The Complete PG Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)

Part 47 out of 51

"Think; oh the grievous Effects of Sin! This wretched Infant has not
arrived unto years of sense enough, to sin after the similitude of
the transgression committed by Adam. Nevertheless the Transgression
of Adam, who had all mankind Foederally, yea, Naturally, in him, has
involved this Infant in the guilt of it. And the poison of the old
serpent, which infected Adam when he fell into his Transgression, by
hearkening to the Tempter, has corrupted all mankind, and is a seed
unto such diseases as this Infant is now laboring under. Lord, what
are we, and what are our children, but a Generation of Vipers?"

Many of his remedies are at least harmless, but his pedantry and
utter want of judgment betray themselves everywhere. He piles his
prescriptions one upon another, without the least discrimination. He
is run away with by all sorts of fancies and superstitions. He
prescribes euphrasia, eye-bright, for disease of the eyes; appealing
confidently to the strange old doctrine of signatures, which inferred
its use from the resemblance of its flower to the organ of vision.
For the scattering of wens, the efficacy of a Dead Hand has been out
of measure wonderful. But when he once comes to the odious class of
remedies, he revels in them like a scarabeus. This allusion will
bring us quite near enough to the inconceivable abominations with
which he proposed to outrage the sinful stomachs of the unhappy
confederates and accomplices of Adam.

It is well that the treatise was never printed, yet there are
passages in it worth preserving. He speaks of some remedies which
have since become more universally known:

"Among the plants of our soyl, Sir William Temple singles out Five
[Six] as being of the greatest virtue and most friendly to health:
and his favorite plants, Sage, Rue, Saffron, Alehoof, Garlick, and

"But these Five [Six] plants may admitt of some competitors. The
QUINQUINA--How celebrated: Immoderately, Hyperbolically celebrated!"

Of Ipecacuanha, he says,--
"This is now in its reign; the most fashionable vomit."

"I am not sorry that antimonial emetics begin to be disused."

He quotes "Mr. Lock" as recommending red poppy-water and abstinence
from flesh as often useful in children's diseases.

One of his "Capsula's" is devoted to the animalcular origin of
diseases, at the end of which he says, speaking of remedies for this
supposed source of our distempers:

"Mercury we know thee: But we are afraid thou wilt kill us too, if we
employ thee to kill them that kill us.

"And yett, for the cleansing of the small Blood Vessels, and making
way for the free circulation of the Blood and Lymph--there is nothing
like Mercurial Deobstruents."

From this we learn that mercury was already in common use, and the
subject of the same popular prejudice as in our own time.

His poetical turn shows itself here and there:

"O Nightingale, with a Thorn at thy Breast; Under the trouble of a
Cough, what can be more proper than such thoughts as these?"...

If there is pathos in this, there is bathos in his apostrophe to the
millipede, beginning "Poor sowbug!" and eulogizing the healing
virtues of that odious little beast; of which he tells us to take
"half a pound, putt 'em alive into a quart or two of wine," with
saffron and other drugs, and take two ounces twice a day.

The "Capsula" entitled "Nishmath Chajim" was printed in 1722, at
New London, and is in the possession of our own Society. He means,
by these words, something like the Archxus of Van Helmont, of which
he discourses in a style wonderfully resembling that of Mr. Jenkinson
in the "Vicar of Wakefield." "Many of the Ancients thought there was
much of a Real History in the Parable, and their Opinion was that
there is, DIAPHORA KATA TAS MORPHAS, A Distinction (and so a
Resemblance) of men as to their Shapes after Death." And so on, with
Ireaeus, Tertullian, Thespesius, and "the TA TONE PSEUCONE CROMATA,"
in the place of "Sanconiathon, Manetho, Berosus," and "Anarchon ara
kai ateleutaion to pan."

One other passage deserves notice, as it relates to the single
medical suggestion which does honor to Cotton Mather's memory. It
does not appear that he availed himself of the information which he
says, he obtained from his slave, for such I suppose he was.

In his appendix to "Variolae Triumphatae," he says,--

"There has been a wonderful practice lately used in several parts of
the world, which indeed is not yet become common in our nation.

"I was first informed of it by a Garamantee servant of my own, long
before I knew that any Europeans or Asiaticks had the least
acquaintance with it, and some years before I was enriched with the
communications of the learned Foreigners, whose accounts I found
agreeing with what I received of my servant, when he shewed me the
Scar of the Wound made for the operation; and said, That no person
ever died of the smallpox, in their countrey, that had the courage to
use it.

"I have since met with a considerable Number of these Africans, who
all agree in one story; That in their countrey grandy-many dy of the
small-pox: But now they learn this way: people take juice of smallpox
and cutty-skin and put in a Drop; then by'nd by a little sicky,
sicky: then very few little things like small-pox; and nobody dy of
it; and nobody have small-pox any more. Thus, in Africa, where the
poor creatures dy of the smallpox like Rotten Sheep, a merciful God
has taught them an Infallible preservative. 'T is a common practice,
and is attended with a constant success."

What has come down to us of the first century of medical practice, in
the hands of Winthrop and Oliver, is comparatively simple and
reasonable. I suspect that the conditions of rude, stern life, in
which the colonists found themselves in the wilderness, took the
nonsense out of them, as the exigencies of a campaign did out of our
physicians and surgeons in the late war. Good food and enough of it,
pure air and water, cleanliness, good attendance, an anaesthetic, an
opiate, a stimulant, quinine, and two or three common drugs, proved
to be the marrow of medical treatment; and the fopperies of the
pharmacopoeia went the way of embroidered shirts and white kid gloves
and malacca joints, in their time of need. "Good wine is the best
cordiall for her," said Governor John Winthrop, Junior, to Samuel
Symonds, speaking of that gentleman's wife,--just as Sydenham,
instead of physic, once ordered a roast chicken and a pint of canary
for his patient in male hysterics.

But the profession of medicine never could reach its full development
until it became entirely separated from that of divinity. The
spiritual guide, the consoler in afliction, the confessor who is
admitted into the secrets of our souls, has his own noble sphere of
duties; but the healer of men must confine himself solely to the
revelations of God in nature, as he sees their miracles with his own
eyes. No doctrine of prayer or special providence is to be his
excuse for not looking straight at secondary causes, and acting,
exactly so far as experience justifies him, as if he were himself the
divine agent which antiquity fabled him to be. While pious men were
praying--humbly, sincerely, rightly, according to their knowledge--
over the endless succession of little children dying of spasms in the
great Dublin Hospital, a sagacious physician knocked some holes in
the walls of the ward, let God's blessed air in on the little
creatures, and so had already saved in that single hospital, as it
was soberly calculated thirty years ago, more than sixteen thousand
lives of these infant heirs of immortality. [Collins's Midwifery, p.
312. Published by order of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Boston, 1841.]

Let it be, if you will, that the wise inspiration of the physician
was granted in virtue of the clergyman's supplications. Still, the
habit of dealing with things seen generates another kind of
knowledge, and another way of thought, from that of dealing with
things unseen; which knowledge and way of thought are special means
granted by Providence, and to be thankfully accepted.

The mediaeval ecclesiastics expressed a great truth in that saying,
so often quoted, as carrying a reproach with it: "Ubi tres medici,
duo athei,"--"Where there are three physicians, there are two

It was true then, it is true to-day, that the physician very
commonly, if not very generally, denies and repudiates the deity of
ecclesiastical commerce. The Being whom Ambroise Pare meant when he
spoke those memorable words, which you may read over the professor's
chair in the French School of Medicine, "Te le pensay, et Dieu le
guarit," "I dressed his wound, and God healed it,"--is a different
being from the God that scholastic theologians have projected from
their consciousness, or shaped even from the sacred pages which have
proved so plastic in their hands. He is a God who never leaves
himself without witness, who repenteth him of the evil, who never
allows a disease or an injury, compatible with the enjoyment of life,
to take its course without establishing an effort, limited by certain
fixed conditions, it is true, but an effort, always, to restore the
broken body or the shattered mind. In the perpetual presence of this
great Healing Agent, who stays the bleeding of wounds, who knits the
fractured bone, who expels the splinter by a gentle natural process,
who walls in the inflammation that might involve the vital organs,
who draws a cordon to separate the dead part from the living, who
sends his three natural anaesthetics to the over-tasked frame in due
order, according to its need,--sleep, fainting, death; in this
perpetual presence, it is doubtless hard for the physician to realize
the theological fact of a vast and permanent sphere of the universe,
where no organ finds itself in its natural medium, where no wound
heals kindly, where the executive has abrogated the pardoning power,
and mercy forgets its errand; where the omnipotent is unfelt save in
malignant agencies, and the omnipresent is unseen and unrepresented;
hard to accept the God of Dante's "Inferno," and of Bunyan's caged
lunatic. If this is atheism, call three, instead of two of the trio,
atheists, and it will probably come nearer the truth.

I am not disposed to deny the occasional injurious effect of the
materializing influences to which the physician is subjected.
A spiritual guild is absolutely necessary to keep him, to keep us
all, from becoming the "fingering slaves" that Wordsworth treats with
such shrivelling scorn. But it is well that the two callings have
been separated, and it is fitting that they remain apart. In
settling the affairs of the late concern, I am afraid our good
friends remain a little in our debt. We lent them our physician
Michael Servetus in fair condition, and they returned him so damaged
by fire as to be quite useless for our purposes. Their Reverend
Samuel Willard wrote us a not over-wise report of a case of hysteria;
and our Jean Astruc gave them (if we may trust Dr. Smith's Dictionary
of the Bible) the first discerning criticism on the authorship of the
Pentateuch. Our John Locke enlightened them with his letters
concerning toleration; and their Cotton Mather obscured our twilight
with his "Nishmath Chajim."

Yet we must remember that the name of Basil Valentine, the monk, is
associated with whatever good and harm we can ascribe to antimony;
and that the most remarkable of our specifics long bore the name of
"Jesuit's Bark," from an old legend connected with its introduction.
"Frere Jacques," who taught the lithotomists of Paris, owes his
ecclesiastical title to courtesy, as he did not belong to a religious

Medical science, and especially the study of mental disease, is
destined, I believe, to react to much greater advantage on the
theology of the future than theology has acted on medicine in the
past. The liberal spirit very generally prevailing in both
professions, and the good understanding between their most
enlightened members, promise well for the future of both in a
community which holds every point of human belief, every institution
in human hands, and every word written in a human dialect, open to
free discussion today, to-morrow, and to the end of time. Whether
the world at large will ever be cured of trusting to specifics as a
substitute for observing the laws of health, and to mechanical or
intellectual formula as a substitute for character, may admit of
question. Quackery and idolatry are all but immortal.

We can find most of the old beliefs alive amongst us to-day, only
having changed their dresses and the social spheres in which they
thrive. We think the quarrels of Galenists and chemists belong to
the past, forgetting that Thomsonism has its numerous apostles in our
community; that it is common to see remedies vaunted as purely
vegetable, and that the prejudice against "mineral poisons,"
especially mercury, is as strong in many quarters now as it was at
the beginning of the seventeenth century. Names are only air, and
blow away with a change of wind; but beliefs are rooted in human
wants and weakness, and die hard. The oaks of Dodona are prostrate,
and the shrine of Delphi is desolate; but the Pythoness and the Sibyl
may be consulted in Lowell Street for a very moderate compensation.
Nostradamus and Lilly seem impossible in our time; but we have seen
the advertisements of an astrologer in our Boston papers year after
year, which seems to imply that he found believers and patrons. You
smiled when I related Sir Kenelm Digby's prescription with the live
eel in it; but if each of you were to empty his or her pockets, would
there not roll out, from more than one of them, a horse-chestnut,
carried about as a cure for rheumatism? The brazen head of Roger
Bacon is mute; but is not "Planchette" uttering her responses in a
hundred houses of this city? We think of palmistry or chiromancy as
belonging to the days of Albertus Magnus, or, if existing in our
time, as given over to the gypsies; but a very distinguished person
has recently shown me the line of life, and the line of fortune, on
the palm of his hand, with a seeming confidence in the sanguine
predictions of his career which had been drawn from them. What shall
we say of the plausible and well-dressed charlatans of our own time,
who trade in false pretences, like Nicholas Knapp of old, but without
any fear of being fined or whipped; or of the many follies and
inanities, imposing on the credulous part of the community, each of
them gaping with eager, open mouth for a gratuitous advertisement by
the mention of its foolish name in any respectable connection?

