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the age arrived at so high a degree of skill, with. out any assistance from his predecessors; and that a man eminent for integrity practised medicine by chance, and grew wisé only by murder; is not to be considered without astonishment.
But if it be, on the other part, remembered, how much this opinion favours the laziness of some, and the pride of others; how readily some men confide in natural sagacity, and how willingly most would spare themselves the labour of accurate reading and tedious inquiry ; it will be easily discovered how much the interest of multitudes was engaged in the production and continuance of this opinion, and how cheaply those, of whom it was known that they practised physick before they studied it, might satisfy themselves and others with the example of the illustrious Sydenham.
It is therefore in an uncommon degree useful to publish a true account of this memorable man, that pride, temerity, and idleness may be deprived of that patronage which they have enjoyed too long; that life may be secured from the dangerous experiments of the ignorant and presumptuous; and that those, who shall hereafter assume the important province of superintending the health of others, may learn from this great master of the art, that the only means of arriving at eminence and success are labour and study.
From these false reports it is probable that another arose, to which, though it cannot be with equal certainty confuted, it does not appear that entire credit ought to be given. The acquisition of a Latin style did not seem consistent with the manner of life imputed to him; nor was it pro
bable, that he, who had so diligently cultivated the ornamental parts of general literature, would have neglected the essential studies of his own profession.
Those therefore who were determined, at whatever price, to retain him in their own party, and represent him equally ignorant and daring with themselves, denied him the credit of writing his own works in the language in which they were published, and asserted, but without proof, that they were composed by him in English, and translated into Latin by Dr. Mapletoft.
Whether Dr. Mapletoft lived and was familiar with him during the whole time in which these several treaties were printed, treatises written on particular occasions, and printed at periods considerably distant from each other, we have had no opportunity of inquiring, and therefore cannot demonstrate the falsehood of this report: but if it be considered how unlikely it is that any man should engage in a work so laborious and so little necessary, only to advance the reputation of another, or that he should have leisure to continue the same office upon all following occasions; if it be remembered how seldom such literary combinations are formed, and how soon they are for the greatest part dissolved; there will appear no reason for not allowing Dr. Sydenham the laurel of eloquence as well as physick*.
It is observable that his Processus Integri, published after his death, discovers alone more skill in the Latin language than is commonly ascribed to him; and it surely will not be suspected that the officiousness of his friends was continued after his death, or that he procured the book to be translated only that, by leaving it behind him, he might secure his claim to his other writings.
* Since the foregoing was written, we have seen Mr. Ward's Lives of the Professors of Gresham College; who, in the life of Dr. Mapletoft, says, that in 1676 Dr. Sydenham published his Observationes medicæ circa morborum acutorum historiam et curationem, which he dedicated to Dr. Mapletoft, who at the desire of the author had translated them into Latin ; and that the other pieces of that excellent physician were translated into that language by Mr. Gilbert Havers of Trinity College, Cambridge, a student in physick and friend of Dr. Mapletoft: But as Mr. Ward, like others, neglects to bring any proof of his assertion, the question cannot fairly be decided by his authority. Orig. Edit.
It is asserted by Sir Hans Sloane, that Dr. Sydenham, with whom he was familiarly acquainted, was particularly versed in the writings of the great Roman orator and philosopher; and there is evidently such a luxuriance in his style as may discover the author which gave him most pleasure, and most engaged his imitation.
About the same time that he became bachelor of physick, he obtained, by the interest of a relation, a fellowship of All Souls college, having submitted by the subscription required to the authority of the visitors appointed by the parliament, upon what principles, or how consistently with his former conduct, it is now impossible to discover.
When he thought himself qualified for practice, he fixed his residence in Westminster, became doctor of physick at Cambridge, received a licence from the college of physicians, and lived in the first degree of reputation, and the greatest affluence of practice, for many years, without any other enemies than those which he raised by the superior merit of his conduct, the brighter lustre of his abilities, or his improvements of his science, and his contempt of pernicious methods supported only by authority in opposition to sound reason and indubitable experience. These men are indebted to him for concealing their names, when he records their malice, since they have thereby escaped the contempt and detestation of posterity.
It is a melancholy reflection, that they who have obtained the highest reputation, by preserving or restoring the health of others, have often been hurried away before the natural decline of life, or have passed many of their years under the torments of those distempers which they profess to relieve. In this number was Sydenham, whose health began to fail in the 52d year of his age, by the frequent attacks of the gout, to which he was subject for a great part of his life, and which was afterwards accompanied with the stone in the kidneys, and, its natural consequence, bloody urine.
These were distempers which even the art of Sydenham could only palliate, without hope of a perfect cure, but which, if he has not been able by his precepts to instruct us to remove, he has, at least, by his example, taught us to bear; for he never betrayed any indecent impatience, or unmanly dejection, under his torments, but supported himself by the reflections of philosophy, and the consolations of religion, and in every interval of ease applied himself to the assistance of others with his usual assiduity.
After a life thus usefully employed, he died at
his house in Pall-mall, on the 29th of December, 1689, and was buried in the aisle, near the south door, of the church of St. James in Westminster.
What was his character, as a physician, appears from the treatises which he has left, which it is not necessary to epitomise or transcribe; and from them it may likewise be collected, that his skill in physick was not his highest excellence; that his whole character was amiable; that his chief view was the benefit of mankind, and the chief motive of his actions the will of God, whom he mentions with reverence, well becoming the most enlightened and most penetrating mind. He was benevolent candid, and communicative, sincere, and religious ; qualities, which it were happy if they could copy from him, who emulate his knowledge, and imitate his methods.