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ART. VIII. The Gold-Headed Cane. 8vo. pp. 179. 8s. 6d. London: Murray. 1827.

WHO would imagine, on reading this singular title, that he had opened a short history of the progress of medicine in this country during the last hundred and fifty years, mixed up with biographical sketches of the principal physicians who have adorned that period? Yet such is the two-fold object of this little volume, and, we may add, that the author, or rather the compiler, has performed his task in a simple and very agreeable manner. Several of his anecdotes appear to be derived from traditional authority; others he has selected from various authentic sources; and the whole he has put together, as the oracular narrative of the life and adventures of a gold-headed cane, which is said to have been handed down, as a sort of sceptre of pre-eminence, from Dr. Radcliffe to Dr. Baillie, through the celebrated names of Mead, Askew, and Pitcairn. The cane is now deposited among the sacred relics of the new College of Physicians, being excluded by modern fashion from the companionship which it formerly enjoyed. We suppose, that in its retirement it has been bitten by the prevailing rage for writing reminiscences; and when we find it beginning its story under the reign of William III., we must admit, that it has exhibited vast discretion in confining its memoirs within such moderate limits.

Of its boyhood and early education, our cane has, of course, no recollection, as it was not until it obtained a head, that it became conscious of existence. It seems to remember with marked delight, the first consultation at which it was present. It was in the autumn of 1689; its master, Dr. Radcliffe, had just then returned from the country, much fatigued, when a pressing message reached him at his house in Bow-street, Covent-garden, from the king, who was indisposed at Kensington.

'We were ushered through a suite of several rooms, plainly but handsomely furnished, by Simon de Brienne; and it seemed to me that the Doctor assumed a more lofty air, and walked with a firmer step, and I was conscious of a gentle pressure of his hand, as he stopped and gazed for a moment on the likeness of the Founder of the College of Physicians, Dr. Linacre, painted by Holbien, which was hanging in one of the rooms, amongst the royal portraits of the Henrys, and several other of the kings and queens of England and Scotland.

On entering the sick chamber, which was a small cabinet in the southeast angle of the building, called the Writing Closet, a person of a grave and solemn aspect, apparently about forty years of age, of a thin and weak body, brown hair, and of middle stature, was seen sitting in an arm-chair, and breathing with great difficulty. The naturally serious character of the king (for it was his Majesty William the Third) was rendered more melancholy by the distressing symptoms of an asthma, the consequence of the dregs of the small-pox, that had fallen on his lungs. In the absence of the fit, and at other times, his sparkling eyes, large and elevated forehead, and

aquiline nose, gave a dignity to his countenance, which, though usually grave and phlegmatic, was said in the day of battle to be susceptible of the most animated expression. "Doctor," said the King, "Bentinck and Zulestein have been urgent with me that I should again send for you; and though I have great confidence in my two body-physicians here, yet I have heard so much of your great skill, that I desire you will confer with Bidloo and Laurence, whether some other plan might not be adopted. They have plied me so much with aperitives to open my stomach, that I am greatly reduced: my condition is, I think, hazardous, unless you try other mea


'The King seldom spoke so long at a time, his conversation being usually remarkably dry and repulsive; and here his Majesty's speech was interrupted by a deep cough, and he sunk back in his chair exhausted. "May it please your Majesty," said Dr. Radcliffe, “I must be plain with you, Sir: your case is one of danger, no doubt, but if you will adhere to my prescriptions, I will engage to do you good. The rheum is dripping on your lungs, and will be of fatal consequence to you, unless it be otherwise diverted."Upon this, Dr. Bidloo, who, though expert in the knowledge of some branches of physic, was not always happy or quick in his conjectures, was about to reply. There was something like an insinuation of mala praxis in the last observation; and being somewhat of an irascible temper, the Dutchman, anxious perhaps to return to his duties of professor of anatomy and surgery at Leyden, was indifferent about giving offence to his royal master. But the King, in a calm and sullen manner, imposed silence, and intimated to the physicians to withdraw and consult upon the treatment of his malady. The consultation was short, and the result was, that some medicines should be tried that might have the effect of promoting the flow of saliva. This treatment fully succeeded, for the King was so completely restored, that a few months afterwards he fought the battle of the Boyne.' pp. 7-10.