I turn from this less pleasing aspect of the common intelligence
which renders such follies possible, to close the honorable record of
the medical profession in this, our ancient Commonwealth.

We have seen it in the first century divided among clergymen,
magistrates, and regular practitioners; yet, on the whole, for the
time, and under the circumstances, respectable, except where it
invoked supernatural agencies to account for natural phenomena.

In the second century it simplified its practice, educated many
intelligent practitioners, and began the work of organizing for
concerted action, and for medical teaching.

In this, our own century, it has built hospitals, perfected and
multiplied its associations and educational institutions, enlarged
and created museums, and challenged a place in the world of science
by its literature.

In reviewing the whole course of its history we read a long list of
honored names, and a precious record written in private memories, in
public charities, in permanent contributions to medical science, in
generous sacrifices for the country. We can point to our capital as
the port of entry for the New World of the great medical discoveries
of two successive centuries, and we can claim for it the triumph over
the most dreaded foe that assails the human body,--a triumph which
the annals of the race can hardly match in three thousand years of
medical history.


[A Valedictory Address delivered to the Graduating Class of the
Bellevue Hospital College, March 2, 1871.]

The occasion which calls us together reminds us not a little of that
other ceremony which unites a man and woman for life. The banns have
already been pronounced which have wedded our young friends to the
profession of their choice. It remains only to address to them some
friendly words of cheering counsel, and to bestow upon them the
parting benediction.

This is not the time for rhetorical display or ambitious eloquence.
We must forget ourselves, and think only of them. To us it is an
occasion; to them it is an epoch. The spectators at the wedding look
curiously at the bride and bridegroom; at the bridal veil, the
orange-flower garland, the giving and receiving of the ring; they
listen for the tremulous "I will," and wonder what are the mysterious
syllables the clergyman whispers in the ear of the married maiden.
But to the newly-wedded pair what meaning in those words, "for
better, for worse," "in sickness and in health," "till death us do
part!" To the father, to the mother, who know too well how often the
deadly nightshade is interwoven with the wreath of orange-blossoms,
how empty the pageant, how momentous the reality!

You will not wonder that I address myself chiefly to those who are
just leaving academic life for the sterner struggle and the larger
tasks of matured and instructed manhood. The hour belongs to them;
if others find patience to listen, they will kindly remember that,
after all, they are but as the spectators at the wedding, and that
the priest is thinking less of them than of their friends who are
kneeling at the altar.

I speak more directly to you, then, gentlemen of the graduating
class. The days of your education, as pupils of trained instructors,
are over. Your first harvest is all garnered. Henceforth you are to
be sowers as well as reapers, and your field is the world. How does
your knowledge stand to-day? What have you gained as a permanent
possession? What must you expect to forget? What remains for you
yet to learn? These are questions which it may interest you to

There is another question which must force itself on the thoughts of
many among you: "How am I to obtain patients and to keep their
confidence? "You have chosen a laborious calling, and made many
sacrifices to fit yourselves for its successful pursuit. You wish to
be employed that you may be useful, and that you may receive the
reward of your industry. I would take advantage of these most
receptive moments to give you some hints which may help you to
realize your hopes and expectations. Such is the outline of the
familiar talk I shall offer you.

Your acquaintance with some of the accessory branches is probably
greater now than it will be in a year from now,--much greater than it
will by ten years from now. The progress of knowledge, it may be
feared, or hoped, will have outrun the text-books in which you
studied these branches. Chemistry, for instance, is very apt to
spoil on one's hands. "Nous avons change tout cela" might serve as
the standing motto of many of our manuals. Science is a great
traveller, and wears her shoes out pretty fast, as might be expected.

You are now fresh from the lecture-room and the laboratory. You can
pass an examination in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, materia
medica, which the men in large practice all around you would find a
more potent sudorific than any in the Pharmacopceia. These masters
of the art of healing were once as ready with their answers as you
are now, but they have got rid of a great deal of the less
immediately practical part of their acquisitions, and you must
undergo the same depleting process. Hard work will train it off, as
sharp exercise trains off the fat of a prize-fighter.

Yet, pause a moment before you infer that your teachers must have
been in fault when they furnished you with mental stores not directly
convertible to practical purposes, and likely in a few years to lose
their place in your memory. All systematic knowledge involves much
that is not practical, yet it is the only kind of knowledge which
satisfies the mind, and systematic study proves, in the long-run, the
easiest way of acquiring and retaining facts which are practical.
There are many things which we can afford to forget, which yet it was
well to learn. Your mental condition is not the same as if you had
never known what you now try in vain to recall. There is a perpetual
metempsychosis of thought, and the knowledge of to-day finds a soil
in the forgotten facts of yesterday. You cannot see anything in the
new season of the guano you placed last year about the roots of your
climbing plants, but it is blushing and breathing fragrance in your
trellised roses; it has scaled your porch in the bee-haunted honey-
suckle; it has found its way where the ivy is green; it is gone where
the woodbine expands its luxuriant foliage.

Your diploma seems very broad to-day with your list of
accomplishments, but it begins to shrink from this hour like the Peau
de Chagrin of Balzac's story. Do not worry about it, for all the
while there will be making out for you an ampler and fairer
parchment, signed by old Father Time himself as President of that
great University in which experience is the one perpetual and all-
sufficient professor.

Your present plethora of acquirements will soon cure itself.
Knowledge that is not wanted dies out like the eyes of the fishes of
the Mammoth Cave. When you come to handle life and death as your
daily business, your memory will of itself bid good-by to such
inmates as the well-known foramina of the sphenoid bone and the
familiar oxides of methyl-ethylamyl-phenyl-ammonium. Be thankful
that you have once known them, and remember that even the learned
ignorance of a nomenclature is something to have mastered, and may
furnish pegs to hang facts upon which would otherwise have strewed
the floor of memory in loose disorder.

But your education has, after all, been very largely practical. You
have studied medicine and surgery, not chiefly in books, but at the
bedside and in the operating amphitheatre. It is the special
advantage of large cities that they afford the opportunity of seeing
a great deal of disease in a short space of time, and of seeing many
cases of the same kind of disease brought together. Let us not be
unjust to the claims of the schools remote from the larger centres of
population. Who among us has taught better than Nathan Smith, better
than Elisha Bartlett? who teaches better than some of our living
contemporaries who divide their time between city and country
schools? I am afraid we do not always do justice to our country
brethren, whose merits are less conspicuously exhibited than those of
the great city physicians and surgeons, such especially as have
charge of large hospitals. There are modest practitioners living in
remote rural districts who are gifted by nature with such sagacity
and wisdom, trained so well in what is most essential to the practice
of their art, taught so thoroughly by varied experience, forced to
such manly self-reliance by their comparative isolation, that, from
converse with them alone, from riding with them on their long rounds
as they pass from village to village, from talking over cases with
them, putting up their prescriptions, watching their expedients,
listening to their cautions, marking the event of their predictions,
hearing them tell of their mistakes, and now and then glory a little
in the detection of another's blunder, a young man would find himself
better fitted for his real work than many who have followed long
courses of lectures and passed a showy examination. But the young
man is exceptionally fortunate who enjoys the intimacy of such a
teacher. And it must be confessed that the great hospitals,
infirmaries, and dispensaries of large cities, where men of well-
sifted reputations are in constant attendance, are the true centres
of medical education. No students, I believe, are more thoroughly
aware of this than those who have graduated at this institution.
Here, as in all our larger city schools, the greatest pains are taken
to teach things as well as names. You have entered into the
inheritance of a vast amount of transmitted skill and wisdom, which
you have taken, warm, as it were, with the life of your well-schooled
instructors. You have not learned all that art has to teach you, but
you are safer practitioners to-day than were many of those whose
names we hardly mention without a genuflection. I had rather be
cared for in a fever by the best-taught among you than by the
renowned Fernelius or the illustrious Boerhaave, could they come back
to us from that better world where there are no physicians needed,
and, if the old adage can be trusted, not many within call. I had
rather have one of you exercise his surgical skill upon me than find
myself in the hands of a resuscitated Fabricius Hildanus, or even of
a wise Ambroise Pare, revisiting earth in the light of the nineteenth

You will not accuse me of underrating your accomplishments. You know
what to do for a child in a fit, for an alderman in an apoplexy, for
a girl that has fainted, for a woman in hysterics, for a leg that is
broken, for an arm that is out of joint, for fevers of every color,
for the sailor's rheumatism, and the tailor's cachexy. In fact you
do really know so much at this very hour, that nothing but the
searching test of time can fully teach you the limitations of your

Of some of these you will permit me to remind you. You will never
have outgrown the possibility of new acquisitions, for Nature is
endless in her variety. But even the knowledge which you may be said
to possess will be a different thing after long habit has made it a
part of your existence. The tactus eruditus extends to the mind as
well as to the finger-ends. Experience means the knowledge gained by
habitual trial, and an expert is one who has been in the habit of
trying. This is the kind of knowledge that made Ulysses wise in the
ways of men. Many cities had he seen, and known the minds of those
who dwelt in them. This knowledge it was that Chaucer's Shipman
brought home with him from the sea a

"In many a tempest had his berd be shake."

This is the knowledge we place most confidence in, in the practical
affairs of life.

Our training has two stages. The first stage deals with our
intelligence, which takes the idea of what is to be done with the
most charming ease and readiness. Let it be a game of billiards, for
instance, which the marker is going to teach us. We have nothing to
do but to make this ball glance from that ball and hit that other
ball, and to knock that ball with this ball into a certain caecal
sacculus or diverticulum which our professional friend calls a
pocket. Nothing can be clearer; it is as easy as "playing upon this
pipe," for which Hamlet gives Guildenstern such lucid directions.
But this intelligent Me, who steps forward as the senior partner in
our dual personality, turns out to be a terrible bungler. He misses
those glancing hits which the hard-featured young professional person
calls "carroms," and insists on pocketing his own ball instead of the
other one.

It is the unintelligent Me, stupid as an idiot, that has to try a
thing a thousand times before he can do it, and then never knows how
he does it, that at last does it well. We have to educate ourselves
through the pretentious claims of intellect, into the humble accuracy
of instinct, and we end at last by acquiring the dexterity, the
perfection, the certainty, which those masters of arts, the bee and
the spider, inherit from Nature.

Book-knowledge, lecture-knowledge, examination-knowledge, are all in
the brain. But work-knowledge is not only in the brain, it is in the
senses, in the muscles, in the ganglia of the sympathetic nerves,--
all over the man, as one may say, as instinct seems diffused through
every part of those lower animals that have no such distinct organ as
a brain. See a skilful surgeon handle a broken limb; see a wise old
physician smile away a case that looks to a novice as if the sexton
would soon be sent for; mark what a large experience has done for
those who were fitted to profit by it, and you will feel convinced
that, much as you know, something is still left for you to learn.

