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and there are many bold and vigorous passages in his writings in which
the necessity of freedom of inquiry upon all subjects is strongly
insisted on. Noticing upon one occasion a certain class of ancient
philosophers, he remarks, “He who takes to himself their liberty of
inquiry, is in the only way that, in all kinds of studies, leads and
lies open even to the sanctuary of truth; while others, that are servile
to common opinion and vulgar suppositions, can rarely hope to be
admitted nearer than into the base-court of her temple, which too
speciously often counterfeits her innermost sanctuary.” His religious
opinions have, with much impropriety, been the subject of dispute. They
have been chiefly inferred from several passages of a work published
after his death, entitled ‘Selden’s Table Talk.’ From the nature of his
studies, his writings are far from being popular, and are, in
consequence, now but little read. They obtained, however, for their
author, during an age abounding with illustrious and learned men, an
honourable reputation, among the most distinguished literary men of
continental Europe, as well as among those of his own country. His works
were edited by Dr. Wilkins, in 3 vols. folio, in 1726, to which a Latin
‘Life of the Author’ is prefixed.

[Illustration: [Gallery of the Arundel Marbles.]]


_Engraved by W. Holl._


_From the original Picture, in “L’École de Médecine,” at Paris._

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful

_London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street._



Ambroise Paré, the father of French surgery, and one of the most useful
as well as the earliest of the innovators upon that art as practised by
the ancients, was born at Laval, in the district of Maine, in the year
1509. After going through the rudiments of education, he was placed at
an early age under the tuition of the chaplain Orsoy, in his native
town, to be instructed in the classics; but the means of his family
appear to have been very narrow, or the economy with which they were
supplied must have been strict; for we find that the worthy chaplain was
obliged to make use of the services of his pupil in grooming his mule
and other menial capacities, in order to eke out the scanty remuneration
he received for his instructions. In truth, these do not appear to have
been great; for Paré never achieved a knowledge of Greek, and was but
superficially acquainted with the Latin language; and it is probable
that even this small amount of classical acquirement was made at a late
period of his life, when, being an author, he wished to quote.

On leaving his tutor, he was placed with a barber-surgeon at Laval,
named Vialot, who is recorded to have taught him how to bleed. Not long
after this change in his pursuits, the lithotomist, Laurent Colot, came
to Laval to undertake the treatment of one of the chaplain’s
ecclesiastical brethren: on this occasion, Paré was present, and
zealously assisted at the operation. This accidental circumstance
appears to have suggested to him the ambitious project of following the
higher departments of surgery; and he contrived to leave the shop of his
master in phlebotomy, and repaired to Paris, where he availed himself
with so much diligence of the advantages afforded by that city, as a
school of anatomy and medicine, that he was soon entrusted with the
subordinate charge of the patients of Goupil, who then held the surgical
chair in the college of France. From this discerning tutor he learned
not only all the knowledge which could at that time be obtained from
secondary sources, but the art of expressing himself well, and
acquitting himself of his duties with neatness and grace. The talents
thus acquired were of the greatest service to him in his after-life,
which was chiefly passed among the great; and gave him that ease of
manner and power of gaining confidence, which stood him so frequently in
stead as court-surgeon to four successive monarchs, and, aiding the
natural frankness of his character, carried him safely through many an
intrigue and cabal, dangerous not only to his reputation and fortunes,
but even to his life. He was never a member of the community of
barber-surgeons, but derived his legal qualification to practise from a
degree in surgery taken at the college of St. Edme, of which he was
afterwards Provost.

Having passed upwards of three years as a student, residing actually
within the walls of the Hotel Dieu at Paris, he was appointed
Staff-surgeon, in 1536, when twenty-seven years old, to the Mareschal
René de Monte-jean, who commanded the infantry under the Constable
Montmorenci in the campaign of Piedmont. In this capacity, Paré was
present at the siege and capture of Turin.

