The Gallery of Portraits: with Memoirs. Vol 5 (of 7) online

. (page 3 of 21)
Online LibraryAnonymousThe Gallery of Portraits: with Memoirs. Vol 5 (of 7) → online text (page 3 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

even paid him the compliment of prefixing a eulogy in indifferent Latin
verse to the treatise in which these views are developed.

On the 14th of April, 1648, he took the degree of bachelor of medicine,
being then twenty-four years old; and in the same year obtained a
fellowship at All Souls College, by the interest of a relation. The
degree of doctor he subsequently took at Cambridge, where, being among
those who thought with him in politics, he probably found himself more
at his ease. After a visit of some length at Montpellier, then
considered the best practical school of medicine on the continent, he
settled in Westminster, and soon after married.

His progress to eminence in his profession must have been unusually
rapid, which might be owing, in some measure, to the call for men of
good capacity to the more stirring scenes of civil strife; for at
thirty-six he had succeeded in establishing a first-rate reputation,
which he continued to sustain in spite of much hostility and ill-health
for upwards of twenty years.

He witnessed the breaking out of the plague in 1665, but when it reached
the house adjoining his own, he was induced to remove with his family
some miles out of town. Of this desertion of his post, however, he seems
to have repented; for he afterwards returned, and occupied himself
diligently in visiting the victims of that devastating malady, and has
left a short but interesting account of his opinions respecting it, and
of the treatment he adopted; for the comparative success of which, he
appeals to the physicians who had witnessed or followed his practice.

At the age of 25, though a man of remarkably temperate and regular
habits, he became afflicted with gout and stone, from which he suffered
extreme torment with great resignation and patience for the rest of his
life. Of course he did not neglect the opportunity of studying those
diseases in his own person, and recording the result of his
observations. His account of gout, especially, is considered to be a
most accurate and able history of that disease.

He died, leaving a family, at his house in Pall-Mall, on the 29th of
December, 1689, in the 66th year of his age, and was buried in the
parish church of St. James, Westminster, where, in 1810, a tablet was
erected to his memory by the College of Physicians, who became, as a
body, tardily but fully convinced of his extraordinary merit and eminent
claims to the gratitude and respect of his profession.

He is said to have been a man of the most retiring and unobtrusive
disposition, and the utmost placidity of temper. In a biographical
sketch by Dr. Samuel Johnson, prefixed to an English edition of his
works by Swan, in 1742, it is remarked, that if he could not teach us in
his writings how to cure the painful disorders from which he suffered,
he has taught us by his example the nobler art to bear them with
serenity. Nor was he less patient of mental than of bodily inflictions;
for though he was the object of much asperity among the physicians of
his time, he made no reprisals upon the reputations of those who
slandered him: though he often speaks of their bitterness, he never even
mentions their names,—a forbearance to which, as his biographer
pungently remarks, they are indebted for their escape from a
discreditable immortality. His writings breathe throughout a spirit of
warm piety, candour, and benevolence: he is said to have been extremely
generous in his dealings with his patients; for which, with other
reasons, his practice though large was not very gainful, and he did not
leave much wealth behind him. He never was sought after by the great,
like his successor and disciple Radcliffe; and had none of the talents
by which that singular man was able to push his fortune and establish a
kind of professional despotism. Yet, whatever medical skill the latter
evinced seems to have been derived from Sydenham, whose doctrines and
treatment he contrived to bring into a much more early and general
repute in England than they would probably have otherwise obtained. Each
had his reward: the one will be long remembered as the founder of a
magnificent library; the other can never be forgotten as the author of
modern medicine.