May I venture to contrast youth and experience in medical practice,
something in the way the man painted the lion, that is, the lion

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows-the exceptions.
The young man knows his patient, but the old man knows also his
patient's family, dead and alive, up and down for generations. He
can tell beforehand what diseases their unborn children will be
subject to, what they will die of if they live long enough, and
whether they had better live at all, or remain unrealized
possibilities, as belonging to a stock not worth being perpetuated.
The young man feels uneasy if he is not continually doing something
to stir up his patient's internal arrangements. The old man takes
things more quietly, and is much more willing to let well enough
alone: All these superiorities, if such they are,'you must wait for
time to bring you. In the meanwhile (if we will let the lion be
uppermost for a moment), the young man's senses are quicker than
those of his older rival. His education in all the accessory
branches is more recent, and therefore nearer the existing condition
of knowledge. He finds it easier than his seniors to accept the
improvements which every year is bringing forward. New ideas build
their nests in young men's brains. "Revolutions are not made by men
in spectacles," as I once heard it remarked, and the first whispers
of a new truth are not caught by those who begin to feel the need of
an ear-trumpet. Granting all these advantages to the young man, he
ought, nevertheless, to go on improving, on the whole, as a medical
practitioner, with every year, until he has ripened into a well-
mellowed maturity. But, to improve, he must be good for something at
the start. If you ship a poor cask of wine to India and back, if you
keep it a half a century, it only grows thinner and sharper.

You are soon to enter into relations with the public, to expend your
skill and knowledge for its benefit, and find your support in the
rewards of your labor. What kind of a constituency is this which is
to look to you as its authorized champions in the struggle of life
against its numerous enemies?

In the first place, the persons who seek the aid of the physician are
very honest and sincere in their wish to get rid of their complaints,
and, generally speaking, to live as long as they can. However
attractively the future is painted to them, they are attached to the
planet with which they are already acquainted. They are addicted to
the daily use of this empirical and unchemical mixture which we call
air; and would hold on to it as a tippler does to his alcoholic
drinks. There is nothing men will not do, there is nothing they have
not done, to recover their health and save their lives. They have
submitted to be half-drowned in water, and half-choked with gases, to
be buried up to their chins in earth, to be seared with hot irons
like galley-slaves, to be crimped with knives, like cod-fish, to have
needles thrust into their flesh, and bonfires kindled on their skin,
to swallow all sorts of abominations, and to pay for all this, as if
to be singed and scalded were a costly privilege, as if blisters were
a blessing, and leeches were a luxury. What more can be asked to
prove their honesty and sincerity?

This same community is very intelligent with respect to a great many
subjects-commerce, mechanics, manufactures, politics. But with
regard to medicine it is hopelessly ignorant and never finds it out.
I do not know that it is any worse in this country than in Great
Britain, where Mr. Huxley speaks very freely of "the utter ignorance
of the simplest laws of their own animal life, which prevails among
even the most highly educated persons." And Cullen said before him
"Neither the acutest genius nor the soundest judgment will avail in
judging of a particular science, in regard to which they have not
been exercised. I have been obliged to please my patients sometimes
with reasons, and I have found that any will pass, even with able
divines and acute lawyers; the same will pass with the husbands as
with the wives." If the community could only be made aware of its
own utter ignorance, and incompetence to form opinions on medical
subjects, difficult enough to those who give their lives to the study
of them, the practitioner would have an easier task. But it will
form opinions of its own, it cannot help it, and we cannot blame it,
even though we know how slight and deceptive are their foundations.

This is the way it happens: Every grown-up person has either been ill
himself or had a friend suffer from illness, from which he has
recovered. Every sick person has done something or other by
somebody's advice, or of his own accord, a little before getting
better. There is an irresistible tendency to associate the thing
done, and the improvement which followed it, as cause and effect.
This is the great source of fallacy in medical practice. But the
physician has some chance of correcting his hasty inference. He
thinks his prescription cured a single case of a particular
complaint; he tries it in twenty similar cases without effect, and
sets down the first as probably nothing more than a coincidence. The
unprofessional experimenter or observer has no large experience to
correct his hasty generalization. He wants to believe that the means
he employed effected his cure. He feels grateful to the person who
advised it, he loves to praise the pill or potion which helped him,
and he has a kind of monumental pride in himself as a living
testimony to its efficacy. So it is that you will find the community
in which you live, be it in town or country, full of brands plucked
from the burning, as they believe, by some agency which, with your
better training, you feel reasonably confident had nothing to do with
it. Their disease went out of itself, and the stream from the
medical fire-annihilator had never even touched it.

You cannot and need not expect to disturb the public in the
possession of its medical superstitions. A man's ignorance is as
much his private property, and as precious in his own eyes, as his
family Bible. You have only to open your own Bible at the ninth
chapter of St. John's Gospel, and you will find that the logic of a
restored patient was very simple then, as it is now, and very hard to
deal with. My clerical friends will forgive me for poaching on their
sacred territory, in return for an occasional raid upon the medical
domain of which they have now and then been accused.

A blind man was said to have been restored to sight by a young person
whom the learned doctors of the Jewish law considered a sinner, and,
as such, very unlikely to have been endowed with a divine gift of
healing. They visited the patient repeatedly, and evidently teased
him with their questions about the treatment, and their insinuations
about the young man, until he lost his temper. At last he turned
sharply upon them: "Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one
thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see."

This is the answer that always has been and always will be given by
most persons when they find themselves getting well after doing
anything, no matter what,--recommended by anybody, no matter whom.
Lord Bacon, Robert Boyle, Bishop Berkeley, all put their faith in
panaceas which we should laugh to scorn. They had seen people get
well after using them. Are we any wiser than those great men? Two
years ago, in a lecture before the Massachusetts Historical Society,
I mentioned this recipe of Sir Kenelm Digby for fever and ague: Pare
the patient's nails; put the parings in a little bag, and hang the
bag round the neck of a live eel, and place him in a tub of water.
The eel will die, and the patient will recover.

Referring to this prescription in the course of the same lecture, I
said: "You smiled when I related Sir Kenehn Digby's prescription,
with the live eel in it; but if each of you were to empty his or her
pockets, would there not roll out, from more than one of them, a
horse-chestnut, carried about as a cure for rheumatism?" Nobody saw
fit to empty his or her pockets, and my question brought no response.
But two months ago I was in a company of educated persons, college
graduates every one of them, when a gentleman, well known in our
community, a man of superior ability and strong common-sense, on the
occasion of some talk arising about rheumatism, took a couple of very
shiny horse-chestnuts from his breeches-pocket, and laid them on the
table, telling us how, having suffered from the complaint in
question, he had, by the advice of a friend, procured these two
horse-chestnuts on a certain time a year or more ago, and carried
them about him ever since; from which very day he had been entirely
free from rheumatism.

This argument, from what looks like cause and effect, whether it be
so or not, is what you will have to meet wherever you go, and you
need not think you can answer it. In the natural course of things
some thousands of persons must be getting well or better of slight
attacks of colds, of rheumatic pains, every week, in this city alone.
Hundreds of them do something or other in the way of remedy, by
medical or other advice, or of their own motion, and the last thing
they do gets the credit of the recovery. Think what a crop of
remedies this must furnish, if it were all harvested!

Experience has taught, or will teach you, that most of the wonderful
stories patients and others tell of sudden and signal cures are like
Owen Glendower's story of the portents that announced his birth. The
earth shook at your nativity, did it? Very likely, and

"So it would have done,
At the same season, if your mother's cat
Had kittened, though yourself had ne'er been born."

You must listen more meekly than Hotspur did to the babbling
Welshman, for ignorance is a solemn and sacred fact, and, like
infancy, which it resembles, should be respected. Once in a while
you will have a patient of sense, born with the gift of observation,
from whom you may learn something. When you find yourself in the
presence of one who is fertile of medical opinions, and affluent in
stories of marvellous cures,--of a member of Congress whose name
figures in certificates to the value of patent medicines, of a
voluble dame who discourses on the miracles she has wrought or seen
wrought with the little jokers of the sugar-of-milk globule-box, take
out your watch and count the pulse; also note the time of day, and
charge the price of a visit for every extra fifteen, or, if you are
not very busy, every twenty minutes. In this way you will turn what
seems a serious dispensation into a double blessing, for this class
of patients loves dearly to talk, and it does them a deal of good,
and you feel as if you had earned your money by the dose you have
taken, quite as honestly as by any dose you may have ordered.

You must take the community just as it is, and make the best of it.
You wish to obtain its confidence; there is a short rule for doing
this which you will find useful,--deserve it. But, to deserve it in
full measure, you must unite many excellences, natural and acquired.

As the basis of all the rest, you must have all those traits of
character which fit you to enter into the most intimate and
confidential relations with the families of which you are the
privileged friend and counsellor. Medical Christianity, if I may use
such a term, is of very early date. By the oath of Hippocrates, the
practitioner of ancient times bound himself to enter his patient's
house with the sole purpose of doing him good, and so to conduct
himself as to avoid the very appearance of evil. Let the physician
of to-day begin by coming up to this standard, and add to it all the
more recently discovered virtues and graces.

A certain amount of natural ability is requisite to make you a good
physician, but by no means that disproportionate development of some
special faculty which goes by the name of genius. A just balance of
the mental powers is a great deal more likely to be useful than any
single talent, even were it the power of observation; in excess. For
a mere observer is liable to be too fond of facts for their own sake,
so that, if he told the real truth, he would confess that he takes
more pleasure in a post-mortem examination which shows him what was
the matter with a patient, than in a case which insists on getting
well and leaving him in the dark as to its nature. Far more likely
to interfere with the sound practical balance of the mind is that
speculative, theoretical tendency which has made so many men noted in
their day, whose fame has passed away with their dissolving theories.
Read Dr. Bartlett's comparison of the famous Benjamin Rush with his
modest fellow-townsman Dr. William Currie, and see the dangers into
which a passion for grandiose generalizations betrayed a man of many
admirable qualities.

I warn you against all ambitious aspirations outside of your
profession. Medicine is the most difficult of sciences and the most
laborious of arts. It will task all your powers of body and mind if
you are faithful to it. Do not dabble in the muddy sewer of
politics, nor linger by the enchanted streams of literature, nor dig
in far-off fields for the hidden waters of alien sciences. The great
practitioners are generally those who concentrate all their powers on
their business. If there are here and there brilliant exceptions, it
is only in virtue of extraordinary gifts, and industry to which very
few are equal.

To get business a man mast really want it; and do you suppose that
when you are in the middle of a heated caucus, or half-way through a
delicate analysis, or in the spasm of an unfinished ode, your eyes
rolling in the fine frenzy of poetical composition, you want to be
called to a teething infant, or an ancient person groaning under the
griefs of a lumbago? I think I have known more than one young man
whose doctor's sign proclaimed his readiness to serve mankind in that
capacity, but who hated the sound of a patient's knock, and as he sat
with his book or his microscope, felt exactly as the old party
expressed himself in my friend Mr. Brownell's poem

"All I axes is, let me alone."

The community soon finds out whether you are in earnest, and really
mean business, or whether you are one of those diplomaed dilettanti
who like the amusement of quasi medical studies, but have no idea of
wasting their precious time in putting their knowledge in practice
for the benefit of their suffering fellow-creatures.