From this time is to be dated the commencement of his acquaintance with
military surgery, for which he afterwards did so much. “I was then,” he
says, “very raw and inexperienced, having never seen the treatment of
gunshot wounds. It is true that I had read in the Treatise of Jean de
Vigo on wounds in general, that those inflicted by fire-arms partake of
a poisonous nature on account of the powder, and that they should be
treated with hot oil of elder mixed with a little theriacum. Seeing,
therefore, that such an application must needs put the patient to
extreme pain, to assure myself before I should make use of this boiling
oil, I desired to see how it was employed by the other surgeons. I found
their method was to apply it, at the first dressing, as hot as possible,
within the wound with tents and setons: and this I made bold to do
likewise. At length my oil failed me, and I was fain to substitute a
digestive, made of the yolks of eggs, rose-oil, and turpentine. At night
I could not rest in my bed in peace, fearing that I should find the
wounded, in whose cases I had been compelled to abstain from using this
cautery, dead of poison: this apprehension made me rise very early in
the morning to visit them; but beyond all my hopes, I found those to
whom I had applied the digestive suffering little pain, and their wounds
free from inflammation; and they had been refreshed by sleep in the
night. On the contrary, I found those to whom the aforesaid oil had been
applied, feverish, in great pain, and with swelling and inflammation
round their wounds. I resolved, therefore, that I would never burn
unfortunate sufferers from gunshot in that cruel manner again.”

Such was the casual origin of one of Paré’s greatest improvements in
surgery,—the substitution of a mild treatment for the cautery in gunshot
wounds; a principle which he afterwards successfully extended to other
injuries at that time deemed poisonous. The improvement seems as obvious
as it was important: yet the adherents of the old practice gave him much
trouble, and even made it necessary for him to defend his wholesome
innovation long afterwards before Charles IX. in person.

Yet with all his sound sense, Ambroise Paré was not by any means free
from the credulity of his age. For instance, he relates, in his account
of this siege, an amusing story of the court he paid to an Italian quack
doctor, who lived at Turin, to wheedle him out of the secret of a
dressing for fresh gunshot wounds, for which he had great fame. This was
found to consist of a mixture of bruised worms, the grease of puppies
boiled down alive, and other absurd ingredients, constituting the
celebrated _oleum catellorum_, the only merit of which consists in its
harmlessness. He is erroneously praised by Dr. Ballingall for having
banished this unguent from practice, whereas, on the contrary, he
introduced it; and he shows, by his frequent reference to it in his
works, that he had no small faith in its virtues, and was exceedingly
proud of having been the means of its publication.

The death of his patron, the Mareschal, soon after the fall of Turin,
induced him to return to Paris, though tempted by large offers to remain
in the camp.

In 1543, he accompanied the Duc de Rohan into Britanny, where Francis I.
commanded in person against the English; and the next year he followed
that monarch in his expedition to throw supplies into Landrecy. In 1545,
he was with the camp at Boulogne, where he cured the general of the
royal army, Francis Duke of Guise, of a very dangerous wound, which
gained him great reputation.

In 1552, he attended the Duc de Rohan in his campaign in Germany. During
this expedition occurred one of those instances of combined humanity and
skill, which made Paré the favourite of the French army. He thus tells
the story: “A party had gone out to attack a church, where the peasants
of the country had fortified themselves, hoping to get some provisions,
but they came back very soundly beaten; and one especially, a
captain-lieutenant of the company of the Duke, returned with seven
gashes in his head, the least of which had penetrated to the inner table
of the skull, besides four sabre wounds in the arm, and one across the
shoulder, which divided the shoulder-blade in half. When he was brought
to quarters, the Duke judged him to be so desperately wounded, that he
absolutely proposed, as they were to march by daylight, to dig a trench
for him, and throw him into it, saying, that it was as well that the
peasants should finish him. But being moved with pity, I told him (says
Paré), that the captain might yet be cured: many gentlemen of the
company joined with me in begging that he might be allowed to go with
the baggage, since I was willing to dress and cure him. This was
accordingly granted: I dressed him, and put him into a small
well-covered bed in a cart drawn by one horse. I was at once physician,
surgeon, apothecary, and cook to him; and, thank God, I did cure him in
the end, to the admiration of all the troops: and out of their first
booty, the men-at-arms gave me a crown a-piece, and the archers
half-a-crown each.”

