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"It appears," says the author of a recent work, of great ability and information*, "that there are in London, 800 surgeons and 2000 apothecaries more, and 826 physicians less, than there would be, if there were no artificial limitations, or, if the three branches of the professions were left freely to adjust their due proportions to each other and to society. The functions of the 826 physicians who are deficient, are of course at present supplied by the extra surgeons and apothecaries, or by empirics." Now let it only be remembered, that this overwhelming body of apothecary-surgeons and surgeon-apothecaries, which is quartered on the inhabitants of London, has a direct interest in the consumption of medicines, whilst it is exempted from any check in pouring them into families.
The "general practitioner," as he is called, is ever on the watch to make a lodgment within a patient's house, to penetrate his doors in a great variety of characters. He is surgeon, man-midwife, apothecary, doctor—he has great competition to encounter—the market is overstocked—delicacy must give way—he must contrive business, for he must subsist. Experience shews that the surest road to custom, is midwifery attendance—it is an admirable expedient for hopeless adventurers. A surgeon-apothecary, a " general practitioner," in town or country, may be wooing customers until doomsday, without effect; he may, by dint of gas-light and magnifying vials, shine forth through the live-long night in all the fascinating splendour of blue and crimson, a beacon to the distant passenger, which marks the approach to the harbour of health; and alas! instead of a place of shelter to be courted, the wayfaring man may think it a rock to be avoided. But let him have a case of midwifery; let him be called to attend a respectable lady of solvent circumstances in her confinement, and then, what a golden prospect opens upon him! The mother and child—they are marked prey: and then it is ten to one if anxiety and restlessness have not discomposed some other member of the family—at least the affair cannot have gone off' so harmlessly to all the residents in the house, as to leave no little shivering fit, or hoarseness in some quarter or another:—down they go on the list. The spring-tide of juleps and infusions now sets in!—its ebbing who shall command? What has one to oppose to "such a sea of bottles?" One cannot with rude hand turn a professional man out of doors—one cannot say, "so far shall you go and no farther." The whole family, to the little finger, rejoices in vigorous health; confessed—but may there not be danger in too much confidence? A draught or two, and some strengthening pills can do no possible harm, but may perchance effect a world of good! .
Here is the way in which a man-midwife takes root. His is an empire of opinion;—he must maintain it by whatever means—he must get a hold upon our admiration or gratitude—he must impress
* "Exposition of the state of the Medical Profession," p. 13.
us with the notion that he is the very wisest, the cleverest man we could employ;-he must do this, for there are so many thousands in the market, that he is in danger of being supplanted every day. Will he not sigh for an opportunity to distinguish himself—to exhibit his skill—to shew his knowledge and dexterity ? Will he not pretend that there is occasion for an operation in midwifery 2 or, will he have too much integrity to create the necessity himself?
The writer of the observations now under our consideration, informs us, I have lately heard of some distressing cases having occurred from the improper interference of the accoucheur, when there was good cause to believe that nature would of herself have duly per
formed her own work. What did this uncalled for interference
arise from ? The reply is evident—to make work, as it is technically called, by forcing or obstructing nature, and by which, the lives of women have been sometimes sacrificed *. No doubt we are justified in assuming, and that upon the authority of medical men themselves, that the number of those accoucheurs is not limited, who, to use the bold language of Sir Anthony Carlisle, in the letter already alluded to, “seek notoriety by desperate acts, often involving manslaughter—operative acts, the moral propriety of which is very doubtful.” Mr. Charles Bell, one of the most distinguished anatomists of modern times, makes the following important observation, in the last edition of his “Anatomy of the Human Body.” “I wish that my present subject permitted me also to state, what I have found on dissecting the parts after the use of the crochett; and in particular where the forceps had been used, as I must presume, in a case improper for them. The injury which the seeming harmless instrument, the forceps, is capable of doing, might then be * and a wholesome admonition given to young surgeons.” Vol. 3, . 495. p It happens that labours in cases of first children are more severe and protracted than at other times, and are therefore unfortunately of a nature to present the adventurous audacity of the accoucheur, with a great number of temptations to professional display. Once the use of instruments takes place, woe be to that female in whose case their employment has been resorted to The chances are numerous that some irreparable injury is done, which will either disqualify the patient from ever again becoming a mother, or, should such an event occur, will very considerably aggravate the severity and the perils of the case. There is scarcely a volume, or treatise on the subject of midwifery, which does not disclose some fact tending to shew the mischief of this mechanical interference— “It is probable,” says one writers, “that in the majority of cases,
* Observations, p. 42. -
the structure of the parts has been so weakened, either from the effects of former labours, or by the use of instruments, as to lay the foundation for this accident" (laceration). The truth is, that accoucheurs will not permit, if they can, the belief to be entertained that nature is every thing, and all their pretended art as nothing, in the great process of the birth of mankind. Thus, in the Dublin lying-in hospital, numerous cases of difficult parturition were absolutely created, by the preliminary treatment to which the inmates were subjected. They were kept in a close warm room, and sustained on coarse stimulating diet. How many operations took place under this system it is impossible to tell.—All we know is, that when the treatment was reversed, the whole of the doctors began to marvel very much, and to tremble a great deal at the wonderful power of unassisted nature*.
We trust that enough has been said to rouse attention to the subject, particularly that of our country-women, on whose good sense and courage we are, after all, mainly to rely for the abolition of so enormous an evil. Millions on millions of happy mothers, all over the globe, have never even heard of such a thing as a manmidwife. Every existing member of the royal race of George 3d, emerged into earthly life in the absence of male attendance. She whom parliaments and councils had a right to control, who was responsible to the state for due care of the succession to the monarchy—Queen Charlotte of England, dispensed with accoucheurs, and bravely trusted her own, and the fate of future kings, to the decent ministry of " good Mrs. Draper."
