This quiescence continues, till the sensorial power becomes again accumulated in the torpid organs; and then the usual diurnal stimuli excite the revivescent parts again into action; but as this kind of quiescence continues but a short time compared to the cold paroxysm of an ague, and less affects the circulatory system, a less superabundancy of exertion succeeds in the organs previously torpid, and a less excess of arterial activity.
Where the previous quiescence has been owing to a defect of sensorial power, and not to a defect of stimulus, as in the irritative fever with weak pulse, a similar increase of activity of the arterial system succeeds, either from the usual stimulus of the blood, or from a stimulus less than usual; but as there is in general in these cases of fever with weak pulse a deficiency of the quantity of the blood, the pulse in the hot fit is weaker than in health, though it is stronger than in the cold fit, as explained in No. 2. of this section.
Thus those feeble constitutions which have large pupils of their eyes, and all who labour under nervous fevers, seem to owe their want of natural quantity of activity in the system to the deficiency of sensorial power; since, as far as can be seen, they frequently possess the natural quantity of stimulus.
I. There is a species of atrophy, which has not been well understood; when the absorbent vessels of the stomach and intestines have been long inured to the stimulus of too much spirituous liquor, they at length, either by the too sudden omission of fermented or spirituous potation, or from the gradual decay of nature, become in a certain degree paralytic; now it is observed in the larger muscles of the body, when one side is paralytic, the other is more frequently in motion, owing to the less expenditure of sensorial power in the paralytic limbs; so in this case the other part of the absorbent system acts with greater force, or with greater perseverance, in consequence of the paralysis of the lacteals; and the body becomes greatly emaciated in a small time.
After a muscle or organ of sense has been excited into contraction, and the sensorial power ceases to act, the last situation or configuration of it continues; unless it be disturbed by the action of some antagonist fibres, or other extraneous power.
Besides the temporary diminution of the spirit of animation or sensorial power, which is naturally stationary or resident in every living fibre, by a single exhibition of a powerful stimulus, the contractile fibres themselves, by the perpetual application of a new quantity of stimulus, before they have regained their natural quantity of sensorial power, appear to suffer in their capability of receiving so much as the natural quantity of sensorial power; and hence a permanent deficiency of spirit of animation takes place, however long the stimulus may have been withdrawn.
A set of muscular fibres may thus be stimulated into violent exertion, that is, they may act frequently, and with their whole sensorial power, but may nevertheless not act strongly; because the quantity of their sensorial power was originally small, or was previously exhausted.
Thus in those who have been exposed to cold and hunger there is a deficiency of stimulus. While in nervous fever there is a deficiency of sensorial power. And in habitual drunkards, in a morning before their usual potation, there is a deficiency both of stimulus and of sensorial power.
The importance of a greater or less deduction of heat from the system will be more easy to comprehend, if we first consider the great expense of sensorial power used in carrying on the vital motions; that is, which circulates, absorbs, secretes, aerates, and elaborates the whole mass of fluids with unceasing assiduity.
If on the other hand a train of imagination or of voluntary ideas are excited with great energy, and passing on with great vivacity, and become dissevered by some violent stimulus, as the discharge of a pistol near one's ear, another circumstance takes place, which is termed SURPRISE; which by exciting violent irritation, and violent sensation, employs for a time the whole sensorial energy, and thus dissevers the passing trains of ideas, before the power of volition has time to compare them with the usual phenomena of nature.