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Art. II.-The Honour of the Gout, or a Rational Discourse ;
demonstrating that the Gout is one of the greatest Blessings which can befal Mortal Man: That all Gentlemen who are weary of it, are their own Enemies; and that those Practitioners who offer at the cure, are the vainest and most mischievous Cheats in Nature: By way of Letter to an eminent Citizen; wrote in the heut of a violent Paroxysm, and now published for the common Good by Philander Misaurus : London, 1720.
who offerre? By way of proxysm, and no
How comes it to pass that so many people regard the gout as a subject of merriment? If any one is lying sick of a fever, his friends make their inquiries after him with all requisite concern and solemnity. Dropsy and phthisis, too, excite a due degree of sorrow and sympathy. But the public, aye, the " thinking public,” hear of the pains of the Arthritic with careless unconcern; and it is ten to one but the neighbour who visits his couch of torment is unmoved by the sight of flannel or of crutches. Nay, the countenance distorted by agony, moves him not; but he approaches the patient, who may, peradventure, be more correctly denominated the impatient, with a smiling visage, and a ready joke. In vain does the sufferer tell a dismal tale of symptoms of distressing flatulencies-of a toe burning with fires hotter than any which are to be found in purgatory—of sleepless nights, during the lingering hours of which each variation of posture has only produced a variation of pain. All these complaints are uttered to the winds. The unrelenting auditor still “ smiles and smiles,” and treats this calamity as matter of congratulation rather than of condolence.
Again we ask, how comes this to pass? How are we to · account for this insensibility to human sufferings? Is it a sign of the degeneracy of the age in which we live ?-We apprehend not; for we can trace jests upon the gout to a remote period of antiquity. In ridicule of this complaint, Lucian wrote his Tragopodagra, and his Ocypus, the latter of which closes with the following Job's comfort to the unfortunate Arthritic,
The apparently hard-hearted propensity which we are analysing, is not, then, peculiar to the present times, or to this best of all possible countries. It seems to arise from causes so universal, that it may be said to be founded in the nature of things; and without recurring to the saturnine maxim of Rochefoucault, that “men always find something comfortable to themselves in the woes of others,” we think it may be accounted for more creditably to human nature upon the following principles- In the first place, whatever may be its ultimate effects, the gout is seldom or ever mortal in its first attacks, or in its very violent paroxysms; and therefore, in the case of those who are struggling with its fury, the acquaintance and friends of the parties are free from that apprehension and sympathy which arises from the idea of life being endangered. In point of fact, we frequently meet at the social board some corpulent, jovial, boon companion or other, in whose rubicund visage it requires a discriminating eye to distinguish the bilious tinge, who, descanting on his last fit, informs us that he is limited in his beverage to Particular Madeira. Now, when we tickle our palate with a glass of the aforesaid Particular, we really do not find any thing so very dreadful in this limitation in question, and think that we could ourselves submit to it with a good grace, especially as that oracle of all oracles, Dr. Scudamore (“s et sapit et inecum facit”) allows a modicum of claret to be thereto superadded. Again, much sympathy is denied to the Arthritic, in consequence of a common notion, (and common notions generally have their foundation in fact,) that the gout keeps off all other disorders. And, indeed, when “the toe of libertine excess,” as Cowper terms the locus in quo of this disorder, has been wrung to some purpose, and the patient, profiting by this severe process of discipline, takes warning, and, like Falstaff, begins to live cleanly, and to leave off sack, it is truly marvellous to behold what a change is effected in his looks, and what vigour is infused into his constitution. And this leads us to observe, that in a multitude of instances sympathy is refused to the gouty, from a persuasion that they have brought on the calamity, under which they labour, upon themselves. Mankind, in general, have a high sense of poetical justice. When the tyrant has blustered and bellowed, and committed robbery and murder for four acts and three quarters, how are the audience delighted with the catastrophe of his fate! What thunders of applause do they lavish on the hero or the heroine, who, when the measure of his crimes is full, plunges a sword or a dagger into his bosom! And this sense of poetical justice they carry into the affairs of common life; and regard the swollen and inflamed foot of an alderman, brightened, as it were, by the glossiness which vouches for the genuineness of his gout, as the patina vouches for the genuineness of an ancient coin, as a retribution as due to his exploits at city feasts, as death by the trusty steel of Richmond is to the crimes of crook-backed Richard.There is a greater approach to equality in the distribution of good and evil in this world than people are generally aware of. The teeth of many a gourmand in velle have watered at the sight of a haunch of venison, or of a tureen of turtle, of which the narrowness of his circumstances have forbidden him to partake. But should he, peradventure, see the dire diseases which lie in ambush in these tempting viands, like the crocodile in the waters of the Nile, he will bless that poverty which saves his frame from those numerous ills which result from that indulgence of the appetite which produces an overflowing of the bile; and, like the spectator described by Lucretius, as viewing, not without a secret pleasure, a vessel labouring under the fury of a tempest, he will behold with sentiments of self-satisfaction, which somewhat deaden the emotions of sympathy, the Arthritic tossing to and fro on his bed of pain. Our discontented radicals may, perhaps, be soothed by the reflection, thạt the sins of their arch enemy, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, are visited upon his great toe; and they may retaliate the numerous gibes which he is wont to pass upon them, by making his twinges a matter of jest. We are persuaded that the pains of the gout are the less object of compassion, because they are generally deemed the exclusive property of the privileged orders, the rich and the fashionable; so that the occurrence of this disorder to persons who occupy a sort of debateable ground in the ranks of society, seems to be primâ facie evidence that they ought to be enumerated among the magnates, the envied few. We do, indeed, remember an individual thus equivocally circumstanced, who endured the assault of his first fit (and a very rude one it was) with great magnanimity, and with an illdisguised pride and satisfaction, till he, unfortunateiy, heard that a journeyman glazier, in his vicinage, was afflicted with that very complaint which he fondly regarded as a mark of gentility.
