London, Volume 3

Knight, Charles


LXII.-Barber-Surgeons' Hall.

LXII.-Barber-Surgeons' Hall.




Among the types of an earlier time, now daily disappearing from our gaze, there is feature of our old English streets which deserves at least a word of respectful recollection at parting. Who has not in childhood gazed on that long, gaily-striped, mystic-looking wand-let us not here debase it by associations that have so often injured its dignity, let us not call it pole-fixed over certain wellknown places in his neighbourhood, and wondered what could be its use or meaning? We have yet visions before us of an old Elizabethan mansion in an antique corner of of the most antique-looking towns in England, with projecting stories supported by strange monsters in fine old black carving, of which--a huge piece of workmanship-seemed ever to brandish of these awful instruments over the heads of all who approached the mysterious-looking precincts. We cannot to this day dispel the fancy that in that uncouth, grinning shape we beheld a kind of deposed household divinity of the once-flourishing Company of Barber-Surgeons--a fallen from its high estate, and driven into that remote solitude. Yes, these characteristic features of our old streets are


passing away, and in sense the circumstance is to be regretted. They are the last popular symbols of the low state, even in very recent times, of a science which peculiarly affects the people's welfare; an might yet be a warning against a belief, by no means extinct, that surgery and physic, like reading and writing,

come by nature.

Few readers but will remember that the existing pole is an imitation of the formerly held in the hands of patients during bleeding, and the stripes represent the tape or bandages used for fastening the arm, whilst both pole and tape, as soon as done with, were again hung up outside the shop, to tempt passers-by to an operation they were by no means reluctant to, as being a generally favourite specific for all disorders. We hope the ghosts of those days were not of a revengeful nature, or the ancient Barber-Surgeons of this class must have had a weary time of it, considering the number of persons they must have prematurely dismissed with their terrible poles, and tapes, and basins.

With the poles, too, the


of the Barber-Surgeons is in process of extinction, but not so their

local habitation :

that yet remains, and a curious and interesting place it is. Among those narrow streets and alleys which surround the Post-Office, to the north and the east, is , in the former direction, called . Remembering to have met with the said street under the less euphonious appellation of Mugwell Street, in the books of the Company, under the date of odd, we had suspicions that the alteration, suggestive of monasteries, and shaved heads, and cool and quiet cloisters, was not altogether a fair ; but it appears from Stow that the present is but a restoration of the original appellation, which was derived from a hermitage or chapel of

St. James in the Wall,

inhabited by a hermit and chaplains belonging to the Cistercian Abbey of Garadon.

Of these monks, and a well pertaining to them, the street took that name.

And in is the Hall of the Barbers' (formerly the Barber-Surgeons') Company. The conjunction which now seems so strange to us, may be dated, it appears, from the custom which prevailed among the monks and Jews-almost the only practitioners of the healing art during the , , and centuries--of employing barbers to assist in the baths, in applying ointments, and in various other surgical operations; and, as to surgery in particular, after the prohibition of the clergy, in , from undertaking any operation involving bloodshed, the art fell into the hands of the barbers and smiths, but chiefly into those of the former. The step towards combining this now important body into a united and chartered Company was taken by Thomas Morestede, surgeon to the Henries, the , , and . A record in the


gives us an interesting glimpse into the state of surgery during Morestede's time. It appears that in Henry V.'s army (the army of Agincourt) there was but surgeon present at a certain period--Morestede himself:--his assistants, whom he had pressed under a royal warrant, not having yet landed. The scientific attainments of these assistants were not, we may be sure, very extraordinary, when we find that of them were to act as archers as well as surgeons, that the whole received only archers' pay, and Morestede only the pay of an ordinary man-of-arms. But in surgery, as in physic, alchemy was the grand storehouse of all the secrets men


could desire to know; and whilst learned men were busy devising how we were to live for ever, who could expect they should care for the in which we lived during such a petty amount of time as the ordinary period of life? or inquire into the best mode of curing a wound, or safely taking off a limb, whilst unfailing youth, and strength, and beauty, for the whole human race, might be lying hidden in every crucible.

The promises of the alchemists were, indeed, so great in the noontide of their glory, that is half ashamed to transcribe of their latest, made in the days of their comparative decline, to Henry VI. In the protections granted to

famous men

by Henry VI., whilst prosecuting their studies, the object of the former is said to be the discovery of

a certain most precious medicine, called by some the mother and queen of medicine; by some the inestimable glory; by others the quintessence; by others the philosopher's stone; by others the elixir of life; which cures all curable diseases with ease, prolongs human life in perfect health and vigour of faculty to its utmost term, heals all healable wounds, is a most sovereign antidote against all poisons, and is capable of preserving to us and our kingdom other great advantages, such as the transmutation of other metals into real and fine gold and silver.

