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recounted the story to me. Non sine sensu peccati.' voilà comme ces MM. les antimoniaux se jouent de la vie des hommes, et comme imprudemment ils envoient en l'autre monde leur pauvres malades, avec leur poison, sous ombre d'avoir des remèdes secrets particuliers, qui sont des termes de charlatans, a quibus decipiuntur idiota tam togati quam tunicati.1
In 1654, he writes-" Antimony, which is hardly ever spoken of now, except with detestation, got a deadly blow here yesterday, in the person of one of the members of the council of the court, whose daughter died at the age of fourteen years, carried off by a double dose of antimony."
Such are a few specimens of the terms in which this most polite, accomplished, clever, fashionable, orthodox physician denounced those of his brethren who had the audacity to administer the now popular nursery remedy— antimonial wine. Surely, if history teaches one thing more than another, it is to beware of dogmatism and intolerance. The orthodox of to-day are the heretics of yesterday, and will become again the heretics of to-morrow; and the language they used towards those who introduced or employed a new method or medicine, will be found appropriate against themselves as soon as the novelty has worn off. This famous Guy Patin, for example, who is so unsparing of the antimoniasts, the charlatans, the chemikers, the mountebanks, and so forth, has exposed himself to the severest censure by the severity of his own treatment. He describes how he treated a gentlemen ill of rheumatism whom he bled sixty-four times in eight months, and then purged, "which gave him great relief, and finally cured him." "The idiots," he adds, "who do not understand our method, abscribe the cure to the purging; but if the impetuosity of the vagabond humours had not been repressed by the blood-letting, the purging would have done 1 Op. cit., Lettre 252.
no good." Now-a-days, there are many "idiots," who would deny that the recovery was due either to the bloodletting or the purging; and who would rather wonder that the victim survived this vigorous orthodoxy. Even among his own contemporaries, there were those who denounced the practice of blood-letting as always useless, and generally mischievous. For example, a celebrated Roman
physician, Dr. Lucia Antonio Portio, wrote a book, entitled "Erasistratus: sive de Sanguinis Missione ;" which is in the form of a dialogue between Willis, Van Helmont, and others; and the objections to blood-letting are thus forcibly set forth :
"Willis (loquitur).—In those dyscracias of the blood, in which the nobler and more active principles-such as the spirits, the volatile salts, and sulphur-are depressed or consumed, while the aqueous and terrestrial particles are in excess, blood is not to be drawn, but, on the contrary, to be preserved as the treasury of life. But when the active principles are depressed by the incipient or existing plethora, whether in man or beast, the first and most common indication is to let blood."
To this Van Helmont replies:-" But this benefit will be derived from blood-letting, either never, or at most once or twice, in the course of life: for, as you, Willis, say, after drawing blood once or twice, the necessity of repeating the operation is inevitable; and the more blood you draw, the more does the abundance of blood increase (quo plus mittas eo plus sanguinis copia crescit)." Again, he says, "According to you, Willis, unless there is an excess of vitality, blood-letting is always injurious. But in pleurisy there is never an excess of vitality-not even Methusalem had too much life; and if you perform venesection in this disease, you must always do harm."1 This argument is applicable to all inflammations as well as to pleurisy.
A discussion between the Roman and French doctors 1 Erasistratus. Venice, 1683, p. 48.
would have been most edifying. They were both men of knowledge and wit, and the theory and practice of the one were as much opposed to those of the other as are any of the contending systems of the present day. Each must have looked upon the other as daily prosecuting a system not of cure, but of manslaughter.
