Text: Burton R. Pollin, “November 1836 (Texts),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. V: SLM (1997), pp. ???-??? (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 316, continued:]

Texts of November [[1836]]

[column 1:]

1. [John Forbes and John Conolly, eds.]. The British and Foreign Medical Review.

2. Z. Collins Lee. Address Delivered before the Baltimore Lyceum.

3. [Charles Dickens]. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

1

The British and Foreign Medical Review, or Quarterly Journal of Practical Medicine and Surgery. Edited by John Forbes, M.D., F. R. S., and John Conolly, M. D. (American Edition.) Nos. I, II and III: For January, April, July, 1836.

If any augury of success is to be drawn from desert, this work may fairly be regarded as likely soon to assume a vanward place amongst its competitors for favor with the medical world. Whether we view the quantity or the quality of its matter — the number, variety, richness, or power of its articles — the comprehensiveness of its plan or the judiciousness of its arrangement — it equally strikes us as possessing the very first degree of merit.

Each number consists of four grand divisions: I. Analytical and Critical Reviews; II. Bibliographical Notices; III. Selections from Foreign Journals; IV. Medical Intelligence. So wide is the scope of each one of these divisions, and so copious its filling up, that a steady reader of the Review can hardly fail to know very material step that medical science takes — every important discovery — every valuable publication, and almost every instructive case. Not the least commendable trait in the work, is the notice it takes of foreign medicine; the attention it bestows upon the state of the profession and upon medical men, medical works, and medical institutions — not only in England — not only in Great Britain — not only in Europe — but in America, and even in Asia. It practically recognizes a great commonwealth of knowledge, pervading the whole earth; each province alike concerned, and alike entitled to be lighted and cheered by the sun of science; a widespread fraternity of intellect and benevolence, of which membership is limited to no climate or hemisphere. Thus we see notices of the state of medicine in Spain, Russia and Denmark; and of the medical journals now published in Great Britain, France, Italy, Denmark, Germany, the Colonies, and America. En passant, we state the number of these: in Germany 11; in Italy 5; in Denmark 4; in the United States 8; in Rio Janeiro 1; in Kingston (Jamaica) 1; in Calcutta 1; in. France (including hebdomadal and tri-weekly papers,) 17. In Great Britain it seems there are but six.

We cannot too much admire the sound sense and enlarged philanthropy breathed in the following passage of the British Medical Review, occurring just after it has bespoken a regular exchange with its foreign contemporaries.

“It is our anxious desire and earnest hope to make it a freer medium of communication and a closer bond of union, between the members of the medical profession in all civilized countries, than has hitherto existed. It is delightful to all who cultivate the arts of peace, to live in times when the nations of the earth may freely communicate with each other. without restraint or difficulty: and it is doubly delightful to those who, like the members of our profession, are striving only for what is good, to find themselves associated in their labors with the virtuous and the wise of every land, differing indeed in the external and unessential characters of language, customs, and civil polity, but identified in the common desire to improve the physical, moral, and intellectual condition of man, and consequently, to augment the happiness, and exalt the dignity of the human race.” No. I, p. 230.

It pleases our pride as Americans, to observe the large space which our country evidently occupies in the opinion of the enlightened men who edit this Review. The physicians of the United States and their works, in its pages, fill twice the room, we believe, of those in any other foreign country, not excepting France or Germany; and there are repeated and unequivocal proofs, that the inconsiderable figure which this, like other departments of American science and literature, has hitherto made in British eyes, is now to be entirely changed. Mark the conciliatory and fraternal tone of what follows:

“The energetic character of the American people, whom we feel proud to regard as derived from a common ancestry with ourselves, and their astonishing progress during the last half century in the arts and sciences, are no less conspicuous in the actual state of medicine there, than in the other branches of human knowledge and social amelioration. Were we, however, not resolved to make the state of medical science among our North American brethren better known and more justly appreciated in England, we should almost be ashamed to confess how little we ourselves know of it, and how little is really known of it by the great majority of our best informed physicians and surgeons. While the medicine of France is familiar to most men of any education among us, and that of Germany and Italy is known to many, the condition of our science throughout the vast territories and in the immense cities of the United States, although recorded in our own language, and cultivated in the same spirit as by ourselves, is scarcely known to us at all. A striking proof of this is, that in some recent histories of medicine published in this country, by men of the very first talents and acquirements, scarcely any notice is taken of America, or of the improvements or discoveries for which we are indebted to American physicians and surgeons. An equally striking evidence is the extremely limited importation into this country of American books, and the non-circulation of American Journals among us. On the contrary, the extreme eagerness with which English books are received in America, is no less strikingly illustrated by the well known fact that all good works on British medicine are not only imported into, but are immediately republished in America, and circulated in vast numbers.” “Dr. Combe’s admirable work on Hygiene, has not only been reprinted in America, but circulated to the amount of 10,000.”