Thus we see what great events depend on little causes. Had our gold-headed friend thought proper to fall on William's great toe, Ireland would have been saved, the treaty of Limerick never would have been thought of, and consequently never have been broken, to the disgrace of William and his parliaments. So much for the treament of a royal patient. Dr. Radcliffe did not, it seems, always act upon a regular system. If the following anecdote may be relied upon, he sometimes approached very nearly to what Mr. Abernethy would call "quackery."

'His practice increased, and there were few families of any note that had not sometime or other recourse to his skill and advice. I began now to consider how his superiority over his rivals was to be explained, whence arose the great confidence reposed in him by his patients; to what, in fine, his eminent success was to be attributed. It was clear, his erudition had nothing to do with it; but though there was something rude in the manner in which he frequently disparaged the practice of others, yet it could not be denied that his general good sense and practical knowledge of the world distinguished him from all his competitors. He was remarkable for his apt and witty replies, and always ready in suggesting expedients; though, to be sure, some of them were homely enough, and occasionally sufficiently

ludicrous, and such as I never witnessed with the grave and more polished doctors into whose hands I afterwards passed. He was once sent for into the country, to visit a gentleman ill of a quinsey. Finding that no external nor internal application would be of service, he desired the lady of the house to order a hasty-pudding to be made: when it was done, his own servants were to bring it up, and while the pudding was preparing, he gave them his private instructions. In a short time it was set on the table, in full view of the patient. "Come, Jack and Dick," said Radcliffe, as quickly as possible; you have had no breakfast this morning." Both began with their spoons, but on Jack's dipping once only for Dick's twice, a quarrel arose. Spoonfuls of hot pudding were discharged on both sides, and at last, handfuls were pelted at each other. The patient was seized with a hearty fit of laughter, the quinsey burst and discharged its contents, and my master soon completed the cure.'-pp. 19-21.


We shall extract from this memoir, a singular account of a fee received by Dr. Baldwin Hamey, as it is recorded in the MS. life of that physician. It is supposed to be related by Dr. Mead, in one of his conversations with Radcliffe.

"It was in the time of the civil wars, when it pleased God to visit him with a severe fit of sickness, or peripneumonia, which confined him a great while to his chamber, and to the more than ordinary care of his tender spouse. During this affliction, he was disabled from practice; but the very first time he dined in his parlour afterwards, a certain great man in high station came to consult him on an indisposition-(ratione vagi sui amoris)—and he was one of the godly ones, too, of those times. After the doctor had received him in his study, and modestly attended to his long religious preface, with which he introduced his ignominous circumstances, and Dr. Hamey had assured him of his fidelity, and gave him hopes of success in his affair, the generous soldier (for such he was) drew out of his pocket a bag of gold, and offered it, all at a lump, to his physician. Dr. Hamey, surprised at so extraordinary a fee, modestly declined the acceptance of it; upon which the great man, dipping his hand into the bag himself, grasped up as much of his coin as his fist could hold, and generously put it into the doctor's coat pocket, and so took his leave. Dr. Hamey returned into his parlour to dinner, which had waited for him all that time, and smiling (whilst his lady was discomposed at his absenting so long), emptied his pocket into her lap. This soon altered the features of her countenance, who, telling the money over, found it to be 36 broad pieces of gold: at which she being greatly surprised, confessed to the doctor that this was surely the most providential fee he ever received; and declared to him that, during the height of his severe illness, she had paid away (unknown to him) on a state levy towards a public supply, the like sum in number and value of pieces of gold; lest, under the lowness of his spirits, it should have proved a matter of vexation, unequal to his strength at that time to bear; which being thus so remarkably reimbursed to him by Providence, it was the properest juncture she could lay hold on to let him into the truth of it. It may be said," continued Mead, "that this was an extraordinary case, and the fee a most exorbitant one, which the patient paid as the price of secrecy: but the precaution was unnecessary (as it ought always to be in a profession whose very essence is honour and confidence);


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for the name of the generous soldier is never once mentioned in the life of Hamey, though I have good reason to believe he was no other than Ireton, the son-in-law of Cromwell." pp. 48-50.

It is well known that the death of queen Anne, which happened on the 1st August, 1714, was imputed by the enemies of Dr. Radcliffe, to his absence from the last consultation which was held by her physicians. This charge gained so much ground with the populace, that he was threatened with assassination, and through fear of the consequences, he confined himself to his country house at Cashalton, in Surrey, from the period of her majesty's death, until that of his own, which happened on the 1st November in the same year. He died very wealthy; and it need hardly be added, that the Radcliffe library at Oxford, and the observatory and public infirmary there, still attest the noble purposes to which his acquisitions were devoted.