We have made these preliminary observations, by way of plea in apology for Philander Misaurus, who, in the tract now under our consideration, has made the gout “a subject for his mirth, yea, for his laughter,” and also in excuse for ourselves, for reviving the public attention to his lucubrations. Who the individual was who thought it expedient to assume this nom de guerre, after many painful researches, we have been unable to discover. From a brief advertisement which is prefixed to it, we should be led to conclude that it was a posthumous publication; for the notice in question states, that “this piece was wrote, as appears from many passages in it,
towards the beginning of the reign of King William” (the third) and that “ the author is since dead.”
Philander not only speaks facetiously of the gout, but also deals very irreverently with that dangerous body, the members of the faculty of medicine. For, not having the fear of the Senate of Warwick-lane before his eyes, he thus dedicates his work :
“ To all the numerous offspring of APOLLO, whether dogmatical sons of art, or empirical by-blows; to all pharmaceutic residentiaries in town or city: also to all strolling practitioners and impostors.
“ Gentlemen, -If this letter shall happen in any measure to spoil your trade, heaven make me thankful, for I well know that your's is the very trade of two famous Princes*, that have, by one method or other, rid out of the way great numbers of men.
“A malefactor condemned to die ought to be free from all manner of insults as he goes to execution; I know it, and therefore do not dedicate this letter to you by way of insult, but friendly to mind you, that since your unrighteous trade is broke, or breaking, you would timely bethink yourselves what honest employment you may be fit for. If you will take my advice, you shall travel, for, to your sorrow, you have known an overgrown farrier from abroad make a great doctor in England. Why should not you make as good farriers abroad as they do doctors here?
“ This is certain, like true farriers, you have prescribed to many a weak man a medicine fit for a horse.
“ So, then, for the materia medica, 'tis the same. Nothing will be troublesome and uneasy to you in your new profession, but that you shall never get as much by practising on the spavin as the gout, but you must be content with less earnings. 'What! you can't in conscience expect as much for killing a horse as a man.
“To this change of your profession, not only the discovery of the frauds and dangers thereof, but also the name of your great patron, Hippocrates, invites. What are you more than he? Come, come, ovóua xào tégeamu petapéfats — Change your name and profession. Better a murrain among horses than a plague among men.
“ Having thus obliged you, Gentlemen, in an epistle dedicatory, by minding you of the imminent decay of your practice upon human bodies, and teaching you how to make the best of a bad market, by trying experiments upon horseflesh, I hope you will make me that grateful return, as to prevent the obligation I confer on you from turning to any prejudice.
“Therefore, if any gouty person that may happen to malign you shall object against me, and say, I had better have made a forlorn regiment of you, and sent you to have been knocked on the head in Flanders, than given you a license to kill horses; remember to say this for yourselves and your benefactor, that when the devils were ejected out of human bodies, they were suffered to enter into swine.”
* Qu. Lewis XIV. and King William III. ?
This epistle dedicatory is followed by a copy of verses, Upon the First Fit of the Gout, which may be characterized as more pungent than poetical, more witty than melodious. Then the author, who professes to write during a paroxysm of the complaint, commences his Letter, by blaming his friend, because," not having a right sense of things before his eyes, he had, to the disgrace of his virtue, given his tongue the liberty; in an open coffee-house, to speak ill of the gout.” In allusion to the Nonjuring Jacobite clergy, who abounded in the time of king William, and to the political differences then subsisting, he thus remonstrates with the .citizen, on this failure of due respect to this disease, which, for his part, he acknowledges as, upon the true Whig principles, his legitimate sovereign.
“Would you yourself, sir, patiently endure the honour of our great master, our rightful and lawful king, to be contemptuously reflected on, by e'er a recreant piece of conscientious priestcraft, that infests the town? Then why should I not be concerned før the honour of my great master, the gout, who claims not, 'tis true, the power he exercises over me by any hereditary pretence, but from an origin altogether as sacred and indisputable, namely, some voluntary acts and deeds of my own?”
' In vehement rebuke of an allegation of his friend, that the gout is the offspring of the devil, Philander maintains, that if the devil ever created any thing, it was the doctor ; " of whom,” says he,“ since you have made so much use, I know not but it may be rationally inferred, that you have dealt with the devil.” The gout, he affirms, “was postnate to the creation, and younger, something, than the fall of man; who, having incurred the sentence of death, the friendly gout was sent in mercy down from heaven, to lengthen wasting life.” He then, in further proof that his satanic majesty is not the father of the gout, very ingeniously contrives, according to the fashion of the day, to have a fling at the pope, winding up a lengthened argument, on this topic, by observing, “ that as antichrist, or the pope, who, according to the ancients, are one and the same first-born of the devil, has never, as it appears from Platina, been favoured with the gout, it is plain that the devil did not create it.”
Having despatched this preliminary matter, Philander now handles his subject in due form, and goes on to demonstrate the honour and blessing of the gout, by six cogent arguments. The first of these is, that “the gout gives a man pain without danger."
“ Suppose,” says he, “ that a man, suffering under a painful, threatening distemper; what's his first question to the physician, but