« PreviousContinue »
BY W. A. JONES.
IN the catholicism of taste, dear Mr. Editor, evinced in your conduct of the Democratic; in your liberality in laying the fewest possible restrictions on your contributors, and confining the range of prohibited topics to the smallest possible circle, I have remarked one feature peculiar to your Magazine, i. e., the leaning towards the speculations of skilful and intelligent medical men, and a certain fondness for physical inquiries, subservient to the amelioration of the future social condition of man, and indicative of a higher and purer spiritual philosophy. Though political science and the philosophy of Progress be your characteristical and leading design, yet you neglect not Science in its less direct and (immediately) practical bearings, nor do you overlook the claims of Literature of a less solid and philosophical character. You admit even gossiping essays, and retrospective sketches of literature. As my papers have naturally fallen under that head, I have thought you and your readers might be inclined to run over, in a cursory manner, the list of physicians, who have won a classical reputation as authors, not of mere professional works (for they fall out of our account), but writers of books of general interest, and especially in the lighter departments of the belles lettres. Even of these, we shall take up a consideration only of the most prominent and best known.
Before proceeding to this, we will stop to suggest the inquiry (which we shall not attempt to settle) of the comparative literary rank of the three learned professions, (according to the old formal decision, which left out many callings that require far more real acquirement, and that, too, of a finer character than is necessary to enable one to succeed, to a degree much beyond mediocrity, in either of the faculties of law, divinity or physic). And each may appear, from the statement of a partial advocate, to take the lead. The lawyer may claim, to draw upon English literature alone, Shakspeare, who alone would outweigh all
the clever authors among physicians, we can muster, by any diligence of research. The advocate may claim, too, Burke, the finest of political orators, and almost the first of English prose writers, putting out of view his later political principles; the long array of statesmen and able debaters and political essayists (one of the glories of England) are lawyers, almost to a man; and in literature, properly so styled, from the essays of Bacon to the Ion of Talfourd, we conceive no doubts can be raised, no question advanced that they are not first among the first. Of the great dramatists, from Shakspeare down, excluding the professional poets and actors, which of the faculties can compete with the Law? The fame of historical skill is pretty equally divided. The Bar boasting its More and Bacon and Clarendon and Hallam; and the Church its Fuller and Burnet and Lingard and Arnold. We recollect no classical history by a physician. In the field of fiction, or the page of the manners-painting novelist, the lawyers can point to their Fielding, the prose Homer of human nature, and the Ariosto of the North-Scott himself: the divines may boast of their Swift and Sterne (though they are a little shy of both), and the doctors have among them four capital humorous painters, Arbuthnot and Goldsmith and Smollett and Moore. The divines bear away the palm in serious eloquence and in moral reasoning, as might be naturally expected. The minor forms of literature, from biography down, are better represented by briefless barristers than by well beneficed divines or physicians in full practice. The poets are of every class and condition, though we think the best, in general, have followed literature alone. Neat, agreeable verses have been written by doctors, but the best versifier among them, Goldsmith, was, essentially, an author by profession. Mere learning, as distinct from elegant literature, may at one period have been confined to the profession of physic: natural science, always the
most popular species of knowledge, falls naturally within the scope of their studies, and certainly they have been great discoverers in natural philosophy: but in a Ligher philosophy, that of the government of men and the advancement of the race, the legal and political inquirer has greatly distanced these; whilst in the highest philosophy, that of the moral nature, aims, capacity and sympathies of man, the individual as contrasted with and distinct from man, the citizen or political unit, the first class of divines from Jeremy Taylor to our own Channing, deserve the highest place.
Lawyers have at all times done their full share in advancing the interests of society, and their memory should be preserved with reverence. The profession of the law has produced the greatest statesmen and most brilliant orators of modern times; some of the ablest divines have been originally lawyers, and have brought to the high topics of theology, an acute, logical head, as well as an ardent imagination and a pure heart. The greatest writers of the present century, for instance, from Sir Walter Scott down to a lively newspaper critic, as those of the London Examiner and the best monthly and quarterly journals, have been lawyers. From the law has the world received the blessings of that profound and admirable philosophy, so conducive to public interest and so well adapted to private happiness, which we read in the pages of Bacon, of Burke, and of Brougham. The sharpness and transparency of intellect, that legal studies and legal practice afford, go far toward the general improvement of the faculties of observation and comparison. Hence, we find lawyers such masters of real life, and the best society (intellectually considered) of any place you may enter. In the country, the judge is the first man, and the principal advocate stands next highest. In the city, even in this commercial mart, the profession of the law, as a profession, stands unquestionably the highest. At least six out of ten of our most distinguished public characters and persons of eminent private worth, have come out from the law. The most sagacious foreign critic of our government and its workings, has most justly demonstrated the bar to be the bulwark of our political liberties, the intelligent
and fearless defender of our rights. Though law itself is unromantic enough in its study, let Euromus and Lord Bolingbroke, Sir James Macintosh and Dr. Warren, say what they may to the contrary, yet is it very far from being a dull pursuit, to a successful lawyer.