Cures all curable diseases,


heals all healable wounds!

We wonder the monarch, with the faith that he possessed, which, however often

tried in the fire,

was never found wanting, who, we verily believe, must have anticipated that the time would come when the Eastern salutation would cease to be a compliment, and that the King (oh! glorious days for monarchs!) would

live for ever

--we wonder, we repeat, Henry condescended to accept such an anti-climax to all his visions of wealth and immortality. But we would not have our readers suppose that he got what was promised. Neither would we be understood as absolutely contemning the medicine itself. For that matter, we should have been glad if the

famous men

had left us the recipe. To return, Morestede, with Jacques Fries, physician-and John Hobbes, physician and surgeon--to Edward IV., petitioned for a grant of charter, which was given by Edward and his brother Gloucester, in the year of the reign; and the Company of Barbers practising Surgery were incorporated in the name of St. Cosmo and Damianus, brethren, physicians, and martyrs. Then, probably, it was that the building in was erected. The authority of the Company extended over all persons practising their arts in and about London; they were empowered to examine all instruments and remedies; to bring actions against ignorant persons, and against those who practised without having been admitted into their body. This association was clearly a practical evidence of the progress of rational principles in the art, and in itself a new advance. In lapse of time the surgical portion of what we may call the Company's constituents appear to have grown dissatisfied with the connection with the remainder; or it may be that the Company had grown exclusive or arbitrary; so they formed a separate and unmingled body, calling themselves The Surgeons of London. To meet this new state of affairs, physicians and surgeons, by the Act of the of Henry VIII. were alike obliged to obtain a licence to practise from the Bishop of London, or the Dean of . The favours shown by Henry VIII. to the curative professions would, seem to imply that he had some glimmering of an idea


that knowledge was better than ignorance, the regularly educated surgeon a more trustworthy guide than the illiterate quack; but his sympathies seem to have been decidedly with the weaker vessels, the old women, &c. See how, in a few years, he_repents of his attack upon them in the Act just referred to:

Whereas, in the parliament holden at


, in the


year of the King's most gracious reign, amongst other things for the avoiding of sorceries, witchcraft, and other inconveniences, it was enacted that no person within the City of London, nor within


miles of the same, should take upon him to exercise and occupy as a physician or surgeon, except he be


examined, approved, and admitted by the Bishop of London and other, under and upon certain pains and penalties in the same Act mentioned; sithence the making of which said Act, the Company and Fellowship of Surgeons of London, minding only their own lucres, and nothing the profit or ease of the diseased or patient, have sued, troubled, and vexed divers honest persons, as well men as women, whom God hath endued with the knowledge of the nature, kind, and operation of certain herbs, roots, and waters, and the using and ministering of them, to such as be pained with customable diseases, as women's breasts being sore, a pin and the web in the eye, uncomes of hands, scaldings, burnings, sore mouths, the stone, stranguary, saucelim, and morfew; and such other like disease; and yet the said persons have not taken anything for their pains or cunning, but have ministered the same to the poor people only for neighbourhood, and God's sake, and charity. And it is now well known that the surgeons admitted will do no cure to any person but where they shall know to be rewarded with a greater sum or reward than the cure extendeth unto: for in case they would minister their cunning to sore people unrewarded, there should not so many rot and perish to death for lack of surgery as daily do; but the greater part of surgeons admitted be much more to be blamed than these persons they trouble.

In consideration whereof, and for the ease, comfort, succour, help, relief, and health of the king's poor subjects, inhabitants of this his realm, now pained, or that hereafter shall be pained or diseased, be it ordained, established, and enacted of this present Parliament, that at all time from henceforth it shall be lawful to every person being the King's subject, having knowledge or experience of the nature of-herbs, roots, and waters .... to minister in and to any outward sore, uncome, wound, imposthumations, outward swellings, or disease, any herb or herbs, ointments, baths, poultices, and plasters, according to their cunning, experience, and knowledge,

&c., &c.[n.180.1]  Gale, an eminent surgeon of the same reign, speaks in somewhat different language of these people, though at the same time showing that the King was by no means alone in his opinions of the unprofessional practitioners. He says,

