Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 11

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Letter XI


H0T WELL, April 20.

I understand your hint. There are mysteries in physic, as well as in religion; which we of the profane have no right to investigate — A man must not presume to use his reason, unless he has studied the categories, and can chop logic by mode and figure — Between friends, I think every man of tolerable parts ought, at my time of day, to be both physician and lawyer, as far as his own constitution and property are concerned. For my own part, I have had an hospital these fourteen years within myself, and studied my own case with the most painful attention; consequently may be supposed to know something of the matter, although I have not taken regular courses of physiology et cetera et cetera. — In short, I have for some time been of opinion (no offence, dear Doctor) that the sum of all your medical discoveries amounts to this, that the more you study the less you know. — I have read all that has been written on the Hot Wells, and what I can collect from the whole, is, that the water contains nothing but a little salt, and calcarious earth, mixed in such inconsiderable proportion, as can have very little, if any, effect on the animal economy. This being the case, I think the man deserves to be fitted with a cap and bells, who for such a paultry advantage as this spring affords, sacrifices his precious time, which might be employed in taking more effectual remedies, and exposes himself to the dirt, the stench, the chilling blasts, and perpetual rains, that render this place to me intolerable. If these waters, from a small degree of astringency, are of some service in the diabetes, diarrhoea, and night sweats, when the secretions are too much increased, must not they do harm in the same proportion, where the humours are obstructed, as in the asthma, scurvy, gout and dropsy? — Now we talk of the dropsy, here is a strange fantastical oddity, one of your brethren, who harangues every day in the Pump-room, as if he was hired to give lectures on all subjects whatsoever — I know not what to make of him — Sometimes he makes shrewd remarks; at other times he talks like the greatest simpleton in nature — He has read a great deal; but without method or judgment, and digested nothing. He believes every thing he has read; especially if it has any thing of the marvellous in it and his conversation is a surprizing hotch-potch of erudition and extravagance. He told me t'other day, with great confidence, that my case was dropsical; or, as he called it, leucophlegmatic: A sure sign, that his want of experience is equal to his presumption — for, you know, there is nothing analogous to the dropsy in my disorder — I wish those impertinent fellows, with their ricketty understandings, would keep their advice for those that ask it. Dropsy, indeed! Sure I have not lived to the age of fifty-five, and had such experience of my own disorder, and consulted you and other eminent physicians, so often, and so long, to be undeceived by such a — But, without all doubt, the man is mad; and, therefore, what he says is of no consequence. I had, yesterday, a visit from Higgins, who came hither under the terror of your threats, and brought me in a present a brace of hares, which he owned he took in my ground; and I could not persuade the fellow that he did wrong, or that I would ever prosecute him for poaching — I must desire you will wink hard at the practices of this rascallion, otherwise I shall be plagued with his presents, which cost me more than they are worth. — If I could wonder at any thing Fitzowen does, I should be surprized at his assurance in desiring you to solicit my vote for him at the next election for the county: for him, who opposed me, on the like occasion, with the most illiberal competition. You may tell him civilly, that I beg to be excused. Direct your next for me at Bath, whither I propose to remove to-morrow; not only on my own account, but for the sake of my niece, Liddy, who is like to relapse. The poor creature fell into a fit yesterday, while I was cheapening a pair of spectacles, with a Jew-pedlar. I am afraid there is something still lurking in that little heart of hers, which I hope a change of objects will remove. Let me know what you think of this half-witted Doctor's impertinent, ridiculous, and absurd notion of my disorder — So far from being dropsical, I am as lank in the belly as a grey-hound; and, by measuring my ancle with a pack-thread, I find the swelling subsides every day. From such doctors, good Lord deliver us! — I have not yet taken any lodgings in Bath; because there we can be accommodated at a minute's warning, and I shall choose for myself — I need not say your directions for drinking and bathing will be agreeable to,

Dear Lewis,
Yours ever,

P.S. I forgot to tell you, that my right ancle pits, a symptom, as I take it, of its being oedematous, not leucophlegmatic.