“The zeal with which medicine is cultivated in America, is equally manifested by the number and variety of the medical journals published there; and we are bound in fairness to add, that the original communications and criticisms contained in such of them as we have met with, sufficiently prove that it is not a zeal without knowledge.” Id. p. 229.

The foregoing extracts are worth making and worth reading, for two especial reasons: first, because in speaking so kindly of us, they tend to awaken a mutual throb of kindness in our own bosoms, and so to strengthen and multiply the ties of international affection; and second, because by showing us how insignificant we are in the civilized world, they severely and justly rebuke our national vanity, pampered so long by our Fourth of July orators and newspaper paragraphists, into the belief that we are “the greatest and most enlightened people on earth.”

Among the American physicians whose names are brought with praise before the British public in the Review before us, are Drs. Dunglison, Geddings, and Smith, of Baltimore, and Jackson (senior and junior,) of Boston. Though Dr. Dunglison is an Englishman born, we claim his professional merits chiefly for America, who has fostered, developed and matured, by appreciating and rewarding them. We sympathize in the gratification he must feel, at the emphatic and pre eminent tribute rendered him in the preface, where he is classed with, yet above, the distinguished physicians of Berlin, Hamburg, Geneva, Madrid, and St. Petersburg, to whom obligations are acknowledged for valuable assistance.

In No. 2, is a very favorable review of Dr. Dunglison’s late work on the Elements of Hygiene. Like his prior and large work on Human Physiology, (of which, as well as of his Medical Dictionary, America is the birth place,) this valuable treatise is rather technical than popular; being designed more for medical than for general readers.

In the same article, is a detailed notice of the before mentioned essay of Dr. Combe, on Hygiene — or, to give its proper title, “The Principles of Physiology applied to the Preservation of Health, and to the Improvement of Physical and Mental Education.” This is the work of which the Reviewer says 10,000 copies have been circulated in the United States; but as it has been stereotyped by the Harpers, and made a number of their “Family Library,” besides publication in other forms, we question if 20,000 copies be not nearer the truth. The whole range of physical authorship, we have long believed, does not present an equal to this modest little book of Dr. Combe’s, for curious, interesting, and valuable truth: not to physicians alone, or to scholars, or to gentlemen, or to school-mistresses, but to every class of mankind, from the President of a College to the laborer in “his clouted shoon.” The topics it particularly treats of, are the structure and functions of the skin — of the muscular system — the lungs — the bones — and the nervous system, with the mental faculties, supposed to be connected with it. Annexed to each of these subjects are rules, “by the observance of which, each of them may be kept in health, and may conduce to the general health of the body.” “And thus the reader is led to wholesome customs, by being taught the reason of their being wholesome.”

It is now admitted by all intelligent persons, except those captious and querulous praisers of time past, who abound in every age, that medicine is far advanced in a great and most salutary reformation, the progress of which is still onward. In nothing is this reform more conspicuous — nay, in nothing does it more consist — than in the profession’s now aiming to preserve health by timely precautions, instead of being satisfied to restore it when lost. In fact it is not now medicine so much as hygiene; it is the art of preserving rather than the art of healing; prevention rather than cure. And as much superior as prevention proverbially is to cure — so much better is the present plan of guarding the health by a judicious diet, seasonable clothing, dwellings properly warmed and aired, and a strict attention to cleanliness than the old one, of letting luxury and debauchery have their course, and then trusting to expel their crudities and counteract their poison by physic. If the expelling agent — the antidote — had been always infallible (and alas, how many grave-yards prove the contrary!) — the wear and tear of constitution, produced by the action of the disease, and even of the remedy, was a clear balance against the old system.