The bent of Sydenham’s mind was eminently practical; he thought that the
business of a physician is to acquire an accurate knowledge of the
causes and symptoms of diseases, and the effects of different remedies
upon them, that if he cannot prevent them, he may at least recognise
them with certainty, and apply with promptitude the means most likely to
cure them: with Hippocrates and the ancient empirical physicians, whose
tenets he professed to follow, he condemned all curious speculations
upon the intimate nature of disease, as incapable of proof, and
therefore always useless, and often hurtful; and maintained that the
only trustworthy source of opinion in medicine is experience resulting
from observations frequently repeated, and experiments cautiously
varied; and that no theories worth attention can be framed until the
recorded experience of many observers, under many different
circumstances, and even through successive ages, shall be embodied into
one general system; and he boldly declared his belief that every acute
disease might then be cured. An instance, which unfortunately as yet
stands alone in support of this rather sanguine expectation, may be
taken from the history of small-pox. The observation of its contagious
nature led to the general practice of inoculation, and this to the
immortal discovery of Jenner, by which a disease but yesterday the
scourge of the earth has been almost extinguished. It is remarkable that
Sydenham, who first pointed out the important difference between its
distinct and confluent forms,—who so materially improved the treatment
by changing it from stifling to cooling,—and who studied and has
described it with a laborious accuracy hardly paralleled in the history
of medicine,—was not aware of this, to us, its most striking
characteristic of contagion. A person conversant with such subjects will
feel no surprise at this: to the general reader it may be a sufficient
explanation, that it lies dormant for ten days; and that as it can only
be taken once, and was always prevalent in London, the number of persons
susceptible at any given time, and in obvious communication with each
other, were comparatively few: so that opportunities were not so likely
to arise as might be imagined of tracing its progress in single families
or neighbourhoods from one source of contagion.

Sydenham is justly celebrated for the happiness of his descriptions, and
his skilful application of simple methods of cure, which are as
effectual as they were novel in that age when a medical prescription
sometimes contained a hundred different substances; but he has merit of
a higher kind, as a discoverer of general laws. Among others, he was the
first to notice that there is a uniformity in the fevers prevailing at
any one time, which is subject to periodical changes; and that other
acute diseases often partake largely of the same general character, and
sometimes even merge in it altogether, as the plague is said to have
swallowed up all other diseases. This, which he ascribed to some
peculiar state of the atmosphere, he called its epidemic constitution;
and to be aware of its vicissitudes must of course be very important to
the physician as a guide to practice. The value of these laws, which
Sydenham deduced from a multitude of observations, has been attested by
almost every medical writer since his time.

His works have been repeatedly printed in the original Latin, as well as
in English and the continental languages. The first was published after
he had been sixteen years in practice; the last he edited himself, is
dated three years before his death; and an elegant compendium of his
experience was published posthumously by his son. They all appear to
have been extorted by the importunity of his friends or the
misrepresentations of his enemies. It is said that they were composed in
English, and translated into Latin by his friends Mapletoft and Havers:
there is, however, little reason for attaching credit to this report, as
we are assured, on the authority of Sir Hans Sloane, who knew him well,
that Sydenham was an excellent classical scholar, and perfectly capable
of expressing himself elegantly in Latin. They are most carefully
written and clearly expressed, and bear marks of the utmost truth and
impartiality in the narration of facts, and judgment in arranging them.
They are not voluminous, as he studiously refrained from overloading
them with trivial matter, and from entering into the detail of a greater
number of cases than might be sufficient to illustrate his method of
practice. His object was to confine himself to the results of his own
observation: to this he pretty strictly adhered, so that little space is
occupied in his writings by quotations or criticism. It must be admitted
that he occasionally lapses into theoretical discussion, in violation of
his own principles; but as he seldom or never permitted his fancy to
divert him from what was practically useful, he may be pardoned, if in
that age of speculation he could not entirely resist the seduction. A
graver charge against him is, that he overlooked or undervalued the
immense body of information to be obtained from examining the effects of
diseased actions after death, and devoted himself too exclusively to the
study of the symptoms during life, and the effect of remedies upon them.
It is hardly a sufficient justification of a man of so much independence
of spirit to reply, that such examinations were opposed by the
prejudices of the age in which he lived. Others have overcome the same
obstacles, and with them many of those difficulties which perplexed and
misled even the mind of Sydenham. He had equal or greater difficulties
to contend against in the deep-rooted absurdities of the chemical and
mechanical schools, which in the early part of his life held an almost
equally divided sway in medicine: the former originated with Paracelsus
and his disciples, and had the advantage of a longer prescription; and
the latter had received a fresh accession of strength from the recent
discoveries of Harvey: both, however, gave way before his energetic
appeal to fact and experience. Scarcely less credit is due to him for
his successful opposition to the popular superstition in favour of a
host of futile remedies, which are now happily consigned to oblivion
with the family receipt books and herbals in which their virtues were
paraded, than for his victory over false principles and dangerous rules
of practice.