If I should tell you of the ungracious witchcrafts, and of the foolish and mischievous abuses and misuses that have been in times past, and yet in our days continually used, ye would not a little marvel thereat. But forasmuch as it hath not only turned to the dishonour of God, but also the state of the Commonwealth, I have thought it good to declare unto you part of their wicked doings, that it may be unto you, which professeth this art, an example to avoid the like most wretched deeds. These

things I do not speak to you of hearsay, but of mine own knowledge. In the year


I did see in the


hospitals of London, called

St. Thomas's Hospital

and St. Bartholomew's Hospital, to the number of CCC and odd poor people that were diseased of sore legs, sore arms, feet, and hands, with other parts of the body so sore infected, that a

hundred and twenty

of them could never be recovered without loss of a leg or an arm, a foot or a hand, fingers or toes, or else their limbs crooked, so that they were either maimed or else undone for ever. All these were brought to this mischief by witches, by women, by counterfeit javills,

Wandering or dirty fellows, according to Johnson,

that take upon them to use the art, not only robbing them of their money, but of their limbs and perpetual health. This fault and crime of the undoing of these people were laid unto the chirurgeons--I

will not say by part of those that were at that time masters of the same hospitals-but

it was said that carpenters, women, weavers, cutlers, and tinkers did cure more people than the chirurgeons. But what manner of cures they did I have told you before; such cures as all the world may wonder at-yea, I say such cures as maketh the devil in hell to dance for joy to see the poor members of Jesus Christ so miserably tormented. ..... Of this sort (of pretenders) I think London to be as well stored as the country; I think there be not as few in London as


score women that occupieth the arts of physics and chirurgery. These women, some of them, be called wise women, or holy and good women; some of them be called witches, and useth (are accustomed) to call upon certain spirits ......

And in another part he says,

I will not speak of a multitude of strangers, as pouch makers and pedlars, with glass makers and coblers, which run out of their own countries, and here become noble physicians and chirurgeons, such as now is most in estimation, and ruleth all the roast in our country.

Such, practically, was surgery in the century.

The disunion of the barber-surgeons' and the surgeons' companies appears to have been found inconvenient or mischievous after all; so during the same reign they were re-united by the Act Henry VIII., under the name of masters or governors of the mystery and commonalty of barbers and surgeons of London, and were to enjoy all the privileges previously belonging to the single company. This was in ; then commenced the culminating period of the prosperity of the Barber-Surgeons' Hall.

In passing along , the visitor is at once directed to the place by the quaint circular piece of carved-work, projecting so boldly out like a porch head from the wall over the entrance, with the very large and finely cut arms of the Company in the centre. The razors form a conspicuous object on the shield. Beneath the arms is a great head, with coarse features and open mouth, and looking very much as we should fancy a gentleman of his aspect would under the hands of the ancient barber-surgeons during some of their operations. Animals, fruit, and a variety of other ornaments, help to fill up the details of this somewhat interesting piece of workmanship. Passing through the door and a low square passage, we enter a paved court, and the front of the building is before us. This is in no respect remarkable: it is of brick, with large


roundheaded and square windows intermingled, and was erected by subscription some years after the great fire of London, which, without absolutely burning the edifice down, considerably injured its exterior. The doors here open into a small vestibule, and then into the large apartment called the Hall, which has or noticeable features. The upper portion, forming a raised dais, is paved with marble in checquer-work, the gift (in ) of Mr. Lawrence Loe, chirurgeon, a member of the Company, who,

through his good affection thereunto, did for the worship thereof freely offer to give for the beautifying of the hall so many stones of black and white marble.

The portion thus paved is of a curious semicircular shape; which at once attracts attention; and, on inquiry, the delighted antiquary is informed he is there standing within of the very bastions, or bulwarks as they are called in the old writings of the Company, of the genuine Roman wall, here entirely perfect. The ceiling of the hall is simple, but handsome, being formed chiefly into bold oval compartments. A gallery over the entrance vestibule, or anatomical and other pictures, and rows of long tables, used by the worshipful Company for their annual dinner, complete the furniture of the hall, which has on the whole a deserted, cheerless aspect. From the hall let us pass to the Court-rooms of the choicest little rooms of the kind perhaps in London, for comfort, for elegance, and for just so much of antiquity as to harmonise with the associations of the place. And no wonder that it is so, when we consider who has here been at work. Its agreeable proportions, and its exquisitely decorated ceiling, are from no less a hand than Inigo Jones (the lofty elegant octagonal lantern is of later date) ; and kindred spirits have. enriched its walls. Over the screen which conceals the door of entrance is a portrait of Inigo Jones: that is by Vandyke. The rich full-length of the well-known Countess of Richmond over the fire-place can only be by Sir Peter Lely. But what glorious picture is that facing the fire-place, with its numerous figures, each so individually characteristic, yet the whole so homogeneously expressive--a picture glowing as a Titian, and minutely faithful as a Gerard Douw? That is the great treasure of the Company, , the greatest of the great painter's undoubted English works, and we should say the least known, except to the possessors of the fine print by Baron. It was painted to commemorate the re-union of the companies in . In the centre is Harry himself, a magnificent full-length portrait, in which you might almost read every thing but the dates of the monarch's career. He is in gorgeous apparel, still more gorgeously painted. Gold brocade and ermine, ruffles and rings, will all bear the closest examination: so also the Turkey carpet beneath his feet. All the other figures, in number, are portraits (of members of the Company); a curious proof of which is to be found in the interesting cartoon or study for this picture in the . The portraits are there separate pieces of paper pasted on in their proper places, and are evidently the original studies made by Holbein from the life. We are not aware that the existence of this cartoon is generally known. It is not mentioned by Walpole, though it seems to us scarcely less interesting than the picture painted from it. It has another interesting feature. In the painting there is a long inscription occupying a certain space of the upper part; in the cartoon, Mr. Clift, the curator of the museum