Dr. Combe’s work is emphatically an emanation of the reformed school of medicine; and though in that school the names of Broussais, Louis and Jackson may be more united by fame, we deem “Combe on Mental Health”* to have borne away from them all the palm of usefulness.

In the three numbers of the Review, are many articles which we would fain mention, but all would exceed our space, and we do not like the task of further selection. Some idea of the merits of the work (and incidentally of Dr. C.’s) was all we aimed to convey.

It is republished (quarterly) in New York, by W. Jackson, and in Baltimore by William Neal, who are authorized to receive subscriptions. The price is $5 per annum.

2

MR. LEE’S ADDRESS.

Address delivered before the Baltimore Lyceum, Athenæum Society, William Wirt Society, Washington Lyceum, Philo-nomian Society and Franklin Association, Literary and Scientific Societies of Baltimore, on the 4th of July, 1836. By Z. Collins Lee, Esq.

Having reason to be well aware of Mr. Lee’s oratorical powers, we were not altogether at liberty to imagine his Address, merely from the deep attention with which, we are told, its delivery was received, the impassioned and scholar-like performance we now find it upon perusal. Few similar things indeed have afforded us any similar pleasure. We have no intention, however, of speaking more fully, at this late day, of an Address whose effect must have depended so largely upon anniversary recollections. We allude to it now with the sole purpose of recording, in brief, our opinion of its merits, and of quoting one of its passages without comment.

Is it now, as it was formerly, the necessary tendency of all alarming and apparently fatal convulsions of society and governments, to realize often permanent good out of temporary evil? The political revolutions which distinguished the close of the 18th century were accompanied with various secondary movements more benign and pacific in their character, and more lasting in their results, though not contemplated by the then apostles of anarchy. The changes to which I refer were perhaps among their legitimate results, and when they have been studied through a period longer than the perturbations which produced them, they will doubtless be ranked among the compensatory adjustments, in which Providence strikes a balance between present and overwhelming evils and future and permanent good; for in the political as well as in the natural world the desolating torrent, which sweeps away its bulwarks, often loses its power in the depths of its own excavations, whilst it forms a new barrier out of the very elements it displaced. Thus, in every country which has passed like ours through a great and sudden revolution, or been the scene of public excitement and party spirit, there will be a principle of adjustment and order springing out of the most dangerous and disorganizing commotions. That our land has been lately the witness of most daring outrages upon public peace and private rights — that the torch of the incendiary, and the more fearful and disgraceful out — breakings of lawless violence and ferocious passion, have trampled law and order before our eyes in the dust, and that life and property have been swept away by the sirocco breath of popular tumult, are melancholy facts attested in many parts of our country — and to one unacquainted with the genius of our institutions and the habits of our people, these were indeed most startling evidences of the inefficiency of the one and the unfitness of the other for self-government. But, my fellow-citizens, at the bottom of the American character and closely interwoven with its general sentiment, is a recuperative and renovating principle of right and order, which, sooner or later compensates for the devastation and ruin of one day, by years of order and submission to the laws, and binds as victims upon their own Moloch altars the mad passions and daring spirits which perpetrated it. Let not, therefore, our confidence and hopes be diminished or torn from the true, essential and conservative principles of our institutions, but rather let these evils stimulate us to greater zeal and more devoted labor, in spreading far and wide, by means of knowledge and religion, the true and only remedies — and though the storm may howl and the clouds gather over portions of the country, oh! let us still cling with unfaltering confidence to our union, to our religion, to our liberties. In this age kindred minds will unite their sympathies either for good or evil; wealth seeks its perservation [[preservation]] by uniting itself to wealth — power strives to extend itself by an alliance with power — in such cases wealth and rank have frequently exercised a predominant influence, and brute force has still oftener enjoyed its short lived triumph; but intellectual power guided by high religious and moral motives, has never failed to establish its just rights and proper sway. The education therefore of the people, the diffusion of knowledge, and the encouragement of literature and science are the only safeguard for a government and social system like ours, exposed as they are to the double hostility of popular menace and the arrogant inroads of exclusive and aristocratic orders; but the most efficacious (fall these elements of stability is that of intellectual power, whether it is exhibited in the statesman’s forethought and sagacity — in the philosopher’s powers of combination and judgment — or in the lighter and more elegant accomplishments of the scholar and the poet — the shaft of the stately column is not weakened by the acanthus that curls at its summit, nor is reason less enlightened when embellished by the imagination.

