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Few people are acquainted with the arduous toil, which attends the outset of a physician's career, unless he be assisted by a strong connexion, or attached as a teacher to some public institution. Talent he may possess, with every virtue under Heaven, but unless he has the patronage of the rich and the influential, he will be no more thought of than the sounding of brass, or the tinkling of a cymbal. Ilow often does the man of talent see, with heart-burning indignation and bitter scorn, all homage paid to ignorance, and all neglect to worth and virtue! How often does some bold stroke of assurance, or some lucky accident elevate, by one huge stride, the fortunate empiric to an enviable and extreme height of patranage and practice!
But why should I moralize? Here am I, at this present writing, 10 mo. Junii, A.D., 18–, a practical example of the poet's assertion, 6. And oh ! alas ! how hard it is to climb,” to the lowest rank, even, of professional pre-eminence. I have fagged as few men have fagged ;- a marked favourite with every one of my preceptors-not excepting the oddest of them all, honest John Abernethy-passed all my examinations with particular éclat, and even discovered a new use for the spleen, with which I shall, one of these odd days, astonish my astute brethren. But cui bono? To what end has all this tended ? To nothing more than imbuing me with abundant confidence in my own acquirements, and with a conviction, that modest merit does not always meet with its reward, while “slow rises worth by poverty depressed," et coetera, et cætera, et cætera.
I am sorry B has not inserted my article on the
Sick Poor this month—for two reasons. It might have paved the way to my election at the
Dispensary, which I much fear I shall lose—and the re-mu-ne-ra-ti-on would have been a matter of no in-con-si-der-a-ble con-si-der-a-ti-on to me just now; for fees
“ like angel visits—few and far between,” and this silly canvass has already cost me a trifle-n'importe, mon ami! courage ! courage! The election takes place to-morrow, and if I can depend upon promises, I need not abandon all hope! But promises are-Pshaw !
It is over, and I have won! What a day of bustle and exertion ! And for what? To be allowed the privilege of writing myself “ Consulting Physician to the Dispensary!" Will this bring me patients? Yes; plenty of poor ones! Will it extend my connexions? Perhaps amongst the friends and supporters of the institution. And then I made a speech, which was boudly applauded! I heard a rich old cheese-monger say,
it wastly fine, partickler in that ere part as vas about the poor.” (N.B. This was a slice from my article aforesaid, and fitted extremely well:) I shall write to my mother forthwith, and tell her of my success the dear, kind soul will be delighted. *
The Sick Poor! What do I know about the Sick Poor ? Or, rather, what did I know about them? I saw, perhaps, once in a month, a poor family almost starving, or burnt up with fever, raving with delirium, or watching with stupid and tearless agony, the death-throes of its chief support and protection--and this I saw only with the curious eyes of a pupil. Now, not one day passes in this populous and poor district, in which I do not witness all the combined miseries of poverty, sickness, want, and vice of every disgusting description." Drunkeness, entailing upon its wretched victim, at one moment the fearful fury of a maniac, at another the depressing languor of a hypochondriac, is rife, indeed, in the purlieus of this crowded quarter ; and in vain do I and my colleagues point out its consequences :-its brutal victims have no other means of drowning the coarse cares to which they are subjected, and they are willing to run all risks. Poor wretches! Did they know, as I know, how great and enduring are the miseries of a drunkard's death, they would not run thus heedlessly into so frightful a doom. But che sara, sara—what will be; wilt bez and what power has one frail, feeble mortal, to avert the destined doom of another?
Dined to-day at Mr. Abernethy's, and met a small but bright constellation of professional and general genius. There was S
-y and V-t, and E- -e of Bartholomew's, with Drs. G- -h and C-d of the same : C-s Báll, Seth—d Sth, M-11 H-I, N1 A-t, young Hs, B-e, the Poet Laureate, Daniel Wilson, and a brother of Irving, the Scotch preacher. The only ladies present were Mrs. Abernethy, a most charming and accomplished creature, and a Miss A-e,the dinner being professedly a professional one. All dinners, to which
more than four are iņvated, are at first dull and somewhat solemn the grand business of eating and drinking engrosses general attention, and when the appetite is satisfied—but not before the intellectual portion of the entertainment commences. In this, as well as in the other department of the business, our eccentric, but kindhearted host, played a conspicuous and most entertaining part. Throwing aside that yngainly peculiarity of demeanour, which too frequently characterizes his conduct; indulging in a pure and poignant style of wit; displaying, at the same time, the carefully garnered fruits of much laborious study and much general knowledge, Mr. A. was the life and soul of the party. How I wished that his worst and bitterest enemy, the Editor of the could have witnessed the playful and really amiable ebullitions of the Professor's fancy on this happy occasion! Had he been so fortunate, I am sure he would have imbibed a more correct opinion of his opponent's character; or, at all events, a more kindly one.
No character has been so grossly misrepresented, or so little understood, as that of Mr. Abernethy. By the multitude, he is stigmatized as a surly, morose, inattentive and rude brute; because, forsooth, he will not patiently listen to the thrice-told tale of a puling hypochondriac! By the profession, he is accounted churlish and disrespectful, because he cannot avoid showing his contempt for the humbug and nonsense, so sedulously displayed by so many of his contemporaries. But no one can dispute his professional learning, or deny the good he has done to mankind. 'Independent in principle, honest and straightforward in purpose, and strong in the confidence of his philosophical acquirements, the eccentricity in which he too often indulges, might surely be extenuated, in consideration of the good he has done and is doing. But there is a physical cause for much of this rudeness." Mr. Abernethy has been labouring for many years, under a cruel affection of the heart,-and those who have witnessed, as I have often witnessed, the arbitrary and tyrannical influence of such a malady, even upon dispositions, naturally the most bland and amiable, and upon individuals, who have no harassing professional cares to increase their sufferings, would readily concede a pardon to the eccentric professor for a portion, at least, of his unceremonious vagaries. His professional brethren are fully aware of this irremediable cause; but, when the sufferer has ceased to be, detraction will be busy with his memory :* and aļl the blots and shadows of
* I have not been mistaken in my prediction. Since Mr. Abernethy's death, I have perceived, with much pain, a series of low and ribald anecdotes of him, published in an English Magazine.' If the writer adopted that mean and malicious mode of revenging some former rub, which the professor might have justly given him, he must not expect to receive, as his reward, the good opinions or commendations of honest men. It is an easy matter, though no honourable man would willingly undertake the task, to disfigure and mutilate the dead body of any man, - the verriest vermin, a stoat for instance, may gnaw and mangle the senseless corpse of the lion, but it would not dare even to gaze upon the noble animal when alive.