of the College, found, on cleaning a portion of it, some years ago, in the corresponding space, a window, through which was seen the old church of St. Bride; showing that the event recorded took place in the palace of . May we offer a suggestion as to the cause of the discrepancy? The painting Was at period


as the phrase is; probably the window there, as in the cartoon, had become through time or neglect almost illegible, and so, in despair of recovering the original, this inscription was made to cover the place?

Among these gentlemen, kneeling before the monarch in their gowns, furtrimmed, we have, , on the left (or Henry's right), who represent Alsop, Butts, and I. Chambre, all past masters of the Company.. Chambre was Henry's own physician, and, according to a custom happily obsolete now, held ecclesiastical preferments. He was dean of the royal chapel and college adjoining Hall, to which he built

a very curious cloister at a large expense.

Butts has obtained a wider celebrity, through the means of him who immortalizes by a word: he is the Dr. Butts of Shakspere's

Henry VIII.,

and is there introduced in an incident strictly true to history, and which Strype relates. In the Duke of Norfolk and other members of the privy council who belonged to the Catholic party made la strong endeavour to overthrow Cranmer, by formally accusing him of spreading heresies through the land. The King, the same night, sent Sir Anthony Denny to inform the archbishop of the circumstance.

The next morning,

says Strype, in his Life of the prelate,

according to the king's monition and his own experience; the council sent for him by


o'clock in the morning. And when he came to the councilchamber door he was not permitted

to enter, but stood without among serving-men and lacqueys above


-quarters of an hour; many councillors and others going in and out. The matter seemed strange unto his secretary, who then attended upon him, which made him slip away to Dr. Butts, to whom he related the manner of the thing; who by and by came and kept my lord company. And yet ere he was called into the council Dr. Butts went to the King, and told him he had seen a strange sight.

What is that?

said the King.


said he, my Lord of Canterbury is become a lacquey or a serving-man; for to my knowledge he hath stood among them this hour almost at the council-chamber door.

Have they served my lord so? It is well enough,

said the King;

I shall talk with them by and bye.

When the council did condescend to admit the prelate, it was to inform him that sentence of imprisonment was passed upon him. Cranmer's answer was the production of a ring which the King had sent him the night before, an original gift of the archbishop's to Henry: we may conceive the looks of blank dismay all around; their proceedings stopped at once. This incident is highly honourable to Dr. Butts, but is only in accordance with other records of his character. He was the patron of the learned and accomplished Sir John Cheke, whom he assisted to educate, and then to introduce into the world: it was he who invited Latimer to court, and it appears he was a warm friend of the Reformation. On the other side of the King, the figure is that of T. Vycary, the then master, who is receiving the charter from the royal hands. Vycary was serjeant-surgeon to the courts of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, and the author of the anatomical work in the language-

A Treasure for Englishmen, containing the Anatomy of Man's Body,

which was published in . Its materials are almost entirely derived from Galen and the Arabian writers, so little advance had yet been made in that very important part of the healing arts, the foundation, indeed, on which they are built. The other members whose names are known are, I. Aylef, N. Sympson, E. Harman, J. Montfort, J. Pen, M. Alcoke, R. Fereis, X. Samon, and W. Tylly, of whom we need only mention the , Aylef, a sheriff of London, and a merchant of Blackwell Hall, as well as a surgeon. His story was thus told on his tomb in the chancel of St. Michael's, in :--

In surgery brought up in youth,

A knight here lieth dead;

A knight, and eke a surgeon, such

As England seld hath bred.