The public is a very incompetent judge of your skill and knowledge,
but it gives its confidence most readily to those who stand well with
their professional brethren, whom they call upon when they themselves
or their families are sick, whom they choose to honorable offices,
whose writings and teachings they hold in esteem. A man may be much
valued by the profession and yet have defects which prevent his
becoming a favorite practitioner, but no popularity can be depended
upon as permanent which is not sanctioned by the judgment of
professional experts, and with these you will always stand on your
substantial merits.

What shall I say of the personal habits you must form if you wish for
success? Temperance is first upon the list. Intemperance in a
physician partakes of the guilt of homicide, for the muddled brain
may easily make a fatal blunder in a prescription and the unsteady
hand transfix an artery in an operation. Tippling doctors have been
too common in the history of medicine. Paracelsus was a sot,
Radcliffe was much too fond of his glass, and Dr. James Hurlbut of
Wethersfield, Connecticut, a famous man in his time, used to drink a
square bottle of rum a day, with a corresponding allowance of opium
to help steady his nerves. We commonly speak of a man as being the
worse for liquor, but I was asking an Irish laborer one day about his
doctor, who, as he said, was somewhat given to drink. "I like him
best when he's a little that way," he said; "then I can spake to
him." I pitied the poor patient who could not venture to allude to
his colic or his pleurisy until his physician was tipsy.

There are personal habits of less gravity than the one I have
mentioned which it is well to guard against, or, if they are formed,
to relinquish. A man who may be called at a moment's warning into
the fragrant boudoir of suffering loveliness should not unsweeten its
atmosphere with reminiscences of extinguished meerschaums. He should
remember that the sick are sensitive and fastidious, that they love
the sweet odors and the pure tints of flowers, and if his presence is
not like the breath of the rose, if his hands are not like the leaf
of the lily, his visit may be unwelcome, and if he looks behind him
he may see a window thrown open after he has left the sick-chamber.
I remember too well the old doctor who sometimes came to help me
through those inward griefs to which childhood is liable. "Far off
his coming "--shall I say "shone," and finish the Miltonic phrase, or
leave the verb to the happy conjectures of my audience? Before him
came a soul-subduing whiff of ipecacuanha, and after him lingered a
shuddering consciousness of rhubarb. He had lived so much among his
medicaments that he had at last become himself a drug, and to have
him pass through a sick-chamber was a stronger dose than a
conscientious disciple of Hahnemann would think it safe to

Need I remind yon of the importance of punctuality in your
engagements, and of the worry and distress to patients and their
friends which the want of it occasions? One of my old teachers
always carried two watches, to make quite sure of being exact, and
not only kept his appointments with the regularity of a chronometer,
but took great pains to be at his patient's house at the time when he
had reason to believe he was expected, even if no express appointment
was made. It is a good rule; if you call too early, my lady's hair
may not be so smooth as could be wished, and, if you keep her waiting
too long, her hair may be smooth, but her temper otherwise.

You will remember, of course, always to get the weather-gage of your
patient. I mean, to place him so that the light falls on his face
and not on yours. It is a kind of, ocular duel that is about to take
place between you; you are going to look through his features into
his pulmonary and hepatic and other internal machinery, and he is
going to look into yours quite as sharply to see what you think about
his probabilities for time or eternity.

No matter how hard he stares at your countenance, he should never be
able to read his fate in it. It should be cheerful as long as there
is hope, and serene in its gravity when nothing is left but
resignation. The face of a physician, like that of a diplomatist,
should be impenetrable. Nature is a benevolent old hypocrite; she
cheats the sick and the dying with illusions better than any
anodynes. If there are cogent reasons why a patient should be
undeceived, do it deliberately and advisedly, but do not betray your
apprehensions through your tell-tale features.

We had a physician in our city whose smile was commonly reckoned as
being worth five thousand dollars a year to him, in the days, too, of
moderate incomes. You cannot put on such a smile as that any more
than you can get sunshine without sun; there was a tranquil and
kindly nature under it that irradiated the pleasant face it made one
happier to meet on his daily rounds. But you can cultivate the
disposition, and it will work its way through to the surface, nay,
more,--you can try to wear a quiet and encouraging look, and it will
react on your disposition and make you like what you seem to be, or
at least bring you nearer to its own likeness.

Your patient has no more right to all the truth you know than he has
to all the medicine in your saddlebags, if you carry that kind of
cartridge-box for the ammunition that slays disease. He should get
only just so much as is good for him. I have seen a physician
examining a patient's chest stop all at once, as he brought out a
particular sound with a tap on the collarbone, in the attitude of a
pointer who has just come on the scent or sight of a woodcock. You
remember the Spartan boy, who, with unmoved countenance, hid the fox
that was tearing his vitals beneath his mantle. What he could do in
his own suffering you must learn to do for others on whose vital
organs disease has fastened its devouring teeth. It is a terrible
thing to take away hope, even earthly hope, from a fellow-creature.
Be very careful what names you let fall before your patient. He
knows what it means when you tell him he has tubercles or Bright's
disease, and, if he hears the word carcinoma, he will certainly look
it out in a medical dictionary, if he does not interpret its dread
significance on the instant. Tell him he has asthmatic symptoms, or
a tendency to the gouty diathesis, and he will at once think of all
the asthmatic and gouty old patriarchs he has ever heard of, and be
comforted. You need not be so cautious in speaking of the health of
rich and remote relatives, if he is in the line of succession.

Some shrewd old doctors have a few phrases always on hand for
patients that will insist on knowing the pathology of their
complaints without the slightest capacity of understanding the
scientific explanation. I have known the term "spinal irritation"
serve well on such occasions, but I think nothing on the whole has
covered so much ground, and meant so little, and given such profound
satisfaction to all parties, as the magnificent phrase "congestion of
the portal system."

Once more, let me recommend you, as far as possible, to keep your
doubts to yourself, and give the patient the benefit of your
decision. Firmness, gentle firmness, is absolutely necessary in this
and certain other relations. Mr. Rarey with Cruiser, Richard with
Lady Ann, Pinel with his crazy people, show what steady nerves can do
with the most intractable of animals, the most irresistible of
despots, and the most unmanageable of invalids.

If you cannot acquire and keep the confidence of your patient, it is
time for you to give place to some other practitioner who can. If
you are wise and diligent, you can establish relations with the best
of them which they will find it very hard to break. But, if they
wish to employ another person, who, as they think, knows more than
you do, do not take it as a personal wrong. A patient believes
another man can save his life, can restore him to health, which, as
he thinks, you have not the skill to do. No matter whether the
patient is right or wrong, it is a great impertinence to think you
have any property in him. Your estimate of your own ability is not
the question, it is what the patient thinks of it. All your wisdom
is to him like the lady's virtue in Raleigh's song:

"If she seem not chaste to me,
What care I how chaste she be?"

What I call a good patient is one who, having found a good physician,
sticks to him till he dies. But there are many very good people who
are not what I call good patients. I was once requested to call on a
lady suffering from nervous and other symptoms. It came out in the
preliminary conversational skirmish, half medical, half social, that
I was the twenty-sixth member of the faculty into whose arms,
professionally speaking, she had successively thrown herself. Not
being a believer in such a rapid rotation of scientific crops, I
gently deposited the burden, commending it to the care of number
twenty-seven, and, him, whoever he might be, to the care of Heaven.

If there happened to be among my audience any person who wished to
know on what principles the patient should choose his physician, I
should give him these few precepts to think over:

Choose a man who is personally agreeable, for a daily visit from an
intelligent, amiable, pleasant, sympathetic person will cost you no
more than one from a sloven or a boor, and his presence will do more
for you than any prescription the other will order.

Let him be a man of recognized good sense in other matters, and the
chance is that he will be sensible as a practitioner.

Let him be a man who stands well with his professional brethren, whom
they approve as honest, able, courteous.

Let him be one whose patients are willing to die in his hands, not
one whom they go to for trifles, and leave as soon as they are in
danger, and who can say, therefore, that he never loses a patient.

Do not leave the ranks of what is called the regular profession,
unless you wish to go farther and fare worse, for you may be assured
that its members recognize no principle which hinders their accepting
any remedial agent proved to be useful, no matter from what quarter
it comes. The difficulty is that the stragglers, organized under
fantastic names in pretentious associations, or lurking in solitary
dens behind doors left ajar, make no real contributions to the art of
healing. When they bring forward a remedial agent like chloral, like
the bromide of potassium, like ether, used as an anesthetic, they
will find no difficulty in procuring its recognition.

Some of you will probably be more or less troubled by the pretensions
of that parody of mediaeval theology which finds its dogma of
hereditary depravity in the doctrine of psora, its miracle of
transubstantiation in the mystery of its triturations and dilutions,
its church in the people who have mistaken their century, and its
priests in those who have mistaken their calling. You can do little
with persons who are disposed to accept these curious medical
superstitions. The saturation-point of individual minds with
reference to evidence, and especially medical evidence, differs, and
must always continue to differ, very widely. There are those whose
minds are satisfied with the decillionth dilution of a scientific
proof. No wonder they believe in the efficacy of a similar
attenuation of bryony or pulsatilla. You have no fulcrum you can
rest upon to lift an error out of such minds as these, often highly
endowed with knowledge and talent, sometimes with genius, but
commonly richer in the imaginative than the observing and reasoning

Let me return once more to the young graduate. Your relations to
your professional brethren may be a source of lifelong happiness and
growth in knowledge and character, or they may make you wretched and
end by leaving you isolated from those who should be your friends and
counsellors. The life of a physician becomes ignoble when he suffers
himself to feed on petty jealousies and sours his temper in perpetual
quarrels. You will be liable to meet an uncomfortable man here and
there in the profession,--one who is so fond of being in hot water
that it is a wonder all the albumen in his body is not coagulated.
There are common barrators among doctors as there are among lawyers,
--stirrers up of strife under one pretext and another, but in reality
because they like it. They are their own worst enemies, and do
themselves a mischief each time they assail their neighbors. In my
student days I remember a good deal of this Donnybrook-Fair style of
quarrelling, more especially in Paris, where some of the noted
surgeons were always at loggerheads, and in one of our lively Western
cities. Soon after I had set up an office, I had a trifling
experience which may serve to point a moral in this direction. I had
placed a lamp behind the glass in the entry to indicate to the
passer-by where relief from all curable infirmities was to be sought
and found. Its brilliancy attracted the attention of a devious
youth, who dashed his fist through the glass and upset my modest
luminary. All he got by his vivacious assault was that he left
portions of integument from his knuckles upon the glass, had a lame
hand, was very easily identified, and had to pay the glazier's bill.
The moral is that, if the brilliancy of another's reputation excites
your belligerent instincts, it is not worth your while to strike at
it, without calculating which of you is likely to suffer most, if you

You may be assured that when an ill-conditioned neighbor is always
complaining of a bad taste in his mouth and an evil atmosphere about
him, there is something wrong about his own secretions. In such
cases there is an alterative regimen of remarkable efficacy: it is a
starvation-diet of letting alone. The great majority of the
profession are peacefully inclined. Their pursuits are eminently
humanizing, and they look with disgust on the personalities which
intrude themselves into the placid domain of an art whose province it
is to heal and not to wound.

The intercourse of teacher and student in a large school is
necessarily limited, but it should be, and, so far as my experience
goes, it is, eminently cordial and kindly. You will leave with
regret, and hold in tender remembrance, those who have taken you by
the hand at your entrance on your chosen path, and led you patiently
and faithfully, until the great gates at its end have swung upon
their hinges, and the world lies open before you. That venerable
oath to which I have before referred bound the student to regard his
instructor in the light of a parent, to treat his children like
brothers, to succor him in his day of need. I trust the spirit of
the oath of Hippocrates is not dead in the hearts of the students of
to-day. They will remember with gratitude every earnest effort,
every encouraging word, which has helped them in their difficult and
laborious career of study. The names they read on their diplomas
will recall faces that are like family-portraits in their memory, and
the echo of voices they have listened to so long will linger in their
memories far into the still evening of their lives.

