網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

can only lose his life, or his health, (her's we should rather have said,) or the lives of her children, or those of her poor neighbours, or her rich ones, if they are fools enough; and of these accidents the law, very wisely, takes no cognizance; judging properly, that every person has the right over his or her own life, and that, provided it be done by physic, and not by steel or gunpowder, they have an equal right over those of their neighbours. Here we must begin to moot, leaving all the other matters, which we have insinuated, to the illustration of wiser and better read persons than ourselves. “Ne medicus ultra jalapam."

We understand that there is a university called the University of Edinburgh, where ragged Scotch louts spend twenty or thirty pounds, and six months, in acquiring what is called medical knowledge. Others, richer and less ragged, spend three years, and twice as many hundred pounds; a few may occupy four or five. In Glasgow, they do pretty much the same. In both, they talk what is called Latin, and pay thirty pounds at the end of these probations, have a velvet cap put on their heads, hear a speech from a man called a principal, and become M.D.-Doctors of Physic, or Medicine, for it is not absolutely agreed which, (vide Term Reports, anno 1773. Boswell v. Johnson.)

At Aberdeen again, physic is studied, learnt, acquired, for thirteen pounds twelve shillings, in about half an hour; attendance, on account of its inconvenience, being excused. At St. Andrews, the facility is about as great: and thus, for thirteen pounds twelve shillings, a man acquires the right of “purgandi, seignandi, occidendi, et trucidendi, impuné per totam terram.".

At Oxford and Cambridge, physic is acquired with the utmost certainty and facility, just as are other things in the same places; at Paris, Leyden, Göttingen, and elsewhere, in other modes too tedious to detail. In England, generally, a student labours for seven years in spreading plasters, tying labels on bottles, and applying packthread; but, in London, they dig up dead bodies and carve them, walk about an hospital, and pay fifty guineas a year for the privilege of guessing what a man called an apothecary means, and what becomes of the money. Added to all this, in times of war, they go to the Peninsula, hew down legs and arms, and bore holes in sculls with a center bit, or do the same thing on board of a frigate. Then a few privileged ones wear scarlet cloaks, make a Latin speech, or listen to one, once in two hundred years, and vote all the rest to be ignoramuses.

In these several ways, and others, is physic, medicine, acquired; being the art of healing, as it is called, on one side, and, on the other, being one of the numerous arts of making money. But it is only by the male sex that it is thus acquired. The female division of mankind possesses a shorter road, rivalling at least that of Aberdeen. This is the method called, by philosophers, instinct or intuition, which never can err, as reason does; as these philosophers have demonstrated respecting instinct universally.

Let it not therefore be supposed that we doubt of female and dilettante physic. Quite the reverse, as we have here proved. Besides which, it possesses many other advantages. It costs nothing; thanks to the generosity of the delightful sex; and, moreover, who would uot drink jalap from a fair hand, rather than from that of an apothecary, who washes his hands once a day, or from his boy, who never washes them at all? The draught is sweetened; and its operation cannot fail to be more efficacious. We have only to wiska that the sex would take to this trade entirely; it being provided, that, after twenty-five, they shall retire, and that degrees shall not be conferred unless under satisfactory testimonials or demonstration grace and beauty. Whenever that happens, we mean to have a pleurisy or a hay-fever once a week.

To be sure, the lovely sex might imagine, that to be profoundly intimate with the effects of calomel and salts, was not very consistent with female delicacy; that a lover might be alarmed, for example ; that husbands might even be jealous. This is nonsense. It is a mark of good sense to have cast off all false refinements and false delicacy. Nothing but the tyranny of the male sex argues otherwise. Let them have unlimited freedom; that the Spartan mothers may produce children worthy of Spartans. Cheltenham has cured us of most of these false feelings. A spade is a spade: let it be called so; that openness and truth may be the characteristics of our enlightened age.

Nor can we see any reason why calomel, salts, and bile, should not form the conversation of our dinner-tables. There is a natural ‘and necessary connexion between these two several divisions of the non-naturals. Thanks to the sex; which has here also relieved us from silly restraints, and has introduced divine philosophy into our meals and our drawing-rooms.

To proceed to practice.

This is negative and positive. The negative practice consists in the matters which we have just named, and in many that we have not. Besides which, the sicknesses, fevers, small-poxes, vaccinations, gouts, apoplexies, and lyings-in, of all neighbours and not neighbours, of Duchesses, Countesses, or carpenters and carpenters' wives, form a fund of conversation which might otherwise languish. It is interesting to hear from the mouths of the fair, that Mr. Such-a-one is so-and-so, and Mrs. Such-another is in another manner; that vaccination is exploded, or is not; that a drop of oil of Croton on the tongue is as good as a cupfull of castor-oil and coffee ; that some Nabob has the tic douloureux; and that Mr. Cartwright has drawn the childrens' teeth, or refuses to draw them. Not less instructive is it to be informed, that Mr. Alderman eat so much turtle, that his life is despaired of by the apothecary; that Lady Betty swallowed an ounce of laudanum by mistake, and was relieved by an emetic; that Doctor W. mistook the Duke of Co's case; that my Lord F.'s disorder has proved to be gravel and not gout; and that Dr. This, That, or T'other are of these, those, and the other opinions, respecting the cases of the Dukes, Earls, Marquisses, Aldermen, and Cabinet Ministers under debate.

