Poems and quotations

In the British Medical Journal (subscription required):
…Henry G Bohn, one of the giants of 19th century publishing and bookselling…invented cheap and commercial editions of the classics. Emerson said of him that he had done for books what railways had done for travel. But he also compiled a Dictionary of Poetical Quotations, with 8000 citations from 450 poets; surely a sign of the most diligent, if not necessarily judicious, reading.
The quotations in his dictionary are arranged by subject matter, and it is sad to relate that those about doctors are not only few but overwhelmingly derogatory. For example, there is a quotation from Charles Churchill (1732-1764), a prolific but now forgotten poet whose short life was full of scandal: “The surest way to health, say what they will, / Is never to suppose we shall be ill. / Most of those evils we poor mortals know, / From doctors and imagination flow.”
It is easier to counsel the avoidance of illness than to follow that advice, however. Churchill died in France at an early age, having fled there to escape prosecution for an assault on his printer; in France he caught a chill and took James’s fever powders…. 
Forty years after Churchill’s aspersions about doctors, the playwright George Colman (the Younger) made one of his characters say, in a similar vein (quoted by Bohn): “Will kick’d out the doctor:—but when ill indeed, / E’en dismissing the doctor don’t always succeed.” In other words, doctors are not the sole cause of death, because illness can sometimes do it too: a most generous concession.

One thought on “Poems and quotations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.