian countries of Europe that the English
are fools and madmen. Fools, because they give their children the small-pox to
prevent their catching it; and madmen, because they wantonly communicate a
certain and dreadful distemper to their children, merely to prevent an uncertain
evil. The English, on the other side, call the rest of the Europeans cowardly and
unnatural. Cowardly, because they are afraid of putting their children to a little
pain; unnatural, because they expose them to die one time or other of the small-
pox. But that the reader may be able to judge whether the English or those who
differ from them in opinion are in the right, here follows the history of the famed
inoculation, which is mentioned with so much dread in France.
The Circassian women have, from time immemorial, communicated the small-
pox to their children when not above six months old by making an incision in the
arm, and by putting into this incision a pustule, taken carefully from the body of
another child. This pustule produces the same effect in the arm it is laid in as
yeast in a piece of dough; it ferments, and diffuses through the whole mass of
blood the qualities with which it is impregnated. The pustules of the child in whom
the artificial small-pox has been thus inoculated are employed to communicate
the same distemper to others. There is an almost perpetual circulation of it in
Circassia; and when unhappily the small-pox has quite left the country, the
inhabitants of it are in as great trouble and perplexity as other nations when their
harvest has fallen short.
The circumstance that introduced a custom in Circassia, which appears so
singular to others, is nevertheless a cause common to all nations, I mean
maternal tenderness and interest.
The Circassians are poor, and their daughters are beautiful, and indeed, it is in
them they chiefly trade. They furnish with beauties the seraglios of the Turkish
Sultan, of the Persian Sophy, and of all those who are wealthy enough to
purchase and maintain such precious merchandise. These maidens are very
honourably and virtuously instructed to fondle and caress men; are taught
dances of a very polite and effeminate kind; and how to heighten by the most
voluptuous artifices the pleasures of their disdainful masters for whom they are
designed. These unhappy creatures repeat their lesson to their mothers, in the
same manner as little girls among us repeat their catechism without
understanding one word they say.
Now it often happened that, after a father and mother had taken the utmost care
of the education of their children, they were frustrated of all their hopes in an
instant. The small-pox getting into the family, one daughter died of it, another lost
an eye, a third had a great nose at her recovery, and the unhappy parents were