On the whole, it may be safely advanced that medicine, as a practical
science, owes more to the closely-printed octavo, in which the results
of his toilsome exertions are comprised, than to any other single source
of information.


_Engraved by C. E. Wagstaff._


_From the Picture in the Bodleian Library, Oxford._

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful

_London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street._



Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, the third son of Henry Hyde, of Dinton,
Esquire, a younger branch of an ancient family long established in
Cheshire, was born at Dinton, near Salisbury, February 18, 1609. The
most valuable part of his early education he received from his father,
who was an excellent scholar: from his residence at Magdalen Hall,
Oxford, where he entered in 1622, and took his bachelor’s degree in
1625, according to his own account he obtained little benefit. In
February 1627, he was entered at the Middle Temple. At the age of
twenty-one, he married his first wife, who died within six months of
their union. After the lapse of three years he was again married, to the
daughter of Sir Thomas Aylesbury, Master of Requests to the King, by
whom he left a numerous family. He was called to the bar in Michaelmas
term, 1633. To the study of law he entertained in the first instance a
strong dislike, and applied himself chiefly to history and general
literature. But from the time of his second marriage he devoted himself
steadily to the pursuit of his profession, in which he early acquired
considerable practice and reputation. His business was, however, more
frequent in the Court of Requests, in the Star Chamber, than in the
courts of common law, and his name rarely appears in the reports of that

Soon after he was called to the bar, Mr. Hyde was concerned in a
transaction of considerable moment, which produced important
consequences in his future life, by introducing him to the favourable
notice of Archbishop Laud. It arose out of certain Custom-House
regulations, by which the London merchants found themselves aggrieved.
The leading men among them applied to Mr. Hyde, who, on finding all
remonstrances with the Lord Treasurer unavailing, advised them to state
their grievances in a petition to the King, which he drew for them. On
the death of the Lord Treasurer, the Earl of Portland, the affairs of
the Treasury were placed under the management of several commissioners,
of whom Laud was one. The Archbishop soon found occasion to investigate
the complaint of the merchants; and in consequence he sent for, and held
several interviews with, Mr. Hyde: to whom he became a valuable and
efficient patron, noticing him particularly when he appeared as counsel
in the Star Chamber, and consulting and employing him on many public

Laud’s favour introduced Mr. Hyde to the Lord Keeper Coventry, the Earl
of Manchester, then Lord Privy Seal, and other political and legal
characters of high rank, of the court party. With the leaders of the
popular, or country party also he was upon friendly terms, “having,” as
he says, “that rare felicity, that even they who did not love many of
those upon whom he most depended, were yet very well pleased with him
and with his company.”

Upon the summoning of what was called the Short Parliament, which met
April 3, 1640, Mr. Hyde was elected member for Wootton-Basset, and for
Shaftesbury. He chose to take his seat for the former place. His first
and only speech during the session was in the celebrated debate on the
subject of grievances, introduced by a motion of Mr. Pym; on which
occasion Mr. Hyde directed the attention of the house to the enormous
abuses of the Earl Marshal’s Court. Whitelocke says that “he gained much
credit by his conduct in this business.” In the warm debate which took
place in the House of Commons upon the question of a supply, it was
hinted by members of the house connected with the court, that Charles,
upon hearing of their proceedings, would probably dissolve the
parliament in displeasure. Mr. Hyde perceived the injurious tendency of
such a measure, and immediately went from the house to Archbishop Laud,
to entreat him to dissuade the King from so injudicious a course. The
Archbishop heard him as usual with patience, but refused to interfere:
and the Parliament was dissolved in less than three weeks after its
first meeting.

