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to decoy the profession from the right scent, and to make people think that he had discovered specifics of his own, when he was only using preparations of the bark. The style in which his book is written is enough to condemn him. "First administer," he says, "a convenient dose of a specified emeto-cathartic powder (which was communicated to me by the name of Febrifugum Reverii). It is composed of three Herculean medicines, each of them requiring twelve several labours in their preparations: to which is added a fourth, which is not unfitly called Athletica; because, like a powerful champion, it dissipates and expels all Nature's enemies, &c., &c., &c.
This is the jargon of quacks in all times. And not less distinctive is the following warning against all shops but his own "Let me advise the world to beware of all palliative cures, and especially of that known by the name of Jesuit's powder, as it is given by unskilful hands; for I have seen the most dangerous effects follow the giving of that medicine uncorrected and unprepared."-And who can correct and prepare it, except me, Richard Talbot! And so he played his part.
It is refreshing to pass from the career of Sir Richard Talbot to that of Sydenham. Thomas Sydenham was born at Winford-Eagle, his ancestral property, in the county of Dorset, in the year 1624. He was of what is called a good family. At the age of eighteen years he went to Oxford, where his elder brother William was a gentleman commoner. When the civil war broke out, it is most probable that he served in the army, on the side of the Parliament; it is certain, that his two brothers did, the one as a Colonel and the other as a Major. In November, 1644, Sir Lewis Dives was beaten by Major Francis
1 A Rational Account of the Causes and Cure of Agues, with their Signes, Diagnostic and Prognostic; also, some
Specific Medicines prescribed for the
Sydenham; so it is by no means very improbable, that while Harvey was taking care of the princes at Edgehill, Sydenham was fighting on the other side. He returned to his studies at Oxford in the year 1646; and in 1648, at the age of twenty-four, took his degree of "Bachelor of Medicine." Some time between 1648 and 1661, he began to practise at Westminster. In the year 1663, he was made a Licentiate of the College of Physicians, so that he may have been present when King Charles II. (in contending against whose family, his mother had lost her life,) paid his state visit to the College, as thus described by a contemporary:-"The king, on the 15th of April, visited the famous College of Physicians of London, and was received very honourably by the doctors. There he saw the marble statue of Harvey, the chief pilot of the blood's circulation, and heard the President Ent, with equal eloquence and art, reading upon the mysteries of anatomy,-whom there he knighted. There he saw the chief physician Bates, renowned in the skill of physic and of Latine; and Fraser, his chief physician since; and Glisson, excellent in medicine and philosophy; and successful Micklethwait; and much-esteemed Cox; and Scarborough, accomplished in all natural philosophy, and no less famous among the muses with Wharton, the secretary of the glandules; and acute Merret; besides many others eminent in the art of curing; to whom at length were associated Willis, the great restorer of medicine, but of too short a life, with Lower and Needham, who have illustrated this faculty by their writings.' These were the men with whom Sydenham had to contend in the generous or ungenerous rivalry of professional ambition. The incidents preserved of his career, beyond his contributions to medical literature, are few and uninteresting. He was a great sufferer from gout, and died in the year 1689, at the age of sixty-five. He was buried in the 1 Skinner, op. cit.
church of St. James's, Westminster, and over his tomb was
"Prope hunc locum sepultus est Thomas Sydenham,
Medicus in omne ævum nobilis."
Let us now attempt to discover from his writings, how far this bold prediction that Sydenham was for ever to be held as one of the nobles of medicine is likely to be fulfilled.
All that remains of Sydenham's writing is contained in 646 octavo pages. Of these 232 pages consist of descriptions of the various epidemics which he had himself observed. The remainder is divided between a few monographs upon particular diseases, such as hysteria, gout, dropsy, &c., and a collection of practical memoranda or empirical formulæ, for the guidance of the practitioner of medicine. For example, we have this short and characteristic memorandum :
"On Colica Pictonum.
