They may come forward with confidence; whilst ignorance proves but a poor foundation, and an empty treasury at all times; the enemy of all confidence and trust; a source of audacity as well as of timidity—since timidity is the offspring of weakness, as audacity is of ignorance. Neither is it considered as correct, that any one is restored to health without the employment of medicine, although unattended by a physician, since every thing that is beneficial or injurious, pertains to medicine.
Six things are required to constitute a physician:—Natural talents—a good education—a competent instructer—early study—industry, and adequate time. We must, moreover, be industrious, and continue long in study, by which means the science becomes, as it were, natural,—rapidly increases,—extends its researches, and brings forth mature fruit.
So we find many who are physicians in name and appearance,—but few who are such in reality. But if this is possessed, the art may be acquired, by due attainments previously;—and by beginning to study it at an early age, and in a proper place.
I am now too far advanced in life to again retrace the immense folios, which, thirty years ago, afforded me so much pleasure, but which at present I can merely recur to for occasional reference; and I regard this outline but as a pioneer, to aid perhaps the labours of a younger and more accomplished translator of the entire work. In fact, they have been saved, by food or by abstinence; by drinking or abstaining from drinks; by bathing or not bathing; by labour or rest; by watching or sleeping; or by an alternation of all these.
It refers primarily to the arts in general, and then to medicine in particular, the certainty of which, as an art, it professes to demonstrate; this is followed by a variety of topics, appertaining to the physician, to the patient, and to the disease. As ignorant and wicked people are naturally envious, it is of course to be expected that they will attempt to overturn what is good, or to ridicule its deficiencies: but they cannot attain their end.
Our nature or disposition is the ground; the precepts of the teacher are the seed; commencing our studies early, resembles the sowing of the seed in a proper season; an appropriate location for the pursuits of study, resembles the surrounding atmosphere which affords nourishment and growth to the plant; diligence in study, is like the various means pursued to render the ground fertile; finally, the long continuance of our studies, resembles the period essential to full and perfect fructification. his prefatory remarks, Haller says that Mercurialis regarded it as spurious, and unnoticed by any of the ancients except the author of the Definitions.
The study of medicine may be compared to the culture of plants.
Those attributed to Galen are still more voluminous, embracing no less than six or eight immense folios. It will be admitted at once, that there can be no art, in respect to things that have no existence; it would be absurd to treat of a non-entity in any way; for how can any conceive the mode of existence of what has no existence?
It may, from this plain statement, be readily conjectured, how impossible must be the attempt to convey even a tolerable idea of them, in the small compass of a few hundred octavo pages.—A perfect comprehension of the full value of both these literary and scientific works can only be attained by referring to the original writings, or to a complete translation. and if it is impossible to see what does not exist, as we see that which does, by what means shall we know it, or whether it be good or bad!
As this treatise is short, I have judged it to be sufficiently interesting to give it nearly in detail. This, in my opinion, arises chiefly, from the circumstance, that medicine is the only profession, for which, in our cities, there is no penalty attached to such as ignorantly pursue it, beyond that of contempt. It is with them, as with the dumb performers of the theatre: they have the form, the dress, and mask of the real actors, but in nothing else do they resemble them.
The rules for its attainment are stated particularly, under six requisites, in order to become fully masters of the science. It has been illustrated by Zwingerus, Heurnius, Fonseca, and others.— Of all the arts, medicine is the most illustrious; but the ignorance of its professors, and that of those who judge of their qualifications, is the cause of its having been considered as among the most contemptible.
From what is thus said, it will appear evident to every reflecting mind, that the only object of the Editor, is that of affording a slight view of the subject-matter of the extensive treatises of these venerable writers; too slight indeed to constitute even an imperfect idea of a tithe of their merits, yet enough, he hopes, to give an impulse to a further research of their interesting pages. It would be absurd to suppose the particular species is owing to its name,—that is impossible.