One voice will be heard no more which has been familiar to many among
you. It is not for me, a stranger to these scenes, to speak his
eulogy. I have no right to sadden this hour by dwelling on the deep
regrets of friendship, or to bid the bitter tears of sorrow flow
afresh. Yet I cannot help remembering what a void the death of such
a practitioner as your late instructor must leave in the wide circle
of those who leaned upon his counsel and assistance in their hour of
need, in a community where he was so widely known and esteemed, in a
school where he bore so important a part. There is no exemption from
the common doom for him who holds the shield to protect others. The
student is called from his bench, the professor from his chair, the
practitioner in his busiest period hears a knock more peremptory than
any patient's midnight summons, and goes on that unreturning visit
which admits of no excuse, and suffers no delay. The call of such a
man away from us is the bereavement of a great family. Nor can we
help regretting the loss for him of a bright and cheerful earthly
future; for the old age of a physician is one of the happiest periods
of his life. He is loved and cherished for what he has been, and
even in the decline of his faculties there are occasions when his
experience is still appealed to, and his trembling hands are looked
to with renewing hope and trust, as being yet able to stay the arm of
the destroyer.

But if there is so much left for age, how beautiful, how inspiring is
the hope of youth! I see among those whom I count as listeners one
by whose side I have sat as a fellow-teacher, and by whose
instructions I have felt myself not too old to profit. As we
borrowed him from your city, I must take this opportunity of telling
you that his zeal, intelligence, and admirable faculty as an
instructor were heartily and universally recognized among us. We
return him, as we trust, uninjured, to the fellow-citizens who have
the privilege of claiming him as their own.

And now, gentlemen of the graduating class, nothing remains but for
me to bid you, in the name of those for whom I am commissioned and
privileged to speak, farewell as students, and welcome as
practitioners. I pronounce the two benedictions in the same breath,
as the late king's demise and the new king's accession are proclaimed
by the same voice at the same moment. You would hardly excuse me if
I stooped to any meaner dialect than the classical and familiar
language of your prescriptions, the same in which your title to the
name of physician is, if, like our own institution, you follow the
ancient usage, engraved upon your diplomas.

Valete, JUVENES, artis medicae studiosi; valete, discipuli, valete,

Salvete, VIRI, artis medicae magister; Salvete amici; salvete


[Dedicatory Address at the opening of the Medical Library in Boston,
December 3, 1878.]

It is my appointed task, my honorable privilege, this evening, to
speak of what has been done by others. No one can bring his tribute
of words into the presence of great deeds, or try with them to
embellish the memory of any inspiring achievement, without feeling
and leaving with others a sense of their insufficiency. So felt
Alexander when he compared even his adored Homer with the hero the
poet had sung. So felt Webster when he contrasted the phrases of
rhetoric with the eloquence of patriotism and of self-devotion. So
felt Lincoln when on the field of Gettysburg he spoke those immortal
words which Pericles could not nave bettered, which Aristotle could
not have criticised. So felt he who wrote the epitaph of the builder
of the dome which looks down on the crosses and weathercocks that
glitter over London.

We are not met upon a battle-field, except so far as every laborious
achievement means a victory over opposition, indifference,
selfishness, faintheartedness, and that great property of mind as
well as matter,--inertia. We are not met in a cathedral, except so
far as every building whose walls are lined with the products of
useful and ennobling thought is a temple of the Almighty, whose
inspiration has given us understanding. But we have gathered within
walls which bear testimony to the self-sacrificing, persevering
efforts of a few young men, to whom we owe the origin and development
of all that excites our admiration in this completed enterprise; and
I might consider my task as finished if I contented myself with
borrowing the last word of the architect's epitaph and only saying,
Look around you!

The reports of the librarian have told or will tell you, in some
detail, what has been accomplished since the 21st of December, 1874,
when six gentlemen met at the house of Dr. Henry Ingersoll Bowditch
to discuss different projects for a medical library. In less than
four years from that time, by the liberality of associations and of
individuals, this collection of nearly ten thousand volumes, of five
thousand pamphlets, and of one hundred and twenty-five journals,
regularly received,--all worthily sheltered beneath this lofty roof,
--has come into being under our eyes. It has sprung up, as it were;
in the night like a mushroom; it stands before us in full daylight as
lusty as an oak, and promising to grow and flourish in the perennial
freshness of an evergreen.

To whom does our profession owe this already large collection of
books, exceeded in numbers only by four or five of the most extensive
medical libraries in the country, and lodged in a building so well
adapted to its present needs? We will not point out individually all
those younger members of the profession who have accomplished what
their fathers and elder brethren had attempted and partially
achieved. We need not write their names on these walls, after the
fashion of those civic dignitaries who immortalize themselves on
tablets of marble and gates of iron. But their contemporaries know
them well, and their descendants will not forget them,--the men who
first met together, the men who have given their time and their
money, the faithful workers, worthy associates of the strenuous
agitator who gave no sleep to his eyes, no slumber to his eyelids,
until he had gained his ends; the untiring, imperturbable, tenacious,
irrepressible, all-subduing agitator who neither rested nor let
others rest until the success of the project was assured. If,
against his injunctions, I name Dr. James Read Chadwick, it is only
my revenge for his having kept me awake so often and so long while he
was urging on the undertaking in which he has been preeminently
active and triumphantly successful.

We must not forget the various medical libraries which preceded this:
that of an earlier period, when Boston contained about seventy
regular practitioners, the collection afterwards transferred to the
Boston Athenaeum; the two collections belonging to the University;
the Treadwell Library at the Massachusetts General Hospital; the
collections of the two societies, that for Medical Improvement and
that for Medical Observation; and more especially the ten thousand
volumes relating to medicine belonging to our noble public city
library,--too many blossoms on the tree of knowledge, perhaps, for
the best fruit to ripen. But the Massachusetts Medical Society now
numbers nearly four hundred members in the city of Boston. The time
had arrived for a new and larger movement. There was needed a place
to which every respectable member of the medical profession could
obtain easy access; where, under one roof, all might find the special
information they were seeking; where the latest medical intelligence
should be spread out daily as the shipping news is posted on the
bulletins of the exchange; where men engaged in a common pursuit
could meet, surrounded by the mute oracles of science and art; where
the whole atmosphere should be as full of professional knowledge as
the apothecary's shop is of the odor of his medicaments. This was
what the old men longed for,--the prophets and kings of the
profession, who

"Desired it long,
But died without the sight."

This is what the young men and those who worked under their guidance
undertook to give us. And now such a library, such a reading-room,
such an exchange, such an intellectual and social meeting place, we
be hold a fact, plain before us. The medical profession of our city,
and, let us add, of all those neighboring places which it can reach
with its iron arms, is united as never before by the commune
vinculum, the common bond of a large, enduring, ennobling, unselfish
interest. It breathes a new air of awakened intelligence. It
marches abreast of the other learned professions, which have long had
their extensive and valuable centralized libraries; abreast of them,
but not promising to be content with that position. What glorifies a
town like a cathedral? What dignifies a province like a university?
What illuminates a country like its scholarship, and what is the nest
that hatches scholars but a library?

The physician, some may say, is a practical man and has little use
for all this book-learning. Every student has heard Sydenham's reply
to Sir Richard Blackmore's question as to what books he should read,
--meaning medical books. "Read Don Quixote," was his famous answer.
But Sydenham himself made medical books and may be presumed to have
thought those at least worth reading. Descartes was asked where was
his library, and in reply held up the dissected body of an animal.
But Descartes made books, great books, and a great many of them. A
physician of common sense without erudition is better than a learned
one without common sense, but the thorough master of his profession
must have learning added to his natural gifts.

It is not necessary to maintain the direct practical utility of all
kinds of learning. Our shelves contain many books which only a
certain class of medical scholars will be likely to consult. There
is a dead medical literature, and there is a live one. The dead is
not all ancient, the live is not all modern. There is none, modern
or ancient, which, if it has no living value for the student, will
not teach him something by its autopsy. But it is with the live
literature of his profession that the medical practitioner is first
of all concerned.

Now there has come a great change in our time over the form in which
living thought presents itself. The first printed books,--the
incunabula,--were inclosed in boards of solid oak, with brazen clasps
and corners; the boards by and by were replaced by pasteboard covered
with calf or sheepskin; then cloth came in and took the place of
leather; then the pasteboard was covered with paper instead of cloth;
and at this day the quarterly, the monthly, the weekly periodical in
its flimsy unsupported dress of paper, and the daily journal, naked
as it came from the womb of the press, hold the larger part of the
fresh reading we live upon. We must have the latest thought in its
latest expression; the page must be newly turned like the morning
bannock; the pamphlet must be newly opened like the ante-prandial

Thus a library, to meet the need of our time, must take, and must
spread out in a convenient form, a great array of periodicals. Our
active practitioners read these by preference over almost everything
else. Our specialists, more particularly, depend on the month's
product, on the yearly crop of new facts, new suggestions, new
contrivances, as much as the farmer on the annual yield of his acres.
One of the first wants, then, of the profession is supplied by our
library in its great array of periodicals from many lands, in many
languages. Such a number of medical periodicals no private library
would have room for, no private person would pay for, or flood his
tables with if they were sent him for nothing. These, I think, with
the reports of medical societies and the papers contributed to them,
will form the most attractive part of our accumulated medical
treasures. They will be also one of our chief expenses, for these
journals must be bound in volumes and they require a great amount of
shelf-room; all this, in addition to the cost of subscription for
those which are not furnished us gratuitously.

It is true that the value of old scientific periodicals is, other
things being equal, in the inverse ratio of their age, for the
obvious reason that what is most valuable in the earlier volumes of a
series is drained off into the standard works with which the
intelligent practitioner is supposed to be familiar. But no extended
record of facts grows too old to be useful, provided only that we
have a ready and sure way of getting at the particular fact or facts
we are in search of.

And this leads me to speak of what I conceive to be one of the
principal tasks to be performed by the present and the coming
generation of scholars, not only in the medical, but in every
department of knowledge. I mean the formation of indexes, and more
especially of indexes to periodical literature.

This idea has long been working in the minds of scholars, and all who
have had occasion to follow out any special subject. I have a right
to speak of it, for I long ago attempted to supply the want of
indexes in some small measure for my own need. I had a very complete
set of the "American Journal of the Medical Sciences;" an entire set
of the "North American Review," and many volumes of the reprints of
the three leading British quarterlies. Of what use were they to me
without general indexes? I looked them all through carefully and
made classified lists of all the articles I thought I should most
care to read. But they soon outgrew my lists. The "North American
Review" kept filling up shelf after shelf, rich in articles which I
often wanted to consult, but what a labor to find them, until the
index of Mr. Gushing, published a few months since, made the contents
of these hundred and twenty volumes as easily accessible as the words
in a dictionary! I had a, copy of good Dr. Abraham Rees's
Cyclopaedia, a treasure-house to my boyhood which has not lost its
value for me in later years. But where to look for what I wanted? I
wished to know, for instance, what Dr. Burney had to say about
singing. Who would have looked for it under the Italian word
cantare? I was curious to learn something of the etchings of
Rembrandt, and where should I find it but under the head "Low
Countries, Engravers of the,"--an elaborate and most valuable article
of a hundred double-columned close-printed quarto pages, to which no
reference, even, is made under the title Rembrandt.

