WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
SIR WILLIAM OSLER, B.A., M.D., F.R.S.
AND A PREFACE BY
FRANCIS R. PACKARD, M.D.
Logo of the publishing company
By PAUL B. HOEBER
Published April, 1915
Printed in the U. S. A.
It is very fitting that a new edition of the Gold Headed Cane should appear just at this time, as a memorial of the life and labours of its first owner, Dr. John Radcliffe. Here in Oxford, where his name is writ large in stone, we had hoped to have ceremonies appropriate to the 200th anniversary of his death, but at present the University has other things to think of. The Radcliffe Trustees have, however, arranged with Dr. Nias and the Clarendon Press to issue a brief life and an account of the Travelling Fellows, with whom his name is associated. When and where he got the celebrated cane is unknown. To the story of his life so well told here by Dr. Macmichael nothing need be added. There is probably no name in our profession with which are associated so many benefactions. The Radcliffe Infirmary, originally erected by his Trustees out of their funds, has become one of the most important[vi] of the county hospitals in England; but the Trustees no longer have any financial interest in its support. The Radcliffe Observatory was built by them and they pay the upkeep and the salary of the Radcliffe Observer. The Radcliffe Camera or Library, one of the most beautiful buildings in Oxford, was designed for the scientific part of the Bodleian Library. After the laboratories were centred about the museum it was found more convenient to have the scientific books close at hand, and one of the old Guilds, the Draper’s Company of London, put up a beautiful new building in which the Radcliffe Library is now housed, all the expenses of which are paid by the Trustees. Also under Dr. Radcliffe’s will £600 a year is paid to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. The property is largely in land not far from Stony Stratford. In addition, he left his Yorkshire estate to the Master and Fellows of University College, to provide for the maintenance of the Travelling Fellows: one is elected each year and holds the appointment, worth £200, for[vii] three years, one of the conditions being that he spends half of the time in studying abroad. These splendid benefactions keep alive the name of Dr. Radcliffe in Oxford and in professional circles.
In many ways the account of Mead is the best in the volume. Of him Johnson is reported to have said that he lived more in the sunshine of life than any man he knew. Dr. Macmichael in this little volume has done more for Mead’s memory than his published works. It is a pity that he did not hand over his wonderful collections to the College of Physicians. Now the bibliophile turns the pages of the printed catalogue of his books, which took twenty-seven days to sell, and mourns that the treasures of his lifetime should have been dispersed.
About the next possessor of the Cane, Anthony Askew, the memory lingers in connection with the famous Bibliotheca Askeviana, the priceless treasures of which were dispersed in 1775 in a twenty days’ sale. Only one of[viii] the great libraries collected by physicians in the 18th century remains. William Hunter had the good sense to leave his books, coins, manuscripts and specimens to his native place, and the Hunterian Library and Museum are among the most precious possessions of Glasgow University.
Pitcairn is remembered to-day solely from his association with the Cane. In the rambling section under his name, Macmichael does not tell us much about him, and leaves us a little in doubt when he died, and whether or not his nephew, David, was one of the possessors of the Cane. As a practitioner he appears to have picked up the secret of Sydenham’s success, the free use of opium, as in the book he speaks of his currus triumphalis opii.
Baillie, in many ways the most distinguished possessor of the Cane, had caught the inspiration from his uncles John and William Hunter, and to him more than to any other man is due that close combination of pathology with clinical medicine, still the distinguishing[ix] feature of the English school, and of which such splendid use was made by Bright, Addison, and Hodgkin.
Few books of its kind have been more successful, and that a new edition should appear from the press of Mr. Hoeber is an indication of the zeal with which the study of the history of medicine has been taken up by the profession of the United States.
William Osler (signature)
February 26th, 1915.
William Macmichael, the author of the Gold-Headed Cane, was born at Bridgenorth, in Shropshire, in 1784, and after receiving his education at the grammar school of that town, entered as a student at Christ Church, Oxford, where, after receiving his degree of Master of Arts in 1807, he graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in 1816. In 1811, he was elected to the Radcliffe Travelling Fellowship which owed its foundation to the generosity of Dr. Radcliffe, about whom he writes so delightfully in his chef d’œuvre. These fellowships were founded with the purpose of giving their holders the opportunity of travel in foreign lands, and Dr. Macmichael passed several years journeying in Russia, Turkey, Greece and Palestine. That he was an observing and interested traveller is manifested in a little work which he published in London in 1819, entitled “A Journey from Moscow to Constantinople, in the Years 1817 and 1818.” He was, for a short time, physician to Lord[xii] Londonderry while the latter was ambassador to Vienna. He settled in London in the practice of medicine in 1818, and was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians of London in the same year. At the outset of his career as a practicing physician, he had the good fortune to secure the friendship of Sir Henry Halford, to whom the College was indebted for the gift of the Gold-Headed Cane, which had descended to Sir Henry from the distinguished line of bearers about whom Macmichael centered its autobiography. Sir Henry Halford’s influence in professional and social circles in London was immense. His name was really Henry Vaughan. His father was a physician in Leicester, who devoted his entire income to the education of his seven sons, all of whom proved themselves worthy of the parental self-denial by the eminent positions which they subsequently obtained in the professions which they respectively adopted. Sir Henry, after graduating from Oxford, secured an advantageous social position for himself by his marriage to the daughter of Lord St. John of Bletsoe. He inherited a large property on the death of Lady Denbigh, the widow of his[xiii] mother’s cousin, Sir Charles Halford, Bart., and by an act of Parliament, in 1809, changed his name from Vaughan to Halford. In the subsequent year he was made a baronet. He attended in a professional capacity George III, George IV and Queen Victoria, and after the death of Matthew Baillie, he had the largest and most fashionable practice in London.
Halford was the president of the College of Physicians of London from 1820 until his death in 1844, and it was during his presidency that the College was removed from Warwick Lane to Pall Mall East. Those who envied his position attributed his success to his courtly manners, and he was nicknamed “the eel-backed baronet.” The story is told that he galloped from the death bed of George IV out to Bushy Park in order that he might have the honor of being the first to inform William IV of the glad event. He was present at the opening of the coffin of Charles I, in 1813, and published an account of the proceedings on that occasion. J. F. Clarke, in his autobiography, accuses Halford, amongst other things, of retaining possession of part of the King’s fourth cervical vertebra through which the[xiv] axe passed, and displaying it at his dinner table as an interesting curio.
Halford, in the words of Dr. Munk, “at the height of his success, and when his duties at Court were the most onerous, found it necessary to have in reserve some physician on whom he could implicitly rely, to act as his representative and substitute when such was needed. His choice fell on Dr. Macmichael, who, through Sir Henry’s influence, was appointed in rapid succession Physician Extraordinary to the King in 1829, Librarian to the King in 1830, in place of a very eminent physician, Dr. Gooch, recently deceased; and finally, in 1831, Physician in Ordinary to the King.”
Halford had been obliged to resign his position as physician to the Middlesex Hospital, owing to the pressure of other duties, as early as 1800; but it was probably due to his influence that twenty-two years later Macmichael was appointed to the same position. Macmichael was very active in the affairs of the College of Physicians, served among its officers on several occasions, and read a number of communications before it. He wrote various[xv] articles on contagion and infection, none of them possessing any great value. In spite of powerful backing and the important positions he held, Dr. Macmichael lacked the ambition or did not possess the aptitude to acquire a large practice.
In 1830 Macmichael published “Lives of British Physicians,” of which another edition was published by Thomas Tegg in 1846. Macmichael himself contributed to it the lives of Linacre, Caius, Harvey, Sir Thomas Browne, Sydenham and Radcliffe. The biographies of twelve other English medical worthies were contributed by Dr. Bisset Hawkins, Dr. Parry, Dr. Southey, Dr. Munk, and Mr. Clarke. The book is a small volume containing portraits of some of the more famous subjects. It was dedicated to Sir Henry Halford. Although not so happy in its conception and execution as the Gold-Headed Cane, this little work is a most valuable contribution to English medical literature. The lives are well written, accurate, and contain information much of which is derived from sources inaccessible to the general reader.
In 1837, at the age of fifty-three, Dr. Macmichael[xvi] suffered a stroke of paralysis which obliged him to retire from professional life and he died two years later at his residence in Maida Vale. Sir Thomas Watson, the famous London Physician, was one of Dr. Macmichael’s friends who knew him many years. In 1878 Sir Thomas Watson wrote of him as follows, to Munk: “Dr. Macmichael was fond of society, and qualified alike to enjoy and embellish it. Having travelled long and seen many cities and the manners of many men, he possessed a large stock of general information, was fertile in various and amusing anecdotes, and was wont to mix, with certain natural ease and grace, in lively and interesting discourse, without making his own share in it unduly prominent. His cheerfulness and equanimity of temper, and kindness of heart, endeared him to a large circle of devoted friends, of whom a very few only, at the time of this writing, survive to commemorate his engaging qualities and to regret his loss.”
Under Sir Henry Halford’s presidency the College of Physicians underwent a great[xvii] awakening. It acquired, largely through his individual efforts, a splendid new home and he also originated the evening meetings which were henceforth held in the Hall. These were held once a month during the first six months of the year, at nine o’clock in the evening. Tea and coffee were provided. The meetings were attended not only by physicians, but by many persons of prominence in the various walks of life. The papers presented at them were, therefore, as a general rule, adapted to a mixed audience. They were not read by their authors, but by the Registrar of the College, except in the instance of the President, who was permitted to read such communications as he might wish to make himself. A great part of Sir Henry Halford’s success in these innovations was due to the active part taken by Macmichael in seconding his efforts in this as in every other way by which he could show his gratitude and aid his friend and benefactor. In nothing could he have succeeded better in awakening renewed interest in the venerable College than by directing attention to its past history and to the achievements of the illustrious men who had been connected[xviii] with it. It was probably this desire which led Macmichael to utilize his erudite knowledge of the subject in the compilation of the fascinating book to which he gave the name of “The Gold-Headed Cane.”
The new College was opened on the 25th of June, 1825. According to its veracious autobiography, on the previous day the Cane was deposited in a corner closet of the new building, “with the observation that I was no longer to be carried about.” The Gold-Headed Cane now occupies a glass case in the Library of the College, where it may have the consolation of feeling that it is gazed on by many visitors who have read its history and been stimulated by it to wish a close view of the author.
The Cane was carried successively by Radcliffe, Mead, Askew, Pitcairn and Baillie, and bears their various arms engraved upon its head. It was presented to Sir Henry Halford by Dr. Baillie’s widow and he in turn placed it in the College.
Dr. Macmichael’s happy inspiration to write its autobiography was carried into effect at the time when the enthusiasm of the Fellows at[xix] the acquisition of their splendid new hall was at its height. The first edition was published in 1827, and a second edition in the succeeding year. A third edition, edited by Dr. William Munk, was published in 1884, forty-five years after Macmichael’s death.
The cane in ancient days was regarded as an essential part of the equipment of every physician. Dr. Munk, in the third edition of the Gold-Headed Cane, adverts to this fact and also explains the origin of the custom. The cane usually carried by physicians had for its head a knob of gold, silver or ivory, which was hollow, and perforated so that it served to contain aromatic preparations which could be inhaled as a preventive of contagion. The favorite preparation for this purpose was the “vinegar of the four thieves,” or Marseilles Vinegar, an aromatic vinegar which, according to the confession of four thieves (who had, during a plague at Marseilles plundered the dead bodies) had prevented them from contracting the disease while pursuing their nefarious occupation.
The Gold-Headed Cane was adorned by a cross bar for a top instead of a knob, a fact[xx] which Munk explains by the statement that Radcliffe, its first owner, was a rule unto himself, and very possibly preferred a handle of that kind for his cane as a distinction from that used by the majority of physicians.
With its passage from the possession of Dr. Pitcairn into that of Dr. Baillie, the Cane pathetically states: “I ceased to be considered any longer as a necessary appendage of the profession, and consequently the opportunities I enjoyed of seeing the world, or even of knowing much about the state of physic, were very greatly abridged, and of but rare occurrence.”
With the account of Baillie and the state of physic in his time the Cane ceased its autobiography and regarded its honorable career as closed. Dr. Munk, in the third edition, published in 1884, wrote a continuation of the narrative in very good imitation of Macmichael’s style, which brought the story down to the year 1871.
The publication of a new edition of a medical and literary classic such as the Gold-Headed Cane requires no apologia. The three previous editions are now all of them[xxi] so difficult to obtain, the book so eagerly sought for, and its perusal productive of so much profit and pleasure, that the demand is obvious.
The medical profession in Great Britain and America owe the present undertaking entirely to the unselfish zeal of the Publisher, whose love and admiration for the merits of the Cane prompted him to undertake a venture from which in a commercial point of view no profit can be expected.
The present edition follows the text and illustrations contained in the second edition, which was chosen for reprinting because it was revised, added to and published by the author himself. The first edition contained 179 pages. To the second edition Dr. Macmichael added 88 pages of text, which contain much of the very best of his work. The third edition contained no illustrations, and although the continuation of the narrative is most interesting, it is not Macmichael’s and therefore not the Cane’s.
It is to be hoped that with the recent great stimulation of interest in medical history which the profession in this country has shown this[xxii] little volume will achieve the same popularity as its predecessors and add more lustre to the glory of the Cane.
Francis R. Packard.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE WRITINGS OF WILLIAM MACMICHAEL.
“A Journey from Moscow to Constantinople in the year 1817-18.” 4to, London, 1819.
“A New View of the Infection of Scarlet Fever; illustrated by Remarks on Other Contagious Disorders,” 8vo, vi, 100 pp. London, T. and G. Underwood, 1822.
“A Brief Sketch of the Progress of Opinion upon the Subject of Contagion, with Some Remarks on Quarantine.” 8vo, London, 1825.
“The Gold-Headed Cane,” 179 pp., 8vo, London, J. Murray, 1827.
“The Gold-Headed Cane,” 267 pp., 8vo, London, J. Murray, 1828.
“Is the Cholera Spasmodica of India a Contagious Disease?” The question considered in a letter to Sir Henry Halford, Bart., M.D. 34 pp., 8vo, London, J. Murray, 1831. A French translation of this pamphlet was published in Paris in 1831.
“Some Remarks on Dropsy; with a Narrative of the Last Illness of H. R. H. the Duke of York”; read at[xxiv] the Royal College of Physicians, May 25, 1835. 18 pp., 8vo, London, J. Murray, 1835.
“The Gold-Headed Cane,” edited by William Munk, XVI, 266 pp., 8vo, London, Longmans, 1884.
In this edition the editor continues the narrative of the Gold-Headed Cane down to the year 1876, in imitation of Macmichael’s style. It lacks the quaint illustrations which ornamented the first two editions and added so much to their charm.
Drawing of the gold-headed cane
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE-STREET.
THE HONOURABLE LADY HALFORD,
SENTIMENTS OF THE GREATEST RESPECT AND ESTEEM,
MOST FAITHFUL SERVANT,
NOTICE BY THE EDITOR.
A short time before the opening of the New College of Physicians, Mrs. Baillie presented to that learned body a Gold-Headed Cane, which had been successively carried by Drs. Radcliffe, Mead, Askew, Pitcairn, and her own lamented husband.
The arms of these celebrated Physicians are engraved on the head of the Cane, and they form the Vignettes of the five Chapters into which this little Volume is divided.
CHAP. I. RADCLIFFE 1
CHAP. II. MEAD 51
CHAP. III. ASKEW 149
CHAP. IV. PITCAIRN 174
CHAP. V. BAILLIE 225
Arms of Radcliffe
When I was deposited in a corner closet of the Library, on the 24th of June, 1825, the day before the opening of the New College of Physicians, with the observation that I was no longer to be carried about, but to be kept amongst the reliques of that learned body, it was impossible to avoid secretly lamenting the obscurity which was henceforth to be my lot. Formerly the entrée of palaces had been open to me; I had been freely admitted into the houses of the great and the rich; but now I was doomed to darkness, and condemned to occupy the corner of a library—spacious and splendid, it must be allowed, but where I was surrounded by nothing but the musty manuscripts of defunct doctors. The gloom, however, of my present abode was enlivened on the following day by my overhearing the elegant oration of the President of the College; and an occasional glance I had of scarlet dresses recalled the decorum and propriety of the days of yore, when, on all solemn occasions of public meeting, the Fellows appeared habited in the doctors’ robes of their respective universities. I had passed through so many erudite hands, and had been present at so many grave consultations, that the language of the oration was familiar to me, and I could easily collect, from certain allusions in the speech, that princes of the blood, the legislators of the land, the nobles and learned of England, formed a considerable portion of the audience. The topics upon which the accomplished orator touched were various and interesting; but I listened with increased attention when I heard him speak of the donation of the Radcliffe Trustees, and every fibre thrilled within me at the consciousness of the heartfelt delight with which my first kind and generous master would have grasped me, could he have foreseen the liberal spirit of the future guardians of his princely fortune.
The low murmur of applause which accompanied the commemoration of the integrity and honest simplicity of character of the last physician, whose hand I had graced, checked as it was by the reflection, that he was now, alas! no more, marked alike the eloquence of the orator, and the good taste and feeling of his audience. But the speech was too soon finished, and the guests slowly retired from the Library. I was once more left to silence and solitude; never, perhaps, to see the light of day, unless when my closet was occasionally unlocked, that I might be shown as a curiosity to some idle and casual visitor. I had, however, been closely connected with medicine for a century and a half; and might consequently, without vanity, look upon myself as the depositary of many important secrets, in which the dignity of the profession was nearly concerned. I resolved, therefore, to employ my leisure in recording the most striking scenes I had witnessed. The Doctors had indeed resumed their robes; but it was too much to expect that they would again carry the cane, and adopt the use of the full-bottomed wig; though I have not the least doubt that the honour of physic, and perhaps the welfare of mankind, would be greatly promoted by so praiseworthy a practice.
These Memoirs are the fruit of my retirement; and should the reader feel any disposition to authenticate my narrative by reference to the records of the different periods it embraces, I feel no fear for the result of his investigation: since if the written documents be correct, they must agree with my story.
Of my early state and separate condition I have no recollection whatever; and it may reasonably enough be supposed, that it was not till after the acquisition of my head that I became conscious of existence, and capable of observation. But I shall never forget the first consultation at which I was present; where every thing being strange to me, I was attentive to the most minute circumstances, which then came recommended to my notice as well by the importance and dignity of the patient, as by the novelty of the scene. As in these conferences there is usually much matter of routine, I became afterwards more careless; and as none of the responsibility of the advice given rested with me, I allowed my thoughts to wander.
It was in the autumn of 1689. My master, Dr. Radcliffe, had just then returned from a distant journey in the country, and was much fatigued, when an urgent message reached him at his house in Bow-street, Covent Garden. Snatching me up, he hurried into his carriage, and set off with all speed for Kensington House. This irregular edifice, which had recently been purchased by the crown of the second Earl of Nottingham, had undergone several alterations, and received some additions hastily put together for the immediate accommodation of the court. The edifice itself was not extensive, having rather the appearance of the neat villa of a nobleman than that of a royal mansion; and the gardens were upon a small scale, but kept in the neatest possible order. From the town of Kensington, the approach was by a double row of large elm trees, leading to the north entrance of the house, through an unenclosed field, which was at that time disfigured by a gravel-pit. Here, however, afterwards, the skill of the famous gardeners of the day, London and Wise, was employed; and the cut yew and variegated holly hedges were taught to imitate the fines, angles, bastions, scarps, and counterscarps, of a regular fortification. This curious upper garden, known by the name of the Siege of Troy, was long the admiration of every lover of that kind of trim horticultural embellishment.
We were ushered through a suite of several rooms, plainly but handsomely furnished, by Simon de Brienne; and it seemed to me that the Doctor assumed a more lofty air, and walked with a firmer step, and I was conscious of a gentle pressure of his hand, as he stopped and gazed for a moment on the likeness of the Founder of the College of Physicians, Dr. Linacre, painted by Holbein, which was hanging in one of the rooms, amongst the royal portraits of the Henrys, and several other of the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland.
On entering the sick chamber, which was a small cabinet in the south-east angle of the building, called the Writing Closet, a person of a grave and solemn aspect, apparently about forty years of age, of a thin and weak body, brown hair, and of middle stature, was seen sitting in an arm-chair, and breathing with great difficulty. The naturally serious character of the King (for it was His Majesty William the Third) was rendered more melancholy by the distressing symptoms of an asthma, the consequence of the dregs of the small-pox, that had fallen on his lungs. In the absence of the fit, and at other times, his sparkling eyes, large and elevated forehead, and aquiline nose, gave a dignity to his countenance, which, though usually grave and phlegmatic, was said in the day of battle to be susceptible of the most animated expression. “Doctor,” said the King, “Bentinck and Zulestein have been urgent with me that I should again send for you; and though I have great confidence in my two body-physicians here, yet I have heard so much of your great skill, that I desire you will confer with Bidloo and Laurence, whether some other plan might not be adopted. They have plied me so much with aperitives to open my stomach, that I am greatly reduced; my condition is, I think, hazardous, unless you try other measures.”
The King seldom spoke so long at a time, his conversation being usually remarkably dry and repulsive; and here His Majesty’s speech was interrupted by a deep cough, and he sunk back in his chair exhausted. “May it please Your Majesty,” said Dr. Radcliffe, “I must be plain with you, Sir: your case is one of danger, no doubt, but if you will adhere to my prescriptions, I will engage to do you good. The rheum is dripping on your lungs, and will be of fatal consequence to you, unless it be otherwise diverted.”—Upon this Dr. Bidloo, who, though expert in the knowledge of some branches of physic, was not always happy or quick in his conjectures, was about to reply. There was something like an insinuation of mala praxis in the last observation; and being somewhat of an irascible temper, the Dutchman, anxious perhaps to return to his duties of professor of anatomy and surgery at Leyden, was indifferent about giving offence to his royal master. But the King, in a calm and sullen manner, imposed silence, and intimated to the physicians to withdraw and consult upon the treatment of his malady. The consultation was short, and the result was, that some medicines should be tried that might have the effect of promoting the flow of saliva. This treatment fully succeeded, for the King was so completely restored, that a few months afterwards he fought the battle of the Boyne.
Before we left the palace, my master waited upon Her Majesty the Queen; and as it was well known, that Mary grew weary of any body who would not talk a great deal (while her sister the Princess Anne of Denmark was so silent that she rarely spoke more than was necessary to answer a question), our audience was not soon over. It was said by the enemies of the Queen, that whatever good qualities she had to make her popular, it was but too evident, by many instances, that she wanted bowels; but on the present occasion the accusation was quite untrue, for on the subject of the King’s indisposition, nothing could exceed her anxiety, and it was impossible for the physician to answer Her Majesty’s innumerable inquiries. What was the nature of his complaint? the probable issue? how long a time would be required to complete his recovery, so that, in the present critical state of affairs, His Majesty might be enabled to return to the management of public business, and take the field against his enemies? In fact, the Queen asked questions which I soon found, by a very little experience, that the conjectural nature of the art of medicine would not always allow to be answered with precision. The person of the Queen was majestic, and calculated to inspire respect; and her conversation (when not under the influence of such feelings as now agitated her) indicated a fine and cultivated understanding, for she had read much in history and divinity. Her Majesty’s studies were, however, even now beginning to be interrupted by a course of humours that was forming in her eyes, and which compelled her to employ her time in another manner. But she was ever active; and so industrious, that she wrought many hours a day herself, with her ladies and maids of honour working about her, while one read to them all.
Our interview with the Queen took place in a small apartment, afterwards known by the name of the Patch-work Closet, the sides of which were hung with tapestry, the work of her own hands; as were also the coverings of the chairs with which the room was furnished. As I shall not have occasion again to speak of the Queen, it may here be mentioned that, five years afterwards, this incomparable Princess fell a victim to the small-pox; and though my master was blamed by his enemies, as having caused her death, either by his negligence or unskilfulness, yet he himself always maintained that he was called too late, and that no remedies that could then be tried had the least chance of doing her good. On this delicate point, any evidence which I could advance would be received with suspicion; and it remains only to observe, that on this melancholy occasion King William exhibited feelings which no one had previously given him credit for. A great politician and soldier, who had been immersed in dangers and calamities from his infancy, he was possessed of boundless ambition, which he concealed under a cold exterior, never allowing his speech to betray the wishes of his heart. But during the last sickness of the Queen, His Majesty was in an agony that amazed every one about his person, fainting often, and breaking out into most violent lamentations. When he heard of her death, he was much affected, burst into tears, and for some weeks after was not capable of minding business or of seeing company.
Whilst the nation was grieving for the loss of the Queen, an event took place in our domestic establishment, which considerably ruffled my master’s temper, and interrupted, for a short space, the usual gaiety of his life. Though it could not be said that our house was ever a melancholy one (in truth, we were little at home, the Doctor living much in society, whither I accompanied him to taverns and clubs, where the choicest spirits were wont to assemble), yet still the home of a bachelor is occasionally but a dull and stupid residence. The friends of Radcliffe were therefore always urging him to look out for a wife, and he at length listened to their advice. One who was so general a favourite in society, and, besides, who was known to be so well to pass in the world (for at that time he was worth, at the least, £30,000, and daily adding to his wealth), had no great difficulty in meeting with an object upon whom to place his affections. A young lady, the daughter of a wealthy citizen, whose name I forbear to mention, in consideration of the awkward disclosure which ultimately took place, soon attracted his attention. She was an only child, not more than twenty-four years of age, and with a tolerable share of personal charms: the parents readily assented to the proposal, and the terms of the marriage were soon agreed upon; the lady was to have £15,000 down, and the residue of the citizen’s estate at his decease. The visits of my master into the city were numerous, but he took me with him once or twice only. To tell the truth, I felt myself, on these occasions, quite misplaced; not that I was at all unaccustomed to female society—quite the reverse; but then the conversations, with which I was familiar, were altogether so different. Here were none of the ordinary questions about health, the last night’s repose, the situation of pain, the long detail of complaints, the vapours, the low muttering with the waiting-woman aside; and at last, when the hurry and agitation occasioned by the doctor’s arrival had subsided, the sagacious feeling of the pulse. To all this I was daily habituated; but, in the new scene to which I was now introduced, I was conscious of making an awkward appearance, and was glad to be left at home. Matters, however, seemed to proceed prosperously, and every thing promised a consummation of my master’s happiness; when, one evening, he returned late to his home, obviously much discomposed. He was no sooner alone in his chamber, than he gave vent to his chagrin. “Good God!” said he, as he paced up and down the room, “what a discovery! Well! hanging and marrying certainly go by destiny; and if I had been guilty of the last, I should scarcely have escaped the first. What would my acquaintance have said? And my neighbour, Sir Godfrey, how would he have triumphed! He was sarcastic enough the other day about that confounded garden-door—here there would have been no bounds to his mirth; I should have been the laughing-stock of all who know me.
“Mrs. Mary is a very deserving gentlewoman, no doubt; but her father must pardon me, if I think her by no means fit to be my wife, since she is or ought to be another man’s already!” These and other similar expressions escaped him, as he continued to walk to and fro, apparently in the highest degree of excitement. At length he sat down to his table and wrote a letter to Mr. S—d, declining the honour of becoming his son-in-law, and stating his reasons in full for so sudden a change of resolution. The effects of this disappointment were visible for some time, but he ultimately recovered his spirits, returned to his former aversion to matrimony, and resumed his usual habits of conviviality and independence.
