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PASSAGES FROM THE DIARY
“ The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of
fools is in the house of mirth."--Eccl. vii. 4.
PUBLISHED BY J. & J. HARPER, 82 CLIFF-ST.
Gallaher, & White, 0. A. Roorbach, E. Bliss, and C. S. Francis ;=
BY THE AMERICAN PUBLISHERS.
It is one of the maxims of inspired wisdom, that “it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men,—and the living will lay it to his heart." The lessons taught from the bed of the dying are not easily forgotten. The sympathies of our nature awaken intense interest towards those who are evidently departing from the scenes of human frailties and sufferings to a world which knows no change. We feel that they have no longer any motive to mislead or deceive us, and we listen to them as we would to the teachings of an oracle. Their near approach to the world of spirits seems to invest them with a keener insight into the realities of this world. With a quickness of apprehension which belongs only to this portion of our existence, the whole history of a life is brought in review almost in a moment. Selfdeception has now lost its power; and every action stands forth in its own undisguised shape. Standing on this awful point, which separates time from eternity, they speak in a manner which the experience of ages has deemed to be prophetic as to the future, and which all must regard as the highest testimony concerning the past.
The members of the medical profession, who are constantly associated with the sick and the dying—to whom, in the unreserved confidence of sinking humanity, every thing is communicated, must necessarily have at their command a vast treasure of interesting and instructive materials.
But although the bar, the church, the army, the navy, and the stage have all contributed to amuse and inform the public with their secret history, that of this profession has hitherto remained “ sealed book;" and yet there are no members of society whose pursuits lead them to listen more frequently to what has been exquisitely termed “ the still, sad music of humanity.” What instances of noble though unostentatious heroism-of calm and patient fortitude under the afflictions of intolerable anguish,—what appalling combinations of moral and physical sufferings, prostrating the proudest energies of humanity,—what diversified developements of character,—what striking and touching passages of domestic history, must have come under the notice of the intelligent practitioner of physic!
These scenes, so well calculated to furnish both instruction and amusement, have been hitherto kept from the public observation as carefully as the Eleusinian mysteries were concealed from the eyes of the vulgar. Access is occasionally given to the deathbed of some distinguished character,Addison is seen instructing a profligate how a Christian can meet death; and Dr. Young, in his deathbed of Altamont, has painted in strong and lasting colours the closing scene of one whose career too nearly resembled the profligate War.
wick's. But those in humbler walks of life have been overlooked, as if men could be taught only by great examples. The mine of incident and sentiment which is to be found in ordinary society, so rich in instruction and so applicable to our own situation, has been neglected.
These considerations have led to the publication of the present volume,—being a series of extracts from a late physician's diary, originally published in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine.
In these sketches, obviously drawn from nature, and warm and vivid with the colour of reality, all proper care has been taken to avoid undue disclosures. Names, dates, and places have been omitted; and so much of the sketches alone have been published as are necessary to convey the story and the instructive moral.
New-YORK, May, 1831.