The necessities of the King compelled him to call the Long Parliament in
the following November, of which Mr. Hyde was also a member. The
elections having in general favoured the popular party, the temper of
this parliament was at its commencement decidedly more opposed to the
court than the last. At first, Mr. Hyde, whose familiarity with Laud was
well known, was an object of jealousy and dislike. His conduct as
chairman of the committee appointed to consider the abuses of the Earl
Marshal’s Court, which led to the total abolition of that unauthorized
jurisdiction, and his avowed disapprobation of several obnoxious
branches of the prerogative, restored him in some degree to the good
opinion of the house, while his influence with the moderate party, both
in the court and the parliament, daily increased. Having given up his
professional practice since the beginning of the parliament, he was much
employed in the ordinary business of the house. He was chairman of the
committee appointed to inquire into the legality and expediency of the
courts of the President and Council of the North, commonly called the
Courts of York; and in April, 1641, he was commissioned to communicate
to the House of Lords the resolutions of the Commons against those
courts. The performance of this duty he accompanied by a speech, in
which he explained to the Lords, with much clearness and precision, the
origin and nature of this obnoxious jurisdiction, and which he says in
his History, “met with good approbation in both houses.” In July
following he was chairman of the committee for inquiring into the
conduct of the judges in the case of ship-money; and the management of
the impeachment of the Lord Chief Baron Davenport, Baron Weston, and
Baron Trevor, before the Lords, was afterwards entrusted to him. Upon
this occasion, he delivered an excellent speech, exhibiting, in eloquent
language, the destructive effects of the corruption of the judges upon
the liberty of the subject and the security of property. During the same
year, he appears from the Commons’ journals to have been usually named
on the most important committees both of a public and private nature.

The course adopted by Mr. Hyde with reference to the Earl of Strafford’s
prosecution cannot be precisely ascertained. That he was employed in
arranging the preliminary steps for the impeachment, appears from the
journals; but in his History he does not explicitly declare what part he
took upon the introduction of the bill of attainder. Some of his
biographers state that he warmly opposed it; but no evidence is given in
support of the assertion; and it is quite clear that neither his name,
nor that of Lord Falkland, his political and personal friend, appear
amongst those which were posted as “Straffordians, Betrayers of their
Country,” for having voted against the measure. Though he cordially
acquiesced in many of the measures at this time introduced by the
popular leaders for the redress of grievances, his political opinions,
as well as his ultimate views and intentions, differed widely from those
of the predominant party. He strenuously opposed a bill for depriving
the bishops of their seats in parliament, which passed the House of
Commons, though it was rejected in the House of Lords by a great
majority. In no degree discouraged by this discomfiture, the leaders of
the Puritan party soon afterwards introduced a measure for the total
abolition of episcopacy, known by the title of ‘The Root and Branch
Bill,’ which was read a first time and committed. Mr. Hyde was appointed
chairman of the committee, by common consent of both parties; the one
wishing to get rid of his opposition in the committee, the other to
secure a chairman of their own views. The result proved the latter party
to be in the right; for Hyde contrived so to baffle the promoters of the
measure, that they at last thought proper to withdraw it, Sir Arthur
Haselrig declaring in the house, that “he would never hereafter put an
enemy into the chair.” His conduct respecting this measure was warmly
approved by the King; who before he went to Scotland in 1641, sent for
Mr. Hyde, to express how much he was beholden to him for his services,
“for which he thought fit to give him his own thanks, and to assure him
that he would remember it to his advantage.”

