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I could wish the physician's art were so powerful and perfect, as, in some measure, to prevent so great an evil; but we find where once nature, or the “ Oeconomia Animalis” of the body, is so depraved, as not to cooperate with medicine, all remedies, and the courses of them, prove wholly ineffectual, or to very little purpose. But still the more imperfect physic is, so much the more is owing to those, who in the least improve so difficult a province, which certainly has been considerably advanced by some late English authors; and that puts me in mind to desire of you your thoughts, or what other learned physicians you converse with say, concerning Dr. Morton and his late Exercitations on Fevers. As for his general theory of them, I esteem it, as all others of this kind, a sort of mere waking dream, that men are strangely apt to fall into, when they think long of a subject, beginning quite at the wrong end; for by framing such conceits in their fancies, they vainly think to give their understandings light, whilst the things themselves are still, and perhaps ever must remain, in darkness.
In his first exercitation that treats of agues, I don't find he has said any thing very material, or worth notice, that the world did not sufficiently know before, unless it were some histories of the irregular shapes and symptoms this distemper appears under, which I think may be very instructive to the physician, and of great ease and advantage to the sick.
. . But his practical remarks in his second exercication about continuing and remitting fevers, if they be judiciously founded upon many and steady observations, so that they may safely pass into a rule, must certainly be of great moment in directing the management and cure of fevers. I confess my experience in this distemper as yet falls something too short for to determine positively, whether all his observations be real and well grounded; but, as far as I can judge at present, several of them do hold good.
I remember to have heard Dr. Morton was once a presbyterian preacher; and though he were, this does not make him a jot the less capable in above twenty
years practice, to have carefully observed the accidents that naturally occur in the progress of a disease; and if he be but a true and judicious register, it is all I desire from him.
You see I have taken great freedom in giving a cha. racter according to my apprehensions of this author, but it is only to encourage you to use the same liberty; for if, at your leisure, you would let me know your own thoughts, or what other candid men say concerning him and his methods of cure, or any other useful tract that comes abroad, you will extremely oblige,
Your most obedient humble servant,
Mr. Locké to Dr. MOLYNEUX.
Oates, Jan. 20, 1692-9. İ MUST acknowledge the care you take of my health, in a way wherein you so kindly apply to my mind; and if I could persuade myself that my weak constitution was owing to that strength of mind you ascribe to me, or accompanied with it, I should find therein, if not a remedy, yet a great relief against the infirmities of my body. However, I am not the less obliged to you for so friendly an application; and if the cordial you prescribe be not to be had (for I know none equal to a judicious and capacious mind) your kindness is not to be blamed, who I am confident wish me that satisfaction, or any thing else that could contribute to my health. i The doctor, concerning whom you inquire of me, had, I remember, when I lived in town, and conversed among the physicians there, a good reputation amongst those of his own faculty. I can say nothing of his late book of fevers, having not read it myself, nor heard it. spoke of by others: but I perfectly agree with you" concerning general theories, that they are, for the most part, but a sort of waking dreams, with which, when men have warmed their own heads, they pass into ún. questionable truths, and then the ignorant world must be set right by them. Though this be, as you rightly observe, beginning at the wrong end, when men lay the foundation in their own fancies, and then endeavour to suit the phenomena of diseases, and the cure of them, to those fancies. I wonder that, after the pattern Dr. Sydenham has set them of a better way, men should return again to that romance way of physic. But I see it is easier and more natural, for men to build castles in the air, of their own, than to survey well those that are to be found standing. Nicely to observe the history of diseases in all their changes and circumstances, is a work of time, accurateness, attention, and judgment, and wherein if men, through prepossession or oscitancy, mistake, they may be convinced of their errour by un. erring nature and matter of fact, which leaves less room for the subtlety and dispute of words, which serves very much instead of knowledge, in the learned world, where, methinks, wit and invention has much the preference to truth. Upon such grounds as are the established history of diseases, hypotheses might with less danger bé erect. ed, which I think are so far useful, as they serve as an art of memory to direct the physician in particular cases, but not to be relied on as foundations of reasoning, or verities to be contended for; they being, I think I may say all of them, suppositions taken up gratis, and will so remain, till we can discover how the natural functions of the body are performed, and by what alteration of the humours, or defects in the parts, they are hindered or disordered. To which purpose, I fear the Galenists four humours, or the chemists sal, sulphur, and mercury, or the late prevailing invention of acid and alcali, or whatever hereafter shall be substituted to these with new applause, will, upon examination, be found to be but so many learned empty sounds, with no precise determinate signification. What we know of the works of nature, especially in the constitution of health, and the
operations of our own bodies, is only by the sensible effects, but not by any certainty we can have of the tools she uses, or the ways she works by. So that there is nothing left for a physician to do, but to observe well, and so, by analogy, argue to like cases, and thence make to himself rules of practice: and he that is this way most sagacious, will, I imagine, make the best physia cian, though he should entertain distinct hypotheses concerning distinct species of diseases, subservient to this end, that were inconsistent one with another; they being made use of in those several sorts of diseases, but as distinct arts of memory, in those cases. And I the rather say this, that they might be relied on only as artificial helps to a physician, and not as philosophical truths to a naturalist. But, sir, I run too far, and must beg your pardon for talking so freely on a subject you understand so much better than I do. I hoped the way of treating of diseases, which, with so much approba. tion, Dr. Sydenham had introduced into the world, would have beaten the other out, and turned men from visions and wrangling to observation, and endeavouring after settled practices in more diseases, such as I think he has given us in some. If my zeal for the saving men's lives, and preserving their health (which is infi, nitely to be preferred to any speculations ever so fine in physic) has carried me too far, you will excuse it in one who wishes well to the practice of physic, though he meddles not with it. I wish you and your brother, and all yours, a very happy new-year, and am,
. Dublin, Nov. 4, 1 FOR a while I deferred making any return for the favour of your last letter, on the account I understood, VOL. IX.
- by one of yours to my brother, that I was suddenly to · expect another obligation from you, by the receipt of
your Treatise of Education, which yesterday first came to my hands; and now I return you my hearty thanks for both your kindnesses together,, of which should I express the real thoughts I have, I should seem to run either into 'extravagant compliment, or gross flattery: but thus much I must needs say, that as your letter certainly contains, in short, the only true method for the prosecuting the curing part of the praetice. of physic, and the sure way of improving it; a matter of the chiefest good, in relation to men's bodies ; so your book of education lays down such rules for the breeding of youth as, if followed, must necessarily prove
of the greatest advantage to the better part of man, the : mind, by insensibly disposing it to an habitual exercise
of what is virtuous and laudable, and the acquisition of all such knowledge as is necessary, for one's own good, or that of others whom we are to converse with.” Whence: I cannot but think, had those of our own countries but a thorough persuasion, and a right sense of the great benefit that redounds from a cheerful education, so as universally to put it in practice; without question, we should soon become a nation as remarkably different from the rest of the word, i for the inward: endowments of our minds, and the rectitude of our manners, as the negroes are from the rest of mankind, for their outward shape and colour of body. But this, I fear, is a happiness only to be wished for; however, he that makes it his endeavour to promote so great a good, by showing the certain way to it, if they will follow him, justly deserves the high esteem of all that know how to value a truly public spirit.
I hope, sir, you have your health better, and that we may suddenly have abroad your Essay of Human Understanding, with those farther additions and alterations you have some time since designed for the press: I am confident it is impatiently expected by all that are acquainted with your writings, and that peculiar clear