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conceives himself indispensable to his employers, and becomes rapacious and brutal upon the strength of his reputation; and the servile and fawning sycophant, who, in exceeding the established rules of good breeding towards characters, despicable in other respects than external splendour and magnificence, forgets that his philosophy is but a name.*
How is it that we never meet with a physician, in a dramatic representation, but he is treated as a solemn coxcomb and a fool?t This satire, however, cannot properly be considered as levelled against the science of medicine, but against those who practise it; not against the profession, but against its particular manners. What must be the state of medicine, when a learned physician admits that, in order to ensure success, a medical man's manners should be obsequious ?I
Whatever may be said of eccentricity, it must be evident to any person of observation, that a medical practitioner's success depends materially upon his outward appearance. A singular dress, an affected pomposity, a mysterious air, all conspire to throw around the physician indications of unusual sagacity which is sure to attract the notice of those uninitiated in the ways of the world, and to ensure a degree of respect to which he cannot have a reasonable claim.
* Dr. Percival.
+ MOLIERE makes Beraldo, in the “ Malade Imaginaire,” say, “I don't know a more pleasant piece of mummery, or any thing more ridiculous, than for one man to undertake to cure another."
| Dr. Young's "Medical Literature.”
How much affected dignity and pomposity influence the world, may be gleaned from the following fact: -Dr. Hugh Smith, who was a medical Nimrod, and resided at Bristol, when compelled to leave home, often substituted for himself an elderly man, on whose head he placed a cauliflower wig. The deputy sat, subtle-looking, like an ape in a house-porch, dispensing with facility to his applicants, from drawers, therapeutically labelled, "ointment for sore eyes," "pills for the bilious," et hoc genus omne.
After the death of the principal, the “Mock Doctor" succeeded to his practice, and the acquisition of an ample fortune!
In bringing before our readers the more striking incidents in the lives of some of our most celebrated eccentric medical men, we would premise that it is not our intention to enter into a minute detail of every circumstance connected with their career, but merely to give the principal events relating to each physician, with anecdotes illustrative of their respective characters.
We shall begin with Dr. MOUNSEY, who was for many years the Abernethy of his day. He was physician to Chelsea Hospital, and attracted considerable attention by his many eccentricities: of his early history we have not been able to discover any records. The “Chelsea Doctor," as he was commonly called, was a truly original character. We have collected many authentic anecdotes of him, which we shall give without any respect to chronological arrangement.
The Doctor was intimately acquainted with Sir Robert Walpole, who knew the worth of his “Norfolk
Doctor," as he called Mounsey, but neglected to reward it. The prime minister was fond of billiards, at which his friend very much excelled him. “How happens it,” said Sir Robert, in his social hour, " that nobody will beat me at billiards and contradict me but Dr. Mounsey ?" “ They," said the Doctor, “get places; I get dinners and praise.” The Duke of Grafton was mean enough to put off paying him for a long attendance on himself and family, by promising him a little place at Windsor. “I take the liberty to call on your Grace, to say the place is vacant,” said the Chelsea Physician. “Ecod (his Grace had not the most harmonious voice, and repeated this elegant word in a very peculiar manner), Ecod, I knew it; the Chamberlain has just been here to tell me he promised it to Jack.” The disconcerted and never-paid physician retired, and informed the Lord Chamberlain of what had passed, who said, “don't for the world tell his Grace; but, before he knew I had promised it, here is a letter to me, soliciting for a third person.”
By way of ridiculing family pride, he used to confess, that the first of his ancestors, of any note, was a baker and dealer in hops, a trade which enabled him, with some difficulty, to support his family. To procure a present sum, this ancestor had robbed his feather beds of their contents, and supplied their deficiency with unsaleable hops. In a few years, a severe blight universally prevailing, hops became more scarce, and of course enormously dear; the hoarded treasure was ripped out, and a good sum procured for hops, which in a plentiful season, were of no value; and thus, the Doctor used to add, “our family hopped from obscurity.”
The mode in which he drew his own teeth was singular. It consisted in fastening a short piece of catgut firmly round the affected tooth; the other end of the catgut was, by means of a strong knot, fastened to a perforated bullet, with this a pistol was charged, and when held in a proper direction, by touching the trigger, a troublesome companion was dismissed, and a disagreeable operation evaded.
Dr. Mounsey was always infatuated with a fear of the insecurity of the public funds, and was frequently anxious, in his absence from his apartments for a place of safety, in which to deposit his cash and notes: going on a journey, during the hot weather in July, he chose the fire-place of his sitting-room for his treasury, and placed bank-notes and cash to a considerable amount in one corner, under the cinders and shavings. On his return, after a month's absence, he found his housekeeper preparing to treat some friends with a cup of tea, and by way of showing respect to her guests, the parlour fire-place was chosen to make the kettle boil; the fire had not long been lighted when the Doctor arrived. When he entered the room the company had scarcely began tea. Mounsey ran across the room, like a madman, saying, “Hang it, you have ruined me for ever; you have burned all my bank-notes." First went the contents of the slop basin, then the tea-pot; then he rushed to the pump in the kitchen, and brought a pail of water, which he threw partly over the fire and partly over the company, who, in the utmost consternation,
got out of his way as speedily as possible. His housekeeper cried out, “For G- sake take care, Sir, or you will spoil the steel stove and fire-irons.” “D-n the irons,” replied the Doctor; “ you have ruined me -you have burned my bank-notes.” “L-, Sir," said the half-drowned woman,“ who'd think of putting bank-notes in a Bath stove, where the fire is ready laid ?"
And,” retorted he, “who would think of making a fire in the summer time, where there has not been one for several months ?” He then pulled out the coals and cinders, and, at one corner, found the remains of his bank-notes, and one quarter of them entire and legible. Next day, Dr. Mounsey called upon Lord Godolphin, the high-treasurer, and told him the story. His Lordship said, "that he would go with him to the Bank the next day, and get the cash for him, through his influence.” He accordingly ordered his carriage, and agreed to meet Mounsey at the room in the Bank, where some of the directors daily attended. The Doctor, being obliged to go to the Horse-Guards on business, took water at Whitehall for the City. In going down the river, he pulled out his pocket-book, to see if the remains of his notes were safe, when a sudden puff of wind blew them out of his pocket-book into the river. “Put back, you scoundrel,” said the doctor, “my bank-notes are overboard."
He was instantly obeyed, and the doctor took his hat and dipped it into the river, inclosing the notes and hat full of water. In this state he put it under his arm, and desired to be set ashore immediately.