Before the King left Whitehall, in consequence of the tumults occasioned
by his indiscretion in demanding the Five Members, he charged Mr. Hyde,
in conjunction with Lord Falkland and Sir John Colepeper, to consult
constantly together upon the state of affairs in his absence, and to
give him on every occasion their unreserved advice, without which he
declared solemnly that he would take no step in the parliament. Though
much discouraged by the previous conduct of the King respecting the Five
Members, which he had adopted without consulting them, and entirely
against their judgment, they undertook and faithfully executed the
charge imposed upon them; and after the King had left London, they met
every night at Mr. Hyde’s house in Westminster, to communicate to each
other their several intelligences and observations, and to make such
arrangements as they thought best adapted to stay the falling fortunes
of the royal cause.

Mr. Hyde’s good understanding with the leaders of the popular party had
rapidly declined, since his opposition to the proposed measure for
ejecting the bishops from the House of Lords; and after his conduct in
the committee for abolishing episcopacy he was regarded as a declared
enemy, and his nightly consultations with Falkland and Colepeper were
watched with the utmost jealousy. Though his situation at this time was
one of considerable danger, he remained at his post after the King’s
departure to York, and constantly took his seat in the House of Commons.
About the latter end of April, 1642, Mr. Hyde received a letter from the
King, requiring him immediately to repair to him at York; with which
requisition he complied in the course of the next month, having first
rendered a signal service to the royal cause by persuading the Lord
Keeper Littleton to send the Great Seal and also to go himself to the
King. In consequence of this step the House of Commons passed a
resolution, in August, 1642, disabling him from sitting again in that
parliament; and their indignation was raised to such a degree, that Mr.
Hyde was one of the few persons who were excepted from the pardon which
the Earl of Essex was afterwards instructed to offer to those who might
be induced to leave the King and submit to the parliament. On joining
the King at York, Mr. Hyde continued to be one of his most confidential
advisers, and was soon afterwards knighted and made Chancellor of the
Exchequer. In this capacity he negotiated with the parliamentary
commissioners sent to Oxford in 1643; and in 1645 he acted as one of the
King’s commissioners at the treaty of Uxbridge. After the breaking off
of that treaty it was thought expedient to send the Prince of Wales into
the west of England, both to secure his person from the dangers with
which his father was environed, and to give encouragement to the
Royalists in that part of the country. Sir Edward Hyde accompanied him
as one of his council. The parliamentary successes in the west compelled
the Prince to migrate, first to Scilly, thence to Jersey, from which
place he departed into France in July, 1646. Hyde remained in Jersey for
the space of two years, devoting himself wholly to his History of the
Rebellion, which he had commenced in the Scilly Islands, and of which he
completed the four first books at that time. While engaged in this
manner, he received several letters from the King, expressive of his
approbation of his undertaking, and supplying him with a particular
relation of the occurrences which had taken place from the departure of
the Prince until the period of his joining the Scotch army.

In May, 1648, Hyde received the King’s commands to join the Prince of
Wales at Paris. On the way thither, he met Lord Cottington and others at
Rouen, where he learned that the Prince was gone to Holland, and was
ordered to follow him. After many difficulties and dangers, Cottington
and Hyde met their young master at the Hague in the month of August, and
were soon afterwards joined by several other members of the King’s

On the announcement of the execution of his father, Charles despatched
Sir Edward Hyde and Lord Cottington as his ambassadors to Spain. After a
fruitless negotiation of fifteen months, they received a message from
court shortly after the arrival of the news of Cromwell’s victory at
Dunbar, desiring them to quit the Spanish dominions. Hyde then repaired
to Antwerp, where he resided with his wife and family, until, at the end
of 1651, he was summoned to Paris, to meet Charles II., after his
memorable escape from the battle of Worcester. He resided at Paris with
the exiled court for nearly three years, and during this period enjoyed
the unlimited confidence of his master, who left the arduous and
difficult task of corresponding and negotiating with the English
royalists entirely to his management. At this period the exiled
royalists were frequently reduced to great pecuniary distress. The
miserable dissensions and petty jealousies which prevailed among them
are fully described in the History of the Rebellion. At length Charles,

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryAnonymousThe Gallery of Portraits: with Memoirs. Vol 5 (of 7) → online text (page 3 of 21)