1

"He says however that the cases of ruptured spleen —of which we so frequently hear— are genuine, as frequent fevers often cause immense enlargement of the spleen, which then bursts for a comparatively slight cause, e.g. a planter and a stick."

From Adam's Peak to Elephanta (1892)

How does the example used here relate to the situation? Is it a randomly picked up topic to show the slightness?

2

You have to look at this in context:

The Cinghalese, as I have said before, are a very sensitive people. Any grievance rankles in their bosom, and in revenge they will not unfrequently use the knife. An Eurasian friend, a doctor, says that he quite thinks cases might occur in which a man who had been wounded or assaulted by another would die out of spite in order to get the other hanged! — would connive with his relations and starve himself, and not try to heal the wound. He says however that the cases of ruptured spleen — of which we so frequently hear — are genuine, as frequent fevers often cause immense enlargement of the spleen, which then bursts for a comparatively slight cause, e.g. a planter and a stick.

The doctor has been speaking of cases in which parties wounded by assault with a knife deliberately starve themselves and leave the wound untreated in order to increase the severity of the injury—they are even willing to die of the wound if it gets the assailant hanged. But he qualifies this by pointing specifically to cases of ruptured spleen: in these even a minor injury, such as a beating by a planter with a stick? rather an assault with a knife, may genuinely have a deadly effect, because prior fever has made the victim unusually vulnerable.


? I take the (English) planter to be the agent delivering the beating, because it is the possibly self-induced death of Cinghalese which is at issue. However, the planter may rather be the victim, if the doctor means that Europeans are particularly susceptible to fevers and consequent splenomegaly.

  • What is an "attack on a planter"? Planter as in the giant pots urban trees are grown in? Planter as a somewhat oddball synonym for farmer? – Dan Bron Dec 4 '16 at 17:05
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    @DanBron Planters in this work means the owners of tea plantations. ... I see now I have probably mistaken the agent in this case (though it's hard to be certain--the passage is chattily elliptical) and have revised it. – StoneyB Dec 4 '16 at 17:08
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    I see, the plantation owner is beating one of his employees/serfs/slaves/whatever for disobedience or some trespass, he's beating him with a stick as a punishment (which I suppose was normal at the time), which normally wouldn't have killed the victim, except, as you say, his spleen was previously made vulnerable to bursting by a fever. Ok, makes sense. Thanks. +1. – Dan Bron Dec 4 '16 at 17:11
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    Whether the planter is the beater or beatee is not so important, IMO, as the insight that planter means "plantation owner" in this context, and that beatings-with-sticks was a not uncommon practice at the time. – Dan Bron Dec 4 '16 at 17:19
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    @Zan700 It was very common in the 19th century; the antebellum Southern land magnates are still known as the "planter aristocracy". – StoneyB Dec 4 '16 at 23:24

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