For which so sovereign gift of God,

Wherein he did excel,

King Henry VIII. called him to court,

Who loved him dearly well.

King Edward, for his service sake,

Bade him rise up a knight;

A name of praise, and ever since

He Sir John Ailife hight,&c.

The picture is painted on oak, and is therefore likely to last for centuries. We conclude our notice of it with an interesting proof of the estimation in which it was held by James I., whose own autograph letter is in possession of the Company, and from which we now transcribe to the following effect:--

James R.

Trusty and well beloved, we greet you well. Whereas we are informed of a table of painting in your hall, whereon is the picture of our predecessor of famous memory, King Henry VIII., together with divers of your Company,

which being very like him, and well done

, we are desirous to have--copied: wherefore our pleasure is that you presently deliver it unto this bearer, our well-beloved servant Sir Lionel Cranfield, knight,


of our masters of requests, whom we have commanded to receive it of you, and to see it with all expedition copied, and re-delivered safely; and so we bid you farewell. Given at our court at Newmarket, the

13th day of January, 1617


Among the other pictures of the Court-room are a portrait of Charles II., purchased by the Company in , for . ; full-length Spanish figures, a lady and a gentleman; a portrait of C.Barnard, serjeant-surgeon to quoteueen Anne; and a picture containing portraits of Sir C. Scarborough, physician to Charles II. and the succeeding kings, and E. Arris, alderman, and master of the Company. Scarborough is habited in a red gown, hood, and cap, and is reading of the anatomical lectures appointed by the . Arris, as the demonstrating surgeon, wearing the livery gown of the city, is holding up the arm of a dead body placed on a table. These lectures were received with great approbation. Scarborough, indeed, bears the character of the ablest physician of his time: it is he to whom the poet Cowley writes certain verses concluding with the lines which appear to refer to a too close application to study:

Some hours, at least, for thy own pleasures spare;

Since the whole stock may soon exhausted be,

Bestow't not all in charity.

Let Nature and let Art do what they please,

When all is done, Life's an incurable disease.

Some interesting articles of plate grace the sideboard of the court on all important occasions, the gifts of different members : as, a silver-gilt cup with little bells, presented by Henry VIII.; another with pendant , presented by Charles II.; a large bowl given by quoteueen Anne; crowns or

garlands of silver, enamelled, garnished, and set forth after the neatest manner ;

and various


goblets, flaggons, dishes, &c. Some of these relics of the old splendour of the Company have more than once appeared to be lost. In the century the plate was occasionally pledged, and finally sold; when that

loving brother,

Arris, bought the cup of Henry VIII., and returned it to the Company. On another occasion, earlier in the same century, the Hall was broken open, and the plate with some money carried off; but of the thieves, T. Lyne, confessing immediately after, a clue was obtained to the deposit of the treasure, which was all or nearly all recovered. The incident is chiefly noticeable for the matter-of-course inhumanity of the period, as illustrated in the fate of all the thieves, which is thus recorded in the books :--

About the

16th of November

then following, Thomas Jones was taken, who being brought to Newgate in December following, Jones and Lyne were both executed for this fact. In January following Sames was taken and executed. In

April, 1616

, Foster was taken and executed. Now let's pray God to bless this house from any more of these damages. Amen.



In the records just referred to, under the date of , we read,

It is ordered by this Court, with a general consent, that the present master or governors shall take advice of workmen concerning the new building of their parlour and Lecture House, and to proceed as in their discretion shall seem meet.

The parlour (or court-room) only appears to have been erected in pursuance of this mandate; for in it is stated that, in consequence of the want of a public theatre for anatomy and skeletons, and a lesser room for private dissections, a theatre is to be ovally built; and in the succeeding year the order is repeated, with the addition,

according to the plotts drawn by his majesty's surveyor,

Inigo Jones. This building, which Walpole calls


of his (the architect's) best works,

is now lost, having been pulled down in the latter part of the last century, and sold for the value of the materials. It contained elliptical rows of seats of cedar-wood, rising regularly upwards, was lighted by a cupola, and amongst a variety of decorations were figures representative of the liberal sciences and the signs of the Zodiac. Some curious skeletons were distributed about. We are here reminded of another curious passage in the Company's papers, referring to a strange perplexity in which the worshipful Barber-Surgeons once found themselves. In the minute-book of the Court of Assistants, under the date of , we read,

It is agreed that if anybody which shall at any time hereafter happen to be brought to our hall for the intent to be wrought upon by the anatomists of the Company, shall revive or come to life again,

as of late hath been seen

, the charges about the same body so reviving shall be borne, levied, and sustained by such person or persons who shall so happen to bring home the body. And who further shall abide such order or fine as this house shall award.