His practice increased, and there were few families of any note that had not some time or other recourse to his skill and advice. I began now to consider how his superiority over his rivals was to be explained, whence arose the great confidence reposed in him by his patients; to what, in fine, his eminent success was to be attributed. It was clear, his erudition had nothing to do with it; but though there was something rude in the manner in which he frequently disparaged the practice of others, yet it could not be denied that his general good sense and practical knowledge of the world distinguished him from all his competitors. He was remarkable for his apt and witty replies, and always ready in suggesting expedients; though, to be sure, some of them were homely enough, and occasionally sufficiently ludicrous, and such as I never witnessed with the grave and more polished doctors into whose hands I afterwards passed. He was once sent for into the country, to visit a gentleman ill of a quinsey. Finding that no external nor internal application would be of service, he desired the lady of the house to order a hasty-pudding to be made: when it was done, his own servants were to bring it up, and while the pudding was preparing, he gave them his private instructions. In a short time it was set on the table, in full view of the patient. “Come, Jack and Dick,” said Radcliffe, “eat as quickly as possible; you have had no breakfast this morning.” Both began with their spoons, but on Jack’s dipping once only for Dick’s twice, a quarrel arose. Spoonfuls of hot pudding were discharged on both sides, and at last, handfuls were pelted at each other. The patient was seized with a hearty fit of laughter, the quinsey burst and discharged its contents, and my master soon completed the cure.
So much for his humour; but it was the confident tone in which he frequently predicted the issue of diseases, a quality which he possessed in an eminent degree, and often exercised with great success, that chiefly gave a decided advantage to Radcliffe over his rivals in practice. I will relate one of these occasions, which was very striking. Being sent for once, to attend the Duke of Beaufort at Badminton, who was very ill, the Doctor, instead of complying with the request, told the gentleman who brought the message, “There was no manner of necessity for his presence, since the Duke his master died such an hour the day before:” which the messenger on his return found to be true.
By the judicious exercise of this foresight a physician acquires the greatest reputation, and when his prognosis is the result of mature experience, he is entitled to be bold. Besides, the fears, the doubts, and anxiety of the friends of the sick ought to be taken into account: they have a right to the consolation of certainty; and the doctor ought not to be over-scrupulous of his reputation, nor entrench himself too much in the security of an ambiguous reply. His duties demand discretion and humanity: in circumstances of danger, he is called upon to give to the friends of the patient timely notice of its approach; to the sick, he should be the minister of hope and comfort, that by such cordials he may raise the drooping spirit and smooth the bed of death. That “the Doctor should go out at one door when the Clergyman enters in at the other,” is a quaint conceit, more expressive of impiety than humour; for even when the life of the patient is absolutely despaired of, the presence of a man of a compassionate and feeling heart will prove highly grateful and useful to the dying sufferer, as well as to his nearest relations.
The health of King William continued tolerably good till after his return from abroad in 1697, on the ratification of the celebrated treaty of Ryswick, when my master was again sent for to visit his royal patient. After rather jocosely illustrating His Majesty’s situation by an allusion to one of Æsop’s fables, which the King (previously to our arrival) was reading, in Sir Roger L’Estrange’s translation, I was rather startled at the blunt manner in which Radcliffe told his patient that he must not be buoyed up with hopes that his malady would soon be driven away. “Your juices are all vitiated, your whole mass of blood corrupted, and the nutriment for the most part turned to water: but,” added the Doctor, “if Your Majesty will forbear making long visits to the Earl of Bradford, (where, to tell the truth, the King was wont to drink very hard,) I’ll engage to make you live three or four years longer; but beyond that time no physic can protract Your Majesty’s existence.” I trembled at the bold and familiar tone assumed by my master, as well as at the positive prognosis which he ventured to give; but his prediction was verified by the sequel. King William died in 1702. The year before this event, Dr. Bidloo had accompanied His Majesty to Holland, where his treatment of his royal patient at that time, and for some months before his death, was a subject of animadversion with the other doctors attached to the court. In addition to many other infirmities under which the King laboured, he was troubled with boils that formed in different parts of his body; and for these Bidloo directed that his feet and legs should be rubbed night and morning, with flannel covered with powder of crabs’-eyes, flour, and cummin-seed. As to diet, the Doctor was exceedingly indulgent, allowing His Majesty to drink cider, ale—in short, all sorts of strong beer; and to take crude aliments before going to bed. It was in vain that Doctors Hutton, Millington, Blakemore, and Laurence remonstrated. On the King’s return to Hampton Court, the dropsical swelling of the inferior extremities extended upwards, for which Bidloo prescribed a vapour-bath, and inclosed the legs of the patient in a wooden box constructed for that purpose. In a constitution so weak, which this treatment was reported to have still more debilitated, an accident was likely to prove fatal. On the 27th of February, 1702-3, while hunting, the King fell from his horse, and broke his right clavicle near the acromion. This occurred in the neighbourhood of Hampton Court; but the French surgeon Ronjat was at hand, and soon reduced the fracture. But when he wanted to bleed His Majesty, a new obstacle arose, for it was necessary not only to have the sanction of some one of the court physicians, but also the authority of the privy council, for the performance of that operation.
Notwithstanding the necessity and advantage of rest, the King persisted in his wish to return to Kensington, where he arrived between nine and ten o’clock in the evening: here a discussion arose between Bidloo and the Surgeon as to whether there had really been any fracture or not. Ronjat stoutly maintained the affirmative; the Dutch Doctor as stoutly denied it. This point was, however, at length settled, when a new difference of opinion occurred as to the mode of applying the bandages. Bidloo wished himself to apply them, but the Surgeon said no, “You are here either in the character of a physician or in that of a surgeon: if the former, you have nothing to do with bandages, if the latter, c’est moi qui suis le premier chirurgien du Roi.”
After the death of the King, a paper war took place, and the various arguments and statements advanced by each party were frequently mentioned in societies where I was present; for luckily my master had no share in these disputes. On the one hand Bidloo put forth a pamphlet, published at Leyden, written in Low Dutch, in order, as his enemies said, that few might read it in this country; the year after, M. Ronjat entered the field in a French reply, published in London by Henry Ribotteau, Bookseller in the Strand, over-against Bedford’s Buildings.
Of the public and private character of King William, a prince so celebrated in the history of that period, it would be presumption in me to speak. No one can deny that by his talents as a negotiator in the cabinet, he saved his own country from ruin, restored the liberties of England, and preserved the independence of Europe. His great object in accepting the crown of this country was to engage her more deeply in the concerns of the Continent, and thus enable him to gratify his ambition, the scope of which had always been to humble the French. When he found, however, the year after his arrival in England, that the spirit of party ran so high here as to thwart all his measures, he resolved to quit the country altogether, go over to Holland, and leave the government in the Queen’s hands. And yet it is singular that William was naturally of so cold and reserved a disposition, that Her Majesty knew nothing of this important determination, in which she was so nearly concerned, till she heard it from Bishop Burnet. It was said also, that the King, though he occasionally put on some appearance of application, was averse from business of all sort, and that it was to avoid company and occupation, that he betook himself to a perpetual course of hunting. Of his own personal safety he was very regardless, and perhaps his belief of predestination made him more adventurous than was necessary. The most striking feature of his character was, however, as has been mentioned before, the gravity of his deportment; and Burnet used to relate, that on the most critical occasion of his life, on his landing at Torbay, in 1688, the King shook him heartily by the hand, asked him if he would not now believe in predestination; was, for a short time only, cheerfuller than ordinary, but soon returned to his usual gravity. I do not vouch for the truth of this story, nor for the scrupulous accuracy of the Bishop in all which he relates, though I have heard that he is the best and indeed the only authority to be met with on many of the subjects he treats of. The repulsive qualities of the King were the cause, no doubt, of the coolness that subsisted between the different members of the royal family. I recollect there was much talk at the time, of the affront put upon the Prince of Denmark, who, on his accompanying the King to Ireland, was not allowed to go in the coach with him, though it was well known that the Prince had put himself to great expense on the occasion of that expedition.
The Princess, afterwards Our Gracious Majesty Queen Anne, was treated even with still less courtesy; for, while she was dining one day with the King and Queen, His Majesty ate up all the green pease, then newly come in, without even once offering that rarity to his royal consort or guest.
Of Prince George of Denmark I have little to say, for his physician was Dr. Arbuthnot. His Highness was an invalid, labouring, like the King, under an asthma; and during his illness, which was protracted, his Queen was very attentive to him. He died six years after King William. He had the Danish countenance, blonde, was of few words—spake French but ill, seemed somewhat heavy, but had the character of a good mathematician. He made no figure in politics, and did not understand much of the post of High Admiral, which he filled, though he possessed many good qualities; was brave, mild, and gentle.
This sketch is from an original picture by his friend Sir Godfrey Kneller, which is placed in the Library of the College of Physicians, in one of the closets of which I am now immured.
But I must descend from these high matters, and speak again of my master, and, I am sorry to say, of another disappointment which occurred in our house. Two years after the death of Prince George, when Radcliffe was in his sixtieth year, I was somewhat surprised, one morning after breakfast, to observe him attired with more than ordinary exactness. His full-bottomed wig was dressed with peculiar care; he had put on his best suit of lilac-coloured velvet with yellow basket buttons, and his air upon the whole was very commanding. He reminded me strongly of his appearance some ten or fifteen years before. He had an elevated forehead, hazel eyes, cheeks telling of the good cheer of former days, if any thing a little too ruddy; a double chin, a well-formed nose, and a mouth round which generally played an agreeable smile. When he sat in his easy chair, with his right hand expanded, and placed upon his breast, as if meditating a speech, and clearing his voice for the purpose of giving it utterance; his left wearing his glove, and resting on his side immediately above the hilt of his sword, which was a very usual attitude with him, he certainly had a most comely and well-favoured appearance.
I love to dwell upon these particulars of my old worthy master; for to him I owe my first introduction into the world, and whatever celebrity my memoirs may hereafter obtain. When fully equipped, he stepped into a gay gilt chariot, drawn by fresh prancing horses, the coachman wearing a new cockade, and our lacqueys looking with all the insolence of plenty in their countenances. We paraded the streets, passed through Covent Garden, and the most frequented parts of the town; but it grieved me to observe, that our glittering equipage served only to provoke the smiles and ridicule of the malicious. To speak out, it was now notorious that the Doctor was in love, and that all this parade was for the purpose of captivating the young lady of whom he was enamoured. Suffice it to say, he was lampooned, proved unfortunate in his suit, and was styled by the wicked wits of the day “the mourning Esculapius,” “the languishing hopeless lover of the divine Hebe, the emblem of youth and beauty.”
But more sober reflection and the busy duties of his profession soon withdrew his thoughts from these amorous toys, and he continued actively employed for a few years longer, though it was but too evident that his health and spirits were daily declining.
About this time that celebrated warrior, Prince Eugene, so distinguished for his campaigns in Hungary and Italy, where he had gained such splendid victories over the Turk and the King of France, arrived in England. The object of his visit was to try if it were possible to engage our court to go on with the war, which met with great obstruction. But the juncture was unfavourable to his project; for on the very day before his arrival, his great friend and companion in arms, the Duke of Marlborough, was turned out of all his places. The days of intimacy between the Queen and the Duchess were at an end; and the endearing appellations of the “poor, unfortunate, faithful Morley,” and Mrs. Freeman, no longer marked the extraordinary terms of friendly intercourse which had subsisted between Her Majesty and a subject. The Prince was, however, caressed by the courtiers for his own worth; and though his negotiations went slowly on, he was entertained by most of the nobility, and magnificently feasted by the city. My master invited His Highness to dinner; and a large party of the nobility, and several topping merchants, particularly some of those who had formerly contributed to the Silesian loan, were engaged to meet him. The enmity of the Prince to every thing French was known, and it had been rendered still more notorious by his admirable reply to an insolent threat of the minister of the Grand Monarque, which was at this time in the mouth of every one. Louvois had intimated to the Prince, that he must not think of returning to France; to which the warrior replied, “Eugene entrera un jour en France, en depit de Louvois et de Louis.” To do honour to such a guest was the ambition of Radcliffe; and in giving orders for dinner, “Let there be no ragouts,” said he; “no kickshaws of France; but let us treat the Prince as a soldier. He shall have a specimen of true English hospitality. I will have my table covered with barons of beef, jiggets of mutton, and legs of pork.” At the appointed hour the guests assembled, and the Prince charmed every one by his unassuming modesty, his easy address and behaviour. His aspect was erect and composed, his eye lively and thoughtful, yet rather vigilant than sparkling: but his manner was peculiarly graceful, and he descended to an easy equality with those who conversed with him. The shape of his person and composure of his limbs was remarkably erect and beautiful; still, with all his condescension, and though he was affable to every one, it was evident that he rather suffered the presence of much company, instead of taking delight in public gaze and popular applause. The entertainment of my master went off very well; all seemed to be pleased, though some of the courtiers indulged in a little pleasantry at the ample cheer with which the table groaned. The princely stranger expressed himself much satisfied, and was loud in his praise of some capital seven years old beer, which we happened at that time to have in tap.
I forgot to mention, that, a few years before the period of which I am now speaking, I saw, for the first time, Dr. Mead, who was then beginning to be known as a man rising in his profession, and into whose hands I was afterwards destined to fall. He lived then in Austyn friers; and we found him one morning in his library, reading Hippocrates; when the following dialogue took place between the two physicians:
Radcliffe (taking up the volume of the venerable Father of Physic). “What! my young friend, do you read Hippocrates in the original language? Well, take my word for it, when I am dead you will occupy the throne of physic in this great town.”
Mead. “No, Sir; when you are gone, your empire, like Alexander’s, will be divided amongst many successors.”
I felt that this courteous reply pleased my master mightily; and although Mead was even then known to be a man of great talent, had already written his treatise on Poisons, published several other works of merit, and was therefore in every respect deserving of the countenance and patronage of the eminent doctor of the day, yet I have myself no doubt that this well-timed compliment to Radcliffe’s eminence served to cement the intimate friendship of these two physicians.
The library of Mead was even at this time considerable. Many rooms of his small house were filled with books; and the two doctors indulged in a long chat. The conversation embraced many topics. Mead was very lively and entertaining; related several anecdotes of things which he had seen abroad; and described with great animation his joy on finding the Tabula Isiaca in a lumber room at Florence. Upon this subject my master asked many questions, and appeared much struck with the advantage of foreign travel to a physician. On taking his leave, he again expressed his admiration of the literary attainments of Mead, and said in a tone of great earnestness and sincerity—“Some day or other, the Alma Mater where I was bred shall receive from me substantial proofs of the true concern I feel for the welfare of the cause of learning: for as I have grown older, every year of my life has convinced me more and more of the value of the education of the scholar and the gentleman, to the thoroughbred physician. But,” added he, “perhaps your friend here (pointing me to a folio edition of Celsus which stood on one of the shelves of the library) expresses my meaning better than I can myself, where he says, that this discipline of the mind, ‘quamvis non faciat medicum, aptiorem tamen medicinæ reddit.’” Radcliffe, as if unwilling to trust himself with any farther quotation, embraced Dr. Mead, and hastened to his carriage.
On the 1st of August, 1714, died Queen Anne; an event memorable in the life of Radcliffe. The domestic physicians of Her Majesty, assisted by Dr. Mead, had applied various remedies without success. It was reported that the privy council, as well as the Queen, had given orders that my master should be present at the consultation, and that he excused himself under pretence of indisposition. The truth is, he was not in town at that time, but down at his country-house at Carshalton in Surrey, ill himself of the gout, which had seized his head and stomach. Yet notwithstanding this, the enemies of Radcliffe imputed the death of the Queen to his absence, and he was accordingly threatened with assassination. This unpopularity, undeserved as it was, made him keep his house, where, on the 4th of August, three days after the death of Her Majesty, Dr. Mead and his brother the lawyer came down to dine with him at two o’clock. In spite of the ill state of his health, the conversation of two such good friends afforded him much pleasure and satisfaction. After dinner, his wonted good humour returned, and, taking me in his hand, he presented me, with the following discourse, to Dr. Mead:—
“Though my life is, I dare say, pretty well known to you, yet I will mention some of the leading circumstances of it, from which perhaps you may be able to derive some instruction. Since I began the study of medicine, I have devoted myself chiefly to a careful examination of the most valuable modern treatises. In this particular I differ, I know, from you, who are a profound scholar; but my books have always been few, though I hope well chosen. When I was at the university, a few vials, a skeleton, and an herbal, chiefly formed my library. By following the dictates of common sense, while I practised at Oxford after taking my bachelor of medicine’s degree, instead of stoving up my patients who were ill of the small-pox, as was done by the Galenists of those days, I gave them air and cooling emulsions, and thus rescued more than a hundred from the grave. I have always endeavoured to discountenance the attempts of quacks and intermeddlers in physic, and by the help of Providence I have succeeded most wonderfully. My good Dr. Mead, you must consider this conversation as quite confidential, and if I mention any thing that has the air of boasting, you will reflect that I unbosom myself to a friend, and what I am about to say is for your encouragement. In 1686, I was made principal physician to Her Royal Highness the Princess Anne of Denmark, and soon after His late Majesty King William’s arrival in England, he was graciously pleased to make me an offer of being sworn one of his physicians in ordinary, with a salary of two hundred pounds per annum more than any other. At the same time he generously ordered me five hundred guineas out of the privy purse for the cures of M. Bentinck and M. Zulestein. Though I begged to be permitted to refuse the post, yet the King was so frequently ill of rheum and asthma, that, for the first eleven years of his reign, I gained, one year with another, more than six hundred guineas per annum by my attendance upon His Majesty. My practice rapidly increased, and I was even credibly informed that Dr. Gibbons, who lived in my neighbourhood, got more than one thousand pounds a year by patients whom I really had not time to see, and who had therefore recourse to him. As my wealth increased, you will naturally ask me why I never married: it does not become me to speak of my good or ill fortune in that line, especially now when I ought to call my thoughts from all such vanities, and when the decays of nature tell me that I have only a short time to live. That time is, I am afraid, barely sufficient to repent me of the idle hours which I have spent in riotous living; for I now feel, in the pain which afflicts my nerves, that I am a martyr to excess, and am afraid that I have been an abettor and encourager of intemperance in others. Though by an indiscreet speech I lost the good graces of the Princess Anne, yet His Majesty King William still continued to have confidence in my skill. As a proof of it, I may mention that in 1695 I was sent for to Namur, to cure Lord Albemarle. After a week’s residence in the camp abroad, His Majesty generously gave me an order on the Treasury for £1200; and his Lordship presented me with four hundred guineas, and this diamond ring, which I have always worn since. As to honours, I have always refused them: a baronetcy was offered me, but of what use would a title have been to me, who have no descendants to inherit it? I have always lived in a state of celibacy, and have uniformly replied to those who formerly urged me to marry some young gentlewoman to get heirs by, that truly I had an old one to take care of, who I intended should be my executrix, as Oxford will learn after my death. For, thanks to Providence, I have been very successful, from the very beginning of my professional life; and I had not been settled a year in London, when I got twenty guineas a day by my practice: and even Dandridge, the apothecary whom I patronised, died, as I am informed, worth more than £50,000. The liberality of my patients enabled me to live and act in a generous manner. My fees were good: of which you may form some notion when I mention, that to go from Bloomsbury Square to Bow, I received five guineas. I do not tell this to you, my good friend, out of ostentation, but that it may serve as an encouragement to you to hear how the practice of physic has been remunerated.”
Here Radcliffe paused, and appeared exhausted by speaking so long at a time.
Dr. Mead—“I feel infinitely obliged to you for your kind and confidential communication. No one in the least acquainted with the liberality of your conduct can for a moment accuse you of an ostentatious display of your wealth. The subject upon which you last touched, is one that has often excited my curiosity. I should like of all things to know, what Linacre got by his profession; how much Caius, Harvey, Sydenham, and other worthies of medicine received yearly for their professional labour. The honorarium or fee of a doctor, one would suppose, must always have been in proportion to the rarity of professional skill, though we must take into account the greater value of money in former times. There may be notices of this kind to be met with in different books, but the only instances that occur at present to my memory are mentioned by that great benefactor of our College, Baldwin Hamey. In the valuable and entertaining account left by him of his contemporaries, he mentions, that about the year 1644, Dr. Rob. Wright, who died at the early age of twenty-eight years, was very successful in practice. The Latin expression (for his MS. is written most elegantly in that language), is, I believe, as follows: ‘Wrightus vixdum trimulus doctor, mille admodum coronatos, annuo spacio lucraretur.’ Now, the coronatus, usually called a broad-piece, was about twenty-two shillings in value, and the receipt of a thousand of these by so young a physician, who had only been settled three years in the metropolis, is an instance of very singular good fortune indeed.
“The next, is an account of a fee received by Hamey himself, and is thus related in the MS. life of that excellent man:—
“It was in the time of the civil wars when it pleased God to visit him with a severe fit of sickness, or peripneumonia, which confined him a great while to his chamber, and to the more than ordinary care of his tender spouse. During this affliction, he was disabled from practice; but the very first time he dined in his parlour afterwards, a certain great man in high station came to consult him on an indisposition—(ratione vagi sui amoris)—and he was one of the godly ones too of those times. After the doctor had received him in his study, and modestly attended to his long religious preface, with which he introduced his ignominious circumstances, and Dr. Hamey had assured him of his fidelity, and gave him hopes of success in his affair, the generous soldier (for such he was) drew out of his pocket a bag of gold, and offered it all at a lump to his physician. Dr. Hamey, surprised at so extraordinary a fee, modestly declined the acceptance of it; upon which the great man, dipping his hand into the bag himself, grasped up as much of his coin as his fist could hold, and generously put it into the doctor’s coat pocket, and so took his leave. Dr. Hamey returned into his parlour to dinner, which had waited for him all that time, and smiling (whilst his lady was discomposed at his absenting so long), emptied his pocket into her lap. This soon altered the features of her countenance, who telling the money over, found it to be thirty-six broad pieces of gold: at which she being greatly surprised, confessed to the doctor that this was surely the most providential fee he ever received; and declared to him that, during the height of his severe illness, she had paid away (unknown to him) on a state levy towards a public supply, the like sum in number and value of pieces of gold; lest under the lowness of his spirits, it should have proved a matter of vexation, unequal to his strength at that time to bear; which being thus so remarkably reimbursed to him by Providence, it was the properest juncture she could lay hold on to let him into the truth of it. It may be said,” continued Mead, “that this was an extraordinary case, and the fee a most exorbitant one, which the patient paid as the price of secrecy: but the precaution was unnecessary (as it ought always to be in a profession whose very essence is honour and confidence); for the name of the generous soldier is never once mentioned in the life of Hamey, though I have good reason to believe he was no other than Ireton, the son-in-law of Cromwell.”
Radcliffe. “These are curious particulars, and I thank you for them. To speak once more of my own good fortune, I found that, even seven years ago, to say nothing of what I have acquired since, upon inquiry into the bulk of my estate, both land and money, I was worth more than £80,000, which I then resolved to devote, all or most of it, to the service of the public. I hope, however, notwithstanding what I shall leave behind me, no one can accuse me of having been sordid in my lifetime, or in case of the private distress of my friends, not to have instantly relieved them. I have never been such a niggard as to have preferred mountains of gold to the conversation and charms of society. Perhaps there was selfishness in this: for I never recollect to have spent a more delightful evening than that in the old room at the Mitre Tavern in Fleet Street, when my good friend Billy Nutley, who was indeed the better half of me, had been prevailed upon to accept of a small temporary assistance, and joined our party, the Earl of Denbigh, Lords Colpeper and Stawel, and Mr. Blackmore. But enough of this affair of money. To one so well skilled as yourself, I have not much to say on the subject of practice; but recollect, I beg of you, the treatment of small-pox. Combat the prejudices of mankind on that point. By insisting upon this, I lately saved the life of the young Duke of Beaufort. You have done much, by showing the advantage of employing aperient medicines in the decline of that distemper; and I much regret that the letter you wrote to Dr. Freind upon that matter, and which you permitted me to inform him he might publish, has not yet seen the light. Go on as you have begun; and I confidently hope that something more may still be introduced into general practice by a physician of your good sense and liberal views, to mitigate the violence of that most formidable disease.
“But I am now drawing to a close. Last year, upon my being returned member of parliament for the town of Buckingham, I retired from practice, and I have recommended you to all my patients. Your own merit and acquirements will insure you success; but perhaps your career may be facilitated by what I have done for you. Recollect that the fame of a physician is subject to the caprices of fortune. I know the nature of attending crowned heads very well. But continue as you have commenced. Nothing could be better than the method you took for the preservation of her late gracious Majesty’s health; though the people about her (the plagues of Egypt fall upon them!) put it out of the power of physic to be of use to her. But I was sorry to hear the other day, that your enemies have spread a report that, during the last days of the Queen’s illness, you had pronounced that her Majesty could not live two minutes, and that you seemed uneasy it did not so happen. Tell me, I beg, the real state of the case.”
“You very well know,” said Dr. Mead, “that her Majesty had been long corpulent; and that, in her latter years, the habit of her body became gross and unwieldy. For the most part she had a good stomach, and ate heartily. But by reason of her immoderate fatness, and her weakness, occasioned by the gout, she became so inactive that she used but little exercise. In the beginning of her Majesty’s illness, there was a difference of opinion among the doctors as to the propriety of giving the jesuits’ bark; but I will not enter into all the disputes which took place on that occasion. It is enough to state, that after the appearance of the imposthume on the left leg, and the coming on of the doziness which seized her on Thursday the 28th July, there was no doubt about the propriety of cupping her; and blisters were ordered, but not applied, for what reason I know not. The next morning her Majesty was seized with an apoplectic fit, attended with convulsions. After two hours and a half she recovered her senses, but lost them again next day, and died the following morning.”
Radcliffe. “Well, I will inquire no further. I see your own modesty will not allow you to find fault with the injudicious practice and fatal security of your colleagues. I cannot but applaud your good feeling and liberality of sentiment; and wish you most heartily success in your future professional life. Accept this cane. It has accompanied me now for many years in my visits to the sick, and been present at many a consultation. Receive it as a token of my friendship, and prosper. ‘Te nunc habet ista secundum.’”
Here a twinge of the gout interrupted the speech of my old master; and Dr. Mead shortly after left for London, taking me with him.
Dr. Radcliffe died on the first of November, 1714, three months after the Queen; and it was said that the dread he had of the populace, and the want of company in the country village where he had retired, and which he did not dare to leave, shortened his life.
Arms of Mead
From the possession of a physician who was kind, generous, and social in the highest degree, but who was certainly more remarkable for strong good sense and natural sagacity than for literary attainments, I passed into the hands of an accomplished scholar. Dr. Mead was allowed even by his antagonists, themselves men of great erudition, to be artis medicæ decus, vitæ revera nobilis, and one who excelled all our chief nobility in the encouragement he afforded to the fine arts, polite learning, and the knowledge of antiquity. But though I had changed masters, it was no small satisfaction to me to return to the old House, for Mead not only succeeded Radcliffe in the greater part of his business, but removed to the residence which he had formerly occupied in Bloomsbury-square. My present master, on commencing his profession, had first settled at Stepney, had then resided in Crutched, and afterwards in Austin Friers, for the purpose of being near St. Thomas’ Hospital; but now the distance of his new abode obliged him to resign the situation of physician to that charitable establishment.
About six months after the death of Radcliffe, I was present at a consultation between Sir Hans Sloane, Dr. Cheyne, and Mead. It was held on the case of Bishop Burnet, the prelate so celebrated for the “History of his own Time,” and for the active part he had taken in the great transactions of that eventful period.