The foundation, therefore, of a literature peculiarly free and national, and the encouragement of all the arts of life, should be our first aim; and here, gentlemen of the societies, which have so honorably been dedicated to these noble objects, permit me to animate, if I can, your laudable zeal, and invoke to you the praise and support of our proud city — of the whole country. In your hands are deposited sacred and beneficial trusts — on your efforts as citizens and scholars depend much of the future prosperity and glory of Maryland. It is not enough therefore that you are the nominal and passive members of these scientific and literary associations, or the admirers of all that is beautiful in the culture of letters and the promotion of science. You may walk indeed through the gorgeous temple of knowledge and explore its holiest recesses or arcana, or bow before its altars with homage and adoration, but you must unfold its portals and lift high its gates that the people may enter, and become as enlightened as they are free. Above all, in aiding by your exertions in this great work, you should endeavor to found a literature whose seat is the bosom of God — whose end the elevation of man. Let then the Bible be its chief pillar or corner stone, from whose pure pages and sublime truths, the waters of life may gush forth, and mingling with the full stream of rational and social prosperity, form

“—— as deep and as brilliant a tide

As ever bore freedom aloft on its wave.”

3

THE PICKWICK CLUB.

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club: Containing a Faithful Record of the Perambulations, Perils, Travels, Adventures, and Sporting Transactions of the Corresponding Numbers. Edited by “Boz.” Philadelphia: Republished by Carey, Lea and Blanchard.

In our June “Messenger,” we spoke at some length of the “ Watkins Tottle and other Papers,” by “Boz.” We then expressed a high opinion of the comic power, and of the rich imaginative conception of Mr. Dickens — an opinion which “The Pickwick Club” has fully sustained. The author possesses nearly every desirable quality in a writer of fiction, and has withal a thousand negative virtues. In his delineation of Cockney life he is rivalled only by the author of “ Peter Snook,” while in efforts of a far loftier and more difficult nature, he has greatly surpassed the best of the brief tragic pieces of Bulwer, or of Warren. Just now, however, we can only express our opinion that his general powers as a prose writer are equalled by few. The work is to be continued, and hereafter we may give at some length the considerations which have led us to this belief. From the volume before us we quote the concluding portion of a vigorous sketch, entitled “A Madman’s MS.” The writer is supposed to be an hereditary madman, and to have labored under the disease for many years, but to have been conscious of his condition, and thus, by a strong effort of the will, to have preserved his secret from the eye of even his most intimate friends.

I don ‘t remember forms or faces now, but I know the girl was beautiful. I know she was; for in the bright moonlight nights, when I start up from my sleep, and all is quiet about me, I see, standing still and motionless in one corner of this cell, a slight and wasted figure, with long black hair, which, streaming down her back, stirs with no earthly wind, and eyes that fix their gaze on me, and never wink or close. Hush! the blood chills at my heart as I write it down — that form is hers; the face is very pale, and the eyes are glassy bright: but I know them well. That figure never moves — it never frowns and mouths as others do, that fill this place sometimes; but it is much more dreadful to me, even than the spirits that tempted me many years ago — it comes flesh from the grave; and is so very death-like.

For nearly a year I saw that face grow paler: for nearly a year I saw the tears steal down the mournful cheeks, and never knew the cause. I found it out at last though. They could not keep it from me long. She had never liked me; I had never thought she did: she despised my wealth, and hated the splendor in which she lived; — I had not expected that. She loved another. This I had never thought of. Strange feelings came over me, and thoughts forced upon me by some secret power, whirled round and round my brain. I did not hate her, though I hated the boy she still wept for. I pitied — yes, I pitied — the wretched life to which her cold and selfish relations had doomed her. I knew that she could not live long, but the thought that before her death she might give birth to some ill-fated being, destined to hand down madness to its offspring, determined me. I resolved to kill her.