There are eminent surgeons we have not before mentioned among the Masters or Wardens of the Company; Clowes, in , and Cheselden, in , of whom Pope, in a letter to a friend, in which he refers to his

late illness at Mr. Cheselden's house,


I wondered a little at your question who Che. selden was . ... He is the most noted, and most deserving man in the whole profession of chirurgery.

As to Clowes, we remember an amusing anecdote related by him in of his prefaces, wherein he is complaining of the number of pretenders almost as bitterly as Gale a century before. His story is to the effect that a woman, who was accustomed to undertake the cure of all ills by a charm, for the reward of a penny and a loaf of bread, was committed, not for this fraudulent pretence, but for sorcery and witchcraft, by some of the shrewd justices of the peace for the county. At the assizes, the judges, smiling at the absurdity of the charge, told her she should be discharged if she would faithfully reveal at once in public what her charm was. She immediately confessed that all she did was to repeat to herself the following verses, after receiving her bread and her piece of coin:

My loaf in my lap,

My penny in my purse;

Thou art never the better,

Nor I never the worse.

In the preface just referred to, Clowes particularly complains of the empirics


who were allowed to practise in the navy; and in that circumstance again reminds us of Gale, who, when he was with Henry VIII. at Montrenil, found himself among a pretty


of tinkers, cobblers, &c., who, with their ointment composed of rust of old pans and shoemakers' wax, seem to have killed more than the enemy. The mode of supplying the services had no doubt a great deal to answer for in this matter. We have seen that Morestede's assistants, in Henry V.'s army, were

pressed under a royal warrant ;

but our professional readers will perhaps hardly expect to find how late this custom continued, still less in what a complimentary manner it was done. Here is of Charles I.'s right royal mandates to the Masters and Governors of the Company:--

After our very hearty commendations: Whereas there is present use for a convenient number of chirurgeons for the


land soldiers that are to be sent with his Majesty's fleet now preparing for the relief of Rochelle, these shall be to will and require you, the Master and Wardens of the Company of Barber-Chirurgeons, forthwith to impress and take up for the service aforesaid


able and sufficient chirurgeons, and that you take special care that they be such in particular as are best experienced in the cure of the wounds made by gun-shot; as likewise that their chests be sufficiently furnished with all necessary provisions requisite for the said employment. And that you charge them upon their allegiance, as they will answer the contrary at their perils, to repair to Portsmouth by the

10th of July

next, to go along with such commanders in whose company they shall be appointed to serve. And you are further, by virtue hereof, to require and charge all mayors, sheriffs, justices of the peace, bailiffs, constables, headboroughs, and all other his Majesty's officers and loving subjects, to be aiding and assisting with you in the full arid due execution of this our letter. Whereof neither you nor they may fail of your perils. And this shall be your warrant. Dated at


, the last day of

June, 1628

. Your loving friend.

The letter is signed by several of the Lords of the Council.[n.187.1]  In another order, of the date of , chirurgeons, chirurgeons' mates, and barbers, are all grouped together; whilst in a , referring to the reign of William and Mary, Peter Smith and Josias Wills, the Company's officers, are ordered to deliver to

every person by them impressed one shilling impress money


If these duties were of an unpleasant nature, what must have been that of turning constable, and running about to seek surgeons, who, not liking their mode of introduction into the navy, or the navy itself when they got there, took the liberty of otherwise disposing of themselves. Yet this, too, was imposed upon them, as we find from a mandate under the hand of Monk, Duke of Albemarle, in , directing the apprehension and safe custody of

John Shoaler, chirurgeon to His Majesty's ship the



for neglecting his duty. These extracts are all transcribed by us from the original documents at the Hall, and afford, we think, some interesting glimpses of the powers and occupations of the distinguished surgeons of a century or ago.

But as we now return through the hall of the building, we are reminded of a more


vivid and life-like view of the doings here, when a distinguished novelist was the chief actor as well as subsequent narrator. Smollett, it is well known, has described the principal adventures of his own early career in his

Roderick Random,

and, among the rest, his appearance here to pass his examination prior to his obtaining an appointment as surgeon's mate, which he did in . As he waited in the outward hall (the vestibule probably) among a crowd of young fellows,

came out from the place of examination with a pale countenance, his lip quivering, and his looks as wild as if he had seen a ghost. He no sooner appeared than we all flocked about him with the utmost eagerness to know what reception he had met with, which (after some pains) he described, recounting all the questions they had asked, with the answers he made. In this manner we obliged no less than


to recapitulate, which, now the danger was past, they did with pleasure, before it fell to my lot. At length the beadle called my name with a voice that made me tremble as much as if it had been the last trumpet: however, there was no remedy. I was conducted into a large hall, where I saw about a dozen of grim faces sitting at a long table;


of whom bid me come forward in such an imperious tone, that I was actually for a minute or


bereft of my senses. The


question he put to me was,

Where was you born?