Art. III. Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom. Vol. i. part i. 4to. pp. 227. London: Murray. 1827.
The experience of literary history, is not very favourable to the establishment of exclusive academies and societies. The tendency of such institutions, in the republic of letters, has been, in general, hostile to the freedom of intellectual exertion. A chartered and privileged society, is a permanent and jealous faction, with interests and passions, adverse to the growth of all power but its own. If efficient for any purposes, it must produce an oligarchical league against the many; and the collective influence of such a body is naturally opposed to every innovation or improvement, which does not immediately emanate from within itself. Among its members
* " Since it became usual to keep women in labour in a cool atmosphere, and to support them by mild, instead of stimulating nourishment, the powers of the constitution fail but seldom in expelling the foetus, when there is no material defect in the formation of the pelvis. "Dr. Clarke's Report of the Lying-in Hospital of Dublin.
the narrow spirit of party, always yet more mischievous in literature than in politics, is sure to prevail; and, in the same degree in which their confederated superiority may be recognised, is the danger of its being employed for the enforcement of arbitrary principles of criticism, and tyrannical dogmas of taste. Against the solemn dicta of a constituted assembly, no dissent is tolerated with impunity; and the efforts of individual talent are repressed and subdued, by the imposing array of prescriptive and organised authoritv.
*ppeal to the familiar history of Italian letters, will sufficiently awaken the recollection of every scholar to the real influence of exclusive literary societies upon the national mind of a country, which was once the illustrious birth-place of genius and learning. The fact is too notorious for dispute, that the miserable corruption of taste in Italy, which succeeded to the brilliant age of Ariosto and Machiavelli, and Guicciardini, was, in a great measure, the work of those pedantic academies which, from #. sixteenth to the eighteenth century, gave law to the language and compositions of the Italian muse. Those bodies, beginning with an overstrained zeal for exquisite purity of diction, first succeeded in emasculating all vigour of expression; and next, by inevitable consequence, destroyed originality of thought, in the servile imitation of a few conventional models. Then followed the unmeaning reign of changeless words and fastidious proprieties, of affectation and “concetti,” and hypercritical observances; until, in the boasted refinement of style, the Italian academicians,
“Content to dwell in decencies for ever,”
had extinguished almost the last sparks of that inspiration of genius, which had, in other times, illumined their country and the universe.
Nor will the later instance of the French academy weaken the force of the conclusions, which are to be drawn from the example of the Italian societies of literature. Doubtless, the French language gained in correctness by the labours of the “forty,” to whom the witty malice of one of their own countrymen assigned, “Tesprit comme quatre,” for the aggregate measure of their intellectual strength. But the compilation of their dictionary was the sole real service which the French Academy rendered to their country's literature; and even of that undertaking it may be observed, that the same task was, in our own language, at least equally well executed, by the single individual, who,
& 4 like a hero of yore,
And, with respect to the lexicographical labours of the French Academy, their success in fixing the standard of the national lan
guage, must be held but poorly to compensate for the imposition of those innumerable shackles, bywhich they straightened andoppressed all free exercise of intellectual power. To the absurd and pedantic canons of criticism enacted by the Academy, are to be attributed the cold precision and tame mannerism, which were the monotonous characteristics of French style, in prose and verse, throughout the whole eighteenth century: until the gigantic spirit of the Revolution burst all the bonds of prescription, alike in government and religion, morals and letters.
The academic law of the dramatic unities, which narrowed even the critical precepts of Aristotle, has still been permitted to survive the extinction of the old regime of French taste: but, in other respects, the tyranny of a high court of literature in France, has been, by universal consent, overthrown. Nor can there, we apprehend, be any doubt that, with all the faults and extravagances of the modern, or "romantic," school of French writers, the cultivation of mental originality and vigour has been greatly promoted among our neighbours, by the collision of the revolutionary struggle, and the subversion of the obsolete rules of the Academy. That body has only, indeed, merged into the Institute, under the title of the class " De la Langue et Litterature Frangaise;" and the jealous intrigues, and envious cabals, which disgraced the old Academy, bid fair to be the most remarkable part of the inheritance of its successor. But the modern academicians of France will never, it is to be hoped, be suffered to exercise the despotic and paralysing influence of their precursors; and that their existence, as a body, may not be worse than useless, is all that need be desired for the general interests of literature.
With these discouraging examples of the Italian and French academies full before the world, the pompous incorporation of a 'Royal Society of Literature,' in our own country, has not, perhaps, been an act of very wise deliberation or sound judgment. The indifference and neglect with which, in so literary an age, its institution has been received by the public, may alone serve for a proof that the utility and value of its objects have not been recognised in general estimation. If ever, at any period in the literary history of a country, bounties and premiums are necessary for promoting the cultivation of letters, the present, assuredly, is not that epoch in England. If ever royal or individual protection is indispensable, or really favourable, to the development of talent, it is the infancy, and not the maturity of learning, which should demand this fostering care. Happily, in Great Britain, at least, the days are long past, and, we trust, for ever, in which the favour, or the want of titled patronage, can advance or retard the career of the aspirant to literary fame. Here is already secured all that industry and merit can need: a free, fair, and open field of competition; an enlightened tribunal of judgment; and a generous and ample reward. In this age of general education and intellectual