For many weeks I thought of poison, and then of drowning, and then of fire. A fine sight the grand house in flames, and the madman’s wife smouldering away to cinders. Think of the jest of a large reward, too, and of some sane man swinging in the wind, for a deed he never did, and all through a madman’s cunning! I thought often of this, but I gave it up at last. Oh! the pleasure of strapping the razor day after day, feeling the sharp edge, and thinking of the gash one stroke of its thin bright point would make!

At last the old spirits who had been with me so often before, whispered in my ear that the time was come, and thrust the open razor into my hand. I grasped it firmly, rose softly from the bed, and leaned over my sleeping wife. Her face was buried in her hands. I withdrew them softly, and they fell listlessly on her bosom. She had been weeping, for the traces of the tears were still wet upon her cheek. Her face was calm and placid; and even as I looked upon it, a tranquil smile lighted up her pale features. I laid my hand softly on her shoulder. She started — it was only a passing dream. I leaned forward again. She screamed, and woke.

One motion of my hand, and she would never again have uttered cry or sound. But I was startled, and drew back. Her eyes were fixed on mine. I know not how it was, but they cowed and frightened me; and I quailed beneath them. She rose from the bed, still gazing fixedly and steadily on me. I trembled; the razor was in my hand, but I could not move. She made towards the door. As she neared it, she turned, and withdrew her eyes from my face. The spell was broken. I bounded forward, and clutched her by the arm. Uttering shriek upon shriek, she sunk upon the ground.

Now I could have killed her without a struggle; but the house was alarmed. I heard the tread of footsteps on the stairs. I replaced the razor in its usual drawer, unfastened the door, and called loudly for assistance.

They came, and raised her, and placed her on the bed. She lay bereft of animation for hours; and when life, look, and speech returned, her senses had deserted her, and she raved wildly and furiously.

Doctors were called in — great men who rolled up to my door in easy carriages, with fine horses and gaudy servants. They were at her bedside for weeks. They had a great meeting, and consulted together in low and solemn voices in another room. One, the cleverest, and most celebrated among them, took me aside and bidding me prepare for the worst, told me — me, the madman! that my wife was mad. He stood close beside me at an open window, his eyes looking in my face, and his hand laid upon my arm. With one effort I could have hurled him into the street beneath. It would have been rare sport to have done it; but my secret was at stake, and I let him go. A few days after, they told me I must place her under some restraint: I must provide a keeper for her. I! I went into the open fields where none could hear me, and laughed till the air resounded with my shouts!

She died next day. The white-headed old man followed her to the grave, and the proud brothers dropped a tear over the insensible corpse of her whose sufferings they had regarded in her lifetime with muscles of iron. All this was food for my secret mirth, and I laughed behind the white handkerchief which I held up to my face as we rode home, till the tears came into my eyes.

But though I had carried my object and killed her, was restless and disturbed, and I felt that before long my secret must be known. I could not hide the wild mirth and joy which boiled within me, and made me when! was alone, at home, jump up and beat my hands together, and dance round and round, and roar aloud. When I went out, and saw the busy crowds hurrying about the streets: or to the theatre, and heard the sound of music, — and beheld the people dancing, I felt such glee, that I could have rushed among them, and torn them to pieces limb from limb, and howled in transport. But I ground my teeth, and struck my feet upon the floor, and drove my sharp nails into my hands. I kept it down; and no one knew that I was a madman yet.

I remember — though it is one of the last things I can remember: for now I mix realities with my dreams, and having so much to do, and being always hurried here, have no time to separate the two, from some strange confusion in which they get involved — I remember how I let it out at last. Ha! ha! I think I see their frightened looks now, and feel the ease with which I flung them from me, and dashed my clenched fists into their white faces, and then flew like the wind, and left them screaming and shouting far behind. The strength of a giant comes upon me when I think of it. There — see how this iron bar bends beneath my furious wrench. I could snap it like a twig, only there are long galleries here with many doors — I don ‘t think I could find my way along them: and even if I could, I know there are iron gates below which they keep locked and barred. They know what a clever madman I have been and they are proud to have me here to show.