His reputation was now so high, that no expedition of importance,
especially if generalled by a prince of the blood, or one of the higher
nobility, was considered complete without his presence. This was
accordingly solicited by the old King of Navarre, more commonly called
the Duc de Vendôme, on an occasion of that kind. But being tired of a
military life, and disgusted with its cruelties and horrors, he
endeavoured to evade the proposal, alleging the illness of his wife, and
other excuses: but the Duke would take no denial; and at last he
consented to accompany him to the siege of Chateau le Comte. There he
acquitted himself so well, that upon the warm encomiums of the Duke he
was received into the service of Henry the Second, in 1552, being then
but thirty-three years old. From this time he lived at the court, where,
with other advantages, obtained not less by his behaviour and wit than
his skill, he enjoyed, though a Huguenot, the especial favour of the
Queen, Catherine de’ Medici, who was fond of conversing with him in her
own language, with which Paré had become well acquainted in his Italian
campaign. She served him powerfully on several important occasions.

Paré, however, still continued to frequent the camp, when any emergency
seemed to demand his services. Such an occasion occurred at the renowned
siege of Metz, in the winter of 1552, conducted by Charles V. in person,
with the Duke of Alva and 120,000 men, against a garrison of 6000, which
ended, after two months, in the disastrous retreat of the besiegers. The
defence was most gallantly carried on by the flower of the French army,
headed by many of the higher noblesse, and several of the princes of the
blood, under the Duke of Guise. It has been already mentioned that
gunshot wounds were at that time thought to have something poisonous
about them; and the severe cold, and other circumstances of that siege,
being such as unusually to depress and harass the garrison, their wounds
proved almost uniformly fatal; and the idea arose and gained ground,
that Charles had ordered his bullets to be actually poisoned. Paré alone
was thought able to meet the necessity of the case in such an extremity;
and the demand for his assistance became so pressing in the dispirited
garrison, that at the instance of the Duke of Guise the King was induced
to send him. He was stealthily introduced by the treachery of one of
Charles’s captains, for a bribe of 1500 crowns, and his appearance on
the ramparts was hailed by the troops with the most extravagant
expressions of joy. “Now that Paré is with us,” they cried, “we shall
not perish of our wounds.” Their spirits revived, and the successful
issue of their arduous struggle is generally ascribed to the presence of

Upon the raising of the siege, of which, as is usual in his writings, he
gives a most lively and humorous account, Paré returned to court. In
1553 he was sent on a like errand to the siege of Hesdin, which, after a
vigorous defence, and against the faith of a capitulation, was pillaged
by the troops of the Duke of Savoy. Paré was himself one of the
prisoners, but escaped in disguise after various adventures, and
returned to Paris; notwithstanding the tempting offers of the Duke of
Savoy, who had witnessed his skill, though kept in ignorance of his

He was sent upon many other missions of the same kind; as to the fields
of St. Quentin and Moncontour; to Rouen, where he attended the Duc de
Vendôme on occasion of the wound of which he died; and to St. Denys,
where he performed the same unwelcome duty for the Constable. The long
intervals of these services he always passed at court, in the enjoyment
of his well-earned reputation and favour.

On the death of Henry II. in 1559, occasioned by an accident at a
tournament, Francis II., his eldest son by Catherine de’ Medici,
succeeded to the crown. He immediately confirmed Paré in his situation
of surgeon in ordinary and counsellor. It will not be supposed that he
could enjoy this constant favour and good fortune without the usual
drawback in the excited jealousy of his professional rivals. Their
rancour was at length carried to such a pitch, that they gravely accused
him of causing the premature death of Francis in 1560, by injecting
poison into his ear under the pretext of treating him for an
inflammation seated there, of which he died. Catherine, however,
shielded him from this attack, expressing her complete reliance on his
integrity as well as his skill, in words which the historians of the
period have preserved. A similar accusation was brought against him as
unsuccessfully in the case of Henry III., who was afflicted with the
same disorder: on which occasion the Queen-Mother again stood forward in
his behalf, and his innocence was fully attested by the physicians whom
she had placed about her son, and who had witnessed every application he