The great leader of the chemical sect was Sylvius de la Boe, a Frenchman by extraction and a Dutchman by adoption. He was born in 1614, and studied and practised medicine in Amsterdam, where he became familiar with the views both of Des Cartes and of Van Helmont. He compounded out of the opinions of these two original thinkers a system of his own, of great simplicity and of easy application to practice. In the year 1658 he occupied the chair of medicine at Leyden, and was the most popular teacher of his age. He was the first to introduce the plan of giving lectures upon individual cases treated by himself in the Hospital, and was thus the founder of clinical instruction. Let us observe how fallacious his apparently admirable method may be in the hands of an ingenious theorist. Sylvius de La Boe treated all his patients according to his chemical method, and demonstrated its excellence to the satisfaction of his pupils, thus giving it a position which it could not otherwise have taken. Seeing is believing; his pupils flocked round his beds, saw his treatment, and believed his explanations. The foundation of his system was the assumption that almost all vital action is a kind of fermentation. This fermentation was different from that of Van Helmont, being rather a purely chemical reaction between an indefinite number and quantity of acids and a corresponding number and quantity of alkalies. The process begins as soon as food enters the stomach, the first reaction being caused by the acid saliva and pancreatic fluids meeting the alkaline bile. As the digestion goes on, there is a farther development of acids and alkalies, and liberation of volatile spirits. These spirits
are again received into the chyle, which is composed of a fine oil and a weak acid neutralized by an alkali. Out of this the blood is perfected in the spleen, by the addition of a handsome contingent of vital spirits. The blood thus made he naturally regarded as a most unstable chemical compound, kept in a state of perpetual ebullition by the vital heat; of which performance the heart is the centre, the bowl of the animal retort, whence proceed the vessels which convey the heated liquor to the distant parts. the brain the process of distillation is completed, and the animal spirits are thence diffused by the nerves over the body, to endow every part with its own sensibility and peculiar properties. The spirits that feed the glands unite, in turn, with the acid of the blood; and this forming a sort of naphtha, or animal oil, is dissolved by the lymph, which is made up of a combination of vital spirits and acid.
This physiology has the merit of simplicity, and is easily converted into an equally simple pathology. Does not every brewer know how apt his brewst is to go wrong, -to how many accidents the fermentation is liable? So it is with the chemical works in the human body. "Thus," he says, "I consider the cause of intermittent fevers to be, that some part of the pancreatic juice stagnates in one or more of the pancreatic ducts, and as its habit is-morá suá-it becomes acrid." This acid acrimony is dissolved by the lymph, and poured into the small intestines. Here it comes in contact with the bile, and straightway an effervescence ensues, from which there arises a paroxysm of cold. This acrimony finds its way naturally, sooner or later, to the heart, and thence is distributed over the system.—This, then, is the cause of ague-an acrimony produced by a stoppage of the pores of the pancreas from some confusion among the vortices à la Des Cartes, giving rise to a fermentation à la Van Helmont. Given the cause-and such a cause-can anything be simpler than the true method of treatment?
Surely the obvious antidote for an over acid or acrimonious state of the blood is, to pour into it an alkali which will neutralize this condition. This was his method of cure. He assumed that the blood was too acid or too alkaline: for the former condition he gave largely of salts of ammonia, and for an excess of alkalies he gave opium in equal profusion. He also employed that dire poison, that horror of Guy Patin, Antimony, to rid the system of its excess of either alkaline or acid substances, which were deranging the power of distillation.
Sprengel, after giving an example of some of the receipts rendered popular by Sylvius, breaks forth: "And so the lives of thousands were sacrificed for the sake of an empty chimera! But the spirit of the age, the fashion, willed that the physician should see nothing in the animal economy but fermenting elements and chemical processes; and better far that the patients should die in the fashion than live according to the wisdom of the ancients"! How far the spirit of that age differs from the spirit of this, is a question we shall not venture to moot.
While we agree with Sprengel that it is deplorable that human lives should be sacrificed to idle chimeras, we must avoid the error he seems to commit, of censuring Sylvius de la Boe and his school, for not following "the wisdom of the ancients." The ancients, or the school of tradition, were represented by Galen and his followers; and it would have been as impossible for a man of free and vigorous thought, who saw all around him new forms of disease, engendered by new habits, or imported from newly-discovered countries lying beyond oceans unknown to the ancients, to accommodate his system of treatment to the theories of Galen, as it was to reconcile the geography of Columbus with that of Aristotle or Strabo. Those who, like Guy Patin, acquiesced in traditional medicine, did not think about it at all. In the whole correspondence of Patin,