There was nothing to be done, if I wanted to know where that which I
specially cared for was to be found in my Rees's Cyclopaedia, but to
look over every page of its forty-one quarto volumes and make out a
brief list of matters of interest which I could not find by their
titles, and this I did, at no small expense of time and trouble.

Nothing, therefore, could be more pleasing to me than to see the
attention which has been given of late years to the great work of
indexing. It is a quarter of a century since Mr. Poole published his
"Index to Periodical Literature," which it is much to be hoped is
soon to appear in a new edition, grown as it must be to formidable
dimensions by the additions of so long a period. The "British and
Foreign Medical Review," edited by the late Sir John Forties,
contributed to by Huxley, Carpenter, Laycock, and others of the most
distinguished scientific men of Great Britain, has an index to its
twenty-four volumes, and by its aid I find this valuable series as
manageable as a lexicon. The last edition of the "Encyclopaedia
Britannica" had a complete index in a separate volume, and the
publishers of Appletons' "American Cyclopaedia" have recently issued
an index to their useful work, which must greatly add to its value.
I have already referred to the index to the "North American Review,"
which to an American, and especially to a New Englander, is the most
interesting and most valuable addition of its kind to our literary
apparatus since the publication of Mr. Allibone's "Dictionary of
Authors." I might almost dare to parody Mr. Webster's words in
speaking of Hamilton, to describe what Mr. Gushing did for the solemn
rows of back volumes of our honored old Review which had been long
fossilizing on our shelves: "He touched the dead corpse of the 'North
American,' and it sprang to its feet." A library of the best
thought of the best American scholars during the greater portion of
the century was brought to light by the work of the indexmaker as
truly as were the Assyrian tablets by the labors of Layard.

A great portion of the best writing and reading literary, scientific,
professional, miscellaneous--comes to us now, at stated intervals, in
paper covers. The writer appears, as it were, in his shirt-sleeves.
As soon as he has delivered his message the book-binder puts a coat
on his back, and he joins the forlorn brotherhood of "back volumes,"
than which, so long as they are unindexed, nothing can be more
exasperating. Who wants a lock without a key, a ship without a
rudder, a binnacle without a compass, a check without a signature, a
greenback without a goldback behind it?

I have referred chiefly to the medical journals, but I would include
with these the reports of medical associations, and those separate
publications which, coming in the form of pamphlets, heap themselves
into chaotic piles and bundles which are worse than useless, taking
up a great deal of room, and frightening everything away but mice and
mousing antiquarians, or possibly at long intervals some terebrating

Arranged, bound, indexed, all these at once become accessible and
valuable. I will take the first instance which happens to suggest
itself. How many who know all about osteoblasts and the experiments
of Ollier, and all that has grown out of them, know where to go for a
paper by the late Dr. A. L. Peirson of Salem, published in the year
1840, under the modest title, Remarks on Fractures? And if any
practitioner who has to deal with broken bones does not know that
most excellent and practical essay, it is a great pity, for it
answers very numerous questions which will be sure to suggest
themselves to the surgeon and the patient as no one of the recent
treatises, on my own shelves, at least, can do.

But if indexing is the special need of our time in medical
literature, as in every department of knowledge, it must be
remembered that it is not only an immense labor, but one that never
ends. It requires, therefore, the cooperation of a large number of
individuals to do the work, and a large amount of money to pay for
making its results public through the press. When it is remembered
that the catalogue of the library of the British Museum is contained
in nearly three thousand large folios of manuscript, and not all its
books are yet included, the task of indexing any considerable branch
of science or literature looks as if it were well nigh impossible.
But many hands make light work. An "Index Society" has been formed
in England, already numbering about one hundred and seventy members.
It aims at "supplying thorough indexes to valuable works and
collections which have hitherto lacked them; at issuing indexes to
the literature of special subjects; and at gathering materials for a
general reference index." This society has published a little
treatise setting forth the history and the art of indexing, which I
trust is in the hands of some of our members, if not upon our

Something has been done in the same direction by individuals in our
own country, as we have already seen. The need of it in the
department of medicine is beginning to be clearly felt. Our library
has already an admirable catalogue with cross references, the work of
a number of its younger members cooperating in the task. A very
intelligent medical student, Mr. William D. Chapin, whose excellent
project is indorsed by well-known New York physicians and professors,
proposes to publish a yearly index to original communications in the
medical journals of the United States, classified by authors and
subjects. But it is from the National Medical Library at Washington
that we have the best promise and the largest expectations. That
great and growing collection of fifty thousand volumes is under the
eye and hand of a librarian who knows books and how to manage them.
For libraries are the standing armies of civilization, and an army is
but a mob without a general who can organize and marshal it so as to
make it effective. The "Specimen Fasciculus of a Catalogue of the
National Medical Library," prepared under the direction of Dr.
Billings, the librarian, would have excited the admiration of Haller,
the master scholar in medical science of the last century, or rather
of the profession in all centuries, and if carried out as it is begun
will be to the nineteenth all and more than all that the three
Bibliothecae--Anatomica, Chirurgica, and Medicinae-Practicae--were to
the eighteenth century. I cannot forget the story that Agassiz was
so fond of telling of the king of Prussia and Fichte. It was after
the humiliation and spoliation of the kingdom by Napoleon that the
monarch asked the philosopher what could be done to regain the lost
position of the nation. "Found a great university, Sire," was the
answer, and so it was that in the year 1810 the world-renowned
University of Berlin came into being. I believe that we in this
country can do better than found a national university, whose
professors shall be nominated in caucuses, go in and out, perhaps,
like postmasters, with every change of administration, and deal with
science in the face of their constituency as the courtier did with
time when his sovereign asked him what o'clock it was: "Whatever hour
your majesty pleases." But when we have a noble library like that at
Washington, and a librarian of exceptional qualifications like the
gentleman who now holds that office, I believe that a liberal
appropriation by Congress to carry out a conscientious work for the
advancement of sound knowledge and the bettering of human conditions,
like this which Dr. Billings has so well begun, would redound greatly
to the honor of the nation. It ought to be willing to be at some
charge to make its treasures useful to its citizens, and, for its own
sake, especially to that class which has charge of health, public and
private. This country abounds in what are called "self-made men,"
and is justly proud of many whom it thus designates. In one sense no
man is self-made who breathes the air of a civilized community. In
another sense every man who is anything other than a phonograph on
legs is self-made. But if we award his just praise to the man who
has attained any kind of excellence without having had the same
advantages as others whom, nevertheless, he has equalled or
surpassed, let us not be betrayed into undervaluing the mechanic's
careful training to his business, the thorough and laborious
education of the scholar and the professional man.

Our American atmosphere is vocal with the flippant loquacity of half
knowledge. We must accept whatever good can be got out of it, and
keep it under as we do sorrel and mullein and witchgrass, by
enriching the soil, and sowing good seed in plenty; by good teaching
and good books, rather than by wasting our time in talking against
it. Half knowledge dreads nothing but whole knowledge.

I have spoken of the importance and the predominance of periodical
literature, and have attempted to do justice to its value. But the
almost exclusive reading of it is not without its dangers. The
journals contain much that is crude and unsound; the presumption; it
might be maintained, is against their novelties, unless they come
from observers of established credit. Yet I have known a
practitioner,--perhaps more than one,--who was as much under the
dominant influence of the last article he had read in his favorite
medical journal as a milliner under the sway of the last fashion-
plate. The difference between green and seasoned knowledge is very
great, and such practitioners never hold long enough to any of their
knowledge to have it get seasoned.

It is needless to say, then, that all the substantial and permanent
literature of the profession should be represented upon our shelves.
Much of it is there already, and as one private library after another
falls into this by the natural law of gravitation, it will gradually
acquire all that is most valuable almost without effort. A scholar
should not be in a hurry to part with his books. They are probably
more valuable to him than they can be to any other individual. What
Swedenborg called "correspondence" has established itself between his
intelligence and the volumes which wall him within their sacred
inclosure. Napoleon said that his mind was as if furnished with
drawers,--he drew out each as he wanted its contents, and closed it
at will when done with them. The scholar's mind, to use a similar
comparison, is furnished with shelves, like his library. Each book
knows its place in the brain as well as against the wall or in the
alcove. His consciousness is doubled by the books which encircle
him, as the trees that surround a lake repeat themselves in its
unruffled waters. Men talk of the nerve that runs to the pocket, but
one who loves his books, and has lived long with them, has a nervous
filament which runs from his sensorium to every one of them. Or, if
I may still let my fancy draw its pictures, a scholar's library is to
him what a temple is to the worshipper who frequents it. There is
the altar sacred to his holiest experiences. There is the font where
his new-born thought was baptized and first had a name in his
consciousness. There is the monumental tablet of a dead belief,
sacred still in the memory of what it was while yet alive. No
visitor can read all this on the lettered backs of the books that
have gathered around the scholar, but for him, from the Aldus on the
lowest shelf to the Elzevir on the highest, every volume has a
language which none but be can interpret. Be patient with the book-
collector who loves his companions too well to let them go. Books
are not buried with their owners, and the veriest book-miser that
ever lived was probably doing far more for his successors than his
more liberal neighbor who despised his learned or unlearned avarice.
Let the fruit fall with the leaves still clinging round it. Who
would have stripped Southey's walls of the books that filled them,
when, his mind no longer capable of taking in their meaning, he would
still pat and fondle them with the vague loving sense of what they
had once been to him,--to him, the great scholar, now like a little
child among his playthings?

We need in this country not only the scholar, but the virtuoso, who
hoards the treasures which he loves, it may be chiefly for their
rarity and because others who know more than he does of their value
set a high price upon them. As the wine of old vintages is gently
decanted out of its cobwebbed bottles with their rotten corks into
clean new receptacles, so the wealth of the New World is quietly
emptying many of the libraries and galleries of the Old World into
its newly formed collections and newly raised edifices. And this
process must go on in an accelerating ratio. No Englishman will be
offended if I say that before the New Zealander takes his stand on a
broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's in the
midst of a vast solitude, the treasures of the British Museum will
have found a new shelter in the halls of New York or Boston. No
Catholic will think hardly of my saying that before the Coliseum
falls, and with it the imperial city, whose doom prophecy has linked
with that of the almost eternal amphitheatre, the marbles, the
bronzes, the paintings, the manuscripts of the Vatican will have left
the shores of the Tiber for those of the Potomac, the Hudson, the
Mississippi, or the Sacramento. And what a delight in the pursuit of
the rarities which the eager book-hunter follows with the scent of a

Shall I ever forget that rainy day in Lyons, that dingy bookshop,
where I found the Aetius, long missing from my Artis bledicae
Principes, and where I bought for a small pecuniary consideration,
though it was marked rare, and was really tres rare, the Aphorisms of
Hippocrates, edited by and with a preface from the hand of Francis
Rabelais? And the vellum-bound Tulpius, which I came upon in Venice,
afterwards my only reading when imprisoned in quarantine at
Marseilles, so that the two hundred and twenty-eight cases he has
recorded are, many of them, to this day still fresh in my memory.
And the Schenckius,--the folio filled with casus rariores, which had
strayed in among the rubbish of the bookstall on the boulevard,--and
the noble old Vesalius with its grand frontispiece not unworthy of
Titian, and the fine old Ambroise Pare, long waited for even in Paris
and long ago, and the colossal Spigelius with his eviscerated
beauties, and Dutch Bidloo with its miracles of fine engraving and
bad dissection, and Italian Mascagni, the despair of all would-be
imitators, and pre-Adamite John de Ketam, and antediluvian
Berengarius Carpensis,--but why multiply names, every one of which
brings back the accession of a book which was an event almost like
the birth of an infant?