Let me see; — yes, I had been out. It was late at night when I reached home, and found the proudest of the thee proud brothers, waiting to see me — urgent business he said: I recollect it well. I hated that man with all a madman’s hate. Many and many a time had my fingers longed to tear him. — They told me he was there. I ran swiftly up stairs. He had a word to say to me. I dismissed the servants. It was late, and we were alone together — for the first time.

I kept my eyes carefully from him at first, for I knew what he little thought — and I gloried in the knowledge — that the light of madness gleamed from them like fire. We sat in silence for a few minutes. He spoke at last. My recent dissipation. and strange remarks, made so soon after his sister’s death, were an insult to her memory. Coupling together many circumstances which had at first escaped his observation, he thought I had not treated her well. He wished to know whether he was right in inferring that I meant to cast a reproach upon her memory, and a disrespect upon her family. It was due to the uniform he wore, to demand this explanation.

This man had a commission in the army — a commission, purchased with my money, and his sister’s misery. This was the man who had been foremost in the plot to ensnare me, and grasp my wealth. This was the man who had been the main instrument in forcing his sister to wed me; well knowing that her heart was given to ‘that puling boy. Due! Due to his uniform! The livery of his degradation! I turned my eyes upon him — I could not help it — but I spoke not a word.

I saw the sudden change that came upon him, beneath my gaze. He was a bold man, but the color faded from his face, and he drew back his chair. I dragged mine nearer to him; and as I laughed — I was very merry then — I saw him shudder. I felt the madness rising within me. He was afraid of me.

‘You were very fond of your sister when she was alive ’ — I said — ‘Very. ’

He looked uneasily round him, and I saw his hand grasp the back of his chair: but he said nothing.

‘You villain, ’ cried I, ’ I found you out; I discovered your hellish plots against me; I know her heart was fixed on some one else before you compelled her to marry me. I know it — I know it. ’

He jumped suddenly from his chair, brandished it aloft, and bid me stand back-for I took care to be getting closer to him all the time I spoke.

I screamed rather than talked, for I felt tumultuous passions eddying through my veins, and the old spirits whispering and taunting me to tear his heart out.

‘Damn you,’ said I, starting up, and rushing upon him; ‘I killed her. I am a madman. Down with you. Blood, blood, I will have it.’

I turned aside with one blow, the chair he hurled at me in his terror, and closed with him; and with a heavy crash, we rolled upon the floor together.

It was a fine struggle that, for he was a tall strong man, fighting for his life; and I, a powerful madman, thirsting to destroy him. I knew no strength could equal mine, and I was right. Right again, though a madman! His struggles grew fainter. I knelt upon his chest, and clasped his brawny throat firmly with both hands. His face grew purple; his eyes were starting from his head, and with protruded tongue he seemed to mock me. I squeezed the tighter.

The door was suddenly burst open with a loud noise, and a crowd of people rushed forward, crying aloud to each other to secure the madman.

My secret was out; and my only struggle now, was for liberty and freedom. I gained my feet before a hand was on me, threw myself among my assailants, and cleared my way with my strong arm as if 1 bore a hatchet in my hand, and hewed them down before me. I gained the door, dropped over the banisters, and in an instant was ill the street.

Straight and swift I ran, and no one dared to stop me. I heard the noise of feet behind, and redoubled my speed. It grew fainter and fainter in the distance, and at length died away altogether: but on I bounded, through marsh and rivulet, over fence and wall, with a wild shout, which was taken up by the strange beings that flocked around me on every side, and swelled the sound, till it pierced the air. I was borne upon the arms of demons who swept along upon the wind, and bore down bank and hedge before them, and spun me round and round with a rustle and a speed that made my head swim, until at last they threw me from them with a violent shock, and I fell heavily upon the earth. When I awoke I found myself here — here in this gay cell where the sun-light seldom comes, and the moon steals in, in rays which only serve to show the dark shadows about me, and that silent figure in its old corner. When I lie awake, I can sometimes hear strange shrieks and cries from distant parts of this large place. What they are, I know not; but they neither come from that pale form, nor does it regard them. For from the first shades of dust till the earliest light of morning, it still stands motionless in the same place, listening to the music of my iron chain, and watching my gambols on my straw bed.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page ???, column 1:]

* This is the title usually affixed to the back of Dr. C.’s book.

 


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[S:0 - BRP5S, 1997] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (November 1836 (Texts))