The Project Gutenberg eBook, Curiosities of Medical Experience, by J. G. (John Gideon) Millingen
Title: Curiosities of Medical Experience
Author: J. G. (John Gideon) Millingen
Release Date: March 7, 2012 [eBook #39074]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
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By J. G. MILLINGEN, M.D., M.A.
SURGEON TO THE FORCES; RESIDENT PHYSICIAN
OF THE COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX PAUPER LUNATIC ASYLUM AT HANWELL;
MEMBER OF THE MEDICAL SOCIETY OF THE ANCIENT FACULTY OF PARIS;
OF THE MEDICAL SOCIETY OF BORDEAUX; AND AUTHOR OF
“THE ARMY MEDICAL OFFICER’S MANUAL,” &c.
REVISED AND CONSIDERABLY AUGMENTED.
IN ONE VOLUME.
RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET,
Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
WHITING, BEAUFORT HOUSE, STRAND.
SIR JAMES M’GRIGOR, Bart.
M.D., F.R.S., K.T.S., &c. &c.
DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE ARMY MEDICAL DEPARTMENT,
TO WHOSE ZEAL AND EXAMPLE THE MEDICAL OFFICERS OF HER MAJESTY’S
FORCES ARE SO MUCH INDEBTED FOR THAT DISTINGUISHED
CHARACTER AND CONSIDERATION THEY COLLECTIVELY
AND INDIVIDUALLY HOLD IN THE ESTIMATION
OF THE EUROPEAN ARMIES,
THIS WORK IS INSCRIBED,
AS A TESTIMONIAL OF PUBLIC RESPECT AND
SINCERE PRIVATE ESTEEM,
BY THE AUTHOR.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The rapid sale of the first edition of this work has induced the publisher to reprint it with considerable additions in a less expensive, and more concise form—and the author embraces this opportunity, gratefully to acknowledge the liberality with which it has been received, and the indulgence shown to its many imperfections. At the same time he cannot but regret, that in some quarters it has been surmised that he yielded credence to the many strange relations which he has recorded from various medical works, but which he merely narrated, to show the fallacy even of experience, and the many dangers that may arise from the most ingenious theories and doctrines, in the very ratio of their apparent plausibility.
Although these sketches were not intended for the profession, yet they may prove of some utility to the pupil who commences the arduous study of medicine. They may convince him, that great names, however justly respected and renowned, do not constitute a sufficient basis, on which to rest a satisfactory and conclusive judgment; and, as Locke has justly observed, that “reverence or prejudice must not be suffered to give beauty or deformity to any of their opinions.” He will find that of which further experience will subsequently convince him, that medical investigation is too often founded upon analogy and hypothesis—but let not this painful and disheartening impression arrest his progress, or deter him from seeking to assist his judgment by collecting “the scattered parts of truth,” for in speaking of hypothesis, Dr. Crichton has thus expressed himself: “There is a period in knowledge, when it must be indulged in if we mean to make any progress; it is that period when the facts are too numerous to be recollected without general principles, and yet, where the facts are too few to constitute a valid theory. If the exterior form of an edifice is often the principal motive with men for examining its internal structure; so it is in science, that the splendour of an hypothesis, and the desire of proving its solidity, are more frequent motives for research than a mere love of knowledge.”
Notwithstanding our boasted progress in scientific pursuits, and our supposed approach to perfection, there never perhaps was a period, since the fanciful days of Paracelsus, Agrippa, and Van Helmont, when more deceitful and fascinating reveries were indulged in than at the present enlightened moment, nor more ingenuity and disingenuousness displayed in seeking to give substance to a vision or overthrowing its baseless fabric. It is painful to be obliged to admonish the would be legislators of our belief, in the words of the sceptical Bolingbroke:
“Folly and knavery have prevailed most where they should be tolerated the least, and presumption has been excused most where diffidence and candour are on many accounts the most necessary.
“Quale per incertam lunam sub luce maligna
Est iter in Silvis.”
Hanwell Lunatic Asylum,
The great success and correspondent utility of D’Israeli’s “Curiosities of Literature,” have induced me to add to the ample harvest of that ingenious writer a few gleanings from another field. They may not afford the same amusing variety to the general reader, but they may tend to draw some attention to many important points that affect the chequered lot of mankind. The progress that every science has rapidly made during the last half-century has been astounding, and seems to have kept pace with those struggles of the intellectual faculties to burst from the shackles of prejudice and error that had ignobly bound them for so many ages. Groping in darkness, man sought the light, but unfortunately the sudden refulgence at times dazzled instead of guiding his steps in the pursuit of truth, and led him into errors as perilous as those that had surrounded him in his former mental obscurity. His gigantic powers were aroused, but, too frequently misapplied, they shook the social edifice to its very foundation. The daring hand of innovation destroyed without contemplating what better fabric could be raised on the ruin: and while the nobler faculties with which Providence had gifted us were exerted for the public weal, the baser parts of our passions sought liberty in licentiousness. Ambition degenerated into ferocity, scepticism led to impiety, and even apparent virtue sought to propagate the doctrines of good, by assuming the “goodly outside” of vice. Religion was overthrown because priestcraft had deceived, and high rank was held up to detestation because princes and nobles had been corrupt; and to use Shakespeare’s words,
Thus we debase
The nature of our seats, and make the rabble
Call our cares, fears; which will in time break ope
The lock o’ the senate, and bring in the crows
To peck the eagles.
In ten short years this mighty revolution in the intellect of man took place,—in a country too that may be considered the cradle of