He had been taken ill of a violent cold, which soon turned to a pleurisy; and this increasing, and baffling all remedies, his worthy friend and relation Dr. Cheyne called in the assistance of the two other doctors. Up to this time Burnet had enjoyed uninterrupted good health, which he attributed, not without reason, to his temperate habits. “I will give you,” said the venerable patient to Dr. Mead (for the Bishop was now 72 years old), “a short outline of my course of life. In summer I have been in the habit of rising at five in the morning, in the winter at six; and I have always officiated myself at prayer, though my chaplains may have been present. I then took my tea in company with my children, and read the Scriptures with them. I have generally spent six or eight hours a day in my study. The rest of the day has been passed by me in taking exercise, making friendly visits or cheerful meals. But now, to use an expression of my late gracious master King William, whom I knew well for sixteen years, I feel ‘que je tire vers ma fin.’”
The Doctors listened to the melancholy presage of the Bishop, and having put the necessary questions to him, withdrew into the adjoining apartment, for the purpose of consultation. I was now in company with two physicians of great eminence, though of very different characters. On the one side of me stood Sir Hans Sloane, who had shortly before been created a baronet by His Majesty George the First, being the first physician upon whom an hereditary title of honour had ever been conferred; in his person tall and well made, sprightly in conversation, easy, polite and engaging in his manners, by birth an Irishman. On the other was Dr. Cheyne, a Scotchman, with an immense broad back, taking snuff incessantly out of a ponderous gold box, and thus ever and anon displaying to view his fat knuckles: a perfect Falstaff, for he was not only a good portly man and a corpulent, but was almost as witty as the knight himself, and his humour being heightened by his northern brogue, he was exceeding mirthful. Indeed he was the most excellent banterer of his time, a faculty he was often called upon to exercise, to repel the lampoons which were made by others upon his extraordinary personal appearance. Nothing could be more striking than the contrast of the two celebrated men before me.
Sir Hans began by observing, that the age of the Bishop might throw a doubt over the propriety of more bleeding, but he had so often seen the advantage of repeated venesection, that he had the greatest faith in that mode of treatment. “In one case particularly which I saw abroad”—but here let me interrupt the Baronet for a moment, to make an observation, which in the many consultations at which I have been present, has more than once occurred to me. These deliberations are generally proposed either because the attending physician is at a loss what further to suggest, or that he wishes naturally enough to divide the responsibility of the management of a dangerous disease. They are held for the most part upon ailments of a chronic nature, that is upon such disorders as afford time and opportunity to form the judgment, and decide upon a method of practice; for it is lucky that in urgent diseases, or those which are called acute, the remedies are simple, and that where delay would be dangerous, the means of relief are obvious. In consultations, there is of course much scope for diversity of opinion, but in the whole range of the plausible reasoning which the conjectural science of medicine admits of, there is nothing so imposing as a case; it bears down all before it. One of the consulting Doctors, after hearing the history of the previous treatment, advances that he has seen a case similar to the one, now under consideration, in which he did so and so with manifest advantage; the argument is irresistible——
But this by way of parenthesis. “In one case particularly (said Sir Hans Sloane) which I saw abroad, I saved a man’s life, who complained extremely of a great pain in his shoulder, or rather inside of his pleura answering to that part, which increased on breathing high, sighing or coughing, for the patient was troubled with a short cough. The man was on board a ship bound for England, and it was taken by all for sea sickness, but I told them, they were all deceived, and forthwith ordered him to be bled in the arm to about ten ounces, and gave him an emulsion, and a pectoral decoction of barley, liquorish and raisins. I immediately found him much better, and ordered him to continue this, and to take of crab’s eyes and sal prunellæ, of each half a drachm, and to swallow morning and evening the half on’t, drinking afterwards a pectoral draught, and in case of relapse I ordered him to be bled again; which was necessary to be done, for the ship chirurgeon, contrary to my desire, gave him a vomit: the patient, poor fellow! knowing nothing of it, till it was down. His pains thus returned, and I bled him twice on two several days, and with an emulsion he was cured. I have found also (added Sir Hans), in similar cases great advantage in applying a hot bag of parched salt to the side; but bleeding is the main remedy. I have bled a patient five times in her foot and arm in twelve hours.” Whilst the baronet was speaking, the countenance of Dr. Cheyne underwent various changes, and when mention was made of the emulsion, which if I am not mistaken, was a compound of linseed oil, sugar-candy, and decoction of barley, it assumed a very decided expression of disgust, for he was a bon vivant of the first order. To the further employment of venesection, he was rather averse, and insisted much upon the advanced age of the Bishop. “An old man’s body (observed Dr. Cheyne), is like a plant dried by the sun, its fibres are stiff, and juices decayed, and not as in youth able to prepare new nutriment, to repair the loss of solids and fluids. For this decay of the humours, the cure of the cacochymia is necessary; and to renovate the solids, we find no help like warm bathing and unctions, and you yourself (said he archly to Sir Hans) must have remarked, in your own native country, that the Irish live long, who anoint themselves with salt butter.” What the remedies were which were ultimately ordered for the aged Prelate, I do not now recollect, but his own prediction was soon after fulfilled, and he died on the 17th of March 1715.
Of Sir Hans Sloane, I shall have occasion to speak again more than once, and I can do it with confidence, for I had many opportunities of studying his peculiarities, and being in his company, particularly at the conversaziones which were held at his house in Great Russell-street, by Bloomsbury. It was observed of him, that he was on these occasions rather a precise gentleman, and used to go out of temper, when his guests spilled the coffee over his carpets. But he was very lively in discourse, nor did he lack topics, and having been much abroad, loved to talk of his travels. When only in his twenty-eighth year, he had accompanied the Duke of Albemarle, on his appointment to the government of the Island of Jamaica, in the quality of physician to his Excellency, being chiefly induced by his attachment to natural history, to undertake a voyage, which was not thought at that time of day to be altogether free from danger. As he was the first man of learning whom the love of science alone had led from England to that distant part of the globe, and was besides of an age when both activity of body, and ardour of mind concur to vanquish difficulties, his travels were eminently successful. To say nothing of the other curiosities with which he enriched his native country, he brought home from Jamaica, and the other islands at which he touched, no fewer than 800 different species of plants, a number much greater than had ever been imported into England before by any individual. His stay in Jamaica did not exceed fifteen months, for the Governor died, and the Doctor returned home, and settled in London. About seven years before the scene at the Bishop’s, he had published the first volume of his Voyage to the Islands of Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St. Christophers, and Jamaica, with the natural history of the herbs, and trees, four-footed beasts, fishes, birds, insects, reptiles, &c., illustrated with the figures of the things described, which had not heretofore been engraved. In large copper-plates, as big as the life.
This was his first contribution to the general stock of knowledge, and when questioned on the subject of his voyage, he was used to say, that independently of the gratification of a laudable curiosity, he deemed it a sort of duty in a medical man to visit distant countries, for that the ancient and best physicians were wont to travel to the places whence their drugs were brought, to inform themselves concerning them. Speaking of the part of the globe which he had visited, he never ceased to deplore the irreparable loss of fame which this country had suffered, in not being the first to partake in the glory of its discovery. When Bartholomew Columbus, said Sir Hans, was sent to England by his brother Christopher, in 1488, to persuade Henry the Seventh to fit him out for this expedition, a sea chart of the parts of the world then known was produced, and a proposal made to the King, but after much delay and many untoward circumstances, both the map and the proposal were disregarded, and the money that had at first been set apart for the purpose, and thought sufficient for the discovery of the New World, was ultimately expended in the purchase of a suit of fine tapestry hangings, brought from Antwerp, and afterwards used for the decoration of Hampton Court.
The scene I have endeavoured to describe at the Bishop’s may serve as a specimen of a consultation of that day, and has given me an opportunity of introducing to the reader a very distinguished person, for such certainly must Sir Hans Sloane be allowed to have been. About four years after the time I now speak, he was elected President of the College of Physicians; on the death of Sir Isaac Newton, was chosen to fill the chair of the Royal Society; and after his own decease gave origin to the British Museum.
It is not, however, my intention to follow Mead into all the details of his private practice, but I will point out some of the material improvements introduced by him in his art, and the progress which the science of physic made in his hands.—Mr. Secretary Craggs applied to him, in 1719, to find out the most effectual method to prevent the spreading of the plague, which had proved so fatal that year at Marseilles. My master accordingly published a discourse on that subject, which was so well received as to go through no less than seven editions in a twelvemonth. The kingdom was at this time governed by Lords Justices, during the absence of His Majesty George the First, who was then in Hanover. An act of parliament was passed, in consequence of the advice given by Mead; but the Opposition of the day, chiefly with the view to thwart the Ministry, caused two of its wisest clauses to be given up the following year. These related to the removing of sick persons from their habitations, and the making of lines of demarcation about infected places. Against the adoption of these prudent precautions an outcry was raised, that persons in office intrusted with such powers might be tempted to abuse them, and exercise their authority in a manner grievous to the subjects of the kingdom. Dr. Mead, on the other hand, contended, that Salus populi supremo lex est; and said that, if the plague should unhappily be brought again into England, he was sure the people themselves would cry out for help, notwithstanding wrong notions of liberty may sometimes overpossess their minds, and make them, under the best of governments, impatient of restraint. A clamour like this will probably be always renewed whenever this subject comes to be discussed by the public; the bold and the ignorant will excite it for the purposes of gainful notoriety, and the selfish trader from a short-sighted view of his own immediate interest. “But suppose for a moment,” said Mead in conversation with a friend, “that the laws of quarantine were useless, and that the fears entertained of the contagious nature of the plague were without foundation, how can the commerce of this country be benefited by the abolition of these regulations here, unless the rest of civilized Europe adopt the same measure, and agree, at a sort of general congress, to remove all restraints from their trade with the Levant? But,” continued he, in an earnest manner, which had all the air of prophecy, “depend upon it, whenever the doctrine of non-contagion is revived in England (and it will be, even a hundred years hence), it will always excite alarm among the nations who are more prudent than ourselves, and less eager to entertain every kind of wild and visionary speculation. Incalculable mischief will be done by the broaching of this pernicious doctrine: the speculators who adopt such opinions should at least keep them to themselves, or if they will continue their experiments, let them make them in corpore vili, and not upon subjects which involve the general welfare of the community.”
Two or three years after this, my master’s attention was called to another matter of equal, or perhaps greater importance than the one just mentioned; and I had the satisfaction of witnessing another prodigious step made towards the improvement of physic. This was no less than the mitigation of that loathsome disease the small-pox, a malady more formidable, and infinitely more fatal than the plague itself. Lady Mary Wortley Montague having returned to England in 1722, was determined to introduce the practice of inoculating for the small-pox, which she had witnessed in the East, and having before had the operation performed successfully upon her son at Constantinople, desired her family surgeon to engraft her daughter also with that disease. The process was witnessed by three physicians and the family apothecary; but though the success was complete, the profession still remained in suspense, and caution prevented the repetition of the experiment. But Caroline Princess of Wales, having nearly lost the life of one of her daughters, the Princess Anne, by small-pox, was desirous of having her children inoculated; and obtained from His Majesty George the First, that six condemned felons should be pardoned for the good of the public, on condition of their submitting to be inoculated. Five of the felons contracted the disease favourably; the sixth, who concealed having previously had the small-pox, was not infected—but all escaped hanging. At the suggestion of my master, the Chinese method was practised upon a seventh criminal, who was a young girl of eighteen years of age. He accordingly introduced into her nostrils a tent, wetted with matter taken out of ripe pustules, which nearly approaches to the practice of the Chinese, who take the skins of some of the dried pustules which have fallen from the body, and put them into a porcelain bottle, stopping the mouth of it very closely with wax. When they have a mind to infect any one, they make up three or four of these skins (inserting between them one grain of musk) into a tent with cotton, which they put up the nostrils. In the case of the girl whom my master treated as above related, she, like those who were inoculated by incisions made in the skin, fell sick and perfectly recovered.
The attention of the medical world was naturally much engrossed by this new method, and every one was discussing the nature of the small-pox, of which the contagious quality was one of the most remarkable properties. “How strange!” said Mead, “that this property, apparently so obvious, should not have been noticed by every writer on the subject, from the very first appearance of this dangerous malady among us. Yet Sydenham, discerning, as he has been called, does not take the slightest notice of it, and perhaps even at this very day, had it not been for the introduction of this novel method of communicating it, its infectious quality might not have been universally admitted. One would suppose that the merest tyro in an apothecary’s shop could not have seen half a dozen cases of the small-pox without being convinced that one person caught it from another. An additional striking example of what has often been observed before, that the most plain and obvious truths lie undiscovered till accident bring them to light.”—More than twenty years after this, Dr. Mead published a treatise on the small-pox and measles, which contained many valuable observations on both these diseases, and also strong recommendations of the practice of inoculation. To this treatise, which is written in a pure Latin style, he subjoined a translation of Rhazes’ commentary on the small-pox into the same language, a copy of which he had obtained from Leyden, through the assistance of his friend and fellow-student Boerhaave, with whom my master maintained a constant correspondence.
The ingenuity of mankind is exercised upon no subjects with so much pertinacity and acuteness as upon those connected with medicine, and it has often been disputed whether inoculation has lessened the number of deaths by small-pox.—One thing however is certain, that it has contributed to the comfort and security of all prudent individuals and families; for though it cannot admit of a doubt that many formerly passed through a long life without the disease, yet such a situation must have proved a constant source of uneasiness to themselves and friends, of restraint from many desirable pursuits, and at times of absolute seclusion from the world.
The next improvement which Dr. Mead introduced into the practice of medicine was entirely of his own invention, and serves to show that his mind was not only capable of the extended views of philosophy, but was alive to the most minute circumstances that could contribute towards the perfection of his art. For the skill of a physician, though it assume a more exalted character when displayed in the pursuit of general science, is equally conspicuous, and perhaps more immediately useful, when exerted in the discovery and employment of ingenious contrivances for the relief of suffering humanity.
My master had often considered what could be the reason that, in cases of persons labouring under dropsy, when the water is suddenly drawn off, the patient swoons and frequently dies on the spot. A simple expedient occurred to him, which was this: during the operation of tapping, to make external pressure by the hands, and afterwards to apply a bandage to the belly. I was present when this method was first tried in the hospital, and afterwards frequently saw it used, more especially in the case of Dame Mary Page, wife of Sir Gregory Page, Bart., who was afflicted with this disease, and died March 4th, 1728, in the fifty-sixth year of her age. In sixty-seven months she was tapped sixty-six times and had two hundred and forty gallons of water taken away, without ever once fearing the operation. This was certainly a most valuable discovery, and shows the advantage derivable from the exercise of good sense and sound judgment; for Mead naturally reflected, that the removal of the pressure of the accumulated water caused the fibres suddenly to lose the extension which they had previously acquired; and it as naturally occurred to him, that the tendency to faint could only be obviated by substituting an external support to the parts.
But it is now time, after having related the benefits he conferred upon mankind by enlarging the boundaries of medical science, to revert to some details of a more domestic character. It has been mentioned before, when speaking of the first experiment of inoculation made in this country, that zeal for his profession had on one occasion brought my master acquainted with the veriest outcasts of society, and in contact with convicted felons: it remains for me to relate how the calls of friendship and generous sympathy led him again within the walls of a prison.
In politics Mead was a hearty Whig, but he reckoned amongst his friends many whose sentiments differed widely from his own. Garth, Arbuthnot, and Freind were among his chief associates: with the latter particularly he had always been on terms of the most friendly intercourse. Recently the intimacy of these two distinguished physicians had been much increased by a controversy in which they were embarked in support of their own enlightened views on the subject of the cooling treatment of the small-pox, against the attacks of the ignorant and malevolent.
About this time Dr. Freind had been elected member of parliament for Launceston in Cornwall, and acting in his station as a senator with that warmth and freedom which was natural to him, he distinguished himself by some able speeches against measures which he disapproved. He was supposed to have had a hand in Atterbury’s plot, as it was then called, for the restoration of the Stuart family; and having been also one of the speakers in favour of the Bishop, this drew upon him so much resentment that (the Habeas Corpus Act being at that time suspended) he was, on March 15, 1722-3, committed to the Tower. Here he lay a prisoner for some months, and my master did all he could to procure his liberation: during his confinement his practice fell chiefly into the hands of Mead. As soon as permission could be obtained, which was not till he had been some time in prison, we paid a visit to Freind, and entered that building whose low and sombre walls and bastions have frowned on many an innocent and many a guilty head.
When his room door opened, we found him in the act of finishing a Latin letter to my master, “On certain kinds of the Small-pox;” and, as he perceived our approach, he came forward with an expression of great delight in his countenance. “I was writing a letter to you, with the permission of the governor of the Tower; and you are indebted,” he added in a low whisper, “to my companion (looking at the warder, who was in the same chamber with his prisoner) for its brevity: for I don’t find that his presence assists me much in composition.”—During our interview, Freind told Mead that he passed his time not unpleasantly, for that he had begun to write the History of Physic, from the time of Galen to the commencement of the sixteenth century; but that at present he felt the necessity of consulting more books than the circumstances in which he was now placed would give him an opportunity of perusing—“Though I ought not to repine,” said he, “while I have this book (pointing to a Greek Testament, which was lying on the table), the daily and diligent perusal of which solaces my confinement. I have lately been reading the Gospel of St. Luke, and I need not point out to a scholar like yourself, and one who has paid so much attention to what I may call the medical history of the Bible, how much nearer the language of St. Luke, who was by profession a physician, comes to the ancient standard of classical Greek than that of the other Evangelists. To be sure it has a mixture of the Syriac phrase, which may be easily allowed in one who was born a Syrian; yet the reading the Greek authors, while he studied medicine, made his language without dispute more exact. His style is sometimes even very flowing and florid—as when, in the Acts of the Apostles, he describes the voyage of St. Paul; and when he has occasion to speak of distempers or the cure of them, you must have observed that he makes use of words more proper for the subject than the others do. It is besides remarkable that St. Luke is more particular in reciting all the miracles of our Saviour in relation to healing than the other Evangelists are; and that he gives us one history which is omitted by the rest, viz. that of raising the widow’s son at Nain.”
My master left the prisoner, with an assurance that he would use all the influence he possessed to procure his liberty: “For,” said he, smiling, “however much your cultivated mind is enabled to amuse itself by reading and writing, I presume you will have no sort of objection to resign your newly-acquired office of Medicus Regius ad Turrim.”
From a spirited medallion of Dr. Freind, carved in box-wood. There is a portrait of him in the hall of Christ Church, Oxford, upon which is inscribed the following stanza from the pen of Anthony Alsop:
Cui suas artes, sua dona lætus
Et Lyram, et Venæ salientis ictum
Scire concessit, celerem et medendi
Very shortly afterwards, the opportunity of effecting this did actually occur; for when Sir Robert Walpole, the minister of the day, sent to consult Mead on account of an indisposition, he availed himself of the occasion to plead the cause of the captive. He urged, that though the warmth and freedom of Freind might have betrayed him into some intemperate observations, yet no one could doubt his patriotic feelings and loyalty; that his public services had been great, for he had attended the Earl of Peterborough in his Spanish expedition as an army physician; and had also accompanied in the same capacity the Duke of Ormond into Flanders; that he deserved well of science, for he had done much to call the attention of the world to the new and sound principles of the Newtonian philosophy; and was besides a man of excellent parts, a thorough scholar, and one whom all acknowledged to be very able in his profession: and, finally, the Doctor refused to prescribe for the Minister unless the prisoner was set at liberty. He was almost immediately relieved from prison, and admitted to bail; his sureties being Dr. Mead, Dr. Hulse, Dr. Levet, and Dr. Hale.
Mead’s house, at the corner of Powis Place, now No. 49. There is a good garden behind the house, at the bottom of which was a museum. After Mead’s death it was occupied by Sir Harry Grey, Lord Grey’s uncle.
The evening after this event, there was a numerous assembly at our house in Great Ormond Street, attracted by the hope of meeting Freind, and congratulating him on his liberation from the Tower. He came, and every one was delighted to see him once more at large. Besides the number of acquaintances and friends who were there, when it is observed that no foreigner of any learning, taste, or even curiosity, ever arrived in England without being introduced to my master (as it would have been a reproach to have returned without seeing a scholar and physician who was in correspondence with all the literati of Europe), it may easily be imagined that on so remarkable an occasion our conversazione was a crowded one. When the party broke up, and Freind and Arbuthnot were about to take their leave together, as they lived in the same part of the town—the former in Albemarle Street, and the latter in Cork Street, Burlington Gardens—Dr. Mead begged Freind to step with him for a moment into his own private study, which was a small room adjoining the library. There he presented him with the sum of five thousand guineas, which he had received from Freind’s patients, whom he had visited during his imprisonment. On returning to the great room he wished them both good night, and jocosely said to Arbuthnot (who happened to hold the office of Censor of the College that year), “Now I commit our common friend here to your magisterial care and guidance; see that he does not again get into trouble; and on the least appearance of irregularity, report him to the President, Sir Hans Sloane. I look to you, Arbuthnot, to preserve harmony amongst us.”
These meetings, of which Dr. Mead was very fond, took place at stated periods, and the visitors assembled in the library, a spacious room about sixty feet long, of the richness of which an idea may be formed by referring to the catalogue of the sale of its contents, which took place after his death. The books, amounting to about ten thousand volumes, were sold in twenty-eight days. The sale of the prints and drawings occupied fourteen evenings, and the coins and medals were disposed of in eight days. But at the time of which I speak, all these literary treasures were collected under one roof; and the assemblage of marble statues of Greek philosophers, Roman emperors, bronzes, gems, intaglios, Etruscan vases, and other rare specimens of antiquity, was most choice and valuable. Ranged along one side of the room stood the busts of the great English poets—Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope: they were of the size of life, of white marble, and by the hand of Scheemakers. The corner in which I was usually placed was between a statue of Hygeia and a cabinet of iron which once belonged to Queen Elizabeth. This cabinet was full of valuable coins, among which was a medal of the Protector which Mead frequently exhibited as a curiosity to his visitors: it had Oliver’s head in profile, with this legend, “The Lord of Hosts, the word at Dunbar, Sept. 1650;” on the reverse, the parliament sitting.
Placed in this favourite spot, I often overheard very interesting discourse. On one occasion particularly, I recollect that the conversation turned on the condition and rank of physicians in society. The persons who took a leading part in the conversation were, if I remember rightly, my master, Dr. Freind, Dr. Arbuthnot, and Mr. Ward, the professor of rhetoric in Gresham College. The topic was suggested by some accidental allusion to the attack which had been lately made by Dr. Conyers Middleton on the dignity of medicine, in a dissertation written by him concerning the state of physic in old Rome. The indignation of the physicians of that day was naturally roused, and they were all up in arms against the author.
Dr. Mead began by asking, “What class of men have deserved better of the public than physicians? How much, for instance, does not this country owe to Linacre, the founder of our College? He was perhaps the most learned man of his time, and on his travels was received by Lorenzo de Medicis with the most marked distinction. That munificent patron of literature granted him the privilege of attending the same preceptors with his own sons, and Linacre improved the opportunities he enjoyed with great diligence and success. At Florence, under Demetrius Chalcondylas, who had fled from Constantinople when it was taken by the Turks, he acquired a perfect knowledge of the Greek language.
“He studied eloquence at Bologna under Politian, one of the most elegant Latinists in Europe; and while he was at Rome he devoted himself to medicine and the study of natural philosophy, under Hermolaus Barbarus. Linacre was the first Englishman who read Aristotle and Galen in the original Greek. On his return to England, having taken the degree of M.D. at Oxford, he gave lectures in physic, and taught the Greek language in that university. His reputation soon became so high, that King Henry VII. called him to court, and intrusted him with the care of the health and education of his son Prince Arthur. To show the extent of his acquirements, I may mention, that he instructed Princess Catherine in the Italian language, and that he published a work on mathematics, which he dedicated to his pupil Prince Arthur. A treatise on grammar, which has universally been acknowledged to be a work of great erudition, is from the pen of Linacre: Melancthon, indeed, pronounces it to be inferior to none of its kind then extant. In his own style he reminds one of the elegance of Terence, and in his medical treatises very nearly approaches the clear and perspicuous language of Celsus.
From a Portrait of Linacre by Holbein, in Kensington Palace, a copy of which hangs over the fireplace in the Censor’s Room of the College of Physicians.
“Linacre was successively Physician to Henry the Seventh, Henry the Eighth, Edward the Sixth, and to the Princess Mary. He established lectures on physic in both Universities; and he was the founder of our Royal College of Physicians, of which he was the first President, holding that office during the last seven years of his life. He was indeed,” said Mead, “a most accomplished scholar: the Latin style of Linacre is so pure and elegant as to rank him amongst the finest writers of his age; his friend Erasmus saying of him that he was ‘vir non exacti tantum, sed severi judicii.’—Though the medical writings of Linacre are only translations, yet we cannot but form a favourable opinion of his professional skill, not only from the general estimation of his contemporaries, but from the sagacity of his prognosis in the case of his friend Lily the celebrated grammarian, as well as from the rational simplicity of the method by which he relieved Erasmus in a painful fit of the gravel.”
There was a pause here, and Mr. Professor Ward asked my master if it was true that Linacre had, in the latter part of his life, changed his profession, and entered into the priesthood.
Mead. “Yes, it was undoubtedly true, but he still to his dying day had his thoughts upon physic, for it was towards the close of his life that he projected the College of Physicians, of which he remained President till his death. It was also true that, on first applying himself to the study of divinity, he was a most sincere searcher of the Scriptures, studying the Bible with great avidity; and that on reading the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of St. Matthew, he threw the book away, and swore that this was either not the Gospel, or we were not Christians.”
Freind. “Your account of Linacre is quite correct, and you have certainly not passed upon him a greater eulogium than he deserves. If any other example were required to prove to the world how much some of the members of our body have done to further the cause of learning, there is one very ready to be cited in the physician to whom we owe the compilation of the first annals of our College. Though an Englishman, we find Dr. Caius reading lectures on Aristotle in the university of Padua; and afterwards using the influence he possessed at court, where he was Physician to Queen Mary, in behalf of literature: for it was at his instance that a licence was obtained from the Queen to advance Gonvil-hall at Cambridge, and incorporate it under the name of Gonvil and Caius College. This College he endowed afterwards with considerable estates for the maintenance of an additional number of fellows and scholars. He was Fellow, Censor, and President of the London College; and even in advanced life never absented himself from our meetings without a dispensation. He was buried in the Chapel of the College he had founded at Cambridge; and the simple inscription upon his monument, while it records the date of his death, adds a sentiment which should reconcile us to the frail and doubtful tenure of our present existence, by the certainty and permanence of well-merited posthumous fame:—
‘Fui Caius. Vivit post funera virtus. Obiit 1573, Æt. 63.’”
Mead. “The zeal displayed by Caius in the cause of literature deserves every commendation, but it is perhaps more to our purpose to dwell upon the claim he has upon our grateful remembrance as the founder of the Science of Anatomy in England. According to the fashion of his day, he had gone abroad in pursuit of knowledge; at Padua had lived during eight months in the same house with Vesalius, and devoted himself with the same ardour to the studies of his celebrated companion: and let it never be forgotten that Caius, on his return from Italy, imbued with the spirit of inquiry and enlightened by the lamp of science lately kindled in that country, taught Anatomy to the Surgeons in their own Hall. Here, beyond the precincts of the College of Physicians, reflecting great honour upon that body, adding to his own reputation and conferring no small advantage on the Surgeons, he laid that solid foundation for the study of Anatomy, to which may easily be traced the glory and after discoveries of Harvey. Caius began to lecture to the Surgeons soon after their incorporation (1540), and continued to do so, for twenty years, even after he had been elected President of our College and appointed Physician to the Court. The privilege which about this time had been granted to the Surgeons of obtaining annually four bodies of executed felons for the purpose of dissection, was doubtless the cause why the Hall of the Surgeons was selected for the lectures of Caius: for when in 1564 a similar permission was allowed to the Physicians by Queen Elizabeth, anatomical prælections were held at their own College. Dissections now began to be made frequently here, and the year before the death of Caius, an order is registered in our Annals that three bodies should be procured at the expense of the College, two sectionis experiundi causâ, and the third to be made ‘a public anatomy of.’ But it is not only by reference to our Annals that it appears to have been the merit of Caius to have given the first impulse to these studies, for the fact is mentioned by contemporary writers.—William Bulleine, M. D., in a very curious book, published in 1579, enumerates among the cunning men, profitable to the commonwealth, the learned Doctor, M. John Kaius, as the first who taught by learned lectures and the secrete anothomies, the worthy fraternity of Chirurgeons, of the most ancient and famous city of London.”