The most unexpected incidents and turns daily arise, the rarest characters are to be met with, the most open reference to the human heart is often made by the able lawyer, in a free and diversified practice. We are very far from thinking the legal life, as it is, comparable to that of the true man of letters, as it might be; still, where there is much to praise, it is churlish to remain silent. Finally, as a class of men for general intelligence, clearness of mind, temperance of opinion, real force of character, polished amenity of manner, we can find no class of men superior to the best class of lawyers;. the old senatorial band of judges and counsellors of long standing, or the new and fresher army of smart, young attorneys.
Having offered our humble tribute to the profession of the law, we should not omit to pay due respect to genius and virtue, as it is embodied in the Christian church. As the noblest portion of that noble body, we shall glance merely at the general character of the standard old English divines, the Donnes, Halls, Taylors, Barrows, Souths, Mores, Earles, Fullers, Tillotsons, and Berkleys. These great old masters form a choice collection in a select library of old English literature. It has been said, that a complete library could be formed from their works, and that, too, a most valuable one. For though divines, they were none the less wits, historians, scholars, poets, orators, and moralists-unlike the French clergy, the ornaments of which have been, either mere declaimers or else scholastic controversialists, the English divines wrote books of moral essays, satires, descriptions of characters, works on men and manners. They had wit and humor, as well as fancy and sentiment. They were not merely the spiritual guides, but also the popular writers of their day. As mere scholars, their acquisitions were wonderful: as thinkers, the richness of their matter is fully equivalent to its gorgeous setting. As men, where shall we look for a more
primitive piety and holiness of character comparable to that of the heavenly George Herbert? what Christian, at once so simple and so learned, so wise and yet so humble as Hooker? whose devotional raptures (in our own day) equal the enthusiastic fancies of Crashaw? whose keen satire rivals that of Hall or Eachard? What later martyr to principle outshines the apostolic Latimer? whose golden eloquence casts the fancy and the imagination of Taylor or South into the shade. We should be glad to learn if ever there existed a more copious, exact, and comprehensive reasoner than Barrow, or a finer model of the true Christian gentleman, than Berkley. Later metaphysicians have not yet obscured the fame of Clarke and Butler. We might run on with these glorious old names, and fill many a page. But it is unnecessary. Do we wish to confirm our proposition of the elevated position and powerful claims of the clergy to the highest station, we have only to turn our eyes to the Unitarians of New England, who once could boast, among their leading ministers, the ablest minds of the country, Channing, Bancroft, Brownson, Emerson, Dewey, the Wares, Sparks, Palfrey, Bellows, Furness. Out of the pulpit, there are the Sedgwicks, Mr. Bryant (we believe), and, if we are not mistaken, Daniel Webster. The Unitarian clergy is decidedly the most intellectual body of men in our country, and their congregations are composed of thoughtful, educated persons, who attend the sanctuary to be instructed, and not as a matter of routine, to hear repeated for the thousandth time, the stereotyped phrases of an established church, and the lifeless teaching of an inert spiritual philosophy.
With these tributes to the Law and Divinity, sincerely offered, and not introduced merely for the sake of a display of impartiality, we come at last to the Faculty of Medicine. And, in the outset, we may quote the opinion of Johnson, gained from a wide and intimate experience on his part of the skill and benevolence of physicians, the most eminent of whom, in his day, took pleasure in prolonging the life and alleviating the poignant diseases under
which this great man suffered, not only without fee or reward, but with a readiness, a patience, and an affectionate zeal that could not be remunerated by any merely pecuniary returns; services to be commanded neither by the patronage of the titled, nor the applause of the famous. A strong feeling of personal attachment existed between Dr. Johnson and several of the first medical men of England in his time, and a mutual esteem honorable to both sides. In his case, too, the willingness to accept gratuitous services, discovered as much liberality of spirit (for a man of such manly independence of character), at the eager offer on their parts to proffer them.