The next physician to whom our gold-headed friend was transferred, was Dr. Mead, acknowledged upon all hands to be artis medica decus, vitæ revera nobilis ; distinguished above his contemporaries for the encouragement which he afforded to the fine arts, literature, and the knowledge of antiquity. It was during his archonship, if we may so express ourselves, in the medical world, that that most important improvement in the physical art took place, inoculation for the small-pox. It is well known that England is indebted for the importation of this most salutary antidote against a disease, once possessed of such devastating power, to Lady Mary Wortley Montague. She had seen it practised with success in the East, and shewed her confidence in its efficacy by having the operation performed on her own children. Like all other innovations, it was slowly adopted in the beginning, but when its advantages come to be extensively known, it was only a subject of general wonder, that a remedy so simple had so long remained undiscovered. Our business, however, is less with the progressive improvement of the medical art, than with the personal history of the physicians, as we find it anecdotically treated in this little volume.

In politics Mead was a hearty Whig, but he reckoned amongst his friends many whose sentiments differed widely from his own. Garth, Arbuthnot, and Freind, were among his chief associates; with the latter particularly he had always been on terms of the most friendly intercourse. Recently the intimacy of these two distinguished physicians had been much increased by a controversy in which they were embarked in support of their own enlightened views on the subject of the cooling treatment of the smallpox, against the attacks of the ignorant and malevolent.

About this time Dr. Freind had been elected member of parliament for Launceston, in Cornwall, and acting in his station as a senator with that warmth and freedom which was natural to him, he distinguished himself by some able speeches against measures which he disapproved. He was supposed to have had a hand in Atterbury's plot, as it was then called, for the restoration of the Stuart family; and having been also one of the speakers in favour of

the Bishop, this drew upon him so much resentment that (the Habeas Corpus Act at that time being suspended) he was, on March 15, 1722-3, committed to the Tower. Here he lay a prisoner for some months, and my master did all he could to procure his liberation: during his confinement his practice fell chiefly into the hands of Mead. As soon as permission could be obtained, which was not till he had been some time in prison, we paid a visit to Freind, and entered that building whose low and sombre walls and bastions have frowned on many an innocent and many a guilty head.

• When his room door opened, we found him in the act of finishing a Latin letter to my master, "On certain kinds of the Small-pox;" and, as he perceived our approach, he came forward with an expression of great delight in his countenance. "I was writing a letter to you, with the permission of the governor of the Tower; and you are indebted," he added in a low whisper," to my companion (looking at the warder, who was in the same chamber with his prisoner) for its brevity: for I don't find that his presence assists me much in composition."-During our interview, Freind told Mead that he had passed his time not unpleasantly, for that he had begun to write the History of Physic, from the time of Galen to the commencement of the sixteenth century; but that at present he felt the necessity of consulting more books than the circumstances in which he was now placed would give him an opportunity of perusing-" Though I ought not to repine," said he, " while I have this book (pointing to a Greek Testament, which was lying on the table), the daily and diligent perusal of which solaces my confinement. I have lately been reading the Gospel of St. Luke, and I need not point out to a scholar like yourself, and one who has paid so much attention to what I may call the medical history of the Bible, how much nearer the language of St. Luke, who was by profession a physician, comes to the ancient standard of classical Greek than that of the other Evangelists. To be sure it has a mixture of the Syriac phrase, which may be easily allowed in one who was born a Syrian; yet the reading the Greek authors, while he studied medicine, made his language without dispute more exact. His style is sometimes even very flowing and florid-as when, in the Acts of the Apostles, he describes the voyage of St. Paul; and when he has occasion to speak of distempers or the cure of them, you must have observed that he makes use of words more proper for the subject than the others do. It is besides remarkable that St. Luke is more particular in reciting all the miracles of our Saviour in relation to healing than the other Evangelists are; and that he gives us one history which is omitted by the rest, viz. that of raising the widow's son at Nain."

My master left the prisoner, with an assurance that he would use all the influence he possessed to procure his liberty: "For," said he, smiling, "however much your cultivated mind is enabled to amuse itself by reading and writing, I presume you will have no sort of objection to resign your newly-acquired office of Medicus Regius ad Turrim"."-pp. 68-72.

It is highly creditable to Dr. Mead to add, that he took the earliest opportunity of pressing Sir Robert Walpole on the subject, and that he not only succeeded on that point, but on the day of

**This appointment was held by Dr. Gideon Harvey, from the year 1719 till 1754.'

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