his character will be raked up from every vile and filthy source, and published by some friend, for the benefit and oblectation of a knowledge-loving public. His devotion to science-his industryhis kindness and attention to the poor-his integrity, and his enlarged benevolence will never be alluded to: these are virtues which possess no charms for the million—they lack the sauce piquante of malevolence and slander. But when we are told, how Mr. Abernethy behaved to a fat lady with a sore finger-and how he did the same to a rapacious lawyer with a sore leg; how, moreover, he spoke out to the Duke of York, (who, being a Duke Royal, was a God to be worshipped,) and how he skipped about the room to show delicate young misses how to take exercise-these, and similar edifying pleasantries are the steps by which Mr. Abernethy is to climb to immortality,--these are the delicate morsels, which some discriminating writers will call and cook up for the especial edification of a discerning public.
I once ventured to mention this opinion to the Professor, with a view, I will candidly confess, of ascertaining his feelings on the subject. His remark was extremely characteristic :-
My good Sir, I know it: I have not lived all this time in the world without knowing, that
“ The evil that men do lives after them-
So will it be with me, and with you, too, if you attain any degree of celebrity. But what matters it?–The lifeless corpse will no more hear the ill-natured sarcasins of an ill-natured world, than it will feel the knife of the anatomist, as he traces the source and distribution of its once sensitive nerves. As to myself, I am well satisfied with my own actions: I know I have done some good, and by those whom I have benefitted, I am well content to be remembered.”
Mrs. Abernethy said rather a smart thing at this same dinner. The Professor had been eulogizing public schools for boys, and he concluded by saying, he should send his son to Eton, lo learn manners. " It was a pity, my dear,” said Mrs. A., that did not go there for the same purpose. “ Egad! and so it was, replied our host, “and I dare say you are not the only person, thinks so!”
In the calm bosom of domestic life, few persons appear to greater advantage than Mr. Abernethy. The ungainly churlishness, which he too often and too coarsely exhibits, when in pursuit of his professional duties, is put aside and replaced by the fondest and most endearing attributes of a husband and a father. The lugubrious off-the-stage appearance of Liston; does not present a more startling want of resenıblance to his mirth-moving aciing, than does Dr. Abernethy's home-demeanour to his professional manners : his rudeness is exchanged for playsulness-his impatience for a
sedulous attention, amounting sometimes even to a courtly formality, to the comfort of every person under his roof; and, when the
pangs of his despotic and cruel malady do not tear his very heart-strings, few men can be so perfectly entertaining, or, upon good occasion, so heartily jovial as “surly John!" Oh! that in the integrity and talent of their professional character, some few more of the disciples of Galen would more closely imitate the example of Mr. Abernethy! The professors of the “healing art" would not then be stigmatized as a greedy and avaricious race, nor would the most useful and most noble of callings be polluted by the disgraceful actions of its mercenary votaries. The petty jealousies, which now influence too many of the fraternity, would be supplanted by a manly candour, and a praiseworthy competition to excel each other—not in the taking of fees—in itself, by the way, no unpleasant pastime—but in dispensing those invaluable blessings, which, from their worth and extent, were capable, in ancient times, of deifying their givers.
“Sun of China! What contradictions do we find in this strange world !" I have just returned from a visit to a rich merchant's wife in Bedford Square, who, being determined to go to a rout at the West End, sent for me in a great hurry at eight o'clock to cure her " instantaneously," as she expressed it, of a violent catarrh. I found the lady, who was enormously corpulent, in her own room (a clumsy attempt at a tasteful boudoir) wrapped up-head, legs, feet, arms, and every thing-in new flannel, and reclining on a large sofa, placed in front of the fire. She was attended by a genteel, and interesting girl, very plainly dressed, and whom I soon discovered to be an orphan niece, and, of course, a most miserable dependant.
* My dear Doctor!" she exclaimed, disentangling one of her fat and red arms from amidst its flannel garniture, * Dear Lady Gtells me you are very clever at curing colds and catarrhs, and such like.--Now, do, dear, dear Doctor, cure mine instantaneously!” As I had never had the happiness of seeing the good lady before, I was rather surprised at the warmth of her address; but observing a quiet smile on the pretty features of her attendant, I readily conjectured that it was merely her usual manner.
Having asked a few necessary questions, my afflicted patient gave full scope to her volubility— My dear Doctor-I must be cured instantaneously-I must indeed! I would not miss Lady L- 's rout for a thousand pounds—I wouldn't I assure you. And, now, only look at me! Did you ever see any body suffering so dreadfully as I do? I am sure you never did. And there's my husband poor, dear, loving soul !-he is quite fidgetty about his poor Dora; and wouldn't have me leave my snuggery here~no—that he wouldn't-for a thousand pounds. But I am determined to go to Lady L
-'s, and you must cure me, instantaneously-you must indeed!" And so she went on, till she grew so hoarse as to be.