In Boswell's life, the commendations of the faculty occur in several places, but we now have reference more particularly to a passage in the life of Sir Samuel Garth, which reads as follows: "Whether what Temple says be true, that physicians have had more learning than the other faculties, I will not stay to inquire, but I believe, every man has found in physicians, just liberality and dignity of sentiment, very prompt effusion of beneficence and willingness to exert a lucrative art where there is no hope of lucre." Though we most readily assent to Johnson's own dictum in the matter, we are far from being governed to any great degree by the dictum of Temple, who has been shown to have been a very superficial scholar, and hence no safe critic. Besides, the period was not very distant from the age in which Temple lived, when the physician held not his present position, but ranked with the apothecary, or rather the two professions were more generally merged into one; when the chirurgeon was generally the barber, and his operations few and simple. A similar analogy holds in regard to other offices; the chancellor of Great Britain is now always a layman, but up to the time of Sir Thomas More, in the reign of Henry VIII., the office was invariably held by the primate, and the Court of Equity was considered the just province of ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
In point of erudition, we have little doubt that physicians formerly, and perhaps still, have surpassed lawyers, though we suspect not the clergy, who
* We are perfectly well aware that certain of the above names are now neither to be classed among the Unitarians nor to be designated as clergymen.
have an interminable professional literature of their own. But in regard to natural genius, with the exception of the choice instances we have collected, we are inclined to suspect the Faculty will not be able to sustain a fair parallel with the Bar or the Pulpit. This is, however, a point we are by no means solicitous to decide. Most physicians have too rare an opportunity of leisure to employ much of it in writing, and then we do not so naturally look to them as authors, as we desire to regard them as friends, companions, counsellors, acquaintance. We entertain for them rather a personal attachment, than an abstract literary admiration. We are touched by their kindness excited to gratitude by their skill and successful endeavors, and rendered trusting by the confidential intercourse that so naturally springs up between doctor and patient.
It appears to us, therefore, no matter of wonder that the doctor should aim to excel in conversation more than in composition-and should seek professional rather than literary fame. To become skilful and discriminating in his art; agreeable and gentlemanly in his address; to perform well the character of a judicious yet kind friend, and entertain by all allowable arts the dull hours of the invalid; to act the part of the philanthropist and the good Samaritan; these surely are honors sufficient for the ambition of any reasonable human creature, and require the exercise of virtues that make men akin to the angels and ministers of heavenly mercy. Than this we know no more desirable character, no office more to be coveted.
To come, however, closer to the subject of our present speculations. Before the reign of Anne, we meet few names among distinguished physicians, equally celebrated for literary composition. The great doctors were either discoverers like Harvey, or cultivators of science and professional lore, as Mead (who had so little taste for general literature, as to accept Defoe's fictitious history of the Great Plague, for a true relation), or mere learned men, encyclopedical scholars. Sir Thomas Browne is the only one, we can recollect, whose literary pretensions have become confirmed by posterity. No eloquence can be found more fitting to paint the gloom of melancholy, or the murky solitariness
of the grave, than his rich, sombre tints. His stately, philosophical tone, ennobles while it exalts, and does not merely excite or stimulate only to depress the more when the attraction of novelty has fled. Browne is, to his profession, in a great measure what Bacon is to the Law, not from his professedly professional writings, but from his general spirit and the tone of his mind. He is the true medical moralist; the active Christian practitioner. In his religious passages, there is an unction and a sublime piety, that should make his prime work, "Religio Medici," the manual of those of the same class with himself. It is a confession of Faith, a compend of Devotion, a Hymn of Thanksgiving, an offering of Gratitude. We can object to but one defect in the philosophy of Browne, it is too much tinctured with an austere seriousness. His descriptions of death are just the opposite of Taylor's; the former draws the mere skeleton folded in a rich cloth of dark velvet, whilst the latter paints the body lately fresh with life, and with a countenance full of hope, and lips parted in a sweet smile of joy.