Dr. Freind. “I have not lately, as you all know, had an opportunity of consulting any books, but I recollect, some time ago, having obtained permission to examine the early volumes of our Annals, and being much struck with the importance attached to the study of anatomy by our ancestors, and the labour and assiduity with which they appear to have cultivated that science. If my memory does not fail me, it was in 1581, about eight years after the death of Caius, that a Lecture on Anatomy was regularly founded and endowed at the College. It was in that year that the Lord Lumley and Dr. Caldwall, signified their benefactions for that purpose, and the College to show itself worthy of the liberality of those generous patrons, though possessing very scanty funds, immediately voted all the money in their treasurer’s hands to enlarge their building, render it more suitable to their meetings, and more convenient for the delivery of these public lectures. Their poor stock, it would seem, amounted only to £100, but it must always be kept in mind that the funds of our body have never been replenished out of the coffers of the state, but have been furnished solely by the occasional donations of private individuals, or the legacies and contributions of its own members. In the time of the Protectorate their treasury was at its lowest ebb, and yet it is a subject of pride that even then the ardour of its members for anatomical research was unabated, for it was during this period that Glisson, whom your friend Boerhaave calls the ‘most accurate of anatomists,’ published his Lectures on the Structure of the Liver, dedicating his work to the University of Cambridge, ornatissimoque Medicorum Londinensium Collegio, thus avoiding, you observe, all allusion to the regal character of our foundation. But what wonder, when the sour and crabbed Republicans of those days were so cautious on this head, that in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, they would not say—‘Thy kingdom come,’ but always ‘Thy commonwealth come.’—To return however to the Lumleian Lectures, two years after their endowment, the College built a spacious Anatomical Theatre in Knight Rider Street, and here Harvey must have given his first public demonstrations of the circulation of the blood, for he was elected Reader in Anatomy in 1615. The mention of Caius, Harvey, and Glisson, suggests the names of the other great anatomists of that age; and it cannot fail to strike us as a matter of wonder and admiration, that all the important discoveries in Physiology were made in a very short space of time. In the fifty years which elapsed from 1620 to 1670, greater strides were made in enlarging our knowledge of the functions of the living animal body, than had ever been made before, or will probably ever be made again. For reflect only, that in this interval the brilliant discoveries of the circulation of the blood, of the nature of respiration, of the curious system of vessels called lacteals, as well as of that to which the general name of absorbents has been given, took place. In fact the means by which we live and breathe, by which our bodies are nourished, grow, change, and finally decay, were for the first time pointed out and explained.
“In 1622, Aselli discovered the Lacteals.
“In 1628, Harvey published his Doctrine of the Circulation of the Blood.
“In 1647, The Thoracic Duct and Receptaculum Chyli were pointed out by Pecquet.
“In 1651, The Lymphatics were demonstrated by Rudbeck. And
“In 1668, Mayow taught that the oxygen of the air, which had lately been discovered, mixed with the blood in the lungs: in short, published a Theory, in which you will find the germ of all subsequent opinions on the nature of Respiration.
“It is curious however to reflect that, notwithstanding the gigantic steps which Physiology was making at this time here, and in some parts of Europe, it remained stationary in others; in Germany, for instance, it seems to have been about this period pretty much in the same state in which it had been left by Galen, when the structure of apes was described as the anatomy of man. So late even as the middle of the seventeenth century, about the very time when Lower was making, at Oxford, the daring and original experiment of transfusion, or causing the arterial blood of one animal to pass into the jugular vein of another (which, by the by, was approved of by the Royal Society, before whom it was made, as an expedient likely to be useful after severe hæmorrhages), a grave dispute arose in Germany, as to the position of the heart itself. The contest was terminated, at length, by the Professors of Heidelberg, where the question was agitated, having recourse to the delicate experiment of killing a pig in the presence of the Margrave of Baden-Durlach, and clearly proving to his Highness, who then laboured under palpitation of the heart, that it really was situated on the left side of the thorax. The result of this important discovery was fatal to the fortunes of his Highness’ physician; who, though he stoutly maintained by a refinement of courtly flattery, that the heart of his master could not have a position similar to that of a pig, was dismissed in disgrace. But it is unnecessary to dwell longer upon the superiority of our English anatomists, or to recapitulate the additions made to this branch of knowledge by the former Fellows of our College, for the Capsule of Glisson, the Tubercle of Lower, and the Circle of Willis, are terms incorporated with the science itself, and, like the capes, islands, and bays, which bear the names of our early navigators, will serve to perpetuate the fame of these original discoverers. Of Willis, the last of these worthies whom I mentioned, let me observe, before I finish, that, though his Anatomy of the Brain is deservedly praised for the accuracy of research with which it abounds, yet it contains some notions rather fanciful, since he lodges sensation in the corpus striatum, memory and imagination in the medullary part of the brain.”
The conversation now became more general: those who had listened to the display of learning and accurate research which Dr. Freind and my master had made, expressed their admiration at the prodigious acquisitions made by the science of medicine, during the first half of the seventeenth century, and each suggested some additional fact relating to that subject. Among others there was one whose name I cannot now recall, but who appeared to have devoted himself more particularly to the study of the Materia Medica, who observed, that this sudden and great increase of our knowledge of the animal economy, and consequently of our acquaintance with the true causes of disease, was perhaps not more remarkable than the important additions which were made about this time to our list of remedies. It was within the same memorable period, he said, that some of our most efficient drugs were either first made known to the world, or first introduced into general use. It will be sufficient to mention bark, ipecacuanha, mercury, and antimony; to which four remedies, if we add opium, it may be questioned whether we should not possess a tolerably complete Materia Medica. The history and fate of medicines is a subject of great curiosity, depending upon the most fortuitous circumstances; for instance, according to the earliest account of the discovery of bark, its use was accidentally learned in the following manner:—Some cinchona trees being thrown into a pool of water in Peru, lay there till the water became so bitter that every body refused to drink it. However, one of the neighbouring inhabitants being seized with a violent paroxysm of fever, and finding no other water to quench his thirst, was forced to drink of this, by which he was perfectly cured. He afterwards related the circumstance to others, and prevailed upon some of his friends, who were ill of fever, to make use of the same remedy, with whom it proved equally successful. But it was not only the casual experience of an uncivilized people which discovered this valuable remedy, but the first prejudices against its use, which were very strong, were counteracted by the influence of a religious sect (the Jesuits), totally unconnected with the practice of medicine; and physicians were ultimately taught how to use it with effect by a man who was vilified both at home and abroad as an ignorant empiric. Sydenham, when speaking of bark, is very contradictory, and seems to have been afraid to employ it efficiently; and it was not till Louis the Fourteenth bought the secret of the method of giving it, that the real virtues of this inestimable drug were properly felt and universally acknowledged. While Talbor, the person of whom the French King had made this purchase, was performing at Paris, about fifty years ago, the cure of Monseigneur, Madame de Sevigné, in one of her letters, describes, in the most amusing manner, the anxiety of every one at court, and the rage of M. D’Aquin, first physician to Louis:—“C’est dommage, que Moliere soit mort, il feroit une scene merveilleuse de D’Aquin, qui est enragé de n’avoir pas le bon remède, et de tous les autres médecins, qui sont accablés par les experiences, par le succès, et par les propheties comme divines, de ce petit homme. Le Roi lui fait composer son remède devant lui,” &c. &c. Sir R. Talbor (for he was knighted) died the year after this triumphant exhibition of his skill, and Louis the Fourteenth then ordered the secret to be published for the benefit of the world. The same Monarch also first introduced ipecacuanha into general practice, having induced Helvetius to employ it largely for the cure of dysentery in the Hotel Dieu, about the year 1679. But antimony has had the most inconstant fortune, for though it was known and employed as a remedy as early as the twelfth century, yet Valentine the Monk gave it so indiscreetly, and made experiments with such ill success upon the unhappy brethren of his Convent, that the metal is said to have speedily returned to the mines whence it had recently emerged. Three hundred years afterwards it began to be talked of again; but in 1566, by a decree of the faculty of Paris, confirmed by an arrêt of Parliament, it was condemned as a poison, and was not allowed to be openly prescribed as a remedy till 1650; indeed it is chiefly to Sir Theodore Mayerne that we are indebted for the various preparations of antimony, as well as of those of mercury.
Dr. Mead. “It was fortunate that our knowledge of the means of combating disease kept pace with our more correct views of Physiology, and of course more distinct notions of morbid changes of structure. But to return to the subject of anatomy: when I was appointed by the Company of Surgeons to read Anatomical Lectures in their Hall, which I did for six or seven years, I always insisted strongly upon the obligations their branch of the profession was under to the early Fellows of the College of Physicians, and I hope, as information becomes more diffused, and scientific attainments more universal, the Surgeons themselves will not be so ungrateful as to forget or disown it.
“It would be easy to go on enumerating the medical men whose names are allied with the history of science and classical literature in England, but your own memories will fill up the catalogue. Our archives contain several MSS. which, if published, would benefit the republic of letters: I have often regretted that Hamey’s notes and criticisms upon the works of Aristophanes have never yet been given to the world.”
From a portrait of Hamey in the dining-room of the College.
Freind. “It was intended that they should have been so. My friend the Bishop of Rochester recommended that they should be sent to Kuster, that learned critic to whom we owe the late excellent edition of the Greek poet which was done in Holland; but the work was unfortunately too far advanced in the press before the offer was made, so that Hamey’s MS. still remains in the College Library.”
Mead. “I have been much amused with the character drawn of Hamey by his biographer: it is full of quaintness and antithesis; and, if I recollect perfectly, is to the following effect. ‘He was a consummate scholar without pedantry, a complete philosopher without any taint of infidelity; learned without vanity, grave without moroseness, solemn without preciseness, pleasant without levity, regular without formality, nice without effeminacy, generous without prodigality, and religious without hypocrisy.’—These are a few of the learned physicians who have been the pillars and ornaments of the profession; which, so far from having been considered formerly a degrading one, has not only been patronized by royal and noble benefactors, but we boast of some of the latter quality amongst our own body. The Marquess of Dorchester not only left us his library, enriched with the best books, but was enrolled amongst our Fellows, assisted at our meetings, and exerted himself in every possible way to promote the study of medicine.“—[My master here grew warm, and turning round to Mr. Professor Ward, more particularly addressed himself to him:]—”Why amongst the Athenians there was a law that no slave nor woman should dare to study medicine. Have not the greatest philosophers of antiquity devoted themselves to it? have not Pythagoras, Democritus, and Aristotle, written expressly upon botany, anatomy, and physic? It is well known that the inhabitants of Smyrna associated upon the coins of that city the names of their celebrated physicians with the effigies of their gods. I am aware that amongst the Romans our art was not held in such high esteem; but it is well known that in the time of Julius Cæsar, when physicians came from Greece (the country whence the Romans derived all their polite learning and knowledge of the fine arts), they were complimented with the freedom of the Eternal City, a privilege of which that proud people was extremely jealous.”
Arbuthnot. “What you have said will show the dignity of our art, and who will doubt of its liberality who reflects for a moment on the generous and spirited conduct of our poor friend Garth, whose death we all deplore? To whom but a Physician was the corpse of Dryden indebted for a suitable interment? We all recollect how he caused it to be brought and placed in our College, proposed and encouraged a subscription for the expense of the funeral, pronounced an oration over the remains of the great Poet, and afterwards attended the solemnity from Warwick Lane to Westminster Abbey, where it was conveyed on the 13th May, 1700, attended by more than a hundred coaches.
From a portrait of Garth by Sir Godfrey Kneller, in the Censor’s Room of the College.
“But Garth was indeed the best-natured of men: besides being a polite scholar, ever attentive to the honour of the faculty, and never stooping to prostitute the dignity of the profession through mean or sordid views of self-interest.”
Mead. “The loss of such a man we shall all long lament: besides there is something in the death of a colleague peculiarly melancholy. His mind has been formed by the same studies, the same motives must have actuated his conduct, he must have been influenced by the same hopes and fears, and run pretty nearly the same career in life with ourselves; and at his death we are forcibly struck with the futility of all our plans, the emptiness and littleness of all our schemes of ambition. I know not when I have been more affected than in reading, a few days ago, the story of the death of Dr. Fox as told by Hamey, in his Bustorum aliquot Reliquiæ. He was a younger son of Fox the martyrologist, and had been a warm friend and active patron of Hamey, the great benefactor, and, as I may call him, second founder of our College. In that curious MS. which contains the characters of his contemporary physicians, statesmen, and other celebrated persons of his day, Hamey speaks in the most pathetic terms of the death-bed scene of his friend, and I will endeavour to recollect the precise Latin expressions in which Fox takes leave of him. Mi amice, vale; crastinus dies liberabit tuum ab his angustiis. Et vale dixisse iterum, porrectâque quam suspicabar frigidiore mauu, expressisse mihi lacrymas, meamque illam imbelliam, averso leviter capite, redarguisse et susurrasse. Hoccine est philosophari? et fructum promere tot colloquiorum? Hamey adds, Victus ego dolore et pudore; me domum confero arbitratus in ista ἀμηχανία levius fore audire cœtera quam videre. But let us change this melancholy subject. Tell us,” addressing Arbuthnot, “are we to expect another volume of the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus; or are Pope, Swift, and yourself tired of the project? I hope there is not an end of a scheme which was so calculated, by ridiculing the abuse of human learning, to benefit the cause of polite letters.”
The answer of that brilliant wit and scholar was unfavourable; and it evidently appeared, from the dejected tone in which he spoke, that the change in the fortunes of the illustrious triumvirate which had been occasioned by the death of Queen Anne, had depressed his spirits, and terminated the plan.
Most of the party had now assembled round Dr. Mead, to listen to this hasty recital of the merits of the distinguished physicians of former days. Of the names and persons of many of those present that evening, I have now no recollection: but, even at this distance of time, the figure of one who leaned on the arm of Arbuthnot is distinctly present to my imagination. He was protuberant before and behind, and used humorously to compare himself to a spider; and was so feeble that he could not, as I have heard, dress or undress himself, and was always wrapped up in fur and flannel, besides wearing a bodice of stiff canvas. In this description every one will recognise the form of Pope. He took no part in the conversation; but his fine, sharp, and piercing eye, directed as it was alternately to the different speakers, indicated that he felt no common concern in the subject. But he did not stay long; pleading as an apology for his departure an attack of his old enemy the headache, and the intention of returning to Twickenham that evening. As he passed by the spot in which I was placed, I heard him say to a friend who accompanied him, and who, like himself, had just taken leave of Dr. Mead: “I highly esteem and love that worthy man. His unaffected humanity and benevolence have stifled much of that envy which his eminence in his profession would otherwise have drawn out; and, indeed, I ought to speak well of his profession, for there is no end of my kind treatment from the faculty. They are in general the most amiable companions and the best friends, as well as the most learned men I know.”
The party now moved to a little distance to inspect a bust of Harvey, which my master had lately caused to be executed by an excellent hand, from an original picture in his possession. “This bust,” said Mead, “I intend to present to the College, to replace in some measure the statue of Harvey which was erected to him during his lifetime, and stood in the hall of our former building, and which was no doubt lost in the great fire. I have long thought it a reproach that we should not at least possess a bust of him who, to use the strong and figurative language of the Latin inscription, gave motion to the blood, and origin to animals, and must ever be hailed by us Stator Perpetuus.”
Bust of Harvey
Now placed in the Theatre of the College.
Freind. “The skill of the sculptor has been successfully employed here. The mild features of the old man are well expressed, and exhibit with fidelity his candid and gentle nature. I see him now, in my mind’s eye, after the surrender of Oxford to the Parliament, and the loss of his wardenship of Merton College, in his retirement at Richmond. The visit paid him there by his intimate friend Dr. George Ent, is related in so lively and pleasing a manner, that one is almost present at the interview. It was in the year 1651, when Harvey was in his seventy-first year. ‘I found him,’ says Ent, ‘in his seclusion, not far from town, with a sprightly and cheerful countenance, investigating, like Democritus, the nature of things. Asking if all was well with him, ‘How can that be?’ replied Harvey, ‘when the state is so agitated with storms, and I myself am yet in the open sea? And, indeed,’ added he, ‘were not my mind solaced by my studies, and the recollection of the observations I have formerly made, there is nothing which should make me desirous of a longer continuance. But thus employed, this obscure life, and vacation from public cares, which disquiets other minds, is the medicine of mine.’ Who does not admire,” continued Freind, “the modest altercation that arose between the great discoverer of the circulation of the blood, and Dr. Ent, about the publication of those most valuable papers containing his Exercitations on the Generation of Animals? One may imagine him replying to the importunity of his friend, that though, at his advanced age, it was of little consequence what the world thought of his writings, yet he could never forget, after the publication, at Frankfort, in 1628, of his doctrine of the circulation of the blood, that such was the general prejudice against him as an innovator, that his practice as a physician considerably declined. To be sure, he might look upon himself as recompensed in some degree for the ingratitude of the public by the regard and favour of his royal master Charles I. whose attachment to the arts and sciences formed a conspicuous part of his character. For the King, with some of the noblest persons about the Court, condescended to be spectators and witnesses of his experiments; and, indeed, His Majesty took so much interest in his anatomical researches, that, with respect to these very inquiries about the nature of generation, he had received much assistance from the opportunities afforded him of dissecting a vast number of animals, which were killed in the King’s favourite diversion of stag-hunting.
“Dr. Ent at last succeeded in obtaining the papers; and concludes the account of their interview by saying, ‘I went from him like another Jason in possession of the golden fleece; and when I came home, and perused the pieces singly, I was amazed that so vast a treasure should have been so long hidden.’”
Mr. Professor Ward. “You mention the destruction of a former building; pray, where did the College meet prior to the erection of the present edifice in Warwick Lane? Was it not somewhere in the neighbourhood of St. Paul’s?”
Dr. Mead. “I am glad you have asked me that question, for the vicissitudes in the fortunes of our body will gradually be forgotten, and it would be very desirable before they are entirely blotted out from our memory, or misrepresented by traditional inaccuracy, that some more public record should be given of them, than that which is contained in our archives. Though as a narrative of events, which has now been continued uninterruptedly for about two centuries, it would be difficult to find another of fidelity and interest equal to that furnished by the Annals of the College.
1518. “Its very first meetings immediately after its establishment were held in the house of Linacre, called the stone house, Knight-Rider Street, which still belongs to the College.
The stone house, No. 5, Knight-Rider Street. The armorial ensigns of the College are placed between the two centre windows of the first floor. Their proper blazon is as follows:—
Sable, a hand proper, vested argent, issuant out of clouds in chief of the second, rayonée, Or, feeling the pulse of an arm in fesse, proper, issuant from the sinister side of the shield, vested argent; in base a pomegranate between five demi-fleurs-de-lis bordering the edge of the escutcheon, Or.
These arms were obtained in 1546. Johanne Barker, Gartero Armorum Rege.
“The front of that building was appropriated to a Library, of the condition or extent of which it may be difficult to form any tolerable guess after the lapse of so many years. It would of course contain copies of Linacre’s own works, and there are records of an early date 1603. of donations and bequests made to it of books, globes, mathematical instruments, and minerals.
“Rather more than forty years had elapsed from the death of Linacre, before permission having been obtained from Queen Elizabeth, 1564. dissections began to be performed within the walls of the College, and, if I am not mistaken, Dr. Lopus was the first Physician appointed to give a public demonstration.
1583. “As soon as the Lumleian Lectures were founded, a spacious Anatomical Theatre was built, adjoining the house of Linacre, and here 1615. Harvey gave his first Course of Lectures.
“But about the time of the accession of Charles the First, notwithstanding the condition of its treasury, the College removed to another spot, and were enabled by the contributions of its own Members, assisted by the liberality of two distinguished individuals, to take a house of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s, at the bottom of Amen Corner. The lease of these premises was afterwards, from time to time renewed, a botanical garden adjoining was planted, and 1641. an Anatomical Theatre built, which last was rendered not only commodious, but even ornamental, by the bequest of one of our Fellows.
“The part of the house not actually required for the College meetings, was let to one of its members, upon certain conditions, one of which was that he should maintain the garden handsomely; and, small as it was, the rent paid by this occupant was the only permanent revenue at that time accruing to the College; for the fees of admission were of course uncertain.
“In the calamities and troubles of the civil wars, it was impossible for the College not to be involved, and 1643. when the Parliament, by an ordinance of the two Houses, imposed the heaviest and most unusual taxes, seizing, wherever they had power, upon the revenues of the King’s party, they were reduced to the greatest distress. On the City of London alone, besides an imposition of the five and twentieth part of every man’s substance, a weekly assessment was levied of £10,000, of which the portion allotted to the College was £5 per week. In consequence of these exactions they became much embarrassed, were for a time unable to pay the rent due to St. Paul’s, and to add to their distress, when it seemed to be the intention of many leaders in Parliament to admit of no established religion, their premises were condemned, as part of the property of the church, to be sold by public auction. To prevent their falling into the hands of any illiberal proprietor, 1649. Dr. Hamey became the purchaser of the house and garden, which two years afterwards he gave in perpetuity to his colleagues. This he did most opportunely, since the design then entertained by the great Harvey of building a Museum in the College Garden might otherwise have been frustrated. This generous project was announced at one of the meetings, in the following modest manner:—
“‘If (said the President) I can procure one that will build us a library and a repository for simples and rarities, such an one as shall be suitable and honourable to the College, will you assent to have it done or no, and give me leave, and such others as I shall desire, to be the designers and overlookers of the work, both for conveniency and ornament?’
“The College, as might be expected, assented most willingly to so liberal a proposal, and voted a statue, bearing the following inscription on its pedestal, to be placed in their Hall, in honour of Harvey, who was the person alluded to in the speech of the President:—
Viro Monumentis suis immortali
Hoc insuper Collegium Medicorum Londinense
Qui enim Sanguinis Motum
Animalibus ortum dedit meruit esse
The building was now begun, and finished the following year, and when the Fellows had all met 1653. on the 2d of February, the doors of the Museum being thrown open, the munificent old man, for he was now nearly eighty years old, in the most benevolent manner, and wishing all prosperity to the Republic of Medicine, presented at once the Mansion and all its valuable contents to the College. He then laid down the office of Professor of Anatomy and Surgery, which he had hitherto held; when Glisson was appointed to succeed him. The garden, of an irregular form, extended as far as the Old Bailey to the west, and towards the south reached to the Church of St. Martin, Ludgate, and the Museum of Harvey must have stood very near to the spot upon which Stationers Hall has since been built. It consisted of an elegantly furnished convocation room, and a library filled with choice books and surgical instruments. Every patron of learning hastened to enrich this edifice; the Marquis of Dorchester gave £100, 1655. for the purchase of books; the famous Selden left by will some curious oriental MSS. relating to physic, and Elias Ashmole, with other benefactors, presented us with various scarce and valuable volumes. In the Museum of Harvey were deposited the curiosities of the College, and here also were affixed honorary tablets to the memory of those who had deserved well of the community. The generous Hamey was not forgotten, and his kind intervention 1658. in support of the declining fortunes of the College was thus recorded in marble.
ό δε καιρος οξυς.
Balduino Hamæo Med. Doctori, Balduini (in Moscorum aulâ Juvenili ætate Archiatri) filio, Socio suo, ac ante annos aliquot opportunuo imprimis Benefactori, hoc Marmor (illius animo oblatâ statuâ acceptius) Dedicat.
Societas An. mdclviii.
“The Museum of Harvey, besides medical books, contained Treatises on Geometry, Geography, Astronomy, Music, Optics, Natural History, and Travels, and was under the following regulations:—It was to be open on Fridays, from two till five o’clock in the summer, but only till four in the winter season; also during all meetings of the College and whenever else the Custos being at leisure should choose to be present; but no books were allowed to be taken out. The old library room was henceforth appropriated to the Lectures, and 1654. the first public meeting of the College (in novo Triclinio) was held in March. Here also, as in a sort of state apartment, it was the custom to receive distinguished and illustrious visitors: for it was not uncommon in those days for the highest personages in the kingdom to attend our Lectures. When Charles the Second condescended to be present at the anatomical prælections of Dr. Ent, at the conclusion of the Lecture, the royal party retiring from the Theatre, was received in the Museum of Harvey, and on this occasion 1635. His Majesty was graciously pleased to confer the honour of knighthood upon the lecturer.
“This event took place the year before the fire of London, which, while it destroyed almost the whole of the City, consumed our College, and the greatest part of our Library.”
The mention of this memorable event occasioned a pause in the conversation, and one of our guests, not of the profession, but who, like all persons of an inquisitive turn of mind, was fond of medical subjects, begged to ask Dr. Mead a question connected with that great catastrophe. This is a kind of curiosity that has often struck me as something very amusing; to be sure there can be no considerations more interesting to all mankind than those which relate to the various conditions of health and disease; but it is astonishing to see the avidity with which people of cultivated understandings listen to the details of professional lore (provided they be not couched in terms too technical), and how much more easily they are satisfied with explanations, and convinced by specious arguments, than the verè adepti themselves.
“I beg your pardon,” said this gentleman to my master, “for interrupting your history of the College, but the mention of the great fire of London unavoidably suggests somehow or other the idea of the plague, from the visitations of which we have been free ever since the occurrence of that dreadful conflagration. How do you connect, Doctor, the fire of London with the disappearance of the plague; in short, what effect has the one had upon the other? The subject of the plague occupied your pen some three years ago, and I should like to hear your opinion upon this matter.”
Dr. Mead. 1666. “The fire began, as you know, upon the 2nd of September, and consumed about one-fifth of the town of London, burning an extent of about two miles in length, and one in breadth. But it was the wealthiest and the best part of the town that was destroyed; and it is even said, that had it not been for the opposition of some tenacious and avaricious men, aldermen particularly, who would not permit their houses to be blown up, in order to make a wide gap, the conflagration might have been stopped almost at its first breaking out. But this was thought too great a sacrifice, and the devouring element continued its ravages uncontrolled. A strong east wind drove the flames impetuously forward; the sky was like the top of a burning oven, and the light of the fire was seen for forty miles round about for many nights. The stones of St. Paul’s are represented as flying like granados, and the very pavements of the streets glowing with fiery redness; it was not till noon on the third day, nor till the fire had threatened to cross over towards the residence of the Court itself at Whitehall, that it was stopped, coming no farther westward than the Temple, nor towards the north than the entrance of Smithfield. Thus, you see, it spared the Borough, Wapping, Smithfield, and some other of the quarters and suburbs of the city, inhabited by the poorest classes, and consequently the abode of filth and wretchedness. The notion therefore advanced by some that the improvements in the rebuilding of the metropolis have been the cause of the disappearance of the plague is evidently unfounded. Besides, I may mention to you, that Bristol, the only town in England, except London, which had formerly much foreign trade, though it has been purified by no fire, has nevertheless remained equally free from that disease. On the other hand, dysentery and intermittents, two diseases which we all look upon as arising from filth and moisture, increased after the fire. Take my word for it, it is quarantine alone, and not any increased cleanliness on the part of the inhabitants, that has kept out the plague.”—Dr. Mead then returned to his history of the College, and mentioned that after the fire, on application being made to the Judges who were appointed to settle the differences which unavoidably arose out of that great national calamity, 1668. a new lease was obtained from the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s—the College undertaking to rebuild the premises. This scheme however was never carried into effect; the lease was resigned, and on the ground where once stood our College, three fair houses were erected, which are now the seats of the Residentiaries of St. Paul’s. In this interval the meetings of the Fellows were generally held at the house of the President; when shortly after a piece of ground having been purchased in Warwick Lane, our present College was begun to be built, in four years was completed, and 1674. was opened, as it would appear, without any particular ceremony, on the 25th of February, under the presidency of Sir George Ent, the physician, of whose visit to the immortal Harvey, Dr. Freind gave us a short time ago so interesting an account.