For all this, our thanks are due to the lovely sex; all, all springing from their knowledge of the healing art. And to them, too, we are indebted for disputing and arranging the several merits of rival apothecaries; why Jackson is clever, why Johnson is cleverer still; how Wilson is clever in children and Thomson in fevers; how Simpkinson understands scarlatiner, aye, scarlatiner, and Wilkinson measles; and how Hodginson said, “ My dearest Madam, your gruel must boil one minute; just one minute!” Then Dr. A." says” this, and Dr. B. that, and Dr. C. something else ; and we are physicked in our uprisings and downlyings, and at our breakfasts and our dinners, at home, abroad, at Brighton and Cheltenham, early and late.

But enough of what may be called negative practice. The negative practice may be united to the positive, or not. The positive practice produces to us the female physician, a finished practitioner, finished as soon as commenced; physicking, with matter more solid than talk, herself, her children, her husband, her friends, her rich neighbours, her poor neighbours, all whom she can persuade or compel to swallow her physic.

Generally, however, the single and young fair rarely engages in public practice: she waits till she is married, or has fallen into the condition of hopeless virginity. Before that, her practice is confined to herself. After, if married, it is sometimes confined to her children; more generally it extends its bounties to the neighbourhood at large, and especially to a country neighbourhood. The opportunities for extensive practice in London are not so great.

Moreover, she is generally fully occupied in lying in bed; or in lounging on a sofa, with Lord Byron or the Quarterly Review; or in driving about, leaving cards; or in shopping, or at Almack's, or in dressing for a ball, or in quarrelling with her maid. In the country, physic is a relief to her ennui; it supplies the want of balls and shops, and opportunities for spending money. To her, but most of all to the virgin of no age, who is always the most steady practitioner, it gives an opportunity, under the guise of Heavenly charity, of not only physicking, but controling and directing her poorer neighbours. It forms a pleasing alternative to the meeting-house; the apothecary and the preacher unite to fill up her idle time; and thus she unites faith and works, learns to know what has happened to Dolly, and how Roger has proved false; acquires the pleasure of interfering in loves, from which, alas ! she is for ever cut off; of showing her abilities in directing cottage economy and cottage education; of reading lectures on drunkenness and idleness, and the new light, and of being reputed a pious, benevolent woman, “ doing a vast deal of good in her neighbourhood.” It may even happen that the pious cares, and a hundred and fifty pounds a-year in the four per'cents, may attract the admiration of some unhappy curate of sixty pounds, or possibly of some gentleman with a dirty band and greasy locks, belonging to the connexion ; and behold! despairing Tabitha becomes the head, if not the mother, of a family. Such is one of the collateral advantages flowing from dilettante and female physic.

To return to details, and to the juvenile and yet unfledged practitioner. At one year old, possibly at one month, her mother commenced by feeding her on calomel, or on calomel, antimonial wine, Daffy, Godfrey, and anodyne necklaces. At least, she has supped on calomel three or four times a week since her creation. She becomes innately and congenerously physical. Carrying an apothecary's shop in her inside from her birth, her ideas become necessarily medical, as from the natural transference of the physic to the brain.

Among the few ideas found there, a large space is occupied by medicine and medical matters.

As she grows up, more calomel is required. There are worms, a headache, or nerves, or the apothecary says so, or mamma thinks so, or Anderson's pills are in favour, or Dr. Barclay's, or she has a cough, and Greenough's lozenges are sovereign, or some reason or other is bever wanting. Mamma, too, goes on physicking the younger children and also the nurses, because their milk is green or blue, or too much or too little ; and the footmen, because they have drunk too much ale; and her husband, because he has eaten too much currie; and her poor neighbours, because she is the Lady Bountiful of the parish. And perhaps the apothecary calls once a day, and mamma keeps a medicinechest full of pretty bottles, and a nice pair of scales, and delights in weighing out calomel, and probably Dr. Buchan or Dr. Reece. And she takes dinner-pills herself, lest she should have eaten, or be about to eat too much; or a journey to Cheltenham, or what not; and thus Miss becomes gradually imbued with physic, and bephysicked for ever.

