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DR. SAMUEL JOHNson, in his Life of Akenside, makes the following observation :
“A physician in a great city seems to be the mere plaything of fortune; his degree of reputation is, for the most part, totally casual; they that employ him, know not his excellence; they who reject him know not his deficiency. By an acute observer, who had looked on the transactions of the world for half a century, a very curious book might be written on the FORTUNE OF PHYSICIANS.”
Many years after this hint was thrown out, a work of much merit appeared, entitled “The Gold-headed Cane," and attributed to the pen of Dr. M'Michael. It contained a variety of interesting particulars relating to the distinguished physicians who successively inherited that ancient relic, now comfortably deposited in the College of Physicians. But, although, in some particulars, “The Gold-headed Cane” resembles the present work, and is interesting as far as it goes, it does not fill up that hiatus in medical literature to which Dr. Johnson alludes.
Adopting his suggestion, the author has endeavoured in the following pages to supply this desideratum; and although he was conscious that it was no easy undertaking, he fearlessly commenced the work, with a fixed determination to permit no personal consideration, however pressing, to prevent his making it as complete as his humble abilities and laborious exertions could possibly render it.
The formidable nature of the undertaking, however, might have deterred him from its prosecution, had he not previously collected much of the matériel necessary for its basis. Intending to publish a work, entitled “ Curiosities of Medical Literature,” he brought together many of the facts and illustrations contained in these pages; but just as his plan was fully matured, it was frustrated by the appearance of a book under a somewhat similar title
; the author, therefore, determined at once to demolish the fabric he was erecting, and by mingling much new matter with the old materials, to mould the book into its present form.
That the reader may be enabled to form some notion of the author's difficulties, and of the ground over which
he has travelled, in his long and tiring journey, culling sweets from many a flower—it is only necessary to state that the facts and illustrations now brought together, were scattered through four hundred volumes !
The preliminary chapter was written for the purpose of demonstrating the antiquity of the science of medicine, and to defend its professors from certain calumnies which had been levelled against them by unprincipled and ignorant men, ever ready to depreciate in public estimation the highly honourable members of a learned and useful profession.
In the chapter on the “Early Struggles of Eminent Phy. sicians," the Author has brought forward several instances of men who have had to contend in early life with difficulties and disappointments of no ordinary character, but who afterwards attained to very high eminence in their respective departments of medical science; and it is hoped that its perusal will encourage and elevate the drooping hopes of many who may, perhaps, at this moment be struggling, nearly heart-broken, with adversity.
The men who commence their career under the most favourable auspices, and with the most flattering prospects of success, do not always obtain the eminence they seek. The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. There is a certain ordeal which all men must undergo in their passage through life; and it is very