A library like ours must exercise the largest hospitality. A great
many books may be found in every large collection which remind us of
those apostolic looking old men who figure on the platform at our
political and other assemblages. Some of them have spoken words of
wisdom in their day, but they have ceased to be oracles; some of them
never had any particularly important message for humanity, but they
add dignity to the meeting by their presence; they look wise, whether
they are so or not, and no one grudges them their places of honor.
Venerable figure-heads, what would our platforms be without you?

Just so with our libraries. Without their rows of folios in creamy
vellum, or showing their black backs with antique lettering of
tarnished gold, our shelves would look as insufficient and unbalanced
as a column without its base, as a statue without its pedestal. And
do not think they are kept only to be spanked and dusted during that
dreadful period when their owner is but too thankful to become an
exile and a wanderer from the scene of single combats between dead
authors and living housemaids. Men were not all cowards before
Agamemnon or all fools before the days of Virchow and Billroth. And
apart from any practical use to be derived from the older medical
authors, is there not a true pleasure in reading the accounts of
great discoverers in their own words? I do not pretend to hoist up
the Bibliotheca Anatomica of Mangetus and spread it on my table every
day. I do not get out my great Albinus before every lecture on the
muscles, nor disturb the majestic repose of Vesalius every time I
speak of the bones he has so admirably described and figured. But it
does please me to read the first descriptions of parts to which the
names of their discoverers or those who have first described them
have become so joined that not even modern science can part them; to
listen to the talk of my old volume as Willis describes his circle
and Fallopius his aqueduct and Varolius his bridge and Eustachius his
tube and Monro his foramen,--all so well known to us in the human
body; it does please me to know the very words in which Winslow
described the opening which bears his name, and Glisson his capsule
and De Graaf his vesicle; I am not content until I know in what
language Harvey announced his discovery of the circulation, and how
Spigelius made the liver his perpetual memorial, and Malpighi found a
monument more enduring than brass in the corpuscles of the spleen and
the kidney.

But after all, the readers who care most for the early records of
medical science and art are the specialists who are dividing up the
practice of medicine and surgery as they were parcelled out,
according to Herodotus, by the Egyptians. For them nothing is too
old, nothing is too new, for to their books of ail others is
applicable the saying of D'Alembert that the author kills himself in
lengthening out what the reader kills himself in trying to shorten.

There are practical books among these ancient volumes which can never
grow old. Would you know how to recognize "male hysteria" and to
treat it, take down your Sydenham; would you read the experience of a
physician who was himself the subject of asthma, and who,
notwithstanding that, in the words of Dr. Johnson, "panted on till
ninety," you will find it in the venerable treatise of Sir John
Floyer; would you listen to the story of the King's Evil cured by the
royal touch, as told by a famous chirurgeon who fully believed in it,
go to Wiseman; would you get at first hand the description of the
spinal disease which long bore his name, do not be startled if I tell
you to go to Pott,--to Percival Pott, the great surgeon of the last

There comes a time for every book in a library when it is wanted by
somebody. It is but a few weeks since one of the most celebrated
physicians in the country wrote to me from a great centre of medical
education to know if I had the works of Sanctorius, which he had
tried in vain to find. I could have lent him the "Medicina Statica,"
with its frontispiece showing Sanctorius with his dinner on the table
before him, in his balanced chair which sunk with him below the level
of his banquet-board when he had swallowed a certain number of
ounces,--an early foreshadowing of Pettenkofer's chamber and
quantitative physiology,--but the "Opera Omnia" of Sanctorius I had
never met with, and I fear he had to do without it.

I would extend the hospitality of these shelves to a class of works
which we are in the habit of considering as being outside of the pale
of medical science, properly so called, and sometimes of coupling
with a disrespectful name. Such has always been my own practice. I
have welcomed Culpeper and Salmon to my bookcase as willingly as
Dioscorides or Quincy, or Paris or Wood and Bache. I have found a
place for St. John Long, and read the story of his trial for
manslaughter with as much interest as the laurel-water case in which
John Hunter figured as a witness. I would give Samuel Hahnemann a
place by the side of Samuel Thomson. Am I not afraid that some
student of imaginative turn and not provided with the needful
cerebral strainers without which all the refuse of gimcrack
intelligences gets into the mental drains and chokes them up,--am I
not afraid that some such student will get hold of the "Organon" or
the "Maladies Chroniques" and be won over by their delusions, and so
be lost to those that love him as a man of common sense and a brother
in their high calling? Not in the least. If he showed any symptoms
of infection I would for once have recourse to the principle of
similia similibus. To cure him of Hahnemann I would prescribe my
favorite homoeopathic antidote, Okie's Bonninghausen. If that
failed, I would order Grauvogl as a heroic remedy, and if he survived
that uncured, I would give him my blessing, if I thought him honest,
and bid him depart in peace. For me he is no longer an individual.
He belongs to a class of minds which we are bound to be patient with
if their Maker sees fit to indulge them with existence. We must
accept the conjuring ultra-ritualist, the dreamy second adventist,
the erratic spiritualist, the fantastic homoeopathist, as not
unworthy of philosophic study; not more unworthy of it than the
squarers of the circle and the inventors of perpetual motion, and the
other whimsical visionaries to whom De Morgan has devoted his most
instructive and entertaining "Budget of Paradoxes." I hope,
therefore, that our library will admit the works of the so-called
Eclectics, of the Thomsonians, if any are in existence, of the
Clairvoyants, if they have a literature, and especially of the
Homoeopathists. This country seems to be the place for such a
collection, which will by and by be curious and of more value than at
present, for Homoeopathy seems to be following the pathological law
of erysipelas, fading out where it originated as it spreads to new
regions. At least I judge so by the following translated extract
from a criticism of an American work in the "Homoeopatische
Rundschau" of Leipzig for October, 1878, which I find in the
"Homoeopathic Bulletin" for the month of November just passed:
"While we feel proud of the spread and rise of Homoeopathy across the
ocean, and while the Homoeopathic works reaching us from there, and
published in a style such as is unknown in Germany, bear eloquent
testimony to the eminent activity of our transatlantic colleagues, we
are overcome by sorrowful regrets at the position Homoeopathy
occupies in Germany. Such a work [as the American one referred to]
with us would be impossible; it would lack the necessary support."

By all means let our library secure a good representation of the
literature of Homoeopathy before it leaves us its "sorrowful regrets"
and migrates with its sugar of milk pellets, which have taken the
place of the old pilulae micae panis, to Alaska, to "Nova Zembla, or
the Lord knows where."

What shall I say in this presence of the duties of a Librarian?
Where have they ever been better performed than in our own public
city library, where the late Mr. Jewett and the living Mr. Winsor
have shown us what a librarian ought to be,--the organizing head, the
vigilant guardian, the seeker's index, the scholar's counsellor? His
work is not merely that of administration, manifold and laborious as
its duties are. He must have a quick intelligence and a retentive
memory. He is a public carrier of knowledge in its germs. His
office is like that which naturalists attribute to the bumble-bee,--
he lays up little honey for himself, but he conveys the fertilizing
pollen from flower to flower.

Our undertaking, just completed,--and just begun--has come at the
right time, not a day too soon. Our practitioners need a library
like this, for with all their skill and devotion there is too little
genuine erudition, such as a liberal profession ought to be able to
claim for many of its members. In reading the recent obituary
notices of the late Dr. Geddings of South Carolina, I recalled what
our lamented friend Dr. Coale used to tell me of his learning and
accomplishments, and I could not help reflecting how few such medical
scholars we had to show in Boston or New England. We must clear up
this unilluminated atmosphere, and here,--here is the true electric
light which will irradiate its darkness.

The public will catch the rays reflected from the same source of
light, and it needs instruction on the great subjects of health and
disease,--needs it sadly. It is preyed upon by every kind of
imposition almost without hindrance. Its ignorance and prejudices
react upon the profession to the great injury of both. The jealous
feeling, for instance, with regard to such provisions for the study
of anatomy as are sanctioned by the laws in this State and carried
out with strict regard to those laws, threatens the welfare, if not
the existence of institutions for medical instruction wherever it is
not held in check by enlightened intelligence. And on the other hand
the profession has just been startled by a verdict against a
physician, ruinous in its amount,--enough to drive many a hard-
working young practitioner out of house and home,--a verdict which
leads to the fear that suits for malpractice may take the place of
the panel game and child-stealing as a means of extorting money. If
the profession in this State, which claims a high standard of
civilization, is to be crushed and ground beneath the upper millstone
of the dearth of educational advantages and the lower millstone of
ruinous penalties for what the ignorant ignorantly shall decide to be
ignorance, all I can say is

God save the Commonhealth of Massachusetts!

Once more, we cannot fail to see that just as astrology has given
place to astronomy, so theology, the science of Him whom by searching
no man can find out, is fast being replaced by what we may not
improperly call theonomy, or the science of the laws according to
which the Creator acts. And since these laws find their fullest
manifestations for us, at least, in rational human natures, the study
of anthropology is largely replacing that of scholastic divinity. We
must contemplate our Maker indirectly in human attributes as we talk
of Him in human parts of speech. And this gives a sacredness to the
study of man in his physical, mental, moral, social, and religious
nature which elevates the faithful students of anthropology to the
dignity of a priesthood, and sheds a holy light on the recorded
results of their labors, brought together as they are in such a
collection as this which is now spread out before us.

Thus, then, our library is a temple as truly as the dome-crowned
cathedral hallowed by the breath of prayer and praise, where the dead
repose and the living worship. May it, with all its treasures, be
consecrated like that to the glory of God, through the contributions
it shall make to the advancement of sound knowledge, to the relief of
human suffering, to the promotion of harmonious relations between the
members of the two noble professions which deal with the diseases of
the soul and with those of the body, and to the common cause in which
all good men are working, the furtherance of the well-being of their

NOTE.--As an illustration of the statement in the last paragraph but
one, I take the following notice from the "Boston Daily Advertiser,"
of December 4th, the day after the delivery of the address:
"Prince Lucien Bonaparte is now living in London, and is devoting
himself to the work of collecting the creeds of all religions and
sects, with a view to their classification,--his object being simply
scientific or anthropological."

Since delivering the address, also, I find a leading article in the
"Cincinnati Lancet and Clinic" of November 30th, headed "The
Decadence of Homoeopathy," abundantly illustrated by extracts from
the "Homoeopathic Times," the leading American organ of that sect.

In the New York "Medical Record" of the same date, which I had not
seen before the delivery of my address, is an account of the action
of the Homoeopathic Medical Society of Northern New York, in which
Hahnemann's theory of "dynamization" is characterized in a formal
resolve as "unworthy the confidence of the Homoeopathic profession."

It will be a disappointment to the German Homoeopathists to read in
the "Homoeopathic Times" such a statement as the following:
"Whatever the influences have been which have checked the outward
development of Homoeopathy, it is plainly evident that the
Homoeopathic school, as regards the number of its openly avowed
representatives, has attained its majority, and has begun to decline
both in this country and in England."

All which is an additional reason for making a collection of the
incredibly curious literature of Homoeopathy before that
pseudological inanity has faded out like so many other delusions.


[A Farewell Address to the Medical School of Harvard University,
November 28, 1882.]