Old College, Warwick Lane.
“In concluding this sketch of the various fortunes of our body, I beg only to remind you, that according to the custom of the early ages in England, Physicians united the clerical character with the medical, and being thus learned in Physic and Divinity, were not unfrequently called in to administer the comforts of both professions. But if, in more modern times, the alliance of the two faculties has ceased to exist in the persons of their professors, it is still amusing to observe the continuance of the affinity of locality, if I may so term it, for you cannot cross from the house of Linacre, to the spot where our present College stands, and thence to the site of our second building, without being struck with the sanctity of the ground. On your right you leave the magnificent structure of St. Paul’s, and traversing Creed Lane, Ave Maria Lane, Paternoster Row, you finally reach Amen Corner. All these places are within a stone’s throw of one another; whether the spirit of innovation, and the change of fashion, may at any future period overcome the genius loci, remains to be proved. I have often heard it observed, that though it is convenient to some of us, who live towards the east, yet upon the whole, it is a pity the College was built so near Newgate Prison, and in so obscure a hole; a fault in placing most of our public buildings and churches in the City, which is to be attributed to the avarice of some few men, and to His Majesty Charles the Second not over-ruling it when it was in his power, after the dreadful conflagration.”
The library of Dr. Mead never witnessed a more brilliant assembly than this; at least the conversation which I have endeavoured to relate made a great impression upon me.
Interior of Mead’s Library; from an engraving in the British Museum.
I do not mean, as was said before, to dwell upon the details of the private practice of Dr. Mead; for, to tell the truth, I have long been (to use one of our new-fangled French words) rather blasé on the topic of medical cases. How, indeed, can it be otherwise with me, who have seen five generations of physicians; and must, therefore, have infinitely more experience than any doctor who ever existed? One hundred and thirty years have elapsed since I first became connected with physic; for I am almost coeval with the College in Warwick Lane, having made my first appearance fifteen years only after the completion of that building; and can only be said to have completely retired from the bustle of practice within the last two or three years. With the usual appearance of the symptoms of diseases, the ordinary remedies prescribed, and the common topics of consolation and advice, I soon became, even from the very commencement of my career, very familiar; it was therefore only by some very extraordinary case indeed, or by attending some very remarkable patient, that I felt much interested. Of the latter description was the illness of that great and good man Sir Isaac Newton. In 1726, early in the month of March, Mr. Conduitt called upon my master, and carried him, together with Mr. Cheselden, to Kensington, where Sir Isaac had shortly before taken a house for the benefit of his health.
It was my lot often to be in company with the eminent surgeon whose name I have now mentioned; for the public seemed universally to have adopted the sentiment of the popular poet of the day:
“I’ll try what Mead and Cheselden advise.”
Consequently, in most complicated cases of importance, requiring the united skill and attendance of a physician and surgeon, these two celebrated practitioners were called in to consultation.
On our first interview, it was pronounced that the illness of Sir Isaac arose from stone in the bladder, and no hopes were given of his recovery; and yet, to look upon the great philosopher, though now in his eighty-fifth year, he had the bloom and colour of a young man, had never worn spectacles, nor lost more than one tooth during his whole life. Besides being blessed with a very happy and vigorous constitution, he had been very temperate in his diet, though we did not learn that he had ever observed any regimen. He was of middle stature, and at this time plump in his person; had a very lively and piercing eye, a comely and gracious aspect, and a fine head of hair, as white as silver, without any baldness, and when his peruke was off, he had truly a most venerable appearance. On inquiry we found, that for some years before his present illness, he had suffered so much from the same disorder, that he had put down his chariot, and had gone out always in a chair; had left off dining abroad, or with much company at home. He ate little flesh; lived chiefly upon broth, vegetables, and fruit, of which latter he always partook very heartily. Notwithstanding his present infirmities had been gradually increasing upon him, nothing could induce him to absent himself entirely from town, and he had continued to go occasionally to the Mint, although his nephew had for the last year transacted the business there for him. It appeared that on the last day of the preceding month he had gone to town, in order to be present at a meeting of the Royal Society: on the next day Mr. Conduitt told us that he had seen him, and thought he had not observed him in better health for many years; that Sir Isaac was sensible of it himself, for that he had told him, smiling, that he had slept the Sunday before, from eleven at night to eight in the morning, without waking; but that the great fatigue he had endured in going to the Society, in making and receiving visits, had brought on his old complaint violently upon him. He had returned to Kensington on the Saturday following. This was the statement we received; and we found him suffering great pain. But though the drops of sweat ran down from his face with anguish, he never complained, or cried out, or showed the least signs of peevishness or impatience. On the contrary, during the short intervals between these violent fits of torture, he smiled, and talked with my master with his usual cheerfulness. On Wednesday, the fifteenth of March, he seemed a little better; and some faint hopes were entertained of his recovery. On Saturday, the eighteenth, he read the newspapers, and held a pretty long discourse with Dr. Mead, and had all his senses perfect; but at six o’clock on that evening he became insensible, and remained so during the whole of Sunday; and died on Monday, the twentieth, between one and two o’clock in the morning.
To find a successor worthy of filling the chair of science, which Sir Isaac Newton had occupied for twenty-four years, was impossible; nor is it at any time an easy matter to select one able to perform all the duties of that distinguished station, and to fulfil the expectations and satisfy the claims of the public. Even to draw the beau ideal of such a one would be difficult. Perhaps he should be a man of literary and scientific attainments, and who, though not a labourer in the field of science himself, is so well acquainted with the history and progress of natural knowledge, as to be capable of judging of the value and importance of the contributions of others. Possessed of discrimination and tact in the selection of a council, which would be candid enough to aid him in the difficult task of appreciating the merit of others, he should himself be a man of fortune and character sufficient to be above the temptation of making his high office subservient to the purposes of private advancement, or the gratification of selfish ambition. To these solid advantages, he should certainly add such an acquaintance with at least one foreign language, as to be able in a becoming manner to do the honours of science to the distinguished strangers who, in their visits to this country, are likely to be recommended to his care. To find an individual uniting in his own person all these qualities is difficult, perhaps impossible; but it may be said, without fear of contradiction, that the study of medicine is likely to have bestowed a greater number of these attainments, than the discipline to which the mind is subject in the pursuit of any other profession. Among the very founders of the Royal Society, we find the names of many distinguished Physicians, as Ent, Glisson, Merret, Willis, Croone, Needham, Whistler; but the honour was reserved for Sir Hans Sloane to be the first Medical President. He had been chosen its Secretary, in 1693, when he revived the publication of the Transactions, which had been for some years suspended: the first act of his Presidency was to make a present of 100 guineas to the Society, and of a bust of their founder, Charles II. He continued in that office fourteen years, and did not resign the chair till the age of eighty: how fit he was to preside over the interests of science must appear from what has already been said of him: and if I might be allowed to anticipate some fifty years, and allude to another Physician who was raised to the same dignity, there will be no reason to blush for the reputation of physic.
Statue of Sir Hans Sloane, by Rysbrach, in the Apothecaries’ Garden, Chelsea.
Sir John Pringle was elected President of the Royal Society in 1772; in which office he continued only six years; but if the volumes of Transactions, published during that time, be examined, they will be found to contain many memorable papers: among others, Dr. Maskelyne’s experiments at Schehallien, with Dr. Hutton’s deductions from them—The experiments of Sir G. Shuckburgh Evelyn and of General Roy to establish correct formulas for measuring heights by the barometer—The report of the Committee to determine the proper method of graduating thermometers—Experiments to ascertain the freezing point of mercury. Pringle was the first President who made a set speech on the delivery of the Copley Medals, and his discourses, which were made on rather celebrated occasions, embrace many topics of interest, and show his acquaintance with the history of philosophy. They were six in number, the four first of which were,
To Priestley, for his Paper on different kinds of Air.
To Walsh, for his Experiments on Electricity.
To Maskelyne, for his Observations on Gravitation.
To Captain Cook, for his Paper on the Prevention of Scurvy amongst his Crew, during his voyage round the world.
But I beg pardon for this digression, and must return to my master. On the accession of George the Second, Dr. Mead was made one of the royal physicians, and was for many years engaged in the constant hurry of an extensive and successful practice. By his singular humanity and goodness of heart he conquered even envy itself; and it was acknowledged by all who knew him, that few princes have shown themselves equally generous and liberal in promoting science, and encouraging learned men. He threw open his gallery in the morning for the benefit of students in painting and sculpture; and was in the habit of even lending the best of his pictures to artists to copy. If any literary work was going on, he contributed all in his power to its perfection. For instance, he accommodated the learned Dr. Zachary Grey with the loan of his original picture of Butler, the author of Hudibras, (by Mr. Soest, a famous Dutch painter), for the use of the engraver. He constantly kept in his pay a number of artists and scholars, and scarcely a curious undertaking appeared during the period of his success, that did not find a patron in Mead.
Knowing that Mr. Carte (who was accused of high treason, and for whose apprehension a thousand pounds had been offered) had fled to Paris, resided there under the borrowed name of Phillips, and was employed in collecting materials for an English translation of Thuanus, my master perceived that his plan might be enlarged; and satisfying Mr. Carte for the pains he had already taken (pretio haud exiguo, as our librarian Mr. Hocker used to say), he employed Mr. Buckley to complete the work. In the first French edition, passages offensive to the nobility of that nation had been omitted; but these were now restored, and a splendid and complete edition printed at Mead’s expense.
He was also one of the first subscribers to the Foundling Hospital; that noble institution, which will for ever endear the name of Captain Coram to this country. Guy, the wealthy citizen, was also persuaded by my master to lay out his immense fortune in building that hospital in the Borough which bears his name.
With respect to science, no discovery was made in which he did not take a lively interest. In the year 1746, the experiments tending to illustrate the nature and properties of electricity were made by Mr. afterwards Sir William Watson; and he was present on a remarkable occasion, to witness the effects of the Leyden phial, then newly invented. It was in the house of the ingenious philosopher whose name has just been mentioned, in Aldersgate Street; and here, amongst a large concourse of people, I saw the Duke of Cumberland, recently returned from Scotland, take the shock with the point of the sword with which he had fought the battle of Culloden.
Two or three years after this I witnessed the famous experiments made on the Thames and at Shooter’s-hill, in the presence of the President and several of the Fellows of the Royal Society; in one of which the electrical circuit was made to extend four miles, and the result of the experiment was, that the velocity of electricity seemed to be instantaneous.
The hospitality of Mead was unbounded; and consequently his housekeeping expenses were very great: for, not content with the reception of his own friends and acquaintances, he kept also a very handsome second table, to which persons of inferior quality were invited. The consequence of this was, that notwithstanding the considerable gains derived from his profession (for several years he made between £5000 and £6000, and during one year he received £7000), he did not die so rich as might have been expected. The total amount left at his death, including the receipts of the sale of his library, pictures, statues, &c. (which were between £15,000 and £16,000) was about £50,000: but this sum was materially diminished by the payment of his debts.
With respect to his manner of living, when not engaged at home, he generally spent his evenings at Batson’s Coffee-House; and in the forenoons, apothecaries used to come to him, at Tom’s, near Covent Garden, with written or verbal reports of cases, for which he prescribed without seeing the patient, and took half-guinea fees.
The last work he published, which was in 1751, was entitled Medical Precepts and Cautions; in which, with great candour and simplicity, he enumerated all the discoveries that long practice and experience had opened to him concerning diseases and their cures; and concluded with many salutary directions for preserving the body and mind perfect and entire to a good old age. This he attained himself; and preserved till within three years of his death his intellectual powers in a state of perfection. Then he became very corpulent, and his faculties were visibly impaired. But his kindness of heart never deserted him. I shall never forget a piece of insolence on the part of one of his servants, who doubtless presumed on his master’s known good nature and forgiving disposition. Dr. Watson was sitting with Mead in his library, when the latter wishing to read something, looked about for his spectacles, for his eyesight had become very bad; and not readily finding them, asked his servant for them: upon which the man gave them to him with great rudeness, saying at the time, “You are always losing your things.” How I longed to have knocked the fellow down for his brutality!
Dr. Mead died on the 16th of February, 1754, in his eighty-first year, and was buried in the Temple Church.
After his death, it was said of him, that of all physicians who had ever flourished, he gained the most, spent the most, and enjoyed the highest fame during his lifetime, not only in his own but in foreign countries.
Arms of Askew
Dr. Askew had been in his youth a great traveller; at least he was so considered in those days, for he had been absent from England three years, and had, during that time, visited Hungary, and resided at Athens and Constantinople. To the latter place he had accompanied Sir James Porter, then ambassador to the Porte. In consequence of these peregrinations, he was regarded on his return to his native country as no ordinary person, but one who had enjoyed most unusual advantages, and very rare opportunities of acquiring knowledge. This will perhaps hardly be credited at the present moment, when it is scarcely possible to turn the corner of a street without meeting an Englishman recently arrived, either from the borders of the Dead Sea, the cataracts of the Nile, or the ruins of Palmyra. Interviews with the Beys and Pashas of the empire of Mahomet have now-a-days succeeded to the usual presentations at the courts of the Continent; and the camel, the firman, and the Tartar, have been substituted for the ordinary facilities of the poste, the passports, and couriers of the beaten roads of civilized Europe. Nor is this spirit of enterprise confined to the gentlemen of England, but pervades alike the softer sex. One lady of rank and great talent has taken up her permanent abode at the convent of Mar Elias, on Mount Lebanon; another has accompanied her husband and family of young children, nurse-maids and all, across the dreary desert, from Cairo to Jerusalem; while a third, of still more adventurous spirit, has climbed, by the help of a ladder of ropes, to the summit of Pompey’s pillar. A few years only have elapsed since an English lady of fashion was confined at Athens, gave to her infant son the name of Atticus, and, when sufficiently recovered, resumed with her husband her journey through the enchanting scenery of Greece; the child occupying one side of a pair of panniers, while a favourite dog reposed on the other. But these prodigies were reserved for modern days.
One of the immediate results of the travels of Dr. Askew was the excellent opportunity it afforded him of gratifying the favourite pursuit for which he was early distinguished, of collecting books, manuscripts, and inscriptions. At Paris, on his way home from his eastern expedition, he laid the foundation of his library, which became afterwards so celebrated: for, in the love of books, he resembled Dr. Mead, for whom he entertained a sort of filial veneration, and to whom he had, when a very young man, and while studying physic at the university of Leyden, dedicated his specimen of an edition of Æschylus. At the sale of my late master’s library, he had been one of the most distinguished of the emptores literarii, and, even during his lifetime, had purchased all his Greek manuscripts, for which he paid the sum of five hundred pounds.
Bust of Mead
Now in the Censor’s Room of the College.
Not content with possessing himself as much as possible of his books, statues, and other curiosities, he did all he could to preserve the lineaments, and perpetuate the memory of the person of his deceased friend. For this purpose he procured Roubiliac to make a bust of him, which he presented to the College of Physicians.
No one could be better acquainted with the real features of Dr. Mead than myself; and I pronounce this bust of him to be so like, that, whenever it is before me, it suggests the strongest idea of the original; and, indeed, when the marble came home, Dr. Askew was so highly pleased with its execution, that though he had previously agreed with the sculptor for £50, he offered him £100 as the reward of his successful talent; when, to his astonishment, the sordid Frenchman exclaimed it was not enough, and actually sent in a bill for £108. 2s.! The demand, even to the odd shillings, was paid, and Dr. Askew enclosed the receipt to Hogarth, to produce at the next meeting of artists.
My present master never practised any where but in London: but his father, Dr. Adam Askew, was a celebrated physician at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he enjoyed a great provincial reputation, and lived to a good old age. With reference to him, a conversation which occurred at a literary party in the metropolis excited a laugh at the time, and was to the following effect: Some one of the company having remarked that my master, Dr. Askew, looked very ill—but indeed, from his advanced age (whereas he was not then fifty) he could not be expected to last a long time—“Possibly not,” replied a gentleman with a smile, “but I dined with his father about a fortnight since at Newcastle, and he appeared to be in perfect health.”
From the Library of Dr. Mead, in Ormond Street, I had removed but a short distance, and could scarcely be said to be sensible of any change in the scholastic air of my present abode.
Our house in Queen Square was crammed full of books. We could dispense with no more. Our passages were full; even our very garrets overflowed; and the wags of the day used to say, that the half of the square itself would have done so, before the book appetite of Dr. Askew would have been satiated.
We saw a great deal of company, attracted as well by the abundant luxuries with which my master’s table was furnished, as by the classical conversations and learned accounts of curiosities which he had brought with him from his very interesting travels in Greece.—Among the literary people who were most frequently there, I may mention Archbishop Markham, Sir William Jones, Dr. Farmer, Demosthenes Taylor, and Dr. Parr. By these distinguished persons Dr. Askew was considered as a scholar of refined taste, sound knowledge, and indefatigable research into every thing connected with Grecian and Roman learning. Indeed, from his youth upwards, he had been distinguished for his love of letters, and had received the early part of his education under Richard Dawes the critic. His father, on presenting him to the schoolmaster, marked those parts of his back which Dawes, who was celebrated for his unsparing use of the birch, might scourge at his pleasure, excepting only his head from this discipline; and my master was wont to relate with some humour, the terror with which he surveyed for the first time this redoubted pedagogue. As a collector of books Dr. Askew was the first who brought bibliomania into fashion; and no one exhibited his various treasures better than himself. The eager delight with which he produced his rare editions, his large-paper copies, his glistering gems and covetable tomes, would have raised him high in the estimation of the Roxburgh Club. Some, indeed, were of such great rarity, that he would not suffer them to be touched, but would show them to his visitors through the glass cases of the cabinets of his Library, or, standing on a ladder, would himself read aloud different portions of these inestimable volumes. As specimens of his wealth in this line, I may enumerate—
His Platonis Opera, apud Aldum, 2 vol. fol. 1513, Edit Prin. on spotless vellum; the ink of which was of the finest lustre, and the whole typographical arrangement a master-piece of printing.
His Boccacio, la Teseide, Ferar. 1475, Prima Edizione, which was then considered an unique copy, and was sold after his death for £85. What it would have fetched under the sceptre of Mr. Evans cannot even be conjectured!
His Ciceronis Opera omnia, Oliveti, 9 vol. quarto, 1740; charta maxima.
These were amongst many others which I cannot now specify, but which were then regarded as rare, magnificent, giants, imperial, atlas, elephant, princes of editions!!
As no one had enjoyed greater opportunities, possessed more sufficient means to gratify his taste, or had an acuter discrimination, the Bibliotheca Askeviana was well known to all, both at home and abroad, who were in the least eminent for bibliographical research. And as he had expressed a wish that his books might be unreservedly submitted to sale after his decease, the public became ultimately benefited by his pursuits, and many a collection was afterwards enriched by an Exemplar Askevianum. The sale (apud S. Baker et G. Leigh, in vico dicto York Street, Covent Garden, Februar. 1775) occupied twenty days.
This model is about 12 inches high, is of unbaked potters’ clay, and is now in the possession of Sir Lucas Pepys, Bart., whose lady is the daughter of Dr. Askew.
But the library of my present master was not, as I have said before, the only attraction which our house afforded: to many of his guests, the recital of his adventures during his travels abroad was a constant source of amusement; and we saw most foreigners who came to London. Dr. Askew had been in the East, and so vague and magnificent was the opinion formed at that time of an oriental traveller, that I verily believe he was supposed to have been able to speak all the languages of that quarter of the globe. It was from some such notion as this that they brought to him a Chinese, by name Chequa, who (however imperfect their oral communication might be) seemed so grateful for the attention and kindness he had received, that he requested before his departure from England to be permitted to make a model of the Doctor in his robes; which being readily granted, we sat to the stranger: and this is the specimen of his ingenuity, rendered with Chinese fidelity.
From what has been said of the pursuits of Dr. Askew, it may be inferred that much of his time was employed in his library, and dedicated to the conversation of literary men; but he was not entirely inattentive to professional engagements, and I took of course no small interest in watching the progress of medicine, and becoming acquainted with the rising and eminent physicians of the day. Amongst others, there was one who had settled in London two years before Dr. Askew, and who rapidly got into great business, which he followed with unremitting attention above thirty years, for he lived many years after the death of the former. Previous to his coming to town, Dr. Heberden had been established at Cambridge, where he gave Lectures on the Materia Medica for about ten years: among his pupils were students who afterwards greatly distinguished themselves, as Sir George Baker, Dr. Gisborne, and Dr. Glynn; the latter of whom was a character long known and valued in Cambridge, both for his virtues and his eccentricities. Of his method of lecturing, a specimen is preserved in his Essay on Mithridatium and Theriaca, published in 1745, three years before he quitted the university. Treating of this famous medicine, which had recently been expunged from our public dispensatory, Dr. Heberden proves, that the only poisons known to the ancients were hemlock, monk’s-hood, and those of venomous beasts; and that to these few they knew of no antidotes. That the farrago called after the celebrated King of Pontus, which, in the time of Celsus, consisted of thirty-eight simples, had changed its composition every hundred years, and that therefore what had been for so many ages called Mithridatium, was quite different from the true medicine found in the cabinet of that Prince. This, he states, was a very trivial one, composed of twenty leaves of rue, one grain of salt, two nuts, and two dried figs; and he infers that, even supposing Mithridates had ever used the compound (which is doubtful), his not being able to despatch himself was less owing to the strength of his antidote than to the weakness of his poison. The first accounts of subtle poisons that might be concealed under the stone of a seal or ring, as well as the stories of poisons by vapours arising from perfumed gloves and letters, he pronounces to be evidently the idle inventions of ignorance and superstition.
The learning and good sense which characterize the whole of this little Essay, will enable the reader to form a judgment of the manner in which he conveyed instruction to his class, and of the loss which the university must have suffered by his removal; but he would probably have settled in London earlier than he actually did, had the encouragement held out to him, to come to the metropolis, not been most unfairly kept from his knowledge. The circumstances attending this want of good faith will be best explained by the following letter from Sir Edward Hulse to Dr. Heberden, then residing at Cambridge, and Dr. H.’s reply:—
“Baldwyn, July 14, 1748.
“I shall be very glad to embrace any opportunity of showing you how sincerely I wish your welfare; and I assure you, when I desired —— to dispose you to come to London, I did unfeignedly mean to serve you, knowing you to be capable of answering any recommendation your friends could give you. —— then sent me word, you had no inclination to leave the University. What shall I say to you now? Even what I said to ——, who at the persuasion of his friends was afterwards inclined to come himself, and try his fortune here, viz. That when I left London I had, as far as I could, recommended Dr. Shaw to my business: so it stands now, except that Dr. Shaw has too much business, more than he can possibly do, upon which account I have endeavoured to assist Dr. Taylor, who came from Newark. He is greatly supported by some noble families, and has already wonderfully succeeded. I have set before you the difficulties that I lie under, of recommending any body at present. I don’t intend to flatter you, when I say, I make no doubt you will be able to support yourself by your own merit; and as far as shall be consistent with honour, jointly with my power, which is now very little, you may depend upon the friendship of,
“Your most affectionate
“P.S.—Since the writing of this, I am certainly informed that Dr. Shaw is gone over to Hanover with the Duchess of Newcastle. I believe you never will have a fairer opportunity of settling in this town than the present.”
Dr. Heberden’s answer.
“August 30, 1748.
“I take the opportunity of returning my thanks by Mr. H., for your most obliging letter. No one can be ignorant that your assistance and recommendation must be of the highest advantage to any person who was beginning the practice of physic in London; and I am persuaded they would at any time have determined me to fix there, though I had otherwise no such intention. But I never was rightly informed that I had such a valuable opportunity in my power. By what accident or mistake it happened, I do not know, but the person you mention never acquainted me with it at all, nor indeed any one else with authority from you. I had only heard accidentally, that you had expressed yourself with great civility, on a supposition of my removing to London. There was no reason, when I first heard such reports, to imagine that they amounted to any thing more than your good wishes. As soon as I could believe there was the least probability of your intending to assist me with your interest, I immediately took the liberty of writing to you. I must reckon it among my greatest misfortunes, that this application came too late: though I shall always think myself under the same obligations to you, as if I had enjoyed the benefit of your kind intentions. My best acknowledgments are due for the assurances of your disposition to assist me still, where your other engagements have not put it out of your power; and it is with the highest satisfaction that I find myself possessed of a place in your friendship. I propose seeing London some time in October, in order to consult with some friends about the advisableness of my settling there, when I hope to have the pleasure of paying my respects to you.”
He settled in London the following Christmas. The name of the person alluded to in Sir Edward Hulse’s letter does not appear, for it was effectually erased from the original letter, though it shows something indicative of a superior mind to be told, that Dr. Heberden afterwards lived on terms of friendship with the author of so base a transaction. Not long after he came to reside in town, he met Dr. Mead in consultation at the Duke of Leeds’, and observed his faculties to be so impaired, that he then determined within himself, that if he ever lived to the same age of seventy-eight, he would give up practice. And this resolution he strictly adhered to, saying that people’s friends were not forward to tell them of their decay, and that he would rather retire from business several years too soon, than follow it one hour too long.
“Plutarch,” said he, “has told us that the life of a vestal virgin was divided into three portions; in the first of which she learned the duties of her profession, in the second she practised them, and in the third she taught them to others.” This, he maintained, was no bad model for the life of a physician; and when he had passed through the two first of these periods, he addressed himself diligently to the work of teaching others. The motto prefixed to his commentaries was expressive of this his favourite maxim—
Γέρων και κάμνειν οὐκέτι δυναμενος, τοῦτο το Βιβλιον ἔγραψα
But while in the enjoyment of health, he lived much with scholars and men of science, among whom may be reckoned Gray, Bryant, Wray, Cavendish, Hurd, Kennicott, Lowth, Jenyns, Tyrwhitt, Jortin, and most of the distinguished men of his time. Of the amusements of this literary coterie, take this as an example. Mr. Stuart, best known by the name of Athenian Stuart, having presented Dr. Heberden with a tea-chest made of olive wood from Athens, Mr. Tyrwhitt, who soon after dined with him, inspired by so classical a subject, sent him the next day the following copy of verses.
In Attic fields, by famed Ilissus’ flood,
The sacred tree of Pallas once I stood.
Now torn from thence, with graceful emblems drest,
For Mira’s tea I form a polish’d chest.
Athens, farewell! no longer I repine
For my Socratic shade and patroness divine.
Sir William Jones afterwards rendered the same into Greek, and Jacob Bryant, Esq. author of the Ancient Mythology, into Latin. The chest speaks its own native language the best, but should it imitate my example, and, inspired by the flattering notice of such distinguished men, begin to talk again, and procure, as an amanuensis, the elegant scholar in whose possession it now is, let it speak whatever tongue it may, I am afraid my memoirs would soon be consigned to neglect.
Dr. Heberden was always exceedingly liberal and charitable, therefore as soon as he found he could support himself in London, he voluntarily relinquished a fellowship which he held in St. John’s College for the benefit of some poorer scholar to whom it might be of use. He was forward in encouraging all objects of science and literature, and promoting all useful institutions. There was scarcely a public charity to which he did not subscribe, or any work of merit to which he did not give his support. He recommended to the College of Physicians the first design of their Medical Transactions; was the author of several papers in them, also of some in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, as well as of Commentaries on the History and Cure of Diseases.
