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The Rational Doctor.


MONG the various sciences to which our old friend Mr. Bagges had addicted himself, one, which he cultivated with peculiar diligence, was that of Gastronomy. It is well known that over-application is a frequent cause of injury to health; but, in no instance, perhaps, has it this effect more often than in the study to which Mr. Bagges devoted his peculiar attention. He had been engaged in the prosecution of this pursuit satisfactorily and undisturbedly for some years, when at length, rather on a sudden, he was attacked with heartburn, loss of appetite, and other symptoms of indigestion, combined with weariness, indisposition to exert himself, and depression of spirits. He also experienced unaccountable feelings of coldness and numbness in the extremities, accompanied by prickings as with pins and needles, and occasional cramps. For the relief of these symptoms, which he imagined to proceed from cold, he tried brandy-and-water. Having taken a large and strong tumbler of this agreeable medicine, he went to bed, hoping to rise all right again the next day. Instead of that, however, Mr. Bagges awoke about two o'clock in the morning with

an intolerable pain in the ball of the great toe; a sensation which, as he afterwards said, he could compare to nothing but to what he might imagine would be the torture of a bunyon under hydraulic pressure. Daylight discovered the part affected to be somewhat swollen, and to exhibit a slight redness on its surface. Mr. Labell, the doctor, was sent for the fact was, in short, that Mr. Bagges had got the gout

Mr. Bagges had his foot wrapped in flannel, bathed in hot water and in cold, leeched two or three times, and blistered once; he once dosed with antimony, opium, ether, ammonia, and ipecacuanha; and, finally, with colchicum. At last he recovered; in consequence of which of the above measures and remedies, or whether or not in spite of each or all of them, it is difficult to say. But gout is strong in its attachments. It seldom loses sight of an acquaintance once contracted. Regularly every year did gout attentively return and look in upon Mr. Bagges, as punctual and as welcome a visitor as the collector of the income-tax. With the disease came Mr. Labell, the doctor, and a course of treatment so very similar to persecution as, rather than even the sufferings of the malady itself, to entitle our friend to be canonized as a martyr to the gout."

A long course of prosperity in a business which consisted in selling medicines under the pretence of treating disease, at length enabled Mr. Labell to retire from practice; and when Mr. Bagges had his next fit of the gout, it was necessary for him to choose another medical attendant. His choice lighted on a practitioner, by some years Mr. Labell's junior, a gentleman whom he had occasionally met at the Royal Institution on a Friday evening, and who had obliged him by explaining to him portions of lectures which he did not comprehend, and had made an especial

impression upon him by the recapitulation, with explanatory remarks, of an interesting discourse on physiology. Under the hands of Mr. Newby, the duration of the disorder was much less than it had ever been previously; and the patient was soon enabled to celebrate a happy recovery by a moderate dinner, to which, with many acknowledgments, he invited his physician. In the course of the evening the conversation turned on the subject of his recent illness.

"Well, doctor," said Mr. Bagges, "thanks to younow don't be modest; I will say thanks to you: this last attack is the shortest I ever had. Eh? but now, this is contrary to your usual experience, is it not? Gout, I thought-gout-the oftener it repeated its visit, the longer it stopped with you, eh ?"

"Why, Mr. Bagges," replied Newby, "that is true enough in a general way. But the stay of gout, like that of most guests, depends on its reception."

"Well, I must say," observed Mr. Bagges, "that you made me receive my guest in a most inhospitable manner this time, with your-what?-antiphlo-"

"Gistic," Mr. Newby suggested.

"Antiphlo" Mr. Bagges repeated, "gistic regimen. Labell used to say,Live?-oh! live pretty much as usual. Take your-what?-your pint of port a day. Don't eat curry-I should say curry was a bad thing.' Eh? now do you consider curry a bad thing?"


"A capital thing," answered Newby, "for the gout— but not, exactly, for the patient. With regard to curry, I should say Mr. Labell's advice was judicious."

"Well," continued Mr. Bagges, "I was not to eat curry; and had better let hashed venison alone, and avoid any thing rich and high-seasoned, and pastry-certainly not touch pastry. That's all,' he would say, 'Bagges, my boy;

only lay your foot up in flannel, apply this, that, on the other lotion, fomentation, liniment, leeches-what not-and take the medicine, I shall send.' But you-now, you put me on what I should certainly call short commons. You didn't starve me!-No: I don't mean to say that; but you did—yes, you did stop the supplies to a very great extent."

"That was quite constitutional, sir," urged Mr. Newby. "Yes, it was perfectly constitutional-quite parliamentary, considering the crisis. But, is there no certain cure for gout-no medicine-no recipe or prescription in particular? Those pills of yours gave me miraculous ease."

"There is none, Mr. Bagges, or your own recovery should have been more rapid. Neither for gout, sir, nor, strictly speaking, for any other disease. There are one or two disorders in which the conditions are pretty uniform, and which are, therefore, generally removable by the same means. But even those are, in some cases, so complicated with other ailments as to call for additional treatment. Bark and quinine, for instance, are said to cure ague, and, practically speaking, so they do usually; but still, they cannot be depended on alone in that disorder. However, for by far the greater majority of diseases, there is no such a thing at all as a special remedy; and the treatment has to be varied in each according to the circumstances. In the next case of gout that I may have to treat, I may find my patient with a dry skin, and may have to take measures for procuring perspiration. In yours, I found the liver inactive. It was necessary to cause that organ to perform its function; and for that purpose I gave you a mercurial. These pills you seem so grateful to. So the relief afforded in one case by blue-pill, or calomel, might be derived in another, from ipecacuanha, or antimony, or from a steam bath without any medicine at 11 "

"Or a stiff tumbler of hot grog, eh?" suggested Mr. Bagges.

"Not impossible," replied Newby, "hazardous as the remedy would be."

"Punch cures the gout, you know, the song says, as well as the colic-eh ?—and the phthisic," reasoned Mr. Bagges.

"Well," said the medical man, "probably it is as likely to do so as any other specific."

"But what do you mean, then," demanded Mr. Bagges, "by the cure of a disease? I always thought that the medicine you gave acted by destroying the disease—neutralizing some poison in the system-eh ?-as an acid does an alkali—at all events putting a stop to the complaint."

"Curing a disease," answered Mr. Newby, "on our part, means, literally, taking care of it. It is nature that cures in the sense of healing. All that we do, or can do, is to influence and regulate the natural operations. But now, what do you imagine a disease to be ?"

"Eh?" answered Mr. Bagges, "why I should say— some morbid principle in the system-a certain noxious something—"

"No, sir," said Newby; "that is just where you are wrong, and where the generality of the British public, and too many members, perhaps, of the British faculty, are wrong too. A disease is not a something."

"It can't be a nothing," Mr. Bagges argued. "Gout, now the deuce !-do you call that nothing?"

"What I mean,” explained Mr. Newby, "is, that a disease is not a particular thing, but a state of things. People are apt to speak of it as a substance or essence, a sort of being, comparable to a fiend or demon in possession of the human body; and they look on the doctor as a species of conjurer-"

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