On the death of Francis II. in 1560, Paré maintained his place in the
household of Charles IX., to whom it was thought he had rendered
essential service after an injury inflicted on one of the nerves of the
arm by an unlucky phlebotomist. This misfortune of his humbler brother
was of great use to Paré, who, though a courtier during the predominance
of the Guises, openly professed the Protestant faith; for it was
probably the means of procuring him in Charles the only protector
powerful enough to save him from being included in the general massacre
of the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day. Brantôme and Sully each
connect his name with that event. The words of the former are as
follows: “Le Roi quand il fût jour, ayant mis la tête a la fenêtre de sa
chambre, et qu’il voyait aucuns dans le fauxbourg St. Germain qui se
remuoient, et se sauvoient, il prit une grande arquebuse de chasse qu’il
avoit, et en tira tout plein de coups à eux; mais en vain, car
l’arquebuse ne tiroit si loin; incessamment crioit, ‘Tuez, tuez,’ en
n’en vouloit sauver aucun si non Maître Ambroise Paré, son premier
chirurgien, et le premier de la Chrestienté, et l’envoya querir et venir
le soir dans sa chambre et garde robbe, commandant de n’en bouger; et
disoit qu’il n’etoit raisonnable qu’un qui pouvoit servir à tout un
petit monde, fûst ainsi massacré.”

“De tous ceux,” says Sully, “qui approchoient ce prince (Charles IX.) il
n’y avoit personne qui eut tant de part à sa confiance qu’ Ambroise
Paré. Cet homme qui n’etoit que son chirurgien, avoit pris avec lui une
si grande familiarité, quoiqu’il fût Huguenot, que ce prince lui ayant
dit le jour du massacre que c’etoit à cette heure qu’il falloit que tout
le monde se fît catholique, Paré lui répondit sans s’étonner, ‘Par la
lumière de Dieu, Sire, je crois qu’il vous souvient m’avoir promis de ne
me commander jamais quatre choses; sçavoir, de rentre dans le ventre de
ma mère, de me trouver à un jour de bataille, de quitter votre service,
et d’aller à la messe.’”

Paré still retained his situation after the accession of Henry III. in
1574; but he seems to have resigned the cares of active life about that
time, and we hear little more of him. He died December 2, 1590, in the
eighty-first year of his life, and was buried in the church of St. André
des Arcs in Paris.

Paré appears to have been a man of quick and independent observation
rather than of reflection or genius. His constitution was vigorous, and
fitted no less for social enjoyments than active business: his person
was manly and graceful, his spirits buoyant, and his disposition
remarkably amiable and attractive; hence he was a universal favourite,
particularly in a despotic court, of which the dullness was agreeably
relieved by his frankness, and his powers of humour and repartee. The
amusing and well-told anecdotes and lively descriptions that teem in all
his writings, which, it may be observed, are equal in point of style to
any of the time, sufficiently attest his possession of those qualities,
even if the stories and bon-mots that are related of him be questioned.
His ‘Apology,’ as he calls one of his later pieces, containing an
account of his various campaigns and journeys, is full of humour, and
well worth the perusal of the general reader. It was published by way of
answer to an attack upon his treatment of contused wounds and
hæmorrhages, made by an obscure Parisian lecturer, whose name he does
not mention; and he diverts himself exceedingly at the expense of the
critic, for his presumption in pretending to teach a surgeon whose
experience had been gathered from twenty sieges and fields of battle,
through an active professional life of forty years. The raillery he
employs is often very keen and pointed, but never ill-natured, and
indicates the infinite superiority he felt, and had a right to feel,
over his merely book-learned adversary.

His conduct throughout life appears to have been remarkably upright and
sincere, though tinctured by the adulation which, in that age of
violence and despotism, was always exacted by the great from those who
were more humbly born.