Dr. Heberden, from a portrait of him in the Dining Room of the College.
He was much esteemed by his Majesty King George the Third; and upon the Queen’s first coming to England, in 1761, had been named as Physician to her Majesty, an honour which he thought fit to decline. The real reason of which was, that he was apprehensive it might interfere with those connexions of life that he had now formed. In 1796 he met with an accident which disabled him for the last few years of his life; till then he had always been in the habit of walking, if he could, some part of every day. It deserves to be mentioned, that when he was fast approaching to the age of ninety, he observed, that though his occupations and pleasures were certainly changed from what they had used to be, yet he knew not if he had ever passed a year more comfortably than the last.
He lived to his ninety-first year (for I am anticipating, by many years, my own history), and there can hardly be a more striking memorial of the perfect condition of his mind to the very last, than that within forty-eight hours of his decease he repeated a sentence from an ancient Roman author, signifying, that “Death is kinder to none than those to whom it comes uninvoked.”
His address was pleasing and unaffected, his observations cautious and profound, and he had a happy manner of getting able men to exhibit their several talents, which he directed and moderated with singular attention and good humour.
But, though rendered eminent by his skill as a physician, he conferred a more valuable and permanent lustre on his profession by the worth and excellence of his private character. From his early youth Dr. William Heberden had entertained a deep sense of religion, a consummate love of virtue, an ardent thirst after knowledge, and an earnest desire to promote the welfare and happiness of all mankind. By these qualities, accompanied with great sweetness of manners, he acquired the love and esteem of all good men, in a degree which perhaps very few have experienced; and after passing an active life with the uniform testimony of a good conscience, he became a distinguished example of its influence, in the cheerfulness and serenity of his latest age. In proof of these assertions I will mention an anecdote of him which, though now perhaps almost forgotten, somehow or other transpired at the time, and was duly appreciated by his contemporaries. After the death of Dr. Conyers Middleton, (whom I have had occasion to speak of before, as the author of the attack on the dignity of physic, which was so warmly and triumphantly repelled by Dr. Mead), his widow called upon Dr. Heberden with a MS. treatise of her late husband, about the publication of which she was desirous of consulting him. The religion of Dr. Middleton had always been justly suspected, and it was quite certain that his philosophy had never taught him candour. Dr. Heberden having perused the MS., which was on the inefficacy of prayer, told the lady that though the work might be deemed worthy of the learning of her departed husband, its tendency was by no means creditable to his principles, and would be injurious to his memory; but as the matter pressed, he would ascertain what a publisher might be disposed to give for the copyright. This he accordingly did; and having found that £150 might be procured, he himself paid the widow £200, and consigned the MS. to the flames.
Arms of Pitcairn
William Pitcairn, M.D. F.R.S. From a portrait, anno 1777, by Sir J. Reynolds.
When the Radcliffe Library was opened at Oxford, which was done April 13th, 1749, with great solemnity, the degree of Doctor of Medicine was conferred by diploma upon Dr. William Pitcairn; and the College of Physicians hastened to adopt him, in the following year, into their corporate body. He was descended from the family of Dr. Archibald Pitcairn, celebrated as the founder of the mechanical sect of medicine, who, having followed the fortunes of the exiled James, was, for a short time, Professor of the Practice of Physic at the University of Leyden. Boerhaave and Mead had been fellow pupils of this distinguished man, and Dr. Wm. Pitcairn, into whose hands I now was delivered, had studied under Boerhaave; afterwards he had travelled with the Duke of Hamilton (to whose family he was related), though not in a medical capacity. His brother, a Major in the army, had been killed at the battle of Bunker’s Hill, and as there was not in the world a more excellent or benevolent character than my present master, he adopted his orphan children, and always acted towards them with the affection and solicitude of a parent. He was a man of very agreeable manners, and his society was much sought after.—Among the many occasions on which I attended him to the houses of his professional brethren, I remember once particularly, when in company with his nephew, then a very young man (afterwards Dr. David Pitcairn), we called upon Dr. Richard Warren. We were received with the greatest kindness and alacrity, the Doctor showing my master that respectful attention which, without checking the familiar tone of friendly intercourse, is due and agreeable to superiors in age. During the lively and entertaining conversation which ensued, Dr. Pitcairn, in introducing his nephew, expressed himself in these words:—“Dr. Warren, my nephew, whom I present to you, received his early education at Glasgow, but afterwards I took him home, and kept him here in London, under my own eye for a short time, endeavouring to give him some of my peculiar views of practice. He is now just returned from Edinburgh, where he has been under the tuition of my countryman, Dr. Cullen, whose clinical clerk he has been for a twelvemonth. Surely you will think him a youth of promise in his profession when I inform you, that in the case of the son of that great master of physic, which the father thought desperate, he took a hint from what he had learned in London, and advised a larger dose of laudanum than is usually made use of, which restored the child of his preceptor and friend. My currus triumphalis opii, as some of my brethren have been pleased to call my practice, has thus travelled northwards to my own country, and I rejoice that it has reached the door of so amiable a man and excellent practitioner as Dr. Cullen.” So strong a recommendation was not without its effect, and the expressions of friendship with which Dr. Warren received the young student of physic were afterwards amply fulfilled by the real assistance and countenance which he gave him in the commencement of his professional career. On our return from Sackville Street, where Dr. Warren lived, to our own residence, in Warwick Court, Warwick Lane, when I had been carefully replaced in the carriage—“David,” said my master to his nephew, “the Physician whose house we have left is a remarkable man, and well worthy your observation. He has risen rapidly to the top of his profession, and his abilities justify his success. You must have remarked the liveliness, distinctness, and accuracy of his mind, and the felicity of expression with which he explains himself, exhibiting at once a clearness of comprehension and a depth of knowledge that are very rarely to be met with. He has certainly had some considerable advantages in the beginning of his professional life, was early admitted into the best society, and is the intimate friend of the minister, Lord North, who is confessedly the most agreeable man of our day. You see how kindly he has received you; and as I hope, nay, fully expect, that you will become intimately acquainted with him, I think you will like to know all about him. His father was the Rev. Dr. Richard Warren, Archdeacon of Suffolk and Rector of Cavendish, in the same county; a divine of considerable eminence, and one of those who entered into the controversy upon the Sacrament against Bishop Hoadley. He was also editor of the Greek Commentary of Hierocles upon the golden verses of Pythagoras. My friend, the Doctor, was the third son, and was born at Cavendish, in December, 1731: he received the rudiments of his education at the public school at Bury St. Edmunds, in Suffolk; from whence in the year 1748, immediately upon his father’s death, he removed to Jesus College, Cambridge. At this time he had little but his industry and natural talents to support him, aided by the reputation of being the son of a clergyman of ability. How far this served him, however, in the beginning of life may be doubted, for the low church party prevailed at that time in the University with such violence, as not to dispose the persons then in authority to look with an eye of kindness upon the son of an antagonist of Hoadley. In due time he took the degree of A. B., and his name appears fourth in the list of wranglers of that year. I am not much acquainted with the forms of these English Universities, as I have never resided at either of them; but I have been given to understand, that if fair justice had been done my friend, he ought to have been placed even higher; it is certain, however, that he obtained the prize granted to the middle Bachelors of Arts for Latin prose composition, and the following year got the prize for the senior Bachelors. Being already elected Fellow of his College, the choice of a profession presented itself to his mind. To pursue the steps of his father, who had been like himself a Fellow of Jesus College, was perhaps the most obvious; but he had two elder brothers already in the church, which indeed might be considered his family profession, as his ancestors had followed it from the time of Queen Elizabeth. His own inclination, as I have often heard him say, would have led him to the law, but the res angusta domi was an invincible obstacle, and accident at length threw him upon the study of physic.
Dr. Richard Warren, from a portrait of him in the Dining Room of the College.
“Whether fortunately for himself, great as has been his early success, and promising as his future prospects undoubtedly are, may be questioned; for abilities like his would have led him to the head of any other profession. At this critical moment the son of Dr. Peter Shaw was entered at Jesus College, and placed under his tuition. The name of this Physician must be known to you from his works, by his editions of Bacon and Boyle, and from the fact of his having been one of the Physicians of George the Second, and the usual medical attendant upon that Monarch in his journeys to Hanover. The casual acquaintance which my friend thus formed determined his lot in life; for Dr. Shaw, who was a very amiable and high spirited man, and possessed of various knowledge, was naturally pleased with similar qualities in a young man; took an interest in his welfare, and in recommending him to pursue the study of medicine, predicted that he would rank with the first Physicians of his country. This connexion was some years afterwards strengthened by a marriage with Dr. Shaw’s daughter; and much of the early difficulty of medical life was consequently overcome by an immediate introduction to the prominent Physicians of that day, and to some of the upper circles in life, in which Dr. Shaw moved. Sir Edward Wilmot, at that time a Physician to the Court, and much employed among the nobility, was the attendant on the Princess Amelia, the daughter of George the Second. Being advanced in life and looking to retirement, he was led to propose Dr. Warren as an assistant to attend to the more minute and arduous duties required by a royal patient, who was besides subject to sudden seizures that created alarm. At the commencement of his practice, Dr. Warren, during three summers, went to Tunbridge Wells, and on two of these occasions Her Royal Highness visited that watering-place under his care. On the retirement of Sir Edward Wilmot, he continued Physician to the Princess, and one of the rewards bestowed upon him was the appointment of Physician to the King, which was procured for him by her influence, on the resignation of his father-in-law, Dr. Shaw, who had been continued in that office on the accession of George the Third. He was for a short time one of the Physicians to the Middlesex Hospital, then in its infancy; and afterwards, for several years, belonged to St. George’s Hospital.
“His progress has been more rapid than that of any other physician of our time, and when you meet him in practice, which I hope you may often do hereafter, you will discover in him a marked superiority over other men.”
My master here paused for an instant, and taking me up from the position in which I had been lying, raised me to the level of his eyes, and looking attentively at my head, exclaimed, “This cane, which my worthy friend, Dr. Askew, left to me about two years ago, once belonged to Radcliffe, and might well have descended to Dr. Warren, for no one more resembles that penetrating physician, and most extraordinary man, in the accuracy of his prognosis, and the almost intuitive sagacity with which he sees at a glance the true nature of a complaint. But I recommend you to read his Harveian Oration, which I heard him deliver seven years ago, where, notwithstanding the difficulty of introducing any thing like novelty into the annual commemoration of the Benefactors of the College, you will find that he has contrived to treat the subject with the sprightliness, the force and brevity, the precision of thought, and smartness of expression, that are peculiarly his own. The characters are drawn without effort, the narration flows easily and naturally, containing touches of tenderness and pathos when he alludes to the death of his early friends, Wollaston and Hadley, and rising even to eloquence when he comes to speak of his relative, Dr. Shaw. But here,” continued he, as we entered the narrowest part of Warwick Lane, “is the College of Physicians, where I heard the speech delivered; we will alight, and send the carriage home. As I am now the President, I will show you the interior of the building, point out and explain to you some of its contents.” We stopped at some large iron gates, and passed under the curiously constructed dome, built in an oval form over the entrance, the plan of which was furnished by Sir Christopher Wren. On the opposite side of the court, he pointed out, over the door, in a niche, the statue of Charles II., voted in 1680, with the following inscription, expressive of the various fortunes of that monarch.
Utriusque Fortunæ Exemplar
Ingens Adversis Rebus Deum
Probavit Prosperis Seipsum
Collegii Hujusce Stator.
On entering the Hall, we turned to the right, and saw the Library, consisting of two rooms communicating with each other, with galleries running round them. “The College,” said my master, “was built and used for public meetings, in the year 1674, but this Library was not finished till eight or ten years after. Unfortunately we have lost our able Librarian, George Edwards, who died two years ago, at the age of eighty. But here,” said Dr. Pitcairn, “is his work on Birds, which he began about seven years after he was chosen Library Keeper, to which office he was elected in 1733, through the influence of Sir Hans Sloane, who continued through life his great patron. Edwards was an extraordinary man; when young he had been intended for trade, but having an opportunity to travel, he much improved himself; and when, on his return from abroad, he was lucky enough to obtain the leisure which his office here afforded him, he devoted himself to the study of natural history, and became by great assiduity a distinguished ornithologist. During thirty-six years he was Librarian to the College, and in that period was chosen Fellow of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies, and by the first of these learned bodies was rewarded with the Copley medal; of which he was deservedly so proud, as to have caused it to be engraved in the title-page of the first volume of his work. Were he in my place, he would exhibit to you the treasures of our Library, which, though imperfect as a collection of medical books (for it consists chiefly of donations), is rich in rare classics, curious manuscripts, and in very scarce and valuable Treatises on Civil Law.”
On returning to the Hall, we ascended a broad staircase, the sides of which were hung with pictures, and on the first landing-place stopped, to read the long inscription to the memory of Harvey. “This,” said my master, “was voted by the College, in 1659, the year after the death of this illustrious man. You see it is on copper, which proves that it is a copy of the original epitaph, for that was on marble. During his lifetime a statue, ornamented with a cap and gown, on the pedestal of which was another inscription, had been erected in the Hall of the College, in Amen Corner; but this honorary tablet which we are now looking at was placed in the Museum which bore his own name.” And this difference of position is alluded to in the inscription itself, for after enumerating the virtues, the discoveries, and more especially the various claims Harvey has to the eternal gratitude of the College, it concludes—
Ne mireris igitur Lector
Si quem Marmoreum illic stare vides
Hic totam implevit Tabulam.
Abi et merere alteram.
We now reached the great room, or Cænaculum, wainscoted by Hamey with Spanish oak, at the expense of some hundred pounds, in the most elegant manner, with pilasters and carved capitals; and here the President explained to his nephew the pictures with which this and the adjoining Censor’s Room were adorned. He particularly called his attention to the portraits of Sir Theodore Mayerne, of Sydenham, of Harvey, and of the deeply learned Physician and antiquary, Sir Thomas Browne, the author of the Religio Medici. While gazing on that of Sir Edmund King—“To be a court Physician now-a-days,” said my master, “does not involve quite so much responsibility as formerly, for the Doctor whose likeness is before us incurred considerable hazard, by saving for a time the life of His Majesty Charles the Second. When the King was first seized with his last illness, it was in his bedchamber, where he was surprised by an apoplectic fit, so that, if by God’s providence Dr. King had not been accidentally present to let him blood (having his lancet in his pocket), His Majesty had certainly died that moment; which might have been of direful consequence, there being nobody else present with the King, save this Doctor and one more. It was considered a mark of extraordinary dexterity, resolution, and presence of mind in the Doctor to let him blood in the very paroxysm, without staying the coming of other physicians, which regularly should have been done, and for want of which it was at first thought that he would require a regular pardon. The Privy Council, however, approved of what he had done, and ordered him £1000—which, by the by, was never paid him.”
We next passed to the portrait of Vesalius, on board, by Calker. “This famous anatomist,” continued the President, “was some time Physician to the Emperor Charles the Fifth, but being disgusted with the manners of a court, he made a voyage to the Holy Land; on his return thence to fill the chair of Professor of Medicine at Padua, to which he had been invited on the death of Fallopius, he was shipwrecked in 1564, in the Isle of Zante, where he perished of hunger.”
Opposite the full length portrait of Sir Hans Sloane my master paused, and told his nephew, that “Sir Hans, in the decline of his life, had left London, and retired to his manor-house at Chelsea, where he resided about fourteen years before he died. Our Librarian, Edwards, of whom we were talking a few minutes ago, was used to visit him every week to divert him for an hour or two with the common news of the town, and with any particulars that might have happened amongst his acquaintances of the Royal Society, or other ingenious gentlemen, and seldom missed drinking coffee with him on a Saturday. The old baronet was so infirm, as to be wholly confined to his house, except sometimes, though rarely, taking a little air in his garden in a wheeled chair; and this confinement made him very desirous to see any of his old acquaintance to amuse him. Knowing that the Librarian did not abound in the gifts of fortune, he was strictly careful, Edwards used to say, that he should be at no expense in his journeys from London to Chelsea; and Sir Hans would calculate what the cost of coach hire, waterage, or any other little charge attending on his journeys backward and forward would amount to, and, observing as much delicacy as possible, would oblige him annually to accept of it. In this quiet and inoffensive life did he continue exercising the most charitable disposition towards decayed branches of families of eminent men, famous for their learned works, till January, 1753, when he died, with great firmness of mind, and resignation to the will of God. Thirty years before this event, he had presented to the Apothecaries’ Company his botanical garden at Chelsea, upon the following conditions, viz. the payment of £5 per annum, and the yearly offering of fifty plants to the Royal Society, till the number amounted to 2000. If it were attempted to convert it to any other use, it was to devolve to the Royal Society, and ultimately to the College of Physicians; but the intentions of the original donor have been most faithfully and liberally fulfilled by the Apothecaries, who expend a very large sum annually, with no other view than the promotion of botanical knowledge, more especially in the cultivation of curious and rare plants. In 1748, they erected a statue to Sir Hans, in front of the green-house, with this inscription—
Hansio Sloane Baronetto Archiatro
Insignissimo Botanices Fautori
Hoc honoris causa Monimentum
Inque perpetuam ejus Memoriam
Societas Pharmacopæiorum Londinensis
The merit and virtues of Sir Hans had particularly caught the attention of young Pitcairn, and his character continued to form the subject of conversation as the senior returned with his nephew to his own house.
“The immediate result of his death,” observed the uncle, “was the foundation of the British Museum; for this great patron of science, being well aware how much it is benefited by the aggregation of various objects, and anxious that his fine collection should be preserved entire, directed by his will, that after his decease the whole of his Museum of natural and artificial curiosities, which had cost him £50,000, should be offered to Parliament for the moderate sum of £20,000, to be paid to his family.
“The contents of his collection were very various, and consisted of his library, books of drawings, MSS., &c. 50,000 volumes.
Medals and coins, 23,000
Cameos, intaglios, seals, &c. 1,500,
besides antique idols, anatomical preparations, amphibia, insects, minerals, volumes of dried plants, mathematical instruments, &c. the particulars of which were entered in a catalogue that was comprised in thirty-eight volumes folio, and eight volumes quarto.
“The offer directed in the will of Sir Hans Sloane was immediately made to Parliament, and accepted without hesitation; and before the expiration of the year of his death an Act was passed, ordering the payment of the stipulated sum to his executors, and vesting the property of the Museum in trustees for the use of the public. To this scientific repository was soon afterwards added whatever the Legislature could command; the Cottonian Library was obtained, and the Harleian collection of MS. was purchased; and in order to defray the expenses of these different acquisitions, and to provide a proper mansion for their reception, Parliament raised the sum of £100,000 by way of Lottery. The trustees then bought of the representatives of the Montague family the house which had been built by the first Duke of Montague; a stately and ample palace, which had been originally ornamented by the fresco paintings of the famous Verrio, representing the Funeral Pile of Dido, the Labours of Hercules, the Fight with the Centaurs, and other designs, excellent on the walls and roof of the great room. The gardens and appurtenances occupied together about seven acres. The first mansion was destroyed by a fire, which broke out in the night of January 22d, 1685, and burnt with so great violence that the whole house was consumed by five o’clock; but it was immediately rebuilt, and ornamented by artists sent from France for that purpose.
“The British Museum was opened to the public in 1759.”
I had often been to the College of Physicians, but never till this occasion been carried thither in the hands of a President, and my present master appeared to me to dwell with great satisfaction upon every part of the structure, and every thing connected with its history, which was probably not felt the less from the reflection that the distinction of the Fellowship had been conferred upon him without his having passed through the ordinary routine of an English academical education. For several years Dr. William Pitcairn was the leading Practitioner in the city, and thus afforded me an opportunity of observing more closely the manners of the wealthy inhabitants of that quarter, and contrasting them with the habits of the more polite and courtly end of the town, to which I had previously been chiefly accustomed. In 1784 he resigned the office of President, being succeeded by Sir George Baker; and in seven years afterwards died, when I was bequeathed to his nephew, Dr. David Pitcairn: this promising young man had realized the expectations formed of him in early life, and before he took his Doctor’s degree at Cambridge, had been elected Physician to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. The commencement of his private medical practice may be dated about the year 1780, and he was placed at the head of his profession in London by the death of Dr. Warren.
I have spoken before of this eminent Physician, but his professional career was so brilliant, and attracted my notice in so remarkable a degree, that I must bestow an additional observation on his character. If posterity should ask what works Dr. Warren has left behind him worthy of the great reputation he enjoyed during his lifetime, it must be answered that such was his constant occupation in practice among all classes of people, from the highest to the lowest, that he had no leisure for writing, with the exception of a very few papers published in the College Transactions. But the unanimous respect in which he was held by all his medical brethren, which no man ever obtains without deserving it, fully justifies the popular estimate of his character. To a sound judgment and deep observation of men and things, he added various literary and scientific attainments, which were most advantageously displayed by a talent for conversation that was at once elegant, easy, and natural. Of all men in the world, he had the greatest flexibility of temper, instantaneously accommodating himself to the tone of feeling of the young, the old, the gay, and the sorrowful. But he was himself of a very cheerful disposition, and his manners being peculiarly pleasing to others, he possessed over the minds of his patients the most absolute control; and it was said, with truth, that no one ever had recourse to his advice as a Physician, who did not remain desirous of gaining his friendship and enjoying his society as a companion. In interrogating the patient he was apt and adroit; in the resources of his art, quick and inexhaustible; and when the malady was beyond the reach of his skill, the minds of the sick were consoled by his conversation, and their cares, anxieties, and fears soothed by his presence. And it may be mentioned among the minor qualities which distinguished Dr. Warren, that no one more readily gained the confidence or satisfied the scruples of the subordinate attendants upon the sick, by the dexterous employment of the various arguments of encouragement, reproof, and friendly advice. The height he had rapidly attained in his profession he maintained with unabated spirits till his death, which took place in 1797, at the age of sixty-five, at his house in Dover Street.
Dr. David Pitcairn resided many years in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and was early admitted a Fellow of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies. To these meetings it was my lot often to be taken, and gradually to become acquainted not only with the members, but, in the course of the various conversations which I overheard, to pick up a good deal of information connected with the former history and establishment of these learned bodies. I will endeavour to describe one of the most remarkable evenings passed at a meeting of the first of these Societies.
When I was in the service of Dr. Mead, the Royal Society met in one of the Professors’ Rooms in Gresham College; and many of the Members used to dine at Pontac’s, in Abchurch Lane. The house was kept by a Frenchman, who had been cook to M. Pontac, president of the parliament of Bourdeaux; and who, from respect to the memory of his master, hung up his effigies as the outward sign of his place of entertainment. Soon after their first incorporation by charter, these convivial meetings themselves were made subservient to the purposes of science, and were intended, as well as their more formal stated assemblies, to further the progress of knowledge. For it is related that on April 2d, 1682, at a supper where several of the Society were present, every thing was dressed, both fish and flesh, in Monsieur Papin’s digestors (then newly invented), and the philosophers ate pike and other fish bones, all without impediment; nay, the hardest bones of beef and mutton made as soft as cheese, and pigeons stewed in their own juice, without any addition of water. From this scientific entertainment one of the guests sent home a glass of jelly to his wife, to the reproach of all that the ladies ever made of their best hartshorn. But this was in the infancy of their establishment, when the zeal of the original founders of the Society was in its full energy. They had in fact only existed as a corporate body about twenty years, for it was in 1662 that Charles the Second granted them a charter, at a period which was certainly peculiarly favourable to the progress of science in Britain. The sudden restoration of the King had healed the divisions of party, and the effervescence of turbulent minds was directed to the advancement of knowledge, instead of political speculation. The germ of the Royal Society may indeed be traced a few years further back than the period now mentioned, since, so early as 1645, several ingenious men, residing in London, agreed to meet once a week to discourse upon subjects connected with Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. They assembled sometimes in Cheapside, at others in Gresham College, but chiefly in the lodgings of Dr. Goddard, in Wood Street. This last place was preferred, because the Doctor kept in his house an operator for grinding glasses for telescopes. The revolutionary troubles suspended for a time these meetings, but after the restoration they were revived in the apartments of Mr. Rooke, in Gresham College; a set of regulations was drawn up, and a weekly contribution of one shilling was collected from each of the members, in order to defray the expenses of their experimental investigations.
The chief objects of their association were to publish periodically all the discoveries which came to their knowledge, and to perform experiments. For the first of these purposes their Secretary was appointed Editor of their Transactions, the first Number of which appeared in 1665, by Mr. Henry Oldenburg. They were not for some time continued regularly, owing to their limited sale, and to the small profit which accrued to the Editor. For the second purpose a person was appointed, with a salary, to contrive suitable experiments, and to have every thing ready for their exhibition: besides which they hired a man, whom they called their English itinerant, and who regularly gave an account of his autumnal peregrination about England, bringing dried fowls, fish, plants, animals, &c.
Such was the simplicity of this early establishment, when every step was a discovery, and every judicious experiment led the fortunate philosopher to eminence. In that infant period of science apparatus had been procured with difficulty, and the greatest philosophers were obliged to labour with their own hands to frame the instruments which they were to use. Hence it was found expedient to keep in the rooms of the Society a collection of all such machines as were likely to be useful in the progress of experimental knowledge. It was soon discovered that little progress could be made by an individual, and all felt the necessity of mutual co-operation. Money was, therefore, furnished for the purchase of convenient apparatus, curators and operators were employed, by whom many capital experiments were made under the eyes of the Society, and exhibited to the distinguished strangers who were invited to be present. Nor was this latter an uncommon occurrence. Immediately after they had obtained their charter, when Charles the Second intimated his intention of being present at one of their meetings, Sir Christopher Wren, who had been consulted upon the matter, suggested that His Majesty should be entertained with some experiments upon the barometer, which, besides being amusing, were useful and easy of exhibition.
The King was an experimenter himself, and had an elaboratory at Whitehall, though, whether he believed the philosopher’s elixir attainable, or had ever seen projection, does not appear. But having bought the receipt of the famous arcanum Goddardianum for the sum of £1500, His Majesty was wont to witness the distillation as it was going on. The drops were procured from raw silk, one pound of which yielded an incredible quantity of volatile salt, and in proportion the finest spirit that ever was tasted. The salt (a coarse kind of spirit of hartshorn) being refined with any well scented chemical oil, made the King’s salt, as it was used to be called. The experiments were shown to the King three years before the fire of London, which drove the Society from Gresham College; when they were invited by Mr. Howard to sit at Arundel House, in the Strand; who also bestowed upon them the noble library that had been collected by his ancestors. After the fire the Society returned to Gresham College, which when they finally left, they purchased a house in Crane Court, Fleet Street, where their meetings continued to be held, till the government, a short time ago, allotted them apartments in Somerset House. Since that period, the Club, which consists of the more select of the Society, have for many years dined at the neighbouring tavern, the Crown and Anchor; where, at half past five o’clock on each Thursday previous to the sitting of the Society, you are sure of meeting with very indifferent cheer, but excellent company. On the 7th April, 1791, I accompanied Dr. Pitcairn to the tavern, and met there Prince Poniatowsky, who had been invited as a guest. Sir Joseph Banks was in the chair. His Highness appeared about fifty, had a good face, was of middling stature, was dressed in black, had the order of Malta in his buttonhole, and wore his hair in a round curl.—When the dinner was over, after the usual toast, “the King,” Sir Joseph proposed the health of the King of Poland, which was drunk by the company. Soon after, the Prince took an opportunity of the President’s getting up for a moment or two from table, to propose Sir Joseph’s health.—From the tavern we adjourned to the apartments of the Royal Society in Somerset House, where the distinguished stranger, who had been balloted for on the preceding Thursday, was admitted a Fellow, as a sovereign prince, by the title of Duke de Lowitz. The President addressed him as Prince Primate of Poland; and he was styled in the minutes, “His Highness Prince Michael Poniatowsky, Prince Primate of Poland, Archbishop of Gnesna, and sovereign of the principality of Lowitz.”