I had intended that the recitation of Friday last should be followed
by a few parting words to my class and any friends who might happen
to be in the lecture-room. But I learned on the preceding evening
that there was an expectation, a desire, that my farewell should take
a somewhat different form; and not to disappoint the wishes of those
whom I was anxious to gratify, I made up my mind to appear before you
with such hasty preparation as the scanty time admitted.

There are three occasions upon which a human being has a right to
consider himself as a centre of interest to those about him: when he
is christened, when he is married, and when he is buried. Every one
is the chief personage, the hero, of his own baptism, his own
wedding, and his own funeral.

There are other occasions, less momentous, in which one may make more
of himself than under ordinary circumstances he would think it proper
to do; when he may talk about himself, and tell his own experiences,
in fact, indulge in a more or less egotistic monologue without fear
or reproach.

I think I may claim that this is one of those occasions. I have
delivered my last anatomical lecture and heard my class recite for
the last time. They wish to hear from me again in a less scholastic
mood than that in which they have known me. Will you not indulge me
in telling you something of my own story?

This is the thirty-sixth Course of Lectures in which I have taken my
place and performed my duties as Professor of Anatomy. For more than
half of my term of office I gave instruction in Physiology, after the
fashion of my predecessors and in the manner then generally prevalent
in our schools, where the physiological laboratory was not a
necessary part of the apparatus of instruction. It was with my
hearty approval that the teaching of Physiology was constituted a
separate department and made an independent Professorship. Before my
time, Dr. Warren had taught Anatomy, Physiology, and Surgery in the
same course of Lectures, lasting only three or four months. As the
boundaries of science are enlarged, new divisions and subdivisions of
its territories become necessary. In the place of six Professors in
1847, when I first became a member of the Faculty, I count twelve
upon the Catalogue before me, and I find the whole number engaged in
the work of instruction in the Medical School amounts to no less than

Since I began teaching in this school, the aspect of many branches of
science has undergone a very remarkable transformation. Chemistry
and Physiology are no longer what they were, as taught by the
instructors of that time. We are looking forward to the synthesis of
new organic compounds; our artificial madder is already in the
market, and the indigo-raisers are now fearing that their crop will
be supplanted by the manufactured article. In the living body we
talk of fuel supplied and work done, in movement, in heat, just as if
we were dealing with a machine of our own contrivance.

A physiological laboratory of to-day is equipped with instruments of
research of such ingenious contrivance, such elaborate construction,
that one might suppose himself in a workshop where some exquisite
fabric was to be wrought, such as Queens love to wear, and Kings do
not always love to pay for. They are, indeed, weaving a charmed web,
for these are the looms from which comes the knowledge that clothes
the nakedness of the intellect. Here are the mills that grind food
for its hunger, and "is not the life more than meat, and the body
than raiment?"

But while many of the sciences have so changed that the teachers of
the past would hardly know them, it has not been so with the branch I
teach, or, rather, with that division of it which is chiefly taught
in this amphitheatre. General anatomy, or histology, on the other
hand, is almost all new; it has grown up, mainly, since I began my
medical studies. I never saw a compound microscope during my years
of study in Paris. Individuals had begun to use the instrument, but
I never heard it alluded to by either Professors or students. In
descriptive anatomy I have found little to unlearn, and not a great
deal that was both new and important to learn. Trifling additions
are made from year to year, not to be despised and not to be
overvalued. Some of the older anatomical works are still admirable,
some of the newer ones very much the contrary. I have had recent
anatomical plates brought me for inspection, and I have actually
button-holed the book-agent, a being commonly as hard to get rid of
as the tar-baby in the negro legend, that I might put him to shame
with the imperial illustrations of the bones and muscles in the great
folio of Albinus, published in 1747, and the unapproached figures of
the lymphatic system of Mascagni, now within a very few years of a
century old, and still copied, or, rather, pretended to be copied, in
the most recent works on anatomy.

I am afraid that it is a good plan to get rid of old Professors, and
I am thankful to hear that there is a movement for making provision
for those who are left in need when they lose their offices and their
salaries. I remember one of our ancient Cambridge Doctors once asked
me to get into his rickety chaise, and said to me, half humorously,
half sadly, that he was like an old horse,--they had taken off his
saddle and turned him out to pasture. I fear the grass was pretty
short where that old servant of the public found himself grazing. If
I myself needed an apology for holding my office so long, I should
find it in the fact that human anatomy is much the same study that it
was in the days of Vesalius and Fallopius, and that the greater part
of my teaching was of such a nature that it could never become

Let me begin with my first experience as a medical student. I had
come from the lessons of Judge Story and Mr. Ashmun in the Law School
at Cambridge. I had been busy, more or less, with the pages of
Blackstone and Chitty, and other text-books of the first year of
legal study. More or less, I say, but I am afraid it was less rather
than more. For during that year I first tasted the intoxicating
pleasure of authorship. A college periodical, conducted by friends
of mine, still undergraduates, tempted me into print, and there is no
form of lead-poisoning which more rapidly and thoroughly pervades the
blood and bones and marrow than that which reaches the young author
through mental contact with type-metal. Qui a bu, boira,--he who has
once been a drinker will drink again, says the French proverb. So
the man or woman who has tasted type is sure to return to his old
indulgence sooner or later. In that fatal year I had my first attack
of authors' lead-poisoning, and I have never got quite rid of it from
that day to this. But for that I might have applied myself more
diligently to my legal studies, and carried a green bag in place of a
stethoscope and a thermometer up to the present day.

What determined me to give up Law and apply myself to Medicine I can
hardly say, but I had from the first looked upon that year's study as
an experiment. At any rate, I made the change, and soon found myself
introduced to new scenes and new companionships.

I can scarcely credit my memory when I recall the first impressions
produced upon me by sights afterwards become so familiar that they
could no more disturb a pulse-beat than the commonest of every-day
experiences. The skeleton, hung aloft like a gibbeted criminal,
looked grimly at me as I entered the room devoted to the students of
the school I had joined, just as the fleshless figure of Time, with
the hour-glass and scythe, used to glare upon me in my childhood from
the "New England Primer." The white faces in the beds at the
Hospital found their reflection in my own cheeks, which lost their
color as I looked upon them. All this had to pass away in a little
time; I had chosen my profession, and must meet its painful and
repulsive aspects until they lost their power over my sensibilities.

The private medical school which I had joined was one established by
Dr. James Jackson, Dr. Walter Channing, Dr. John Ware, Dr. Winslow
Lewis, and Dr. George W. Otis. Of the first three gentlemen I have
either spoken elsewhere or may find occasion to speak hereafter. The
two younger members of this association of teachers were both
graduates of our University, one of the year 1819, the other of 1818.

Dr. Lewis was a great favorite with students. He was a man of very
lively temperament, fond of old books and young people, open-hearted,
free-spoken, an enthusiast in teaching, and especially at home in
that apartment of the temple of science where nature is seen in
undress, the anthropotomic laboratory, known to common speech as the
dissecting-room. He had that quality which is the special gift of
the man born for a teacher,--the power of exciting an interest in
that which he taught. While he was present the apartment I speak of
was the sunniest of studios in spite of its mortuary spectacles. Of
the students I met there I best remember James Jackson, Junior, full
of zeal and playful as a boy, a young man whose early death was a
calamity to the profession of which he promised to be a chief
ornament; the late Reverend J. S. C. Greene, who, as the prefix to
his name signifies, afterwards changed his profession, but one of
whose dissections I remember looking upon with admiration; and my
friend Mr. Charles Amory, as we call him, Dr. Charles Amory, as he is
entitled to be called, then, as now and always, a favorite with all
about him. He had come to us from the schools of Germany, and
brought with him recollections of the teachings of Blumenbach and the
elder Langenbeck, father of him whose portrait hangs in our Museum.
Dr. Lewis was our companion as well as our teacher. A good
demonstrator is,--I will not say as important as a good Professor in
the teaching of Anatomy, because I am not sure that he is not more
important. He comes into direct personal relations with the
students,--he is one of them, in fact, as the Professor cannot be
from the nature of his duties. The Professor's chair is an
insulating stool, so to speak; his age, his knowledge, real or
supposed, his official station, are like the glass legs which support
the electrician's piece of furniture, and cut it off from the common
currents of the floor upon which it stands. Dr. Lewis enjoyed
teaching and made his students enjoy being taught. He delighted in
those anatomical conundrums to answer which keeps the student's eyes
open and his wits awake. He was happy as he dexterously performed
the tour de maitre of the old barber-surgeons, or applied the spica
bandage and taught his scholars to do it, so neatly and symmetrically
that the aesthetic missionary from the older centre of civilization
would bend over it in blissful contemplation, as if it were a
sunflower. Dr. Lewis had many other tastes, and was a favorite, not
only with students, but in a wide circle, professional, antiquarian,
masonic, and social.

Dr. Otis was less widely known, but was a fluent and agreeable
lecturer, and esteemed as a good surgeon.

I must content myself with this glimpse at myself and a few of my
fellow-students in Boston. After attending two courses of Lectures
in the school of the University, I went to Europe to continue my

You may like to hear something of the famous Professors of Paris in
the days when I was a student in the Ecole de Medicine, and following
the great Hospital teachers.

I can hardly believe my own memory when I recall the old
practitioners and Professors who were still going round the hospitals
when I mingled with the train of students that attended the morning
visits. See that bent old man who is groping his way through the
wards of La Charity. That is the famous Baron Boyer, author of the
great work on surgery in nine volumes, a writer whose clearness of
style commends his treatise to general admiration, and makes it a
kind of classic. He slashes away at a terrible rate, they say, when
he gets hold of the subject of fistula in its most frequent habitat,
--but I never saw him do more than look as if he wanted to cut a good
dollop out of a patient he was examining. The short, square,
substantial man with iron-gray hair, ruddy face, and white apron is
Baron Larrey, Napoleon's favorite surgeon, the most honest man he
ever saw,--it is reputed that he called him. To go round the Hotel
des Invalides with Larrey was to live over the campaigns of Napoleon,
to look on the sun of Austerlitz, to hear the cannons of Marengo, to
struggle through the icy waters of the Beresina, to shiver in the
snows of the Russian retreat, and to gaze through the battle smoke
upon the last charge of the red lancers on the redder field of
Waterloo. Larrey was still strong and sturdy as I saw him, and few
portraits remain printed in livelier colors on the tablet of my

Leave the little group of students which gathers about Larrey beneath
the gilded dome of the Invalides and follow me to the Hotel Dieu,
where rules and reigns the master-surgeon of his day, at least so far
as Paris and France are concerned,--the illustrious Baron Dupuytren.
No man disputed his reign, some envied his supremacy. Lisfranc
shrugged his shoulders as he spoke of "ce grand homme de l'autre cots
de la riviere," that great man on the other side of the river, but
the great man he remained, until he bowed before the mandate which
none may disobey. "Three times," said Bouillaud, "did the apoplectic
thunderbolt fall on that robust brain,"--it yielded at last as the
old bald cliff that is riven and crashes down into the valley. I saw
him before the first thunderbolt had descended: a square, solid man,
with a high and full-domed head, oracular in his utterances,
indifferent to those around him, sometimes, it was said, very rough
with them. He spoke in low, even tones, with quiet fluency, and was
listened to with that hush of rapt attention which I have hardly seen
in any circle of listeners unless when such men as ex-President John
Quincy Adams or Daniel Webster were the speakers. I do not think
that Dupuytren has left a record which explains his influence, but in
point of fact he dominated those around him in a remarkable manner.
You must have all witnessed something of the same kind. The personal
presence of some men carries command with it, and their accents
silence the crowd around them, when the same words from other lips
might fall comparatively unheeded.


Back to Full Books