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His Sex-His Name--His Wanderings-His famous Sword-His Conformity to his Age His Style.-His Notions of Trinity in Unity-His Alchemy and Heroic Treatment—Epilepsy and Apoplexy-His Arcanum.
THE opinions expressed by persons to all appearance equally capable of forming a just estimate of Paracelsus, are so conflicting, that it is an unusually difficult task for the historian to form an impartial and satisfactory judgment in regard to a man whose fate it was to live a considerable portion of his life in a blaze of notoriety, and to sink before his death into obscurity.
According to Von Helmont, he "was the forerunner of true medicine, God-sent and armed with knowledge to decompose bodies by fire, and his excellent cures put all Germany into commotion." Again the same author
declares, that he was "the jewel of all Germany, and the abuse directed against him was not worth a deaf nut;" while, on the other hand, his countryman, the no less celebrated Zimmermann, thus delineates his character and appearance:-" He lived like a hog, looked like a carter, found his chief pleasure in the society of the lowest and most debauched of the rabble, was drunk the greatest part of his life, and seemed to have composed all he wrote in this condition." 2 Since Sprengel wrote his History of Medicine, from which the biographies of Paracelsus in the various encyclopædias and biographical dictionaries are for the most part derived, there have appeared three treatises in Germany, all distinguished by a more careful research into the facts of his life and the scope of his doctrines than shows itself in the severe and superficial narrative given by Sprengel. The first of these is by Professor Schultz of Berlin, published in 1831; the second by Dr. Lessing,* the third, and most remarkable, is contained in the first volume of Dr. Rademacher's work. The name of Rademacher is now well known over Germany as the promulgator of a new system of medicine based on that of Paracelsus. So that the man who looked like a carter, and lived like a hog, and wrote only when drunk, is not a mere phantom of the Middle Ages, but an actual present force affecting the medicine of to-day.
One of the very few incontestible facts, or at least uncontested statements, about Paracelsus, is, that he was born in the year 1493. Beyond this point all is confusion and debate; his name, his lineage, his birthplace, his very
1 Magnet-wundercur, Cap. li. 2 Lessing, Leben Paracelsus.
3 Die Homœobiotische Medizin des T. Paracelsus dargestelt von C. H. Schulz, Doct. and Prof. &c., Berlin, 1831.
4 Paracelsus sein Leben und Denken,
von Dr. M. B. Lessing, Berlin, 1839.
sex,' are matters of dispute. He styled himself Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim; and the name by which he is now known has been supposed to have been adopted, with his usual presumption, for the sake of distinguishing himself as the arch-reformer of medicine -the superior and displacer of Celsus. A much more probable derivation, however, is now the received one; representing the word Paracelsus to be a rude rendering into Greek and Latin of his patronymic Von Hohenheim. As to his lineage and birthplace, his opponents, Haller, Erastus,2 and others, affirm that he sprung from the dregs of the people, and that he was born in Gais, in the canton of Appenzal; while he himself and his upholders maintain that he was descended from a good family of the name of Bombast von Hohenheim, in Einsedelm, two German miles from Zurich.
Of the miscellaneous career of this singular man, I have attempted, in the following narrative, to put together the most credible facts, in the order of their occurrence.
In the village or small town of Einsedelm, or Hohenheim, or in Latin, Eremus, there lived, by the practice of the medical art, a certain William Bombast von Hohenheim, a relation of the high family which bore that patronymic. This William was married to the Lady
"Paracelsus was bald, and had no beard. Why no beard? Because-say his opponents-he was not a man. Because say his friends -he shaved it off. In favour of the former presumption, we are told he hated women; while in defence of his manhood, his own words are quoted-'My beard has more experience than all your schools' (Fragment. Med. p. 144, Vorrede uber das Buch. Paragramm. s. 203). And it is triumphantly asked, Would not a man, conscious of having been deprived of the power of growing a beard, be too much alive to the degradation he had suffered, not
to avoid all allusion to the subject? As to his aversion to women, it was not all women, but only some he disliked; and there is nothing so very extraordinary in this. Moreover, his likeness, painted by Tintoretto a year before his death, represents him with a well-grown beard."-Browning's Paracelsus. Note,
2 Of the credibility of Erastus as a witness against Paracelsus, we may judge by the following sentence: Helvitium fuisse vix credo, vix enim ea regio tale monstrum ediderit."-De Medic. Nov.
Superintendent of the hospital attached to the convent of Einsedelm. In the year 1493, they had a son, whom they called Philip Aureolus Theophrastus. He was their only child, and received from his father, at home, the rudiments of Latin, and whatever else he could teach. It seems doubtful if he ever attended any regular school or university; and, perhaps, considering the instruction then given at such places, he did not incur a great loss. Certain it is that he soon took to roaming over the world; that he visited Italy, Germany, and Sweden, where he served in the army;' nay, that after exhausting Europe, he pursued his travels into Asia and Egypt. How he maintained himself during this vagabond pilgrimage is a matter of conjecture-probably by necromancy, and performing quack cures that is, by proclaiming that he had discovered certain specifics, and making a bargain with those who employed him as to the amount he was to receive if he divulged his secret, or effected a cure. He was also a diligent chemist, investigating at the various mines the processes of the preparation of the metals, and making numerous experiments in regard to their medicinal virtues, as well as in order to discover the grand secret-the philosopher's stone. It was as a chemist that he lived with Sigismond Fugger, a member of a most influential and wealthy family of that name, which was celebrated in Germany almost as the Medici in Italy, for its patronage of art and of such science, as there was. His cures, real or pretended, became noised abroad, and he was sent for, from far and near, to prescribe for all the great men of his day; among his patients was Erasmus, who addresses him, Paracelsus Eremitus or of Eremus. We read in one of his works, that at the age of thirty-three he could boast of having cured thirteen princes, whose cases had been declared hope
1 Vorrede zum Spittalbuch.
Ersch and Grüber's Encyclopedia. Art. Fugger.
less by the Galenic physicians of the time.1 At this period he seems to have reached his zenith, and at the recommendation of Ecolampadius, an enthusiastic reformer of the church, he was appointed Professor of Physic and Surgery in the University of Basle, in the year 1526.
Paracelsus commenced his career of academic teaching by committing publicly to the flames the works of Galen and Rhazes, exclaiming that they did not know so much as his shoe latchets. "A physician," he says, "must be a traveller. Diseases wander hither and thither, world-wide, and remain not stationary at one place. If a man wishes to learn much of disease, let him travel far; if he do so, he will acquire great experience. Countries are the leaves of Nature's code of law, patients the only books of the true physician. Reading never made a physician-only practice. This kind of discourse he delivered, not as was then the universal custom, in the Latin tongue, but in the vernacular German, a language at that time raw and unsuited for scientific discourse; for to the labours of Luther and the other Reformers, German owes, in a great measure, its present form, and admirable adaptation to all the purposes of literature. Such rhodomontade, uttered with all the uncouth extravagances of a mountebank, although for a time it might excite the wonder of the multitude, could not sustain the interest and attention of earnest students; and the consequence was, that his class-room, at first filled to overflowing, was soon deserted. Indeed, it would appear that by this time he had fallen into habits of excessive intemperance. Rademacher, who excuses and defends his idol to the utmost of his ability, observes upon this point, that Paracelsus only stimulated his energies by a rational indul
1 Vorrede zum Spittalbuch.
2 "About this time arose out of Luther's school one Ecolampadius, like a mighty and fierce giant: who, as his master had gone beyond the
church, went beyond his master."-Life of Bishop Fisher, quoted by Browning.
3 Rademacher, p. 41.