When the meeting broke up, my master accompanied a very intelligent friend and Physician in his carriage home, and the discourse naturally turned to the subject of the eminent foreigner whom they had that evening seen. “You know,” said Dr. Samuel Foart Simmons, “that the Prince is the brother of the present King of Poland, and since his arrival in England I have seen a great deal of him, as he has done me the honour of inviting me frequently to his table. The motive of his visit to England at this moment is, to absent himself during the present session of the Diet, that he may avoid all interference in the question now agitated, relative to the succession. My introduction to him was through Dr. Szaster, a Polish Physician, whom the Prince had met at Paris, and who is much esteemed by him, and who was recommended to me by some of my friends. My first visit to His Highness, at his house, No. 11, Soho Square, which had been taken ready furnished for him, was in company with Dr. Grieve, who from his residence in Russia and Poland, and his consequent acquaintance with the languages and customs of those parts of Europe, has rendered himself very agreeable and highly useful. As a Polish dinner given in London was quite a novelty to myself, and perhaps may be so to you, I will describe it minutely. I was invited for four o’clock, and our party consisted of six: before we sat down to table a glass of Dantzick liqueur was handed round on a waiter, with which, as a foreign custom, we readily complied.
“On taking our seats, the Prince placed himself at the head, and I took a chair on his right hand, while His Highness’s Physician sat at the bottom and carved. Two dishes of oysters were first placed on the table, and a servant then handed round a plate of lemons, cut into halves. I was going to drink a glass of wine with Dr. Grieve, for decanters of wine stood on the table near us; but the Prince pleasantly observed, that he hoped as Physicians we would excuse him if he reminded us of an old Polish opinion, that beer and not wine should be drunk immediately after oysters. When the oysters were taken away, a tureen of soup, called by the Poles bosch, made of milk and beet-root, and having an acid smell, was placed at top, bouilli at bottom, and a dish of boiled tongue, sliced and mixed with vegetables, in the middle. The Physician cut slices of the bouilli into the dish, which a servant carried round to the company: the same ceremony was also observed with respect to the other dish. Then slices of buttered French roll, covered with a chocolate-coloured powder, which I understood to be grated hare, were handed about.—After the second course, which consisted of fritters, roast turkey, and some made dish in the middle, the dessert was put upon the table, and the servants withdrew. The Prince was in excellent humour, extremely communicative, and the conversation became interesting.
“He had dined a few days before with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had told him an anecdote which had pleased him so much, that he had communicated it in a letter he had just written, and which was going by the next post to Poland. Before he sealed his letter, His Highness read that part of it to us. It related to a dramatic writer whose play had been a good deal applauded, and who was informed that on a particular night a great philosopher and mathematician was to be present at its performance. ‘This,’ said the author, ‘is the man for me: I shall long to hear what he says of my play. The opinion of such a judge will be really worth having.’ The mathematician took his seat in the centre of the pit; and when the performance was over, the author was anxious to have his opinion of the piece. ‘I find,’ said the philosopher, ‘that such an actress has pronounced 3284 words, that such an actor has pronounced 2864,’ &c.; and this was the only reply that the mortified dramatist could obtain.
“The Prince continued his amusing anecdotes, and related to us that one of his brothers had engaged a Frenchman as a pastry-cook, in which art he greatly excelled, but who was so drunken a fellow that a sentinel was always placed at the door to prevent his getting strong liquors before he had finished his work. At length, however, his frequent intoxication became intolerable, and it was necessary to discard him. He went to Dantzick, where he found a vessel bound to Petersburgh, in which he embarked; and, on his arrival in that city, accidentally heard of a nobleman near Moscow, who was in want of a preceptor for his son. The pâtissier offered his services, was accepted, and travelled in an elegant coach to his destination. Of Italian, which he was to teach, he knew not a word; but being a native of Provence, he spoke the dialect of that part of France. This he taught his pupil, and was for some time in great credit. But the nobleman having at length a visitor who spoke Italian, the impostor was detected, and he was ignominiously driven out of the family. For some months he rambled about Tartary, and lived on the hospitality of different hordes; but after an absence of more than two years, finding his way back into Poland, he threw himself at the feet of his old master, and was taken again into his service, upon promising better behaviour in future.
“We now adjourned to another room, and drank our coffee, after which frankincense was burned before the Prince, who expressed a wish that we should not be in a hurry to depart. In the course of the evening it appeared that he did not think very favourably of the English writing travellers; particularly “ces gouverneurs,” as he called them, who eagerly catch up every thing they hear in conversation, for the sake of printing it. The English minister at Warsaw had observed to him, that he found himself oftentimes situated awkwardly enough with his raw young countrymen; but that this was nothing when compared with the trouble he had when they came accompanied with a travelling pedant as their tutor.
“Speaking of his brother, His Highness told us that he could speak English before his arrival in this country, which was in 1754; and added that George the Second, upon being informed that the King of Poland had remained a certain number of months at Paris, previous to his coming to England, asked why His Majesty had stayed there so long. ‘To learn English,’ was the reply.
“The conversation having turned on Russia, the Prince spoke of a certain courtier there, who, when Biron was disgraced, said, ‘Ay, that fellow was the cause of my losing two of my teeth.’ ‘How so?’ said somebody. ‘Why, because a dentist came here whom he patronised; and in order to pay my court to Biron, I sent for that man to draw two of my teeth.’ We next talked of Potemkin, who is said to have seduced five or six of his nieces, one after the other, and then to have married them off, except the youngest, who is now his mistress. He has the reputation of having always kept up his influence with the empress, notwithstanding her favours have been bestowed on so many others since his time, and of having always contrived to get his successors discarded whenever he found them acquiring too much power. Before we left, the Prince desired his secretary to bring out his orders: viz. his Order of the White Eagle, and that of Malta, both in brilliants, the latter of which was most admirably set.”
Here the Doctor left off speaking, and we reached home.
Prince Poniatowsky remained in England till June 13th, when he set out on his return to Warsaw. On his way through Holland he received intelligence of the revolution in Poland. The journey he had undertaken had originated in the circumstances which had paved the way for this event. At the opening of the Diet, he had pronounced a discourse which had directed the eyes of his countrymen to their real political situation, and this had gained him many enemies. He was now going back to share in the shortlived general joy. For this sudden and ill-concerted attempt to withdraw the kingdom of Poland from under the influence of Russia ultimately involved the exhausted republic in an unprosperous war, and was shortly afterwards followed by the loss of the fine and fertile provinces of the Lesser Poland and Lithuania.
The success of Dr. Pitcairn in practice was great, and though one or two other Physicians might possibly derive more pecuniary emolument than himself, certainly no one was so frequently requested by his brethren to afford his aid in cases of difficulty. He was perfectly candid in his opinions, and very frank in acknowledging the extent of his confidence in the efficacy of medicine. To a young friend, who had very recently graduated, and who had accompanied him from London to visit a lady, ill of a consumption, in the country, and who, on their return, was expressing his surprise at the apparent inertness of the prescription, which had been left behind, (which was nothing more than infusion of roses, with a little additional mineral acid), he made this reply, “The last thing a physician learns, in the course of his experience, is to know when to do nothing, but quietly to wait, and allow nature and time to have fair play, in checking the progress of disease, and gradually restoring the strength and health of the patient.”
The extensive practice of my master necessarily brought me in contact with every physician of any eminence, of whom the most prominent was unquestionably that profound and elegant scholar, Sir George Baker, the soundness of whose judgment was acknowledged by all. To him the whole medical world looked up with respect, and in the treatment of any disease in the least degree unusual, if it was desired to know all that had ever been said or written on the subject, from the most remote antiquity, down to the case in question, a consultation was proposed with Sir George Baker. From his erudition every thing was expected. He was particularly kind to the rising members of his profession, whom he encouraged and informed with great condescension and apparent interest. He was a native of Devonshire, was educated at Eton, and, afterwards, at King’s College, Cambridge. The accuracy and extent of his classical learning particularly engaged the respect and admiration of the members of those institutions; and to the inhabitants of Devonshire he rendered a signal service, by pointing out the source of that species of colic and subsequent palsy, which had long been the bane of that county. It was reported at the time of the publication of his “Essay concerning the Cause of the Endemial Colic of Devonshire,” that the farmers were much annoyed at his discovery; but every prejudice was at length overcome by the force of truth; and the use of lead in the construction of their cider vessels, which he clearly demonstrated to be the cause of that malady, has since been discontinued.
Sir George Baker commenced his professional career at Stamford, in Lincolnshire, to which place he had been invited by a large circle of friends whom he had known in early life; but this was a situation too limited for the exertion of his talents, and he soon removed to London. In the metropolis it was not long before he arrived at very extensive practice and reputation, and he was appointed Physician to Their Majesties. His character, his learning, and his authority rendered him for several years a distinguished President of the College of Physicians. As an author, he must be estimated rather by the value than the extent of his works; for his Thesis de affectibus Animi, published as an exercise at Cambridge in 1755, his Harveian Oration, and his two treatises, de Catarrho Epidemico and de Dysenteria Londinensi, are models of the purest and chastest classical style. With studious habits, and unassuming manners, he combined great playfulness of imagination, as will appear from the two following specimens of Latin pleasantry.
Epigram on two brothers who applied to Sir George Baker for advice nearly at the same time:
Hos inter fratres quantum disconvenit! alter
Corpus ali prohibet, se nimis alter alit;
Hinc ambo ægrotant; sed non est causa timoris;
Nam penes est ipsos certa utriusque salus.
Cautus uterque suam mutet, me judice, vitam;
Huic cibus, ast illi sit medicina fames.
Which may be thus rendered in English:
Behold two brothers, how unlike their state!
One’s too indulgent, one too temperate;
Hence both are sick; but let not this alarm them,
The cure is in themselves, and will not harm them.
Let me prescribe, with caution, to each brother,
Food for the one, and fasting for the other.
On Mrs. Vanbutchel, who was preserved as a Mummy at the request of her husband, he wrote the following inscription. Under the superintendence of Dr. Hunter, Mr. Cruikshank injected into the arteries spirits of turpentine, coloured by vermilion. She died at the age of forty, and her body, thus prepared, was kept by her husband in his own house during his lifetime; at his death, his son presented it to the College of Surgeons, where it is now to be seen in a mahogany case.
In reliquias Mariæ Vanbutchel, novo miraculo conservatas, et a marito suo superstite, cultu quotidiano adoratas:—
Hic, expers tumuli, jacet
Uxor Joannis Vanbutchel,
Integra omnino et incorrupta,
Viri sui amantissimi
Desiderium simul et deliciæ;
Hanc gravi morbo vitiatam
Consumtamque tandem longâ morte
In hunc, quem cernis, nitorem,
In hanc speciem et colorem viventis
Ab indecorâ putredine vindicavit
Invitâ et repugnante naturâ
Vir egregius, Gulielmus Hunterus,
Artificii priùs intentati
Inventor idem, et perfector.
O fortunatum maritum
Uxorem multùm amatam
Retinere unà in unis ædibus,
Affari, tangere, complecti,
Propter dormire, si lubet,
Non fatis modò superstitem
Sed (quod pluris æstimandum
Nam, non est vivere, sed placere, vita)
Solidam magis, et magis succi plenam
Quam cum ipsa in vivis fuerit!
O! fortunatum hominem et invidendum
Cui peculiare hoc, et proprium contingit
Apud se habere fæminam
Non variam, non mutabilem
Et egregiè taciturnam!
This epitaph was first given imperfectly to the public in Franklin’s translation of Lucian, and, certainly, without the consent of the author.
Dr. David Pitcairn.
To return to Dr. David Pitcairn: his manner was simple, gentle, and dignified; from his kindness of heart, he was frequently led to give more attention to his patients than could well be demanded from a physician; and as this evidently sprung from no interested motive, he often acquired considerable influence with those whom he had attended during sickness. No medical man, indeed, of his eminence in London perhaps ever exercised his profession to such a degree gratuitously. Besides, few persons ever gained so extensive an acquaintance with the various orders of society. He associated much with gentlemen of the law, had a taste for the fine arts, and his employment as a physician in the largest hospital in the kingdom, made known to him a very great number of persons of every rank and description in life. His person was tall and erect; his countenance during youth was a model of manly beauty, and even in advanced life he was accounted remarkably handsome. But the prosperous views that all these combined advantages might reasonably open to him were not of long endurance.
Ill health obliged him to give up his profession and quit his native country. He embarked for Lisbon in the summer of 1798, where a stay of eighteen months in the mild climate of Portugal, during which period there was no recurrence of the spitting of blood with which he had been affected, emboldened him to return to England, and for a few years more resume the practice of his profession. But his health continued delicate and precarious, and in the spring of the year 1809 he fell a victim to a disease that had hitherto escaped the observation of medical men. Pitcairn, though he had acquired great practical knowledge, and had made many original observations upon the history and treatment of diseases, never published any thing himself; but the peculiar and melancholy privilege was reserved for him, to enlighten his profession in the very act of dying. On the 13th of April, he complained of a soreness in his throat; which, however, he thought so lightly of, that he continued his professional visits during that and the two following days. In the night of the 15th his throat became worse, in consequence of which he was copiously bled, at his own desire, and had a large blister applied over his throat. On the evening of the 16th Dr. Baillie called upon him accidentally, not having been apprized of his illness; and, indeed, even then, observed no symptom that indicated danger. But the disease advanced in the course of that night, and a number of leeches were applied to the throat early in the morning. At eleven o’clock in the forenoon, Dr. Baillie again saw him. His countenance was now sunk, his pulse feeble and unequal, his breathing laborious, and his voice nearly gone. In this lamentable state, he wrote upon a piece of paper, that he conceived his windpipe to be the principal seat of his complaint, and that this was the croup. The tonsils were punctured, some blood obtained, and a little relief appeared to have been derived from the operation. Between four and five o’clock in the afternoon his situation seemed considerably improved; but soon afterwards a slight drowsiness came on. At eight, the patient’s breathing became suddenly more difficult, and in a few minutes he was dead. This was the first case of this peculiar affection of the throat that has been distinctly recognised and described. It was an inflammation of the larynx, or upper part of the windpipe, of so insidious a nature as hitherto to have passed unnoticed.
Although approaching to the well-known complaint called croup, it differs in some respects, particularly by the presence of the following symptoms:—Painful deglutition, partial swelling of the fauces, and a perpetually increasing difficulty of breathing. The mouth of the larynx, or aperture by which air is admitted into the lungs, is so much narrowed, that the vital functions are actually extinguished by the stricture. And yet the apparent inflammation in the throat is so inconsiderable, that upon a superficial observation, it would hardly be noticed; but in its progress the voice is changed, becomes altogether suppressed, and the disease terminates in suffocation.
Arms of Baillie
The mother of Dr. Baillie was the sister of John Hunter, the celebrated anatomist and physiologist. From the university of Glasgow, he went, in 1780, to Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated, and settled early in London, under the immediate superintendence of his other maternal uncle, Dr. William Hunter. Following the example of his distinguished relations, he became himself a teacher of anatomy in 1785; and he continued to lecture for nearly twenty years. In delivering his lectures, he expressed himself with great clearness, and conveyed his information to his pupils in the most simple and intelligible language. For this talent he was greatly indebted to the assiduous instruction of his uncle, who spared no pains in cultivating in his young pupil a habit of ready and exact explanation; and was accustomed to teach him in this manner: “Matthew, do you know any thing of to-day’s lecture?” demanded Dr. Hunter of his nephew. “Yes, sir, I hope I do.” “Well, then, demonstrate to me.” “I will go and fetch the preparation, sir.” “Oh! no, Matthew, if you know the subject really, you will know it whether the preparation be absent or present.” Dr. Hunter then stood with his back to the fire, and his nephew demonstrated. Thus was the young student encouraged by approbation and assistance, or immediately convicted of loose and inaccurate information.
His work on morbid anatomy, published in 1793, was dedicated by him to his friend Dr. David Pitcairn, as a testimony of high esteem for his character, and of gratitude for many kind offices. The splendid engravings which were afterwards published as illustrations of this work, were alike creditable to his own taste and liberality, and to the state of the arts in this country.
When I passed from the hands of Pitcairn into the possession of Dr. Baillie, I ceased to be considered any longer as a necessary appendage of the profession, and consequently the opportunities I enjoyed of seeing the world, or even of knowing much about the state of physic, were very greatly abridged, and but of rare occurrence.
Once only was I introduced into a large party. It was on a Sunday evening, when I was taken to one of the scientific meetings, held at the house of Sir Joseph Banks in Soho Square. How different from the gay conversaziones in Ormond Street, in the spacious library of Dr. Mead, filled with splendid books, and ornamented with antiques of the most costly description! On entering the house of Sir Joseph, I was ushered up a sort of back staircase, and introduced into two gloomy apartments, in the farther corner of the first of which sat the President of the Royal Society, wearing the red riband of the Order of the Bath, in a gouty chair. Here I was passed from one to the other, and considered rather as a curious relic, than regarded, as I was wont to be, as the support and ornament of the faculty. My only consolation arose, as I was handed about, from the observation, which it was impossible not to make, that among the philosophers present there was a great proportion of medical men, who examined me, as may be supposed, with more than ordinary interest. Among others, I did not escape the keen and scrutinizing eye of a physician who then held the office of Secretary to the Royal Society, who early relinquished the practice of his profession for other pursuits, but whose name is identified with the history of modern chemistry, and will live as long as science shall be cultivated.
From what has been stated of the condition to which I was now reduced, it will be inferred, that it was chiefly from the position which I occupied in the corner of the room in which Dr. Baillie received his patients at home, that I became at all acquainted with what was going on in medicine.
My present was the very reverse, in almost every particular, of my early master, Dr. Radcliffe. In person, Dr. Baillie was considerably below the middle size, with a countenance rather plain than prepossessing, a Scotch dialect, and blunt manners. Than his first address nothing could be less imposing; and yet, before he had been in company with you for five minutes, he would have convinced you that he was one of the most sensible, clear-headed physicians you had ever listened to.
From his habit of public lecturing, he had acquired two great advantages; First, a minute and accurate knowledge of the structure of the human body; and, Second, the most perfect distinctness and excellent arrangement, in what may be called the art of statement. For this latter quality he was very remarkable; and even when he was compelled to relinquish lecturing (by which he had acquired it), in consequence of the growing extent of his practice, it continued to be of daily advantage to him. In examining a patient, for the purpose of learning the symptoms of the complaint, the questions he put were so few as to give an impression of haste and carelessness; in conversing on the case with the physician whom he met in consultation, he was very short and clear; and it was not until the relations or friends of the patient were admitted, and he proceeded to communicate to them the result of the consultation, that he appeared to full advantage. He then gave a short practical lecture, not merely on the symptoms of the patient, but on the disease generally, in which all that was known on the subject was brought to bear on the individual case, and in doing this, his utterance was so deliberate, that it was easy to follow him. His explanations were so concise, that they always excited attention, and never tired; and the simplicity of the language in which they were conveyed, where all technical terms were studiously avoided, rendered them perfectly intelligible.
It was a maxim with him, that the most successful treatment of patients depended upon the exertion of sagacity or good common sense, guided by a competent professional knowledge, and not by following strictly the rules of practice laid down in books, even by men of the greatest talents and experience. “It is very seldom,” was he used to say, “that diseases are found pure and unmixed, as they are commonly described by authors; and there is almost an endless variety of constitutions. The treatment must be adapted to this mixture and variety, in order to be as successful as circumstances will permit; and this allows of a very wide field for the exercise of good common sense on the part of the physician.”
In his view of the case of a patient, he selected the leading features of the subject, and neglecting all minor details, he systematically abstained from touching upon any thing ingenious, subtle, or far-fetched. Hence, in the treatment of disease, he was not fertile in expedients, but aimed at the fulfilment of a few leading indications, by the employment of the simplest means; if these failed, he was often at a loss what to do next, and had not the talent, for which some are distinguished, of varying his prescription every day, so as to retain the confidence and keep alive the expectation of the patient. But this peculiarity of mind, which was perhaps a defect in the practice of his profession, was a great advantage to him in his discourse, and rendered him unrivalled as a lecturer. After writing a prescription, he read it over with great care and consideration, for fear of having committed a mistake.
During his latter years, when he had retired from all but consultation practice, and had ample time to attend to each individual case, he was very deliberate, tolerant, and willing to listen to whatever was said to him by the patient; but when in the hurry of great business, when his day’s work, as he was used to say, amounted to seventeen hours, he was sometimes rather irritable, and betrayed a want of temper in hearing the tiresome details of an unimportant story. After listening, with torture, to a prosing account from a lady, who ailed so little that she was going to the opera that evening, he had happily escaped from the room, when he was urgently requested to step up stairs again; it was to ask him whether, on her return from the opera, she might eat some oysters: “Yes, Ma’am,” said Baillie, “shells and all.”
As I was not present on this occasion, this story, though often related, may possibly not be true; and, indeed, I cannot suppose that so experienced a practitioner would have treated with so much levity the important mystery of cookery. To judge of the true skill and merit of a Physician requires a competent knowledge of the science of medicine itself; but to gain the good opinion of the patient or his friends, there is, perhaps, no method so ready as to show expertness in the regulation of the diet of the sick. Discretion and judgment will of course be required; the rules should not be unnecessarily severe or rigid, otherwise they will not be followed; but the prudent Physician will prescribe such laws as though not the best, are yet the best that will be obeyed. In many cases, however, it is not enough to say “you must avoid meat, fermented liquors, or pastry.” All this is infinitely too vague, too general, and unsatisfactory; you must be precise and peremptory about trifles. In a long illness the mind of the patient is enfeebled, the invention of his attendants has been exhausted, and they all like to be saved the trouble and effort of thought; the Doctor therefore must think for them, and direct the diet of the sick as he would his draught. Besides indicating an anxious solicitude for the comfort of the invalid, it shows a nice discrimination of the virtues and qualities of the ordinary articles of food, not possessed by less sagacious persons.
It is in the judicious management of this branch of our art that French Physicians particularly excel. Par exemple:
“Le déjeûner consistera en thé froid, ou eau froide sucrée, ou non sucrée avec du lait, et du pain à volonté. Le diner permet une ou deux portions de viande fraiche, tendre, du pain rassis et des légumes farineux.
“Le vin sera mis avec l’eau pour boisson, et on en boira un seul verre pur (de Xeres) sur la fin du dîner.
“Les pâtisseries, la graisse, les légumes venteux, les fruits, sont defendus.
“Une soupe au bouillon ou de l’eau avec du lait, ou du thé et du pain serviront de souper.”
A letter of directions like these, though followed by the prescription of nothing more energetic than une légère infusion de feuilles d’oranger, et deux demi lavemens, will go farther to impress upon the mind of his patient a high opinion of the skill of the Doctor, than the simple and efficient practice of the most judicious and honest Physician of the English school.
If this be true in ordinary cases of sickness, it is more especially so with the hypochondriac, or with those whose appetites are jaded by a long course of indulgence. To them an expert Physician will say, “I advise you to take some calves’-feet jelly made with hock; or could you not fancy the claw of a boiled lobster, with a little butter and Cayenne pepper?”
But I have few adventures to relate; my state of retirement kept me in an almost total ignorance of what was passing in the great world. It may therefore be a fit opportunity for me to pause a little, and review, for a moment, the progress of medicine for the last hundred and fifty years.
This bust of Sydenham is in the Censor’s Room.
Sydenham died the very year I became connected with the profession; him, therefore, I never saw, but with his name and merits I soon became abundantly familiar. He has been usually styled the English Hippocrates, and with reason, for there is a great resemblance between their characters. Although they were both theorists, and, on many occasions, apparently founded their practice upon their theories, yet they were still more attentive to the observation of facts, and seldom permitted their speculative views to interfere with their treatment of their patients. In opposition to the Physicians of his time, Sydenham directed his first attention to the careful observation of the phenomena of disease, and chiefly employed hypothesis as the mere vehicle by which he conveyed his ideas. His merit has been justly appreciated by posterity, both in his own country and among foreigners; and his works continue to this day to be a standard authority, and are as much esteemed after the lapse of a century and a half, as they were immediately after their publication. But his skill in physic was not his highest excellence, his whole character was amiable, his chief view being the benefit of mankind, and the chief motive of his actions the will of God. He was benevolent, candid, and communicative, sincere and religious; qualities which it were happy if they would copy from him, who emulate his knowledge and imitate his methods.
Sydenham died at his house in Pall Mall, on the 29th December, 1689, and was buried in the aisle near the south door of the church of St. James, in Westminster. But the epitaph that indicated the spot being nearly obliterated, the College of Physicians resolved at their general quarterly meeting, (comitia majora ordinaria) held December 22, 1809, to erect a mural monument as near as possible to the place of interment, within that church, to the memory of this illustrious man, with the following inscription:
Prope hunc Locum sepultus est
Medicus in omne Ævum nobilis.
Natus erat A. D. 1624,
Vixit Annos 65.
Deletis veteris Sepulchri Vestigiis,
Ne Rei Memoria interiret,
Hoc Marmor poni jussit Collegium
Regale Medicorum Londinense, A. D. 1810.
Amongst the direct practical improvements for which Society is indebted to Sydenham, is the employment of the cooling treatment in small-pox.
“I see no reason,” said he, “why the patient should be kept stifled in bed, but rather that he may rise and sit up a few hours every day, provided the injuries arising from the extremes of heat and cold be prevented, both with respect to the place wherein he lies, and his manner of clothing.” But the prejudices and authority of his contemporaries opposed the immediate introduction of this natural method; though so convinced was its judicious and discerning author of its propriety, that he foretold, with confidence, its ultimate universal employment—obtinebit demum me vitâ functo.
The prediction has been completely fulfilled; for what Sydenham recommended, the popularity and more extensive practice of Radcliffe soon introduced into general use, and the treatment has been amply sanctioned by experience. For, strange as it may appear, notwithstanding the estimation in which the works of this great ornament of physic have been always held, he made no powerful impression himself upon the general state of medicine, nor diverted in any material degree the current of public opinion from its former channel. The mathematical physicians, who succeeded him, invented new theories, more captivating than any which had hitherto appeared, and the full effect of the example of Sydenham was for some time lost in the seductive influence of visionary speculation.
What Mead effected in the improvement of medicine, by contributing so materially as he did to promote the practice of inoculation, has been already mentioned.
The mechanical systems which, for some years afterwards, prevailed, were powerfully assailed by the metaphysical theory of Stahl, revolution succeeded to revolution, old systems yielded to new doctrines, till the inductive philosophy gradually extended itself to the study of the animal economy. From among the various authors of these rival systems, it is impossible not to select the name of Boerhaave, superior perhaps in learning and information, and possessing more judgment than any of them. He has been compared to Galen, being endowed with the same extensive range of knowledge on all topics directly or indirectly connected with medicine, the same dexterity in availing himself of the information of his predecessors or contemporaries, and the same felicity in moulding these separate materials into one consistent and harmonious whole. By his great assiduity, his acquaintance with chemistry and botany, in short with every department connected with medicine, he raised the University of Leyden, his native town, to the rank of the first medical school in Europe. The next name, at which in this hasty and imperfect sketch, one would pause, would probably be that of Haller, whose correct description of the laws of the muscular and nervous systems gave a new impulse to the progress of pathology.