The reign of Anne produced two physicians equally conspicuous for their wit and benevolence, their amiable qualities and a certain fine spirit of humanity-Arbuthnot and Garth. Arbuthnot, for humor and learned satire, has been placed by some above even Swift. He was the popular Tory physician, as Garth was the favorite of the Whigs. Our author was, notwithstanding his partizan zeal, the favorite of all parties, and conciliated the hostile wits. He was the strong personal friend of Swift, Pope, Gay, Addison, Steele, Bolingbroke, and Atterbury. The noble, affectionate heart of Arbuthnot softened even the splenetic temper of the sarcastic vicar of Laracor. Arbuthnot was the idol of Swift. thus (in one of his letters) writes of him, with mingled admiration and a gay humor, that seeks to conceal its love by mockery of it :-" Oh! if the world had but a dozen Arbuthnots in it I would burn my travels! But, however, he is not without a fault. There is a passage in Bede, highly commending the piety and learning of the Irish in that age, where, after abundance of praises, he overthrows them all by lamenting that, alas, they kept Easter at the wrong time of the year. So
our doctor has every quality and virtue that can make a man amiable or useful; but, alas, he has a sort of slouch in his walk! I pray God protect him, for he is an excellent Christian, though not a Catholic." In his celebrated Epistle, Pope has expressed himself twice with generous warmth in grateful acknowledgment of the skill of his friend :
Kit-cat club, and as a companion and good fellow equalled only by Arbuthnot. Pope styles him "well-natured Garth" in the list of his early friends. The same fine writer, whose affectionate disposition shines through all his works, wrote in these terms of Garth just after his death. In a letter, deploring the loss of Parnell and Rowe, he concludes, "After these, the bestnatured of men, Sir Samuel Garth, has left me in the truest concern for his loss. His death was very heroical, and yet unaffected enough to have made a saint or a philosopher famous. And, a little further on, he pathetic- branded his last moments as they did But ill tongues and worse hearts have ally sings,
"Friend to my life! (which did not you prolong,
The world had wanted many an idle song)."
"The Muse but serv'd to ease some friend, not wife,
To help me through this long disease, my life;
To second, Arbuthnot! thy art and care, And teach the being you preserv'd to bear."
In Gay's Epistle to Pope, a welcome from Greece, on the occasion of his having finished his translation of Homer's Iliad, in which all Pope's intimates and admirers are represented as meeting him on the quay to congratulate him on his arrival from Troy, the following lines occur, a just compliment to the humorist, the physician, and the
"Arbuthnot there I see, in physic's art, As Galen learn'd, or famed Hippocrate; Whose company drives sorrow from the heart,
As all disease his medicines dissipate."
The heartiness of the sentiment is the best excuse for the tameness of the inspiration, and amply atones for it. The chief work of Arbuthnot is his satirical history of John Bull, a species of comic political allegory, which has been copied with no slight degree of success by our countryman, Paulding. Arbuthnot had also a hand in the Scriblems memoirs, but to what extent we are not informed. Garth, we have noticed, was the favorite Whig physician, that is to say, he was the intimate associate of the Whig wits, but his real practice was said to have been confined. He was an ardent philanthropist and a strong political partizan. He was a member of the celebrated
his lip, with irreligion. You must have heard many tales on this subject; but if ever there was a good Christian without knowing himself to be so, it was Dr. Garth." Steele, in his dedication of the Lover, a forgotten periodical work devoted to the tender passion, to Sir Samuel Garth,-one we are disposed to regard as among the first, if not the finest address of the kind in the English language,-speaks the following language. We would like to transfer the whole paper, but it is rather long for extract, and we must content ourselves with some of the choicest passages:-"The manner in which you practise this heavenly faculty of aiding human life, is according to the liberality of science, and demonstrates that your heart is more set upon doing good than growing rich. The pitiful artifices which empirics are guilty of to drain cash out of valetudinarians, are the abhorrence of your generous mind, and it is as common with Garth to supply indigent patients with money for food, as to receive it from wealthy ones for physic. How much more amiable, sir, would the generosity which is already applauded by all that know you, appear to those whose gratitude you every day refuse, if they knew that you resist their presents lest you should supply those whose wants you know, by taking from those with whose necessities you are unacquainted? The families you frequent receive you as their friend and well-wisher, whose concern in their behalf is as great as that of those who are related to them by the ties of blood and the sanctions of affinity. This tenderness interrupts the satisfactions of conversation, to which you are so