He was a bold and good operator, and his general skill and success in
the practice of his profession is unquestionable; in that day it must
have been wonderful. As a surgical writer, his fame principally rests
upon his introduction of a soothing method of treating gunshot and other
contused wounds, and his discovery or rather restoration of the method
of arresting hæmorrhage, by the ligature of the bleeding vessel, instead
of searing with hot iron, and other insufficient and painful means. But
he made many other novel and useful remarks which only do not deserve
the name of discoveries, because they relate to more trivial points, and
do not involve important principles: and, upon the whole, much as
surgery has been improved since his time, there have been few writers to
whom it has owed so much as to him, especially in the military
department. The whole body of his writings on that subject, though
diffuse, merit the perusal of professional men. The same praise cannot
be given without exception and reserve to those of his writings which
were less the records of his personal experience, than compilations from
other sources. His remarks upon the subjects of Physiology, Medical
Diseases, the Composition of Remedies, Natural History, and Obstetrics,
are not free from error, credulity, and even indelicacy. The latter
charge was successfully urged against him by the contemporary Parisian
physicians, who were jealous of his encroachments upon what they
considered their own domain, and he was obliged to alter the original

He was too much occupied by his practice to engage deeply in the study
of anatomy: hence his knowledge of it was rather sufficient than
accurate; and though he wrote upon it at some length, and even added new
facts to that science, his success in advancing it can only be
considered as a proof of the imperfect information of the time. He lived
before the discovery of the circulation of the blood.

His first publication, on Gunshot Wounds, in 1545, was incorporated with
his other writings, comprising altogether twenty-six treatises, and
printed at Paris in one large folio volume in 1561. This, with some
posthumous additions, has been often reprinted, and there are
translations of it in Latin and other languages. The first English
edition was by Thomas Johnson in 1634.

[Illustration: [Medal of Paré.]]


_Engraved by J. Mollison._


_From the Picture in the Hall of Wadham College, Oxford._

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful

_London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street._



Robert Blake is believed to have been born at Plansfield, in the parish
of Spaxton, Somersetshire, near Bridgewater, in which town his father
was a merchant; but the place is not so well ascertained as the date of
his birth, which was August, 1598. He was educated in the Free School of
Bridgewater, whence in due time he removed to Oxford, and became
successively a member of St. Alban’s Hall and Wadham College. His
character was studious, yet he was fond of field-sports and other
violent exercises; and we may infer that he had at least a decent share
of scholastic learning, from his having been a candidate, though
unsuccessfully, for a studentship at Christchurch, and a fellowship at
Merton College. He returned to Bridgewater when about twenty-five years
old, and lived quietly on his paternal estate till 1640, with the
character of a blunt, bold man, of ready humour and fearless expression
of his sentiments, which, both in politics and religion, were adverse to
the pretensions of the court. These qualities gained for him the
confidence of the Presbyterian party in Bridgewater, by whom he was
returned to the parliament of April, 1640. The speedy dissolution of
that assembly gave him no opportunity of trying his powers as a debater;
and in the next parliament he was not re-elected. But on the breaking
out of the civil war, he displayed his principles by entering the
Parliamentary army.

We have no certain information concerning the time or the capacity in
which he began to serve; but in 1643 we find him intrusted with the
command of a fort at Bristol, when the city was besieged by the
Royalists. Here his impetuous temper had nearly brought him to an
untimely death; for, having maintained his fort and killed some of the
king’s soldiers after the garrison had surrendered, Prince Rupert was
with difficulty induced to spare his life, which was held to have been
forfeited by this violation of the laws of war. Blake served afterwards
in the west of England with good repute, and in 1644 was appointed
Governor of Taunton, a place of great consequence, being the only
Parliamentary fortress in that quarter. In that capacity he
distinguished himself by the skill, courage, and constancy with which,
during two successive sieges, he maintained the town against the
Royalists in 1645; an important service, for which the parliament voted
£2000 to the garrison, and £500 to the governor. It is recorded that he
disapproved of the extremity to which matters were pushed against
Charles, and that he was frequently heard to say, that he would as
freely venture his life to save the King’s, as he had ever done it in
the service of the Parliament.

In February, 1649, Colonel Blake, in conjunction with two officers of

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