Cullen, who occupied the medical chair in the University of Edinburgh for a long series of years, was a man of a shrewd and penetrating genius, and for some time his doctrines, which were proposed with an air of candour, and even with a spirit of philosophical scepticism, received almost the universal assent of his contemporaries. In thus approaching modern times, we cannot fail to be struck with the great change that has taken place in the general character of the systems of physic, which has been effected by the gradual substitution of observation and experiment for learning and scholastic disputation. No one will deny that the result of this change has been the improvement of the practice of our art; hence the rate of mortality has decreased nearly one-third, within the last forty years, referable to the more temperate habits which prevail almost uniformly through all orders of society, to the entire disappearance or mitigated severity of many fatal diseases, and, above all, to the substitution of Vaccination for the small-pox.
It was in the year 1798 that Jenner published his “Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ,” and announced to the world the important fact, that the cow-pox protects the human constitution from the infection of small-pox.
By this discovery the beauty of the human race has been greatly improved, and the vestiges of the small-pox have been almost driven away; for to see in our churches, our theatres, or in any other large assemblage of people, a young person bearing the marks of that disease is now of very rare occurrence. And if this be true in England, where every free-born Englishman values himself chiefly on the unquestioned liberty of doing what is foolish and wrong, without the dread of the least control, it is still more so in other countries of Europe. With us, crowds of the poor go unvaccinated, permitted not only to imbibe the small-pox themselves, but to be at large, scattering the poison on those whom they chance to meet. Whereas abroad, in most of the other parts of Europe, vaccination has been ordered by government; no one who has not undergone either cow-pox or small-pox being allowed either to be confirmed, put to school, apprenticed, or married.
Before the introduction of inoculation, small-pox killed one out of four of those whom it attacked; that method changed it into a disease by which one only out of several hundreds perished. Vaccination, by the excitement of a very trifling disorder, imparted a charmed life, over which the small-pox generally seemed to have no influence; for its protecting power must be qualified. It is foolish to deny that the pretensions of this great discovery were, in the enthusiasm of the moment, somewhat overrated; but, after more than twenty years’ experience, this consoling truth seems finally to be firmly established, that the number of those who take the small-pox after vaccination, and pass through a safe and harmless disease, is not greater than the number of those who used to die under inoculation, namely, one in three hundred.
But I must return from this short digression, to speak of the benefits conferred by Dr. Baillie on his profession, and particularly of his donation to the College, of which he was so distinguished an ornament.
In 1819 he presented to that body his entire collection of anatomical preparations, by far the greater number of which had been made by his own hands, and from which he had chiefly selected the splendid engravings that illustrated his work on Anatomy.
He lived only four years after this donation, when his health gradually gave way, and though a hope was entertained, that the failure of his strength might be ascribed to the fatigue of business, and that retirement would afford him relief, he sensibly and rapidly sunk, and died before he had completed his sixty-third year.
His bust is placed in the College of Physicians, and the President, on the 22d December, 1823, having announced the bequests contained in his will, consisting, amongst others, of his library, read the following observations on the medical character of his departed friend and colleague.
Bust of Baillie
In the Censor’s Room.
“The same principles which guided Dr. Baillie in his private and domestic life, governed his public and professional behaviour. He was kind, generous, and sincere. His purse and his personal services were always at the command of those who could prefer a proper claim to them; and every branch of the profession met with equal attention. Nay, such was his condescension, that he often incurred great inconvenience to himself, by his punctual observance of appointments with the humblest practitioners.
“In consultation, he was candid and liberal in the highest degree; and so industriously gave credit to the previous treatment of the patient (if he could approve of it), that the physician who called him in, never failed to find himself in the same possession of the good opinion of the family as he was before the circumstances of the case had made a consultation necessary.
“His manner of explaining the disease, and the remedies recommended, was peculiar to himself, and singularly happy. It was a short compressed lecture, in which the objects in view, and the means by which they were to be obtained, were developed with great clearness of conception, and in such simple unadorned language as was intelligible to his patient, and satisfactory to his colleague.
“Before his time, it was not usual for a physician to do much more than prescribe remedies for the malady, and to encourage the patient by such arguments of consolation as might present themselves to humane and cultivated minds. But as the assumed gravity and outward signs of the profession were now considered obsolete customs, and were, by general consent, laid aside by the physicians, and as a more curious anxiety began to be observed on the part of the patient to learn every thing connected with his complaint, arising naturally from the improved state of general knowledge, a different conduct became necessary in the sick room. The innovation required by the spirit of modern times never could have been adopted by any one more fitted by nature and inclination to carry it into effect than by Dr. Baillie.
“The attention which he had paid to morbid anatomy (that alteration of structure, which parts have undergone by disease), enabled him to make a nice discrimination in symptoms, and to distinguish between disorders which resemble each other. It gave him a confidence also in propounding his opinions, which our conjectural art does not readily admit; and the reputation, which he enjoyed universally for openness and sincerity, made his dicta be received with a ready and unresisting faith.
“He appeared to lay a great stress upon the information which he might derive from the external examination of his patient, and to be much influenced in the formation of his opinion of the nature of the complaint by this practice. He had originally adopted this habit from the peculiar turn of his early studies; and assuredly such a method, not indiscriminately but judiciously employed, as he employed it, is a valuable auxiliary to the other ordinary means used by a physician of obtaining the knowledge of a disease submitted to him. But it is equally true that, notwithstanding its air of mechanical precision, such examination is not to be depended upon beyond a certain point. Great disordered action may prevail in a part without having yet produced such disorganization as may be sensibly felt: and to doubt of the existence of a disease because it is not discoverable by the touch, is not only unphilosophical, but must surely, in many instances, lead to unfounded and erroneous conclusions. One of the inevitable consequences of such a system is frequent disappointment in foretelling the issue of the malady, that most important of all points to the reputation of a physician; and though such a mode of investigation might prove eminently successful in the skilful hands of Dr. Baillie, it must be allowed to be an example of dangerous tendency to those who have not had his means of acquiring knowledge, nor enjoyed the advantages of his great experience, nor have learned, by the previous steps of education and good discipline, to reason and judge correctly. The quickness with which a physician of keen perception and great practice makes up his mind on the nature of a disease, and the plan of treatment to be employed, differs as widely as possible from the inconsiderate haste which marks the decisions of the rash and the uninformed.
“Dr. Baillie acquired business early by the credit of his book on Morbid Anatomy. From the date of its first publication in 1793, its materials must have been furnished principally by a careful inspection of the diseased preparations collected in the museum of his uncle, Dr. Hunter. But it opened a new and most productive field of curious knowledge and interesting research in physic; and when he came to add, in the subsequent editions which were required, an account of the symptoms which accompany the progressive alteration made in the natural structure of parts by some diseases during the life of the patient, from his own observation and experience, he rendered his work highly valuable, and universally popular. Impressed as he was with the great importance and value of such morbid preparations in assisting the physician to discriminate obscure internal diseases, his generosity prompted him, after the example of the immortal Harvey, to give, in his lifetime, his own collection to the College of Physicians. He has thus laid the foundation of a treasury of knowledge, for which posterity will owe him a debt of gratitude to the latest period.
“He published from time to time several medical papers in the Transactions of the College, and in other periodical works; all written in a plain and simple style, and useful as containing the observations of a physician of such extensive experience.
“But justice cannot be done to Dr. Baillie’s medical character, unless that important feature in it which appeared in every part of his conduct and demeanour, his religious principle, be distinctly stated and recognised. His ample converse with one of the most wonderful works of the Creator—the formation of man, inspired in him an admiration of the Supreme Being which nothing could exceed. He had, indeed, ‘looked through Nature up to Nature’s God;’ and the promises of the gospel, on the conditions explained by our Redeemer, were his humble but confident hope in life, and his consolation in death.
“If one precept appeared to be more practically approved by him than another, it was that which directs us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and this was felt and acknowledged daily by all his professional brethren in their intercourse with him.
“On the whole, we may say of him, what Tacitus does of Agricola—Bonum virum facile crederes; magnum libenter.”
Portico of the College of Physicians, Pall-Mall East.
The sentiments of the College itself towards Dr. Baillie may be collected from the following tribute to his memory, which was ordered to be inserted in their Annals on the 30th September, 1823.
“That our posterity may know the extent of its obligation to the benefactor whose death we all deplore, be it recorded, that Dr. Baillie gave the whole of his most valuable collection of anatomical preparations to the College, and six hundred pounds for the preservation of the same; and this, too, after the example of the illustrious Harvey, in his lifetime. His contemporaries need not an enumeration of his many virtues to account for their respectful attachment to him whilst he lived, or to justify the profound grief which they feel at his death. But to the rising generation of physicians, it may be useful to hold up for an example his remarkable simplicity of heart, his strict and clear integrity, his generosity, and that religious principle by which his conduct seemed always to be governed, as well calculated to secure to them the respect and good-will of their colleagues and the profession at large, and the high estimation and confidence of the public.”
But I have done. It has already been explained how I came to occupy my present position; and having once passed under the splendid portico of the New College, I am afraid there is no chance of my ever emerging from the dark recess I occupy in its library.
The publication of the First Edition of my history has at least procured for me one of the advantages I ventured to anticipate: for having become to a certain degree an object of curiosity, my seclusion has occasionally been broken in upon by a temporary exhibition to a visitor. Upon the whole, however, my leisure has been so little interrupted, that I have had abundant time to recollect more fully the various scenes, which I have witnessed; and it is to be hoped, that these additional memoirs will be given to the world by the Registrar of the College with the same scrupulous regard to truth that formed the sole merit of my first imperfect narrative.
Roll call of the Royal College of Physicians, article on Macmichael.
£2000 towards the building of the New College of Physicians.
All this has now disappeared; the ground being enclosed about forty years ago, and converted into pasture land.
Earl of Portland.
Earl of Rockford.
The story, to which allusion seems here to be made, is thus related in the life of Radcliffe:
“It will not be much out of the way, to insert a diverting passage between Sir Godfrey Kneller, the King’s chief painter, and the doctor, since it happened near this time; and though not altogether so advantageous to the doctor’s memory as the generality of his sarcastical replies, yet will be of use to bring in a very happy turn of wit from him that speaks in rejoindre to it. The doctor’s dwelling-house, as has been said before, was in Bow-street, Covent Garden, whereunto belonged a very convenient garden, that was contiguous to another, on the back of it, appertaining to Sir Godfrey, which was extremely curious and inviting, from the many exotic plants, and the variety of flowers and greens, which it abounded with. Now, as one wall divided both inclosures, and the doctor had some reason, from his intimacy with the knight, to think he would not give a denial to any reasonable request, so he took the freedom when he was one day in company with the latter, after extolling his fine parterres and choice collection of herbs, flowers, &c. to desire the liberty of having a door made, for a free intercourse with both gardens, but in such a manner as should not be inconvenient to either family.
“Sir Godfrey, who was and is a gentleman of extraordinary courtesy and humanity, very readily gave his consent; but the doctor’s servants, instead of being strict observers of the terms of agreement, made such a havock amongst his hortulanary curiosities, that Sir Godfrey was out of all patience, and found himself obliged, in a very becoming manner, to advertise their master of it, with his desires to him, to admonish them for the forbearance of such insolencies; yet notwithstanding this complaint, the grievance continued unredressed; so that the person aggrieved found himself under the necessity of letting him that ought to make things easy know, by one of his servants, that he should be obliged to brick up the door, in case of his complaints proving ineffectual. To this the doctor, who was very often in a cholerick temper, and from the success of his practice imagined every one under an obligation of bearing with him, returned answer, ‘That Sir Godfrey might do even what he pleased with the door, so that he did not paint it:’ alluding to his employment, in which none was a more exquisite master. Hereupon a footman, after some hesitation in the delivery of his message, and several commands from his master, to give it him word for word, told him as above. ‘Did my very good friend, Dr. Radcliffe, say so?’ cried Sir Godfrey: ‘go you back to him, and, after presenting my service to him, tell him that I can take anything from him but physic.’”—(The Editor.)
Verhaal der Laatste Ziekte en het overlijden, van Willem de Derde, &c. &c., in Leide, 1702.
Lettre de M. Ronjat, Premier Chirurgien de feu Sa Majesté Britannique Guillaume III.; écrite de Londres à un Medecin de ses Amis en Hollande.
The Tabula or Mensa Isiaca is one of the most considerable monuments of antiquity. It was discovered at Rome, in the year 1525. There are represented upon it various figures in bas relief, mixed with some hieroglyphics, which are supposed to relate to the feasts of Isis. Many speculations have been advanced on the history and date of this curious relic of ancient times.
By his will he left his Yorkshire estate to the Master and Fellows of University College for ever, in trust for the foundation of two travelling fellowships, the overplus to be paid to them, for the purpose of buying perpetual advowsons for the members of the said College.
£5,000 for the enlargement of the building of University College, where he himself had been educated.
£40,000 for the building of a library at Oxford.
£500 yearly for ever, towards mending the diet of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.
After the payment of these bequests, and some legacies to various individuals mentioned in the will, he gave to his executors, in trust, all his estates in Buckinghamshire, Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, and Surrey, to be applied to such charitable purposes as they in their discretion should think best; but no part thereof to their own use or benefit.
The Radcliffe Library, which is perhaps the most beautiful building in Oxford, was finished in 1749, when it was opened in a public ceremony: it has been appropriated, by a late resolution of the Trustees, to the reception of books in medicine and natural history. But that classical city has to boast of two other edifices which bear the name of the same munificent benefactor, and in their building the Trustees have been equally attentive to the interests of science and humanity. The Observatory and Public Infirmary were both erected out of the funds of Dr. Radcliffe, by the Trustees of his will. The first of these edifices consists of a dwelling-house for the Observer, and is amply supplied with astronomical instruments: it is one of the buildings first asked for by foreigners who visit the University, and is remarkable for its beautiful staircase. The Radcliffe Infirmary was opened for the reception of patients, 1770.
From time to time, according to their means and as opportunities present themselves, the faithful and enlightened guardians of these funds have ever been found ready (in the exercise of the discretionary power with which they are entrusted) to contribute to every charitable and useful purpose.
Bustorum aliquot Reliquiæ. There is a copy of this curious MS. now in the College Library: it was purchased at the sale of Lord Verney’s books, and presented to the College of Physicians by Dr. Munro, June 25, 1783.
Afterwards inhabited by Sir John Rushout.
At this time he weighed more than thirty stone, though he afterwards, by changing his habits, and living on milk and vegetables, reduced himself to less than half that weight.
During his stay in Jamaica, a vast treasure which had been sunk in a Spanish galleon, about forty-five years before, somewhere near Hispaniola, or the Bahama Islands, was brought into the Downs. It had been weighed up by some gentlemen, who were at the charge of divers, &c. to the enriching them beyond all expectation. The Duke of Albemarle, as Governor of Jamaica, received for his share, about £90,000. A medal was struck on the occasion.
This anticipation was actually realized not two years ago; for the mere agitation of the Plague question in the House of Commons excited the greatest alarm among the maritime nations of Europe, and for several months vessels sailing from England were put into quarantine at the different ports in the Mediterranean.
I have heard that all these particulars are carefully recorded on the monument of this dropsical lady, in Bunhill Fields.
This subject had long occupied the thoughts of Dr. Mead, although his treatise styled “Medica Sacra, sive de Morbis insignioribus qui in Bibliis memorantur, Commentarius,” did not appear till 1749.
This appointment was held by Dr. Gideon Harvey, from the year 1719 till 1754.
Arbuthnot was a dilettante in the art of music, and occasionally composed sacred pieces. One anthem by him, “As pants the hart,” is in the collection of the Chapel Royal.
At Mead’s sale this statue, three feet and a half high, was bought by Dr. Anthony Askew, for £50. On the same occasion, a magnificent statue of Antinous, of white marble and of the size of nature, was purchased by the Marquess of Rockingham, for £241. 10s. The celebrated bronze head of Homer was sold for £136. 10s. to Lord Exeter.
De Medicorum apud Veteres Romanos Degentium Conditione. Cantab. 1726.
A little dialogue between Soarenes and Chirurgi.—The name of Caius was spelt in many ways—Gauius, Gavius, Kaius. Anglicè—Kaye, Keye, Cay.
The term Reader (Prælector) seems to have gone into disuse, except perhaps at Oxford, where the “Reader in Anatomy” teaches that Science, in Christ Church, in a small but elegant Theatre, which gives the ill-omened name of Skeleton Corner to a thickly peopled, but very inconvenient angle of that distinguished College.
In 1665, Richard Lower made this experiment at Oxford; by means of long tubes, the blood of the vertebral artery of one dog was made to pass into the jugular vein of another, and it appeared proved, that there was no reason to fear any mischief, and that the character or nature of one animal was not likely to be changed by injecting into its veins the blood of another. An experiment similar to this, which preceded it a few years, and which, like it, was founded on the doctrine of the circulation of the blood, viz. the injecting of various fluids impregnated with remedies into the veins of animals, was originally suggested by Sir Christopher Wren, the celebrated architect. He was one of the early Fellows of the Royal Society, and being a man of the most universal accomplishments, was fond of the study of medicine, and occasionally employed his talents in the service of anatomical science; in proof of which, it may be mentioned that he gave the original drawings for the plates which illustrate Willis’ Anatomy of the Brain.
The general reader may require to be told, that these are terms applied to particular parts of the liver, the heart, and the brain: though the anatomist may be surprised, that in the enumeration are not included many other names derived from the discoverers of particular minute structures: more especially that no notice was taken of the claim which Willis has to the honour of having first proposed the classification of the cerebral nerves, now most usually adopted, and given denominations to several of them, which they will most probably always retain.
What is this to the modern quackery of craniology, in which every faculty and feeling has a distinct organ, in which it is generated, which however it deprives of the merit, small as it is, of originality?
It is amusing to contrast this first rude natural infusion, with the present neat and condensed form of exhibiting the bark: for now a grain or two of the sulphate of quinine is the ordinary dose of the remedy.
The black wash now so generally used by Surgeons is a prescription of Sir Theodore Mayerne’s, by the use of which he performed a great cure upon Sir Kenelm Digby. His formula is this:—
℞. Aquæ calcis ℥vj.
Mellis rosati ℨii.
Mercurii dulcis ℨi. M.
Called Editio Optima.
Some envious antiquary has lately insinuated that the coins from which Mead drew this inference were struck in honour of magistrates and not of medical men.
Will no one erect a monument to Garth? He and his wife are buried under the communion-table in the chancel of Harrow church, with nothing but the following rude inscription to mark the spot:—
“In this Vault Lies ye Body of ye Lady Garth, Late Wife of Sir Samuel Garth, Kt. Who Dyed ye 14th of May, In ye year 1717.
Sir Samuel Garth, Obijt jane: the 18th, 1718.”
This elegant villa had been recently purchased by the poet, with part of the money he had received for his translation of the Iliad; an enormous sum in those days, between five and six thousand pounds: but what was that in comparison with the hundred and twenty thousand pounds which the great popular author of the present time has received for the various works with which he has delighted and instructed the world?
Now more than 300 years.
In the British Museum there are two copies of Linacre’s translation of the fourteen books of Galen’s Methodus Medendi. They are in the finest possible condition, and are the presentation copies of Henry the Eighth and Cardinal Wolsey. The title of the King’s copy is illuminated with the royal arms; that of Wolsey’s is decorated with the Cardinal’s hat. On the binding of his Majesty’s are the royal arms and motto impressed; the dedication to the Cardinal is in manuscript: they are both on spotless vellum.
Dr. Alexander Read gave, by will, £100 to ornament the Anatomical Theatre.
In March, 1823, the late Earl of Winchilsea presented to the College some anatomical preparations which belonged to his ancestor Dr. Harvey; for the niece of Harvey was married to the Lord Chancellor Nottingham, of whom the late Earl was the direct descendant, and possessed his property. At Burleigh on the Hill, where these curious preparations had been carefully kept, is a fine picture of the illustrious physician. Lord Winchilsea, in presenting them to the College of Physicians, expressed a hope that these specimens of the scientific researches of Harvey might be deemed worthy of their acceptance, and thought that they could nowhere be so well placed as in the hands of that learned body, of which he had been so distinguished a member. The preparations themselves consist of six tables or boards, upon which are spread the different nerves and blood-vessels, carefully dissected out of the body: in one of them the semi-lunar valves of the aorta are distinctly to be seen. When Harvey delivered his Lumleian Lectures, he may frequently have exhibited these preparations, and by their help explained some points of his new doctrine of the circulation of the blood. They were most probably made by Harvey himself; and he might have learned the art in Italy, for he studied at Padua in 1602. A few years afterwards, on his return to England, he was appointed anatomical and surgical lecturer to the College of Physicians, and in 1616, read a course of lectures there, of which the original manuscripts are preserved in the British Museum. In the College of Surgeons are some preparations similar to these of Harvey, which originally belonged to the Museum of the Royal Society, kept at Gresham College. They were the generous gift of John Evelyn, Esquire, who bought them at Padua, where he saw them, with great industry and exactness (according to the best method then used) taken out of the body of a man, and very curiously spread upon four large tables. They were the work of Fabritius Bartoletus, then Veslingius’s assistant there, and afterwards physician to the King of Poland. Vide Catalogue or Description of the natural and artificial Rarities belonging to the Royal Society, etc. By Nehemiah Grew, 1681.
Since the time of Harvey, the method of preserving different parts of the body has undergone many changes, and much improvement; and the history of the art would be a subject of curious investigation.
In the Philosophical Transactions for May 7, 1666, Mr. Boyle mentions a method he had invented of preserving or embalming the embryo of a chick in a glass filled with spirit of wine, to which he sometimes added a little sal armoniack, as he observed it never coagulated the spirit of wine.
Ruysch, the professor at Amsterdam, if not the discoverer of the use of injections, for the display of vascular and other structure, contributed, together with the suggestions of De Graaf and Swammerdam, by his own ingenuity and industry, to introduce that important practice among anatomists. His museum became ultimately the most magnificent that any private individual had ever, at that time, accumulated, and was the resort of visitors of every description. Generals, ambassadors, princes, and even kings, were happy in the opportunity of visiting it. It was purchased in 1717, by the Czar Peter the Great, for thirty thousand florins, and sent to Petersburg.
Dr. Frank Nicholls, who married a daughter of Mead’s, was the inventor of corroded anatomical preparations. He was at one time professor of anatomy at Oxford, and author of a treatise De Animâ Medicâ.
Selden, styled by Grotius, the “glory of the English nation,” died about this time, and is thus noticed by Hamey in his Bustorum aliquot Reliquiæ.
“Johannes Seldenus J. C. Qui res a memoriâ remotissimas revocare mortalibus in memoriam semper studuit; Ipsus omnium oblivisci morte coactus est.”—1 Dec. 1654.
This may serve as a specimen of the epigrammatic style of this curious work, which is generally characterized by great good nature, though occasionally the author indulges in a vein of sarcasm; as, for example, when speaking of one of his contemporaries, he describes him as—
“Syphar hominis; nec facie minus quam arte Hippocraticus.”
One hundred and twelve folio books were saved from the flames. About ten years before this calamity, the College of Physicians had been enriched by the will of Sir Theodore Mayerne, who left his Library to them. This prosperous physician, who enjoyed the singular honour of having been physician to four kings, viz. Henry IV. of France, James I. Charles I. and Charles II. of England, died very rich. It is said he left behind him £10,000 more than Radcliffe. He was a man of singular address, and distinguished for his knowledge of chemistry and natural philosophy. The famous enamel painter Petitot, when in England, was introduced by Mayerne to Charles I. and was indebted also to him for many valuable hints as to the principal colours to be used for enamel, and the best means of vitrifying them.
This eminent surgeon and anatomist was chosen Fellow of the Royal Society at the early age of twenty-three years; and soon justified their choice by a variety of curious and useful communications. He was chief surgeon of St. Thomas’s Hospital; was also consulting surgeon of St. George’s Hospital and the Westminster Infirmary, and had the honour of being appointed principal surgeon to Queen Caroline, by whom he was highly esteemed. He was much distinguished for his skill as a lithotomist, and added also greatly to his reputation by couching a lad of nearly fourteen years of age, who was either born blind, or had lost his sight so early as to have no recollection of ever having seen. The observations made by the patient, after obtaining the blessing of sight, are singularly curious, and have been much reasoned upon by several writers on vision. Surgery is much indebted to Cheselden for the simplicity which he introduced into it. In his own practice he was guided by consummate skill, was perfectly master of his hand, fruitful in resources, prepared for all events, operating with remarkable dexterity and coolness. He was, in the strict sense of the term, a great surgeon; and, being a man of singular candour and humanity, and fond of the polite arts, was honoured by the friendship and acquaintance of men of genius and taste.
His Micyllus de Re Metricâ was one which he prized highly.
Translated by Sir William Jones.
Παλλαδος ην ποτε δενδρον, επ ’Ειλισσοιο ῥεεθροις
Καρπφ αγαλλομενον καιλιπαρῃ ψεκαδι.
Τεμνε μ’α’ρ ὁ γλυπτης και αποξεσε, νυνδε θεανους
Δαιδαλεη λαρναξ Ινδικα φυλλα φερω.
Χαιρ’, ω Κεκροπος αια’ τι μοι μελει; ουκ επιθυμω
Σωκρατιχης τ’οχθης, γλαυκοφιλου τε θεας.
By Jacob Bryant, Esq.
Hospes ego in terras nuper delata Britannas,
Arbor eram Ægiferæ maxima cura Deæ.
Exul ab Ilisso Thamesina ad littora sistor,
Hei mihi! dulce solum, patria terra, vale!
Non tamen in fines cupio remeare priores;
Omnia, quæ amisi, reddidit una domus.
Hîc Musæ atque artes, hîc dignus Socrate sermo,
Et, pro Pallade, me Pallade nata fovet.
Evelyn relates that he dined with Dr. Whistler in the house which stands on the right hand as you cross the court, in 1683, and met on that occasion Sir Thomas Millington, the President. He represents them both as learned men, and speaks of Dr. Whistler, who was then Censor, as the most facetious man in nature, and says, that he was himself then consulted about the building of this Library.
Marmor incisum epitaphium, in suo apud nos Musæo.—Hamey’s MS.
Sloane Street and Hans Place are names still retained: the estate now belongs to Lord Cadogan. Charles, Baron Oakley, brother of the first Earl Cadogan, married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Hans Sloane.
It is by Rysbrach, and cost £280.
It is related of this gentleman that he corresponded with seventy different persons, and yet that he was very punctual; for he never read a letter without having pen, ink, and paper ready to write the answer, by which means he prevented his letters from accumulating, and himself from being fatigued, by having many answers to write at the same time.
The fate of Poland is well known. The destiny of the family bearing the name of Poniatowsky has been equally disastrous. At the battle of Leipsic, wounded, and while covering the retreat of the French army, in attempting to leap the narrow stream which flows past that city, Prince Joseph Poniatowsky fell, and was drowned. A simple monument is erected to him in a garden, on the bank of the river where he perished, with this inscription upon it:
In Undis Elystri
Summus Exercitûs Polonorum Præfectus,
Imperii Gallici Mareschallus, Tribus Vulneribus
Letiferis acceptis, Ultimus ex Acie discedens
Dum receptum magni Gallorum Exercitus tuetur,
Vitâ Gloriæ et Patriæ sacratâ functus est
Die 19 Octobris, An. 1813,
Anno Ætatis Impleto 52.
Popularis Populari, Duci Miles,
Hoc Monumentum, Lachyrmis suis irrigatum,
The benefit conferred upon his countrymen by this discovery was thus spoken of in an Harveian oration, delivered 1809:—Quòd si unum civem qui servasset, coronâ quondam civili esset donandus; quid ille meruit, qui totam provinciam in salutem vindicavit?#ENGLISH