Category Archives: stools

The days when doctors were doctors and patients were patients

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 13.47.45Dalrymple explains that in T.S. Eliot’s The Family Reunion (1939), Warburton

is an old-fashioned family doctor whose authority has little to do with his medical efficacy, indeed is inversely proportional to it.

Warburton is able

to order a formidable dowager duchess around like a servant. His threat to decline to treat her further is enough to bring her into line.

In Dalrymple’s copy of The Family Reunion

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 13.51.22I happened to find an inscription offering the book as a Christmas gift to a well-known physician who was not universally loved and who was irreverently known to his juniors by the description of the stools of some of his patients with coeliac disease, namely Pale, Bulky, and Offensive.

The signatory of the note was

another physician who, in March 1938, was a co-signatory of the letter in the British Medical Journal calling attention to the plight of Jewish and other doctors after the Anschluss.

The letter ended with the words:

We beg our colleagues in all countries to watch the progress of events with the closest attention and to do all in their power, whether by public protest or by public or private assistance, to stand by any members of our profession who may suffer hardship under the new regime.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 13.38.26Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 13.39.47

Academic vacuity can go no further

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 07.54.50Even at his most opaque, writes Dalrymple, one sometimes glimpses in Jürgen Habermas

a meaning, or a connotation, as one might glimpse a giant panda in a bamboo forest. It is this dialectic between incomprehensibility and meaning that has given him a reputation for profundity. His thoughts lie too deep for words, and the fault lies with us, not with him.

Habermas

tries to squeeze significance out of truisms, as a constipated man tries to squeeze stools out of a reluctant colon.

Compared with reading a Habermas book, says Dalrymple,

going to the dentist is a pleasant experience.

Habermas is held in high esteem, which is itself

of sociological and psychological interest. Audiences have been known almost to swoon at his Teutonically polysyllabic vaticinations.

Habermas, Dalrymple points out, is

largely incomprehensible; where he is comprehensible, he is either banal or wrong, or both. He is often funny, but not intentionally.

Habermas has made a career

as a torturer of language,

yet underlying his platitudinous but mistaken verbiage

is something sinister: the communist, fascist and Nazi dream of the abolition of politics, in favour of mere administrative decision-making by a supposedly enlightened élite, armed with indubitable truth from which their decisions follow syllogistically.

Dalrymple adapts Burke slightly:

In the groves of Habermas’s academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.

Of clysters and leeches

Dalrymple quotes, more or less at random, from Select Observations on English Bodies, or Cures Both Empericall and Historicall Performed upon Very Eminent Persons in Desperate Diseases by Shakespeare‘s son-in-law John Hall (from 5:40 in the video below, of a 2005 talk):

Mr Kempson, aged 60, oppressed with melancholy and a fever with extraordinary heat, very sleepy, so that he had no sense of his sickness, was cured as followeth. Leaves and mallows, beets, violets, mercury, hops, borage, epithymum, pennyroyal, wormroot, camomile, seeds of anis, caraway, cumin, fennel, nettles, bayberries, polypod, senna, bark of black hellebore. Boil them all in whey until half be wasted. Of this strain take an ounce. Confect, salt and mix them, and make a clyster.

This brought away two stools of a great deal of wind. It was given in the morning, and again at night. And after these were applied to the soles of his feet, radishes sliced, besprinkled with vinegar and salt, renewed every third hour. This hindered the recourse of vapours and drew them back, and so he slept far more quietly without starting and fear.

The following was prepared for his ordinary drink. Spring water, syrup of lemons, julep of roses, burnt and powdered finely, spirit of vitriol. After, the leeches being applied to the anus, there was drawn eight ounces of blood, after which was exhibited this: lapis bezoar, tincture of coral, mixed, given in drink. After this, the urine was very frothy, with a great sediment, and he was much better.

The clyster, drink and powder were repeated, with desired event. To remove sleepiness, he used to sneeze only with tobacco, and then he was given the restorative, and that was used.

But yet his stomach being very ill, I gave him this: emetic infusion, violets, oxymel of squirrels. This gave four vomits and nine stools, after which he was well for five days, and then relapsing into a shaking ague, a clyster being injected, he became well, bidding farewell to physick, and so was cured beyond all expectation and lived many years.