To which I answered,

In Scotland.

In Scotland,

said he,

I know that very well; we have scarce any other countrymen to examine here; you Scotchmen have overspread us of late as the locusts did Egypt. I ask you in what part of Scotland was you born?

I named the place of my nativity, which he had never before heard of. He then proceeded to interrogate me about my age, the town where I served my time, with the terms of my apprenticeship; and when I had informed him that I served


years only, he fell into a violent passion, swore it was a shame and a scandal to send such raw boys into the world as surgeons; that it was a great presumption in me, and an affront upon the English, to pretend to sufficient skill in my business, having served so short a time, when every apprentice in England was bound


years at least,

&c. of the more considerate of the examiners now interferes, who puts a few questions, which are well answered. Another,

a wag,

now tries his hand, but his jokes fail to go off, and Smollett is turned over to a party, who, in the examination, expresses opinions which appear somewhat heterodox to other members, and a general hubbub commences, which obliges the chairman to command silence, and to order the examinant to withdraw. Soon after he gets his qualification, for which he tenders half a guinea, and receives (on asking for it) and sixpence change, with a sneer at the correctness of his Scotch reckonings. The cost of admission, we may add, is now guineas, exclusive of the stamps.

Very few years after this the barbers and surgeons were again and permanently disunited, the brilliant discovery having at last been formally recognised, in , that there was no real connexion between shaving a beard and amputating a limb. In that year, the eighteenth of George II., the union was dissolved; and the surgeons became, for the time, a regularly incorporated body, enjoying separately all the privileges of their former collective state; and in the following reign, by the Act George III., the surgeons were still further


advanced by being incorporated into a Royal College, as they remain to this day. On leaving they built, by subscription, the building here shown, which stood partly on the site of the most southern of the buildings now constituting
the Central Criminal Court, and partly on the site of the adjoining dwelling-houses. Some noticeable recollections attach to this place. Through that door in the basement, in the centre of the building, the bodies of murderers, executed at Newgate adjoining, were carried for dissection, according to the Act of , and which was only repealed in the late reign. It was here, we believe, that the extraordinary incident occurred which John Hunter is said to have related in his lectures, of the revival of a criminal just as they were about to dissect him. We have looked in vain for some authentic statement of the circumstances; but if we remember rightly, the operators sent immediately to the sheriffs, who caused the man to be brought back to Newgate, from whence he was, by permission of the King, allowed to depart for a foreign country. It was here that a still more awful exhibition took place, in the beginning of the present century, in connexion with the same subject. In the

Annual Register

for , it is stated that

the body of Foster, who was executed for the murder of his wife, was lately subjected to the Galvanic process by Mr. Aldini (a nephew of Galvani), in the presence of Mr. Keate, Mr. Carpue, and several other professional gentlemen. On the


application of the process to the face, the jaw of the deceased began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and


eye actually opened. In the subsequent course of the experiment, the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion; and it appeared to all the bystanders that the wretched man was on the point of being restored to life. The

object of these experiments was to show the excitability of the human frame, when animal electricity is duly applied; and the possibility of its being efficaciously applied in cases of drowning, suffocation, or apoplexy, by reviving the action of the lungs, and thereby rekindling the expiring spark of vitality.

[n.190.1]  Such is the notice in the contemporary publication of the day; but the most important part of the proceedings is not here told. We have been informed by those who were present on the occasion, that when the

right hand was raised,

as mentioned above, it struck of the officers of the institution, who died that very afternoon of the shock. In the early part of the present century the College removed to its present site, .

To trace the progress of surgery, step by step, from the state of things illustrated in the foregoing pages, down to its present comparative phase of excellence, or to do fitting honour to the individuals who have been the chief agents of such progress, are matters alike beyond our limits and object; but we may remark, that to men in particular must we ascribe the high position of surgery and surgeons at the present day--John Hunter and John Abernethy. Each has introduced to the world principles of the deepest import to the welfare of the physical man--each has been a consummate master in reducing these high principles to practice. What John Hunter was we may partly judge from the simple circumstance that he, a surgeon, held, with regard to operation, that the operator

should never approach his victim but with humiliation

that his science was not able to cure but by the barbarous process of extirpation. And Abernethy not only participated in his sentiments, but took every opportunity of enforcing them. It is owing to the exertions of such men that we find operation only take place now, where would, a century ago, have been inflicted. Of Hunter we shall have to speak further in what we may call the local home of his fame-his Museum at the . Abernethy, as the latest of our very great surgeons, demands a few words more in connexion with our present subject.