Perhaps “my dear looks pale to day," a dose of calomel-has been up late at a county ball, or a town ball, it is all one, and looks black under the eyes--a dose of calomel. She is nervous, irritable, or cross -a dose of salts; or her lover remarks that she is languid-a dose of salts, or Cheltenham, or Leamington, or the sea-water baths, or Bath itself, or the apothecary, or perhaps the physician, if she is sick and fashionable enough.

And then the apothecary and the physician prescribe more salts and more calomel, like wise men, and the patient gets daily worse, and worse, and worse, and then Dr. Stewart is called in to rub her with vinegar and water, and then she gets better; and then Dr. Scott's nitrous baths, and then she gets worse.

And, all this time, the bills are heavy, and the young lady is “indeed very delicate, poor thing!” and becomes a useless, ill-tempered fretful, selfish, hypochondriacal compound of drugs and fancies, and becomes idle and peevish for life; or, till growing a little older, and now well imbued and well trained, she becomes convinced that life is what the poet has called it, a “ long disease,” becoming herself a disease, a diseased mind in a diseased a body, and a pest and a nuisance to herself and all around her.

Now at length, perhaps long before this, she takes herself under her own management, and the calomel and salts come under her own guidance. Each day, she is more nervous and more irritable ; every day, her complexion is more muddy, her skin becomes greener, and she is blacker under the eyes. Nothing is so sove

vereign against nervous irritation as calomel, because it proceeds all from the stomach, and the stomach sympathises with the whole system. That much of the jargon she has learnt. More calomel. Or the liver is afflicted, and she is bilious; more calomel, and the blue pill. Nothing like salts for clearing the complexion, and removing the blackness under the eyes : salts. More blackness or more peevishness-more salts.

The head becomes giddy, and now cupping is the remedy. She sends for the cupper. In time, the cupper comes periodically, like the corn-doctor. Cupping once a month, and calomel or salts every day. “ It is very odd, I have taken calomel or salts every day since I was eight years old,” said a young lady of twenty-eight, once in our very presence, “ and I am more nervous than ever!”

Why pursue the history? It is the history of half the sex. And why ask the consequences ? are they not visible? And the excuse is, “ I cannot do without it.” How should they? Thus are we cursed with peevish and nervous wives, useless to all, and a pest to themselves, the curse of their families and the ruin of the children, of the daughters at least, who are trained up in the same knowledge and practice of physic. It is in vain that some conscientions physician interposes, and orders all the salts to be thrown out of the window. The prejudices of the patient and the interests of the trade are against him, and he is himself turned out of the door. “ Virtus” non “laudatur, et alget.” He starves, because of his conscience, and, possibly, is starved into compliance.

Thus, also, are we cursed with the expenses of Brighton and Cheltenham; with that idleness, in the pleasures of which we cannot partake, and with solitary homes, perhaps with expenses which cramp the unhappy family, already cramped by neglect of duties and apothecaries' bills. Thus the house becomes a scene of misery, apothecaries, nurses, and physic; domestic comfort destroyed at home by the wife's presence, and broken up by repeated absence. Hence also we desire journies to Italy, and all the rest of the indescribable train of consequences. Thus the apothecary becomes the confessor and gossipthe curse-of the family, and the system pursued at home is even continued at school.

Man himself does not escape the consequences of this domestic education; since he too often grows up a hypochondriacal and fanciful valetudinary, a swallower of calomel and salts, and a dealer in cupping glasses, flannel-waistcoats, and dinner-pills. Cheltenham becomes his private curse too; occupying his time, obstructing his business, and confirming the ruin of his constitution. It would be a happy day for Britain were a volcano to break forth under Cheltenham; evaporating all the waters for ever, or drowning Mrs. Forty and the apothecaries in their own poisons. It was a dark day that generated the whole cathartic system.

But let us see how my Lady Bountiful practises on her neighbours. How she practises on her children, we have perhaps sufficiently said. It is scarcely possible to believe in the egregious vanity which induces ladies, and even young ladies, young by favour, to wander from house to house, as they do even in London and Edinburgh, prescribing, literally prescribing, for the rich as well as the poor. In the country, there is a comparative excuse. It is scarcely possible to believe in this, when the profession swarms in every street, and their services are not wanted; it is scarcely credible that they should be found disputing with physicians, knowing better, and, against all remonstrance, friendly and unfriendly, pursuing without remorse their murderous career.

Yet this is all true, à la lettre, and is hourly, and daily, and universal. They might reflect that an art and a science which require a serious and almost an universal education-a science the most unsettled, an art the most obscure, requiring more acuteness and attention, more discernment, more rigid reasoning from different analogies, and more caution to conduct, than all the arts united, could not be acquired by intuition. But it is vain to argue with ignorance and vanity ; least of all with female ignorance and female vanity.

The Lady Bountiful argues, that if they do ro good they do no

« 上一頁繼續 »