Sketch of an Hereditary Doctor, and a Lit|erary Quack: Critical Operation in Sur|gery.
THERE was another gentle|man in town, who had some pretensions to the character of a physician: even the same pretensions with the crowned heads of Europe, to their wisdom, power, and greatness. He derived it from his birth; for he was the seventh son of a seventh son, and his mother was a doctress. He did not indeed bear the name or rank, but I remember him with the learned; as he was sometimes called to visit a pa|tient, at that critical, interesting period, Page 138 when the other physicians had given him over; but his ordinary practice lay whol|ly among sheep, horses, and cattle. He also could boast of astonishing success, and was as proud and opinionated as the best of them; and, for aught I know, it was as instructive to hear him talk of his ring|bones, wind galls, and spavins, as to hear our first physician descant upon his paroxysms and peripneumony.
Being sent for, one day, to attend a man whose leg was said to be broken, by a fall from a frame at a raising, I found, upon my arrival at the patient's, that a brother of the faculty, from the vicinity, had ar|rived before me, and completed the ope|ration. He was celebrated for his skill in desperate cases; and universally allowed to be a man of learning. He had prescribed a gill of burnt brandy, with a pepper pod in it, to keep up the patient's spirits, un|der the operation, and took another him|self, to keep his hand steady. He splin|tered Page 139 the fractured limb, with the bone of two pair of old fashioned stays, he had caused to be ript to pieces and bound round the leg, with all the garters in the neighbourhood. He bowed gracefully, as I entered, and regretted extremely that he had not my assistance in setting the bones; and with a loud voice, and the most un|paralleled assurance, began to lay the case before me, and amplify the operation he had performed. Sir, said he, when I came to view the patient, I had little hopes of saving his life. I found the two lesser bones of the leg, the musa and the tristis shivered into a thousand splinters. While the larger bone, the ambobus, had happi|ly escaped unhurt. Perceiving I could scarce refrain from laughing, and was a|bout to speak; sir, said he, winking upon me, I perceive you are one of us men of science, and I wish you to suspend your opinion, until a private consultation; left our conversation may alarm the patient Page 140 too much, for you know, as the learned Galen observes,
I am much obliged to you, said he, for not discovering my ignorance, to these people; though, it is ten to one, if I had not rather convinced the blockheads of Page 141 yours, if you had attempted it. A regu|lar bred physician, sometime since, at|tempted this. He declared over the sick man's bed, that I was ignorant, and pre|suming. I replied that he was a quack; and offered to leave our pretensions to knowl|edge, to the company, which consisted of a midwife, two experienced nurses, and some others, not so eminent for learning. He quoted Cullen and Chesselden; and I Tully and Virgil. Until at length, when I had nearly exhausted my stock of cant phrases, and he was gaining the atten|tion of our judges, I luckily bethought me of Lilly's Grammar. I began Propria quae maribus; and before I had got twenty lines, the opinion of the audience was ap|parently in my favour. They judged naturally enough, that I was the most learned man, because the most unintelligi|ble. This raised the doctor's ire so much that from disputing me, he began to be|rate them for a parcel of fools, sots, and Page 142 old women, to put their lives in the hands of such an ignoramus as me. This quick|ly decided the contest in my favour. The old nurses raised their voices, the mid|wife her broom stick, and the whole train of mob caped judges, their skinny fists, and we drove him out of the house in triumph. Our victory was so com|plete, that, in the military stile, we did not allow him to remain on the field to bury his dead.
But it is time to tell you who I am. Sir, I drink your health. In brief, sir, I am the son of a respectable clergyman, received a college education, entered into merchandize, failed, and, by a train of misfortunes, was obliged to commence doctor, for sustenance. I settled myself in this back country. At first I was ap|plied to chiefly, in desperate cases; where no reputation is lost, if the patient dies, and much gained, if he recovers. I have performed some surprising cures; but Page 143 how I cannot tell you, except it was by allowing my patients small beer, or any thing else they hankered after, which I have heard was sometimes efficacious, in the crisis of a fever. But talking of drink, sir, I wish your health. I believe I have never injured any persons, by my pre|scriptions. A powdered, burnt crust, chalk, and juice of beets and carrots are my most powerful medicines. We can be of mutual service to each other; nurse, another mug. We doctors find this a very difficult case. As I have borne down these country quacks, by superiour effrontery, I can recommend you to full practice. I will call you to consult with me, in difficult cases; for, as I was saying, sir, I wish your good health, mine are all difficult cases; and you, in return, shall lend me books, and give me such instruc|tions as will enable me to do good, as well as get fame and bread. The proposal was reasonable. I closed with it. He Page 144 emptied the third mug, and we returned to our patient. When the dressings were removed, I discovered that there was not the slightest fracture of the fibula or tibia; but only a slight contusion on the patula, which would perhaps not have alarm|ed any other person, but our patient, who was a rich old bachelor. I recom|mended an emollient, which my learned brother acquiesced in, saying, with his u|sual air, that it was the very application he intended, having applied the garters and whalebone, merely to concoct the tristis, the musa and the ambobus firmly together.
A young girl, at the door, shewed him a wound on her elbow, which she had re|ceived in struggling about red ears at a husking; which he gravely pronounced to be a testula in ano. This gentleman is really a man of abilities; has since made valuable acquirements in the knowl|edge of the human machine, and the ma|teria Page 145 medica. If he could be led to sub|stitute the aquatic draughts of Doctor Sangrado, as a succedaneum for the dif|fusible stimuli of Brown, he would be|come useful in the faculty, and yet see happy days.
The doctor kept his word. He read my books, received my instructions, and recommended me to his patients. But, as I copied my preceptor, in the simplici|ty of my language I never attempted to excite the fear of my patients, to magnify my skill; and could not reduce three frac|tured bones in a limb, which contained but two. My advice was little attended to, except when backed with that of my pu|pil, accompanied with frequent quotations from Lilly. He obtained all the credit of our success; and the people generally supposed me a young man of moderate talents, whom the learned doctor might make something of, in a course of years.