Little is known of Abernethy's early life; even the place of his birth is disputed, the town of Abernethy in Scotland, and that of Derry in Ireland, each claiming the honour. The date was . He received his education at a school in , having removed to London with his parents whilst very young. At the proper age he was apprenticed to Sir Charles Blick, surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and there commenced a career equally extraordinary for its rapidity and the height to which it conducted him. Abernethy owed much to Hunter, whose pupil he was; his ardent love of physiology, for instance, the basis of his own greatness. It was through his deep insight into this science, and into that of anatomy, which he studied also intensely, that he was enabled to perceive how much empiricism existed in the profession, and his contempt accordingly was lavished with a free tongue. But he pulled down in order to build up, and, with characteristic. energy, accomplished both parts of his task. Before Abernethy's time the surgeon treated the locally apparent diseases, which it was his business to cure, as having also a local origin; it was Abernethy who exposed the


absurdity of this most dangerous, because most untrue, notion, and showed that it was the constitution itself which was disordered in that there must commence the healing process. He suggested and proved the practicability of performing operations of a bolder character than any ever before attempted, the tying the carotid and the external iliac arteries: operations that have since his time been performed with the most brilliant success, and which have in themselves, done much to extend the reputation of the English school through Europe. We are not about to retail the numerous, and, in many instances, absurd stories told of this distinguished man, and which have had too frequently the effect of lowering him in public estimation; but feature of his character belongs to our subject. He was fond of lecturing, and the students were equally pleased to attend his lectures, or his

Abernethy at Home,

as they called them, in reference to the wit and humour he was accustomed to regale them with whilst instilling the dry, abstract truths of the study. An eye-witness describes his very mode of entering the lecture-room as

irresistibly droll; his hands buried deep in his breeches pocket, his body bent slouchingly forward, blowing or whistling, his eyes twinkling beneath their arches, and his lower jaw thrown considerably beneath the upper.

[n.191.1]  Striking off instantly into his subject-gun-shot wounds for instance-he would relate a case which at once riveted the attention, and from which he would proceed to extract the

heart of its mystery,

and show wherein failure or success had taken place. He would, then, perhaps, revert to surgery--as it was in the good old days of the barber-surgeons, and contrast it with its present state, enriching every step of his way by the raciest anecdotesby an endless variety of the most amusing episodical matter. of the richest scenes of the kind must have been his lecture after his appointment as professor of anatomy to the Royal : a

professional friend,

states the author of

Physic and Physicians,


observed to him that they should now have something new.

What do you mean?

asked Abernethy.


said the other,

of course you will brush up the lectures which you have been so long delivering at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and let us have them in an improved form?

Do you take me for a fool, or a knave?

rejoined Abernethy.

I have always given the students at the hospital that to which they were entitled-the best produce of my mind. If I could have made my lectures to them better, I would certainly have made them so. I will give the College of Surgeons precisely the same lectures down to the smallest details: nay, I will tell the old fellows how to make a poultice.

Soon after, when he was lecturing to the students at St. Bartholomew's, and adverting to the

College of Surgeons

, he chucklingly exclaimed,

I told the bigwigs how to make a poultice!

It is said by those who have witnessed it, that Mr. Abernethy's explanation of the art of making a poultice was irresistibly entertaining.

And no doubt if he had lived but a couple of centuries before, and had had to lecture on the barber-surgery of that day, he would have introduced, with equal glee, an explanation of the process which it appears then belonged to some of the most respectable practitioners. The following extract from the list of officers to Heriot's Hospital in the statutes


compiled in , will explain our meaning:--


chirurgeon barber,

who shall cut and poll the hair of all the scholars of the hospital

; as also look to the cure of all those within the hospital, who any way shall stand in need of his art.

Portrait of Abernethy.


[n.180.1] 14th and 15th Henrici Octavi, cap. viii.

[n.187.1] A memorandum has been added to the bottom of the warrant, that- The master and wardens' power and authority to impress surgeons is by their charter and ordinances confirmed by the Judges, but have not usually exercised lawful authority, but upon such like order as above written, either from the lords of the council or principal officer of the navy.

[n.190.1] Annual Register, 1803 , p. 368.

[n.191.1] Mr. Pettigrew's account of Abernethy, in the Medical Portrait Gallery.

[n.191.2] Vol. i., p. 109.