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Physicians in China

Anecdotes Home

Caleb Colton, nephew of the late Sir George Staunton,
gives in a recent publication the following anecdote:--"My late uncle, Sir
G. Staunton, related to me a curious anecdote of old Kien Long, Emperor of
China. He was inquiring of Sir George the manner in which physicians were
paid in England. When, after some difficulty, his majesty was made to
comprehend the system, he exclaimed, 'Is any man well in England that can
afford to be ill? Now, I will inform you,' said he, 'how I manage my
physicians. I have four, to whom the care of my health is committed: a
certain weekly salary is allowed them; but the moment I am ill the salary
stops till I am well again. I need not tell you that my illnesses are
usually short.'"

Zimmerman, who was very eminent as a physician, went from Hanover to attend
Frederick the Great in his last illness. One day the king said to him, "You
have, I presume, sir, helped many a man into another world?" This was
rather a bitter pill for the doctor; but the dose he gave the king in
return was a judicious mixture of truth and flattery: "Not so many as your
majesty, nor with so much honour to myself."

Montaigne, who is great upon doctors, used to beseech his friends that if
he felt ill they would let him get a little stronger before sending for the

Moliere, when once travelling through Auvergne, was taken very ill at a
distance from any place where he could procure respectable medical aid. It
was proposed to him to send for a celebrated physician at Clermont. "No,
no," said he, "he is too great a man for me: go and bring me the village
surgeon; he will not, perhaps, have the hardihood to kill me so soon."

Louis XIV., who was a slave to his physicians, asked Moliere one day what
he did with his doctor. "Oh, sire," said he, "when I am ill I send for him.
He comes; we have a chat, and enjoy ourselves. He prescribes;--I don't take
it, and I am cured."

General Guise going over one campaign to Flanders, observed a raw young
officer, who was in the same vessel with him, and with his usual humanity
told him that he would take care of him, and conduct him to Antwerp, where
they were both going, which he accordingly did, and then took leave of him.
The young fellow was soon told by some arch rogues, whom he happened to
fall in with, that he must signalise himself by fighting some man of known
courage, or else he would soon be despised in the regiment. The young man
said he knew no one but Colonel Guise, and he had received great
obligations from him. "It is all one for that," said they, "in these cases.
The Colonel is the fittest man in the world, as everybody knows his
bravery." Soon afterwards the young officer accosted Colonel Guise, as he
was walking up and down the coffee room, and began, in a hesitating manner,
to tell him how much obliged he had been to him, and how sensible he was of
his obligations. "Sir," replied Colonel Guise, "I have done my duty by you,
and no more." "But Colonel," added the young officer, faltering, "I am told
that I must fight some gentleman of known courage, and who has killed
several persons, and that nobody"--"Oh, sir," interrupted the Colonel,
"your friends do me too much honour; but there is a gentleman (pointing to
a fierce-looking black fellow that was sitting at one of the tables) who
has killed half the regiment, and who will suit you much better." The
officer went up to him, and told him he had heard of his bravery, and that
for that reason he must fight him. "Who?--I, sir?" said the gentleman;
"why, I am the _apothecary_."

Dr. Moore, author of "Zeluco," used to say that at least two-thirds of a
physician's fees were for imaginary complaints. Among several instances of
this nature, he mentions one of a clothier, who, after drinking the Bath
waters, took it into his head to try Bristol hot wells. Previous, however,
to his setting off, he requested his physician to favour him with a letter,
stating his case to any brother doctor. This done, the patient got into a
chaise and started. After proceeding half way, he felt curious to see the
contents of the letter, and on opening it, read as follows:--"Dear
Sir,--The bearer is a fat Wiltshire clothier: _make the most of him_." It
is almost unnecessary to add that his cure was from that moment effected,
as he ordered the chaise to turn, and immediately proceeded _home_.

Sir Charles Wager had a sovereign contempt for physicians, though he
believed a surgeon, in some cases, _might_ be of service. It happened that
Sir Charles was seized with a fever while he was out upon a cruise, and the
surgeon, without much difficulty, prevailed upon him to lose a little
blood, and suffer a blister to be laid on his back. By-and-bye it was
thought necessary to lay on another blister, and repeat the bleeding, to
which Sir Charles also consented. The symptoms then abated, and the surgeon
told him that he must now swallow a few bolusses, and take a draught. "No,
no, doctor," says Sir Charles, "you shall batter my hulk as long as you
will, but depend on it, you shan't _board_ me."

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