"This is a sort of colic which is wont to degenerate into palsy, depriving the patient of the use both of his hands and feet (a fact noted by Proerius in his chapter on Palsy), and which is extremely common in the West Indies, where it destroys many persons.
"Balsam of Peru, in large and frequent doses, is the cure for the pain.
"Twenty, thirty, or even forty minims, dropped upon a lump of fine white sugar, should be given twice or thrice a day. This, however, will not cure the palsy." 2
It will be seen, from this analysis of Sydenham's writings, that they are all of a strictly practical character. His claims for perpetual remembrance rest upon the wisdom of the advice contained in his works, and not upon their literary merits a fact which reduces to insignificance the question keenly debated by his critics, as to whether he wrote in Latin or English. That he was a well-educated gentleman, and as such was familiar with the Latin lan
1 Sydenham's Works.
2 Vol. II., p. 268.
guage, is called in question by no one; that he was not a great classical scholar seems plain from the whole constitution of his intellect. The form of expression was obviously very indifferent to him, so long as he made his meaning clear. We encounter throughout his writings the constant recurrence of certain phrases, such as "Qua data porta ruit," and "Periculosæ plenum opus aleæ," showing a certain poverty of language; and his classical allusions are said not to be always accurate. The fact of his having been on intimate terms with the Honourable Robert Boyle, is far more interesting to us than his acquaintance with Latin or with even Locke, of which so much has been said, and said well,1
The following passage is so like what Boyle might have written, that it reads like a quotation from his works:—“ I would recommend writers, before they blame others, to try their hand upon some common phenomena of nature that meet us at every turn. For instance, I would fain know why a horse attains his prime at seven, and a man at oneand-twenty years? Why, in the vegetable kingdom, some plants blow in May, and others in June? There are numberless questions of this sort. Hence, if many men of consummate wisdom are not ashamed to proclaim their ignorance in these matters, I cannot see why I am to be called in question for doing the same. Etiology is a difficult and perhaps an inexplicable affair, and I choose to keep my hands clear of it." We may take this passage as an emphatic declaration of the adherence of Sydenham to the school of Bacon and Boyle. He was, probably, the most accurate observer and the freest thinker of all the physicians of his age; and his attitude towards traditional medicine on the one hand, and towards the great innovation of his day on the other, is not that of a man who, strongly alive to the imperfections both of the old and of
1 North British Review for 1850. See Locke and Sydenham.
the new, takes his refuge in general doubt; he is an example of one of the rarest and highest kind of character, for while he eagerly accepted every improvement in the art he practised, and was painfully aware that the means he employed were often mischievous, yet, like a stout-hearted soldier, he did his best with the weapons at his command. He was a follower of Hippocrates, in so far, at least, that his treatment was mainly evacuant. He bled freely, and gave sudorifics and purgatives; but he did all this, as it were, under protest. He expressed himself dissatisfied, and evidently regarded this method of practice as merely provisional. He may be looked upon as the herald of something imperfectly perceived,—of a dispensation infinitely better than that in which he was reared. It is a noble spectacle to behold a man discharging his duties to the best of his knowledge, and, in the full enjoyment of profit and admiration, steadily maintaining the radical imperfection of the system he practised and taught with greater success than any of his distinguished contemporaries.
As this view of Sydenham is not the common one; as, indeed, there is a disposition to hold him up as a present guide to practice, this new reading of his character, in order to be accepted, must be justified out of his own lips. The two positions to be proved are— 1st. That Sydenham agreed with Hippocrates, in so far that he attempted to follow or imitate Nature. 2nd. That he differed from Hippocrates in attempting to arrest the natural course of disease, by the administration of specifics.
1st. As to Sydenham's imitating Nature.-"I have already mentioned, in speaking upon the treatment of a fever of a preceding constitution, that during its last years it was occasionally attended with a stupor like the one in question; that this stupor affected more especially children and youths; that it was less profound as well as less